I thought I knew about Tourette Syndrome before reading this book. I knew it wasn't merely the "swearing disease" where sufferers are compelled to shoI thought I knew about Tourette Syndrome before reading this book. I knew it wasn't merely the "swearing disease" where sufferers are compelled to shout profanities. I knew it had something to do with brain neurons misfiring. I knew the tics could affect all parts of the body and could also impair mental function. I knew that drugs had limited success.
The list of things I didn't know is far longer. I didn't know how much a Tourettes victim suffers. I didn't know how violent the tics could be (violent enough to knock holes in walls and cause bruises and bleeding). I didn't realise that a tic repeated over several years could cause injuries to vital body parts like vertebrae. I didn't understand how incapacitating the disease could be.
This is the story of two men with Tourette Syndrome, one (the author, Jim) with a comparatively mild case and and the other (Jeff Matovic) with a much more debilitating case. Jim's case mostly manifests itself in a head tic which has left him in constant chronic pain. Jeff was practically an invalid before a surgeon decided to take a chance with a non-approved treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation which had seen some success in related disorders. The treatment could improve Jeff's life or potentially end it--he was at the end of his rope anyway.
I appreciated the way the book risked letting the human side of the disease show. Both men were willing to show their anger, their despair, and their thoughts about suicide. In a world where people are lauded for suffering gracefully and cheerfully, this honest approach took a lot of courage.
There were parts when it dragged, mainly during the long, long story of how the book came to be. And the ebook is carelessly edited with random symbols and numbers cropping up in the middle of the text, usually during a particularly emotional moment. ("I don't want help!" he screamed. "Nobody can help me! Nobody 139 can fix anything.") It always threw me out of the narrative....more
I just about hyperventillated half a dozen times while reading this book. Kim Cross takes us right in the middle of the 2011 super tornadoes that swepI just about hyperventillated half a dozen times while reading this book. Kim Cross takes us right in the middle of the 2011 super tornadoes that swept through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. The stories from the survivors were the stuff of nightmares:
"[The church pastor] ducked into a low-ceilinged room where eleven others--children, parents, a small dog--were huddled together, terrified. For fifteen long seconds, the world hung suspended. The winds punched through the windows and pelted the people with pieces of trees and homes and dreams. It peeled tiles off the ceiling and tugged at them like a great, invisible hand trying to turn the church inside out. They held fast to the walls, to a bookshelf, to anything still there. With a thunderous clap, two large sheets of metal from the fellowship hall slammed down over the two nearest windows, shielding Pastor Wes and his people from the blender of debris. So loud was the roar that they did not hear the church fall."
And the aftermath of the storm was as heartbreaking as the account of the storm had been terrifying. I was reading the book during lunchtime at work and I had to stop because I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to keep my tears inside any longer. 348 people died as a result of the storms. The author focussed on a select few, detailing the moments their bodies were found and how their families and friends learned they were gone.
My heart was touched as I read about people giving anything they had to help clean up the affected areas and try to comfort those who were grieving. Everyone seemed desperate to offer something, however far-fetched: free haircuts, professional family photos, etc. Junior Leaguers joined football dads and Muslim restaurant owners to cook free hot meals in church parking lots. Even Japan, still recovering from its own disaster, sent 8,000 blankets.
The prose periodically got a bit purple, but I think that can be forgiven given the subject matter. I'm officially far more frightened and respectful of tornadoes now than I was before...and I used to live in Oklahoma....more
I was looking for a spooky book to read for Halloween. I found it.
This collection of stories is a bit uneven but all of them creeped me out. And theyI was looking for a spooky book to read for Halloween. I found it.
This collection of stories is a bit uneven but all of them creeped me out. And they were spooky and atmospheric without being gory or resorting to cheap thrills. No ghost jumps out of a cupboard and shrieks. Instead an atmosphere is carefully built, with enough clues dropped so that the reader comes to the horrifying conclusion before the narrator. I'm not in the habit of talking to my books, but there were times I found myself talking out loud to the narrator, telling him (it was always a him) to stop already, doesn't he know what he's going to find inside that old house or at the end of the dark road? I also had to stop reading before bed because these stories gave me nightmares.
Calling them stories would imply that this is a book of short stories, which is somewhat relative. Some of these "short" stories took days to read. Lovecraft wasn't the type to get directly to the point. But it turned out that for me, my favourite stories were the shorter ones, mostly the ones in the beginning of this collection. If you read nothing else by Lovecraft, read "The Outsider", just for me. Someone was kind enough to put it online and it's not very long.
