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review 2017-12-10 23:51
Margo and her Poetic Vengeance…
Marrow - Tarryn Fisher

 

Book Title: Marrow

Author:  Tarryn Fisher

Narration:  Audra Pagano

Genre:  New Adult | Thriller

Setting:  The Bone and Seattle in Washington

Source:  Own Audible Audiobook

 

 

 

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Plot:  4/5 

Main Characters:  4.3/5

Secondary Characters:  4/5

The Feels:  4.5/5

Pacing:  4.5/5

Addictiveness:  4/5

Theme or Tone:  4/5

Flow (Writing Style):  4.2/5

Backdrop (World Building):  5/5

Originality:  5/5

Book Cover:  5/5

Narration:  5/5

Ending:  4.8/5  Cliffhanger:  ???

Steam Factor 0-5:  3

Total:  4.5/5 STARS - GRADE=A-

 

 

 

This is not your typical story…this one might make you want to DNF even…but stick with it, because it may surprise you.  It did me.  Thank you, Tarryn Fisher, for a story that made me stop and seriously think and will also stick with me, for a while to come. 

 

This is not a romance, although it has something like romantic moments.  It's a story about seeing things that make you angry, like really angry and taking your own form of punishment out on the perpetrators.  Margo is like the Punisher. 

 

I took a half star off, mainly because I was really confused at one point, things got all crazy, and shit.  If anyone has read this, they might know where that happened at.  I had to re-listen to some sections, but all in all, her ending paragraphs in the epilogue made this story make sense, somehow. 

 

Will I read more from this Author?⇜  Hell yes, Although, I think you really have to be in the right mood to read Tarryn Fisher.

 

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review 2017-03-28 17:48
An insightful and clear introduction to Laing’s life and work in time for his rediscovery
Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist - David Boyle

I’m writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was provided with an ARC copy of the book that I voluntarily chose to review.

I’m a psychiatrist and although I studied Medicine in Spain I have trained as a psychiatrist in the UK. Despite that, R.D. Laing and his ideas weren’t a part of our curriculum (I don’t know if things have changed now, as that was almost 25 years ago). During one of my training jobs, one of the psychotherapy tutors showed us a recording of an interview with R.D. Laing and he talked to us about him. He came across as a fascinating man with very interesting ideas, quite contrary to the standard focus on biological psychiatry, evidence-based interventions and emphasis on classification and symptoms rather than people. I read several of his books at the time and although I was fascinated by his ideas I didn’t have the time to study his figure and the rest of his work in detail.

This short book (the text takes up around 88% of the book as after that there are some extracts from other books from the same publisher, The Real Press) does an excellent job of highlighting both the person (the biography is succinct but it manages to include the salient points of his family life, his work experience and how both influenced his ideas) and his works. It also places Laing’s figure in its historical and socio-political era, linking it to other thinkers and movements of the time (hippy movement, antipsychiatry, existentialism, LSD culture…). Due to its length, it is not an exhaustive study of the individual works but it presents a good overview that will allow those who’ve never heard of R.D. Laing to gain some familiarity with his life and his work, and will bring together loose ends for those who might have read some of his works but don’t know how they fit into his career (because, as the author points out, some of Laing’s books are very difficult to understand). This text also provides a good guide to students interested in going deeper into Laing’s work and offers suggestions for further reading (both of Laing’s own works and of works about him). The book is being launched to coincide with the premier of a movie about Laing called ‘Mad to Be Normal’ starring David Tennant, and it should be a great complement to those who might come out of the movie intrigued and wanting to know more without embarking on complex theoretical books (that are very much of their time).

Boyle does a great job of extracting the most important aspects of Laing’s work and life and shows a good understanding and empathy towards the man and his ideas. Rather than focus exclusively on the most scandalous aspects of his life, he emphasises his care for patients, his own disturbed childhood, and how he insisted patients were unique and not just cogs in a machine that had to learn to show the required and accepted behaviour. Although many of his ideas have been discredited, his feelings about the profession and his insistence on listening to patients and putting their needs first resonate today as much as they did at the time. Personally, I’m pleased to see his figure is being re-evaluated. Never too soon.

Laing is one of these people whose life and scandals throw a big shadow over his work, but this book and, hopefully, the movie, might help new generations to rediscover him.

