Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: It's kind of a funny story (how I can't NOT be a shrink).

It’s actually pretty hard for me to read books about kids with depression, anxiety, PTSD or whatever. Hard isn’t the right word. It’s not as enjoyable for me as it might be for others. I’m like a painter in a museum. I can’t relax and let the story unfold; I have to critique the interactions the characters are having with their therapists, look for symptoms that are inconsistent with their stated diagnosis, lament therapeutic responses to comments that go unsaid… that kind of thing. Basically, I pick apart details that are so minor they don’t really affect the story that much. Plus, I keep a critical eye open for whether I think it would be a good recommendation for other mental health providers or even my own patients to read.

All that being said. I enjoyed reading about Craig’s fall into some fairly significant depression. He spends a week in an adult inpatient hospital which gives him time to think about what’s important to him and how to make meaningful changes in his life. The relationships that Craig forms and the people that he meets while hospitalized are realistic and true to experiences I’ve seen while working in similar places. This makes sense, since the author himself spent a week in a hospital before writing this book. Craig also gets a new appreciation for some of the things he has going for himself.

As an aside: people don’t really think about how different the culture of mental health care can be depending on what region you’re in. The way things are done in New York City are very different from the way they’re done Upstate, for example. It was interesting to read about the psycho-pharmacologist and their role in referring to a therapist, or many therapists in Craig’s case. That’s not unheard of here, but the book sort of sounds like it’s a matter of course but maybe that’s only the case for the family in the book. It’s certainly not the only way to do things, which is good given the shortage of psychiatric medication providers in my area.

This book’s mental health stuff didn’t irk me too much and it was easy to settle in with the characters and the angst of the teen lead. As I said, many things ring true and are likely related to the author’s own experiences. A book with irritating mental health elements: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. But that’s because there is a special place in my heart for undiagnosed PTSD.

My soapbox bit: Yes, mental illness has biological components. For many illnesses, symptoms are just as well, if not better, managed through behavioral interventions and lifestyle changes. We have an unhealthy reverence for medications in this country and a belief that medication will cure mental illness. This belief can be dangerous. It’s also important to note that “False Shifts” aren’t all bad. Don’t “should” yourself out of appreciating them.

Also. I obviously won't be seeing this movie. I don't do that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Comics I'm All about Right Now (Book Review)

There are some days when I'm just not in a novel mood... like, not in the mood for a novel... But I'm always in the mood for a good story and pretty pictures. Enter: Comic Mode. 

Fables #150 hit stands this month. Interestingly, it's long enough in and of itself to also be the 22nd trade paperback, wrapping up the whole shebang. The cover opens to reveal a beautiful spread across the back for anyone nuts enough to break the binding on a book... who does that!? Fables has been the only one since Strangers in Paradise that I have collected in complete single issue format (with the exception of two trades when I got behind following a relocation). The books tell the story of all of the fables you know and love and their attempt to fight multiple adversaries, not the least of which is being forgotten by the real world. I love(d) this series and am sad to see it go. I was pleased to have most of the side characters get a little stories of their own in the last few issues. (I also love one of the spin off series: Fairest, and will be collecting the TPBs. The Jack of Fables spin off series, less so.) Also, check out the art work. You need this in your life.

Jason Shawn Alexander, who according to his twitter photo, is not bad to gawk at, writes and lends a talented artistic hand to Empty Zone. Issue 3 hit shelves last week and I haven't been to pick it up, yet. #NoSpoilers. I am decidely slow on the uptake with new series/ books but I really had zero idea what was going on in Book 1. Book 2 added a little context to the dark and gritty story so I don't feel quite so lost among the ghosts, hallucinations, and half cyborg- bad ass chick main character. I'm excited to see where it's going. 

Jeremy Haun offers a new book about an STD that makes the infected beautiful. The Beauty Issue 1 was out on August 12th and offered 3 different covers. I wrestled myself in the aisle (embarrassing!) and only bought my favorite one. The book asks you to consider if you would get infected to be beautiful? And at what cost. It's not clear what the final cost is for those in the book, yet. One of the most compelling elements of the story is the reaction of those who are not infected. We all know everyone harbors a bit of hatred for the prettiest boy or girl in the room. Mr. Haun has also started a campaign to raise awareness for the book that highlights positive body- image. And obviously, since it's 2015, there's a hashtag. Find out more here. And then look below for my STD free face... #TeamSafeSex!

