The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion, continues with the ongoing escapades of Professor Donald Tillman and his now-wife, Rosie. Simsion introduced us to this couple in his first book, The Rosie Project.

I loved The Rosie Project and I liked The Rosie Effect even better. Now relocated to New York, the newlyweds experience extreme turmoil when Rosie announces her unplanned pregnancy.

Those of you who read The Rosie Effect will recall that Don is a brilliant scientist and professor who happens to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome, a neurological condition that exists on the higher end of the autism scale. As such, he deals poorly with surprises and regulates his life by planning and strict regulation to rules.

This book is surprisingly poignant. Don struggles to adjust to the reality of parenthood and sets himself a goal of learning how to be good father. Early on, attempting to learn more about children, Don visits a playground with notebook and video camera. As expected, this has unexpected and unwanted consequences, including arrest and ultimately being assigned to a social worker.

I won’t spoil the story by saying more, but I found this book to be poignant and moving in a way that The Rosie Project was not. It greatly expanded my understanding of the challenges that people with Asperger’s must face on a daily basis.

All ends well, of course, and the door is left open for a further book when the baby is born. (I hope).

 

 

 

The Three Day Affair, by Michael Kardos, is a suspense novel with a twist. It begins with three former college buddies getting together for their annual reunion of golf, pizza eating and reminiscing over old times. Things take a sudden and unexpected turn for the worst one one of these men, Jeffrey, impulsively robs a convenience store and kidnaps Marie, the eighteen year old clerk. Jeffrey drags the protesting girl to the car where Nolan and Will, his two friends are waiting. He tosses Marie in the vehicle and hollers, “Drive.” Believing that the girl requires medical attention, the driver obeys the order, only to learn shortly afterwards that she is a hostage, not a medical emergency.

When Nolan and Will realize they are now implicated in a serious crime, the three men struggle to find a solution that will allow them to release the hostage while at the same time avoiding the consequences that go along with kidnapping and hostage taking.

Over the course of the next three days, the situation rushes on with the surety of a train wreck about to happen. The reader knows that things will not, cannot end well, but what precisely will happen is anybody’s guess.

The end comes, as anticipated, with a shock and a surprise. You are left with the realization that this story has no heroes — only extremely defective human beings.

I enjoyed this book. If, like me, you are into novels of psychological suspense and intrigue, then this is the book for you.

This novel is the first full length novel that Karos has written. I predict that it won’t be his last. This new author is well worth keeping an eye on. He’s going places.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, is nothing short of delightful.

Its not often you hear me rave about a book, especially a book that might be described as a romantic comedy if it were a movie, but I’m raving about this one.

The Rosie Project is written from the point of view of Don Tillman, a brilliant scientist and university professor who just happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Although Don is good looking, financially secure, upstanding and moral, his challenges with social situations create problems. He has only two friends, and has never had a second date.

Don wants a wife or at least, a life partner. In Sheldon-like fashion, he creates The Wife Project and goes about his search for a wife in what is his typical fashion. He screens potential wives by screening them with an online questionnaire. Surprisingly, very few applicants achieve passing grades.

However, when a beautiful young woman named Rosie appears in his life, Don puts the Wife Project on the back burner to help Rosie with a project of her own.

One thing leads to another. And another. And another.

I won’t spoil the story by telling you the ending, but I will say that this book is refreshingly new and funny and very, very readable.

The Rosie Project is Graeme Simsion’s first novel. If the rest are anywhere near as good as this one, he has a great career ahead of him, and we readers have much to anticipate.

Inside The Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin, is the true story of one woman’s experience living in Saudi Arabia during the late seventies and eighties.

Carmen Bin Ladin, half Swiss and half Persian, but living in Switzerland,  met and married the brother of Osama Bin Ladin  in 1974. The couple eventually moved to Saudi Arabia so her husband could participate in the family’s construction business.  There is no way I can aptly describe the experiences that she encountered, but I can certainly say conditions for women were nothing short of appalling.

