Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: In a House of Dreams and Glass

This book is Klitzman's memoir of his time in residency, training as a psychiatrist. There are many memoirs of medical training in print, and this one does bear some similarities to the others, but there is plenty of original content too. Like most memoirs of residency, Klitzman's training brings into stark relief the inadequacies of the mental health system, and the inability of well-meaning practitioners to deliver the best medical care.

Some of the issues, dealing with insurance companies, nurses, and other doctors are shared across disciplines. But psychiatry presents a whole new set of issues, and Klitzman's treatment of these make this book well worth reading. While medical memoirs are full of tales of senior doctors mistreating students, the psychiatrists seemed to be using their students as experiments. Klitzman notes that residents were frequently treated like patients. Where Klitzman is at his most eloquent is in his discussion of the difficulties of treating the mind, rather than the body. Serving a patient population that does not necessarily want to get well, navigating disagreements about drug vs. behavioral therapy, these issues provide new challenges Klitzman had not faced in treating the body.

This is a well-written, passionate memoir. Much has changed in psychiatry in the fifteen years since this was published. Prozac was the new wonder drug when Klitzman was writing. This is still a book well-worth reading. The drugs may have changed, but many of the issues remain.

Robert Klitzman, In a House of Dreams and Glass: Becoming a Psychiatrist (Simon and Schuster, 1995) ISBN: 0671734504

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Lady Audley's Secret

This is a delightful Victorian Gothic novel, full of suspense and intrigue. Braddon's book has all of the elements of a good Victorian suspense tale: a country estate inhabited by the landed gentry, a pining lover, and a Victorian lady who is not what she seems.

George Talboys arrives home from Australia to discover his wife has died. Robert Audley, seeing his friend mad with grief, brings George to Audley Court, his uncle's country estate. It is at Audley Court that Talboys mysteriously vanishes. As Robert investigates his friend's disappearance, it becomes clear that the prime suspect is the lady of the court, Robert's new aunt, Lady Audley. Beautiful and child-like, the fact that Lady Audley may be a cold-blooded murderer adds a particularly horrifying twist for a Victorian readership.

Anyone who thinks that the Victorians couldn't produce a page-turner should have a look at this book. Braddon effectively creates a dark and suspenseful atmosphere. While she relies on particularly Victorian conventions to do this, such as stressing Lady Audley's hyper-femininity, the result is still sufficiently gripping, even for the modern reader.

Mary Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Virago, 1987, orig. 1862)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Readathon: Memoir Mini-Challenge

I love memoirs, and I really enjoy the genre. Here's my answers.


1. Have you ever read a memoir/true story (Or book 'based on true events'?)
Yes, lots!

2. If so, what was the title/author?
Too many to list here, but some recent memoirs I've read include:
Doris Grumbach, Coming into the End Zone
Jennifer Niven, The Aqua Net Diaries
Wendy Burden, Dead End Gene Pool

3. What what it about?

- Aging, reading and writing
- Surviving high school in a small town
- Growing up in a wealthy but dysfunctional blue-blooded family

4. Did you like it? Would you recommend it?
- Absolutely!
- No
- Yes

5. How many have you read?
- Far too many to count- I read 10-12 memoirs per year

6. Why or what made you want to read it?
I really love memoirs.

7. What was the saddest/scariest one you read?
- The Glass Castle was definitely a rough go.

8. Did it have a 'happy ending'?
Well, sort of, Jeanette Walls has gone on to have a productive and successful adulthood.

9. When choosing a memoir/true story, do you look for a certain kind? ( i.e. historical diary, inspirational like The Freedom Writer's Diary, Christian, non Christian)
I like reflective memoirs, where people reflect on their own experiences.

10. Bonus question(s-it's in parts:) for my giveaway: Have you read 3 or more memoirs/true stories? Title/Author, would you recommend them?If you were to win the giveaway prize, would you want the book, (Sizzling 16 by Janet Evanovich) and would you prefer the coffee or tea? or both?

Here's three more for kicks:
- Miranda Weiss, Tide, Feather, Snow
- Mei-Ling Hopgood, Lucky Girl
- Augusten Burroughs, Running with Scissors

I'd recommend any of them.

If I were to win, I don't need the Evanovich book, but I do love both coffee and tea!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Readathon: Hour 19

Command of English language: fading. I've been reading! I finished a Nancy Drew book- The Sign of the Twisted Candles, and I'm 100+ pages into Horsemen of the Esophagus. My page total for the Readathon thus far is 608 pages. I'm going to power on for a few more hours!

Hour 17: Banned Books!

My mini-challenge for this hour is to make an argument for any book to be banned. I'm going to go with one of the books I'm reading: Jason Fagone's Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream

My pitch: In an age of growing health concerns and childhood obesity, we should not be exposing our children to the "sport" of competitive eating. By noting that competitive eating is sometimes shown on ESPN and that top gurgitators (that's the author's word) are paid in prize money and trips, this book sets a dangerous precedent. After all, who wouldn't want to go become a competitive eater after reading about stomach stretching, and downing 50 hotdogs + buns in 12 minutes?

Whenever I hear about banned books I can only imagine whiny complaints of "What about the chiiiiiillllllldddddreeeennnnn?" So, there we have it.

Hour 15: Wordle

I had no knowledge of the wordle app. until today- it's quite a bit of fun. Have a look at the wordle I did with a review of the Victorian novel Red Pottage.

