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review 2017-08-18 19:14
A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf
A Writer's Diary - Virginia Woolf,Leonard Woolf

For lovers of Virginia Woolf, but also those interested in writing itself, as well as history (Woolf details the approach and beginning of World War II, including the bombing of her home in London). This "writer's diary," edited by husband and first reader, Leonard Woolf, comprises those entries where Woolf discusses her writing and reading as well as encounters with literary acquaintances.

 

There is a pattern to her writing process whereby she's excited about a new idea (which sometimes comes while she's working on another project) and rides a sort of high until she completes it. This is followed by depression and ambivalent feelings about reviews. Some books come easier than others, but the overall pattern remains the same. Every one feels like it might be a failure or badly reviewed, and she attempts to convince herself she doesn't care. The ups and downs in her mood suggest bipolar disorder, which contemporary psychologists believe afflicted her. Knowing her fate (she drowned herself not long after the last entry of this diary) made reading portions very sad.

 

On the other hand, Woolf felt she had just begun to know her own mind in her 40s, which gives me hope! Elements of her process and the way one negative review overrode all the positive responses created a sense of affinity for me as a writer. Woolf changed literature, and I'm glad she kept such a diary.

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url 2017-08-09 14:48
Cathay Dupont Health Complaint Towards Japan’s Award Winning Working Industry

The Japanese employees are described as one of the hardest-working employees in the world. Hard work isn’t a negative trait but it may be damaging if it’s too much. Workers in the country thrive for excellence and perfection. Due to hard work, some people literally work themselves to death.

 

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review 2017-07-25 21:25
This didn't change my mind but I appreciated the insight.
Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health, and Society: Black Female Vegans Speak - A. Breeze Harper

Although I personally do not have any interest in going vegan or even vegetarian, I was intrigued by this book. I don't know many vegetarians or vegans very well and none who are black. I understand that this can be a topic fraught with issues regarding class, environmental concerns, racism, accessibility, personal identity, relationships and more. So it seemed interesting to read a book from the viewpoint of black female vegans on their thoughts.

 

The book does match the description (mostly). It's a series of essays, recollections, poems, thoughts, etc. on what it means to be vegan, how they came to their decision, how it affected their lives, their relationships (romantic or otherwise), what are issues they perceive (good and bad) surrounding being vegan and black women, etc. As others note, some pieces are quite good and I was disappointed there wasn't more from particular writers.

 

But, as a collection of writings it is understandably a mixed bag. Some really needed a better editor, some needed to talk less about themselves (as in, there was too much life story/personal anecdotes that were off topic for a work like this). You'll find some great writings and thoughts on the practicality (or not) of being vegan but you'll also find some of the perhaps "stereotypical" tropes. Some authors were far too spiritual or "New Age-y" for me. Like another reviewer I side-eyed the refusal to vaccinate. However, there's a good chance you'll find something that speaks to you among the stuff that does not.

 

And some of the criticisms I think are on target. The uneven quality of writing has already been mentioned but some were just downright odd: I thought it was strange the Afterword was written by a white woman (who herself acknowledges the potential problems) but that was my own person quirk. I also somewhat disagree with the back cover description that calls the book a "handbook for our time." It's an interesting collection but I wouldn't call it a handbook to learn or to see as a "how to" guide.

 

It did not change my mind (but I wasn't looking to have it changed or somehow have an eye-opening experience). However, I did feel I did get quite a bit out of it and I appreciated being able to read a collection like this all in one place rather than piecing it together from social media, books, etc. I was happy to pay for it but I had a coupon and if it had been at the library I would have very likely borrowed it if I could have. 

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review 2017-07-12 15:02
The Book of Dahlia, by Elisa Albert
The Book of Dahlia - Elisa Albert

Dahlia Finger is kind of an asshole. She's 29 and spends her days sprawled out on her couch, smoking weed and watching movies, funded by her well-off father. One night she has a seizure and learns that she has a brain tumor. Though no one will actually say it, she doesn't have long to live.