The Bin Laden family were extremely rich and powerful, enjoying strong contacts with the king and princes.  Because of this power, Carmen was awarded more freedoms than would apply to a more ordinary family.  For instance, she was able to bring books and other supplies back from Geneva without being subjected to searches and sanctions at the airport.  Her life was made somewhat more bearable because of the money she married into and the ability to spend several months of each year in Switzerland or in the United States.

In the book, the author mentions Osama Bin Laden briefly. She did not have a lot of contact with him, but even at that time, Osama was known as a rigidly religious man with a strong dislike of the western world.

Carmen managed to leave Saudi Arabia in 1988, along with her three daughters, and separated from her husband. The divorce proceedings, along with her battle to gain custody of the girls was chilling.

Carmen Bin Laden lives in Switzerland. She kept the name of Bin Laden for the sake of her daughters but has faced serious hostility because of the infamous man who shares her family name.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it.  I have no idea whether the situation in Saudi Arabia is the same today as it was during the time that Carmen lived here. It could be better. It could be worse.

 

If you enjoy crime fiction, I can recommend Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

I have developed a taste for Scandinavian crime fiction. It started with The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo trilogy, and went from there.

Sigurdardottir is a Icelander and her novels take place in that country. Last Rituals is described as “An Icelandic Novel of Secret Symbols, Medieval Witchcraft and Modern Murder.” The book introduces protagonist Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer struggling to raise her two children on an income not quite big enough to cover everything she needs.

Despite misgivings, the promise of a hefty fee induces Thora to investigate the bizarre and shocking murder of a young university student. Investigation uncovers links to Iceland’s little known history of witch hunts, torture and executions.

In the end, of course Thora and her associate Michael Reich, discover the murderer’s identity and justice is served.

I enjoyed the book and did not guess the murderer in advance of the reveal at the end. If there is a complaint, it would be that some of the descriptions of the historical documents was confusing and a little difficult to keep straight.

As I mentioned, this book introduces Thora Gudmundsdottir and sets the stage for other books with the same protagonist. I have read several of them. They are all good.

I have just finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. Not long before that I saw the movie by the same name, which motivated me to read the book.

I enjoyed both the book and the movie. The movie kept my attention because, firstly, Reese Witherspoon is a great actor, and secondly, because of the amazing visuals of the trail and the scenery.  The movie truly captured the majesty and ruggedness of the trail, while the book did a better job of depicting the psychological and emotional growth that Cheryl experienced during the long pilgrimage-like journey that she undertook.

If you aren’t familiar with this true story, its the tale of one woman’s solo hike, journeying 1,100 miles on foot on the spectacular but challenging Pacific Crest Trail.

The trail itself starts on the Mexico-California border, runs through California, Oregon and Washington, crosses the Canadian border and ends in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Cheryl  started near the beginning of the trail and ended her hike in Oregon, as planned.

The author’s brutal honesty about her previous life, and the self defecting behaviors that she managed to overcome is the part that impresses me the most. I have read reviews from other readers that judge Cheryl Strayed harshly for her life prior to commencing the hike — activities that included heroin use,  free-style sexuality, an abortion and  an intense emotional grief reaction following her mother’s death.

However, to me, the point was that the author overcome these challenges by pressing herself to the limit of her endurance in this grueling, physical challenge.  She made no excuses and sugar coated nothing. Her ability to be honest with herself was and is her true strength, and one that I admire.

Throughout this journal, Cheryl’s body became strong and fit, but more importantly, he worked through her grief, her rage and other emotional burdens stemming from her younger life.

I recommend both the book and the movie.

 

 

 

 

The Day is Dark, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, is one example of the remarkable crime fiction being written by Nordic authors.

Set in Iceland and Greenland, this book features Sigurdardottir’s usual protagonist, lawyer and single mother, Thora Gudmunsdsdottir.

