Book Related Topics, Historical, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

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“We are more than just our genes. We are, in some way, a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.”

Don and Mimi Galvin were an average middle class family living out what seemed to them at the time, their American dream. After World War II, Don moved his family to Colorado for his work with the Air Force and there, they created their large catholic family. Mimi went on to have 12 children, the oldest born in 1945 and the youngest in 1965.

Mimi tried to create a good domestic life for their children. Encouraging structure, hard work, and an interest in sports. Their family was huge enough to be well known and also well respected in the community but behind close doors was a different story – psychological breakdowns, abuse that went unnoticed by the parents, violence between the boys. By the mid 70’s, 6 of the 10 boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and were in and out of hospitals.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

The Galvins became popular in the debate of nature vs nurture in the psychiatry field concerning schizophrenia. A lot of the theories in those days, laid a lot of blame on the mothers. A lot of psychiatrists, even without a suitable peer reviewed study, were quite convinced that children developed schizophrenia because they had an overbearing mother that they tried so hard to please that they lost touch of reality. This was a very sexist theory and completely discounted the presence of fathers in the house. The theory also prevented a lot of people from going to get help early because a lot of mothers feared they were going to be blamed for their children’s condition.

“They have been warehoused where nobody can really deal with them,” he said. Here was the real reason, he thought, why big pharma could afford to be fickle about finding new drugs for schizophrenia—why decades come and go without anyone even finding new drug targets. These patients, he realized, can’t advocate for themselves.”

What went on inside the Galvin family house led to them being one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. We see the medical field move and evolve as we follow their family story over the years. As we talk about the past and present protocol for schizophrenia patients from lobotomies to institutionalization and the ebb and flow of shock therapy in mental health.

We also see the harm this sickness brought to even the healthy people in the family and the innocent bystanders too. We follow scientists as they start looking for genetic markers for schizophrenia and find a compromise to the nature/nurture debate.

“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

This book contains a lot of abuse, so consider this a trigger warning. There’s a lot of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse (we also see abuse from a catholic priest) etc. I found this book to be very compelling and very readable. I did this one on audio which is how I do most non fiction books I read. Even though there is a lot of science in this book, I do not think it bogs down this book in anyway. I actually think the science elevates it.

I completely recommend this book and hope we as a community think about the way we treat our mentally ill. This book is also a huge indictment of the pharmacology industry for their non interest in putting money into developing more drugs to help with a wide variety of mental health illnesses because of how difficult the trial process is. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.




Book Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

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Three Women follows the stories of 3 American women and their sex lives and desires.

“We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.”

Lina – A suburban wife and stay at home mom who is tired of being in a passionless marriage with a husband who refuses to kiss her on the mouth. She reconnects with an old flame on Facebook, Aidan and begins a torrid affair.

Maggie – A 16 year old who gets through the scandal of dating a 24 year old Marine, begins to have an affair with her married high school teacher, Aaron Knodel when she turns 17. Years later, when she is 23, Aaron is named Teacher of the Year and Maggie is compelled to file charges against him.

Sloane – A successful restaurant owner who is obsessed with being thin is happily married to a man who likes watching her have sex with other men. Sloane feels she is genuinely happy but wonders every now and then if she really is happy with this arrangement.

So this book is marketed as an exploration of female desire and sexuality that took Taddeo almost 8 years to write and these three women are real life women who shared their stories with her. To be honest, I did not know that till I was done with the book and was browsing the bookstore and could not find the book in the Fiction section. Instead, I found it under “Women Studies” and that took me by surprise.

In delving into interviews, it would appear that Taddeo’s goal was to explore and shine truth on where women stand with sexuality and desire via these women’s stories. Well for one, these women are all white women with two of them having a Catholic background, so how diverse is it? I think in one of the Maggie chapters there is a line that talks about how even when being a victim of sexual assault, you have to be the  right kind of victim – young, pretty and in most cases, white.

I digress, my point is this book didn’t seem analytical and I don’t think I got any insight or point of view. It really read fictional and almost salacious as the sex scenes were very well detailed. In fact, based on description all the women seemed really good at sex and good for them on that.

“If people are denied certain parts of relationships they need as children, they hunt for these parts as adults.”

The best thing about this book was the writing. Props to Taddeo for her writing style. It was fully descriptive. I liked how each character got a book end description in terms of giving us background on their childhood and their present day. I felt like I understood each character regardless of whatever non traditional actions they took because Taddeo fully immersed us in their way of thinking. Each character seemed to be so clear on their exact thoughts and feelings and it was enjoyable reading through.

