Book Review - ADHD Nation

by Alan Schwarz (Little, Brown) ISBN: 978-1-4087-0657-2 

Diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have exploded in the USA over the past twenty years. However, the research shows that it can’t be that prevalent. 

ADHD Nation interrogates ‘the disorder, the drugs, the inside story’. It examines its history, starring the father of ADHD, Dr Keith Conners. It scrutinises drugs like Ritalin and Concerta that evolved to treat the (very real, the author emphasises) disorder. It investigates the role of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry that clearly sells products not healthcare. Within this context, ADHD Nation gives voice to Connors, to doctors, to parents, and mostly to patients who are misdiagnosed, some with devastating consequences. 

Schwarz is a New York Times journalist and this book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It’s clear why. It is impeccably researched non-fiction that reads like fiction, making it enthralling and accessible. I particularly enjoyed the history of ADHD (originally ‘Minimal Brain Disorder’) and the ironic science of using stimulants to quell hyper-activity. The Big Pharma imperative to sell products (not healthcare) no doubt prevails in South Africa too. 

ADHD is an ‘everyone knows someone’ phenomenon in SA and this book provides informed and objective context. 

Deborah Minors 


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Book Review - The Bone Bed

by Patricia Cornwell (Little Brown) ISBN 9781408703458

Chief Medical Examiner, Kay Scarpetta is back for her twentieth appearance, together with Marino, Lucy and Benton. This time, however, Kay is completely unprepared when an email showing a severed ear makes its way to her computer.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Scarpetta’s personal life has taken centre stage as she worries about whether her husband, Benton, is having an affair, why her niece is keeping secrets from her, and whether Marion is responsible for the murder of a woman he made contact with on Twitter. Not her usually sharp and focused self, Scarpetta is unpredictably vulnerable.

This was not my favourite book from Patricia Cornwell, and I’m a huge fan of hers. While I have never liked the pretentiousness that surrounds Kay and her super-womanly powers that help her to not only put FBI agents in their place, but to whip up a meal worthy of a Michelin star chef, and still find time to add to her knowledge of French antiques, it’s become overkill.

The characters have become totally un-relatable. It was an uninspiring read and worst was if you tried to figure out who-dun-nit, you’ll feel sorely cheated. Time for Cornwell to go back to basics.

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers


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The Vanishing Point

by Val McDermid (Little, Brown) ISBN: 9781408703212 

I have read most of Val McDermid’s novels. I am a fan. Sadly, I am not a fan of her latest book. The Vanishing Point doesn’t know what kind of novel it is. Stephanie Harker’s son, Jimmy is snatched at O’Hare airport. Everything is going according to the blurb on the book. Another McDermid thriller begins. Or so I thought. 

Then we are thrust into a long-winded narrative of Jimmy’s history. Steph, as she is known, is a ghost-writer. She tells the FBI the story of Jimmy, and his real mother, Scarlett, a reality TV star, and how she, Steph, became Jimmy’s mother. This insulted my intelligence. What mother would calmly narrate the story over an extended period instead of becoming hysterical? What FBI agent would listen to it?

I was lulled into the plot by the always excellent writing talents of the author. I thought she must have a reason for telling the story this way. I became acquainted with Joshu, Jimmy’s father; Pete, Steph’s stalker ex-boyfriend; Detective Sergeant Nick Nicolaides, Steph’s new love interest; Maggie, Steph’s agent; and Simon, Leanne and Marina, all part of Scarlett’s entourage. And then I was confronted with a b-grade ‘surprise’ ending. What a waste of good writing. 

Amanda Patterson 

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Live By Night

by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown) ISBN: 9781408703168

Dennis Lehane could write about a snail race and make it sound thrilling. He doesn’t though. The author of Shutter IslandMystic River, and A Drink Before the War is back. 

Joe Coughlin meets icy beauty, Emma Gould, when he is 19. He is a small time gangster and she is Albert White’s mistress. Joe knows he shouldn’t but he falls in love with her. They start an affair. It’s 1926 and prohibition is in full swing. Coughlin hates his father, Thomas, who is the Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Police Department. Everything he does is an act of rebellion.  A robbery goes terribly wrong. His friend dies, they say Emma is dead, and policemen have been killed. 

Joe ends up in prison where he survives when Mafia Boss, Maso Pescatore, makes use of his talents, and his father’s connections. Joe is eventually released, and moves to Florida to set up shop for Maso. He makes a new life, meets the beautiful Graciela, builds a small empire, and ends up in Cuba. 

