Monday, 11 June 2018

Don't Call Me Exotic

My friend C and I often sit around over a shared plate discussing dating in Seattle. Not only Seattle but Sydney, London and all the other places we have lived.

One thing we are quite adamant about is that we do not respond well to being identified as exotic.

Peacocks anywhere but India are exotic.
Moulin Rouge dancers are exotic.
Cane toads destroying the Australian sugar fields are exotic.

I however, am not.

If you see me that way, you need to travel more.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Trigger Warning

It has been a long time since I wrote anything other than a book review that I'd share any more publicly than instabookchat. That is because it is hard to voice vulnerability when you are so far from home.

There are many reasons for that: Upsetting family who are too far away to help you; Worrying that your thoughts may scare the natives; and being publicly shamed for opening up on the whipping ground that is the Internet.

There are more but those are most certainly the top three that hinder my thought sharing.

What triggered this and many other things was waking up this morning to hear that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide.

Truth be told, I had seen a few episodes of his different shows, read a little of his writing and knew he was dating a fabulous woman 20 years his junior. I wouldn't call myself a fan or a hater. He was the sarcastic loud American travel guy who managed to avoid being cringeworthy while educating Americans on the world outside their small untravelled world.

There are a few things that have bothered me about this whole situation that I feel must be addressed. Surely others will articulate it better but if I don't say it now, I will feel negligent. Negligent to those who suffer from depression; negligent to those who don't; and most certainly negligent to my own mental health.

Having suffered sever clinical depression for 3 years in my early 30s, Bourdain's and Kate Spade's deaths have triggered my biggest fear.

That fear is that I could find myself in that dark place again feeling that there are no other choices to escape the pain than to quit the whole game. I have too many tools now for that. I know when to ask for help and when to voice my pain to others so that the darkness never returns. But, and it is a loud and cautious but, what if there is a situation so dire that I don't get to catch myself before I fall?

News reports keep saying he was happy (even giddy) a week before his death so he can't have been depressed. That is the most naive nonsense I've heard in a long time.

Triggers don't take time to build up to make you snap. They are stressors that happen in an instant and cause you to immediately return to a mental state where you were at your worst. It is as if you never left the dungeon and the darkness. It feels like nothing else good has ever happened even if you were smiling last week.

Therapy teaches you to be mindful and catch yourself in those moments and then apply your tools to stop yourself from spiralling. Those tools may involve asking others for help, negating the lies your brain tells you or not making any decisions until you are safe enough to do so. There are many tools to help a depressed person but sometimes, Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that you can't even breathe let alone catch yourself.

For all the education out there, those who have not suffered mental illness (and some who have) don't get it. They don't understand how it works and how you don't.

We live in a society that wants to talk about it but we also don't want to because those who understand are afraid of triggering their demons.

This is hard to write. This is hard to say. But the pain is real for many.

You don't get over depression. Not really. You just learn to function and not be frozen in time by the pain. The fear of returning may be irrational but when you watch someone who rebroke and didn't escape it, the fear feels real.

Talk about it. The world is a better place for having you in. Me too.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Treasure Island



Book 21 of 2018 is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Having read this book over 30 years ago, I thought I'd scan through it since we all know the story so well. The thing with me remembering books is that I recall the peaks and troughs but forget the detail after that long. I'm glad I re-read it.

Like all true classics that define their genre, it isn't perfect or even at the pace I would expect of a swashbuckling adventure but it is true to form. The characters are more complex than I remember them and the classism is cringeworthy but I must keep it mind that it was published in 1883.

This is more than a children's books and less than an adult's book so I am not sure whether to recommend it based on that. I can however recommend it based on it being fun and adventurous.

You can decide if that is for you.

4 Yo-ho-ho, and  bottles of rum out of 5.

Should I read this? Do it. It's a short fun adventurous read.
What did I learn? Rum is not a life for me.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Gender Game



Book 20 of 2018 is The Gender Game by Bella Forrest.