Friday, August 21, 2015

This reRead is KILLING MY FANDOM-NESS (The Hunger Games)

I LOVED The Hunger Games when I devoured the series about 5 years ago. I rarely reread books but thought I’d give the series a shot since it’s available via audiobook. You know how I feel about audiobooks. I just started Book 2 and basically want to quit. The first book really disappointed my memory.

One problem: The sudden love for Gale despite having already said that there had never been anything romantic between them. I’m not saying that feelings don’t change. And I also recognize that Gale was hinting around about it all along, but it’s part of the boys- and- girls- can’t- just- be-friends- and- wouldn’t- a- love- triangle- make- this- whole- thing- better trope that is just so unnecessary. If Katniss had acknowledged ANY feelings for Gale before The Games, it would have felt less contrived. Apparently, my brain had contrived this addition.

Katniss seems so dense or na├»ve or something this time around. She’s not a completely uninformed narrator, a la Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, so why does she sound so dumb all the time!? She’s been living a hard life and still seems completely bewildered by humans. I understand that she is supposed to be one of those girls that is so clueless to her own fabulousness she doesn’t think anyone could love her. I understood it the first time, but this time it gets on my nerves. Her self- blinders seem like a well- beaten device for creating miscommunication between the characters.

Part of this problem is in the reader of the audio book. The person reading it is clearly not a teenager. It may be that we are meant to be hearing Katniss reliving the story as an adult, through the filter of age and distance. But the reader is pretty bland. She actually, sometimes, makes Katniss seem more clueless than even the words suggest in the moment. When I read her myself, Katniss is shrewd and calculating, but not due to ignorance and dullness, due to having lived in the Seam and being responsible for the lives of her family. She's strong and capable and doesn't fall apart so easily. She's sarcastic and little rough. She owns her flaws and scars and is less apologetic. She’s also less whiney.

I love Peeta more. This likely contributes to my increased dislike of Katniss since she’s basically taking him on a roller coaster of mood swings and intentions. If it wasn’t for him, I’d likely abandon my reread endeavor entirely.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Audiobooks Saved My Life

I have only recently, within the past year, gotten really into the audiobook thing. This occurred about the time I aged enough to realize that music and morning DJs on the radio SUCK. This collided with the discovery that you can download books directly to your device from the local library using Overdrive. Thusly and therefore, audiobooks saved me from driving my car off the road rather than listen to morning radio.

Now, I probably “read” somewhere between 3 and 5 books a month by just listening to them in the car while driving. I LOVE it. I am a believer. I have fully converted and proselytize wherever I go. There are some books that I know would never hold my interest if I read them through my eyeballs. For example, I hate reading books with too much random italic font (e.g., flashbacks, words in non-English) and books where the names of the characters are long, difficult for me to sound out, or too similar to each other. But audiobooks really help smooth out those little pains in the ass… and don’t you want your ass pain to be smoothed!? Of course, you do. Plus, I like when English stories have English- accents strewing from the speakers.

Of course, as with all things, there are many thungs that get on my nerves about audiobooks. Topping that list: missing junk. I first noticed that I might be missing out on something when I read a blog post about the cover of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store. Apparently, in some versions, the books on the cover glow in the dark. I LOVED that book and felt full and wholly robbed by not knowing that there was something special about the cover. Similarly, at book club last week, I learned that there is a map on the inside of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I was less emotional about that one, but still felt that I hadn’t gotten the full experience of understanding Harold’s 600-mile journey across England. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of graphics and whatnot in Feed by M.T. Anderson that helps the reader understand the disorganized nature of the world; the audiobook used sounds and distortions to do it.

