Review: Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected SolutionsLost Con­nec­tions: Uncov­er­ing the Real Caus­es of Depres­sion – and the Unex­pect­ed Solu­tions by Johann Hari

I just fin­ished this book, which I lis­tened to while dri­ving. I find myself wish­ing that I’d read it on my Kin­dle, instead, in order to be able to take some notes. It’s a rich read, full of men­tions of peo­ple and stud­ies that I’d like to have been able to look up.

I don’t know that I com­plete­ly agree with Hari, who posits that the vast major­i­ty of peo­ple are depressed with­out any sort of bio­log­i­cal cause, but instead due to var­i­ous types of dis­con­nec­tion. I can see that each of the con­nec­tions he points out are impor­tant, and improv­ing them could cer­tain­ly help depres­sion. How­ev­er, I’m fair­ly cer­tain that we’ve got a chick­en and egg issue here. From what I under­stand, even if you don’t ini­tial­ly become depressed due to a lack of cer­tain neu­ro­trans­mit­ters or what have you, being depressed can lead to the bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences that can be treat­ed with anti­de­pres­sants. That’s why those med­ica­tions do work for a fair num­ber of peo­ple who try them. He does talk about neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, so maybe my quib­bles are seman­tic.

The sev­en ways we are dis­con­nect­ed, accord­ing to Hari, are from:
1) mean­ing­ful work;
2) oth­er peo­ple;
3) mean­ing­ful val­ues;
4) child­hood trau­ma;
5) sta­tus and respect;
6) the nat­ur­al world;
7) a hope­ful or secure future.

He does address how to recon­nect on each of these issues lat­er in the book. He also acknowl­edges that some (most?) of these issues are due to soci­etal rather than indi­vid­ual fail­ings. The fix­es are beyond many peo­ple because of that, but the more we become aware of them the more we can work on fix­ing our soci­ety.

I found the book very good, and cer­tain­ly thought-pro­vok­ing. It isn’t an easy read, but it is put togeth­er quite well. I rec­om­mend it!

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Review: The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The Annihilation Score (Laundry Files, #6)The Anni­hi­la­tion Score by Charles Stross

This is the sixth book of the Laun­dry Files, and the first to be nar­rat­ed by Mo instead of her hus­band. The plot keep me thor­ough­ly engaged, and I enjoyed Mo’s voice — it was a nice change. I fin­ished the book utter­ly wrung out, and I think that is prob­a­bly a com­mon expe­ri­ence due to Stross’ skill at bring­ing the read­er into sym­pa­thy with the speak­er. I think this is the fourth Stross piece I’ve read in the past cou­ple of weeks, and it prob­a­bly isn’t wise to immerse one’s self so deeply in this par­tic­u­lar world! I’m going to have to step back and read some­thing else for a bit as a breather.

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Review: Neogenesis by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Neogenesis (Liaden Universe Book 21)Neo­ge­n­e­sis by Sharon Lee
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

First, let it be known that I am an unabashed fan­girl when it comes to Lee and Miller. That much has long been estab­lished. Should they care to pub­lish their gro­cery lists, I would most like­ly pur­chase and read them.

That said, Neo­ge­n­e­sis is an amaz­ing book, even among their oth­er mar­velous works. I just fin­ished it, and already I am plan­ning a re-read. It isn’t a good entry point for their uni­verse, admit­ted­ly, for it ties togeth­er many dif­fer­ent plot threads that were first spun out in ear­li­er vol­umes. Lee and Miller tie up those loose ends mas­ter­ful­ly.

I am tick­led to have this be my first book pur­chased and read in 2018!

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Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings, #1)A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

This book rep­re­sents a major change from the Iron Druid series, so I worked hard to set aside my expec­ta­tions of Hearne based on lov­ing those. A Plague of Giants is every bit as well-writ­ten as that series, maybe even bet­ter! Still, I didn’t come away tru­ly car­ing about the char­ac­ters. That could have some­thing to do with the way the sto­ry is pre­sent­ed, but I can’t be sure about it.

The book just ends, very abrupt­ly, with the nota­tion, “Con­tin­ued in vol­ume two, A Blight of Black­wings.” That put me off some­what. I like read­ing series, but with each vol­ume I want a large­ly self-con­tained sto­ry, one with a begin­ning, mid­dle, and end­ing. I under­stand leav­ing some plot threads unre­solved, so as to build inter­est for the next book, but there’s just too much left unre­solved here. Will I read Blight when it’s released? Maybe — but I’m unlike­ly to rush right out and buy it.

