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I found this absolutely incredible. Hopefully the embed will work...





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Ugh.

One sentence summary: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance is basically one long -very long- poorly written, humblebrag.

Just no.

Ugh.

I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, who is, at least, a good reader if a mediocre writer.

Other one sentence summary: Hillbillies are soooper speshul poor people, whose poverty is different from other poverty.

Seriously, though, the generalizations of "hillbilly"/Appalachian culture made me cringe. The hillbilly code of honor made me sick, a glorification of violence (think honor killings, and you're pretty close).

The book is a memoir, nothing more. These is nothing but triviality in the overall picture of the culture, this is not a socio-cultural study with a memoir interwoven, but, as I said above, a long humblebrag of a memoir. The almost breathless "I don't understand how I, a hillbilly from-- could ever have graduated from Yale Law School, but I'm really an outsider, so I'm really better than all those kids who had it easy, even if they are my friends."

And the stereotypical liberal college student who speaks out against the military and the Iraq War in the same class as our patriotic ex-Marine was just fucking yuck. Abu Ghraib happened, and your rosy picture of all the sensitivity the military displayed in Iraq, in the light of that level of torture and abuse? Not convincing.

It was annoying and repetitive. The author's insistence of calling himself, as a twenty-something, a "kid" grated.

It's almost as if... one of my repeated whines is authors writing about romance, adding in a were-creature, and calling it "fantasy". Nope. In the same way, this book is, mostly about a dysfunctional family (J.D. did NOT have the benefit of a decent family life), but he seems to have used a sprinkling of hillbilly speech, and culture to try to turn his story of growing up with a horrible parents into a larger story. And it doesn't work.

I was also bothered by the cultural generalizations. I don't know much about Appalachian culture, and maybe he is spot on, but some of the glorification of of bad behaviour really bothered me. It also bugged me that he clearly blames the problem of the white working class on pretty much everything BUT the white working class. And truly, while they are certainly NOT 100% of blame, he himself recounts stories of their actions that put the blame squarely there.

Just ugh. At least it was a library audiobook and not something I bought.

ETA. A comment from goodreads does a good job of summing it up:

So, take out the "social analysis" and you're left with 200 pages of memoirs from a 31 year-old (lol) ex-marine cishet white male conservative with a Yale law degree. If that's your thing, then you might enjoy the memoirs. It just doesn't jive with what I had in mind to read this year (or ever).


ETA. Also, how many times does he point out, over the course of the book, this his high school had not produced any Ivy League bound students (before him, of course)? Four? More? Nasty little self-centered conservative "I've got mine, I'm better than my people and the advantaged coastal elites" kinda guy.

The more I think about the book, the angrier and more disgusted it makes me. And it really bugs me that the smarmy little shit is making a mint off of it.
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Wow.

I first read this book as a teenager... in French. The cover was of a Martian landscape and a rocket, and as such, along with the title and the designation as SF, cemented it AS SF in my brain.

On re-read... NSM. This time I got more of short stories, with various thoughts and ideas, and the SF was just the hook, a common theme, but not the purpose.

Must mull more on that. That said, it wasn't as wonderful as I remembered it, and at times the stereotypes grated. The final "ouch" was that it was better to be alone than with a fat woman. Yes, she was an idiot, but his perception of her was very clearly fixed when she failed to live up to his physical expectations. The story, imo, crystalises the concept of "I'd not date a fat woman if she were the last woman on Earth!", though in this case Mars. Anyhow.

Glad I re-read. I'm more and more leaning towards NOT revisiting any more of the books I read so many years ago.
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... Which is French for this and that.

♥ We're redoing the railing on our deck. Because the moron builders built it using framing lumber, and on an ipe deck, with the plan being to have a glass railing, posts and top rails in ugly, knotty (and not in a pretty way) splintery framing lumber is not ok. I'm pissed, though. One things we had told the builders? That we did NOT want to be left with loads of projects. We were left with loads of projects.

♥ I spent almost 6 hours yesterday plating seeds in the laminar flow hood. I started out properly with good posture and with good technique. By the time I was doing the last few plates? Ha ha ha ha.... I was half sprawled on the bench, my elbow leaning all over the place etc. I just hope I don't get any contamination. I expect I will. I think I ever remember which plates I did last so I can check if those get icky. It was exhausting, and I probably should have spaced it out over a few days, my mistake. Again. Because I've done this before.

♥ I'm not even going to comment on Trump. I can't.

♥ I'm re-reading The Martian Chronicles. I last read it as a teenager... I hope it isn't too dated. I'm concerned in large part because Larry Niven and Roger Zelazny left me shuddering in horror at rereads, and I did love much of Bradbury. There really needs to be a good website with "OLD SF TO AVOID". Anyhow.