Readathon- Hour 13 mini challenge

This title unscramble looks like loads of fun. Here's my efforts:

Enjoy! Here is the list:

1.yfferil enal- Firefly Lane

2.aste fo eend- East of Eden

3. retwa orf pntshleea- Water for Elephants

4.ot lkli a ckomgnrbdii- To Kill a Mockingbird

5. het gtaer ysbtag- The Great Gatsby

6. yrhra tetrpo dna eth lyhdtea wollsah- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

7. ht e rat fo nrgcai ni eht nair- The Art of Racing in the Rain

8.eth mite reslveart efwi- The Time Traveler's Wife

9. eht rlig iehw eht gnodar ooattt- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

10.ydira fo a mypiw idk- Diary of a Wimpy Kid

11.a kwrlnei ni emit- A Wrinkle in Time

12. het rpoal sxprese- The Polar Express

13.vole dewlak ni- Love Walked In

14.reehw eth dwli hingts rea- Where the Wild Things Are

15.eht ginnhsi- The Shining

16.dnohogigt oonm- Goodnight Moon

17. vwtienrie hwti a pvmarie- Interview with a Vampire

18. eht cretse file fo eesb= The Secret Life of Bees

19. eht raesch- The Search

20. het pelh- The Help

Read-a-Thon: Hour 12

I'm chugging along! I just returned from the grocery store, where I went for some much-needed provisions. I picked up a salad for lunch, and if I'm a good girl and finish it, I also got an M&M cookie.

In any case, here's my mid-event meme:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
I had to put down the competitive eating book to read lunch, as it's just too gross. I'm going to start on Lydia Cassat Reading the Morning Paper instead.

2. How many books have you read so far? Finished 2, started a third.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? A Nancy Drew, yet to be determined.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I skipped my figure skating lesson- I am a bad girl.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Only of my own making (see naptime)

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That I actually got up at 5am!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
It would be fun to have more themed-reading challenges, like read a certain kind of book during this hour.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Stock up on the ice cream ahead of time.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
That's what the nap was for.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
See ice cream, above. You may think you won't need it, but trust me, you will.

Read-a-Thon: Hour 11 and Confession Time

So, the confession is...I've succumbed to a nap! I took a couple of hours for sleep, which was pretty much inevitable, with the whole get up at 5am thing. I'm now back and raring to read. Since my last update, I've been reading Horsemen of the Esophagus, which is about (get ready for it) competitive eating. It's bizarre and fascinating all at the same time.

Around here the weather is cold, rainy, and windy, which is perfect for reading. I hope it stays that way.

Readathon: Love to Hate

5 characters I love to hate? This is actually kind of difficult. I'm going to try and do it without spoilers:

1. The Wicked Witch of the West- The Wizard of Oz
2. The Guilty Party in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
3. The Artful Dodger- Oliver Twist
4. Roger Chillingworth- The Scarlet Letter
5. Tom Buchanan- The Great Gatsby

Read-a-Thon: Hour 4

I have been dutifully reading since 5am (!!!!) I have finished Agatha Christie's Spider's Web, which started as a play, adapted to novel form. It's a bit different than other Christies I have read, but still an exciting and good read. I also managed to finish a book I was half through, Fannie's Last Supper, written by a food writer who sought to recreate a 12-course Victorian meal using contemporary cooking methods. Crazy, and the calf's head soup discussion nearly made me lose my lunch, but very interesting, too.

So, that's:

Books finished: 2
Pages: (243+136) - too stupid and tired to do the math right now.

Read-a-Thon: Six Word Celebration

I've been challenged to come up with six words to celebrate the Read-a-Thon. The early hour is making it rather difficult to be creative, but here's my best effort.

Lots of coffee. Smashing good time.

Read-a-Thon: Hour 1

Here it is, 5am, and I am up and ready to read. I am officially insane. I have a few good selections to start me off: Mary Roach's Bonk, which should be hilarious, and two Agatha Christies: Spider's Web and Postern of Fate. At this hour my books need to be engaging and read easily!

So, for our introductory meme, let me introduce myself:

Where I'm reading from:
Washington State

3 facts about me …

I'm a history professor

I'm a figure skater

I'm ridiculously flexible (this should come in handy when couch rot sets in)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I never make an official readathon TBR pile, rather I pick and choose from my entire pile (which currently numbers 2500 books- shhhh, don't tell!)

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

My goal is to do 18-20 hours of reading.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

Don't over-plan, just have fun!

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Read-a-Thon Time!

I'm delighted that it is time once again for Dewey's Fall Readathon! This event is 24 hours of non-stop reading. Well, I actually intend to stop every now and then, but I'll be spending the majority of the time reading. The only bad part is my time zone- it starts at 5am here- boo! I'm great at staying up late, not so good at getting up early. Watch for updates, which I'll be posting throughout the day. I last did this readathon in October 2008, and I'm glad to be participating once again. If you'd like to sign up too just click on the image.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories

This collection of Miss Marple short stories highlights many of the things I find interesting about Christie, as well as some of her weaknesses. Christie's strength lies in setting up complicated plots and drawing out rich characters in all of their particularities. The short story format, then, takes away Christie's greatest strength. What is left are bare-bones Christie-style stories.

Each story in this collection is a whodunit, usually featuring a murder. Everyone is either bewildered, or convinced that the wrong person is guilty, except, of course, for Miss Marple. Christie affords no energy to the set-up; most of these stories begin with a group telling each other stories. The solutions to these stories involve knowledge of all sorts of things with which the average reader will have little familiarity, such as the uses and results of certain poisons.

Perhaps most striking to me was just how weak the character of Miss Marple actually is. There's simply very little to her, except a conviction that young people are foolish. The introduction to the volume tries to argue otherwise, but I am not convinced.

Christie aficionados will certainly want to read this volume, but I would recommend one of Christie's novels to the uninitiated.

Agatha Christie, The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories (Folio, 2003).