Thora and her law firm are engaged to travel to a remote location in Greenland to investigate the mysterious disappearances of three employees of a mining company.

Thora and her team discover a disturbing situation that the local villagers consider to be supernatural.

As the investigation continues, the situation becomes increasingly weird and unsettling.

The ending is sure to surprise the reader.  As is typical in Sigurdardottir’s books, the supernatural appears to be behind the mystery, but in the end, its human activity that can be explained, although perhaps not condoned.

I like the way this author weaves a story. The characters are well developed, the storyline is not predictable, the ending is always a surprise, and the chance to look at live in contemporary Iceland is always fascinating.

The Daily Telegraph calls Yrsa Sigurdardottis “Iceland’s answer to Stieg Larsson.”  Her writing is indeed similar to Larsson’s, but less gory. The late Stieg Larsson wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and two others in the series.

 

 

Before I move into talking about this book, I want to tell you that before I published this post, I tried Grammarly’s plagiarism checker free of charge because hey, Santa’s coming soon and I wanna make sure I’m on the Nice List!

Now then, back to business. The Healing Code, by Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND with Ben Johnson, MC, DO, NMD introduces a new approach to energy healing that they have named The Healing Code.

This book will appeal to those who are interested in alternative health care and in taking personal responsibility for their own health. It may also appeal to those who are strong supporters of allopathic medicine but who have an open mind to other complimentary approaches. Those who decry alternative healing will, no doubt, find much to scoff at.

Loyd and Johnson claim to have discovered a previously unknown immune system that has the potential to heal physical, emotional and spiritual challenges when activated with their technique. They maintain that any and all disease is caused by stress stored in the form of cellular memories. The first three-quarters of the book builds a case to support the validity of the authors’ findings and of the Healing Code technique. The doctors provide their personal case histories, testimonials from others who have experienced healings and scientific validation based on the work of scientists such as Dr. Bruce Lipton.

In the last quarter of the book, Loyd and Johnson explain the Healing Code and demonstrate through text and drawings how to apply the technique. They refer to the code provided in the book as the Universal Healing Code. When used for six minutes, three times daily, the authors claim that healings will occur. The time required to heal varies depending on the individual and the nature of the problem.

The authors make the disclaimer that the Healing Code does not replace medical care, nor does it diagnose, nor does it heal the physical body. Their premise is that the code removes an energetic charge in the form of cellular memories, and this in turn, frees the body to heal itself. The book also provides a ten second procedure that when used two or three times a day, will deal with stress as it is happening, or situational stress, as the authors call it.

Loyd and Johnson write from a Christian perspective. They maintain that their spiritual healing technique is supported Biblically and does nothing to violate their Christian beliefs. This need not be a deterrent to non-Christians. Those with other beliefs will find it simple enough to use the codes in the context of their own faith, whatever that faith may be.

Skeptics, obviously, will regard the Healing Codes as hooey, and it is not my role or my intention to change their minds. Those who are open to trying this approach may find the technique a little confusing based on the explanations in the book. Personally, I found it necessary to search for YouTube videos demonstrating the proper use of the hand positions. I believe that the authors could have done a better job of explaining the procedure at that point. Otherwise, I find the book to be well written, well organized and well explained — with the aforementioned exception.

Having read other blog and forum posts from readers, I note that some reviewers see the authors as “money grubbers”. It is true, they do offer custom codes, workbooks and coaching services, and these products and services do not come cheap. However, in my view, the authors have made the Universal Healing Codes available to anyone for the price of a book, and there are plenty of free videos online showing how to do the technique. Having ensured that the codes are therefore available to anyone and everyone, they have a right to generate income by selling the additional add ons, which are luxuries but not necessities.

My recommendation is this: If you are at all opened minded, read the book and try the codes. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

In The Sociopath Next Door, author Martha Stout, ph.d describes the sociopathic or psychopathic personality and descrubes the current theories that attempt to make sense of this disorder.