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What I’ve Been Up To

Lots of knit­ting. Lots and lots of knit­ting. (If you’re on Rav­el­ry, you can see my fin­ished projects.) My hands ache from the knit­ting, par­tic­u­lar­ly the left, because I knit Con­ti­nen­tal. I think I may have to learn to knit Eng­lish just to swap off on occa­sion.

We’ve been going out to hear more live music — three house con­certs this fall. I love me some house con­certs! In fact, I need to write some music reviews. I’m also in a cou­ple of RPGs each week, one Dres­den Files and anoth­er 5th edi­tion D&D. And I’ve been doing a lit­tle con­sult­ing on the side.

I haven’t found any­thing I’ve enjoyed read­ing enough to write about recent­ly. That takes love for the sub­ject mat­ter. I am still read­ing (it’s like breath­ing for me), there are just more arti­cles, and lis­ten­ing to more pod­casts and few­er books. I’m miss­ing the fic­tion I usu­al­ly con­sume, but I’m sure I’ll be back to it soon enough.

The need to re-do my web sites is present again. Know any­one who does good cus­tom Word­Press themes?

I’ve been look back on my web con­tent, want­i­ng to update it. Much of it was writ­ten when I wasn’t work­ing. I mean, I had plen­ty of work to do, because I was a SAHM to three kids and we enter­tained fre­quent­ly. But I wasn’t work­ing for any­one out­side the fam­i­ly. I love work­ing, but it takes up most of my ener­gy, so I just don’t have it to put into the web any­more. I don’t want to give up the site, though — there’s a lot of his­to­ry in technomom.com, going all the way back to 1995.

Book Review: The Gathering Edge by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

The Gathering Edge (Liaden Universe Book 20)The Gath­er­ing Edge by Sharon Lee
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

A must sat­is­fy­ing entry in the Liaden Uni­verse series, num­ber 20 begins and ends with plen­ty of action. Indeed, the read­er hard­ly has time to take a breath for all the action! The char­ac­ters them­selves must be exhaust­ed — I feel so in their behalf.

I enjoyed this part of Theo’s sto­ry rather more than pre­vi­ous books about her, per­haps because oth­ers played a larg­er part in the sto­ry. She isn’t my favorite of the series’ pro­tag­o­nists, to be hon­est, but then I still hope for more of Priscil­la Delacroix y Men­doza.

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Book Review: Less Than A Treason by Dana Stabenow

Less Than a Treason (Kate Shugak, # 21)Less Than a Trea­son by Dana Stabenow
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

FINALLY! The cliffhang­er at the end of Bad Blood is resolved, or of course there would not be a #21. It’s been so long (over four years!) since I read #20, though, that I had to go back and re-read the last bit of it to under­stand the begin­ning of this nov­el. That wasn’t hap­py-mak­ing, and it had a neg­a­tive effect on my abil­i­ty to just dive in and enjoy the book.

Once things got going, though, every­thing was good — it’s still a five-star read. Kate is in fine form, although as usu­al she is def­i­nite­ly affect­ed by recent events. We see a lot of Jim Chopin here — in fact, he fig­ures as large­ly as Kate does. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Stabenow has always done a good job of show­ing us a Ninilt­na that grows and changes with the times, with peo­ple com­ing and going, being born and dying, which is real­is­tic. That hurts at times when you’re attached to the char­ac­ters. I don’t want to get into spoil­ers, but you’ll see when you read it. And you should def­i­nite­ly read it!

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Book Review: Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive (Audiobook)Pos­i­tiv­i­ty: Ground­break­ing Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hid­den Strength of Pos­i­tive Emo­tions, Over­come Neg­a­tiv­i­ty, and Thrive by Bar­bara L. Fredrick­son
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Fredrickson’s sec­ond book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emo­tion Affects Every­thing We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. It blew me away, and I’ve rec­om­mend­ed it hith­er and yon. I was def­i­nite­ly inter­est­ed in her first book, but for one rea­son and anoth­er it took me a while to get around to it.

This is an excel­lent audio­book. I enjoyed the pre­sen­ta­tion, and the infor­ma­tion was absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. I’m going to have to go back and read (instead of lis­ten to) some of the sec­tions and take notes, but I’m def­i­nite­ly inter­est­ed enough to do so!

