walkitout: (Default)
I'm still not sure if this is the first time I read this, or a reread. I have no idea. I went camping on Isle Au Haut once.

Saga of Isle Au Haut from pre-kid days:

http://walkitout.dreamwidth.org/6017.html
http://walkitout.dreamwidth.org/6977.html
http://walkitout.dreamwidth.org/10725.html (This last has the actual trip description.)

Those entries don't mention _why_ I wanted to go to Isle Au Haut; I'm pretty sure it was part of a multi-year NP visit thing I was doing while reading Nevada Barr novels.

Anyway. The island is a little odd, but nice, if you can survive the mosquitos. Greenlaw's family has been on the island (they used to own the Keeper's House, apparently, and the land the light is on before that) for a long time. She went off to swordfish, and was played by Mastroantonio in _The Perfect Storm_. Junger's recommendation is on this book. In this book, she describes a mediocre-bad lobstering season as she tries to fulfill her life goals of settling down with a family and a house. She makes some progress in this book -- indications are she makes more progress in other books.

The book has great narrative momentum. The stories are light and funny, despite what is sometimes some tragic material. If you like to feel like you learned something, she's happy to teach you about a variety of topics, historical and natural. I read it as this month's book group selection for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). The group gave is about a 3.5 collectively on a 5 point scale. It was tricky keeping discussion centered on the book. Usually this means that we were all more or less okay with the book, but it didn't strike a chord deeply enough in any of us to get riled up enough to be passionate about talking about it.

C. talked a little about what she saw as odd decision making by the author / protagonist. I noted that a lot of what she wound up saying and thinking -- as depicted in the book -- looked to me like conflicting impulses (wanted to get married; aggressively hostile to actually being set up with someone). In conjunction with some other funny but not necessarily entirely positive descriptions of things like the EMT project, I concluded that a lot of what makes Greenlaw seem odd (and the other people on the island) is a set of adaptive mechanisms that are basically what let them _stay_ on such an isolated rock, with all the attendant dangers of being more or less stuck there whenever there is bad weather especially in winter.

The book has been out for a while, but it has aged fairly well.
walkitout: (Default)
Subtitled True Stories of Imaginary Illness

There's only one person in the book (that I can recall) who was outright faking to collect on a lawsuit. And there are only two people in the book (maybe three) who were engaged in some form of Munchhausen's. So if you are looking for that particular kind of hilarity, this isn't the book for you.

This book is about hypochondriasis (health anxiety, etc.) secondarily, and psychosomatic illness primarily. The doctor is a neurologist and placed a ways up administratively in a UK NHS hospital, if I understood the book correctly. She sees people whose seizures do not respond to anti-epileptic drug treatment. Mostly, she keeps them around on video camera and wired up to an EEG for long enough to get both kinds of measures simultaneously on seizures. Generally speaking, in her experience, the non-responsive kinds of seizures don't show up on EEGs, and she attributes this to psychosomatic processes and refers to a psychiatrist. She has occasional amazing, almost faith healing like success, but generally speaking there's a lot of denial.

Her stories make it clear that persistent, no medically known cause patients often are part of family systems which are not very emotionally supportive (like at all) until someone is ill and then they are a lot more emotionally supportive in fact incredibly emotionally supportive, so, you know, incentives. She is not suggesting this is a conscious process on anyone's part, but then neither is that whole Pavlov dog and bell thing, either.

Woven into her excellent, novelistic like stories of patients (suitably adjusted to preserve anonymity and avoid ethical and legal violations), is a brief history of neurasthenia, hysteria, and a variety of related conceptions of these sorts of problems in the past. Anyone who has made a habit of reading Victorian (written or set during the era) novels has a pretty good sense of what these problems have looked like in the past and will not be surprised to learn that women tend to wind up with these labels more than men, then and now (despite the weird history of the theory of neurasathenia).

I had no idea, until I started talking about this book to friends, that so few people knew about seizures that don't show up on EEGs. My sister -- a nurse -- is certainly aware, and told me of a neurologist -- presumably not the only one -- who refuses to accept new patients who don't already have scans. So I absolutely believe the high rates of yeah, these are not the seizures we are accustomed to. I remember the history of hysterical paralysis (very lightly touched on here, sadly); there are psychosomatic syndromes which go through phases, eras in which some particular thing is a Thing, and then it dies down again. Usually once word gets round that the doctors have a test that is 100% accurate.

Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?

If the goal is to get people out of dangerous over-use of medical testing -- and over use of medical testing is incredibly dangerous. If you live long enough and look hard enough, you WILL find cancer. Period. End. We'll all die with it, if we live long enough, even tho far fewer of us will die of it. And many of those logged as dying of it probably died as a result of treatment, a tragedy that will never be adequately accounted for. (The woman whose psychosomatic illness mirrored her mother's breast cancer and death did not trigger any discussion of the evolution of the treatment of breast cancer, and how so much mortality of breast cancer in certain eras is probably directly attributable to the hazards of the treatment.)

If the goal is to get people out of the habit of dangerous over-use of medical testing and to start addressing some or all of their issues via the mental health professions, she's probably going about it wrong. The preventive health services have, on and off, argued against physicals -- going to the doctor to have a bunch of tests done Just To Check. But physicals are a profound form of propaganda for the medical profession. Come here. We'll check you out. We'll tell you what's good, what needs work, etc. And we'll monitor your progress. If you want people to be using mental health services, if you want to destigmatize, if you want the people who NEED mental health services to realize that and make use of it -- and their friends and family to nag at them to do that, rather than to get more unnecessary medical testing done -- maybe we should have mental health checkups. Why doesn't anyone ever suggest that?

In the mean time, O'Sullivan's book looks perfect for book groups. She's overtly compassionate (I don't completely buy it -- I think she's just cautious and covering for her judginess. Believe me when I say, I know what this looks like. I do actually have _some_ self insight). Her descriptions of people and her interactions with them are wonderful -- novelistic and with a nice amount of foreshadowing built into them, along with a lovely sting of had-I-but-known. Under 300 pages, no index, all medical terms explained in relatively accessible ways. It has won at least one non-fiction prize.