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review 2017-03-13 02:15
The Death of Determinism
Notes from Underground - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Richard Pevear,Larissa Volokhonsky

Honestly, I'm not really all that sure where to start with this story. I noticed that when I read it before I made a comment on how it can be pretty difficult to follow, but that is understandable considering it is written from the point of view of a man (which doesn't have a name by the way) looking back on his life and trying to understand the nature of existence – whether our fate is decided by us or whether we are masters of our own fate. Well, not really, though there are a number of elements in the story that explore the clash between determinism and existentialism, however the strong theme in my mind seems to be that while humanity desires a world in which there is no pain, for some reason they are not willing to make the steps necessarily to reach that world – in a sense humanity is addicted to suffering.

 

 

I have to admit that the narrator as a character isn't all that flattering. In fact I get the impression that he would fall into the category known as a 'homeless bum' (as well as the term an unreliable narrator). However, I feel a little uncomfortable using that term because it has the connotation of painting the homeless as being lazy, alcoholic, and basically responsible for the situation in which they have found themselves when in reality there are a lot of conflicting issues that drive them to that point. The interesting thing is that when we think of a 'homeless bum' we usually conjure up images of elderly people, usually always men, who are incredibly unkept, always drinking wine out of flasks (which in Australia is referred to as goon-juice), but ironically never begging. What is interesting is that we also tend to paint them with the image of being uneducated, and in a way illiterate because how could somebody who is educated willingly land up in such a situation.

 

I'm not really sure if this is the image that Dostoevsky is trying to instil into our mind, but then I come from the school of thought that suggests that a novel will take on its own meaning as time moves on. For instance Gulliver's Travels began as a writing of political satire which has morphed into a children's tale. While the nature of Notes from the Underground hasn't changed to that extent the nature of the narrator has, namely because the inference is that he is writing about his past, and about his existence, from the Underground. However, our immediate understanding of The Underground either has a political, or criminal, connotation. However my understanding is that the underground in which the narrator inhabits is neither political nor criminal, but rather outside of the social norm. In a sense our narrator, having realised that he is unable to exist in society, retreats from society and spends the rest of his life there.

 

The story is divided into two parts, with the first simply seeming to be a lot of incoherent ramblings, but in fact is the narrator attempting to understand the nature of the human condition. The second half is a story, or a thought experiment, were he looks back onto his past to a point in time that could be considered the turning point in his life. Here he meets up with some friends and immediately has an argument with them, and they leave him because, well, they have better things to do than argue with an irrational man – like going to a brothel. However he follows them but when he arrives at the brothel he discovers that they have already retired to their rooms, so instead he decides to spend some time with a prostitute named Liza.

 

This is where it gets pretty deep, or at least for Liza, namely because the narrator pretty much exposes the reality of the situation that she faces – she is young and has a commodity that she is able to sell, but there will come a time when that commodity will no longer have any real value, and she will find herself discarded on the proverbial trash heap. However, the narrator isn't some superhero that flies into the brothel to save Liza because when Liza tracks him down afterwards he basically tells her than he doesn't want anything to do with her and to get lost. He then has second thoughts but it is too late, and the book then ends.

 

This thought experiment, particularly the statements regarding prostitution, do bring about a reality of the profession. These days it is legal in a number of western countries, but legalisation of prostitution doesn't clean up the profession, it just exposes it to people that would not necessarily have gone down that road (and drives the illegal aspects much further underground, as well as opening up the truly desperate to much more violence than before legalisation). For instance, when it is a criminal offence, there are people that are unlikely to become prostitutes, however by legalising the profession it opens up another opportunity and they decide to take it up on that offer, only to discover that they have been tarred with the label of being a 'filthy prostitute' by the so called respectable members of society (who probably spend a fair amount of time in brothels themselves). I have spoken to a lot of people who have tried to defend the profession in that it is a legitimate business since if somebody loves sex why not work in a profession where they can have lots of sex. Well, that is all well and good, but the point isn't that they need to convince me because I work on the principle that if that is what they want to do then who am I to stop them, but rather that society still has a view on prostitutes, and unfortunately that view isn't all that nice. Further, there is also the question of the objectification of women, and the fact that it is really a profession that has have a limited shelf life because no matter how enlightened we are (or claim to be), when we go onto the dating sites we always look at the photos first and then go onto the description (if we even read it).