According to Stout, sociopathy (also known as antisocial personality disorder) occurs in four percent of the population. In other words, one out of twenty five people fits this profile. We are are likely to have met at least one and probably more — if we are not one ourselves.

Stout reports that sociopaths do not have a conscience. Therefore, they feel no empathy for others. They are unable to love and they feel no guilt. They know the difference between right and wrong, but their only consideration would be whether or not they are likely to get caught. The motivation is all about power and manipulation. They could be the colleague who sabotages your project just for fun, or the spouse who philanders incessantly, or the corporate executive who climbs to the top through apple polishing those above him and disparaging those below him on the corporate ladder.

It is difficult, almost impossible, for those of us who do have a conscience to imagine being this way. Perhaps that explains why it is so difficult to identify a sociopath when we encounter one. In many, if not most cases, sociopaths continue to create their havoc unchallenged due to their uncanny ability to manipulate and to charm and because other people simply can’t believe that their actions are deliberate.

All too often, the beleaugered victim of a sociopath is blamed or ridiculed because others do not believe that the victim is telling the truth or is portraying the situation accurately. Even victims sometimes doubt their own reality and wonder if they were somehow to blame or somehow misunderstood.

Sociopaths, says Stout, exist in all occupations and in all levels of society. The majority are not violent or criminal. The Ted Bundys and Adolf Hitlers of this world are sociopaths, true, but most people fitting this profile live more mundane lives.

Stout examines the genetic vs environmental theories that strive to to explain how this disorder occurs and why. She also postulates that sociopathy may have had survival value along the lines of “survival of the fittest”.

I found the book to be informative and thought provoking. Stout has researched and analyzed well. She does a good job of describing how sociopaths interact with others and the effect they can have on others.

The book misses the mark, I think, in the sense that it portrays sociopathy as all or nothing. I may be wrong, but I believe that psychologists use a sliding scale to determine sociopathy. In other words, all of us have some sociopathic tendencies. The issue is not “if” but “how much.” Stout does not mention this but seemingly regards the disorder as “all or nothing.”

I also questioned Stout’s conclusions that in the long run, those of us with a conscience make out better than those who lack one. It is true, of course, that historically, and in the present, some sociopaths have met their just rewards through executions, jail time, societal shunning and so forth.

Nevertheless, I would be willing to bet that a fair number of these folk get through life just fine, alebeit at the expense of others.

I am not saying this is a good thing, and I am not saying I would want to be one of them. I am simply saying that if a sociopath is clever enough to avoid “getting caught”, then probably many sociopaths make out just fine.

But read the book for yourself. Its a good read.

I have just read The Dinner a Novel, by Herman Koch. I am not sure what genre this book of fiction falls into, but I would class it as psychological horror.

The story takes place in Amsterdam. Two brothers and their respective wives meet for dinner in an expensive, top-rated restaurant. The purpose of the dinner, we eventually learn, is discuss the problems posed by their three teenage children. The boys have done an evil deed – very evil, as it turns out. If they are found out, it will be a serious police matter.

Do the parents cover up for this act, or do they turn the kids in and face the music? How far should a parent go to protect their off-spring.

I can only hope that most parents wouldn’t go as far as this pair.

I enjoyed this book, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

This is a book in which we start out liking the protagonists and gradually change our opinion as the plot wears on. If you have read Gone Girls, you will know what I mean. In my case, the parent I least respected in the beginning was the one I admired the most in the end. Admired is perhaps too strong a word. It might be more accurate to say, “the parent I disliked the least.”

In the end, at least for me, I was afraid for the future of these families and afraid for the future victims of the young boys involved.

If you are looking for a happy ending, or at least an ending where something is resolved, you will be disappointed. In the end, the good do not prosper and the bad do not get their just rewards. Instead, we are left with a highly unsettled feeling that the worst is yet to come.

Nevertheless, I liked it and would recommend it to those who enjoy reading about the darker side of the human spirit.