I wanted to like this so much but I didn't.

For a perfect feminist book, it mansplained a lot of why the world is how it is and maybe how a female run world would be just as bad. It doesn't discuss how close to equality the female world is. Women are less oppressive. Children of Time did it better.

The premise is brilliant so I will read the second book and hope that she doesn't pursue the relationship with the hermit hipster.

2 mansplains out of 5.

Should I read this? No.
What did I learn? Women can mansplain too.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow



Book 19 of 2018 is Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend.

I only found out after reading this that it was written by an Aussie female author. That makes me proud because this is one of the best books I've read this year.

The female protagonist is curious, robust and sensible. Unlike most young adult novel heroines, she isn't clueless and silly. She thinks for herself and makes sensible decisions.

This world is phantasmagorical and wonderful. Reminds me of Night Circus.

Read it. Read it. Read it.

5 destinies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yep.
What did I learn? Female authors write brilliant characters and not just female ones.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Snow Crash



Book 18 of 2018 is Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Finally got to read this book after every single big reader I know recommended it to me. Why did I take so long?

It was fitting that this was my tome when I watched Ready Player One. It helped me step back from my disappointment and realise that giant books can't always fit in to 2.5 hours.

This is a classic for a reason. A must must must read. I can't stop recommending this to everyone who loved RP1. It's the precursor for sure.

5 pwns out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you love retro sci-fi.
What did I learn? The geek shall inherit the Earth.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Damocles



Book 17 of 2018 is Damocles by S. G. Redling.

I liked too much about this book. The linguistics side. The idea that two people can connect simply because they are open to.

This book was rich and enjoyable but it wound up too fast and too simply. It betrayed the rest of the book that had so much effort put in to it.

I wish this could be rewritten with a better and less predictable ending.

4 words and hand signals out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, actually.
What did I learn? I love language and the idea of communication across understandings.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Island



Book 16 of 2018 is Island by Aldous Huxley.

I've read reviews of this book that say it is one of his best but like most last-books-written by authors, this fell way too short for me.

Like all classic sci-fi of old, the author is more philosophical than a story teller. In this book, he preaches about how life can be lived well in contrast to the failings of modern western culture.

That got boring fast.

With some many other books of his being in my pile of favourites, this one will have to take a backseat. Not worth the time except to understand the references that people make to it. You can however gain that understanding using Wikipedia and save yourself the time.

2 attentions out of 5.

Should I read this? Nope.
What did I learn? I don't quite agree with what others think are classics.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities



Book 15 of 2018 is Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.

Non-fiction is always much more terrifying to me than fiction ever could be. It's real. This is real. This book has me terrified of ever going out in the wilderness again.

Australia has the most painful stinging tree... that is no surprise. The surprise is that people have attempted to kill themselves to escape the pain.

The Nightshade family of plants has me scared of ever eating tomatoes or their relatives again.

Here I was thinking Venus Fly Traps were icky. There are much more devastating plants out there and they feel no remorse.

The structure of the book means you could break it up over time and read it while reading other books. I read it in a couple of sittings because it was fascinating.

4 deaths by plant out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are interested in plants that kill you then yes.
What did I learn? We are not safe anywhere!

Children of Time



Book 14 of 2018 is Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

This book is excellent in every single way. This may become on of my most recommended sci-fi books since The Martian.

I was engaged the whole time and at times stayed awake too late just to finish a few more chapters.

Not going to give any more than to say that this is sci-fi that forces you to explore the way you think or where we evolved from. Strong female characters and great writing had me thinking of this book while out with friends rather than paying attention to the conversation.

5 evolutions and revolutions out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. No buts about it.
What did I learn? The world could have been a very different place.

A Study in Brimstone



Book 13 of 2018 is A Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning.

This started off painfully and then moved on to become a rich new world of Holmes and Watson. It is the typical thing with Watson being the one with social skills and Holmes being the talent.

