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review 2018-11-29 21:19
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I'm Thinking of Ending Things - Iain Reid
After reading Foe, I immediately picked up this book by the same author. This book carried the same mysterious edgy vibe as Foe. I was immediately drawn in, flipping pages faster and faster until I finished the book earlier than I anticipated.
When he took her home to his parents, I thought the book took a strange turn. After reading Foe, I felt an anticipation as I read this book. I wanted to see “everything,” as it transpired. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out this way.
As I finished up with this book’s pages, I wanted to start from the beginning again as this book left me stunned. His novels seem to be having this effect on me which is a great thing. I need to check out his other novels and I know I will definitely reread these two novels in the future because I know I need more Iain Reid in my life.


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review 2018-10-30 23:51
Thinking, Fast & Slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow (Audio) - Patrick Egan,Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman uses the metaphor of "System 1" and "System 2," coexisting "characters" in our brains responsible for the two types of thinking the book's title alludes to.


* System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.


* System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations.  The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.


System 1 is in charge of our brains most of the time, making quick, intuitive judgments.  System 1 relies heavily on our biases, without our necessarily being aware that this occurs.  When confronted with a complex question that needs the resources of System 2, System 1 is liable to make a quick substitution, answering a simple, replacement question instead.


System 1 can serve us well, except when it doesn't.  It's a feature that can sometimes be a bug, and this book provides a series of frameworks that can help identify when it's useful to hack our systems and get the most out of the two systems.


As I mentioned in my review for The Undoing Project, I've become fascinated by behavioral economics and the thinkers whose work has shaped it.  I will say that this is very much a system 2 book.  It should be read carefully, and I hate to say it, but I realized by listening to this, that audiobooks lend themselves more to system 1.  The upshot is I often found myself rewinding to listen to something I realized my brain had only partially taken in (because it decided to go off on a side trip).  I also checked out the hardcover edition from my library, and I intend to review it.


The value of this book is understanding how to make better decisions and create frameworks that also help others to do so.

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review 2018-10-08 18:48
Cute Romance that Keeps Things Realistic
Thinking of You - Jill Mansell

I know I know. I usually give Mansell some grief, however, this one really works on all levels and I loved that Mansell didn't just give everyone a happy ending. She was quite realistic about some follow-ups with certain characters. I will say though, that this whole dude who didn't realize he wasn't the father of the child that was born plot reminded me a bit of one of her other books though. 


"Thinking of You" has Ginny Holland dealing with her empty nest after her daughter goes off to university. Ginny had her daughter Jem are very close. Ginny doesn't see how she is going to get through her days without her daughter coming home to her. After visiting Jem and meeting her new flatmates, Ginny realizes she is going to need something to do so that she doesn't ruin Jem's independence. Ginny takes on a new job waitressing and also rents a room out at her place.


Due to the room renting and new job, Ginny meets new people, Finn (her boss), Evie (runs the restaurant portion of the antiques store he runs), Laurel (her new lodger), and Perry (Laurel's brother). Up until now most of Ginny's life has revolved around Jem, her best friend Carla and her ex-husband Gavin. 


Mansell manages to juggle several story-lines throughout the book.


Ginny tries to start dating again and thinks that Perry would be the perfect guy. Though he has lying tosser written all over him, I did shake my head at how Perry was able to get women to do what he wanted. Ginny also finds her thoughts shifting to Finn and I liked how these two interacted together after their terrible meet-cute where Finn accuses her of being a shoplifter (I cracked up).


Ginny's ex-husband Gavin sounds like a total pain, but I laughed at all of his get your life together pep talks to Laurel (Ginny's lodger). Laurel was a hot mess though I laughed at her and her constant bringing up of her ex. 


I also really like that Mansell included Jem's third person POV. We do get to see how badly she is with things while she is away from home (falling for someone totally unsuitable) and how she starts to act towards her friends like Davy and Lucy. 


The writing was really good and at times very funny. I laughed out loud a few times with the banter between Gavin and Laurel as well as between Ginny and anyone else.


“But you were the one who came to see it! You said it was just what you were looking for!” Her voice rising—and not in an I-fancy-you way—Ginny said, “You said it was perfect!”

He blinked, nonplussed. “It is perfect. For Laurel.”

Frantically, Ginny ran back through everything he’d told her. “No, hang on, you said your flat was too small…”


"For ninety minutes now she had been listening to the Story of Kevin. Ninety minutes was the length of an entire film. She could have watched Anna Karenina and been less depressed."


I thought the ending was quite sweet, but was happy to see some foreshadowing that some relationships which were said to be fine, came to an end or almost an end by the epilogue. And I was very happy we didn't see Jem or Lucy thinking of their friend Davy beyond being friends. Most romances would have had one of the girls fall for him or something. 

