A Daughter’s Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi

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Guilty Pleasure? Most of us have them. Mine is reading in the True Crime genre. Over the years, I have read dozens of books in the genre, and I appreciate a well-researched story of a family gone wrong…but this one was just so, so sad.

This sad story takes place in Toronto, so it was interesting to see the differences in the way the criminal justice and court systems work there in comparison to here…and there was a lot of detail around using cell phone records (more detail than you want, believe me). This began as something I was really into, having spent a lot of time on the details of the Adnan Syed fiasco and the (mis)use of cell phone records during a trial…but to be honest, it just bogged down for me. (Possibly an editing issue that might have been summarized for readers who want the point without the extreme detail?)

In any case, this book tells the story of two hardworking Vietnamese immigrants and their daughter, Jennifer. They raised her with very high standards: winning and being the best at everything was essential. Over the years, their daughter began to realize that she could not meet their high standards, so she started forging report cards. Then, she developed elaborate lies as she claimed to have not only attended college, but graduated – none of which was true!

Finally, she had enough of the lies and the fear that her parents would find out who and what she really was, so she arranged to have people break into their home at night and kill her parents. After listening to her mother being tortured and killed, she heard her father moaning in agony and realized he wasn’t dead yet – so she called out to tell him she was calling 911. She pretended to have been a victim of the invaders herself, and…oh, it is just too awful to go through it again.

There is a lot of interpretation by mental health experts (one in particular, who had not treated Jennifer) claiming she and her parents were “mismatched” (whatever THAT means), and possibly that this was the logical result of the decades of “Tiger Mother” parenting and pressure to perform and succeed. To me, it was a cold, spoiled child who was unwilling to expend effort to achieve things she wanted and who just went down what was seemingly the easiest path. I hated her. The book was well done, but I really hated her and in the end, I do NOT understand her actions. But fans of true crime will likely appreciate this one. I want to only give it three stars because I hated her so much, but I realized the author was very effective if his words had that impact on me, so four stars and thanks to Dundum and NetGalley.

 

The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan by David Perlmutter, M.D.

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My husband was heavily influenced to modify his eating after reading Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain a couple of years ago. The follow-up title, The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, is a practical book—much less theoretical than his previous books. As he states: “The main purpose of this book is to help you put my ideas into practice in the real world and to show you that living your best life is about much more than what you put in your mouth.”

For those unfamiliar with the basic premise of his work, Dr. Perlmutter advocates eating more fat and fiber, lessening the emphasis on carbs and protein, and getting rid of gluten completely.

In Part I, of the book reviews, Perlmutter explains the “what, why, and how of the program. I’ll detail the ground rules, present new data, and offer a 3-step framework that will help you execute my recommendations.” Part II gets into the details on how to use his program, and spells out which foods to eat. Part III includes “final tips and reminders,” plus snack suggestions, shopping lists, and a 14-day meal plan with recipes.

I liked the fact that in Part I, when  he explores the sad state of American health, he includes mental health: “The United States is among the ten wealthiest Western nations where death from brain disease, most commonly dementia, has skyrocketed over the past twenty years . . . 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is predicted to double by the year 2030!”

I hate to call it a “diet,” so let’s go with “food plan.” This one provides 80 to 90 percent of calories from fat, and the rest from fibrous carbohydrates and high-quality protein. Instead of the traditional “old fashioned” meals with a big protein-packed entree and small side dishes, the Grain Brain plan swaps things around: the main entrée is mostly “fibrous, colorful, nutrient-dense whole fruits and vegetables that grow above ground, with protein as a side dish.”

There is quite a bit of information the role of nutrition in relation to Alzheimer’s, including the role of exercise. He cites studies showing a huge reduction in Alzheimer’s for those at high levels of exercise: “Those at the highest level of exercise activity experienced an incredible reduction of risk for Alzheimer’s of 50 percent when compared to those who were more sedentary.” We’ve heard it before, but he reminds us that the best thing to do is pick a routine you can sustain over time.