The way that a reader inflects or emphasize certain words makes a big difference in the book, especially when it comes to jokes. Timing is everything and subtle changes in the words can change the interpretation of meaning. I get a little distracted sometimes when there’s a speaking choice that I think was really misleading (Like it’s up to me, right!? My ego-mania knows no bounds). I’ve decided that audiobooks are the only way I’m ever reading memoirs, though I intend to make an exception for Alan Cummings if i have to. There’s ZERO possibility that Tina Fey’s book Bossy Pants, which she reads, would have been as entertaining through the eyes. Not that I don’t love her, but it’s because of her delivery and personality.

There have been a few books audiobooks that were read by someone with a voice that I was so intolerant of that I couldn’t even finish it. That’s been a rare occurrence. Though, in the second book of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, apparently they switched voices and I was righteously pissed until I forgot all about it.

If you want a great audiobook that puts it all together, get How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. If you prefer stuff with adult main characters (and if you do, you should reevaluate yourself and your preferences) then go with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by May Ann Shaffer. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Books In Progress (and my revolving #TBR list)

Supposedly I've got about 5 books going right now... Truth is, they are all in varying degrees of progress. I have moved The Girl of the Train by Paula Hawkins to my "currently reading" list and back to the To Be Read list probably about three times. This last time, I actually made it about 25 pages in. But since it is a borrowed book (From an actual person) and I always have looming library fines, I had to table it to move on to a book that was due back. I might be a little nervous about reading this book right now, anyway, because there is so much hype about it. I'll get to it. I swear

I'm having this same trouble with Clockworkers by Ramsey Isler. The book has a great concept, an average Goodreads rating of over 4 out of 5 stars, and I'm excited to read it. But it's on my Kindle and I just can't get far enough ahead of my library reads and Book Club books to put all the words into my face! As I'm writing it, I realize how stupid that sounds and I'm moving it up on my priority list. TAKE THAT, PRIORITY LIST!! (In fact, I just nominated it for the #BlerdBookClub. Two birds, one stone).

I am ACTUALLY in progress with my usual one audiobook and one "real" book. On audio right now is Every Day by David Levithan. It's been on my TBR list for a long time and lo and behold it was available via OVerdrive last week. SWWEETT find! As an aside, if you don't know what Overdrive is, your inner nerd weeps for you. 

Anyway, I love Every Day. It's about a person who wakes up in a different person's body every day. At the age of 16, they discover something that makes them want to stick around... guess what it is... guess... it's love! Yep.  You guessed it. The decision to have a girl read the character for the audiobook was brilliant and really lends a different interpretation to the whole thing than you'd get with a male voice. If it weren't for the fact that my schedule has been a giant cluster fuck lately, I'd be done with it. My ears would have just consumed it all at once. 

If you're a book bloggy type, you already know that Judy Bloom, herself released a new book for adults this year called In the Unlikely Event. My Facebook book group (don't even ask) is reading it for AUgust. We are reading 100 pages per week. It is physically painful to read a book this slowly, but since I tend to facilitate the group I didn't want to get ahead of everyone else and say something that spoiled it. Plus, having a small section to read helped me stay on track given my clusterfucked schedule last week. The first chunk has set up about a million characters but I'm interested to see where it goes.

And finally, my current read is In Living Blood by Tananarive Due. This is a sequel to an equally massive tome about a woman who finds out she is married to a 1000 year old African God- type person. I'm not doing it justice. I've just started this book (did I mention my cluster fuck schedule?) and I love it already. It's "horror" and the the author wished me good dreams when I tweeted about reading it. Read the first book at least. If you don't like it, come back and see me. You need therapy. I'll get you a referral.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Comics I'm all about right now (Book Review)

Look, I know everyone has already heard of these titles, I've discovered nothing new, and I'm just latesplaining. But, I'm #nerdstalking all things related to these books. Luckily, I'm broke or I'd, at minimum, have my BitchPlanet NC tattoo by now... If you don't know what that is, be sad because I'm cooler than you. 
Let's start with Bitch Planet, currently on issue 4. It's a little Running Man (movie based loosely on the book by Stephan King) and a little bit Stepford Wives. Well, I've never actually read/ seen Stepford Wives. But the idea is that women are being "taken care of" for their sassyness and noncompliance by being arrested and sent to a detention planet, known colloquially as Bitch Planet, obviously. If you're female and into comics, you need to, at minimum, check out the first issue. And then get the tattoo. At minimum.