“This takes the air from her but then he approaches. The problem, she’s starting to understand, is that a man will never let you fall completely into hell. He will scoop you up right before you drop the final inch so that you cannot blame him for sending you there. He keeps you in a diner like purgatory instead, waiting and hoping and taking orders.”

Lina was the character I found myself most annoyed with. I mean yay for getting her groove back with Aidan but Aidan was such a jerk. The quote above described their relationship, and she gave him so much control, it was infuriating! It was so uncomfortable reading how desperate she was for his affection and attention and knowing he knew how desperate she was.

“The main problem for Maggie, which several bystanders observe, is that she is too aggressive. Victims aren’t supposed to be snarly. She is crying, but not torrentially, not as if her vagina were brutalized. She is not crying appropriately.”

I found Maggie’s story the most compelling and her story was probably the most common. It was a reminder that we tend to think teenagers should know better but it’s easy to seek affection any way you can get it especially from someone older who has picked out and groomed their prey.

“One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.”

While Sloane seemed very into inviting other people in their bed, she seemed to be at war with herself on whether it was what she really wanted or what her husband wanted. Her background inferred this was of her own volition but as we get to learn about her past, it’s hard as a reader to understand what her head space was.

“Women shouldn’t judge each others lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.”

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I went through it pretty quickly. I think if you go into it expecting a female empowerment, social experiment diving deep into women’s heads, you will be disappointed. But if you just go into it thinking of it as a fictional read and letting yourself lean into the characters and their stories, you’ll enjoy it more.


Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

“Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. For years and years, my job was to pile on sand – fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls, whatever the moment necessitated – in an effort to keep my mother’s secret buried.”

On a hot summer night when the author was 14, her mother (Malabar) woke her up to inform her that her husband’s best friend had just kissed her. She wasn’t sad about the fact, she was happy and giddy and demanded happiness from her daughter too. From that summer onwards, Brodeur became a very willing participant to her mother’s lies, betrayal and affair that spanned more than a decade, orchestrating avenues for her mother to cheat on her husband with his best friend.

In Wild Game, Brodeur reflects upon the very disjointed and convoluted relationship with her mother, Malabar. Our mothers leave an indelible mark on us including fingerprints of their own shortcomings and it’s left to us to either break the chain or continue in the cycle.

“I knew only what pleased my mother; I didn’t have a moral compass. It would be years before I understood the forces that shaped who she was and who I became and recognized the hurt that we both caused.”

I found this book to be an easy and short read. It is less than 300 pages and reads like fiction. I found the relationship between the author and her mother very compelling. Brodeur’s personal life suffers enormously because she spends most of her young life lying for her mother and to everyone around her who cared about her. Her mother would confide in her the most disturbing details of her affair and I just found that a fascinating thing for an adult woman to do to a girl who was barely a teenager. I also found this detail indicting of every adult who knew Brodeur. They basically played a huge part in her mother’s affairs and never called it out for how inappropriate it was.

“Don’t ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole.”

I found Malabar fascinating. I was not wooed by her charm though and found it confusing that anyone would ever find her charming, I just thought she was very manipulative. It was obvious that she loved nobody but herself and put her own needs above everyone else’s. She was a classic narcissistic person. She dangled her love as a prize her daughter would win for helping her lie her way through life. It was also surprising to me how long her daughter put up with her antics. At 14, I felt sympathy for her but at 26? I was simply over it.

“‘Tell me what it’s like,’ I said, even though we’d had this conversation before and I’d witnessed firsthand how the volatile forces of passion and infidelity had give my mother exuberance. I just loved to hear her talk about it.” 

Ultimately, I felt very detached reading this book. Even though I was appalled at the level of involvement this 14 year old had in this affair and the unfairness of it all, it just felt like I was watching a soap opera. I did not feel an emotional connection to this book at all. I found it all very shallow. Summers in Cape Cod, living in mansions, private schools, Ivy league schools. I felt like I was reading about the life of the rich and the famous. Everything ultimately came off as shallow. I just didn’t consider this to be a memorable memoir, I think you need more than a messed up rich and published mother to create one. I gave this book a 3 star rating on good reads.




Non-Fiction, We Chit Chat

My Day At The 2018 National Book Festival


Warning: Lengthy and photo heavy post

I am not from the area so I had never heard of this awesome event. A friend mentioned it to me two days before and I knew I had to make my way to it. It had an impressive and robust line up and best of all, it was free!


It is basically a day long event, held every year in DC, from 8am – 7.30pm that’s all about books. It’s broken out into many different sections by genre such as Teens, Fiction, Science Fiction, Poetry and many more. There are different authors lined up to speak in sessions where they talk about themselves, their book, read excerpts and answer questions from the audience.