So for all that I wish she could have at least _mentioned_ the evolution occurring in somatoform disorder definition, and experiments with DBT and other borderline personality disorder treatments being used for somatization, and for all that I could have wished she had just left allergies and food intolerances right the fuck out of her disquisition on psychological illness popping up with physical symptoms, for all that she managed to leave everything about every treatment modality in bodywork entirely by the wayside, I still think it would be lovely if lots and lots of middle aged women read this book in book group and then started applying some pressure on people who are getting lots of tests that are not leading anywhere useful to at least try seeing a few therapists.

Because in the end, if whatever is going on with us isn't killing us quickly, we'll probably get better faster if there is someone we can talk to about what is going on, and who will help us problem solve so that we can re-arrange our lives to better support our whole selves.
walkitout: (Default)
Despite the Patricia Briggs debacle, I persist in trying to find a new series to enjoy. This one was available for free via kindle unlimited, and started out strong. Nothing rape-y, and in fact the smart ass heroine makes some really amusing comments about consent issues in someone else's relationship.

Alas, upon reflection, I realized that this is one of a number of series in which the heroine has Special Powers from her father, who was in no way involved in her upbringing. Other examples include: Mercedes by Briggs, Kate by Andrews, Pia by Harrison -- and I'm betting you can think of more. In this case, as with Kate, the heroine is hiding from Dear Old Dad, because he is a god and there will be repercussions if he finds out she is alive / exists. In Briggs and Harrison, dad is dead. I'm sure that this is a Thing that appeals to other people, but I would sort of like to now have a Kick Ass and Take Names Heroine (who is never raped, thank you very much) whose dad was alive for her upbringing and was generally a good guy. Andrews has supplied this in the billionaire / Osiris series, altho dad is dead in that series, too. But it really shows up in the storytelling, because the heroine is that much less of an emotional relationship basket case than pretty much all of the other series I've rattled off here.

Actual review: HEY SPOILERS! Don't tell anyone you know what her powers are or she'll have to kill you to keep Lucifer from finding out about her.

Mid-20s bounty hunter, living in the "Brink" and able to access the "Realm" which she generally stays out of. Some vampires steal her "mark", so she's broke and has to take a case she otherwise wouldn't, partnered with an elder vampire. She goes to meet him in the "Realm" in the vampire "Lair" and then they go -- really, I am not making this up and I did NOT confuse this with the Thea Harrison series -- find out who has been messing with the unicorns and stealing their blood.

This book might be slightly derivative. Or, you know, great minds think alike. You decide.

The very, very, very best thing about this book -- and it is almost but not quite enough to get me to commit to reading the next entry -- is the dual mage couple that alas does not show up for a while. Once Callie and Dizzy are on page, however, I totally lost interest in the heroine, because Callie and Dizzy are completely awesome. I mean, when was the last time you read an urban fantasy with mid 60s mages, married to each other, complaining about each other's habits, and generally wreaking havoc whenever they want. If Breene ever produces a short or -- better still -- a full length novel about Callie and Dizzy when they are at least middle-aged, but better still, this age or older (I don't want a prequel with them being young), I would read that and reread that and reread that again.

If you are a huge Breene fan and think there are other reasons I should keep reading or try something else by Breene, let me know. I'm just kind of over the OMG the vamp makes me want to humpety hump but I Must Not theme. Over. And. Done.
walkitout: (Default)
Seriously, I _always_ include spoilers, and if someone is going to recommend I read or watch something and they won't supply spoilers, I will either go find a plot summary or just ignore all their recommendations. That's who I am.

Everyone gone? Okee dokee, then.

There are a bunch of somewhat contemptuous phrases designed to capture the idea that a fictional product (TV episode, movie, book, etc.) has somewhat crudely built a story around a problem or trend currently in the social consciousness: disease of the week, afterschool special, ripped from the headlines. I'm sure you can come up with some that aren't decades old.

This book checks some boxes: urban farming / food desert (especially in the context of helping kids with underprivileged backgrounds experience Real Food; this heroine captures the full range), cancer (the hero is a non-hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, IIRC), the rise of opioid addiction in suburban/white neighborhoods and communities.

It's generally well done; I'm not complaining. But when I run across a book that hits several fairly high profile trends, I do wonder what it is going to be like rereading it in a few years. Some of this stuff really doesn't age well at all. Others do just fine. *shrug*

In the previous book I read (Hidden Legacy #2 by the Ilona Andrews writing team), the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER was an unknown grandmother. In this book, the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER is psychopath dad. And _that_ part of the story worked really well for me.

So, what happens. This is a flashback-y, series entry that can be read alone, story of second chances. The two first encountered when he busted her for selling drugs. He flips her and uses her as a CI for a while and after the trials they part. They meet up again when he basically tries to use one of the underprivileged young people she is in the process of rescuing at the farm and associated restaurant in the way he used her and she objects. It is at this point that she finally coughs up something she sort of never got around to mentioning earlier (oh, yea, btw, I was fronting for my dad when I was dealing).

I particularly liked the idea that Dear Old Dad is so awful, but in such normal ways -- he's emotionally abusive, but it's pretty subtle stuff, and in a lot of ways, Riva is lucky to have found a guy who immediately picks up on what a monster Dad is. Calhoun has even embedded some clues as to why Dad is such a horrible person.

I'm still trying to figure out whether the many pieces of the two main characters really gelled, or if they are still fragments of real people. Do I really believe that Ian spent a bunch of time getting blacked out drunk and dancing all night long and picking up random strangers and taking them home? I don't know. It's a solid way to connect Riva and Ian -- they are both presenting a front of being on the straight and narrow and their history together and separately makes that really not the whole story.

In any event, reading it was an enjoyable enough experience I now sort of want to go back and reread the earlier entries of the series.

