Nonfiction Review — In A Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

In A Different Key:  The Story of Autism

By John Donvan and Caren Zucker

4 out of 5 Stars

Autism is something that I have a strong interest in, mainly because my son is on the spectrum (high-functioning Asperger’s).  When I came across this book at a local booksale, I knew I had to read it, and it did not disappoint.

Autism is a relatively “new” disorder in terms of having a name and diagnosis.  The authors take us back to the 1930’s, when a young boy name Donald became the first child to be officially diagnosed with autism.  From this simple beginning, the reader is taken through the decades, learning the stories of family struggles, medical experiments, research, and controversies.

Many of the family stories are heartbreaking.  Parents who were looking for help from the medical community were often ignored or blamed for their child’s condition.  Children were often institutionalized or subjected to the latest medical experiments.

But from the parental pain and frustration came the call for change and funding for more research and support.  The stories of parents who fought for their autistic children’s health and education are truly inspiring.

The authors also highlight several physicians and researchers who played key roles in the defining and treatment of autism, from Bruno Bettelheim and his parent-blaming to Hans Asperger and his acknowledgement of different levels of autism.

I did start to feel a bit of disconnect in the last few chapters, something I can’t quite put my finger on.  There was also a bit of repetitiveness that became a distraction at times.  Overall, though, In A Different Key is highly readable and informative, as well as inspiring.  Highly recommend.


Monday Mash-Up #016 Time to get the gardening gloves out!

There’s something about gardening that I love.  While it is hard work, I find myself relaxing, my mind emptying, my stress levels lowering.  It is still a bit early in the season to really start planting anything as the threat of morning frost will be around until mid-May.  Instead, I took advantage of some nice weather and started cleaning out my planters and cutting back the damned blackberry bushes that want to overtake the yard.

But I may have overdone it on Sunday; I woke up Monday stiff and sore with a throbbing ankle from twisting it on some rocks.  So I took it as a sign to relax for the day.  I spent some downtime catching up on some television shows (my latest obsessions being What We Do In The Shadows and Happy) and doing a bit of reading.  I seem to be going into a reading slump, but I did manage to finish a few this past week.

Field of Bones by J. A. Jance — 4 out of 5 stars!

The 18th installment in Jance’s Joanna Brady series, I devoured this book in an afternoon.  Great pacing, good character development….and one of the things I like best is you don’t have to read previous books to get into this one.   Jance does a great job of adding enough backstory to inform a new reader while keeping the story moving along.

Currency of Souls by Kealan Patrick Burke — 4 out of 5 stars!

I love me some weird horror, and this one definitely fits the bill!  The small town of Milestone is one messed up place, but one I would gladly revisit (on paper only, of course!).

The White Lioness by Henning Mankell — 4 out of 5 stars!

The third book in the Kurt Wallender series.  Once again, Mankell combines local mystery with international ties to make for an intriguing read.

Carsick by John Waters — 2 1/2 to 3 stars out of 5

I was a bit disappointed with this one.  I was expecting a nonfiction account of Waters hitchhiking across America.  Only the last third was his actual retelling of the journey.  The first two parts were his fictionalized ideas of best- and worst-case scenarios.  And while I am very familiar with Waters’ raunchy, over-the-top, often gross humor, there were a few times where even I was thinking “this is getting to be too much.”  Maybe a recommend for die-hard Waters fans.


Local upcoming events include the annual plant and book sale at my local library on Saturday, May 4.  I’m looking forward to it, I always find a few good books and some greenery for the house and yard!

Until next time, Happy Reading!



Monday Mash-Up #015 A Belated Happy Easter!


I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend.  It was quiet here, just the three of us enjoying the beautiful spring weather and a nice Easter ham dinner.  And coloring eggs, of course!!!  I don’t care how old I get, I will always love coloring eggs!  😀

Since I didn’t post any of my recent read updates last week, here is the full scoop from April 10 to April 21.

From Red Earth by Denise Uwimana — 5 out of 5 stars!

Wonderful story!  A full review coming soon!!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman — 4 out of 5 stars!

A great start to a YA dystopian fantasy trilogy.  It may take me a bit before I can get to the next book, but I am definitely hooked!

Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’m going to have to read a couple more from this series before I proclaim it a new favorite series, but I have to say I am totally impressed!