The convention center is so huge that getting from one end to the other was a job in itself. The event does have a substantial number of volunteers who were very helpful in navigating me around. I also downloaded the event app to get alerts on any changes (which happened as Amy Tan subbed for Madeline Albright and I got the alert too late and didn’t make it in to see her) but maps were on hand and signs everywhere.



My first stop was to see Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage (you can read our review here) and she was hands down the best person I saw that day. The event made me realize that just because you are a writer does not mean you are an eloquent speaker but this does not apply to Jones. She was fantastic and captivated the room and even people who had not read the book were eager to. She shared her struggles in finding an audience and how her life legit changed within a year.

I went up to ask a question and asked if she thought Celestial and Roy would have made it in marriage if he had never gone to jail, she said “who knows? But I think so” but I think she misunderstood my question as she went on to answer how it’s much harder to succeed at any thing being black so having the stigma of a jail sentence would probably have made it harder. I wasn’t going to be the one to correct her in a room full of hundreds.


Next, I went into the Understanding Our World section as I knew no author in that area. I wandered into Sujatha Gidla’s session. She spoke on her book which is based on the caste system in India and living life as an “Untouchable”. It was an underwhelming session. Her excerpt was so long and she isn’t the best reader and kept stumbling over words. Overall, I left the room with no interest in reading her book, even though it was an interesting subject.

Roxane Gay looks very uninterested but she was actually a bit funny. Can I also mention every session had an ALS rep signing for people hard of hearing. So cool.

I don’t think I have ever read a graphic novel or comic in my life but I headed over to that section as Roxane Gay was in session and it was about her Black Panther strip. Roxane was herself and as expected an outspoken advocate for black people, women, non size zero and worked that into most of her answers. I was however interested in a comic she said she is working on that features 3 generations of women who become thieves.

I then wandered around to the kids sections and there was a cool parade of states where states had their own booths and kids were given a map and they could go from booth to booth to get their maps stamped.

View from the top for the passport of states
I thought New Mexico had a cool aesthetic


If you have been reading this blog you know that I do not buy books as mentioned here so I had no business being at the book signings but I snuck in to take some pics.

Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko
Amy Tan best known for Joyluck Club

I was really looking forward to seeing Celeste Ng as I have just read Little Fires Everywhere which I absolutely loved (here). The room was packed so I didn’t get a good seat like the other ones and she seemed nice but she wasn’t a really captivating speaker. My friend wasn’t convinced to read her book.

Her session was moderated by Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty (which I didn’t think was a very good book, seemed like a man imagining how women operate) and although her book centered around race and was expected it took over a huge portion of the conversation which was good and bad because Alam did say he didn’t want to make her reductive to just race but proceeded to do just that. I did like a line she said where she said if there is anything she is an advocate of, she is an advocate of empathy.


Overall, although long, I think it was well worth it. I like how inclusive the event was and when I say inclusive, I mean in all ways. It warmed my heart to see kids and their parents, just happy to be around books and an event for them to do with their parents. There were a lot of diversity with authors of color and women fully represented. There was even a booth that shared info on the National Library for The Blind and Handicapped.

It’s a cool way to also learn things and expand your mind on things you have never thought about. Seeing authors beyond the characters they put on paper is also an experience. So basically, if this ever rolls around in your area I’d recommend you attending and experiencing it for yourself.

Let me know if you have any questions and in the mean time…more pictures!




One of the lines
One of the kid authors
PBS was on hand doing interviews
Snuck a pic of Madeleine Albright as she waited for her interview. She had just come from John McCain’s funeral.

We Chit Chat – Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

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Taynement: So I didn’t have this book on my radar until you brought it to my attention.

Leggy: Why did you decide to pick it up after I mentioned it?

Taynement: Because I knew about the Theranos story and figured it’d be an interesting read.

Leggy: Me too. The story was fascinating to me. How this woman got away with so much and with very little check points is ridiculous. I wanted to read more on the topic so when I heard the journalist who blew the lid off this story was coming out with a book, I was intrigued.

Taynement: Yeah, it’s a shame we don’t get to hear her side but I thought Carreyrou did a pretty good job of getting facts together from reliable sources – really pissed off sources too.

Leggy: I wish I could have heard her motivation too.

Taynement: There were so many facets to this story. I think the glimpse of her father gave insight into why she was ruthless. Her dad seemed to have a mean streak in him when he approached his lawyer friend on her behalf and tried to get their family friend’s son fired from his law firm. I think he was secretly proud of everything she did regardless of the swindling.

