16 November 2014

Sharp by David Fitzpatrick

Sharp -- 4 Stars

This is the memoir of a man who fought his demons for years, half of his life really, and managed to survive it all. David Fitzpatrick is a self harmer, he started in his early twenties, he's obviously a man, and he's an anomaly. The statistics used to lean more towards women self-injuring, but that number has evened out to nearly 50-50 in recent years. In the 1990's, mental patients that injured were mostly female and patients in general were kept in hospital for many months to many years.

David tells us his life of pain and fear, surviving an abusive brother, then abusive room mates in college. He fell fast and deep into the world of self harm and stayed there for some time. With each minor triumph, I felt the need to shout out in joy for him. With each set back, I felt the pain and disappointment.

He writes in a very open way, no frills, and comments on his own faults. "I'm a dramatic person... if you haven't figured that out by now." He tells us about his therapists and the other patients, and how each one helped him in their own way.

Truly an inspiring story of strength in the face of great odds, even if he didn't feel strong at the time. I have depression and PTSD, Mr Fitzpatrick's life and success at beating his illness gives me hope in managing mine. 

28 July 2014

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter-- 4Stars

I've been wanting to read this for some time and finally managed to get a copy from the library. I've seen bits and pieces (no pun intended), but wanted to read the books first. It was amazing!

We follow Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter annalist with the Miami-Dade police. Not a terrible job, really, sure the reason you're employed is a bit gruesome, but its for the greater good. Dexter does many things for the greater good... including getting rid of those people that the planet really doesn't need.

Did I forget to mention he's a serial killer? Since his foster father knew that eventually his son would become a killer, he taught him how to channel that energy into ridding the world of those monsters that, say, prey on children. Sure, Dexter is a heartless bastard, but he'd never hurt a child! He's as clever as it gets, witty too. There's never a dull moment.

I'm docking points for his sister, Deborah. She swears worse than a drunken sailor at Fleet Week! Other than that, its a great read and I'm looking forward to starting the next one.

02 July 2014

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez  4Stars

I picked this up some time ago, its been saving a place on my shelves. It sounded interesting and I was not disappointed.

Steve Lopez is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. As a columnist, he has many interests and short attention span. He's always hunting for the next story. He finds it in the Second Street Tunnel, next to the statue of Beethoven. A man is standing there, perfectly calm, playing a violin with only two strings. There had to be a story there! Turns out Mr Nathaniel Anthony Ayers isn't just some old bum down and out, he's a former student of Julliard, and has schizophrenia.

We follow Lopez over two years as he strives to help Ayers off the streets and into a home. This is no mean feat as Ayers tends to fight this all the way. Along the way, Lopez is learning more about himself as he tries to help a man that was once just a column pice, but has become much more than that.

Lopez quickly discovers that the music Ayers plays creates a peace in his head and silences the noise in his head. Lopez, traditionally a rock and roll type guy, starts listening to the classical music that Ayers plays to understand him better and only discovers the calm that Ayers feels as his plays.

This is an amazing story that shows that each of us have the capability to change a life... even if those efforts change ourselves. Perhaps especially so.

22 May 2014

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel

Cloud Atlas -- 4Stars

I wasn't so sure what to think of this novel when I first started reading. The book is broken into six different parts, none of which seem to be connected to the next. Once you start to really get into it, all the different narratives are indeed linked in the most incredible ways!

We see our past in the forms of a journal circa 1850, letters from 1931, and novella from 1975. Aspects of our past as humans that we would rather forget. Slavery, war, nuclear "mistakes".

Our present is taken up by an old man with the most ghastly luck. Our future is a bit jarring. Slavery returns in ways that we wouldn't expect as well as its savage roots.

All in all, the theme is "Freedom". We all want to be free, to make our own choices, but when that is taken away, we become prisoner to someone else and their ideas, their forces.

I know this is going to take a while to get into, but really its quite a lovely read, full of depth and interest.

15 May 2014

Group: Six People in Search of Life by Paul Solotaroff

Group: Six People in Search of Life 4 Stars

I happened on this gem in a used bookshop and thought, 'why not?' The author was given a special access to follow the group sessions of one particular handful of people in New York. They are taught how to use talk therapy and supervised sessions to self treat. Honestly, I read this as a way to get ahead of the curve if my therapist ever wants to go the group therapy route.

I was a bit miffed to be honest. That and pleased that my therapist isn't a jerk like the one in these people had to deal with. He has a bad habit of stopping people mid-thought to derail and go on to whatever he was thinking. As a whole, the group just rolls with it.

