Sunday, November 23, 2014

American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes. ADA, 2011






This large (nearly 500 pages) book covers pretty much all aspects of diabetes- diet, insulin, other meds, types of diabetes, complications, mental health, sexual health, and legal issues. It doesn’t cover most of it in great depth- if you’re looking for a deep discussion of diet and carb counting, for instance, you’ll want to seek out a book devoted just to that. But for a newcomer to diabetes, whether the reader is the diabetic or a family member, it’s a great starting place because it has such a wide scope. Not all sections will be pertinent to a reader, since it covers children and adults, hiring discrimination, sports, dealing with school etc but any diabetic will find a lot that does pertain to them. It’s written in a non-textbook style and easy to understand by non-medical personnel. While it didn’t tell me anything really new, I wish it had been available 28 years ago when I developed diabetes! 


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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, by Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph D, and Maia Szalavitz. Basic Books, 2006




Author Bruce Perry has a very difficult but very gratifying job. He’s a child psychiatrist who deals with children who have been horribly abused and traumatized at an early stage, helping them become whole and healed. Perry bases his therapy on how the brain develops- at certain ages, different parts of the brain enlarge as a child learns things; things as basic as trusting someone who touches you or learning how to talk. If a child is deprived of soothing touch as a wee baby, they flinch from touch as they grow up. Perry gently and slowly introduces touch and then massage to teach them that it’s okay, and that part of the brain grows, even though it’s well after the time when it should have.

The children in his accounts are all real, albeit with their names changed. They have suffered horrifically as babies and toddlers. Repeated sexual abuse, near total neglect, seeing their mother murdered –and having her throat cut at the same time- are some of the things that had happened to these children. The boy who was raised as a dog was actually one of the luckier ones; he was fed and did have the dogs for companionship, even as he was deprived of human interaction by a guardian who had no idea how to care for a child but did raise dogs. His guardian didn’t beat him or sexually abuse him. But despite the abuse these children went through and the damage it did to their brain development, Perry is able to help them. He’s very patient and never forces anything on the children. They’ve already had too many things forced on them.

The authors present the book in a rather informal manner. Perry explains what the child went through and what it did to their brain, adding neuroscience to psychiatry. Then he explains what he did with each one to get their brain to grow and reduce their deficits. Each story deals with a different part of the brain. Perry’s dedication and humanity shine through. The authors write rather like Oliver Sacks; if you like his books you’ll like this one, too.


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Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World, by Alison Weir. Ballantine 2013






Though many people (or at least many Americans) don’t know who Elizabeth of York was, she was an important figure in English history. She was the mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I. Her marriage to Henry VII, who was the first Tudor ruler and a Lancastrian, ended the Wars of the Roses. Mary, Queen of Scots was also a descendant of hers-her blood, in fact, runs in the veins of today’s British royal family. Her uncle was the infamous Richard III, whose remains were recently found under a parking lot and who probably murdered her brothers, the princes in the tower.

Elizabeth’s life was short- she died at age 37 after giving birth- and for a part of it, there was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen to her. Her father died while her brothers were still boys, setting off a fight for the throne. After her brothers disappeared and were presumed dead, Elizabeth became the rightful heir to the throne, although no one assumed she, a mere woman, could rule. That idea wouldn’t take root until her granddaughter Mary I became queen. She was a prize through which another man could rule the kingdom by marrying her, though. First her uncle Richard III thought about it; after Henry VII killed him at Bosworth, he- who also had a claim to the throne via his own bloodline, albeit not as direct as Elizabeth’s- married her, giving him a firmer grasp on the right to rule. After years of families fighting, peace came to England.

Prolific biographer Alison Weir has created a meticulous biography of this largely unsung queen, going back to many primary sources – the bibliography and notes sections are 75 pages long. Elizabeth emerges as a pious and charitable woman, as proven by palace accountings of what she spent. Despite her marriage being for convenience, it proved to be a loving one. She and Henry loved each other and loved their children. The people of England loved her. But despite this attention to details, Elizabeth never really comes alive in this book. The facts are all there, but the spark isn’t. I don’t expect biography to be like historical fiction, and sometimes people’s lives don’t make a smooth narrative, but I’ve read biographies that were gripping.  It was an interesting book, although slow reading and text book like. 


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I received this book free in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things affected my review. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor. HarperCollins 2015





In 1912, Tilly Harper leaves home to become a house mother in a home for former flower and watercress selling girls; the lucky occupants now work in a factory making artificial flowers, which were immensely popular at the time. Both belong to philanthropist Alfred Shaw, who rescues as many of the girls- the poorest of the poor, many of them with physical problems that prevent them from getting better employment- from the streets. When Tilly is putting her things away, she discovers a box with an old journal stored in it, and she reads it over the days as she has time. It’s the story of Florrie Flynn and the younger sister, Rosie, who she lost when Rosie was four years old. Florrie spent her entire short life living and working in the group home, and never gave up looking for her sister. This poignant tale inspires Tilly to try and find Rosie herself, and let her know how much her sister loved her.

It’s a sweet story, and paints a good picture of the lives of the flower girls and poverty in the late Victorian and Edwardian era in London. The flower factory and group homes are based on real ones established by John Groom. Tilly is a nice character with enough of a personal conflict to make her interesting. There is a love interest, but it really doesn’t add much to the story. There are also some amazing coincidences, but they are worked in well enough to be believable. Good story for a rainy or snowy afternoon.


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I received this book for free from the Amazon Vine program in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things affected my review.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, by Graham Joyce. Doubleday, 2013





In mid-1970s England, David is a college student wishing to avoid working the summer as a construction site gopher for his step-father. He winds up at the same beach resort where his father had a heart attack and died when David was three. Hired on as a ‘greencoat’(for the uniforms they must wear) to man the various games & contests set up for the shabby resort’s working class guests and to perform chores in the theaters, he makes his first mistake almost instantly, sitting down at the table of Colin and Terri, part of the custodial crew. Colin is rude, crude, violent and doesn’t like to talk to people- and especially doesn’t want people talking to his beautiful young wife. But for some reason Colin takes David under his rather undesirable wing. This leads to a sort of friendship, and to another mistake- David goes to a racist meeting with Colin, not knowing where he was being taken. Which doesn’t go over well with certain others on the staff. Meanwhile, David starts having vivid hallucinations of a man with a rope and a small boy, hallucinations so real he follows them at one point. There is a love triangle- really more of a love pentagon, really.

Although Graham Joyce is known for his fantasy work, this book has little of the supernatural. While there is a stage magician, the only real magic is the psychic laundry woman. This is more of a coming of age book, with David making pretty much every mistake he can make. It’s also a look back at the end of an era, when the seaside resorts were on the way down, and the beginning of the Punk era. I had sympathy for David; young and more or less innocent, with few people telling him the truth. The characters aren’t particularly deep but they held my interest just fine; I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to see how the whole thing untangled. 


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