Apparently it's common knowledge (although I never knew) that Lovecraft was a vicious racist. These stories contain racism. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for being a product of his generation, but I'm looking at it through a lens of white privilege. Your mileage may vary. ...more
First of all...the ending. Really? Why was that necessary?
Now that that's off my chest, I have to confess that I'm having a hard time rating this bookFirst of all...the ending. Really? Why was that necessary?
Now that that's off my chest, I have to confess that I'm having a hard time rating this book. It's about a Palestinian family during the end of World War II when Israel came into being. The book is narrated by Ishmael, the youngest and smartest son of Haj Ibrahim, muktar of his Palestinian town. The family is living a typical Arab life (which, according to Uris, means doing as little work as possible without starving). The women are cloistered, unable to go farther from the house than the well, and all the men are trying to cheat each other. When the Jews build a kibbutz next door the Arabs make a token effort to slaughter them all but, when the Jews prove stronger than expected, eventually accept it as one of life's many hardships.
But then Israel declares itself a nation and the war starts. Haj Ibrahim and his town are forced from their land by their own Arab people who see the town as being strategically located. They join the millions of other Palestinian refugees who have no home anywhere. No other Arab country will take the refugees but they also won't let the refugees be sent anywhere else. The demoralised family has few options and many enemies. Haj Ibrahim, a smart man and a forward thinker, is determined to change things for all Palestinians.
If this book is indeed an accurate depiction of Arab Palestinians, I think it's brilliant. It explains so many things and it gives another side of the story: not the perspective of the Jews, not the perspective of those Arab countries who started and are continuing the war, but the perspective of the ordinary Palestinians who were destitute and illiterate to begin with but whose plight only got worse as those in power carried out a poorly planned war.
But Leon Uris is clearly biased so I don't know how much of the characterisations I can trust. According to him, none of the Jews, not a single one, ever did anything to harm an Arab Palestinian. The Jews all wanted to live side by side with the Arabs as brothers and sisters. All Jews depicted in the story are heroic and kind and intelligent, just waiting to come to the rescue of their Arab friends if the Arabs would only ask.
And all Arabs in the book, even the good guys, were lazy and dishonest and liked nothing more than stabbing their close relatives in the back. They don't mind living in hovels among filth and most of them would be content to live in refugee camps forever as long as someone was feeding them. They're incapable of self-governance and would rather have a blood feud than a stable society.
Much of which, I'll admit, sounds a lot like what we're seeing on the news still today. So I don't know if Uris' depiction was accurate or not. I wish more Palestinian Arabs would write epic novels in English so I could see the world from their point of view.
All in all, I liked the history and the glimpse into another society. If I could erase the ending from my mind I would come away with a lot of respect for Haj Ibrahim and others like him who tried to do so much for their people. (Note for those who are going to read the book: just don't read the last 10 pages. They're utterly unnecessary.)...more
I downloaded this book after seeing the author's TED talk. Ronson discusses the new and depressing phenomenon of online shaming, where a joke in poorI downloaded this book after seeing the author's TED talk. Ronson discusses the new and depressing phenomenon of online shaming, where a joke in poor taste has the power to ruin someone's life. Instead of joining a mob of angry protestors, people can show their distaste with a few clicks of a button. And as we all know, stories can be instantly spread throughout the world. Google archiving ensures that a person can't outrun their reputation.
The tool can be used in a good way when the reputation is deserved--it's harder to bilk someone out of their life savings when your actions follow you. Ronson's first example was Jonah Lehrer, an author who had published a bestseller containing some fabricated quotes by Bob Dylan. I'm sure most people would agree that, while this particular example wasn't exactly earth-shattering, people should be told if an author is making a habit of publishing fabricated information. But the shame spiral Lehrer had to endure while millions took to Twitter to deride his actions and character made me cringe.
And there were other examples that were even worse. An unfunny joke that got blown way out of proportion. A poor-taste picture that some took offense at...and then forwarded it to all their friends so their friends could be offended as well. The punishment far outweighed the crime.
But I thought most of the interesting info was in the TED talk and in some of the follow-up articles in The Guardian and other online publications. I thought the book was repetitive and included quite a bit of needless information....more
Whimsical and light-hearted, an enjoyable book to read but easily forgettable.
