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review 2018-06-01 19:00
A character you won't soon forget
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

There is a reason that this debut novel has been on hold for many, many months and why it continues to be difficult to get in a hurry. Gail Honeyman has managed to create a character so unique and delightful that I found myself instantly enamored of her. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a woman who the reader learns from the outset is completely aloof to the social mores of society and is pretty content to remain so...until she sees the man of her dreams. It seems fairly obvious to the reader that this 'relationship' is doomed to fail. (Like my romance with Brian Littrell when I was in middle school.) However, having this foreknowledge does not detract from the story because the love story is between the reader and Eleanor and Eleanor with herself. She is a fragile woman who has built up a rather thick wall between herself and the entire world...and she's had plenty of time to reinforce that wall. Her past is nothing if not murky and it doesn't get cleared up until almost the very end of the novel. (And it's a doozy, ya'll.) It's exceedingly difficult for me not to spill some essential facts while writing up this review because they're the things that make this a truly gripping piece of realistic fiction. Eleanor is a character that seems to live and breathe beyond the page. Her bucking of social 'norms' coupled with her frankly hilarious inner dialogue about what is and isn't 'polite' had me laughing out loud on several occasions and made me feel so connected to her. I truly rooted for her and became emotionally invested as if I was reading an autobiography or memoir instead of a work of fiction. (Gail, you've made it into my list of top 20 authors of all time. I'm excited to see what you come up with next!) 10/10 highly recommend


A/N: The author discusses child abuse, disfigurement, bullying (from all ages), and mental illness. If these are triggering to you in any way, shape, or form then you should steer clear. Everyone else, I think Gail handled these topics very well (having dealt with 2 of the 4 personally) and I see no reason why you should give this book a pass. Eleanor will grab you by the heartstrings and refuse to let go.


What's Up Next: Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It by Grace Helbig


What I'm Currently Reading: The Outsider by Stephen King

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-03-30 02:36
Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) (Audiobook)
Shelter the Sea - Heidi Cullinan

I was worried at first when I realized this book was going to get political. Not because of the focus of the politics - America's dismal record with mental health illness - but because the last time Ms. Cullinan went political with her story Enjoy the Dance she forgot she was writing a story. The characters took a back seat to the politics, and the story suffered for it. I'm glad to say that was not the case here. She remembered to tell an engaging story this time, she kept Emmett and Jeremey front and center, and we got to see how their relationship continued to progress.


It's been a couple of years since the end of Carry the Ocean, and Emmett and Jeremey are still living in the Roosevelt. Emmett's working now and doing well. Jeremey however is still struggling with his anxiety and depression and has entered a dark period that he tries to hide from Emmett. Emmett wants to help him and also wants to take their relationship to the next level. On top of that, the Roosevelt is facing funding problems, that exacerbates everything and highlights how easily law makers overlook the mental ill and physically limited when it suits them. 


Emmett though doesn't give up easily. He and the other Roosevelt Blues Brothers come up with a plan to try to defeat the legislation to privatize mental health care and along the way he figures out how to help Jeremey too. It was great to spend time with these characters again, and to see David and Darren again. We meet some great new characters, and Mai is especially a sweetie. 


Iggy Toma was, as always, perfect. He's four for four in the audiobooks I've listened to so far. He really brings Emmett and Jeremey and the rest of the characters to life, and lets their humanity shine through. 

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review 2018-03-19 04:01
Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1) (Audiobook)
Carry the Ocean - Heidi Cullinan

This was amazing and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to get to it. Except by waiting, I got to listen to Iggy Toma's brilliant narration which made the book that much more special. He really studied and got lots of advice from people with autism on how to portray Emmitt and it really shows. He voices Emmitt and Jeremey perfectly. Toma and Cullinan are proving to be a match made in audiobook heaven.


Emmitt has autism and Jeremy has major depressive disorder with extreme anxiety disorder. This isn't a book about "love cures all" because there are no cures. Instead, this is a book that respects both the struggles and the accomplishments of these two amazing young men, and how they have learned to manage the world around them and navigate a new relationship with each other at the same time. They're oddly perfect for each other, because Emmitt is calm and controlled when Jeremey is not, and Jeremey can understand the emotions that Emmitt has a hard time expressing. But their disabilities can also aggravate each other as well, so they have to learn how to talk to each other and when to give each other space. 