♥ I just read a trilogy and I can't recommend it, the books were The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling, and The Fate of the Tearling. Book1 and 2 were pretty good, with some problems, but nothing unsurmountable and book 3 started out ok. Until the last two chapters, when she pretty much ruined the whole thing in a completely unredeemable manner. Here's what I wrote on goodreads:


To give an idea... I gave 5 and 4 stars to the two previous books of this trilogy. Up to the last few chapters, this one would have gotten a solid 4 stars. It kinda went out to the weeds from time to time, but it was still a pretty good book, and looked to be wrapping most of the storyline up.

And then, blam. The ending was a WTF moment of total mess, a ridiculous clown nose added to a perfectly fine bottle of wine. That sounds weird, right? Well, so were the last few chapters.

I don't know what to say. I'd love to recommend the series, but the feeling of being let down by the author is quite overwhelming.


I hate it when that happens. A lot less investment in this series than HP so it pissed me off less than Deathly Hallows and its Christian crud. Still, disappointing.

♥ School is ok. It's taking a long time. I changed research project early last July, so it hasn't been a year yet, and plants take a while to grow. That's the hard part. A long while, from seed to collecting seed to a new plant. Ah well.

♥ I also wrote a review on Flavor, by Bob Holmes. It's on my goodreads account. I'd love a few extra friends... If anyone reading here isn't already my friend on goodreads, of course.

♥ I am so tired of my kids being lazy bums and ignoring me. This is getting to be a serious problem.

♥ I am sending Linnea to rowing camp with Perry this summer. Most camps, the rare ones that take over 12 year olds, are one week, rowing camp is three times a week for about 6 weeks. Much better. I'm getting a bit tired of the sit in front of a computer or the TV thing. Because of her trip to Scotland/Ireland, she'll miss the first few days of camp, I might see if Perry's coach (who is running the camp) is willing/able to give her an hour of private instruction, or can tell us who at the club might. Not that I'm ever expecting Linnea to become a rower (though I think she'd make a great coxswain), but I want her to get out and do some stuff this summer.

♥ Annoying thing. When we buy milk at Costco, two gallons, I use a sharpie to write 1 or 2 on the top before one or both go out to the fridge outside. When milk #2 comes in, it's time to think about buying more. Well, someone brought in milk #2 before milk #1 and I bought more. Grrr.

♥ Also about fridges. Our new one is less than two years old. It's already having a hard time maintaining temp. Even set at 1C, it barely keeps food in the safe zone (at 4C according to my fridge thermometer) and at times has been up to 8-10C, meaning everything had to be moved out etc. We're currently watching and waiting, but I think an extended warranty claim for a repair is going to have to be made and I'm very annoyed. Major appliances should not fail in less than two years.

♥ I'm boring boring boring. Ugh.
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The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

This one has been on my to-read for a while. I'd of course heard about John Snow, and knew the story of the Broad Street pump, but the book came highly recommended and I hoped it would have further insights into epidemiology, a fave subject of mine. Unfortunately, not.

8/9ths of the book was pretty good and on-topic. The hagiography of cities and city dwellers at the end was less than awesome, especially in the parts were it was not related to epidemic and disease. That all felt like a moralistic finger wagging, barely redeemed by the subsequent commentary on potential terrorism in cities etc.

The first part of the book, the part dealing the actual cholera epidemic, was good. Less detailed in even the basic science than I'd hoped, but an engaging interesting read.

I had hoped that there would be more emphasis on epidemics and how they spread through human populations, but the author choose instead to spend a lot of time describing the miasma theory of disease.

Overall, the book was good, but lightweight. A good read on wikipedia and following some links on their sources would have given the same information, without some of the more annoying parts.

So a tepid "yeah, if you have nothing else" from me.


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My family. So. John Scalzi, a favourite author of all of ours, is in Seattle for a book signing tonight. We all planned on going, it was on everyone's calendar. Then one of Linnea's bffs invited her to a family dinner for her birthday. -1. Then AC ended up with an exam at 8am tomorrow morning, so her study group is cramming. -2. Then Dh figured out that the Board Meeting that was rescheduled from last week (they couldn't get their quorum) was rescheduled for... tonight. -3. So it was just going to be Perry and me. And last night Perry mentions that tonight is the major college admission event as his school. WHAT?!!?!!! Turns our all of the invites had come from a service the school hasn't used in the past for events, and went straight to spam. I had no idea. So. 0. None of us are going to see John Scalzi and I'm sad. :P
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At times, my goodreads feed cracks me up. I've just moved two books from "Read" to "Currently Reading". I really should figure out a way to tag re-reads systematically.