Oh, pretty much all the entries have some kind of SEAL connection, but it's the weirdest SEAL romance series I've ever encountered, in that so little of the story has much of anything to do with the military.
walkitout: (Default)
Subtitled: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama

I _should_ have read this when it came out, but I am sort of happy I did not, because I got to read it for the first time now instead, and then chat about it at book group. Of course we all love Ifill, and are so sad that she is no longer with us. Ironically, everyone else at book group had probably watched her on the news more than I had -- and I loved the book while most of the group was very disappointed. And it wasn't because we all felt the same about the book, and the bar was in different places for each of us. Nope -- I thought this was a five star book and there wasn't anyone agreeing with me.

I had thought, as I read it, that this would have been a really different book for me if I had _not_ been watching TRMS (and before it, Countdown with Keith Olbermann) for over a decade (collectively). With a few exceptions (notably, at the chapter level, Artur Davis), I could readily bring to mind images from the shows -- I could remember seeing the people in the book on the shows, being interviewed or consulted for commentary on recent events. I head their voices, I had a feel for their sense of humor (or lack thereof). If you could not readily imagine the people in this book, I can see how it would have been incredibly confusing and difficult to read. But instead, this was roughly equivalent to reading Soap Opera Digest, and I followed it up with wikipedia level research to figure out Where Are They Now.

The funniest of all _those_ stories are the many veering curves in the career arc of Artur Davis. Not only did he _not_ win the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial election he was aiming for during this book, he didn't win his primary. He switched parties, moved to Virginia, started writing for the National Review and supported Mitt Romney -- all after NOT supporting ACA because he didn't care for the mandates (which, in turn, were all there because of Republicans and especially Mitt Romney).

Don't take my word for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artur_Davis

It's a heckuva story.

But that's not in _The Breakthrough_. What _is_ in _The Breakthrough_ are the early stories of Michael Nutter, Adrian Fenty, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, David Paterson among many others. These are the stories of the first generation of electable and often elected African American (mostly) men who didn't win office exclusively in majority-minority districts. Ifill explores how they found ways to appeal to white voters without offending their black base. She also explores the dynamic of the 2008 election and the question of which is harder to overcome: racism or sexism. This was the part my group, I think, was least convinced by, perhaps because of the result of the 2016 election. While those African American women elected to office (Kamala Harris gets a few pages) and interviewed here deprecate how serious sexism was for them vs. racism, this is, actually, the strategy for dealing with bigotry that cannot yet be faced head on. Ifill also touches -- very lightly -- on how women don't vote as a bloc, which I think is more important for the sexism vs. racism question.

If you can make sense of the names that people this book -- if they are familiar to them, or you can become familiar with them enough to animate the interviews that form the backbone of this book -- it is a wonderful, nuanced and light-handed exploration of the intersection of race, gender and class. And honestly, even if you did read it back in 2009, you might want to go re-read it. Time has only made it more interesting as an examination of a generation of leaders and how they got to where they were.
walkitout: (Default)
This was a book group selection for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name) public library's adult book group. I believe I first read this book -- along with a lot of other cozies -- as a pre-teenager. My mother was a fan then, and continued to be a fan right up until in recent years she ceased to be able to read. Other favorite authors included Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers (I preferred both of them to Christie, but I did not then bear Agatha Christie any ill will -- I did like the Tommy and Tuppence books best, IIRC, which I may not because honestly over 30 years have passed since I last read any of these books).

Spoilers! En voiture, mes amis, unless you've decided to stay a few nights and see the sights rather than board the Wagon Lits.

The first chapter is set on a different line, the Taurus Express, the stops along which read like a summary of recent extended conflict: Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, Aleppo. Here we first meet Hercule Poirot, the mustachioed and bald Belgian with the egg shaped head, Mary Debenham, a governess headed home to England, and Colonel Arbuthnot, headed home to England from years in India.

Poirot intends to stay in Stamboul, but receives a telegraph recalling him to another case. With more difficulty than anticipated, he gets space in the unexpectedly full first class of the Orient Express. He carefully observes the various passengers in first and second class. He initially shares a room with someone he first saw at the hotel in Stamboul he was briefly at, but when an additional carriage is added to the train, an officer of the rail line switches to the new carriage and Poirot gets his own room.

Of course, his neighbor is murdered in the night and the game is afoot. The novel has been out since 1934 or thereabouts and has been made into movies and short TV series and then riffed and homaged to yards past its death. I think we all know the basic premise of the book: Everyone Did It.

Having gotten the major spoiler out of the way, what's it like reading this thing in 2017? Well, I guess the first and most obvious comment would be how thin the motivating crime feels. The standin for the Lindy baby kidnapping -- a ripped from the headlines plot point if ever there was one -- did not age well. Decades after everyone involved in the Lindbergh case died, we now know a fair number of unsavory things about Charles and his feelings about his son, that make the source case seep through in weird ways to the thinly fictionalized version.

The second, and most offensive aspect of the novel is the relentless ... bigotry? Ethnic stereotyping? Racism? Because the "races" in question are all (western) European, and because we ultimately learn that several people are not the "race" they present as but actually someone else enacting their own stereotype of the "race", it's all more than a little weird and creepy.

Completely by accident, I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry about Graham Greene's _Stamboul Train_, which predates this novel by a couple years, is set on the same train, and shares a variety of attributes with this book, but which honestly sounds a helluva lot more interesting and nuanced -- altho who knows how _that_ would hold up if read now.

I would observe that reading this book in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the world was at least marginally recognizable. I had myself been on multi-day train journeys, albeit always in coach. Borders were still enforced in the areas through which the train passed, and it was still difficult to identify a common second language in which to conduct business with a stranger met on a train. Reading this book in 2017, it is difficult not to feel that this book has receded a great deal further in time. Between WW2, the peak of the Soviet era, and the creation of Europe leading to English being adopted essentially throughout the area as a common second language, it just isn't possible to relate to the world of the people on the train. Which is probably the other half of why this has become an increasingly difficult story to adapt to TV and movies. (That's not stopping anyone -- I think Dr. Who did it a few years back, altho it is worth noting their version involved a Mummy.)

