Archive | August 2012

Hurricane Woes

While I’m stuck in a hurricane weakening to a tropical storm, there’s not much for me to do. The wind is so strong we can hear it whip around the house and see all the rain flying horizontally. No lightning is crashing down, but it does sound like it’s thundering. The eye will be here in about seven hours, and right before the eye will come the giant wall protecting it–one of the most destructive parts of a hurricane. Still, Hurricane Isaac is a weakling compared to other ones we’ve had. Hopefully, I can get through a book or two since we’re basically under house arrest. We haven’t lost electricity, but even if we do, we’re prepared with a generator. Ah, well, enough about my experience.

If you’re looking for some books with hurricanes in them, try Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. It’s a coming to age story many children are required to read in elementary school and focuses on overcoming the unimportance one might feel in adolescence. I haven’t read this book since maybe middle school, so I don’t remember much about it besides the fact that the main character kept wanting the love that others had.

If you’d rather a more adult book, try Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston. Hurston narrates Janie’s struggle to be more than a worker and a trophy wife. She seeks to be on the safe level with her husband(s). Also, this book is one that was lost in time after it was first written and then rediscovered. It contains lots of metaphors comparing the supernatural to nature. I personally discovered this book in my American Literature survey class.

Menthol Kisses by Abby Stewart

Overview: Logan is a teenager stuck between trying to live her life and simultaneously run from it. Her need to fade from a soul-crushing reality overshadows everything else after a secret abortion and the loss of a close friend. As Logan struggles with drugs, sex, and relationships, she only further digs her heels into the distasteful small town life she so badly wants to escape from.

My thoughts: I debated for a while whether to give this book three stars or four stars. In the end, four stars won because I enjoyed the book and because I read it in one sitting. It was almost impossible for me to stop until I got to a point that made me lose interest. That being said, let me clarify something. The story in itself is a great one. However, it does have a few issues. Let’s start with the bad.

The number one problem was comma issues. The story flowed well, so that I was able to forgive missing commas and misused ones at first, but then the missing comma issue got worse towards the end of the book. That’s one reason why I wanted to give the book three stars.

Some of the story is borderline stereotypical, but at the same time, these characters feel like real ordinary people to me. A lot of cliche things happen, especially considering everything that I’ve been warned about when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and sex actually happens in the plot. Another huge stereotypical thing is that it’s set in a town in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, the tone of the story and the way it’s written makes the cliche and stereotypical things seem acceptable.

The sequence of events becomes really confusing. It seems like the author either didn’t know what else to write or she wanted to skip boring scenes and get to the juicy bits. Therefore, the story is fast paced and skips huge chunks of time, leaving me a bit confuzzled determining the timeline of the story. The main character basically goes from birth to around age 20 or so, and everything happens so fast that you can definitely tell that the main character is going to get into trouble. This was another reason I thought about giving the book three stars.

I lost interest when Logan and Brittany got to the warehouse. I understand their motives, and the scene seems very realistic, but at the same time, either the writing style changed or I just have an aversion to that kind of stuff, such that I wasn’t interested in that issue at all. In fact, I find it gross and a bit degrading, though I think that’s the author intention since Logan really gets into a tough spot. However, the book definitely gets better after that whole part (I’m trying not to spoil it).

I’ll admit that everything that Logan does goes against my morals and I would usually find stuff like that to be very sickening. However, the way it’s written takes away from the sickening part and makes Logan’s actions seem real. It’s all she knows and all her actions flow so well that I can’t really complain. Whether it’s morally right or not is an argument that I don’t think belongs here. It’s more important to notice how she ends up in those situations.

I loved two things about this book. One was the way Stewart depicted the characters as ordinary people. I love how she made them close friends even though they bonded over drugs. The way they bonded even though they were using a substance considered unfriendly and horrific really intrigued me. It leaves you with this odd feeling. They’re doing drugs yet they’re still somewhat kind to each other and good friends. Still, do good friends let others do drugs? It does bring up great questions regarding social behaviors and drugs.

The second part I liked was the ending. I loved everything in the last scene, including the fiance and all that jazz (that I’m trying not to give away). Let’s just say, it makes me happy.

For its price on Amazon, this is a good read. I think it’s worth it. On the other hand, it’s more on the PG13/R rating due to the issues it tackles. Nothing is too explicit, but at the same time, I would recommend this book to people who are around 18+. I think it would also be very good for teenagers or people who are struggling with drug addictions. This kind of book isn’t for everyone, but it is a really good read for people who don’t mind putting strong moral judgements aside.

The author has a website located here: http://abbystewart.com

I got this ebook for free from the author in exchange for a review.

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay

Overview: Our “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” culture tells us the twentysomething years don’t matter. Some say they are a second adolescence.Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.
Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, THE DEFINING DECADE weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-“if” we use the time wisely.
THE DEFINING DECADE is a smart, compassionate and constructive book about the years we cannot afford to miss.

My thoughts: I like the overall message of the book: Your life, even at your twenties, means something, so make the best of it. I fully believe that people, no matter what their age should not waste away their life by partying all the time and practicing bad habits. Goofing off every now and then is perfectly fine, but making a career out of it is pointless unless you get paid for it and you find it fulfilling. Therefore, this review may be a bit biased.