Personally, I have a problem with eating recreational sugar, but it’s a big deal for many people to include sweets in their food plan. They will be happy to see that the recipe section includes desserts and healthy snack ideas. But don’t get too excited: when it comes to snacks, he suggests things like “a handful of raw nuts, olives, and/ or seeds (no peanuts), a few squares of dark chocolate (anything above 70 percent cacao), chopped raw vegetables, or hard-boiled eggs.”

All in all, this is an excellent book that MIGHT influence some people to change their eating habits. At the very least, it should inspire hope that positive results will come to those who are willing to change. I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advance copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. With thanks to Little, Brown & Company and NetGalley, I give this five stars.

Why Won’t You Apologize? by Harriet Lerner, PhD.

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Over the years, I have read several of Dr. Harriet Lerner’s “Dance” books (The Dance of Anger, Dance of Connection, Dance of Fear) and always appreciated her straightforward style and use of real-life examples to demonstrate the concepts she wanted to convey. When I read that she had a new book, Why Won’t You Apologize?, I was happy to write this honest review in exchange for an advance copy from Touchstone and NetGalley.

Dr. Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than twenty years, and has written a terrific book describing how much power a simple apology has, and there may be hope for healing even when the hurt that has been either inflicted or received is far from simple.

Sometimes, a botched apology can even deepen the original pain, and Dr. Lerner explains clearly the needs of a person who is hurting and may be dealing with someone who won’t apologize, or tell the truth, or feel remorse.

Along the way, she addresses both the non-apologizers and the over-apologizers, and looks at why it sometimes seems like the people who do the most harmful things are the ones who are least able to own up. She works to help people who have been hurt resist pressure to forgive too easily and she “challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind.”

Early into my reading of this book, I was reminded how much I appreciate her clear and straightforward approach, as she states her belief that “A good apology includes the words “I’m sorry” without “ifs,” “buts,” or any manner of undoings, obfuscations, and the like.”

There are twelve chapters in the book, each packed with clear and specific examples to facilitate understanding of her message. Some of the chapter headings include:

  • Five Ways to Ruin an Apology (this one includes the pesky if, the “non-apology,” and others)
  • Apologizing Under Fire: How to Handle Big-Time Criticism
  • How—And Whether—to Accept the Olive Branch

Dr. Lerner’s website lists Brené Brown, Anne Lamott, and Gloria Steinem among her advocates. Suddenly, the fact that her books always resonate with me makes perfect sense!

As I sat down to write this, I was listening to a news program about the likelihood that a politician might be offered a cabinet post if he would just issue a public apology for the things he said during the Presidential campaign. It made me shake my head and consider what might happen if the parties involved would read this book! Five stars, for a self-help book with popular appeal that will help many people.

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis

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I really liked this book, for a variety of reasons. It sounded like something that was likely to catch and hold my interest (and take my mind off the election), it had characters that sounded relatable, and I realized early on that the author has a great vocabulary (“nubilous moon”).

The basic premise is that a gruesome murder has been committed: the bodies of the wife and children of a beloved college professor, Thomas Huston, are found in their home. Huston has disappeared and is suspect #1, and Sergeant Ryan DeMarco is on the case. It turns out that DeMarco and Huston are friends, and DeMarco greatly admired the Professor. As DeMarco’s investigation begins, he is sure that Huston couldn’t have killed his wife and family, and he uses the notes for Huston’s half-finished novel to help him in his search for the truth. Along the way, he uncovers Huston’s secret life and wrestles with the difference between the man he knew and admired and the one he seems to be tracking as he works to solve the crime.

DeMarco is an interesting protagonist, with demons of his own: “He thought it remarkable all the thins he could feel when he sat motionless in the darkness without a drink in his hand…” I also liked the way his thought process worked: “…he also knew enough of human behavior to know that logic seldom applied when an ample supply of testosterone was stirred into the mix.”