Hercule Poirot is a wildly implausible character in so many ways it's hard to know how to enumerate them. The use of stilted English (word order and other grammatical oddities, not to mention word choice) at least on the surface intended to convey that conversations are occurring in French (and yet still dotted with largely useless interjections in French -- but never German, even tho some convos are also conducted in German) probably did once successfully resonate with people accustomed to talking to people for whom English was a second language and who themselves word-for-word translated expressions from their own language of origin.

Finally, the book is just way too clever for its own good. I'll probably update this after our discussion.

ETA: We had a person in the group who knows Swedish well enough to not believe the Swedish characters version of stilted English at all. Our group settled on the usual Agatha Christie observations: characters not really believable or differentiatable, difficult to feel a sense of place, highly contrived plot, etc. It was a nice discussion, but a little short.
walkitout: (Default)
I loved Levinson's _The Box_, even though it took me years to get around to reading it. I had bought it in hardcover for my husband around the time it came out, and then promptly quit reading things in paper. Despite that, it took me a while -- altho only months, not years -- to convince myself to take a flyer on _An Extraordinary Time_. Levinson's book is about the immediate post war decades, but his perspective is to show how odd those decades were by comparing them to what came before and after. And since the after is my entire life, I've got some pretty strong feelings about those decades and I haven't run into a lot of economists or economic historians who agree with me much. I didn't want to find out that Levinson was just another one of Them.

Lucky me! I love this book.

Naturally, when I read something that runs along lines that I already think, I am predisposed to like it. Aren't we all. Actually, this is not entirely true. I can get hypercritical of stuff I like a little too much. But honestly, that didn't really happen here, either, because Levinson focuses on telling the story: what happened, what were the policy responses, what happened after the policy responses, how did various investigators, whether bureaucrats or academics, interpret the policy responses and the results of the policy responses.

And it is actually pretty impossible to entirely agree with the way I have thought about the world in which I grew up, because I've changed my mind far too many times. From a world in which I hated Reagan and Thatcher, to an age where I don't think what they did really worked in any larger sense but I can now really understand what they were reacting to, it's difficult to imagine how one could reconcile those very divergent opinions, each of which I have held in turn. And yet, Levinson's analysis is so measured, he can describe the outrageous demands being made and the dire economic circumstances, the bizarre and not particularly consistent ideologies subscribed to by supply siders and Conservatives in the UK, and come out the other side basically saying, well, you definitely couldn't keep doing what had been the status quo, and the new stuff didn't work either, but . . . it's not at all clear that anything was really going to make that much of a difference anyway.

If it all sounds kind of dry and non-committal, it didn't feel that way reading it. To me, it was like watching a sped up version of the background of my life, and along it unreeling the many ways I have tried to understand it. Behind it all, Levinson does really _get_ that this all went the way it did because of two underlying factors which are not handled in great detail. First, technological change and progress which initially was compatible with full employment but later was not. Second, different societal goals that arose over time that were not well captured by economic statistics (environment, especially, but others as well). Significantly lacking in the background is a sense of the massive demographic changes -- if I have a complaint, it would be that. Backgrounding the technological changes and the What Do You Measure problem does not bother me; backgrounding the demographics leaves me with a chicken and egg problem.

It's a great book. I have no idea what it would be like to read this book if you are significantly older or younger than me, nor do I have any idea what it would be like to read this if you've never explored an economics perspective on history. I can readily imagine that reading this with a different life span to measure it against, or with a different sense of economics could result in a very, very different opinion of the book.
walkitout: (Default)
Steinem has been such an important figure in the world for my entire life, it is a little odd reading her memoir. It's a great memoir. She has a friendly voice, without being verbose or overly chatty. She touches upon the meta-decisions of what to put in a/this memoir and why, without it feeling like she's avoiding engaging with the material.

It is easy to fill in the parts of another person's life that we have no knowledge, direct or otherwise, of with assumptions based on our own experience and the experience of other people we know well. I think anyone who has a decent smattering of experience through time and/or travel or a wide network of diverse kin knows this is a mistake, often a serious mistake, but it is how our brains work. So the book presents many layers of shock right from the beginning. It's hard to imagine growing up driving around in a car with one's parents and sister. The reader might think, but what about school? And that question is answered, but not really in the way you might expect. This was unschooling at its more extreme end. It does put a whole new spin on statements she later makes about how she didn't learn about something-or-other or they don't teach that in school. Well, over and above the fact that every school in this country does things a little differently, and then that changes from year to year and Steinem can't be considered a youthful person by any stretch any more -- she didn't really go to school. So how would she know? I assume it is an expression that she picked up.

She doesn't feel sorry for herself for having parents who clearly suffered from significant mental health issues. It's not clear she really grasps that her father did -- she may still be filing his oddities under that catchall heading, "eccentricity". When she expresses her anguish over not being with him when he dies, it's also completely unclear how much of that experience she has unpacked (my answer? Probably not a lot, either that or she declined to share, which is her prerogative).

She also tends not to blame anyone for, really, much of anything. She gets in her digs -- and more power to her! -- but she delivers the payload and moves on. Reading this book helps answer a basic question I've had about people who engage in community organizing on a national scale. How on earth do these people maintain a home life? In Steinem's case, she didn't bother for a really long time.

In answer to related questions you might have, nope, didn't file taxes for a long time, either, didn't save for retirement, etc. She's a really representative character of the mid 20th century in a lot of ways.

All that said, I really loved the book and the book did nothing to tarnish my sense of her as one of my heroes. It gave me a lot of detail on what her life had been like, and her perspective on the many, many, many other activists and organizers she has worked with. That was really wonderful actually -- even if you have no interest in Steinem, Steinem's connectedness to the larger community of activism and organizing is just amazing.

We had to delay book group discussion due to weather, so I may come back next month and edit this.
walkitout: (Default)
This is in the Elder Races universe, however, it is set in the UK, rather than being US centric.

SPOILERS HO! Run, or Isabeau will send Morgan to git you and rip out your tongue or something even worse.