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut — 4 out of 5 stars!

A classic that, quite honestly, I was surprised I liked as much as I did.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson — 3 out of 5 stars

This was one that had been sitting on my to-read shelf forever so I finally said this is it, now or never.  Well, I could have gone with the never.  It wasn’t terrible, but it just seemed to drag on without really saying much.  Johnson can write, I give him that, it’s just that a good book consists of more than just a bunch of pretty words strung together.

Educated by Tara Westover — 3 out of 5 stars

My review from goodreads:

I know I’m in the minority, and I know people will tell me how little I know about this topic, but let me put one thing to rest—-I am more than familiar with families living off the grid, stockpiling everything, not trusting doctors or the government. My family tree has it’s share of isolated extremists (however, back in the day they were considered eccentric). I currently live in the middle of nowhere, nearest small town is 10+ miles away, we all own firearms and we all know how to preserve produce (other than peaches, what the hell with all the peaches?!?!).
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was to see someone rise from the ashes, take control of her life, and all that crap. I was more than excited when I found this copy at the library…what luck!!
I should have known better.
“My strongest memory is not a memory. It’s something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened.” Page 3
Shades of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES anyone??!!??
I kept reading, keeping my cynicism in check, rooting for Tara to get the hell out of her personal inferno. Then, I got to page 165. The page I knew I was being punk’d on a literary level.
“(Classmate Vanessa) said she wouldn’t give me her notes but that we could study together….’Don’t worry about your notes” said Vanessa, ‘they’re not as important as the textbook.’
‘What textbook?’ I said……’I don’t have a textbook.’
‘Sure you do!’
‘Oh that,’ I said. ‘ I looked at that.’ ……..It hadn’t occurred to me to read the art book…… ‘I thought we were just supposed to look at the pictures.’
Reading the textbook turned out to be excellent advice. On the next exam I scored a B…..”

REALLY????? You supposedly taught yourself with TEXTBOOKS and you didn’t think that your college classes would require you to do more than look at the pictures? The author lost ALL credibility with me with this passage.
Yet I continued to read.

Overall, it does tell a great story of overcoming one’s past, going forward in the face of adversity, and finding ones identity. For that, I give this the three stars.

Still, I drank the koolade and I’m left with some indigestion.

Houston Noir — 3 out of 5 stars

One of the latest installments in the Akashic Noir series, and definitely not one of their stronger showings.  There were a couple of really good stand-out stories; overall, though, most were just okay to meh.  Too bad.  I still look forward to the next in the series!

Better Late Than Never by Jenn McKinlay — 3 out of 5 stars

Another title in McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mystery series, one that is growing on me.  While it follows the cozy mystery routine and is pretty predictable, it still makes for a fun, quick weekend read.

Now that I’ve caught up on my reading, it’s time to tackle the yard work!!  Until next week, as always,

Happy Reading!


Monday Mash-Up #014

In high school, many moons ago, I studied French for three years.  My teacher, Madame Clark, would share with us stories and photos from her numerous trips to France.  The ones that always stood out for me were the ones about Notre Dame Cathedral.  I fell in love with the beautiful stained glass and the intricate architectural details.  Long before the term bucket list was popular, I put this on my bucket list of places to visit.

Today, I was shocked and saddened to see the news reports of the devastating fire that swept through the iconic building.  It is impossible to fully know the total losses, as this fire not only destroyed physical items but a bit of history as well.

It has been many years since I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  This afternoon I pulled out my copy and have started to reread this classic, out of respect and in memory of 800+ years of history.

Until next week……


Monday Mash-Up #013 New ARCs Arrived This Week!

There’s nothing like hiking down to the mail box and finding packages!

A huge thank you to Plough Publishing House for a copy of From Red Earth  and to Akashic Books for an ARC of Houston Noir!  I look forward to starting both this week.

Overall, this was a great week for reading:

In A Different Key:  The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker — 4 1/2 out of 5 stars!  

Full review coming soon!

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide-Lindqvist — 4 out of 5 stars!

Wow!  Not what I expected, but I loved it!  Dark, creepy, with a couple of unexpected twists thrown in.  Be sure to put this on your Halloween reading list!

