Walking with Jesus: A Way Forward for the Church by Pope Francis.

Walking with Jesus: A Way Forward for the Church

(Caidyn)

4/5

I know that I’ve said this in other reviews, but I love Pope Francis. One of my favorite books last year was The Name of God is Mercy, another main idea in Pope Francis’ teachings. Christianity is about mercy. It’s a beautiful book and I suggest it whether or not you’re a Christian. And this is coming from a non-Christian.

One of the main messages of this book is, again, about mercy. How important it is. But, Pope Francis incorporates it into a bigger message about Jesus and his role in the Gospels. The point that struck me most was that most of Jesus’ teachings are done when he’s traveling somewhere. He’s constantly walking and moving. He’s in action, which should translate to Christianity. The Church should always be in motion, changing and adapting. I love that description because it’s true. A community should always be changing to remain an accurate community.

Pope Francis’ remarks always give me hope about Catholicism. The image that it comes with really isn’t accurate. It’s full of love and acceptance, even in places where you least expect it. This is another example of how that is.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others

(Caidyn)

2/5

I’ll be completely honest about this review. I didn’t finish it. After the fourth story — which is the basis for Arrival — I decided to just stop reading it. The type of writing he does isn’t for me. While I enjoy sci-fi, especially speculative sci-fi, his just never went the way I wanted them to. Good premise, bad carry-out. He’s a great author, so this is completely subjective. I simply had read enough and I didn’t want to finish it when I realized how many books I have to finish or start.

Tower of Babylon – 2.5/5

Not the best opening for me. The short story is focused around Babylon in the Bible. For a while, I thought that it was about the Tower of Babel. So I looked it up to see if I was right. Completely wrong or close to wrong since that tower was in Babylon. Just not called that. This is set back in Biblical times, obviously.

I didn’t think that there was much of a point to this story. Not to me. I liked the story. It was written beautifully and it was told wonderfully, but I expected more speculation in it since I’ve read about Chiang focusing on speculative fiction. It wasn’t a bad story, just that the lack of an ending that made sense for the story, I wasn’t a fan. I wanted more to it, really. The story didn’t feel complete.

Good story, I just wanted more of it.

Understand – 3/5

Better, but still not great. I love the premise. A drug that can fix any type of brain damage. The implications of it are spectacular. Imagine the good that could be done for people going through dementia or have some sort of disability or whatever. Not only that, but the drug increases the brain’s ability. Amazing, right?

The carry-out wasn’t the best for me. It was definitely more speculative than the first story, but it wound up being some sort of weird action and adventure story. Without much action to it. Or adventure. I get that the point of the story was to show rationality to the extreme and what could happen to the human race through further evolution, but it was just too much for me. I would have preferred something else, even if it was a very interesting premise.

Division by Zero – 3.5/5

My favorite thing about getting involved in dense subjects is that when you get far enough in, the rules stop working. Like physics or chemistry. I always think of electrons. You learn in basic chemistry that this is how they work. They orbit in a way that we know. Then you learn about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle that says we can never know where they are. Or you hear the research that has come out about matter acting differently depending on whether it’s watched or not.

For this, it’s about math. I’m no mathematician, but I have a basic understanding of it and I remember realizing in an algebra class that something we were taught contradicted other things… yet it didn’t. This short story really highlighted that. The more we know, the less we know and the more things we thought we knew fall apart. That story showed it in two main ways, which I can’t give away. Let’s just say that I enjoyed reading it from both perspectives.

Story of Your Life – 4.5/5

I’m going to start with this: Arrival was better. Just getting that out of the way. Watched the movie, stunned by it, and so that’s why I’m reading this short story book. Only to read one story. That being said, had I just read the short story, I would have rated it about the same and just said that it was missing something. Can’t quite put my finger on what, but the ending lacked the punch that I was hoping for based on the build-up.

Arrival basically gives you that punch. It changed some details, but not too many. It was almost the same. I could even pick out dialogue pieces from short story to movie. It’s a great short story, the best so far in the collection, just that it really did lack an impactful ending to make me feel like the story was worth it.