 

Let us then take this idea of suffering – this isn't the idea of if there is an all powerful and good God then why do we suffer, namely because Dostoevsky explores that in The Brothers Karamazov. Instead this is the idea that the main reason we do not move towards a utopia is because we, as humans, has this innate desire to suffer. It is like the idea that the hunt is actually more enjoyable than the kill, or the movie is more enjoyable than the ending. In a way we have this desire for a utopia without suffering, and while we want to get there, we drag our feet because there is something in us that wants to suffer, as if to be in pain actually gives us an identity. This isn't the concept that bad things happen because bad people make them happen, this is where we see an answer to the problem and then turn around and walk away because once we have found that answer the problem has been solved, and in a sense a part of us has now died.

 

 

This seems to have something to do with how the narrator fights with his friends, and also how he fights with Liza when she arrives at his apartment. In a sense, in speaking with Liza, he is not only offering her a way out, but he is also offering a way out for himself, yet in the intermediate time he begins to have second thoughts. In a sense it seems as if that empty part of him may be fulfilled, and to have that empty part filled, he ceases to be who he is, which is why he then proceeds to reject Liza. However, after she has left, he realises that the empty space is still there, and he wants it to be filled, and returns to his quest to fill it, only to discover that the opportunity has been lost, and has been lost forever. In a sense it is like the person who hates their job, but never does anything to change that position because of the belief of having any job is better than having no job, when in the end having a good job is much, much better than having a bad job. Still, the belief, in the end, is that there is no such thing as a good job so I might as well stick with this bad job than running the risk to getting a job that is even worse.

 

Finally, let us consider the nature of existentialism verses determinism. It was around this time that writers began to question the idea that we have a set place in the world that was determined by a higher power before we were born. Liza is a prostitute because it was decreed by God before time began that she would be a prostitute, and if she didn't like that then bully for her. However, existentialism effectively tells us not to blame God for what is in effect our life choices, which is why Liza decides to make the decision to leave the life of the prostitute and to strike off into a brave new world. This is the essence and that is the realisation that we have the ability to make a decision. In a sense it is that decision that we can make that moves us toward the utopia, though as Liza inadvertently discovered, while she has the power to make the decision, it does not necessarily mean that the decision is going to be plain sailing, or that she can easily cast off the shackles of her past.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1934760688
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review 2017-01-31 10:09
As One Grows Older
The Double (Dover Thrift Editions) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Constance Garnett

One of the things that I have come to see that is a key ingredient of succeeding, not just in the modern world, but pretty much everywhere, is to be able to interact and socialise. The thing is that you could be one of the most brilliant minds out there but unless you are able to sell yourself, and your ideas, then unfortunately you probably aren't going to get anywhere. Sure, there are people out there who manage to get a 'lucky break' (and I believe Einstein was one of them) but the reality is that if you spend your life waiting for that break, you are probably never going to ever get it. In fact, you'll probably simply end up being little more than a footnote in history, though I have to admit that considering all of the people that have ever lived, more likely than not we are all going to be footnotes.

 

Anyway, the story is about a bureaucrat in the Russian Bureaucracy who is mid-ranking, but not so high up that he would be considered, or even welcomed into, the nobility (according to Wikipedia he is a titular counciler, which is rank 9 on the table of ranks). Looking at the tables it certainly seems that he isn't low ranking, but then again I would hardly call him high ranking either – it seems that he is at one of those ranks which provide a comfortable living, but not really have all that much infuence. The problem is that our hero is a bit of an anti-social character, but the doctor prescribes the solution of going to a party, however he ends up going to the wrong party, and after making an idiot of himself, gets kicked out. Actually, this almost sounds like the type of advise a clueless psychologist would offer.

 

This is where the bulk of the novel starts because on the way home he meets somebody who sort of looks like him, but is much younger, and much more dashing, than he is, to the point that everybody likes him, and our hero eventually goes insane and is dragged off to the mental asylum. This is the thing about new people, especially dashing and popular new people – they have the ability to take the attention away from us, and this has the effect of making us really, really jeolous. In fact I have known people who will work their way into the lives of new people, and either cosy up to them, or become a toxic leach, and they usually do this because, well, are are pretty insecure in and of themselves and are basically preventing themselves from having these dashing individuals come in and undermine their position (though of course their positions are generally all in their heads anyway).