Oh. And I recently started a mystery series about a Roman doctor... yeah, set in those Roman times. It's not my usual genres, but the first book was pretty good, and I'll read at least a few more. I picked up the first book of the series, Medicus by Ruth Downie, on CD, purely by chance, and decided to give it a try because of the reader. Simon Vance just flat out rocks as a reader, he's awesome.
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Abhorsen by Garth Nix.

Cutting for spoilers )

All in all, one of the best trilogies ever written. And now I may decide to read the other Old Kingdom books as well. I hadn't. Because of the Event.
nwhiker: (sunset)
I posted a bit over a year ago about an online friend getting real-life published.

I bought her book, Runtime, reviewed on goodreads, but apparently forgot to post that here:


The story was excellent, and for all it's a novella, the main character especially was well described. You never really feel sorry for the Marmeg because you know she's going to get back up and do what she needs to do, her resilience was one of the best parts of the book, and felt very real to me. She was a kick ass character with a race to win! The race part was exciting and the description of the Sierras in winter and the main character's reaction too them was very real.

Where this book shone? In the world building. S.B. Divya created a world that reflects some of the deeper cultural divides we currently face, and treats them lightly but with assurance. She touches on ethics, and on the personal cost of ethics, especially for someone who has everything to lose by acting in an ethical manner. This world is a world of bioengineering, and profound social prejudice, of cybernetics and new gender identity. You get a strong sense of this world through the story itself, not through long paragraphs explaining this that, and something more, so the world building is seamless, part of the story, but never THE story.

I really liked the book, and I hope Marmeg's story isn't over yet! However, even if it is, I do hope that the author will revisit this world and set other stories there. It seems like an interesting place, and I'd like to know more about it.



And, guess what? OMG, this is exciting!

Nebula Award nominees were out yesterday and look here:



I am SO excited for her!

So go read it if you already haven't! :-)
nwhiker: (sunset)
A couple are missing, but mostly I kept track of things this past year, I think for only the first and second time. One thing I had no realized, since so much of my reading is on the Kindle, is that my average book length was 420 pages. I also find it funny that the most popular book I read was one of the ones I liked the least.

Anyhow, from goodreads, my 2016 in books!

Some reads, some re-reads, many audiobooks as well. Such fun to see them all laid out, even the ones that annoyed me
nwhiker: (Cottage Lake)
It could have been good, a new take on magic, a rather interesting one.

It wasn't.

Because the author, like so many, wanted to pretend why was writing fantasy, but she was in fact writing a romance.

Which is fine. Just called is magical romance, and be honest about it.

The books? Not linking, but The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician. By Charlie N. Holmberg, who is very proud of her boy name, she and her sisters all got boy names, hurl!

Warning! There may be spoilers. But really, don't waste time on the books, but warning anyhow.

The main character is un-beleivable, un-likeable, nasty, rude, and preachy. She falls in love with her teacher in about three minutes. Just... no.

The books don't get better, they get worse, the first was the best of the lot, and even it wasn't very good. I read all three in the series because they were free in my Kindle lending library, and most of the books in said lending library are even worse that this, thought for other reasons.

The idea of the magic was really good. An interesting system, but poof, it ended up being nothing more than that, nothing more than a feeble attempt as disguising a romance.

Also, about the magic... Clearly in this world there are power magics and less powerful ones. Ceony, the main protagonist, is supersmart and supertalented, and yet she is bound to paper magic, a weak magic, because there is some need, but that is never explained. What is it about paper magic that is needed? The whole start of the series is about how disappointed she is, because as top of her class, she should have gotten a better assignment, etc, but nothing in the books gives a clue as to why paper magicians are, in fact, really in need, and the whole theme just feels like a set-up.

I can't quite figure out if the series was intended for adults or children. If adults, it really is insulting. If kids, it's got some bad messages. See above (rude main character) and below (message to young girls.)

Oh. And on at least two occasions in the books, the author's ignorance shone through when she thought she was being clever, but was only clever if you were speaking American English, not British English, or that pulled from American imagery. Which since the books are set around 1900 in London... blah. Ew, again.

Another issue I must bring up is the stupidity of the main character who repeatedly puts others in danger -and is responsible for her best friend being killed- because she won't listen to people who know better/in power/whatever. I understand that ploy in YA novels -I'm looking at you, JKR, and Harry's repeated I know better, oh, Sirius is dead! escapades-, but in a novel where the protagonist is 19, it just makes her look profoundly stupid. Not brave, and not daring. Just stupid.

And -go ahead, call me paranoid- I'm always a bit suspicious in books when the heroine is clearly Northern European (red hair in this case), her female rival has long black hair, and the main villain -whose purpose is just to be a villain, he doesn't appear to have much of a villainous plan- is Indian, and constantly described as dark. This may be my problem, but I get really tired of the evil-dark-haired-woman and the evil-brown-man vs the good white people that shows up constantly, often, I'm almost sure, without the author even intending it.