Bossypants by Tina Fey — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ve been a fan of Tina Fey for some time, and was happy to find this one at the book sale last week.  It truly was a laugh-out-loud read, really enjoyed this one.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway — ??? out of 5 stars  :/ 

I really don’t know how to rate this one.  It wasn’t completely terrible (believe me, I’ve read my share of terrible stories), but it didn’t have any real point.  Adam Strand is a teenager who has successfully killed himself 39 times, always coming back whole and unaffected.  How?  Why?  There are no consequences (other than his family and most of the town starting to get annoyed by the whole reincarnation thing), and the only reason he gives for his actions is that he’s bored.  As someone who has lost several beloved friends to suicide over the years, I felt that Galloway’s story was a bit of a slap in the face, diminishing the real reasons and emotions behinds someone’s choice to take their own life.  I think the author’s heart was in the right place, trying to raise awareness, but I thought it totally backfired.

Spring showers have arrived in abundance around here so it looks like a good week for curling up on the couch with a pot of tea and a great book…….or I may just binge-watch some episodes of Schitt’s Creek and Happy! (now that is one twisted show!!).

So until next time….Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #012 April Fools?!

April Fools was on me, I was so excited with my awesome finds at the book sale this past weekend that I almost forgot it was time for another episode of mash-up!

Don’t worry, I’m here, and I’m (somewhat) ready to share my thoughts on this past week’s reads.

The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris—  4 1/2 out of 5 stars!

A huge shout-out to my friend Jacques for recommending this one.  I loved it and for a variety of reasons, the main one being Jasper.  My son is autistic, and MC Jasper reminded me of him with the obsessions and different views of reality (and I have to admit, I would love to see certain things as a color every now and then).  There’s also a pretty good mystery involved as well, overall a great read.  Really different and highly recommend.

Sweet Nothing by Richard Lange —  4 1/2 out of 5 stars!

Wow.  One of the best short story collections I have read….ever…..

The Last Town by Blake Crouch —  4 out of 5 stars!

The final installment in the Wayward Pines trilogy, I literally could not put this one down!  What started out as “I’ll just read a few pages before breakfast” turned into a 4 hour readathon and me telling my son and husband to fend for themselves at lunch (which, in turn, created a huge mess in the kitchen I had to clean up later but well worth it, haha!!).

Lies by T. M. Logan — 4 out of 5 stars!

I have to admit, I went into this one with low expectations.  I’ve become a bit jaded on current thrillers, they all seem to be the same, always trying to be the next Gone Girl.  But this one delivered.  And even though I had an inkling about the ending, I still wanted to keep reading to see how it got there.  Thanks to my friend Michelle for sending me this copy!!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris —  3 out of 5 stars

I feel like a terrible person for not giving this “based on true events” anything less than a 5 star review, but I’ve read many other stories from the Holocaust and this one just did not come close to any of them.  The story of Lale and Gita should be heartwarming and uplifting, but I felt the author did a total disservice to these two survivors (as well as to their families) with her apparent lack of novel writing experience.  The author had originally written this as a screenplay and, instead of improving and expanding, she simply wrote a screenplay-based book.  Overall, it was not what I expected and a bit of a disappointment, 3 stars because I respect the families and their memories of Lale and Gita.

What have you been reading?

Remember to share your thoughts, random comments, critiques (even recipes!!) with me, I’m still working on improving and expanding my blog so any constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!!

And I am looking for a good recipe for a homemade mustard-based barbecue sauce.  Just wanted to throw that out there.

Until next time, Happy Reading!


AAUW Book Sale—–Treasures Found!

I was able to go to the local used book sale on Saturday and came home with bags of wonderful titles!  All the books pictured came to a total of $20!!!  Not a bad day at all!

There were a lot of great hardbacks available, and just about every genre you could think of.

I even stepped outside of my reading “comfort zone” and chose a couple of books set in medieval Europe, Wolf Hall and Here Be Dragons (usually not one of my favorite genres but these sounded really good).

I was especially happy to find some of my favorite authors, like Louise Erdrich, Charles de Lint, Sherman Alexie, and Henning Mankell.  And the conclusion to Greg Iles’ Natchez Burning trilogy!!   Happy dance!!

Of course, nonfiction called to me as well.  A little bit of everything, and from all over the world.

I always look forward to this yearly sale, this year was definitely not a disappointment.  Now, time to get reading!