Difficult to make more comments without spoiling something. Overall, this is a well-crafted, tightly plotted thriller with mounting suspense, interesting characters, and a mystery that isn’t easily solved (well, at least not by me, but then I am not the best at solving mysteries along the way, generally being surprised J). With thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley, I give this one 5 stars. I hadn’t previously read anything by Randall Silvis, but I definitely hope we see more of Ryan DeMarco!

 

 

Stopping the Noise in Your Head by Reid Wilson

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Reid Wilson, PhD, author of titles including Don’t Panic! and Playing With Anxiety, has written a book with a title that will resonate with many people.

Frequently, we are told to turn to happy thoughts (“go to your happy place”) when the mental machinations seem overwhelming. Dr. Wilson’s approach is different: he encourages us to move TOWARD discomfort, distress and anxiety. This seemingly paradoxical approach may cause some readers to reject it out of hand, as it can be frightening to consider moving toward whatever is causing our anxiety. But his arguments make a lot os sense, and his work is packed with scientific evidence, entertaining examples, and common sense exercises that seem likely to help many.

Thank you to HCI Books and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review. Five stars. This one is a keeper!

Murder in Missoula by Laurence Giliotti

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I admit, I wasn’t sure about this one…sounds fine, a retired DEA agent moves to Missoula, MT where he has been offered a faculty position — wait, what? Sorry, but faculty positions don’t just fall from trees like that…but I overlooked that. Then there is the really creepy serial killer part…harder for me to overlook.

This book is nearly impossible to discuss without giving away too much. It is a fairly quick read, and would be enjoyed by people who like a good police procedural, some Rocky Mountain atmosphere, some budding romantic tension, a “good guy” protagonist, and some good writing.

Personally, the creepy serial killer part was a tiny bit TOO creepy but overall, I enjoyed it and will definitely look forward to Mr. Giliotti’s next book! Thanks to Chateau Noir Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review. Four stars!

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall

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After the national election, I was in desperate need of some real escapist fiction. I wanted something that would drag me in to the story, keep me guessing, hold me MESMERIZED for at least a couple of days — you know the kind of book I mean! So, thanks to Carina UK and NetGalley, I had a copy of this new title from Lisa Hall (provided in exchange for my honest review).

The premise is that Stephanie and Mark have moved to a new home for  “fresh start” (at first we aren’t sure why they need one). They have an adorable little boy named Henry and Steph is pregnant with their second child. The new neighbors include Laurence, the man next door (for whom Steph feels instant attraction), and Lila, the pretty woman across the way who wants to befriend Steph (and possibly replace Tessa, Steph’s long-time BFF who has moved to New York. I was drawn into the story immediately, especially as the reader is quickly provided references to why a new start is needed, as well as what the “thing” was that happened to Steph when she was a teenager, which has left deep psychological scars. Also, what’s up with Mark being gone so much? Is it really work? And who is the mystery man seen over and over in Lila’s house? And who is leaving creepy “gifts” on Steph’s front porch?

Steph is being encouraged to keep seeing her shrink — in fact, it feels almost like Mark is bullying her. Is there some reason he is so controlling? So, there are lots of components to the “keep me guessing” part! And yes I was pretty mesmerized for a day and a half, while I kept reading (and, thank you very much, during that time I hardly thought about the election at all). But — and here is the hard part: how to say what I really think without spoiling anything for someone else. I think I just have to say it, I HATED the ending. Maybe that was the goal of this author….or maybe the idea of a sequel is so strong, it had to end as it did? Whatever the motivation, bottom line is I enjoyed the experience of reading it….and I HATED the ending. So, four stars.

 

The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni

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Over the years, there have been a few authors that have been in my reliable column: back in the 80s, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series was among the first. Then, Elizabeth George’s Lynley series (although there were some bumps along the road). More recently, Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole-Joe Pike books. And I just realized after reading two books by Robert Dugoni recently that he is firmly in that camp.