 

This is not one of those novels of illness where there's redemption ahead or that's supposed to make you hopeful and grateful for life (beyond not having a brain tumor). For that reason, I appreciated and responded to it. Unlike all the books on cancer Dahlia and her parents buy in bulk that say "you can beat this thing" if only you have the right attitude, in effect making you responsible (and to blame) for your own illness, The Book of Dahlia illustrates how we as a culture fail to deal with mortality. Though it's not addressed specifically in the novel, I personally wonder how much that American idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is at play, which easily translates into victim-blaming when one can't.

 

One of the platitudes often given regarding illness and healing is that a sufferer must let go of old resentments and anger, that these can make or keep one sick. As Dahlia considers and recounts her past, it's clear she has almost nothing but resentments, from a mother who essentially abandoned her family to the older brother, once close, who took out his own pain on her in the cruelest ways. Throughout her life she's plainly asked for help and been ignored. Maybe it says something about me that I couldn't blame her for her stubbornness in forgiving and forgetting. It feels like the only way she's able to have any agency during her illness.

 

If this sounds grim, it's not, or not only! Dahlia's voice is often funny, enough to make me laugh out loud while reading. Her humor may be bitter, but that suits me fine. At the end of the book there was a reading group guide that asked more than one question about whether one is able to sympathize with her; I absolutely could. I often like female characters in popular culture that others find abrasive, though I often wonder how much it's about gender.

 

The toughest and most affecting aspect of this book was the relationship between Dahlia and her older brother. As a younger sister myself, I'm always interested in and more sensitive to depictions of that dynamic. It broke my heart to read about the turn their relationship takes, how long Dahlia holds out and has faith in him, even insulting herself to get ahead of his insulting her. I both wanted and did not want Dahlia to forgive him. It made me want to call my own brother and thank him for not being a dick!

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review 2017-07-03 12:01
Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful - Eric Lindstrom

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Not entirely sure what to say on this one. This is a contemporary YA novel about a girl with bipolar disorder. I know almost nothing about how bipolar disorder works, so I feel like I can’t judge how good the representation was. I liked the author’s debut novel. I liked this one too, but not quite so much.

 

It tells the story of Mel Hannigan, who is struggling to cope with bipolar disorder. She works at an old people’s care home, has a few friends, reluctantly sees a therapist, takes her meds, though seems more comfortable talking to one of the doctors at the care home where she works than confide in her regular therapist. She keeps a track of meds and how she’s feeling in a somewhat complex routine noting how she’s coping and feeling. Each chapter starts with a list of Mel’s tracking routine. (Which seemed complex to me, it was explained in the novel though I can’t say I understood it).

 

Mel had a brother who met a tragic end, who also had bipolar disorder, she lives with her mom and dad and her aunt who also has the disorder. They each deal with it differently. The aunt is very outgoing and loud, where Mel is quite quiet and while she connects to a few friends she can’t bring herself to tell the truth about her disorder.

 

Her family moved at some point, and Mel found a great group of friends, but a fight and falling out with one, lead to the others getting some false information and cutting her off.  Though at the start of the novel the girl she had a fight with drops a bombshell on her leading her to have to try and speak to the others again. While this is going on Mel is getting to know David, the grandson of one of the residents at the care home. They have a somewhat rough meeting which leads to a cute romance.

 

The novel dealt with Mel’s ups and downs, struggles reconnecting with her old friends, and the truth about what really happened and why they all fell out, dealing with her disorder, falling for David, realising that the therapist isn’t so bad and is there to help.

 

Of course nothing is quite so smooth and everything goes wrong at some point. It seemed to me at least to be handled quite realistically, Mel was a likeable character, she had good moments and bad moments, times when she did stupid teenage things which caused problems in other respects. Like partying and drinking which had a big effect on her meds. Fights with her aunt. Surprising things came out when Mel reconnected with her old friends. One thing I did like was the parental input from Mel’s parents. Not overbearing, but understanding and helpful, which was nice to see.

 

A decent contemporary read.  I did buy a finished copy (The UK paperback has a really nice bright pink eye catching cover, I couldn’t resist).

 

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children's for approving my request to view the title.

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