Warning: prejudice shining through in the next comment: it's one more God-y Moron young woman writer who yet AGAIN writes what she considers a strong female character, who is, nonetheless, putty in the guy's hand. That's the true poison in the book, and many like it. When even a women who is presented as strong is subservient to men, this enforces, imo, the idea that women are not equal to men, and that even the best of us somehow need to be protected and told waht to do. Etc. And what the fuck is it with Mormon writers and barely legal women/older men romances?

Anyhow, I could go on at length. I read the first book for book club (and ended up not being able to go, grrr, but then again, my bookclub mates were spared my vitriol), the second and third during this move, so I don't feel like I wasted good reading time on them, just fractured small bits. Still, totally not worth it for an adult, and imo, toxic for girls.
nwhiker: (Cottage Lake snow)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

My immediate bias: I loved this book. It isn't perfect but I just loved it.

My word of warning: it starts out slow, so you have to stick with the first few chapters. But then...

The language is beautiful, it's so very well written, clear, concise, and yet never obscure to where you wonder what the eff the author is trying to say.

The story is compelling, a young man telling the story of his early life, but he's self aware enough to not gloss over things when he's been a jerk. And -in a departure from many "when I was young and stupid" tales- he doesn't use humour to make the sting of his past arrogance bearable, he tells it all, in detail, with no self-pity or self-deprecation. It's really well done, because he was an arrogant jerk but seeing where he's ended up, you don't resent that, all the while being -at least I was- a bit horrified at his arrogance.

The neutral: the magic system. Eh. I've read better, I've read worse.

Now, the less than awesome stuff.

The book tells only the beginning of a story. There is still not quite any THERE there, the rest is only hinted at and I hope to find that in the next book. This book felt like some serious set up and world building, and I do hope that the next ones live up to the character.

Women. Oh my good, I'm so sick of the portrayal of women in 90% of fantasy, and this isn't much better. The love interest is... well, I didn't find a single thing interesting about her, she's perfect, boring, and bland. There is one good, imo, woman in the story and it'll be interesting to see if she shows back up (for the record, white fonted, that would be Devi, the money lender.).

The main character, Kvothe, himself. I don't mind the arrogance, see above, but I do get a bit bored at main characters who are So Supremely Awesome. I get that they have flaws, blah blah blah, but it's boring when they're the best at this, the best at that, and so on. See: Potter, Harry. Yawn. I'd have been happier with a Kvothe who really sucked at a few things aside from humility.

A definite recommend from me, though. It's been on my list of things to read for A While, but I try to wait on fantasy books until at least book 2 is out, which took several years. I don't know when book 3 is due out, and I'm concerned because the author just published a novella which isn't book 3. Ah well.
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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

All you really need to know? Get this book. Read it.

Needless to say, however, you guys aren't getting off that easy. I'm writing the full review anyhow. Seriously, though, this is probably one of the best, if not the best, non fiction book I've ever read. It wasn't perfect, but it was excellent.

I've had this book on my list for a while, but my list of "books to read" is now inaccessible to me thanks to the selling out of my library system. I was looking for a good non-fiction book to listen to and just checking out the shelves at the library when I saw it. Perfect. Reasonably long, I'd been meaning to read it for a while, and by all accounts a good book. Perfect indeed.

Dr Mukherjee writes about cancer, about people with cancer, about people who treat and fight and strive to understand cancer, and about the people who fund the latter. The title of the book, while it could sound like just a clever thing, rings true: it is a biography of cancer, because cancer is intertwined quite tightly with, well, humanity.

And the humanity of cancer and the people involved with it at every level is where this book shines. Dr Mukherjee has a very light touch with emotions, he can convey pain and despair without any maudlin tendencies, only resorting once to a cheap tear jerker comment (though let me tell you... by the time he made that comment, I behaved as Pavlov's dogs would expect me to, and started to sob. It was a false alert, thank goodness, but that is when I realized how deeply he'd made me care.)

Anyhow.

The book talks about all aspects of cancer. Where it came from. The historical treatments... or lack thereof. Of leukemia, and breast cancer, and lung cancer. And smoking.

Sidney Farber's crusade, his single minded mission to cure childhood leukemia is detailed. Because he started, others were able to continue and ultimately take a disease that killed almost 100% of its victims to one that kids can, mostly, deal with, treat, recover from. He did that by, really, starting doctors down the path of chemotherapy, and then working on the policies that would allow others to continue work. Farber's story is a phenomenal one, and Dr Mukherjee does an excellent job of interweaving his story with the story or cancer, and the progress being made against the disease.