Sophie got shot while working as a witch consultant for the LAPD. She is still recovering when Dr. Kathryn Shaw approaches her with a weird will/inheritance thing. If she can get into this old English manor house, it's hers, along with a substantial annuity. Sweet! Sophie was adopted by exploitative witches and left first chance she got. She had to figure out her ancestry on her own and knows she has some Djinn ancestry.

Nikolas is a Knight of the Daoine Sidhe, a dwindling crew being persecuted by the Light Court (led by Isabeau) and unable to return home to Lyonesse, where Oberon lies insensate and all but dead.

Robin is a puck gone missing, who somewhat inconveniently shows up to be rescued by Sophie and provide a point of initial conflict with Nikolas (and Gawain). Antics ensue.

Sophie _does_ get the house. And I mean, this is a romance novel, so obvs Sophie and Nik are gonna get it on (and on and on and on because he is part Wyr and Mating and blah blah blah). There is a strong thread of Who Will Betray Me involved. And there are lovely setups (is Morgan fully controlled by Isabeau? Does he need to be rescued too? Of course we need to find out!) for more in the series.

Utterly satisfying, if Thea Harrison's elder races novels do it for you, this probably will too, subject to there may well be some sort of UK errors that I am not detecting that might piss you off. But, fun! And exploring the manor house sorta like an episode of Sapphire and Steel.
walkitout: (Default)
OK, so, some people are clearly not grabbing a clue from the title. YES, the book is loaded, larded, completely laden with f bombs. If that is a problem for you, this is not a book for you. Don't read this book if you aren't loving the f bombs. Seriously.

Sarah Knight has written an effective parody AND an effective self-help book. The topic of the self-help aspect is prioritization of time/energy/money in line with one's values. Most of the book is devoted to introspection on what aligns with your values and figuring out how to say no to things that don't align with your values but do exhaust your time/energy/money, without being an Asshole (TM). She explores some of the domain of being polite vs. being honest while saying no.

The books weaknesses require little contemplation to identify. Her evaluation function is too present-focused. It is only at the end of the book that she makes any effort to help the reader figure out what they should be doing now so that they don't wind up regretting not doing it later. A lot of duty/obligation stuff is devoted to getting you to avoid this situation, and since she is jettisoning duty/obligation, I think she should have spent more time on this.

But you know? It's her book. And it is fairly humorous.

It's hard to know if this would _help_ any particular reader. I don't know that I was helped by it (but I was vastly entertained, and a little disturbed by how many of the examples it wouldn't even occur to me to feel any guilt about). But if you feel like you are being nibbled to death by small requests difficult to say no to, but which are not advancing you along your spiritual path, hey, can it really hurt? There are at least several giggled in it.
walkitout: (Default)
Wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I may go reread it tonight. Just, wow.

Spoilers! Continue and an ad-hal might get you!

Ok, so I think this is book 3 in the Innkeeper series. A chaotic ... something or other shows up as a courier and tells her her sister is in trouble. So off she goes to rescue sister and niece. She recruits the vampire to help her out, and the vampire's reaction to her sister is ... really fucking entertaining.

All these books with Team Wolf vs. Team Vampire, and this is the _first_ resolution that involves answering the question, "Do you have a sister?"

The main storyline -- why is it the Draziri have it in for the smelly guys -- is telegraphed pretty early on and pretty overwhelmingly. But who cares, when you get things like Mr. Rodriguez's son is a what?!? And the magic answer turns out to be a name that matches the initials on the cat's tag?!?

Most of the time, gimcrack stuff like this makes me eye roll. But I was cheering. If Ilona Andrews is your kinda crack, this was _really good crack_. I am so looking forward to the next entry.

Also, I _love_ the cop now! All this trouble with what to do about the cop and the answer is simple. Give him a copy of the relevant law and appropriate arms and boom. He's now enforcing the treaty FOR them, instead of interfering with them. Awesome.
walkitout: (Default)
Sands is not an author I normally read, but I had some spare time and a strong desire for something mindless. Based on a SBTB review, I gave this a whirl.

Let's just say if you require a lot of accuracy in your historical fiction, this is probably not necessarily where you want to be reading.

Sands' heroine was married without having a Season after her father nearly lost the estate to gambling and somebody showed up to marry off his eldest daughter and pay the debt. The daughter (secretly) had a substantial dower from another relative, and after the marriage, the man stops with the Oh You Are My Lovely Rose and switches to being a verbally but not physically abusive asshole who isolates her from her family and friends. But you don't really get to know him in person, because he is mostly present in the book as an inconvenient body, a la Weekend at Bernies or The Trouble with Harry.

Spoilers, ho! If you don't want spoilers, well, leave before you are shipped off to the Colonies as an indentured servant. Or something.

We never do find out who poisoned the asshole husband. Apparently that is divulged in book 2 or 3, which I probably won't read, because this is one of those retell it from the other person's perspective things and a lot of the later books repeat the earlier books.

I haven't read other books by the author, so I don't know if her relatively heavy-handed pop psychology is typical. But it is relatively heavy-handed. It's not that I disagree with her; it's that I have trouble imagining the historical characters thinking that way.

Aside from the unsatisfactory resolution re: who poisoned the asshole, the book is a romp. Lots of misunderstandings and physical comedy, especially surrounding intimate encounters. The twin of the dead husband and the heroine really do wind up having sex in part on a bed where they have forgotten they have stashed the dead guy. Which is why I read the book in the first place, so if that makes you snort, this is probably a good choice for you. Otherwise, probably give it a pass.
walkitout: (Default)
(ETA Huge apologies for managing to spell the author's name incorrectly. BOTH first and last names wrong. I must be special or something, to cock it up that bad!)

I was reading SBTB (http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/) the other day, and there was a hilarious post about books with angry heroines. I've read some Laurentson before, and the reason I stopped reading her wasn't so compelling I was opposed to giving it another try.