 

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling by Anita Johnson

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

(Caidyn)

1/5

I’m going to start my review with this: If this strategy and/or book helped you in your recovery, that’s great! Good for you and I’m so happy that you succeeded. That’s a huge step and something to be proud of. Keep using this because it’s obviously working for you.

I had some problems with it. Obviously.

I think my biggest problem is the idea that a clinician really thought that eating disorders are caused by a disconnect from their original feminine nature. Modern life is too masculine and it cuts women off. I find modern life pretty feminine, honestly. It’s more masculine, sure, but it still has a pretty good balance. If you want the full quote, click here because someone who didn’t like the book put it in there. And they point out things I likely won’t.

This book only focuses on women who have eating disorders. That’s it. There’s no way men can get this because, well, men are the problem in the view Johnson has. She constantly talks about gender differences when, by fMRIs and other imaging software, neuroscientists have found there’s no such thing as a male or a female brain. There’s mostly overlap. Same with society. Most women are masculine in some ways. Most men are feminine in some ways.

She also ignores the trans community as a whole — transsexuals, gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderfluid, etc. I’m a transman and, for a while, I had a problem with eating. This was rooted in the idea that if I didn’t eat, I’d be small enough to be a dude. No breasts, no period. However, I love food too much and that utterly failed since I’d cave by lunch every single day.

This book just assumes that all women who have eating disorders are disconnected with their femininity. I would say that a lot of women who have EDs are trying to be more feminine, not less. They’re not disconnected, really. Just taking the idea and completely changing it, or trying to fit into what we say a woman should be.

All of that pissed me off, but I think the thing that honestly pissed me the most off was her comments about alcoholics and people who have substance abuse disorders in general. She basically says that people who are alcoholics drink because they want to. They aren’t trying to hide some sort of problem. There’s no underlying cause to their drinking. That is fucking bullshit. Talk to an alcoholic, maybe. Talk with them about why they drink and you know what? You’ll find something.

The thing is, with EDs and substance abuse disorders, you have to first treat the problem that they’re presenting. Their starvation. Their binging and purging. Their excessive drinking. Their heroin/cocaine/meth habit. Do that first. Get them off what their using and then you can treat the underlying problem that got them to use food or drugs as a crutch.

Anita Johnson, I really feel for the people who you treat at your clinic. I really hope that you don’t actually use this treatment or at least use it in conjunction with an empirically based treatment for women (since this “treatment” can only be used on women) who show an interest.

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

(Caidyn)

4/5

Self-help books aren’t always my thing. Like, they’re good and have truth, but they’re so watered down and oversimplified that I don’t know if they could ever work without someone putting a lot of effort into it. However, this one wasn’t like that. Watered down, yes, but relatively simple to tackle.

The strategy that Susan David has come up with is, to me, like a watered down Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). REBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy created by Albert Ellis. First, you focus on something that happens and your beliefs about it. Either it can be rational or irrational. The whole thing with REBT is to stop irrational thinking by thinking about your emotions and disputing them with different strategies.

Emotional agility is, in a sense, like that. You focus on your emotions and you rationalize them. You realize that they’re important for some reason, so accept them and then find a way to use them to help you. That’s the whole premise of David’s idea and it’s something I can get behind completely.

There are four main ideas to this that I caught. First, you have to feel your feelings. Don’t bottle them up or ruminate. Feel them, and then let go. Second, stress is okay. It’s healthy to feel stressed. Be whelmed, not overwhelmed. Third, and this is the biggest part of the book, is walking your why. What David means by that is to figure out what you want to do with your life. Find your values and do things that match them. Fourth, don’t overpraise kids. And fifth, allow children autonomy so they can figure things out themselves emotionally. Otherwise, you get the coddled kids who can’t handle real life.

My mom actually raised me in this way, so I know how important it is to feel your feelings and to accept stress and to do what is right for you. It’s healthy and the ways that David talks about these are very realistic. She didn’t propose any complete overhauls of systems we have in place but just talked about how you can do this in your own life. Doesn’t matter about changing other people, just work on yourself and find a way to accept your “negative” emotions.

