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review 2018-06-26 06:46
City Limits - Nathan Everett
(spoiler show)
Wow, this has been a crazy last couple of weeks. Yesterday was the first day (after 10) I was able to sit in a chair (albeit for just a bit, but what a relief!) due to my back screwing up, then one of my sons nearly severed his finger at work a few days ago, and we had to consult with the surgeon yesterday and I was on the phone all day with them (they'd call, we'd discuss things for quite a while, then call back and discuss more).... they were trying to determine a game plan on how to do the surgery despite 3 generations of an allergy to anesthesia in my family. A plan was developed (thank God) and tomorrow he goes to have a pin put in, also surgery to repair nerves and tendons, and they are going to try to repair the nail bed (the force of the impact at work when the bone broke and crushed also sent one end of the bone through the nail).... I had to get him to the e.r. a couple of days after it happened because it was still bleeding profusely and I was very concerned. It turns out that some of the stitches had "slipped" and there wasn't enough tissue for the stitches to "grab" onto.... I know tomorrow, after it is all done, we will be extremely happy for him to be on his way to recovery......

I finished this book earlier but couldn't get on until now. So for my thoughts....
This book was definitely different.... unusual, and strange (in a way). Gee (aka George Edwards Evers) walks into the little town of Rosebud and ends up saving a toddler from drowning shortly after his arrival, in the process hitting his head and destroying long term memory. He can't remember where he is from, who any of his family are, what his occupation may be. No memories of childhood or any of his life prior to coming within the city limits of Rosebud. In Rosebud, though, he does always seem to be in the right place at the right time to save someone, earning him the name of hero and title of "City Champion". He falls in love with the resident investigative reporter, Karen, who has a knack for uncovering scandals, cover-ups and corruption. The ending left me hanging with several loose ends, but I do understand that this is the first of a series. I liked much of the story. What I thought was weird was the town of Rosebud's industry was mostly in someway connected with the ancient hickory forest that the town owns. They can't eat the nuts (they are poisonous), but make all sorts of stuff out of every bit of the trees. The town almost worships these trees. 7 families pretty much control the town. When the head of one family dies, if there is a challenge to who will be the next head (say between two brothers or cousins) then each one wishing be the head must eat one of these nuts....whoever of the two lives gets to be the head of the family. The families say the "forest" has "chosen". Some feel that the trees "talk" to them, and many members of the various families over the two hundred years they have controlled the town have wanted to go out into the outside world but felt such a powerful connection to these trees as to feel it impossible to leave. 
Also, (I really didn't think this weird, but I didn't care for it).... the local Christian pastor is portrayed as an overbearing fanatic, a religious zealot who is also a pedophile, in charge of a kidnapping and child trafficking ring, and makes illegal drugs that he uses with the consent of many of the church to drug not only the kidnapped kids, but the members' kids as well to brain wash them and make them "more obedient". While I know all professions have good and bad people in them, and people running around with the title of "Man" or "Woman" of God have used that label to do much evil through history I still think the silent majority is good. I am getting quite sick of seeing Christian pastors in literature (and movies) portrayed as scheming crooks, strange quacks, and heinous criminals or just plain idiots. I wouldn't mind so much if in the same piece, and opposing good one was presented. With all the focus so much all the time on this twisted view, I think it gives a negative perception of Christianity and Christians in general as greedy, intolerant, violent and mentally ill, which I do take offense at. This caused me to view this book in a more negative light, and the strangeness with the forest would have been better explained I might have liked it better. Also, I never got closure as to who Gee actually was or where he came from, etc. which left me hanging, and the issue of the child trafficking the church was involved in was never resolved. So, because of these drawbacks I give it just 3 stars. It isn't lower because, like I said, there was parts I did like.... the suspense, the character of Gee, some of the mysteries that were resolved. I received this book in exchange for a free review from the author-- thank you.


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review 2018-06-18 06:18
Find You in the Dark
Find You in the Dark: A Novel - Nathan Ripley

I finished Find You in the Dark with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it does have the creepy vibe I'd expect from a thriller, but that gripping need to turn one more page is missing. Despite Martin's 'hobby,' the pacing is very slow for most of the book. Parts of the story are repetitive and Martin's inner monologue was drawn out and much of time, not all that interesting. It reached a point that I found myself enjoying the scenes with Martin's too smart for her own good, teenage daughter more than the disturbing parts of the story. Her sense of humor and sass did add some levity to an otherwise dark and sometimes tedious tale. I think part of my disappointment lay in the way things played out in the book. We know from the blurb that Martin draws the attention of a serial killer, and I expected there to be something of a cat and mouse game between them. That I didn't get that is on me and my own preconceptions, but considering the length of the book, I just expected more. In the end, the story did have a lot of potential and I enjoyed some parts of it, but other parts came up lacking for me, leaving me with a bit of a 'meh' feeling.

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review 2018-06-07 19:19
Facts, anecdotes, some opinions, and a very engaging way of learning about the human body.
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes - Nathan H. Lents

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

When I saw this book on offer, I could not resist. I studied Medicine and have been fascinated by Biology and the Natural Sciences for ages. I have also thought and often commented on our (mostly mine, but yes, most of the issues are general, not exclusive to me) flawed design, no matter how superior we feel to the rest of the species that share the planet with us. In a later chapter of the book, the author sums it up observing that if we participated in an Olympic Games-style contest that included all of the Earth’s species, we would not win at anything, apart from perhaps decathlon (or chess if it was included), as we are generalists. We might not be able to compete with the physical prowess shown by many other species (we are not the fastest, the strongest, the best hunters, the ones who jump higher or who can run for longer), but we can do many things to a reasonable level. And yes, we are pretty intelligent (however we choose to use our minds).