In this outing, Livy (honey badger) and Vic (hybrid bear / I forget the details on which cat) get together. It is far enough into the series/universe that you could get very, very, very lost if you haven't read any of the earlier books at all, but if you understand the basic universe and how the various shifter groups relate to each other, the book stands on its own otherwise (you don't have to read _all_ the other books first, basically).

The book opens with a funeral and all kinds of honey badger drama around the funeral. Livy is sort-of depressed and mostly that manifests as not wanting to take any pictures or really do much of anything. Vic and his not-partner hire her to break into an apartment in an effort to track down someone who has been hunting shifters and stuffing them (ewww); the apartment belongs to that man's decades estranged daughter so there is no real expectation that searching the apartment will help but it's one of the few ideas they have. Alas, Livy gets a real surprise in that apartment.

HEY, SPOILERS!

Look, if you dropped in here via google, now is the time to leave. If you read this blog and you don't realize I spoil the fuck out of everything, well, you haven't been reading it for very long. So, run away! Or some honey badger will do something really awful to you probably. Because that's how they roll.

Where was I? Oh, Livy didn't really believe her father was in the coffin at his funeral; she thought it was a scam on her mother's part to collect on insurance policies she had taken out on him. He _wasn't_ in the coffin. But as her mother had come to believe, he was dead. And as absolutely no one expected, he was in that apartment. Stuffed.

Livy is too upset to talk about it, but not too upset to do some major damage. Vic gets her out of the trouble she immediately gets into, and then takes her off for some recuperation time until she is able to discuss what happened in the apartment. Once she recovers enough to talk, she calls a honey badger clan meeting and all holy hell breaks loose.

As these things go, it's kind of fun, if you're looking for a _very_ literal minded hero and a _very_ angry heroine. I think I was supposed to be laughing a lot more than I was. It was pretty dark, tho.
walkitout: (Default)
I bought this in paperback at Willow Books for 40% off because it was on the clearance shelves in the foyer. I have no idea why this was on the clearance shelves. It's a good book and please don't take insult if I send you a copy in the next few days. I mean well, and I might actually intend for you to read it and think about whether someone closely connected to you might benefit from it.

I was at Willow Books to buy a gift certificate for my walking partner. While I was there, I bought a couple other books, too. Hopefully I'll get around to reading and passing along those books as quickly as this one, but honestly, I don't have a great track record with paper books in a TBR pile; it is one of the reasons I switched so hard over to reading on the kindle. Also, my eyes.

In any event, _The Worry Trick_ is a self-help book. If you read it without having the problem in question, because, like me, you are trying to understand what is going on in someone else's head, then you, like me, will likely stumble over the many moments where Carbonell says, Pick a Persistent Worry You Have. Or, You Wouldn't Be Reading This Book Unless. But that's okay; I hope those passages and exercises work well for the intended audience. They certainly look and sound plausible. Many times, Carbonell says something along the lines of, the intuitive response to blah blah blah is to blah blah blah, and I go, what? That's not why I do in that situation, it wouldn't work. What he suggests next is often on the list of things I _would_ do in that situation, which gives me confidence that his tactics are aligned with my values.

Here is the meat of the book. Carbonell comes at chronic worry from an acceptance and commitment framework. This is within the overall umbrella of cognitive behavior therapy, but differs from other CBT approaches to chronic worry. He specifically describes cognitive restructuring as a CBT tactic that does help many people but often does not help the people this book is aimed at. His basic theory is that people suffering from chronic worry have misidentified nervousness and uncertainty as danger. He states that they tend to have one of two stances with respect to worry: a desire for absolute certainty that the thing they are worried about will not (ever) happen and/or a desire to never have thoughts that the thing they are worried about might (ever) happen.

I think most of my readers (but not all) will take a look at these two stances and then have to pause for a moment to retrieve their eyeballs (because they popped right out of their heads!) or their jaw (from the floor where it fell). If I'd actually understood the desire for absolute certainty, I would have addressed that over the content of the worry. If I had understood that the goal was to never have a thought that something bad might happen ever again, I would have addressed that as an unattainable goal. Instead, I tend to do what amounts to cognitive restructuring, with a bit of reframing thrown in for good measure, along with a solid chunk of, hey, if that happened, here's what I think you would probably do to cope with it so you can rest assured that you will appropriately respond should it happen to pass, possibly with a dollop of, if you took this small action now, it would further reduce the small likelihood of this bad thing happening/this thing happening and causing problems for you down the line. That does feel really good, but it doesn't _stick_, because the stance is ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY or TOTAL LACK OF AWFUL THOUGHTS, neither of which is possible (or, I would argue, desirable).

The balance of the book is a combination of, here's what the inside of your head is like, broken down in very small steps so you can see how it works mechanically and here's a set of interventions to help you tolerate the bad thoughts, and reduce your desire for absolute certainty/total absence of what-if-bad-thing thoughts. Basically, some paradoxical strategies, some humor, some singing, and some prescribe the symptom stuff.

This is not a book for all kinds of anxiety. If your anxiety is reprocessing of past events, it probably will be of limited utility. The basic problem this book solves for is: improving strategies for coping with what-if-something-bad thoughts.

One final word. Everyone (wow, I sure hope, anyway) has thoughts that are formed more or less as: what if something bad. This book doesn't get rid of those thoughts. This book does not help you prove that the something bad can't happen. This book gets you to the point where you go, hunh, that's an interesting thought. It gets you to the point where if, as a result of a stressful period in your life, those thoughts are happening at a high rate, you can still take care of yourself even while the what if something bad thoughts are still parading through your increasingly exhausted brain. Please believe me when I say, getting to that point is a wicked awesome place.
walkitout: (Default)
I finally finished this. I bought it in hardcover and it got buried under a stack of papers that I recently filed in a filing rampage brought on by my inability to find a somewhat unnecessary letter from an insurance agent that was mixed in with charitable solicitations. I found the letter after the filing rampage when I wrote charity checks. All of this resulted in me noticing the book -- after returning the stack of library books which replaced the paperwork -- and bringing it with me on T-weekend to LBI and thus finishing reading it.