With the basic message out of the way, I do think the audience is limited to people who have access to resources and opportunities, mainly the middle class and upper class. I think the same basic message is viable for all classes, but people of lower classes who don’t have access to internships or college may have a harder time connecting with Jay’s clients.

Jay backs up all her claims with psychological research that most college students learn in basic psych. While having Jay repeat the same information I’ve already learned is kinda boring, it is interesting to see how she applies the research. I’ve read a few reviews and comments on her articles and books, and basically, they complain that her book is too conservative and that she claims causation instead or correlation. I don’t think she’s that conservative or confusing causation with correlation. She uses caution and subtle sentences in explaining the difference, but that’s how I would expect every psychologist/psychiatrist to react. Her book centers on research and experience in her practice, not on ideology or politics. The major problems people have with her book are probably more due to a limited research/experience with those certain situations rather than her general principles.

By adding her clinical experiences, she means to illustrate the research and her ideas in real life, which works. However, some people may not realize that case studies are specific instances in which it works a certain way for one person. Things may go differently for someone else. That’s why when reading her case studies of people, you have to be careful to understand the general idea and not concentrate too much on the details. I know that seems kind of backwards since a case study focuses on specific details and it’s not valid to use generalizations from one case study to another, but for the sake of understanding her argument, I suggest you break that scientific rule and go with the flow. She’s using the case studies as examples and not scientific proof.

I do think that Jay did a better job on the work issues of her book and that’s the section I find more accessible than any other section. However, her other discussions of topics have validity, especially the fertility subject. Some people may not have kids, so they can breeze over the section if they wish, but I think she spends a lot of time talking about fertility is because it’s something couples need to talk about: if they want kids, when they want them, possible fertility problems–I think it’s important for every couple to talk about even if they don’t want kids just in case birth control fails or an accident happens. I also fully agree with her on being in good relationships all the time and not staying with someone who’s a deadbeat. Humans are creatures of habit and someone may get stuck in a bad cycle of relationships if he or she is not picky about whom he or she dates.

My only real issue with the book is that it’s too future oriented. Yes, it’s important to plan for upcoming events, but at the same time, if you’re not enjoying your life now or you’re so stressed about the future, you can’t realize what’s in front of you and something’s not quite right. I wish Jay would’ve spent a bit more time talking about the past, present, and future, but she didn’t really connect them too much. She sort of blames twentysomethings for being too present oriented, which is funny ’cause I’m twenty and think she’s too future oriented to the point where she forgets to tell people to enjoy their current situations. I think her book would have a better tone if she said something along the lines of, “Hanging out is nice and it’s important to treasure your friends, but don’t forget you still have future goals to achieve. To achieve them, you need to make sure you’re taking steps in that direction earlier in your life rather than later.”

Another issue I have with this book is saying how bad off thirtysomething and fortysomething people are. They’re not all bad off. We can learn from older people’s mistakes, but I don’t think they should be berated for choosing to do things later in life. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. However, by using poor decisions of older people, Jay is emphasizing her point that it’s better to start planning when you’re young, which I kind of agree with. She crosses a line sometimes when she speaks about her older clients. I know she’s trying to point out how later decisions affected them, but at the same time, it comes close to almost wagging her finger at them when they’ve already suffered enough.

Sometimes, Jay’s writing feels like a mother/aunt/teacher who can just give you a look and you know you’re doing something wrong. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s condescending, but it does make me wonder and ask questions about my life. Based on other psychology books I’ve read, I know her advice is relative based on the situation, but it’s strong advice. If you get anything out of the book, I think it should be this: Your life matters, so make the most of it by taking deliberate actions earlier than later, especially in the direction that you may want to go in. Decisions need to be made because they do impact your future. If you just let life happen to you, it may not be all that fun.

Her advice seems to go against what most people say nowadays, such as, “You have time for that later,” “Marriage and babies are for older people,” “You’re only 23. You don’t need a serious relationship or career,” and so on. However, I really do believe that we need to put aside these sayings that give “freedom” to twentysomethings and instead use Jay’s advice and give them “responsibility for their lives.” I want responsibility, so I’m shrugging off anyone who tells me I have time to wait. I’m taking time by the horns and taking action in the direction I want.

I bought this book from Amazon for $14.05 without taxes or a shipping and handling cost.

In My Mailbox – August

Woohoo! So, I’ve found a lot of books to read lately. I figured I’d share them now since it’ll take me a while to get through them all. The first one actually comes from my bookshelf:

 

The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch: I’ve had this book for two years now. Originally, it was a textbook for a service-learning¬† class in which we learned about untraditional methods to teach. I honestly only read halfway through it, but now I’m determined to finish it.

 

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer: I found this book through recommendations on Goodreads and thought I’d give it a shot. The most I know is that it has something to do with psychology, and so maybe it’ll be a good one. I’m interested in reading about motivations for decisions.¬† This nearby library actually had this book and it’s on my to-read shelf, so it’s a win-win for me.

 

Why Smart People do Dumb Things by Mortimer Feinbery and John J. Tarrant: I also found this book in my university’s library and decided to pick it up. The title seemed really funny, so hey, why not? I don’t read many business books, but changing my usual subject interest might be a good thing.

 

 

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott: My little sister actually said this book was a good one. I’m about a third through it rightnow, and I’m toting it back and forth to work. The scenes include lots of action and comedy at the same time. The author has a very witty style that absolutely enjoyable.