I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the sci­ence-backed tech­niques Fredrick­son rec­om­mends for improv­ing one’s pos­i­tiv­i­ty ratio. I’ll be track­ing mine as I try these tech­niques to see what hap­pens. I strong­ly rec­om­mend the book, espe­cial­ly to any­one who is inter­est­ed in com­bat­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ty or the sci­ence of pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy.

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Book Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butch­er
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I just re-read Storm Front, after first read­ing it — well, I don’t even know how many years ago! Short­ly after it was first released, I think.

Now, it’s impor­tant to know that I sim­ply don’t re-read books. I find that too bor­ing, most of the time. There are a scant few excep­tions. The Liaden Uni­verse books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are the most remark­able of them. The fact that I would even con­sid­er a re-read speaks very, very high­ly of Butcher’s work.

I’d for­got­ten far more than I expect­ed, but I sup­pose that hap­pens, with at least 15 years and good­ness knows how many books in between read­ings. I knew it was a good book, I knew one impor­tant part of the end­ing (I mean, come on — there are many more books in the series, so you KNOW that Dres­den lives!), but all else was lost. I wasn’t sure I would like read­ing about old Har­ry with recent Har­ry fresh in my mind (I just read the short sto­ry “Jury Duty”).

If any­thing, I enjoyed it even more spiced by the knowl­edge of who Dres­den (and Mur­phy) will become in the future books. I enjoyed the set­ting, the craft that went into build­ing the whole nov­el, and see­ing how Butcher’s skill grew from the first book to the more recent works.

I’m going to go on with re-read­ing the entire series — I hadn’t com­mit­ted to it before, but now I’m look­ing for­ward to it!

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Book Review: Full Metal Magic

Full Metal Magic: An Urban Fantasy Anthology of Magic, Mayhem, and the ParanormalFull Met­al Mag­ic: An Urban Fan­ta­sy Anthol­o­gy of Mag­ic, May­hem, and the Para­nor­mal by J.A. Cipri­ano
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I was clued in to this anthol­o­gy by a men­tion in J.A. Cipri­ano’s newslet­ter, which is worth sub­scrib­ing to (hey, the man sends you free reads, and they’re good!). Any­way, Cipri­ano and com­pa­ny are all dark urban fan­ta­sy authors who have writ­ten these sto­ries specif­i­cal­ly for this vol­ume, so you won’t find them any­where else. The book is avail­able via the Kin­dle Unlim­it­ed pro­gram. In fact, every relat­ed book that I checked on is avail­able that way, so I’m won­der­ing if this thing was spon­sored by Ama­zon or some­thing. If so, why doesn’t it say so? Any­way, on to the review.

The Bull Demon King” is Cipriano’s sto­ry, set in the Thrice-Cursed Mage uni­verse. You don’t need to have read those books to appre­ci­ate the sto­ry, and it serves as a nice lit­tle intro­duc­tion if you’re curi­ous about the series (I’ve real­ly enjoyed them). I think the sto­ry is set between the sec­ond and third books, but I won’t swear to that and it isn’t vital. We get to attend the Texas state fair with assas­sin mage Mac Bren­nan and his girl­friend Ricky, the local alpha were­wolf. Of course, may­hem ensues, because that’s Mac’s lot in life — and what kind of sto­ry would we have oth­er­wise?

Domi­no Finn con­tributes “The Black Door” which is not­ed as “A Black Mag­ic Out­law Sto­ry.” This sto­ry had me guess­ing right up until the end, which was delight­ful. The writ­ing is won­der­ful, the world of an alter­nate mag­i­cal Mia­mi nightlife is very ful­ly real­ized, and cen­tral char­ac­ter, Cis­co Suarez, is extreme­ly well drawn. I will be point­ing my part­ner to Finn’s work, for sure (he loves the macabre), but I think it may be a lit­tle too dark for me.

On to Man­hat­tan for our next piece, “Dance of the Dead,” which Sonya Bate­man tells us is a “Death­s­peak­er Codex Short Sto­ry.” It takes place just after the events of the first nov­el in that series, accord­ing to the author’ note. Gideon Black dri­ves bod­ies from crime scenes and the like to the morgue. Appar­ent­ly he’s not 100% human, and he’s just learned that he can speak to the dead. That’s very impor­tant to the plot. For some rea­son this sto­ry didn’t grab me. I don’t relate well to sto­ries that deal with the dead, like zom­bies and so on, so it’s prob­a­bly a fail­ure of imag­i­na­tion on my fault rather than any­thing wrong with Bateman’s sto­ry. If I find some­thing she writes in anoth­er set­ting, I will give her anoth­er go.