The novel is peppered with pain, and bolstered with beauty. It is empty of clichés and full of storytelling. Lehane remains in a class of his own. 

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The Casual Vacancy

by J K Rowling (Little Brown) ISBN 781408 704202


It’s amazing what anticipation and expectation can do. I could not wait to read The Casual Vacancy.


The village of Pogford is described in a Potterish fashion. Krystal and Fats are so selfishly involved in their teenage bumbling in the bush at the river that you just know the drama that will unfold. Due to the fact that Krystal has to drag her little brother along, they dump him on a bench near the river.


The whole book is peopled by similar natured people who have no sense of responsibility. I wondered as I ploughed through the book if this was meant for young adults or grownups.


This was an extremely difficult book to read. Abusive teenagers shout at their parents and parents use filthy language to their children. The vacancy that has become uppermost in the whole town has brought out the worst of the nature of the people .They become vultures. Rowling’s sex scenes are pathetic.


Don't rush to buy this book. It’s just not enjoyable.


Dee Andrew


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Vanished Years

by Rupert Everett (Little Brown) ISBN: 9780349000213


With his gaunt good looks and throwaway pedigree, Rupert Everett has always been somewhat of an impossibly elegant vagrant, stalking the edges of fame and notoriety. Nowhere is his uneasy relationship with his own fading celebrity more evident than in Vanished Years.


This is not the camp sidekick of My Best Friend’s Wedding or the ageing party boy on the circuit. We find a middle-aged man, son and lover looking back at a rueful past and facing a nebulous future—yes, with traces of bitterness but no self-pity. Self-deprecating humour, abundant charm and exquisite description of his own and friends’ vanished years draw you into a tale of uncovered regret, wild nostalgia and faint glimmering hope.


Everett can write with brutal hilarity about his failed attempt at an American sitcom, then surprise us with touching vulnerability as he recounts his doomed love for a beautiful Italian one summer, before switching to a harrowing first-hand account of his outreach work for the G8 Global Fund in Cambodia and Russia. 


But it is really his relationship with his father that imbues this memoir with its elegiac warmth and beauty.


Sometimes we listen to sad old songs to recall the past—with yearning, nostalgia or even regret. Sometimes we read beautiful books like this for the self-same reason.


Anthony Ehlers


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Steve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson (Little Brown) ISBN 978-1-4087-0374-8


Once upon a time when all the world used typewriters, a giant of a man, Steve Jobs, dreamed of changing everything.


Walter Isaacson describes the determination of a little adopted boy who strove for absolute perfection. Ironically, Jobs also gave up a little girl for adoption only to be reunited with her years later. He also discovered he had a famous novel writer as a sister.


His towering rages when things were not perfectly done were legendary, and out of all this came the computer that set the world alight. His wife and family put up with his picky eating, and days of silence and introspection. His son, Reed, played a special part in Job’s life. True, it is a modern fairy tale, but it is about real people who gave their all for Jobs’ ambition.


The real miracle is that Jobs abandoned the first Apple only to find it again years later and turn it around into the great and famous computer that it is today. Jobs’ love of Art and Music and Poetry were all somehow entwined with this computer, proving that science and the humanities can work together.


I first looked at the size of the biography and wondered whether I would ever read it to the end. However, it was fascinating, saddening, and enlightening and I read every page with new interest. This is the book of the past, present and future of our lives.


Dee Andrew


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The Devotion of Suspect X

by Keigo Higashino (Little Brown) ISBN 978 1408 703 250

I don’t know if this book is good. Let’s examine the facts. It is written well. And this is almost always good but there’s not much to say about well written books. 

The plot is interesting if a bit rehashed and threadbare for a murder mystery. Though I don’t fault it for that. After all characters make the book, and certainly the population of this world is interesting.  Though I find I didn’t really care about them enough to be shocked at the end. 

And that’s where it falls flat it feels like each character could have had at least five to six more chapters of development to give them some life. However, that would turn this book into a 1000 page boring monster that nobody would read. 

In all fairness it is translated and may have lost some of its spunk in the process. But that is really no excuse. 

I like it and it’s worth the trouble but it’s really only half a book that promises much and then ups and leaves town in the night with your free cash and a day or two of your hard earned time. 

Christopher Dean 

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