And that, btw, is one of the most elegantly done things in the book: Dr Mukherjee tells quite a few stories of people, and he touches on each as needed. Carla Reed, one of his patients. Sidney Farber. Mary Lasker. His own story is also told, though so lightly that I was left wanting more about his own personal journey. However, his writing on the people who make cancer their day to day lives, as researchers, doctors, or patients, is sensitive and profound.

I don't often cry while reading or listening to non-fiction. I did during this book, many times. Not as much at personal stories, but at the gut wrenching ups and downs that human interaction with cancer seems to produce. Research gone nowhere, a dead patient, policy mistakes that kill, treatment that fails despite initial effort. But also, at the victories. Dr Drucker's comment that by helping find the cure to CML, he's actually upped the prevalence of that cancer. Because people are living with it, normal lifespans. I sobbed.

Dr Mukherjee talks, as I said, about the history of cancer and its treatment, about how in the mid-part of the 20th century, many of the battles being fought were not just the scientific ones, but the political and policy ones. The creation of the NCI, and its work is discussed at length, as well as the creation, and the forces behind the American Cancer Association.

Also detailed in clear steps is the discovery that smoking causes cancer. This broke my heart a bit, to be honest. My dad, really, did not have to die of cancer. The data was there, but he was too hooked to evaluate it logically and it killed him.

A word on the writing itself. The author does tend towards the verbose, but! Even then, the writing was beautiful. Each word felt carefully chosen, but in place for the specific nuance it would impart.

My favourite part of the book, though perhaps the one that got the least in-depth treatment, was the part about the more recent research, medications, and the few decisive scientific victories. The biology of cancer is touched upon, though I'd have loved more detail. However, Dr Mukherjee manages to follow threads of discoveries to their ends, describing, for example, the ins and outs of the cure of chronic myeloid leukemia, without it feeling like he's telling one story after another. The sections feed on each other, and the concepts he delves into (for example, tumour suppressor genes) are revisited in the next ones, so while our understanding of basic cancer biology is never assumed, which is good because it isn't knowledge most of us have on our fingertips, the necessary information is given in detail, and repeated enough to where it doesn't need to be repeated. Which felt like gentle and respectful teaching of difficult concepts to an audience whose level he could not assume. He was thus able, imo, to impart reasonably complex information without ever sounding condescending, without ever talking down at us, because he had laid the groundwork for us to follow his reasoning.

The problems I found with this book....

Like most authors at this point in history, Dr Mukherjee could have used a good editor. I listened to the book on CD, 16 CDs, and there were some repetitions, and some areas that could have been glossed over. He's a bit long winded -ok, fine, verbose- at times, and with that amount of subject matter to cover, this eventually takes a toll.

I get, as I said above, that cancer policy is a major part of the story of cancer, both the medical policy and the political policy. While understanding that, it still seems that a lot of time was devoted to the details of the policy path of cancer, some of which were rather uninteresting and felt almost useless. I'm not talking about science or even medical treatment policy here (for example, while long and sometimes boring, the discussion on radical mastectomy was necessary), but political and lobbying efforts, which, really, YAWN for the most part.

The result, in my opinion of the focus on policy was that there was a short-changing on the science (isn't it always that way?) Dr Mukherjee does talk about many of the breakthrough cancer discoveries of the last century or so, but in very little scientific detail. I'd have preferred more information on that, and less following-the-money.

I could go on and on and not be done. It's a good book, perhaps one of the best I've ever read. I listened on CD, I'm going to be buying the hard copy because it's a book I want to own, to be able to re-visit and reread.

I can't get beyond the fact that this book felt deeply human. That I felt it touched on the very parts of what make us human. I can't quite express it, I don't appear to have quite the words, but reading this book made me acutely aware of our shared humanity. It's cancer's story, but it's also our story, interwoven and entwined, and perhaps the most important part I took away from this book is that this is just the beginning of the story. Cancer's story is our story, and like our story, it is nowhere near being done.
nwhiker: (heart)
The Diet Fix by Dr Yoni Freedhoff.

Dr Freedhoff is also the author on my of my favourite blogs, Weighty Matters. He's an Ottawa physician who now specialises in weight loss, and was -for full wow! factor- one of the people behind Disney quickly dismantling their cruel-to-fat-kids Habit Heroes or whatever it was called exhibit.

This is perhaps the best book about dieting that I have ever read. Period.

To start with, it isn't a diet book. Most of those are, essentially, gimmicks. Don't eat after 8pm. No carbs! No grains! No fat! No fruit! Only fruit! No foods with the letter E! Subway three meals a day! Cabbage soup before every meal! All of those, each and every one of them, is a way to trick you into, in fact, reducing calories. Period. This is no magic there. Which is why these books sell and work, at least for a short time.

So. Not two-week-diet-plan at the end of the book. Oh there are some recipes, but they feel there just because, there is no OMG, these are the very best recipes that will help you...