Mental Health Awareness Month

(Caidyn)

May is Mental Health Awareness month. This topic is very close to my heart. I’m a psychology major and I plan on becoming a social worker. Whether that means that I’ll counsel people (which I have been doing for ages without training) or advocate for people without the counseling side, I know that I’ll be happy.

I have had my own battles with mental health. I’ve lived with depression for years. Anxiety is sometimes a part of my daily life. I have dysphoria. Both my gender identity and sexual orientation are in the DSM-5. So, I live with this.

That means I have some recommendations for everyone who wants them.

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You by Caroline Kepnes (My review here.)

This is probably one of my all time favorite thriller books, to be honest. I heard about it when people were raving about it and I hate jumping on bandwagons, but I did it. This book focuses on Joe Goldberg. A normal man…. at first. He has a classic personality disorder and burgeons on psychotic at times. Stalker, paranoid, and hilarious. He’s a great mentally ill character. And terrifying. Did I mention that?

Oh, and the sequel for it is pretty good, too.

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Luna by Julie Anne Peters (My review here.)

As I said, my gender identity is in the DSM-5. That means I’m transgender. Technically a transman, but don’t get me started about the specifics of names and how that naming system is completely off base now. You’ll have to read a lot about a topic you probably don’t care about.

I read this in high school, around my sophomore year. This was one of the books that helped me come out to myself. I haven’t read it since then, but it still holds a special place in my heart. Regan has a sister named Luna. Everyone else calls her Liam and refuses to accept that she is truly a she.

Now, I haven’t read this book since high school. These days, I’m not a huge YA fan and I tend to keep away from LGBT+ books because the topics hit too close to home for my liking. However, it was one of my favorites at the time and helped me a lot. You just can’t forget that being trans is classified as some sort of disorder. The DSM may say that wasn’t the purpose for it, but it is a consequence.

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (My review here.)

Another of my favorite books. Oddly enough, it’s YA. But, I read it in high school. The main focus is depression. Which is another part of my life, although it’s technically seasonal affective disorder. Meaning that I get clinically depressed, but only in the winter. Sounds fun, right? (It’s not.)

I’ve never seen the movie for this and I don’t personally plan to. I really enjoyed the book. In my review, I said it was YA but not really. It’s still something that a lot of people can relate to living with. The story is told in an amusing way. It was serious, but not too serious. Funny, but not too funny.

Impulse (Impulse, #1)Perfect (Impulse, #2)

Impulse and Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (My review for Impulse here. I did not review Perfect.)

Ellen Hopkins was* one of my favorite YA authors. Impulse and Perfect are a series. The same characters aren’t in both books, but there are common characters and threads that work their way into it. Suicide, depression, cutting, and eating disorders are featured in these books. Yes, all of that.** While these books may not be my cup of tea now, they were when I was in high school. They were topics I could relate to and feel with. They also were well-written and were good examples of common disorders teenagers and adults experience.

I performed a piece out of Impulse for a class. It was the point where someone was going to commit suicide, and I still absolutely love that part when I think about it. As for Perfect? I actually had the privilege to meet Ellen Hopkins. She read out of the book and talked about it.

If you want books that are very sad but deal with common problems that teens face, give her a try. She’s an excellent author when writing about something she’s passionate about. Her Crank trilogy was a fantastic look into addiction. Her Tricks series was amazing and a great glimpse into the good and bad of sex work, although I’ve only read the first book. Identical was amazing, although the disorder is a spoiler for the plot so I can’t say any specifics.

*I’m not a fan of her new stuff. The past three books that I’ve tried from her have been complete duds. So, I’m taking a long break since I’m not much into torture porn these days. Because these books are torture porn.

**See why I call it torture porn?

So, there are my recommendations for Mental Health Awareness month. What are your favorite books about mental health?

The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

The Delight of Being Ordinary

(Caidyn)

DNF at 25%

1/5

I had such high hopes for this book. Some sort of dialogue between Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. Sure, it’s fiction, but if someone does their research right about the religions and what each man actually has said to show their theology, then you’ve got a good book. Point out the similarities between the two religions while showing the differences. You have to have a happy medium between those two.