Batgirl: Burnside - So, I don't read single issues of comics that much. I limit myself to TPBs for my own good. Fables is the only one I actually follow with any regularity and I recently discovered about 20 duplicate single issues in various piles. So, anyway, when I saw this cover (TOTALLY CUTE) and that it said Volume One, I didn't realize that it actually collects issues 35 - 40 of the Batgirl series. It still rocked my face off. Barbara Gordon, duh, is a major wiz coming to terms with her alter bad ass being popular and then unpopular a la every other superhero story. But it's done with a few twists and some great extra characters. Plus Black Canary is there in all her high- pitched glory.

Fairy Quest: Outcasts - Granted. Fairy tale retellings are kinda my #bookcrack. This is a two shot series that is making me follow Humberto Ramos around the internet like a fucking shadow. And here's my new wallpaper at work. If you don't love these three panels, you are as good as dead to me.

Saga is driving me a little crazy. I've committed to this series in trade paper back form. This means that, since it's on ongoing series, I actually have to wait until it "trades up" before I can read it!! It's kind of killing me. Now, obviously, I could decide to start doing single issues, instead. But then I would have some trades and some singles. UNACCEPTABLE! Plus, it would require me to start paying enough attention to what I have and when new issues come out to 1) get them when they are available, 2) not duplicate what I already have. Again, I recently found out I duplicated an insane number of Fables comics.

You need a summary of Saga: Hot goat man (Marko) falls in love with hot winged chick (Alana) and the couple, along with their "I thought horned people and winged people couldn't procreate with each other" child become the enemy targets of both their respective people, some contract killers, and at least two ex- girlfriends. But check out the goat guy. Seriously. Oh, the two groups of people are at war, a bit of a Star Wars kinda influence according to the stuff I've read from the creators. Is that important? Check out the goat dude, again. There are also some people with TVs for heads, who have sex with each other... Trust me. Just read it.
All pics on this post were found via Google search of awesome things. I did not draw them and do not own them, though I love them as if they are part of my very soul.

Book Review: Dust of 100 Dogs Review - Cherry Popped

Writing reviews is hard work! I'm not even sure how to go about it. What I've been doing is just to have little bits of my thoughts for a group of books after I've finished them, like this. That's pretty easy because I don't really have to think too hard to come up with a few lines... but on one of my last posts, I realized that I had really enjoyed quite a few of the recent books I've read and I kind of wanted to spend more time with them... is that weird? Didn't think so.

I think I might start with only reviewing books that I really liked. That seems easier. I'm going to try an easy one, first: an older book by a 
favored YA author, A.S.King's The Dust of 100 Dogs. I just recently read it because Ms. 15 (my younger kid) checked it out from the library.

Here's the summary bit.
The year is 1800 and something; Emer Morrisey is living a hard life. She is situations she has to escape from, like, every two minutes. After making a name for herself as a pirate, she is just about the escape to a life of luxery with her true love and BAM!! She's cursed to live the life of 100 dogs before returning to human form with all of her memories in tact. My guess is that this is a book intended for the middle grades and older even though there's some major adult content, including murder and pillaging... and one not- exactly- consensual- sex scene. Because, you know... Pirates!

This seems like I'm giving the whole thing away, right? And maybe I am, I'M NEW TO THIS, REMEMBER! But no. The book is full of action and a compelling story. We see Emer as her suffering orphaned self and as the modern teen she is now, trying to get back to her treasure. I was thrust along the story wondering and hoping for what would be waiting for her when she reached Jamaica. In between all those parts are humorous Dog Facts and glimpses into Emer's life as a canine. While these glimpses were definitely cute, sometimes they were just distractions and I had to skip them and come back later... guilty! Don't act like you don't do that!

This was another solid offering from King (though it doesn't usurp Ask the Passengers). A quick read, filled with action and the draw of baddies who aren't too bad. Plus, if you don't like Lady Pirates, you're as good as dead to me!
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