What Dr Freedhoff did, in this book, is identify problems, and give solutions, and helps everyone find their own path as a dieter.

There is SO much in this book, and I'm going to only highlight the two things that I found the most helpful.

Dr Freedhoff is aware that some of us are what he calls survivors of "traumatic dieting". We're the ones who've tried and failed, tried to be perfect, and failed, whose self-esteem, if it were a geologic era, would be somewhere around the Cretaceous. His "solution"? A 10 day reset of expectations at the start of a diet.

Oh, for most of us, it would take more than 10 days, which is probably the only gimmick in the book. To do this right will take longer, because it is not just the planning of meals and trips to the supermarket, but the emotional breaking down of years of a crappy relationship with food, our bodies, and dieting. The tools are there.

This "10" days reset, btw, will work no matter what brand of weird diet you want to choose for weight loss, from Weight Watchers to South Beach. In his comments, btw, about "resetting" the Weight Watchers diet, he made something very clear to me, that I hadn't seen before about WW and my behaviour on the diet, and I'm slowly trying to correct that. Anyhow.

In a nutshell, the reset can be viewed as a recovery program, a way for those of us with multiple failures in our past, to break away from some of them, and perhaps to move on. Again, I've rarely felt this positive about a book that speaks of weight loss.

The second thing that was good to read.. This is something that I've been trying to articulate over the years, to people online and at my Weight Watchers meetings but Dr Freedhoff has gone further and been more clear than I could ever dream of being.

That human beings rejoice in food. We celebrate with food, we share food, we enjoy it. And that any program that does not allow for that intimate participation in a fundamental part of human culture is bound to fail long term. That doesn't mean we have to eat out lavishly every night, but that celebrating with food is normal, and should not be viewed as obscene and disgusting, as it often is in the ascetic culture of rapid diets (which I'm part of at times!). To me, this mind shift is fundamental, because it acknowledges the shared humanity of fat AND thin people. Despite the mantra in many diet-places, eat like a thin person eats! does not translate to never celebrate your birthday, because thin people never do.

Those two things I was going to high light? Never mind, I'm moving on to a third, though I suppose it's part of the first in some ways.

The goal for weight loss, he says, is to eat as little as you can while still being happy with your life.

And that, my friends, is a fucking dramatic departure from every other book on dieting I have ever read. Happy. With. Your. Life. Dear god, that is NEVER mentioned elsewhere. You're fat, you're supposed to suffer every day, in order to hopefully attain thinness. If you can't suffer long term, it's because of your lack of willpower. And that breeds self contempt. That cycle is what Dr Freedhoff is giving the tools to help us break.

Happy with your life. Be at a weight where you can be happy, that you can happily maintain.
nwhiker: (heart)
The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine by Kevin Davies.

First, a total OT: I named a character in my book Kevin Davies. It was really jarring to see the name on a book on CD.

Next. A quick review.

I'm listening on CD, so I can't skim, which probably colours this book for me. I read the summary, and thought it was going to be a bit focused on the movers and shakers of the pay-to-play genetics world, but it's, about 1/3 of the way in, only about them. I'm not really interested in the personalities of the people who founded Navigenics or the revoltingly cutesily named "23 and Me" which makes me want to hurl, I'm interested in the science behind those, and that science, despite Davies having a PhD in genetic, and being an editor at some major scientific journals, is just not there. So blah.

Also. The book was published in 2010 and it's already outdated. I'll be returning it to the library today.

A book I did finish that was also not great, though a bit better: Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter. Another book I was expecting great things from, but the author is a bit of a crank, imo, who wanted to make sure he was fair and balanced and criticized right wing denialism as well as the left wing version, and he ended up sounding petulant at times. In addition, he never really delved into the why this was happening (Paul Offit, in one of this vaccination/autism books does a much better job, as does Seth Mnookin in vaccine book). Specter seems to think that Vioxx explains ALL the big pharma mistrust in this country, and really, it doesn't. (Plus, eh, Vioxx was a pretty horrid thing, and I don't quite see how denialism plays into it) There is something else going on, deep in the American psyche, and while others have tried to get there, and come tantalizingly close, Specter doesn't even get that far. He just rants, and not very well, about it.

In addition I found his writing to be sub-standard, and the whole book felt rather "all over the place".

Still in need of a good book to listen to on CD in the car. I'm waiting on my next Pratchett book (it'll be a while), and I'd like a science non-fiction break, but good non fiction that can be listened to in the car is harder to find than one would think.
nwhiker: (heart)
The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe.

Us, viruses -vrii?- and how we met and interacted over the years. Who kills who. Who might kill who. And who do we figure out who will kill next.

The good...