Ambrose Ibsen offers up “Hard Row: A Demon-Heart­ed Sto­ry” for the col­lec­tion. Lucian Colt works with oth­er spe­cial enforcers to keep the threats from Beyond from encroach­ing on the mun­dane world of Detroit, and when he learns that there’s a ship­ment of kid­napped chil­dren being moved, he’s def­i­nite­ly down for track­ing down the bad guys behind the trade. The fall­en angel whose heart he car­ries is just glad to get a chance to throw down. The gim­mick doesn’t real­ly car­ry the sto­ry here. It feels like Colt is too over­pow­ered in com­par­i­son to his allies, as if they are a mis­matched RPG par­ty.

Okay, I’ll admit it: Al K. Line’s name just annoyed me. So I had to get past that to give “Angry Spark,” set in his Dark Mag­ic Enforcer world, a fair read­ing. Then the use name of the main char­ac­ter, “Black Spark,” hit me wrong. The guy’s real name is Faz Pound, but obvi­ous­ly mag­ic men don’t go about giv­ing their real names to all and sundry, hence the use name. Then I didn’t like the remarks about a cor­pu­lent char­ac­ter. So I final­ly just decid­ed to leave off on this sto­ry. Maybe some­one else can give you a review of it.

Rob Cor­nell’s “Fam­i­ly Busi­ness,” which is appar­ent­ly a pre­quel set in his Unturned series’ uni­verse, is set in anoth­er alter­nate Detroit. For­tu­nate­ly noth­ing annoyed me about this one, so I was able to read it. It’s a wee bit hack­neyed, but a bit sweet, too. It’s sort of like when you hear a song and you know how the melody is going to go because the chords and the melody pro­gres­sion already feel famil­iar. I might check out more of Cornell’s work, but it won’t be at the top of my to-read list.

On the oth­er hand, “Valen­tine Blues” left me tru­ly hun­gry for more of James A. Hunter’s work, and want­i­ng to read more about Yan­cy Lazarus right now. This minute. Not soon, NOW. Lazarus is a trav­el­ing blues man with some inter­est­ing tal­ents who takes an inter­est in the very strange behav­ior of the young peo­ple in Valen­tine, Nebras­ka. You can find the most inter­est­ing things on the road! I will most def­i­nite­ly be read­ing Strange Mag­ic: A Yan­cy Lazarus Nov­el, the first book in this series, SOON.

I know that I’ve read some­thing about Craig Schae­fer’s Daniel Faust series some­where before, but I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly read any OF the series until “A Dri­ve in the Coun­try.” It’s set in and around Las Vegas. I have no idea where in the time­line of the series this par­tic­u­lar sto­ry is set, but it’s well-writ­ten. It pulls you into the grit­ty, noir world of gang­sters plus mag­ic and makes you feel the dark. If that’s your thing, Schaefer’s your man.

New York is the set­ting for Pip­pa DaCos­ta’s “Chase the Dark,” set in the world of her Soul Eater series. I am high­ly intrigued, as I don’t believe I’ve ever run into an urban fan­ta­sy series that draws upon Egypt­ian mythol­o­gy the way DaCos­ta is here. The name of the main char­ac­ter, though, Ace Dante? Even though it’s obvi­ous­ly an assumed name, it’s ter­ri­ble. I hate it. I’m jarred every sin­gle time my eyes come across it on the page. It kept pulling me out of what was oth­er­wise a real­ly good sto­ry, and is mak­ing me won­der whether or not I can han­dle read­ing Hid­den Blade, the first book in the series.

Now that I’m fin­ished with the book, I can’t help but notice a few things. There wasn’t a sin­gle main char­ac­ter that was female, and while it’s pos­si­ble that Cis­co Suarez is a per­son of col­or, his cul­tur­al back­ground wasn’t made clear in Finn’s sto­ry. If any of the oth­er pro­tag­o­nists were POC, that wasn’t obvi­ous (I’m not sure what to con­sid­er “Ace Dante.”) I’m pret­ty sure all these men were cis­gen­dered and het­ero­sex­u­al, as well. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that there’s a lit­tle more diver­si­ty in such a vol­ume.

All in all, a decent col­lec­tion of sto­ries and a nice intro­duc­tion to some new authors, but a dis­ap­point­ment in some impor­tant respects.

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