In the first book in the series covers several classic Sherlock Holmes stories with a demonic twist. With vamps, ogres and warlocks, I could only enjoy the rewrite of the classics.

A good little bit of escapism, even with simple writing and some predictability.

Two of my favourite genres in one.

3 out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like crime fiction mixed with light hearted mythology then yeah, do it.
What did I learn? Authors don't seem to challenge us with deep mythology anymore. Instead they build on Dracula and Harry Potter. It's a shame.

Monday, 5 February 2018

IQ



Book 12 of 2018 is IQ by Joe Ide.

Reading about the trials of African Americans makes me cringe on the best of days but I can't live here and pretend it isn't happening. So this year, I am reading as much as I can bear.

This book was absolutely brilliant. Very Sherlock Holmes mixed with Spike Lee mixed with Quincy Jones. I want to stay in Isaiah's life and watch everything be solved through observation.

Great writing lets you live the story without fighting the words. Even with a dialect I don't read naturally and references that I have to take in context, this was easy and enjoyable to read.

Do read this.

5 inductive reasonings out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Read it. It's that good.
What did I learn? The geek shall inherit the Earth. Or at least those of us who were picked last for sporting teams. :)

When the Air Hits Your Brain



Book 11 of 2018 is When the Air Hits Your Brain by Frank Vertosick, Jr. MD.

This was an odd book to read in this #metoo time. It lacked the entitlement and megalomania that I expected from a surgeon. Maybe I've just dated the wrong surgeons.

This author said brain surgery isn't brain surgery and I find that interesting. A lot of people want to make their professions seem impossible to enter, exclusive or next to godliness. He didn't make it out that way.

The anecdotes were interesting and told perfectly. The only thing I'd change is the self pity. You're a neurosurgeon, I don't feel sorry for you.

4 barbaric scull drilling tools out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, it was fascinating.
What did I learn? Every profession is a life of learning but not everyone dies.

The Fountains of Paradise



Book 10 of 2018 is The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke.

Continuing my quest to read classic literature after a couple of years of reading things published in the last year, I had to go for the space elevator book. I know the ideas behind it and the basic story but I had never actually read the book. Now I have.

Clarke is a good writer. It is easy reading and the ideas are original and brilliant. This was done in two sittings because it was so hard to put down.

An absolute classic.

5 more metres out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, everyone should. It's just that easy.
What did I learn? There are ideas that will dominate our future that we have not even thought of yet.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky


Book 9 of 2018 is Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan.

My work published this book so I have heard a lot about it. It is at the top of a lot of best seller lists and there is a moving coming out. When I read the description of the book, I didn't want to read but I couldn't ignore how highly recommended it came.

I am really happy I read it. Some of it was hard to believe but I'm going to treat this as fiction based in history and leave it at that. This even changed my view of the Italians in the second world war. My opinion of the Nazis goes unchanged.

4 lucky breaks out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it is well written and a fun adventure. Yes, there are tears.
What did I learn? The Italians were not simply complicit.

Consider the Fork



Book 8 of 2018 is Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson.

This genre of well written non-fiction based on epic deep diving in to a specific subject is becoming a favourite of mine.

I got this as an audio book and enjoyed both the facts, the pace and the narrator. It needed to be broken up over a few days to not be too much information at once but it was quite enjoyable.

 If you like to cook and have wondered why we do things in certain ways or use certain tools then this is the book for you.

4 saucepans out of 5.

Should I read this? For the home cook, yes.
What did I learn? Too much to list here. I did love hearing about the history of clay pots.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Rivers of London



Book 7 of 2018 is Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

This is my kind of series: Crime; Magic; and Gods.

There was nothing I disliked about this book. It took some time for me to read it because I keep putting it down. Not sure why but maybe because it was easy to pick up again. I must have read 20 books while reading this on and off. Still, it was a good read.

Now to continue this series too.

4 daughter rivers out of 5.

Should I read this? For those who enjoy mythology set in modern times.
What did I learn? London has a lot of rivers.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Anne of Green Gables



Book 6 of 2018 is the Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

This is a re-read of a childhood classic and favourite of mine. I loved it more now than I did then. Yes, that is possible. I cringed, laughed and cried again.

I will not continue the series because I do know it well. Starting with the first book again was simply wonderful. Not a mistake to read this again.

5 imaginings out of 5.

Should I read this? Every little girl should read this.
What did I learn? Anne taught me young that it was OK to focus on things that others didn't quite care about because one day those things would matter.

Thunderhead



Book 5 of 2018 is the 2nd book in the Arc of the Scythe series, Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman.

This is one of two series that I read last year and could not wait for the next book to be released. It's a new idea to me and executed very well. The twists are unpredictable and the characters are multidimensional.

Now I have to wait until the next book!

5 political moves out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. It's a great series.
What did I learn? People can take seperate paths to fight the same battle. Life (and death) isn't black and white.

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist



Book 4 of 2018 is the 6th in the Agatha Raisin series, Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton.

Still loving this series. This is book six in that series and although her obsession with her male neighbour/almost husband/ex-fiance irks me in its pathetic neediness, I love their crime solving.

In a book that reminded me that timing is everything, jealousy is always the reason and that happiness is participating in life, my love for this series grew stronger.

It's light and lighthearted but always a fun ride.

4 international murders out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you like a light series. I like to read this when I am deciding what to read next. It's a filler series for sure.
What did I learn? Independence is grand.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage



Book 3 of 2018 is the 5th in the Agatha Raisin series, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton.

I am so very glad I went on to the 5th book in this long series. This is one of the best books I've read since the first book and it is grand. Nothing goes well but many things do. It's what I like about the reality of this fantasy.

This is a series I am already continuing by consuming the sixth book right after.

4 complicated men out of 5.

Should I read this? Again, yes. For the Agatha Christie fans.
What did I learn? I love this style of mystery. So easy. So enjoyable.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind - and Keep - Love



Book 2 of 2018 is Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind - and Keep - Love by Amir Levine.

A friend insisted I read this... multiple times. So, of course I did. Only in agreement that we would book club over it. That will happen soon.

Although I am an outspoken critic of evolutionary psychology since I don't believe it a science due to its inability to demonstrate scientific method behind its hypotheses, this was not so bad. It at least did what I like with therapy type approaches and offered solid skills and tools to learn to deal with the perceptions it presents.

There are a few tests in the book. I'm a Secure type with some Anxious tendencies. Very much not an Avoidant type. None of this surprised me too much.

One thing I did like was that this is the first time someone has said that sure, happiness is intrinsic but not when you are so closely connected to another person. In fact, you become biologically connected to people who you love. Their happiness does effect yours.

It never sat well with me that I was to blame for all sadness I have felt in life. Sometimes, I'm said because you are. Or someone leaves and it breaks my heart. Be it a break-up, death or a friend moving to another city.

This book will help me to build on my ability to identify what drives people and to be a better friend. It also gives me permission to say certain behaviours are not ok and to voice what I need. Those are all good things. Massive massive things.

5 secure boundaries out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are open to being a better person and face your challenges then yes. If not, go do something else.
What did I learn? I'm not intolerant. I just know my boundaries.

Monday, 8 January 2018

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings



Book 1 of 2018 is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

This is my life and my mother's life and my sister's life but in another country.

I said to a friend that this resonated with me and she asked if it was hope. I luckily didn't scoff out loud. Non-whites don't need hope. We are not hoping for white acceptance.

This book empowered me. It encouraged my strength built through adversity, rejection and overt discrimination. It articulated why I don't fall down or crawl away when someone from the ruling class kicks me.

I don't need to. I'm more robust than they will ever be. I see your ignorance, fear and awkwardness and continue being the lioness.

Everyone who does not identify as white must read this. I am so sorry I waited so long.

5 children's roars out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Just everyone. Read it please.
What did I learn? Australia doesn't have any idea about the plight of our Indigenous people.