It's a short, interesting read. It does get repetitive (see below) but covers quite a bit of ground. The subject matter is interesting as well, and the author clearly knows what he is talking about and what he wants to impart. He does that well, without sounding alarmist and OMG! The end of the world!

He also outlines some concrete steps that can be taken. I disagree with him (see below) that google is going to be our salvation, but he does have some ideas of what needs to be done to allow us to head off the next pandemic.

The neutral...

The science. The good point is also the bad point, so I shoved it in neutral.

If someone had very little biology background -and by that I mean even less than the general culture gives us- this book would still be understandable. The science is merely hinted at, and never complex. This, in turn, creates a problem in that it both leaves and impression of superficiality, but also some things just don't make sense, or are so simplified that you almost want to say "why did you bother including that at all?" I think most people could have handled more than was given, and that would have allowed for a more interesting read.

The bad...

Look, I'm sure Dr Wolfe is brilliant. That's pretty clear. We really don't need it repeated about a zillion times. I did this! I got this award! I'm so awesome they gave me money for this! I founded this! I created this! These researchers are The! Best! and they took me under their wings! Looke me! Looke me! At first it was fine, but after a while, it got old, kinda like reading the long winded cv of someone applying for a Nobel Prize. (Which, yeah, I know, but that'll give the idea...)

A lot of repitition. It's almost as if he didn't have any sexy pandemics that killed loads of people to discuss so he went over a few points more than once. I think we heard of the hunter/butcher/blood contact/virus jump thing at least four or five times.

A few things never felt like they were taken to their logical conclusion. He went on at length about the early 20th century origins of HIV/AIDS as a mosaic virus, and it's not-very-well-documented early spread, but I feel he really just abandoned it there. I mean, I get that it was infecting people in Africa for a long time, but it didn't become a real pandemic until much later, and I feel that wasn't documented.

The guy is clearly a primatologist, and very focused on the diseases that jumped from monkeys/apes to men. End result is that I feel he rather missed the boat on flu (birds and swine) and he never mentioned, for example, Hanta virus, or even, to be best of my recollection the freaking plague. Yes, I know he was virus intensive, but still the Black Death merited some attention as an epidemic that came from the animal world and spread to us. Or at least a mention.

Did google pay him? I'm guessing he got some venture capital from google, because the last part of the book was a paean to goodle and OMG, google, and google is going to save the world! Over and freaking over. He also attributed to google things that were not done by google, and that's a bit irksome. There is also a strong implication that this all should be left to the private sector, and I disagree with that for more than one reason.

See the comment about google above? Well, he had zero issues with google talking search data and using it to determine flu penetration maps. That's fine but... well, I'd have at least expected a little sop about privacy, ya know? It's ok when it's the flu, and while I know that searches aren't private blah blah blah, I think the privacy angle should have been explored. Repeat this comment with Facebook and twitter. Basically, his idea is that searches and social media are going to be doing disease monitoring (real time! faster and better than CDC!), which might be great, but the privacy angle needed to be addressed, because when it's not flu but syphilis, that could be more of an issue.

Overall..

I had the book on CD and in book format, something I've learned to do since the CD quality has been piss poor recently (I'm guessing they're going more and more to digital, which sucks since I no longer have access to my library digital and ebook because of privacy concerns). Anyhow, I'm not sure I'd have been able to read the whole book. It was fine on CD, but the redundancy and the slightly self-important style are harder to take on paper. FWIW.

It's a reasonably quick read on an interesting topic. I'm not sure I'd strongly recommend it but if you've read nothing else on the subject, it's certainly an ok book to get the breadth of possibilities of what a global pandemic could mean.
nwhiker: (heart)
I got this one for free for my Kindle. It was the (one of the?) Amazon Breakthrough novel(?)s for last year.

And it was quite good. I was surprised.

See, mostly I feel that Very Few authors can do time travel well. That very few many actually be like, three. So it was quite a nice surprise that this one was so good.

Spoilers.... )

Since it was free, it was definitely worth what I paid for it! But seriously, it's pretty good, and if you have a kindle and some time for light time travel fluff, it was an enjoyable read.
nwhiker: (heart)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

I desperately wanted to love this book. Desperately.

I mean... a book about a girl who lives in a poorly disguised Potterverse, ships what would be Harry/Draco, and in which these words were written:


"Why are you reading that?" Wren had asked when she noticed.
"what?"
"Something without a dragon or an elf on the the cover."


There will probably be spoilers... )

So yeah. I wanted to love the book. Alas, I did not. In my opinion, it certainly is not worth a purchase, but as a borrow from the library? Yeah. It's sweet and fluffy fun and she does manage to capture some of the fanfic universe well, Cath's feelings about her OTP and about the end of the Harry Potter Simon Snow era.
nwhiker: (Cottage Lake snow)
A while back I reviewed Libriomancer, a book I really enjoyed. Perry loved it too.