 

It is interesting that Dostoyevski uses the idea of the double, or the Doppleganger, in this book, because the idea is that this person comes in and takes your place. This isn't the demonic creature, that basically kills you and then infiltrates your circle of friends, but rather a dark, rather human, aspect – it is the fear of becoming obsolete. In a way our protagonist sees a lot of himself in his double – maybe this is what he was like when he was much younger, but as he grows older, and his life begins to stagnate, this younger version of himself is coming into his life to take it away from him. Yet it is even more horrific when it seems that all of our friends are turning from us to this new person, yet we don't trust this new person – it is not that he is doing anything bad, it is just that our perception is that this person is dangerous, and we want everybody to see how dangerous this person actually is. The catch is that sometimes we might be right, otherwise we might be dead wrong.

 

Yet maybe it is just that psychological fear within us – is it the case that the older we get the more anti-social we become, or does it have more to do with the fact that the older we become, the more people we encounter that are not all that pleasant. In a way the more people that hurt us, the less trustworthy of people we become, and while it is all well and good to say that we should treat everybody like a blank slate, sometimes it isn't the easiest of things to do, especially if you are working in a position, such as a ticket inspector on public transport, that tends to bring out the worst in people. In fact, sometimes I wonder whether a ticket inspector would actually admit to people that they are ticket inspectors, or whether they just say that they work for the public transport authority in customer service?

 

Yet, it is one of those roles that seems to bring out the worst the people, that seems to attract the wrath and aggression of the community around you. Sure, that may also be the case with politicians, yet the thing is that they have this ability to be able to shield themselves from the world – the thing with most, if not all, politicians is that around half of the electorate didn't vote for them, and half of the electorate really doesn't like them. Is it also the case with police officers, but I'm sure there are countless numbers of occupations out there where all you tend to get is criticism as opposed to thanks and gratitude.

 

This, unfortunately, has its ability to wear one's character down, so no wonder our hero becomes ever more cynical and anti-social. In a way he is jealous of his double, namely because he does see himself in him, yet doesn't know how to break out of his own shell, and his own paranoia. In a way it is not that his double doesn't like him, or is trying to poison his world, but rather our hero is looking at him from the outside, wanting to be like him, to be accepted, but somehow failing immensely. Yet while we are watching the events unfold through the eyes of our hero, I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, we are also in the position of the double – in the end it all comes down to attitude – the double succeeded because he didn't let the hero's hatred get to him, and simply got on with life, while the hero let his range and jealousy burn up inside of him until he snapped.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1891379393
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review 2016-12-29 08:59
Diary of a Loner
Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre,Robert Baldick

I was originally going to read this book when I was in Paris, however I had only just finished reading a collection of Satre's plays and there were a couple of other books that had caught my attention beforehand (such as [author:Hemmingway]), so I decided to put it down for a while. Mind you, considering that it is set in a seaside town that is fictional, though technically supposed to be La Havre, I could have read it when I was in Rouen, though of course I didn't know anything about the book until I actually started reading it. Anyway, since I have no idea when I will get back to France (particularly La Havre as there is supposed to be an Impressionist Museum there which happened to have the famous Renoir paintings on display in an exhibition, which meant they weren't in the D'Orsay when I was there), I decided that I should read it sooner rather than later.

 

 

Well, I have to admit that I am glad I did because this book is nothing short of awesome, even if it is somewhat hard to follow up times. Mind you, I would start praising Satre's writing style but that would probably make me look like a complete idiot because the version that I read was in English and Satre wrote in French, and my French is simply not at a level where I can actually read a novel, let alone determine whether the writing is any good (my German isn't that good either, but at least I can read a Tintin book, though I usually only get past the first couple of pages before I put it down and go and start doing something else, though reading a Tintin book in German is sort of cheating since I am quite familiar with the books anyway).

 

I probably should start talking about the book as opposed to rabbiting on about anything but the book, but then again I am one of those people that does get distracted quite often, and I do sort of write stream of consciousness style, in the sense that I simply dump onto the word processor the first thing that comes to mind as opposed to actually planning out my review in the way that I would do an essay. Well, this book is stream of consciousness, but it does not necessarily mean that Satre didn't plan it, namely because writing stream of consciousness doesn't necessarily mean that the story wasn't planned, but rather it is writing in a style as if we were looking directly into the mind of the author. Actually, Nausea (or La Nausée as it is in French) is written as a diary of the protagonist who basically puts his thoughts down on paper as he basically drifts through life, and drift he certainly seems to do.