Not this book.

Basically, it has potential, but it was carried out in a way I wasn’t impressed with. There are four characters in this book. Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and two fictional ones. Paolo and Rosa. Estranged husband and wife. Paolo is also cousin to Pope Francis and works with him as well. The way the description for this book phrases it, it puts Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama as the main characters, tagging on Rosa and Paolo to this. Aka, religion is first.

Not the case.

Paolo is the one telling the story of how he broke the two men out of Vatican City because the Pope asked him to as a favor. So, instead of getting hard hitting religious dialogue, you get Paolo worrying and then fighting with Rosa, his very sexual and estranged wife. (I say sexual because she talks about sex a lot. And it felt out of place most of the time.)

I get the point of this book. Paolo is the typical everyday person with their own problems and not open to hearing wisdom. Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama teach him the religions. He learns and changes his ways. Not worried, get him and Rosa back together, etc. It was just so bad how it was done. I don’t want to hear all about Paolo and his issues.

I’d suggest to skip this book and just go for books actually about the two religions and the two men. You’ll get more out of it.

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future by Joselin Linder

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future

(Caidyn)

4/5

This book took me a long time to listen to because it was interrupted by my finals. No work means no listening to books. Even though it was good, I couldn’t listen to it on my free time thanks to being a responsible college student and doing this dreadful thing called “studying”. Warn your kids about it. It can get pretty terrifying.

As I said, this was a good book. It was fun and I really enjoyed how it was read. Just very upbeat and light most of the time. When this book focuses on a family illness that is currently untreatable and has killed everyone who has it — the author’s father, uncle, and other people — that’s really impressive. It’s a very light book. It’s fun to read or listen to because it simply flows so well.

Starting in the 90s, this book chronicles a family illness. It begins with Joselin’s father, a doctor who gets ill. Very ill. I think ill is an understatement to it. Then, as he gets worse, then it comes out that other people in his family had the same symptoms that he does. They also died of this mystery disease. They don’t know what it is, but know that everyone who has had it has a heart murmur, testing people in the family for it.

At times, it was heavy with technical terms, but Joselin explained them perfectly. (I’ve taken enough classes and read enough books to know most of the terms.) She just told it what it is in non-doctor speak. It’s accessible to anyone, really. All you have to know is the basics and anything beyond it, she explains. Hell, even the basics get explained.

It largely focuses on Joselin’s experiences. She’s not a doctor, after all. She’s a woman who watched various members of her family get sick and die. It’s focused on her experience of this and the stages of grief that she went through. While I’m not sure I would have liked Joselin as a person for a good part of the story, I could appreciate it. She reacted in a way people only can. Still, hearing about her healing process didn’t quite interest me as much as hearing the journey of discovery about their disorder.

All in all, a good book that had very minor flaws for me.

 

Penance by Kanae Minato

Penance

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

This book was (sort of) recommended to me by Edward Lorn. He wrote a fantastic review for it and I really do go by his recommendations. If he says a horror book is good, then I know it is.

While this book was an utterly fantastic read for him, it was just good for me. Certainly not bad, just not as good as I wanted it to be. I love Asian horror and I think that they do it right compared to the rest of the world’s bloody and gory mess, so I had high hopes going into it. As I said, this is a good book. I would recommend it to people if they want something that’s creepy, not too violent, and is told in a unique way with great writing. The translation for this was fantastic. I didn’t feel as if I lost anything in it. The writing remained as beautiful as I’m sure it was in Japanese.

However. This book is a bit confusing to get through. I didn’t know the phrase until I read Ed’s review, but this is a mosaic novel. There are five main stories in this book and they all intersect. Every single story tells the general information of the catalyst for this story: Five girls went out to play, one went away with a man and was murdered. I’m not giving anything away by saying that. Each story/chapter is a different person telling that day to you, along with what has happened to them over the fifteen years since the crime occurred. In each story/chapter, you learn a little bit more about that day, a little closer to finding out what really happened. For me, it was hard to figure out who was talking. The voices, for me, were indistinct and blended together in my mind, so I had to really think about who could be telling their story.