About ten years have passed for the Waverleys since we first saw them inWhimsical and light-hearted, an enjoyable book to read but easily forgettable.
About ten years have passed for the Waverleys since we first saw them in Garden Spells. Bay is 15 and is in love. Mariah is 9 and hasn't yet demonstrated any Waverley magic. Sydney and Claire are both still a bit neurotic but are very close. And their husbands are infinitely patient and too good to be true.
This book had all the charm and magic of the first book. But it didn't seem to really have a plot. It was more like a week in the life of the Waverley clan. I suppose the first book was like that too, but the first book was all about discovery and introducing this magical world.
But I still enjoyed it. 3.5 stars--a great beach read....more
I found this book gripping and easy to read but ultimately it left me unsatisfied.
While distracted by her cell phone and a puppy in the back seat, LeiI found this book gripping and easy to read but ultimately it left me unsatisfied.
While distracted by her cell phone and a puppy in the back seat, Leigh's daughter Kara ran a stop sign and killed a teenager in the crosswalk. The story is told from Leigh's point of view as she watched her daughter try to come to terms with causing another girl's death. I thought the insights into the mind of the negligent driver were quite interesting. I think we often see things from the victim's point of view and it's hard to imagine how the person who caused the accident is also hurting, especially when they appear to get off with a light sentence or if their life continues exactly as it was before the accident. This was a compassionate look at someone who will suffer for the rest of her life because she briefly stopped focusing on her driving.
But Leigh herself was incredibly irritating. Most of the time she was just narrating to the reader about how much her daughter hated her or how bad her own childhood was. I wanted her to eventually realise that this wasn't about her, but I didn't feel like she ever got there. I thought the book went on far too long, just dredging up the same material again and again. And there were a few odd and unrelated scenes that felt like filler: Leigh's friend Eva confronting her about not having any other friends, for example. Where did that come from?
Good story but perhaps not good enough for a full-length novel....more
I knew this couldn't be another Ready Player One; a book like that just can't be repeated. So my expectations for this one weren't too high, which waI knew this couldn't be another Ready Player One; a book like that just can't be repeated. So my expectations for this one weren't too high, which was probably good. I like the author's lighthearted and campy style.
Things changed for Zach Lightmann one day when he looked out of his high school window and saw an enemy spaceship from his favourite video game hovering in the sky. It turns out that the video game world was real and that the video game bad guys were getting ready to attack earth. The government had known about the impending invasion for years and had developed the popular video game in order to train and recruit fighters to defend their planet. If you're thinking this sounds an awful lot like a mix between Ender's Game and the movie The Last Starfighter, you're not the only one. Armada frequently references those two sources along with dozens of others.
In fact, the whole book is just one giant inside joke for hard-core SF fans, mostly for fans of books, movies, and games that came out in the previous century. The references are constant, at least one or two on every page. I consider myself a nerd but not a geek so I only got perhaps half of the references.
The storyline is campy but entertaining. This is one of those "defend the earth against aliens" sorts of books, so there are plenty of battle scenes, acronyms, and descriptions of advanced technology to woo the SF types. The characters are also likable enough.
This is by no means a classic but it's a pleasant way to pass the time....more
This was an enjoyable read, lighthearted and funny. Naive and innocent Catherine Morland leaves home for the first time at age 17, accompanying neighbThis was an enjoyable read, lighthearted and funny. Naive and innocent Catherine Morland leaves home for the first time at age 17, accompanying neighbours to the grand city of Bath to enjoy the social season of balls and so forth. Catherine is delightful and affectionate but also longs for adventure. She reads novels (those trivial, scandalous things) and has a wild imagination, and the novels often make her imagination run away with her.
I found Catherine very relatable, and in her social circle I could recognise my 17-year-old self and my own friends. I was amused to see how women used each other to put themselves in the way of good-looking men back then just as often as we use each other today. And I laughed when Catherine, her imagination primed by reading gothic horror stories, thoroughly investigated the mysterious chest and threatening cabinets in her guest bedroom.
The friendly and funny Henry Tilney is now officially my favourite Jane Austen man. I didn't know she could write a hero who wasn't brooding and/or arrogant.
But while I was enjoying the characters, I kept waiting for something to happen. Finally towards the end there was a small event, but the misunderstandings were easily cleared up and the climax of the book began and ended in about 5 pages. This is the opposite of a plot-driven book. But it's worth the read nonetheless....more