 

 

Nausea is about an historian named Antoine who basically is trying to come to terms with who he is. He is financially secure, which means that he doesn't have to work, and basically spends his time researching and writing about an obscure French politician. He is also a bit of a loner, though he does interact with the Autodidact, who is basically reading every book in the library in alphabetical order (something which I probably wouldn't do, not so much reading every book in the library, but reading them in Alphabetical order, though I would probably skip books like Fifty Shades of Grey and the sequels). There are also a couple of other characters in the book, including Antoine's long lost love Anny, whom he tries to get back in touch with only to discover that she has moved on.

 

 

Funny thing this, and I guess it goes to show the type of person that he is, clinging onto a past that has long gone. This does happen, especially when one is a loner, that the only people that we know are the people that we have known, so when we decide to start looking for love the loner always looks backwards to the people that he (or she) has known as opposed to the people that he (or she) will know. Then again I guess this is the nature of the future – it is a big unknown, whereas the past is a known, and as such when we look back into the past we only encounter people that we have known, and people that we have known tend to be more comforting because there are no nasty surprises, where as people that we do not know, though we might have met them, are a blank slate, which means the potential for some really nasty surprises.

 

 

Yet, as Antoine has discovered, things are not static – they change, as is the case with Anny. She has moved on and simply doesn't want to go back, where as Antoine simply wants to cling to a past that has now long gone. I guess this is why he is an historian since he does not want to let go of the past. However, does that mean that Ford was correct when he said that 'history is bunk'? I don't think so – there are two ways to approaching history: the academic way and the conservative way. The academic seeks to learn from the past to be able to understand why things are the way they are, and to look for patterns to assist us in ascertaining the future. This is the same with the stock market analyst – they analyse historical data in an attempt to look for patterns which might make them, and their client's, money. Then we have the conservative view that doesn't look at the past academically, but rather looks at the past as a form of comfort – in a way the past comforts them because it is familiar, while the future is a vast unknown, and thus the conservative wishes to cling to the familiar rather than take the risk for entering the unknown, which is why, in many cases, we have this war against the future. Then again, it really isn't the immigrants that are taking our jobs, they are just taking the jobs that we really don't want to do – no, the robots are taking our jobs.

 

Finally, there is the question of existence and identity, but then again this is one of the core ideas of existentialism – who we are. Mind you, this type of query has been going on since time immemorial (or at least as far back as people discovered that they had time to sit down and think about thinking as opposed to working in the fields tilling crops and going out into the forest to hunt animals), even before Decartes famously said je pense, donc je suis (I think, therefore I am). However, what is coming out of this book is the suggestion that our identity, our existence, is defined by our environment. This is evident as Antoine comes to realise that the inanimate objects around him are beginning to define his existence, which is starting to make him sick – ergo the title of the book.

 

 

Yet isn't it true that in our modern society we are defined by our job, our house, our upbringing, even the phone that we have: oh, you have a Samsug that is three years old, well I'm better because I have a new one (says the cocky individual before the phone blows up). I guess it is one of the reasons why BMWs are suddenly becoming so popular, and why the urban sprawl is pretty much destroying Australia's market gardens – we need to have an identity and that identity comes from the house you live in and the car you drive. In fact it has even been suggested that some people have had their job applications rejected based upon the suburb in which they live.

 

 

Okay, that is a very materialistic look at the book because there is a much more philosophical look as well, and that is our environment. Sure, there is our definition based on our phone and our car, but there is also the definition based on our family, where we grow up, the language that we speak, and the people whom we associate with – many of these things we have no control over. For instance my Dad was an electronic engineer when has resulted in me having a much stronger affinity with computers than the guy next door whose dad is a motor mechanic. Mind you, I ended up doing and arts/law degree, but a lot of that had to do with the post-modern idea of defining ourselves as opposed to letting the world define us. This, in a way, works because there are a lot of toxic people out there who try to define who we are against our will, however there are other aspects to our environment, to our definition, and to our existence, that we should embrace.

 

In the end embrace that which is good about us and reject that toxic individual who scorns you because you vote for a different political party, don't own a car, and tries to provide an explanation to your life out of their own ignorance, but rather accept those who accept you for who you are, and seek to let the past be the past and see the future as an exciting adventure that needs to be lived as opposed to a terrifying unknown that needs to be stopped. If anything, the one thing about our coming robot overlords is that they aren't going to discriminate.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1844003877
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