I found it interesting to see these people change and grow over the course of a year. Some made changes for the better, others... not so much. In the end it was an interesting book, but difficult to recommend to others.

06 May 2014

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore 5 stars

I saw this in my local used bookshop. The cheerful yellow caught my eye and the title was interesting. A twenty-four hour bookstore? Sounds interesting, but sometimes a book about books may not go over well. To the library I journeyed only to find that there was a waiting list for this title. What's a girl to do, but add it to her hold list and wait.

I opened the cover and started reading about a young man, in his twenties, jobless, hunting for work. Clay Jannon goes for a walk in his beloved San Fransisco in an attempt to find work... any work. He happens upon a thin little book store in the "pleasure district" with a help wanted sign. "Oh well, at least its work," he thinks.

Mr. Penumbra owns the book store and asks a question that changes Clay's world in a way he never expected, "What do you seek in these shelves?" Doesn't sound like much, but it starts Clay on an adventure that he never thought would happen.

This novel is wonderfully modern, taking place during the Great Recession. Many people are looking for work, any work, just to pay the bills. It also tackles the battle of e-books replacing "traditional books". There's a heavy dose of help from Google in this one, as well as their thoughts on immortality.

Ancient puzzles, obscure books from long dead authors, hackers. What more could a girl ask for?

Just a lovely cup of coffee. Seriously, I would love to tell you more of the plot, but htat would be giving too much away. You really should read about Clay, the night clerk at Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

(Oh one more thing... the cover glows in the dark!)

22 February 2014

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers  4Stars

All right, I can probably guess what you're thinking. "Ew, cadavers? But that means dead people! Who really cares what happens to the dead?" Or it could be something more like this: "Wait, you're doing what with a deceased person? That is not respectful to the departed."

Well, to each their own I suppose, but I found this fascinating! Mary Roach, a journalist by trade, wanted to know what really happens to those that donate their bodies to science or are left unclaimed in the county morgue. They happen to have an interesting life after death.

Medical students are taught surgical procedures that they would otherwise have to learn on the job. I don't know about you, but I want a surgeon that knows what s/he's doing. Ever think about how car manufacturers manage to ensure that a car is indeed safe enough to drive? You guessed it! Long before a crash test dummy is placed in the driver seat, John Doe takes a ride to make sure that you will survive. Included in this book are also some experiments done upon the deceased for the furtherment of science, if not simple human curiosity.

You'd think that such a book is gross and not worth reading. You may be right, but I found it stimulating. Ms Roach approaches the topic with gallows humor and no small dose of wit. Its possible to be respectful of the dead while still keeping a sense of humor.Personally, I have a whole new respect for those that decide to donate their bodies to science, or if their families choose to do so. Thank you, anonymous people, for providing the means to further science. And Mary Roach... thanks for such an entertaining book, even if the topic may have been a bit icky.

08 January 2014

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road - 4 stars

Let's first be very clear and state that I am a huge fan of the late great Jack Kerouac, prince of the Beat Generation. His words linger with me long after the story is through and the novel placed upon the shelf once more.This is the most famous and first published book in his Dulouz Legend, a fictionalize biography. Kerouac would change the places and names of people to serve his story. While the events are true, they may or may not have taken place when and exactly where he said they did.

On the Road is the tale of Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) as he traverses this country twice and then heads off to Mexico with his pal, Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). Dean is a crazed man, high on the fact that he is alive and able to experience the world. He takes things as they are and "digs" the music, the women, the drugs, the real of the late fifties and early sixties. When the world was close to tearing itself apart from war, Dean and Sal see the beauty in the most mundane of life. Picking strawberries in California, hitching in Iowa, digging the jazz in New Orleans. Every experience was new and exciting and they were determined to live their lives to the full. Even if it killed them.

Kerouac and Cassady were pals from the moment they met, there was a fondness that was closer than brothers and certainly more long suffering. Though their friendship was short lived, Cassady dying young, the memory of their shared experiences are forever locked in the page by Kerouac. Poetry and prose bring the world as they saw it into our lives and let us glimpse a world that we will never see again. The innocence of travel will never be as simple as hitching from New York to San Fransisco ever again. Kerouac, in a feverish spree of writing, left us the quintessential book of youth and adventure, of young love and hard life lessons.

Never does Kerouac disappoint me, never do I regret allowing his words and thoughts, his jazz to fill my mind with a world of music and travel, of feverish frenzied conversations and wild parties. I leave my novel a little worn and much appreciated.