I first read My Sister’s Grave (#1 in the Tracy Crosswhite series, followed by Her Final Breath, and In the Clearing, which I recently read and reviewed), and loved the protagonist and the way the story gripped me from start to finish. Now I have found a new Dugoni protagonist in Peter Donley, the young attorney in The 7th Canon.

While Tracy Crosswhite spends her time in Seattle, working as a detective, Donley is an attorney in San Francisco. This story opens in a crappy part of the City known as the Tenderloin, where a young street hustler is found murdered in a homeless shelter for young males run by a dedicated priest, Father Thomas Martin. I confess at first I had some trepidation about whether this was going to go in the pedophile priest direction…but I kept reading. Along the way, there is evidence that Father Martin is guilty of the murder, as well as other creepy things, but Peter Donley believes in his innocence and the legal wrangling begins.

Donley is an interesting character who has worked for the first three years of his legal career in a low-rent law firm where his uncle has carved out a living putting people over profit for decades. While Peter admires the intent, and also admires Father Martin’s dedication, he is just about to leap at a position at a cushy firm where he can stop worrying about money when the murder case involving the priest and the homeless boy lands in his lap. The story includes a ruthless DA and a brutal homicide detective, both of whom make Peter’s challenge even greater. Oh, and to add to it all, his uncle lands in the hospital so Peter is on his own handling his first murder case.

It was a fun read, and I’m glad I stuck with it. I confess I set it aside in favor of others in my TBR pile before I finally got into it…but am now firmly in the pro-Dugoni camp. And I realize I have some new titles to add to that TBR pile, as I have only read one of Dugoni’s David Sloane series, including The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction).

I appreciate Thomas & Mercer (publishers) and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for my review…and I promise to jump QUICKLY on the next Dugoni book that crosses my path! Four and a half stars…

 

 

 

Casino: Love & Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi

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Seriously, if you think you know Vegas, because you have visited there anytime since about 1990, trust me – you don’t have any idea! People who grew up in Southern California in the 60s viewed Las Vegas as a sort of decadent place where people went to gamble, drink in the streets or wherever, stay up all night, and do whatever they couldn’t do at home. It was basically Tijuana with the addition of gambling and without donkeys.

After the 60s, we saw it as more of a place to go see a big show – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the whole “rat pack” scene. Still gambling. It began to have an edginess that came from the rumors of mob activity – all confirmed for us as movies such as

The backstory about the Vegas casinos and how they came to be mob goldmines is the focus of Nicholas Pileggi’s Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, originally published in 1995, reissued in 2016. It takes the reader deep into the world of Chicago bookie Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and his partner, Anthony Spilotro, and follows them from their early days as streetwise thieves on to their heyday as they worked together overseeing the operations of various Las Vegas casino for the mob. Along the way, the rumored use of Teamster pension funds to take control of the Tropicana and Stardust casinos is confirmed, and the reader is privy to an incredible presentation of grisly violence, as the pair oversaw the activities of jewel thieves who were known as the “Hole in the Wall Gang.”

As the years went by, they skimmed millions of dollars in cash for their mob bosses. (I actually was fascinated about details such as how much a million dollars in quarters weighs) But Lefty’s ambitions combined with Spilotro’s affair with Lefty’s wife Geri (a former showgirl – of course!) the downfall was complete when an FBI investigation led to betrayal, convictions, and the end of the mob’s stranglehold on the Vegas casinos.

Casino is for anyone who wants to take a trip into the past, looking at the reality of Las Vegas in the 70s. Pileggi (author of Wiseguy) is a strong writer, and clearly knows the subject. For me, the violence and amorality was numbing, but I recommended it to a friend who loves that stuff and he was enthralled.

It’s a fascinating history and, thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media, I was able to enjoy a copy in exchange for my honest review. Four stars (three for me, and one for my friend!)