I really liked Emmitt's family. His parents and aunt were a great support system for Emmitt and later for Jeremey. Jeremey's family were not understanding about his issues at all, but they're allowed their time to be humanized as well. They're not bad parents because they don't love their son. It's clear they want the best for him. But they're misinformed, sometimes purposely so, but there's more to it than just that.


Then there's Derek, who we meet later in the book and really shines instantly as a great friend to Jeremey, even if he's something of a foil for Emmitt, at least at first. 


I can tell that an amazing amount of research went into this book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

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review 2018-01-23 17:36
Mnevermind 3: Life is Awesome - Jordan Castillo Price

This will not be an actual review, I will just put together a few thoughts on the series. 

What happens every time I read a JCP book is after I finish it, it's like I've spent time with her characters in real life and they are actual people. 
If a book makes you go and read two more books and articles on the topics discussed in it, that undoubtedly proves how great it is. 

Mnevermind is perfectly well thought and built. Great characters- I loved Elijah, and at the same time I felt very emotionally involved with Daniel. The way the interaction between them was progressing was beyond unpredictable and I really appreciated how their problems wouldn't just disappear if they closed their eyes
Amazing concept and focus on the detail, I don't even want to think how much research JCP has done before writing the series

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review 2018-01-06 12:39
The Power of Neurodiversity, Thomas Armstrong
The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain (published in hardcover as Neurodiversity) - Ph.D. Thomas Armstrong PhD

This is a well meaning book about an important topic that makes a case for inclusivity, positivity and adaptability towards people with outlier brain structure/mental processes. It is therefore very unfortunate that it is marred by poor and uncritical thinking about the scientific evidence in relation to the causes of these variations. Two major issues that crop up a lot in various contexts are reliance on "evolutionary psychology" and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) in psychological studies. I've done it before, but it's worth taking the time again to explain why YOU should be extremely sceptical of any conclusions based solely on these approaches.


Evolutionary Psychology, first. This used to be called socio-biology but it had to change its name because the field became so thoroughly and frequently derided by the rest of the scientific community. Of course, it should actually have just been abandoned, but too many people were making a living out of it and weren't going to take on the much more difficult task of doing real science. And that's the problem; it isn't science, it's making up random hypotheses to explain any specific human behaviour you care to name based on why it would have benefited Stone Age individuals or communities. There is no attempt to examine whether actual Stone Age people really did or do benefit, or to determine if there are any other equally plausible explanations. Since there is no attempt to test hypotheses, there is no attempt to do actual science.


Second, fMRI: There are several types of MRI and this is specifically about the "functional" variety that attempts to map the distribution of blood in the brain with high temporal resolution. The basic idea in psychological studies using fMRI is to put a person in the imagining machine and then ask them to perform a specific mental task, such as, to take preposterous example, think of a banana. One then observes which region of the brain "lights up" i.e. notionally starts using more blood. This is then the part of the brain that evolved to deal with whatever task was set.


There are two problems. The first is specificity. "Think of a banana" isn't very specific. Do you imagine what a banana looks like? Tastes like? Smells like? Feels like? Peeled or unpeeled? Ripe or green? And on and on and on. It's possible to deal with this by making the task extremely specific, e.g. giving a mental arithmetic problem. Even in this example, there is more than one method (visual, pure memory, etc.) So if you read about such a study, check if the task is even remotely well defined and if it isn't, discard the evidence - it's unsound.


Second, and even more damning, is the "dead fish" experiment. A research team put a dead fish in an fMRI machine and told it to perform various mental tasks. Of course the fish did not perform these tasks, being dead. Nevertheless, various parts of its brain "lit up." Which tells us that fMRI simply doesn't work very well for present purposes. Results can be random and meaningless. Hence if a conclusion ONLY has fMRI and/or evolutionary psychology evidence to back it up, it's completely unreliable, however plausible it might seem. A side note on this experiment is that it won an IgNobel Prize for being a waste of research money. Put a dead fish in an MRI machine?! What a stupid thing to do! Not so - this experiment is extremely important but you can be forgiven for thinking it is dumb if you only read a headline. So don't judge science from headlines. You will end up misled.


An important caveat about fMRI is that it CAN be useful for physiological purposes e.g. locating brain injuries. The main difference is if structures seen in scans persist for a long time rather than being ephemeral artefacts created by the algorithm used to reconstruct the image from the data.


The fact that I've spent so much time warning you, dear reader, not to take the scientific contents of this book at face value is why I can't really recommend it, despite for the most part being solidly in support of the author's overall aims in regard to social acceptance of diversity in human psychology. Very disappointing.

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