I bought it in paper because it has maps. They are not color maps. They aren't particularly necessary maps -- you could look online at other maps and they would work just fine. But it is sort of handy having it all in one place, and with somewhat appropriate granularity and so forth. Map making is always a set of choices about which geographical and/or political features to include or exclude, and those are important if your entire thesis involves political geography or the geographics of politics or hegemony or whatever you care to call it.

Like all arguments that purport to attribute a large sweep of human behavior and/or history to a comparatively simple aspect of the physical world, Marshall's arguments get very bogged down in the details. But like any good argument about the influence of physical reality on human behavior and/or history, there are a lot of good insights here. The main problem is that the overselling isn't limited to the subtitle (Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World).

But if you've never read a breakdown of the various regional hegemonies the predated the Cold War duality, and which have risen to prominence once again, it's a reasonable introduction and it slides by fairly quickly. I didn't put it down because it was bad -- I lost it in a stack of papers. If you already have a sophisticated understanding of, say, China's involvement in the global South, then you'll gain little from this. And depending on how old you are, you might be kind of disappointed and/or confused by the flippant handling of things you remember from your youth, like why East Pakistan is now Bangladesh.

If you know of a better book on a related topic, I'd be interested in it.
walkitout: (Default)
I got this on the kindle, so if there are amazeballs illustrations in a paper version, I didn't see them.

I picked this up some time after reading Marie Kondo's book, I forget precisely why but presumably it had something to do with the psychology of closets (what your closet says about you, type of thing).

It's okay. It's not great. My recollection of Grant McCracken's _Big Hair_ is that it did a better job than this one on a related topic, and I think that's probably because McCracken took an anthropological perspective (these people have agency and are doing really interesting things to change their lives by changing some physical attribute) versus a psychologist's perspective (these people need help and I will explain to them what their clothing says about them and help them identify what they want to say about themselves and assist in the journey to get from here to there). But it has been long enough since I read _Big Hair_ that it's possible I have rose-tinted memories.

There are a couple elements that really stand out. First, as with McCracken, this is mostly aimed at women. At least McCracken acknowledged this as a problem and explained what he tried to do to get around that and why he thinks he failed. Baumgartner actually has cases in the book involving men -- and immediately applies those lessons to a presumed female readership. That's just taking the easy road. There's no apparent awareness. Second, Baumgartner has the usual failings of someone writing this kind of book. Inevitably, all the fashion advice points women in a particular class/race/socioeconomic direction.

I'm sure she's helpful to her clients; I'm less convinced this book is particularly helpful to anyone. I mean, whenever I read lists of The Only Clothes You Really Need and I don't own any of them, I wonder what the hell is even going on here anyway.
walkitout: (Default)
Book group pick this month for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). I got this copy from my local library (technically, it's from the Minuteman library network and comes from Goodnow).

It's prose. It's a super fast read and it is amazing how it just sinks into one's brain and the details just _stick_. Incredible writing, deceptively simple, and it seems clear from interviews (and from the content of this book, as it is a memoir) that that is both what the author intends and what the author is really, really good at. If you're wondering whether you should try a book by this author, the answer is, yes! Yes you should.

I don't generally go out of my way before reading a book club selection to research a book or author, the way I often do before reading a book _I_ pick. So I was quite startled to find partway through the book that she had been raised a JW. When she talks about the pink songbook and quotes a line or 4 of lyric, she caused my past to come right back out of its box and now I have that goddamn song stuck in my head again. Not likely to happen to most readers!

I'm looking forward to this evening's discussion, and may update this post after.
walkitout: (Default)
In which they finally get married! Swoon, amirite?

The writing team came up with a somewhat stilted gimmick fort his novel. The Witch Oracle has been looking into Kate's future more or less since she claimed Atlanta and they do _not_ like what they are seeing, not one teeny tiny bit. They tell Kate and Kate doesn't like it either. So she starts thinking outside the box and opens up some possibilities; it turns into one of those scavenger hunt/serial murder or criminal leaves a bunch of puzzles for the heroes to solve episodes. In 70s era crime drama, it involved payphones; in this case, it involves confusing checkins with the Witch Oracle.

On the one hand, this could really be silly and annoying. On the other hand, it works fairly well as a Kate Life Review. Each of the anchor points involves Kate revisiting a friend or family member, and the past is reinterpreted (sometimes very tragically, sometimes in a way that leads to some optimism). Kate's relationships with her close friends are strengthened and by the time the final battle arrives, I doubt anyone is particularly surprised to learn that every single one of the anchor points preserved the life of a friend whose contribution to the battle is crucial (or, in at least one case, precipitated a death that was important, or, yeah, whatever).

Neat book. I love who Kate and Curran picked to officiate; it is in every way appropriate. And I'm looking forward to more in the series and the universe.
walkitout: (Default)
I bought this hardcover at Valley Wild Books and plan on handing it off to my fellow cultofdomesticity member, D. probably later today. I have an e-copy now, too.

Advice in managing abundance does not change over time. Here is William Morris:

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Of course, the details matter. When Oprah was still on the air, she brought Julie Morgenstern to her viewers. Morgenstern's loving and compassionate off the cuff analysis of how people's homes reflected their pain and uncertainty -- and how going through everything in those homes with the SPACE approach could help resolve that pain and uncertainty -- was revelatory.

Marie Kondo's book falls within this tradition, but it also shares a lot with David Allen's own cult of time management, _Getting Things Done_.

Kondo's young, but she has been doing this for a long time. She has been obsessing over women's magazines and their ads and articles about storing and organizing since she was wee (five, by her account). She has come out the other side ruthlessly opposed to containerizing and organizational systems. She -- like every other hard core manager of abundance since at least William Morris -- is ruthless: ya gotta get rid of a lot of it.

So why Kondo now?