There is enough material to fill several books under the general title of this book, and Lents chooses pretty interesting ones (although I guess some will appeal to some readers more than others). He talks about pointless bones and anatomical errors, our diet (here he talks about our tendency to obesity and our need to eat a varied diet due to the fact that our bodies have lost the ability to synthesise a number of vitamins, amino acids… while other species do),junk in the genome (issues to do with our DNA), homo sterilis (we are not very good at reproducing as a species), why God invented doctors (about our immune system and autoimmune diseases, cancer…), a species of suckers (about cognitive biases. The title of the chapter refers to P.T. Barnum’s edict ‘a sucker born every minute’ although as the author notes, this is an underestimate), and he discusses the possible future of humanity in the epilogue. There is a fair amount of information contained in this book, and that includes some useful illustrations, and notes at the end (I read an ARC copy, but it is possible that the final version contains even more documentation and resources). It is an educational read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I listened to the book thanks to the text-to-speech facility, and it suits it well, as it has a very conversational tone and manages to impart lots of information without being overbearing or obscure.  I read some reviews suggesting that it was so packed with facts that it was better to read it in small bites. Personally, I read it in a few days and never got bored of it, but it might depend on the reader’s interest in the subject.

I was familiar with some of the content but I appreciated the author’s take and the way he organised the materials. Although I enjoyed the whole book, I was particularly interested in the chapters on genetics (the DNA analysis and the identification of specific genes have moved on remarkably since I completed my degree) and on cognitive biases. As a doctor, I also agreed with his comments about autoimmune diseases, the difficulties in their diagnosis, and how these illnesses can sometimes be confused with psychiatric illnesses (being a psychiatrist, I know only too well this can happen). Of course, as is to be expected from the topic, the book reflects on the development of the species and discusses natural selection and evolution, and I was fascinated by the reviews of people who took his arguments as personal attacks on their beliefs. I agree that some of his interpretations and his hypothesis of the reasons for some of these flaws can be debatable, but that does not apply to the facts, and I did not feel the book is intended as a provocation but as a source of information, and entertainment. As the writer notes, we remember better (and believe in) anecdotes and stories than we do dry data. (I am not an expert on the subject but was fascinated by the comments on his blog.)

I found the book fascinating, and as a writer, I thought it was full of information useful to people thinking of writing in a variety of genres, from science-fiction (thoughts about how other species might evolve crossed my mind as I read it), historical fiction (if we go back many years), and any books with a focus on human beings and science.  I would recommend checking a sample of the book to see if the writer’s style suits the reader. I highlighted many lines (and was surprised when I learned that female Bluefin tunas don’t reach sexual maturity until they are twenty years old and was pleased to learn about the important roll old female orcas play in their society) but I particularly like this one:

Scurvy is a dystopian novel written by the human body.

A great read for those who prefer non-fiction and fact-packed books, perfect for people with little time, as it can be picked up and savoured in bite-size instalments, and a book that might pique our interest in and lead to further research on some of the topics. Experts are unlikely to find new information here, but other readers will come out enlightened and with plenty to think about. I strongly recommend it.

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review 2018-06-02 05:12
The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau
The Nameless Dark: A Collection - T.E. Grau,Nathan Ballingrud

T.E. Grau offers up an impressive collection of weird tales, bringing a fresh, new and compelling voice to the classic sub-genre. These stories will haunt you into the deep hours of the night...and they will have you thinking the rest of the time.

T.E. Grau is an author to watch.

Highly recommended.

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review 2018-05-11 15:53
Human Errors
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes - Nathan H. Lents

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I found this to be both an informative and entertaining read. While the author doesn’t delve very deep into details (each subject in each chapter would probably warrant a book of its own), and although I wish there had been more developed explanations at times, I’m also aware that one book couldn’t tackle everything in one go—and he nevertheless provides enough information for a reader to go on research some more later on a given topic.

I already knew some of the ‘human errors’ presented in the book (such as junk DNA and mutations), but definitely not others, such as why we get so many headcolds (our sinuses placed the wrong way), why we do actually make our own B12 vitamin but can’t use it (same with other vitamins—and this is why we need a varied diet, with all the problems it entails), or why our ways of procreating are, in fact, very inefficient compared to those of other mammals. So, discovering all this was fascinating, and the explanations provided also satisfy the unavoidable ‘why’ questions that rose immediately after (I’m very much a why person; every physician who attended me since I’ve learnt to speak can testify to this). For instance, we lost the ability to make our own vitamin C, whose absence will lead to scorbut and kill us; but the mutation that led to this defect wasn’t erased through evolution because it happened in areas where fruit was easily available, and a diet of fruit would compensate for our rotten GULO gene… until the latter stuck, happily passed around to descendants.

I liked that some explanations went a bit further: it’s not only about this or that physical defect, but also about how we’re still wired for survival techniques and reactions dating back to prehistoric times, and how some of our modern behaviours are thus impacted. An extended example would be gambling, and why people in general have irrational reactions such as ‘now that I’ve lost ten times in a row, I -must- win, there’s no other way’ (though statistically, you could lose an 11th time), or will bet more and more when they’re on winning streak, and risk losing it all or more, rather than save those earnings. Those would go back to the way we interpreted situations to learn from them and survive (man sees a lion in a bush, concludes bushes often hide a lion, and then avoids bushes). Same with optical illusions, due to our brains’ ability to ‘fill in the blanks’.

On the side of actual errors, I noticed a few (redundant words or phrases, that a last editing pass would probably remove). Nothing too bad, though.

Conclusion: Due to the lack of deeper details and general simple writing, this book is probably more for laypeople rather than people with a strong scientific background—but even then, there’s still a chance that some of the ‘human errors’ may still be of interest to them.

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