The horror also didn’t catch me much. I found it creepy and I wanted to know what happened, but it didn’t hold me on the edge of my chair. I could read it, then set it down. Read some more, set it down. It never quite hooked me in, even though I was interested in finding out. The stories are creepy, but I never felt it became the tone of the book, even as I found out more about that day and the circumstances.

There were also some personal problems I had with it. Japanese culture is, I will say, sexist. That shines through in this book. It usually made my nose wrinkle, but the first story was rough for that exact reason. Which brings me to my second point. This isn’t a trigger warning or anything, just saying that there is stuff to do with menstruation. That’s a topic that gets to me, but not necessarily one everyone has a problem with. It really bothered me, especially the context it was in.

For me, this was a good book that had some flaws — mainly personal ones — that detracted from my reading experience. While I think that it’s a very interesting story and told in an interesting way, I think it still needs a bit of work to really hook me in. One day I know I’d like to reread this to see if I can pick up the nuances, but not right now.

The Mind of God: Neuroscience, Faith, and a Search for the Soul by Jay Lombard

The Mind of God: Neuroscience, Faith, and a Search for the Soul

(Caidyn)

3/5

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for an honest opinion.

I thought that I would like this book better. It basically combines my major and minor — psychology (with a bit of a focus on biological) and religious studies — in a way to try and talk about how science and religion work together. That’s something I do believe. I’ve had my moments of odd experiences, ones that I can’t explain. I do think that there’s a higher power and some sort of afterlife. Whatever those are, I have my opinions and you have yours. We’ll all find out one day, after all.

But, this book focused more on philosophy than science at times. I know and like science more than philosophy. I’ve taken my mandatory philosophy classes and that’s all I want in my life. It’s not my area. Too dense. So, that, for me, was rough. For such a short book that was written in a very accessible way, if it got past the anecdotes Dr. Lombard had, my eyes would glaze over. I really had to concentrate to understand. Some chapters were easier than others, but it was a bit too dense for my liking. I know, it’s a topic that’s supposed to be dense

But when I have a basic understanding of religion, neuroscience, and a touch of philosophy, it’s not a good sign for people who don’t have that. A lot of what Dr. Lombard wrote as interesting, just that the way it was written didn’t work for me. He had a set of questions he wanted to answer in scientific ways, then would begin the chapters with anecdotes. Those anecdotes didn’t always lead back to the topic as a whole. The connections he made didn’t meld with my brain.

This book is a case of: “It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s a topic that I personally enjoy reading about. And it’s full of interesting topics that I’m actually familiar with, at least on a passing level. It’s just the way it was presented didn’t work for me.

A Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley

A Long Way Home: A Memoir

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

I read almost all of this in one sitting. Like, by the time I had to actually get up and do something, I had a few chapters left. For me, that’s revolutionary. I don’t have the time to just sit and read these days. But, it was the day after I had taken three finals. I had gotten up at 5AM and didn’t get home/done until after 5PM, so 12 full hours of studying and tests.

This book isn’t a difficult read. Saroo isn’t the best writer, but he’s good enough. After having a very long day, I just needed a book that I could read without thinking too hard about. This was perfect for it. I could read it and experience it, then go on with my day. I didn’t want a book that would make me piece life together and concentrate too much.

And, as I said, Saroo isn’t the best writer. There are times where he could have seriously taken advantage of emotions and hit things home more. Told us his emotions rather than just telling the story. Give us, the readers, a glimpse in. I wish that had been in there more because it just would have emotionally destroyed me rather than make my face pucker up a few times.

I loved him talking about his life in India. That was my favorite part of the book. After he was adopted and went to Australia, it wasn’t as emotionally impactful for me, so I just coasted. When he got to India again, that was another emotional part for me where I was so drawn into the story.

A good book, but it could have been written in a more emotional way to draw me in as a reader. Still good, but I have a feeling that the movie (when I watch it) will give a more emotional punch.