Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Beginning and Friday 56 #4

It's Friday . . . time to share book excerpts with: 


  • Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.  
  • The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an ebook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.
My book beginning this week is a book from 1994, Cat on a Blue Monday, by Carole Nelson Douglas:

"I like nothing better than playing the role of Sage in the Shade." 

And page 56, from the same book:

"Amid this gingham glory reclined a huge, snub-nosed, vanilla-haired cat with chocolate-brown fur frosting the tips of its muzzle, legs, and tail. "

This is book 3 of the Midnight Louie Mystery series. Midnight Louie is a big, black, cat who helps his human solve mysteries in Las Vegas. I wasn't overly impressed with the first book- it was okay but not stupendous- but the author seems to have improved a lot since that one.

So. Would you keep reading, given these samples? 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, by Henry Marsh. Thomas Dunne Books, 2014

“Do no harm” is paraphrased in the Hippocratic Oath that medical students are all exposed to first thing. It’s the common principal in all medicine, but is especially stressed in neurosurgery, where the possibility for harm is so high. Henry Marsh has been a top neurosurgeon in Great Britain for many years and shares his stories of the trade here.

Each chapter is named for and explores the treatment of a different neurological problem; meningioma, pituitary adenoma, infarct. Each chapter features a different patient; we see how the patient came to Marsh, how the operation went, and sometimes we see how they fared. Not always; sometimes they are whisked way back to the hospital that referred them, rather them leaving them under the care of the surgeon. So there are times that the author had no idea how they ultimately turned out.

The descriptions of the problems and the way they are treated fascinated me, but beware if you are squeamish- the author describes things pretty vividly. But his book is not just about operations; it’s also about his own life, the about the NHS system in England. The system limits not just patient care but the hours doctors can work, which can make arranging long operations difficult. New doctors don’t have time enough to learn all they should. Marsh describes taking this out on nurses, anesthesiologists, clerks, and more- while an empathic, caring, man with patients, he seems to have been an ass to those he worked with at times- and admits it.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was like reading a series of exciting stories, watching Marsh’s expertise and character grow. And I love a good medical description. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything, not just this book- Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, by Colin Ellard. Bellevue Literary Press, 2015

Psychogeography is, in Ellard’s opinion, how our surroundings affect our moods and behavior. How plants make any place seem better- and make people less apt to destroy things. How featureless concrete expanses make a person nervous and unwilling to linger. How surroundings can awe, suffocate, sooth, or tempt a person (think the insides of shopping malls). He explains how and why people have these reactions, and how they can be used to manipulate people. He also goes into how digital technology is changing things, and how it could be used to alienate or integrate.

This is important stuff for any architect, designer, or city planner. It’s also helpful for just about anyone who wants to understand why the feel the way they do in certain environments. One part I especially liked was when he wrote about Temple Grandin’s slaughter house designs that keep cattle calm instead of panicked as they go to their deaths- this is manipulation at its most obvious. How many places do we frequent that affect us in a similar way without our ever being aware of it? The book is technical but easily readable. Recommended. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- not just this book but anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Early Reviewers  program.

Neither of these things influenced my opinion.  

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph #2

It's's time for

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers post the first paragraph(s) of a book they are currently reading or planning to read sometime soon.

Today's book is The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich. It's been laying in my TBR pile for sometime and made it's way to the top . .

"Fidelis walked home from the great war in twelve days and slept thirty-eight hours once he crawled into his childhood bed. When he woke in Germany in late November of the year 1918, he was only a few centimeters away from becoming French on Clemenceau and Wilson's redrawn map, a fact that mattered nothing compared to what there might be to eat. He pushed aside the white eiderdown that his mother had aired and restuffed every spring since he was six years old. Although she had tried with repeated scrubbings to remove from its cover the stains of a bloody nose he'd suffered at thirteen, the faint spot was still there, faded to a pale tea-brown and shaped like a jagged nest. he smelled food cooking- just a paltry steam but enough to inspire optimism. Potatoes maybe. A bit of soft cheese. An egg? He hoped for an egg. The bed was commodious, soft, and after his many strange and miserable beds of the past three years, it was of such perfect comfort that he'd shuddered when first lying down. Fidelis had fallen asleep to the sound of his mother's quiet, full, joyous weeping. He thought he still heard her now, but it was the sunlight. The light pouring through the curtains made a liquid sound, he thought, an emotional and female sound as it moved across the ivory wall." 

 What do you think?  Would you continue reading?

I bought the book because I've liked Erdrich's other work. Her writing is so full of detail it makes me feel like I'm really in the scenes. Sometimes that's good- like the above- sometimes it's heartbreaking. 

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman. Random House, 1998

Georgiana Spencer, born in 1757, was not your typical court lady of the time. She was seventeen when she married the 5th Duke of Devonshire, twenty years her senior. Like many men of the time, he made no pretense of being faithful, but the Duke went further than usual. He fell in love with Georgiana’s best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and moved her into the house. The three lived together for the next 25 years. Georgiana loved Bess as much as the Duke did, so it was not the horror story that some have made of it. Whether Georgiana and Bess were lovers is not known, but they seemed satisfied with sharing the Duke.

Her living arrangements (and her own love affairs) have overshadowed the fact that Georgiana was very politically active. In a time when women could not vote, Georgiana held parties to sway political affiliations and lobbied hard for the Whig contingent and was very politically influential. Living in the turbulent time that King George III was slipping in and out of madness meant various political factions were jockeying for power, and Georgiana had the ability to create a spectacle to attract people.

Georgiana was always in debt. She was a gambling addict and ran up tremendous IOUs; but she was also extremely generous with money to her friends and family. The Duke bailed her out many times and still, she died in debt. She was also an amateur scientist and a collector of mineral specimens. Her interests were far ranging.

She was a fascinating woman and a lot of correspondence was left from, to, and about, her. This helped the author, along with a huge list of books, bring the Duchess to life. Parts of the book are fast reading; the parts about politics were, to me, slow going and frankly bored me, but necessary as so much of Georgiana’s life was about politics. Not the easiest read but well worth the effort. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something (anything, not just this book) Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review.