But I do think the book also goes to show how much power being white in America gives you. Because there is absolutely no reason this woman kept raising funds in millions and had investors of high caliber without having a single viable product.

Leggy: Can we talk about Tyler Shultz’s grandfather? How insane was it that he believed Holmes over his own grandson who actually worked there and saw that Holmes was a fraud. Even though Tyler brought another employee who corroborated his story, his father still believed Holmes. Even going as far as inviting Holmes to his birthday party and not extending an invite to his own grandson.

She must have been super charming and they wanted to believe that they were changing the world. I’m sure after being in business for so long they wanted to believe they were finally investing in the one business that would actually help human kind or also there’s a possibility that every single one of those men were dumb as rocks. Take your pick.

Taynement: They all talked about how charming she is but she must have been REALLY charming because I don’t understand how she got fired and talked her way back in and then fired everyone who had been against her once they gave her another chance as CEO. Savage!

Leggy: Seriously, if she hadn’t been fucking with human life, was just developing some app and scamming all these old men for their money I would have been rooting for her. But for you to knowingly fuck with sick people and have no remorse at all. I can’t root for you. You’re a psychopath.

Taynement: That’s the other thing. Is this pure human savagery or do you think there’s a mental health issue at play? I’m asking this question because of the fact that this was done in the health sector and it was lives at stake. She also doesn’t seem very remorseful even now and still claims she did nothing wrong.

Leggy: I don’t know but she’s certainly a girl who knew what she wanted from a very young age and it blows my mind that she never seemed remorseful. She just kept lying in the face of so much proof. Can we talk about her “boyfriend” please? How much hand do you think he really had in the whole operation?

Taynement: I think he helped her execute, was her cheerleader and took pleasure from it. He’s definitely a sadist and I want to know who he pays to scrub his past off the internet.

Leggy: Dude, I googled him and barely saw anything on him at all. I think they fed off of each other.

Taynement: Another thing I wondered is Silicon Valley is a small world, how come people kept going to work for Theranos despite the high turnover?

Leggy: And the kind of people they got to work for them?! People who were huge and well regarded! I just don’t understand. I think it’s probably the need to be a part of something big.

Taynement: Some guy came out of retirement after he had worked for Apple just to be a part of her board. Nahhh, Elizabeth Holmes must be something!

By the way, you guys should Youtube one of her interviews and listen to her voice. It sounds weird on purpose because she had it in her head that she had to have a deep voice like a man to command attention in a male dominated world

Leggy: She must be. She’s almost like a cult leader. Also, she hired a lot of international students that needed that H1B1 status.

Taynement: I think that was mostly Sunny’s doing, has his name written all over it. As an immigrant himself, he knew it was the fastest way to gain “loyalty”. Fear was his modus operandi. He sounds like a terrible, terrible man.

Leggy: Terrible and he wasn’t even charismatic. He was just terrible and literally had nothing going for him, he wasn’t smart, nothing! Can we talk about Walgreens and Safeway? Those may have been the dumbest companies in the entire book especially Walgreens. They hired an outside consultant to evaluate the deal they had with Theranos and then totally ignored his warnings.

Taynement: They deserve everything that happened to them.

Leggy: Everything! I was so flabbergasted the entire time. How does that happen?

Taynement: And then they agreed to build the health centers in the contract at their own expense and there was no product. They never asked to see the product and the results coming from it.

Leggy: I can’t imagine them not even asking to see a full demonstration of what they were letting into their stores and then they didn’t even ask to tour the Theranos labs! How do you pay millions of dollars for a product you’ve never seen in action? And they were faking results! How did the people there keep working in this company with their conscience intact? These were people’s lives, people’s actual money, people getting unnecessary procedures and having to go to the emergency room based on the test results you were giving them.

Taynement: I am surprised Theranos is still in existence.

Leggy: Yup, all they did was remove her as CEO but it’s still business as usual. She’s working on building another company. White privilege is a hell of a thing!

Taynement: Overall, I thought it was a good read. I audio’d it and I enjoyed it very much.

Leggy: I audio’d it too and told everyone I recommended it to, to do the same. You don’t even need to have heard of the company before, to enjoy this book. It’s fascinating and the author gives you enough background for you to follow along. It reads like fiction. 

Taynement: But it’s even more intriguing because it’s real life.

Leggy: Ended up giving it 4 stars on Goodreads and have been recommending it to everybody

Have you guys read this book? If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, did this review pique your interest? Will you be picking it up? Be encouraged to leave a comment 🙂


Taynement & Leggy