I don't know why Karen Kingston's _Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui_ never properly took off. I loved it, and I'm not even a big fan of Feng Shui. It's just an excellent, highly readable, motivating book about getting energy flowing again by getting rid of stuff. Kondo has a chapter on Feng Shui, but Kondo's spirituality and psychology is simultaneously much more pervasive in the book and much more concrete. People talk about the "spark of joy" that is the criteria for keeping an item. People titter about saying good bye to objects as one passes them along. They flat out object to thanking objects for their service. But I wonder if perhaps this concrete spirituality is more accessible because it is so resistant to an intellectual take down. You can mock it, but unless you know quite a lot about the tradition that inspired it, it is tough to rally a solid argument against doing what she advocates, and if you actually start doing it, it really will change your perspective. It is Sneaky. I approve.

I've name checked some excellent books in the same subgenre; I haven't named a dozen others that are not nearly so good. The good ones -- including Kondo -- all have basically the same approach. Collect all like items. (Sort). Get rid of some/most of them (Purge). Find a home for what you are keeping (Assign and Containerize -- in Kondo, this is basically put it in a shoebox in the cupboard, or some variation on that theme, but with the expectation that you will replace that shoebox with something else that sparks joy when it enters your life). Maintain (Equalize; Put Everything In Its Place, etc.). Kondo's weakness, predictably, lies in Equalize/Maintain. She asserts that if you Really Do This Thoroughly, you never need to do it again.

Morgenstern, I'm sure, knows much better.

That said, if you really do a thorough job of it, and if you do not experience a major life change (person in household changes: someone is born, dies, moves in or out, becomes chronically ill; household moves to a new location, possibly several times; fire, storm, etc. damage affecting most of household, etc.), then yeah, you probably won't have to do this again. (Note that long, long list, and remember that Kondo is young.) And once you have done it, you probably won't need to hire Kondo a second time. She believes it doesn't need to be repeated because she never has repeat customers while having an amazeballs international word of mouth business that, in true cult fashion, she has wound down in favor of training acolytes. It is arguable that Kondo does Equalize/Maintenance harder than any declutterer/organizer the world has ever seen. It's just that she denies the existence of maintenance. Which sort of offends me.

Super fast read, very entertaining. Also inspiring. She is so relentlessly mono-focused that you really cannot actually misunderstand the core point: if it doesn't spark joy, you probably should get rid of it. In a world where a lot of environmental messaging causes hoarding behavior in people who would otherwise not hoard (hey, if you can't figure out how to get rid of that filter for the appliance that broke, it is gonna be there in the basement for a long while; and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Kondo would say, that's what happens when you stockpile, and she is Not Wrong. In the meantime, I have directed husband to freecycle, where I suspect he will eventually find a taker for such otherwise difficult to donate items), a book like Kondo's -- a book that batters you into throwing away the shit you can't stand anyway -- is a Very, Very Useful Thing.
walkitout: (Default)
I did NOT finish this book. I hit the chapter on pregnancy and the number of false assertions just Got To Me.

The first assertion that caught my attention was the claim that there isn't any good reason to smoke marijuana. What, chemo nausea doesn't count any more? He thinks you should take marinol in pill form, instead, when all the research I've seen over the last few years suggests that the desirable compounds in marijuana for most purposes are NOT THC -- that's just the part that makes you high. Worse, of course, if you've got bad enough nausea, you aren't gonna be able to swallow, much less keep a pill down. But you know, he is in favor of recreational marijuana as a harm reduction strategy, so I was prepared to allow his bigotry and ignorance pass.

The first one that made me do research was the claim about MET. I'd never heard of MET.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivational_enhancement_therapy

Mohammad makes a variety of claims for MET, none of which seemed all that plausible to me. From page 99 in the hardcover:

"Motivation enhancement therapy (MET) has been thoroughly researched in the field of substance misuse and has been proven to be exceptionally effective at enhancing an individual's motivation to make positive changes in behavior."

Assuming that actually means something, let's focus on "thoroughly researched" and "proven to be exceptionally effective".

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2148493/

Effects are small, highly variable, especially by program site. This does _not_ sound like "thoroughly researched" or "proven to be exceptionally effective". MET probably does help, and in fact, if you wanted to claim it worked better than other forms of beginning counseling for substance misuse, I wouldn't even argue with you. But he is overselling it here.

While I absolutely support the use (and think it should be much more widespread) of Suboxone, I think there are points in this book where he oversells that, as well (altho I'm having trouble finding the one I remember right now).

The chapter on teens and drinking/drugs has a tight focus on harm reduction, rather than abstinence, and I completely agree with the argument there. However, it is immediately followed by the chapter on pregnancy that caused me to completely abandon the book (apparently, a non-pregnant teen gets harm reduction strategies because, you know, they work. But a _pregnant_ teen or non-teen gets hard core judgement.

In fact, the author is advocating for nothing less than insisting that _all_ women of reproductive age stop drinking entirely (at this point, I kicked myself. It's not like I couldn't have seen this coming, right?).

"All of this diagnostic and treatment services would be unnecessary if women would simply not drink while pregnant, if they plan on becoming pregnant, or run the possibility of becoming pregnant."

Basically, if you are pre-menopausal and haven't been sterilized, he thinks you shouldn't drink. He may be thinking, well, you can drink if you aren't having sex. But then he has clearly ignored the possibility of rape and sexual assault. As far as he is concerned, if a woman who could possibly become pregnant still drinks despite knowing the risks of FAS:

"the mother, despite understanding the danger, has the medical illness of alcohol addiction known as alcoholism". That sentence is framed as once she's pregnant, but just a paragraph earlier is any woman who might become pregnant. Given that as many as half of all pregnancies aren't planned, and given that he doesn't seem to think that abortion is an option, he figures adult women who drink are, per se, alcoholics.

Honestly, he's a fool and tool. And worse. Don't read this book. I am _so_ glad I got it from the library because at least this way he doesn't get any money for it.

Also, as bad as these detailed complaints are, they are just the tip of the iceberg with the problems in this book. I knew that there was developing resistance to evidence based medicine, but since I mostly read stuff by H. Gillbert Welch and his associates, I was a little puzzled about why. Well, this guy answered that question. If he thinks he is doing evidence based medicine, then I would resist it, too.

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 202122
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:50 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios