Saturday, August 13, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird

It hardly seems like 50 years since I picked up this book late one rainy night when it was first published, after my mom had been raving about the book for weeks, trying to get me to read it. Well, what the heck, the late movie was boring that evening and there was nothing else on the TV... next thing I knew, it was two o'clock in the morning and I had just turned the final page on what was the most magical reading experience of my entire life.
From the opening line, "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow..." Lee hooks the reader with a deceptively simple story of a Southern family and a Southern town caught up in a cataclysmic moral crisis, and keeps us enthralled till the very last word. Lee's writing style is that of the storyteller who mesmerizes her audience telling a tale so simple, yet so compelling, that you never want it to end. Her narrator is Scout Finch, a delightfully devilish little tomboy who sees her world through the all-observant eyes of childhood. Scout is one of the most enchanting characters in modern American fiction. She's bright, funny, totally real; there's nothing contrived about her. She's someone we all knew in first or second grade, or wished we'd known. Scout lives with her brother Jem, four years her senior, her lawyer father Atticus, and their housekeeper Calpurnia, in a sleepy Alabama town where everybody knows or is related to everybody else. Lee spends the first half of the book drawing us into the life of the town and the Finch family, Scout's hilarious and problematic adjustment to first grade, and brings us into the mystery surrounding the notorious-yet-never-seen Boo Radley. The second half of the book is about the moral crisis that tears the town apart.
Lee has a way of saying a lot by saying very little, and her laconic statement that the people of Maycomb had recently been told they had nothing to fear but fear itself sets the time squarely in 1933, the depths of the Great Depression. Times were bad for most people in small Southern towns; they were especially bad for poor whites and all blacks. In 1933 the South was rigidly segregated down every possible line, and a white woman's false accusation of rape was enough to get a black man hanged. When Mayella Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of rape, in the eyes of most of the white populace, Tom has been tried, convicted and is awaiting execution. Judge Taylor disagrees, and asks Atticus to take Tom's case.
In Atticus Finch, Lee created what would eventually grow to be the best-loved character in all American fiction. Atticus is a loving but not a doting father, an able lawyer, and an individual of towering integrity. He takes Tom's case because he knows Mayella's accusation is full of holes, and he believes Tom is as deserving of good legal representation as anyone else. Atticus knows better than anyone else how his decision to take the case will affect his children, but as he explains to Scout, who wonders how Atticus can be right if everybody else thinks he's wrong, if he didn't take the case, he could never hold his head up in front of his children again.
Atticus knows he's fighting a losing battle, but deep inside himself he believes he may lose a battle but win a bigger war. The chapters describing Tom Robinson's trial and Atticus's defense are some of the most powerful in American fiction. On of the most moving passages in the book is at the end of the trial when the town's black minister tells Scout to "Stand up. Your father's passin'."
Along with Scout and Atticus Finch, Lee created a host of other memorable characters. Jem is the perfect big brother for Scout, sometimes protective, sometimes antagonistic, always encouraging. Lee only needs to pen a few details about Calpurnia to bring her vividly to life: "She was all angles and bones; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard." Calpurnia isn't the stereotypical Mammy of Tara; she's a no-nonsense maid and housekeeper who dishes out ample amounts of love and old-fashioned discipline in equal doses. And Miss Maudie Atkinson is a delightful creation; funny, ditzy, and wise all at once. Anyone would want her for their next-door neighbor.
The two major villains, Bob Ewell and his daughter Mayella, are compelling characters in their own right. Bob Ewell is quintessential white trash, spending the family's relief money on moonshine while his children go hungry. But poor Mayella is as much victim as villain; we can't help but feel for her, ostracized and isolated, knowing only her father's physical violence and sexual abuse; her attempted seduction of Tom Robinson is a desperate cry for love and affection. But, as Lee reminds us, it's all for naught. Tom Robinson was dead the minute Mayella, caught in the act of attempted seduction by her father, opened her mouth and screamed.
After the highlight of the trial, the book might have slid into anticlimax, but it's Lee's genius that she keeps the tension heightened after the trial and its denouement, through Ewell's drunken, insane attack on Atticus through his children, and their rescue by Boo Radley. And after everything she, her family, and the town have been through, what has Scout learned from all this? Pretty much what Atticus set out to teach her all along: that you can't get to know a person until you put on his shoes and walk around in them.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Outlander, 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU COMPLETELY LOST YOUR HEART TO A BOOK? Well, look no further. Diana Gabaldon has created the ultimate escape in Outlander. Don't let the 850 pages dissuade you. It's the fastest read you'll ever have. The epic tale begins when Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in World War II, moves to Scotland with her beloved husband to reignite their marriage interrupted by the war. Hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and wakes up to find herself in 18th century Scotland. Lost, alone, and confused (yet determined), Claire's path crosses, and is inextricably linked to, a young Highland warrior... James Fraser. (The kind of man women want, and men want to BE.) The story that ensues would make Shakespeare proud-- danger, suspense, passion, betrayal, true love and tragedy. Gabaldon is a master storyteller. She shrouds her fantasy in just enough reality as to The time travel element as well as the romance, while unconventional for a "serious" historical novel, are handled brilliantly by Gabaldon. That said, this book is not for the faint of heart as the author tackles themes of a violent and sexual nature. However, the story is so realistic and beautifully told that it doesn't come off as a ploy to shock readers. Well-crafted and meticulously researched, Outlander is historical fiction at its finest... and so much fun! The hero and heroine come alive. You'll find yourself living and breathing in their world, anxiously devouring each chapter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition

An eighth Harry Potter story. At best, this sounds too good to be true. At worst, it sounds like a misbegotten cash-grab. Add to that the fact that the story was to be a play, not a novel or a film, and you have one of the most eyebrow-raising announcements in recent memory. So is "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" a worthy addition to the wizarding canon, or a complete dud? I'd have to say it falls somewhere between those two. I'll stick to mild spoilers only as I explain, but if you're determined to be completely surprised, I advise you to go in blind and form your own opinions. The book/play is definitely worth buying.
First, the bad. I don't really understand what's become of J.K. Rowling in recent years. She transformed the literary and cinematic realms with her Potter books, pioneering fantasy trends that continue to this day. I suppose she's trying to make stage plays more popular now? Not sure if that will take off, and it's kind of unfair for the many fans who can't afford to go see the play themselves. Those people are stuck with reading the script, which requires a lot more imagination to really enjoy. There's very little of Rowling's great descriptive prose on display, mostly just dialogue - and it's unclear how much of that was actually written word-for-word by her personally. It sounds like her style; I'll say that. But reading it definitely pales in comparison to reading an actual book. Frankly, I'm disappointed that Rowling hasn't taken the time to flesh this out into a novel. The same goes for the other Potter-related fiction she's written lately - the pre-Fantastic-Beasts pieces on Pottermore, to be precise. It's like reading pitches she hasn't bothered to turn into real books. Obviously, when you're as famous as Rowling, you can get away with posting your world-building notes online or having somebody else turn a story idea into a script and still have millions reading the stuff...but it smacks of laziness on her part, in my opinion.
Also, if you come to this book hoping for a new era of Harry Potter, you're going to be disappointed. This book is an epilogue to the original series, not the start of a new one. There's nothing ground-breaking. The mythology is not expanded, and the new characters spend most of their time dealing with the legacies of the original cast. I'm gratified that the wizarding world will be built up by the Fantastic Beasts film(s), but there's a lot of untapped potential in the modern Potterverse that isn't even touched in "Cursed Child".
So, basically what you've got is a skeletal "tribute" story that's not quite meaty enough to qualify as an eighth Potter book. What is there left to like, then?
What makes "Cursed Child" work despite all the strikes against it is what it does with the aftermath of the original stories. If "Deathly Hallows" had to have a follow-up in the first place, then this is a surprisingly good one. It's certainly an improvement on the frequently-criticized, rushed epilogue to "Hallows". This is basically an expansion of that last chapter, exploring what it's like for Albus Potter to grow up dealing with his famous dad's legacy. And it's very believable in that respect. True, Albus doesn't come across as likable until near the end of the book, and even Harry shows some striking flaws as a father. But given where both these characters are coming from, these problems make sense. It's not the forced "happily ever after" of the Hallows epilogue; it's complex and realistic. Plus, there's a very sympathetic, funny character in play in the form of Scorpius Malfoy, Draco's son. He ends up stealing the show, and is arguably the hero of the story in his own right. His lines made me laugh out loud more than once, and convinced me that to whatever degree Rowling was involved in writing this story, she's clearly still "got it".
The story, once you get past the awkward format, is gripping - I devoured it in one afternoon. There are quite a few surprises in store for hardcore fans. And on the whole, the tone is very appropriate for those who have "grown up" along with Harry. Fans who are now adults can relate with the themes explored here, even when characters mess up pretty badly. Harry certainly made plenty of his own mistakes over the years, and occasionally acted like a jerk. So I'd argue that it's worth giving Harry's progeny a chance, even if you don't take to him at first. At the very least, read it for Scorpius. I'm not saying you definitely won't be disappointed, but there are far worse ways for a Potter fan to bide the time until Fantastic Beasts gives us a more weighty addition to the Potterverse.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Professional Baking 6e with Professional Baking Method Card Package Set 6th Edition

This is a very thorough and well-written book, which is sponsored by one of the most respected cooking schools in the world: Le Cordon Bleu. Please note that this book is not for the occasional home baker/cook, but rather for the professional or serious amateur.
First off, one of the most important aspects of this book that may surprise people is that most of the recipes measure ingredients by weight (e.g., grams, ounces, pounds, etc.), NOT volume (e.g., cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, etc.). But don't let this turn you off--at least not yet. There is a very good reason for this. In order to make a consistently good product, you need to know that you're putting in the correct amount of an ingredient every time; and measuring by volume is NOT as accurate as measuring by weight. For example, I'm sure that most of us have made chocolate chip cookies at least once in our lifetime and have noticed that the recipe calls for lightly packed brown sugar. But how much do you pack it? I might pack some brown sugar into a measuring cup and think that it is "lightly packed", but another person's definition of "lightly packed" may be different and he/she might pack more brown sugar into the measuring cup. But if we both measured 8 oz. of brown sugar, no matter how we packed it, it would still be 8 oz.--no more, no less. Therefore, potential buyers of this book need to realize that purchasing a scale is almost a necessity in order to get professional results.
If baking is an occasional pastime or if measuring ingredients by weight is just not your cup of tea, then there are PLENTY of great cookbooks out there for the occasional baker that measure ingredients by volume. However, if you have the personality that wants and loves to try to make that absolutely perfect cake or pastry, then this book will help you do that.
Previous reviewers have complained that this book is "smoke and mirrors" and not for the home cook, or that the recipes were faulty and tasteless. To be fair, you have to take the book for what it is. The title is called "PROFESSIONAL Baking", not amateur, not home. It is very clear from the title that this book is not for everyone, especially with the weight/volume issue that I mentioned. As for the "faulty"/"tasteless" claim, my instructor has studied and worked in Hong Kong, France, and Austria. And in each class, she demonstrates each recipe and the results have always been spot on (which is more than I can say for myself and my classmates). Personally, I think that it is too easy to blame someone or something else; rather, I always look to myself first and then elsewhere. But enough of my two-bit philosophy.
One last thing that often confuses people and is probably the cause of many of their mishaps are the instructions regarding what baking pans and times to use. For instance, let's say that a typical recipe will make 5 lb. of dough, batter, whatever. The recipe will give you instructions and baking times for multiple baking pans (because professional bakers will use many different shapes and sizes depending on the job, right?). Therefore, the instructions will say that a 8-inch cake round needs 1 lb. of batter, that a 9x13x2 rectangular pan needs 2 lb. of batter, etc. But didn't the recipe yield 5 lb. of batter??? What the !@#$%??? This is confusing. How much do we make? What pan are we supposed to use? Let me explain: Since professional bakers use many different pans for the same recipe (e.g., a baker may make a chocolate cake in a 9-inch round or a full sheet, right?), they will adjust the recipe to get the exact amount of batter that they need for that particular job. So, if the recipe makes 5 lb. of batter and you only need 1 lb., then just divide all the ingredients by 5 and you'll get a yield of 1 lb. Or, just make the regular-size recipe and just weigh out 1 lb. of batter and make five of them. After you understand this, you'll begin to realize that it all is actually pretty simple and straightforward. I think that most people just don't like to weigh things or do a little math. They're just used to measuring by volume and having recipes designed to produce a single product, rather than multiple. And like I said before, that is perfectly fine and there are tons of great books out there that will suit that purpose.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The House of Hades

I started buying Rick Riordan's books with the intention of using them to read to my son, who was 5 yrs old at the time. My "plan" was to show him just how much fun reading (or having a book read to you) is & how a good book could capture your mind.
It worked. We stated with the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, quickly moved on to The Kane Chronicles & by the time the Lost Heroes of Olympus series was starting my son, now 8, reads them himself. As a child diagnosed with ADHD at age 5, my son loved that all the demigods had ADHD & the reasoning/explanations that came with it.
Normally, as a bibliophile I am 1 of "those people" who has the next installment in a book series in my hands the day it comes out. My work schedule has been hectic so the release date of The House of Hades came & went without my notice.....UNTIL I was wandering through a store & there it was on the shelf. I bought it immediately, all the while kicking myself that I'd forgotten. See, I started buying them for my son, but I quickly came to adore the books as much as him, reading them in quick succession.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS In my opinion, Riordan has done it AGAIN. I gotta tell you, this man is BRILLIANT. I'm always blown away by the fluid nature of his writing, the way Riordan seemingly has endless ideas that pour forth in his books. As a reader, just when you start to think, "there's not really anywhere else he can go", BAM, he pulls a new & terrific storyline out of his hat. Impossibly, it's always more exciting than the last.
I've read on a few blogs & book boards that the next installment in The Lost Heroes of Olympus may be the final tome in the adventures of Percy & friends. If this is true, I'll be deeply saddened & will miss Percy & his cohorts deeply, as will my son. But like J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, there comes a point where story lines, even those with beloved characters, must come to a close. Should the 5th book in TLHO series be the final one, I'll be sad, but Percy & his friends have had an epic run, I'm just glad I was able to share in it.
The House of Hades picks up where The Mark of Athena left off, you have Percy & Annabeth endlessly falling (at least to them, it feels that way) to Tartarus. The rest of the crew Leo, Piper, Jason, Frank, Hazel, Nico & Coach Hodge are left to stop the the Greek/Roman war between the camps AND reach the Doors of Death in the Mortal world, helping to rescue Percy & Annabeth while closing the Doors of Death to Gaea forces.
As usual the POV is switched up between characters, with Nico being the only 1 to not have a POV chapter. Sure, Nico is featured many times in others POV, but never his own. We get to know Hazel quite a bit more this time around, learning exactly how important her presence IS to this mission. As not only a child of Pluto/Hades, she also is strongly connected to Hecate & can influence the Mist & magic.
Piper shines in this book as well, this time around she's no longer a "damsel in distress" but a young lady learning her way in the world, seeing her value as a fighter & asset to the quest & not just another pretty face. I'd say that this installment really shows off some girl power, developing Hazel & Piper beautifully. This time the girls don't need rescuing, they're saving themselves, as well as the boys.
Frank finally comes into his own here too. No longer a chubby, awkward kid who can turn into various animals, Frank embraces his true power & transform into his true self. Thus results in a stronger, more certain Frank, a leader, not a follower. Frank also experiences a physical transformation as well, almost like he went through puberty to older teenager in an instant. This occurrence really helps Frank to be more confident & embrace his heritage as a child of Ares.
Leo grows up as well, finally meeting a girl to take his mind off the unattainable Hazel when he's catapulted to Ogygia by Khione & meets Calypso. At first Calypso isn't impressed & due to a magical "defect", the island won't provide a raft to take Leo away from the island. What results is Calypso learning to care for Leo as he falls for her, ending in a raft taking Leo away from Calypso with Leo swearing on the River Styx he will come back to get her, even though according to Calypso, no man finds Ogygia twice. The end result is a more mature, heartsick Leo, still a joker, but obviously more grounded. His focus removed from Hazel, Leo & Frank actually become friends after this.
Jason, well, I feel I know his character the LEAST of all. He has POV chapters & the most impact filled scenes with Nico, but other than that? All I can tell you is that Jason chooses the Greek side, away from his Roman roots, changing his role in a key battle at the end. He's Pipers boyfriend. Other than that, don't really understand his character. I wish he was written in a way that I'd connect to him better.
Percy & Annabeth, oh I LOVE THEM. During their shifting POV monologues, the majority of the time they are struggling together to survive Tartarus to find the Doors of Death. Instead of the headstrong, always has fight in him Percy & the calm, can talk/think her way out of anything Annabeth, we see a much more reserved duo. Several times you think they might be ready to give up, but they always pull it out, in many cases, the nick of time. With the help of former foes, Percy & Annabeth are able to keep fighting to their goal.
Coach Hodge, I really like this over the top saytr. While he doesn't have a POV chapter & is still in the background, he adds much comedy relief to his appearances. We definitely learn more about Coach Hodge & that NO, fighting is not the only thing in the world to him. Something (someone) else means more. !!!!!!!BIG FREAKING DEFINITE SPOILERS!!!!!!! Nico, oh my poor misunderstood Nico. This next part of my review is a BIG hot button topic, one plenty of parents were very upset about. In previous books, we thought Nico was so standoffish to Percy/Annabeth BECAUSE Nico liked Annabeth & was jealous of Percy. Nope. We were wrong. Now flip that. In a POV of Jason Grace, Nico accompanies him to retrieve a scepter & they end up having to see Cupid to get that scepter. A god Nico is terribly afraid of. Because Nico has a crush/thing/love for PERCY. One he has to admit to Cupid, in front of Jason Grace.
Yep, Nico is GAY. Personally, this isn't a deal breaker for me. I have no intention of boycotting or burning my Riordan books. I will still recommend them to friends w/ children my sons age or younger. I think people are getting out of hand being so upset about this. There isn't a graphic fantasy love scene, just the reveal. Many parents are complaining because they have 5, 6, 7 year olds reading the books & didn't want to have "that" conversation yet, b/c at 10, the age Nico developed the crush, parents are saying it's not possible to "know" if you're gay. I can't answer that, but I do know that many studies have shown that it's an inborn thing in the brain. You don't choose it, you just are or aren't. It's just a part of the persons being. As to explaining to your younger kids? I had that conversation when my son started kindergarten. Only because these days, kids are discovering things earlier & I'd rather my son know the truth, not some horribly incorrect version a friend tells him. Because they do THAT TOO. I didn't go into huge detail, but I did explain the difference between hetero & gay. I also asked him what mattered most, the type of person you want to date or the type of person that you ARE. I have several gay friends & they are some of the loveliest people I've ever known. I asked my son, "isn't that more important, that they're good, kind, loving people"? Doesn't that mean more than who they choose to love? He totally agreed & understood the concept, at 6 years old. Parents, you don't have to get into gory details/explanations to make a point or explain something. Simple is best.
You could also use your common sense & think, Percy's adventures have been getting darker as he gets older. The kids who started with the first series are in their teens now so heavier subject matter is to be expected. Plus the reading age is 10+ in the description.
I don't think Riordan is "jumping on the bandwagon", I think he's representing a sampling from all backgrounds. You have Caucasian, African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American, Latino, it's covered. Making Nico gay wasn't to be risqué, it was completing the tapestry of diversity Riordan is so accomplished at creating. I applaud him for it, my hat is off to you sir.
Parents- you need to remember that your children learn SO MUCH from YOU. Most importantly, TOLERANCE. Then understanding. If your afraid of this reveal of a story character being gay, you're telling your children that your afraid of gay people. A group that's done nothing to you. Your teaching your children to be afraid of it, to be un-accepting of it, to have no TOLERANCE or UNDERSTANDING. Not just of gay people either, this lesson could extend so much farther & deeper than you imagine. So don't teach it. Explain to your kids in a short, concise, matter of fact way what being gay IS & leave it at that. Don't teach them it's okay to be afraid of it or to shun people who are. That wrong on so many levels. Besides, wouldn't you rather your kids learn important things like this from YOU? All in all I LOVED THIS BOOK

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Willard and Spackman's Occupational Therapy

Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, Twelfth Edition, continues in the tradition of excellent coverage of critical concepts and practices that have long made this text the leading resource for Occupational Therapy students. Students using this text will learn how to apply client-centered, occupational, evidence based approach across the full spectrum of practice settings.
Peppered with first-person narratives, which offer a unique perspective on the lives of those living with disease, this new edition has been fully updated with a visually enticing full color design, and even more photos and illustrations. Vital pedagogical features, including case studies, Practice Dilemmas, and Provocative questions, help position students in the real world of occupational therapy practice to help prepare them to react appropriately.
This market leading text provides the most comprehensive and current presentation of occupational therapy concepts and practice. The 12th edition of this classic text invites students with a fresh, four-color design and new photos and illustrations, as well as the fully updated text.
Those of you who are in school, know how terribly expensive most books are. But this one is worth every penny, and is actually much less compared to how extensive it is. I paid more for a flimsy lab manual. The authors could charge a lot more for this book. I bought it for an Intro to Occupational Therapy course. I was told by another student, that this book will be used for the entire Master's Program in some schools. It is well worth the investment. It looks a bit intimidating when you see how thick it is, but most chapters are short and sweet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Am Number Four Collection: Books 1-6: I Am Number Four, The Power of Six, The Rise of Nine, The Fall of Five, The Revenge of Seven, The Fate of Ten (Lorien Legacies)

I Am Number Four: The book that started it all . . . Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. I am next.
The Power of Six: I've seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. There are six of us left. We're hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we'll be equipped to fight. Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I've been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.And I'm ready to fight.
The Rise of Nine: In order to save our world and their own, John and Nine must join forces with Six and Seven who have been battling the Mogadorians in Spain, and who are now trying to locate Number Eight in India.
The Fall of Five: When the Garde receive a sign from Number Five—a crop circle in the shape of a Lorien symbol—they know they are close to being reunited. But could it be a trap? Time is running out, and the only thing they know for certain is that they have to get to Five before it's too late.
The Revenge of Seven: The Garde have suffered an unbearable loss. Number Five has betrayed them. Eight is gone forever. Ella has been kidnapped. The others are now scattered. The Garde are broken and divided once again, but they will not be defeated. As long as one still stands, the battle for Earth's survival is not lost.
The Fate of Ten: The sixth and penultimate book in the series! For years the Garde have fought the Mogadorians in secret. Now all of that has changed. The invasion has begun. The Garde are stretched thin, fighting this war on many fronts. The only chance they have is to take out the Mogadorian leader once and for all—but his fate is now irrevocably tied with Ella's. They can't destroy one without the other. But if the Garde can't find another way to stop the Mogs, humanity will suffer the same fate as the Loric: annihilation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

I grew up with these characters, and they hold a very special place for me. I have always felt that this simple daily comic strip, looked at as a whole run, becomes a beautiful, hilarious, poignant portrait of an authentically and archetypically American youth.
And I thought maybe part of that was bias from just my nostalgia for my childhood and the 90s, but I was very happy to discover how untrue that is. My little brother turned 7 recently, and between the fact that 7 is a special birthday in my eyes and that fact that he had just gotten some great Christmas gifts two weeks earlier, I decided to get him this as a gift that would keep on giving for years to come.
When he first saw that the big, heavy, exciting mystery package was just books, he looked utterly disappointed. I saw that and explained to him why I chose the book, and how much I had loved it as a kid, and that he should give it a try even if some of the writing was still a little hard for him to read.
And nothing could have ever made me happier than when he opened the book, started reading from the beginning, and found himself cracking up so hard that for the rest of the night he couldn't put it down, dragging it all around New York City, trying to scrounge up enough light to read by in the car.
And after just seeing him several weeks later for the first time since the gift, I am overjoyed and proud to say he's *still* dragging that absurdly huge book around everywhere, finding anyplace to put it down and read it as soon as he's not on the move. My mom says he's been reading it every night before bed, waking up early to read some in the morning, and when I saw him he was already over 200 pages into the first book.
So there you have it. He doesn't understand all the big words without a little help, and some of the jokes do fly over his head, but he seems to think it's the funniest thing he's ever seen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7)

There's no question that the contents of the books inside this so-called chest are of the highest order. The entire Harry Potter epic was ingenious, brilliant, engaging, and encouraged hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young readers to read when they might have rather played with their Xbox. But this is about the packaging, and the packaging is just horrid. I wasn't expecting something that was as heavy and substantial as, say, a pirate's chest, but I certainly was hoping that the box was more sturdy than a few flaps of cardboard rather cheaply assembled, and easily DISassembled. I bought this so that I would have a full set of unread hardcovers with the original artwork, for the sake of posterity. In one of the worst marketing decisions I've seen regarding the Harry Potter series, the publishers thought it would be a good idea to include the extras (decals and whatnot - things I'm not interested in) shrink wrapped with the books. To get at them, you have to tear the shrink wrap, and thus compromise the books over time (a long period of time, and admittedly not much would be compromised). Also, the clasp on the box was cheap plastic. Horrible. I almost broke it when undoing it. Is a metal clasp too much to ask for? Apparently it is. I'm not completely dissatisfied with the purchase, because the books are phenomenal. I would have purchased a compilation of all seven books at some point, but I wish I had waited until they offered such a product without the sadly and unfortunately shoddy "chest". When I bought this product, I absolutely, 100% was buying the packaging, and the packaging was dismal

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

This new edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®), used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders, is the product of more than 10 years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health. Their dedication and hard work have yielded an authoritative volume that defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. The criteria are concise and explicit, intended to facilitate an objective assessment of symptom presentations in a variety of clinical settings -- inpatient, outpatient, partial hospital, consultation-liaison, clinical, private practice, and primary care. New features and enhancements make DSM-5® easier to use across all settings: • The chapter organization reflects a lifespan approach, with disorders typically diagnosed in childhood (such as neurodevelopmental disorders) at the beginning of the manual, and those more typical of older adults (such as neurocognitive disorders) placed at the end. Also included are age-related factors specific to diagnosis. • The latest findings in neuroimaging and genetics have been integrated into each disorder along with gender and cultural considerations.• The revised organizational structure recognizes symptoms that span multiple diagnostic categories, providing new clinical insight in diagnosis. • Specific criteria have been streamlined, consolidated, or clarified to be consistent with clinical practice (including the consolidation of autism disorder, Asperger's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder into autism spectrum disorder; the streamlined classification of bipolar and depressive disorders; the restructuring of substance use disorders for consistency and clarity; and the enhanced specificity for major and mild neurocognitive disorders).• Dimensional assessments for research and validation of clinical results have been provided.• Both ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM codes are included for each disorder, and the organizational structure is consistent with the new ICD-11 in development. Why 5 stars, you might ask? Because my review is based on DSM 5 as a book, not anything else having to do with DSM as a concept or tool. This particular edition 'reads' well, in that the text and lay-out is clear. In contrast to previous editions, the reader will be given more orientation to the book and how to use it. The diagnostic criteria is familiar and through the Table of Contents, Index, and quick-view pages, it is easy to find the diagnosis or category you're looking for. Yes, it's bulky and expensive, but you should have the large edition in your library for now; later, when you're more familiar with the changes, you can buy the quick-reference guide.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Atlas of Human Anatomy: Including Student Consult Interactive Ancillaries and Guides, 6e

Frank H. Netter was born in New York City in 1906. He studied art at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design before entering medical school at New York University, where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1931. During his student years, Dr. Netter’s notebook sketches attracted the attention of the medical faculty and other physicians, allowing him to augment his income by illustrating articles and textbooks. He continued illustrating as a sideline after establishing a surgical practice in 1933, but he ultimately opted to give up his practice in favor of a full-time commitment to art. After service in the United States Army during World War II, Dr. Netter began his long collaboration with the CIBA Pharmaceutical Company (now Novartis Pharmaceuticals). This 45-year partnership resulted in the production of the extraordinary collection of medical art so familiar to physicians and other medical professionals worldwide. Icon Learning Systems acquired the Netter Collection in July 2000 and continued to update Dr. Netter’s original paintings and to add newly commissioned paintings by artists trained in the style of Dr. Netter. In 2005, Elsevier Inc. purchased the Netter Collection and all publications from Icon Learning Systems. There are now over 50 publications featuring the art of Dr. Netter available through Elsevier Inc. Dr. Netter’s works are among the finest examples of the use of illustration in the teaching of medical concepts. The 13-book Netter Collection of Medical Illustrations, which includes the greater part of the more than 20,000 paintings created by Dr. Netter, became and remains one of the most famous medical works ever published. The Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy, first published in 1989, presents the anatomic paintings from the Netter Collection. Now translated into 16 languages, it is the anatomy atlas of choice among medical and health professions students the world over. It's been years since my medical school days but I still need my Netter now and then, and I swear my old textbook still smells like formaldehyde. Not to mention it's hard to lug around. I was worried the ebook would not do justice to these fantastic illustrations, but I was wrong. And I love being able to zoom in and out on the illustrations and labels. It's easier to see exactly which structure has been tagged when you can zoom. I'm biased toward Netter because I used it as my med school text, but this indispensable reference is now at my fingertips whenever I need it thanks to the ebook. I love it. Just one more note, I have been viewing the book on my Kindle app for iPad, so I don't know how well the zoom works on other platforms. With the iPad app its very easy to navigate and zoom in and out.

All the Light We Cannot See

It has been a while since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come. When reading the synopsis of this novel, I never imagined that I would feel so connected to a book where one of the main characters is blind and the other a brilliant young German orphan who was chosen to attend a brutal military academy under Hitler's power using his innate engineering skills. This novel was so much more than the above states. The idiosyncrasies of each individual character are so well defined and expressed in such ways that come across the page almost lyrically. I was invited into the pages and could not only imagine the atmosphere, but all of my senses were collectively enticed from the very first page until the last. I was so amazed with the way that the author was able to heighten all my senses in a way that I felt like I knew what it was like to be blind. In most well-written books you get of a sense of what the characters look like and follow them throughout the book almost as if you are on a voyage, but with this novel, I could imagine what it was like to be in Marie-Laure's shoes. The descriptives were so beautifully intricate that I could imagine the atmosphere through touch and sound. It was amazing, really. There were so many different aspects of the book that are lived out in separate moments and in different countries that find a way to unite in the end. What impressed me most was that I could have never predicted the outcome. It was as though all cliches were off the table and real life was set in motion. Life outside of books can be very messy and the author stayed true to life but in a magical and symbolic way. I have said in other reviews that just when I think that I have read my last book centered around the Second World War, another seems to pop up. I should emphasize that this book created an image of war in a way that I have never imagined before. I truly got a sense of what it must have been like for children who lived a happy life and then suddenly were on curfew and barely had food to eat. It also showed the side of young children who are basically brainwashed by Nazi leaders and made into animals who seem to make choices that they normally wouldn't in order to survive. And by survive, I mean dodging severe abuse by their own colleagues.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

As the title of the book implies, Covey describes the seven habits of highly effective people and techniques for adopting the seven habits. Covey makes clear that an individual must make a paradigm shift before incorporating these habits into his/her own personal life. A paradigm is essentially the way an individual perceives something. Covey emphasizes that if we want to make a change in our lives, we should probably first focus on our personal attitudes and behaviors. He applies different examples via family, business, and society in general. This book's focal point is on an approach to obtain personal and interpersonal effectiveness. Covey points out that private victories precede public victories. He makes the example that making and keeping promises to ourselves comes before making and keeping promises to others. Habits 1, 2, and 3 deal with self-mastery. They move an individual from dependency on others to independence. Habits 4, 5, and 6 deal with teamwork, cooperation, and communication. These habits deal with transforming a person from dependency to independence to interdependence. Interdependence simply means mutual dependence. Habit 7 embodies all of the other habits to help an individual work toward continuous improvement. Habit 1 discusses the importance of being proactive. Covey states that we are responsible for our own lives; therefore, we possess the initiative to make things happen. He also points out that proactive people so not blame various circumstances for their behaviors but they realize behavior comes from one's conscious. Covey also explains that the other type of person is reactive. Reactive people are affected by their social as well as physical surroundings. This means that if the weather is bad, then it affects their behavior such as their attitude and performance. He also explains that all problems that are experienced by individuals fall into one of three categories, which are direct control, indirect control, or no control. The problems that are classified under direct control are the problems that involve our own behavior. The problems classified as indirect control encompasses problems that we can do nothing about. The problems classified as no control are those that we can do nothing about. Habit 2 focuses on beginning with the end in mind. Covey wants the reader to envision his/her funeral. This may sound disheartening but his goal is to help you think about the words that you wish to be said about you; it can help the individual visualize what you value the most. To begin with the end simply means to start with your destination in mind. That gives an individual a sense of where he/she presently is in their life. One has to know where they are going to make sure that they are headed in the right direction. Covey also mentions that the most effective way to begin with the end is by developing a personal mission statement. After doing that, you should identify your center of attention. Are you spouse centered, money centered, family centered, etc. The he tells you depending on you core of interest, your foundation for security, guidance, and power. Habit 3 is the practical fulfillment of Habits 1 and 2. Covey accentuates that Habits 1 and 2 are prerequisite to Habit 3. He states that an individual cannot become principle centered developing their own proactive nature; or without being aware of your paradigms; or the capability of envisioning the contribution that is yours to make. One must have an independent will. This is the ability to make decisions and to act in accordance with them. Habit 4 deals with the six paradigms of interaction, which are win/win, win/lose, lose/win, lose/lose, win, and win/win or no deal. Win/win is a situation in which everyone benefits something. It is not your way or my way; it is a better way. Win/lose declares that if I win then you lose. Simply put, I get my way; you don't get yours. Win/lose people usually use position, power, possessions, or personality to get their way. The win/lose type of person is the person that feels that if I lose; you win. People who feel this way are usually easy to please and find the strength of others intimidating. When two win/lose people get together both will lose resulting in a lose/lose situation. Both will try to get the upper end of the stick but in the end, neither gets anything. The person that simply thinks to win secures their own ends and leaves it up to others to secure theirs. The win/win or no deal person means that if there is not a suitable solution met that satisfies both parties then there is no agreement. Habit 5 deals with seeking means of effective communication. This habit deals with seeking first to understand. However, we usually seek first to be understood. Most people to not listen with the intent to understand but with the intent to reply. The act of listening to understand is referred to as empathic listening. That means you try to get into the person's frame of mind and think as they are thinking. Habit 6 discuses combining all of the other habits to prepare us for the habit of synergy. Synergy means that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Possessing all of the habits will benefit an individual more than possessing one or two of them. Synergism in communication allows you to open your mind to new possibilities or new options. Habit 7 involves surrounds the other habits because it is the habit that makes all of the others possible. It is amplifying the greatest asset you have which is yourself. It is renewing your physical, emotional, mental, and social nature. The physical scope involves caring for yourself effectively. Spiritual renewal will take more time. Our mental development comes through formal education. Quality literature in our field of study as well as other fields help to broaden our paradigms. Renewing the social dimension is not as time consuming as the others. We can start by our everyday interactions with people.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

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