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review 2018-08-05 18:24
Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] - Zoë Heller

This is indeed a literary page-turner, as described in the cover blurb. Barbara Covett, a lonely high school history teacher on the cusp of retirement and aching for meaningful human connections, fixates on a younger, wealthy art teacher, Sheba Hart. Sheba is a wife and mother with a busy social schedule who becomes sexually involved with a teenage boy at the school, leading to the eponymous scandal. The story is narrated by Barbara, in an engaging, perceptive, sometimes vicious voice; as is not uncommon for isolated people, especially intelligent ones, Barbara tends to look down on everyone.


As many others have said, this is an excellent novel: intense, insightful, clever, well-written. This could be a good novel for those who are leery of “literary fiction,” because it is also a very readable page-turner. Though of course it is not a novel for those only interested in reading about moral paragons; it presents its very flawed characters as they are, in all their complexity, not as we might want people to be. And the ambiguous, creepy ending does not tie up all plot threads.


A couple of points on interpretation:


First, a lot of people seem to want to read a homoerotic subtext into Barbara’s obsession with her female friends. To me this is just an example of modern culture wanting to see sex in everything, and tending to devalue platonic relationships, assuming that a high level of emotional investment must mean sexual desire is involved. There are indications throughout the book that Barbara is heterosexual (her envy of the young French woman who dances on a bar and captures all the men’s attention; her willingness to become romantically involved with a male teacher even though she finds him ridiculous). For someone as isolated as Barbara, the quest for emotional fulfillment and to be important to someone else is every bit as meaningful as the quest for sexual fulfillment is for others; sex just doesn’t seem to be high on her list of priorities, perhaps because she has more fundamental unmet needs.


Second, the takeaway from this book for many people seems to be “sexual abuse isn’t always clear-cut because sometimes the child can be the initiator!” To which I say, first of all, keep in mind that Barbara is an unreliable narrator; she is telling the story of Sheba’s “affair” with a teenager secondhand, based on what Sheba has told her, and then coloring Sheba’s self-serving account with her own opinions; she cares for Sheba and seems to detest Steven Connelly, who’s portrayed as a rough-hewn, vulgar lower-class boy. But Sheba’s sketchy behavior is still evident, for instance, in her threatening Steven to keep quiet about their relationship, claiming he too would get in trouble if found out even though she knows this not to be true. And more importantly, getting sexually involved with someone across that kind of power imbalance – someone so much younger over whom she is an authority figure – is wrong and lends itself to abuse even if the young person seems enthusiastic. Teenagers have crushes and fantasies about teachers – Barbara comments on this herself – but that isn’t license for adults to act on them for their own sexual gratification; teenagers aren’t emotionally ready for adult relationships, and those fantasies should remain fantasies.


Reading between the lines, it makes sense that Sheba doesn’t understand this boundary; she began dating her husband, a professor 20 years her senior, when she was a young college student (and there’s some indication in the book that 20 years on, he’s still angling for college students). And she seems oblivious to the power imbalance in her own marriage – the way the housework all falls on her shoulders, for instance. So it’s no wonder that her boundaries would be skewed. But her flawed perceptions shouldn’t justify this behavior in readers’ minds.


At any rate, this is definitely a book I recommend, as a work of literary entertainment that lived up to the hype. It didn’t change my life, but it’s absolutely worth the read.

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review 2018-07-12 19:32
Living and Dying
The Bright Hour - Nina Riggs Jones
When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi,Abraham Verghese
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
Blue Nights by Didion, Joan 1st (first) Edition [Hardcover(2011)] - Joan Didion
A Widow's Story - Joyce Carol Oates
Missing Mom - Joyce Carol Oates
About Alice - Calvin Trillin
How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter - Sherwin B. Nuland

So, I've been off BL for a long, long time. A lot has happened, I got pregnant and had a daughter. My mom got sick and passed away. I had to clear out and sell my childhood home and all the contents while trying to balance all of that and my full time job. It's been...something.


For a while, not long after my mom died (3 days before Christmas 2016 when my daughter was only 5 months old) I started searching out and reading books that dealt with death and grief. I read a lot of Joan Didion The Year of Magical ThinkingBlue Nights. I read When Breath Becomes Air and About Alice and A Widow's Story. I started Missing Mom and couldn't go any further because it was too hard and How We Die.


The Bright Hour is one of the most beautiful books I've read, ever. I can't possibly describe it except to use it's full title--The Bright Hour: a memoir of living and dying. It is so full of life, all the messiness and happiness and tragedy and humor and it faces death and mortality head on, unflinching. 


I recently reread it, now a year and a half since my mother passed, it still has such power and peace. I can't recommend it enough.

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