I just finished the second book of the series (Need! Book! 3!!! Only I don't think it's written yet!), Codex Born.

More madcap magical fun, more Isaac, whom I adore, more Smudge the flammable spider, whom I adore even more than I adore Isaac. All in a all a great read.

With, blam, right there, one of my pet Harry Potter issues (hi <lj user=" />) addressed: the use of forgetfullness spells, Obliviate in the HP world. Those spells are tossed around in HP non-stop with no apparent thought to what it actually means to take away someone's memories. Memory is an essential part of what shapes us, our emotions, of who and what we are. Our reactions to an event are almost always (always?) tied to our memories of similar events, to things in that. What happens when you take away the memory, and you're left with the emotional pathways? And then this is addressed in the book, Isaac, (did I mention I adore him? Oh yes, I did. At least once.) understands this and has objections to the inevitable fact of memory modification when some people have magic that must be hidden from the rest of us.

And Isaac. Who muses about consent and obliviates. He's a guy. But he's just that, a guy. Not a Guy. He doesn't feel like he's a male protagonist because of course all heroes must be male, that anyone that awesome must be a man etc. I don't know if I can quite pin this down, but Isaac is a human being who happens to be male. I'm not sure I can convey exactly what I'm trying to say, but that in distinction between of-course-a-guy and happens-to-be-a-guy lies the whole possibility of a feminist hero, a man who just happens to be male, but whose interactions with women are clearly interactions between equals.

Jim C. Hines wrote that guy, and I'm thrilled he did. Because I adore Isaac.

Half way through writing this review, I went over the the author's website to see if there was a perhaps publication book on the next installment of the series and found instead... this: a whole series of papers written by Hines on rape and consent, and victim blaming, and domestic violence.

Colour me impressed and thrilled but not surprised.

I've handed Codex Born over to Perry. It's a bit more adult in places than Libriomancer was, with a bit more sex which he'll hate, but it's a good book and he'll love it. Even if dh doesn't quite understand why I feel 100% ok with handing the boy a book with a polyamourous relationship between a nymph, a shrink, and a librarian! Heh.

I just hope Nidhi's cat is ok.
nwhiker: (peo-vangogh)
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines.

What a fun book!

Basic idea: Gutenberg created libriomancy when he created the printing press: enough belief in the item from a book enables those who possess a certain type of magic to reach into books and grab items out of said book.

Who has not dreamed of that?

You can't bring people, because they go insane if you do, or there are a few characters I'd SO yank straight out of the pages. Ahem.

Isaac is a libriomancer/librarian who is currently not allowed to do magic. But stuff happens, and he does. Accompanied by Smudge, a fire spider he pulled out of a book a long time before, a dryad called Lena, he rushes around the midwest trying to save a whole bunch of important people, including Lena's lover. Oh. And Gutenberg, who would be Very Dangerous if turned to the wrong (vampiric) side.

It's a fun book. Libriomancy touches on the stuff a readers dreams are made of.

Next up: some spoilers that talk about a more serious theme in the book that leads to a very funny I can't beleive I did that parenting story.


As I said above, Lena is a dryad. Brought into our world when someone pulled an acorn from a really crappy book about nymphs and dryads, didn't realise what they'd done, and tossed it. It grew, hence Lena. Whose nature is as she was written: she has no free will and must please the human she is bonded to. Her nature is to please. Her previous lover, a shrink, managed to rationalize their relationship in a way that makes sense and does not ping my "consent" issues. Lena tries to bond to Isaac because she needs someone to bond to, for safety reasons -bonded to a bad guy, she could be powerful and evil, see the lack of free will-. To his credit, Isaac hesitates... and goes on for a long while about free will, how can he, when she etc. It was a good exploration of free will and consent, and who can give it. I liked that.

I gave the book to Perry to read. I hadn't quite finished it -a chapter left- when I did so. I was ok with Isaac's musings on consent and desire because eh, it is stuff that I'm good with talking over with Perry and I figured when he was done, we could chat about it a bit. Boys, imo, can never get the 'consent! clear consent! from a clear-headed able to consent adult!' message too many times.

And then in a last chapter, we find out that Lena is having fights with her lover. Which, since she's supposed to only please her lovers, is a bit of a change for her. But anyhow, she and her lover show up at Isaac's doorstep with the message that Lena needs him to be, perhaps, more of her own self than she otherwise could be. So....

I've essentially handed my almost 13 year old son a book in which the main character ends up in a polyamourous relationship with a shrink and dryad.

Parenting fail of the year?


Anyhow. To reassure folks, Tolkien's books have been locked so that nobody can pull out the One Ring. This is good.

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