Moody Bitches

9781628996135_p0_v1_s192x300It’s not often that you can watch TV without seeing some advertisement for prescription drugs. These advertisements aren’t necessarily meant to be informational. I’m not quite sure what their purpose is, other than to get more people/patients to buy their drugs.  Or rather, to get people/patients to ask their doctors for these drugs. That’s exactly what Moody Bitches is about – the over-prescribed women in this country who are targeted by some of these ads, and by major drug companies who promise better living through medication.  Julie Holland is a psychiatrist practicing in New York City. She sees overwhelmingly more women than men, and talks at great length about their health, hormones, moods, and lifestyles.

After a few years of practicing psychiatry she describes knowing exactly what her patients need – whether it be medication or another form of treatment, and exactly what medication is right for them. The number one most prescribed medication in the country is Abilify. The commercials have been all over TV, seemingly offering help to those suffering from depression, even mild depression. Abilify is actually an anti-psychotic drug, much stronger (and possibly much more dangerous), than most patients need. This isn’t the only prescription drug she calls out, it just happens to be the one most frequently prescribed to patients nationwide.

She tackles not only the various prescription drugs that patients are prescribed, but also the effects of those drugs. What are the ongoing consequences of anxiety and depresstion scripts? This is an important question that she tries to tackle, but it’s something all patients who take those types of drugs should be asking their doctors – and themselves. It affects health, well-being, energy level, mood, and relationships.

This book is really about women, though in her practice she does see men, and there are plenty of men who take prescription drugs for similar conditions. She talks quite a bit about hormones – what they are, what they do, and how to manage them. Hormones change throughout women’s lives, and they’re contintually changing – depending on a woman’s age.  So many of her patients are middle-aged women, so she also addresses menopause. I’m years away (hopefully) from going through that, but when it happens for me, I may pick this book back up. She offers advice on avoiding weight gain, mood swings and improving overall health.  Most importantly, there is advice on aging well.

One important thing she covers is stress. She talks about stress at length, how it affects the body, mood, and families. I first heard about the book when she was interviewed on NPR, and it was during this interview that she talked about the amount of stress women experience.  I was fascinated by this book, and by her in-depth conversation about prescription drugs.  The material is well researched, and Dr Holland pulls from her own experience to deliver this message that all women should read.

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Dark Side of the Moon

9780393072648_p0_v1_s192x300Surprise another space book LOL, I really can’t help it not that I would if I could. I love space! Anyway as I was looking for books about NASA I decided it was past time for me to read a biography of Wernher von Braun, the man behind the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions into space and to the moon. There are as you can imagine many biographies of the man but one caught my attention Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race by Wayne Biddle. All of the other books had synopses that were very positive and praising of von Braun, understandable but this book was different. It promises not to whitewash the events of von Braun’s life and participation in the Third Reich, World War II, and a rocket factory in a concentration camp. This intrigued me, I knew that von Braun like many of the rocket scientists early on at NASA came from Germany, specifically from the Nazi war machine but I knew none of the details.

Pretty quickly the book bogs down as it starts before World War I with Werner’s father’s childhood and some of his mother’s. Stories of his grandparents as well fill the pages. It felt like it took half the book to actually get to Werner and his experiences.

The author makes Werner out to sound like a silly school boy who really wasn’t that smart, someone who simply played on family history and titles, while riding the coattails of other smarter men. The promise not to whitewash seems to fall short, not that there is much whitewashing but there seems to be lots of conjecture and circumstantial evidence. That might be due to the fact that it simply is hard to find hard evidence considering the time that has passed and the amount of documentation from the war that was destroyed. Still the author does his best to paint the portrait of von Braun as a man not totally innocent when it comes to what occurred during the war, a man who took advantage of the concentration camp prisoners to build his rocket factory.

Overall the book left me wanting more information about Werner himself, about what he did or didn’t do during the war, what happened after he came to the States. While it was an interesting book it fell short on the claim to reveal the dark side, and it just didn’t feel detailed enough, it felt like something was missing and I will certainly be looking for more books about von Braun.

The Monopolists

9781608199655_p0_v4_s192x300I love playing board games. My daughter and I love playing Feed the Kitty and Eye Found It! together, and my husband and I love Yahtzee.  My love for board games however, does not include Monopoly. Something about it brings out the worst in people. Maybe I have been playing with the wrong people, but I don’t think I’ve ever won playing against my husband. It’s very competitive, and I think it can bring out the worst in someone.  It’s one of the most successful and popular board games of all time though, so probably not many share my opinion. That’s okay. I want games to be fun, not cutthroat. I saw The Monopolists at the bookstore not too long ago, and was immediately interested. It examines the “obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world’s favorite board game”.

Mary Pilon turns the history of a board game into something very interesting, much more than properties, hotels, and get out of jail free cards.  I have always loved playing board games, and I think that love was passed down to me by my parents. They met while working at Parker Brothers, the company that actually made Monopoly, in Salem, Massachusetts. Or, after reading this, I whould say one of the companies that made Monopoly. It turns out that Parker Brothers turned the game Monopoly into an actual monopoly.

Before reading the book, I really didn’t know anything about the game’s history. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about, but I knew that the game had been played for years before the first time I’d ever played.  I knew the names of the properties, railroads, and utilities were named after places in Atlantic City, but I knew nothing beyond that.  Charles Darrow was given credit for creating the game, and was the one who actually sold the game to Parker Brothers. He claims to have invented the game during the 1930s, during the Great Depression. He was unemployed and was inspired by his family’s recent trip to Atlantic City.  The game he made for his family quickly grew in popularity in their circle of friends and family.

This popular story that the board game company had promoted (and seemed to have created) turns out not be true. Monopoly, in a similar form though with a different name, seems to have been played for years before Darrow claimed to have invented it. Therefore, the game was in the public domain, and a copyright was impossible.

Two versions of the game are the focus of the story. One woman seems to have been the original inventor of the game – Lizzie Magie, who introduced the game in 1904. That was the year she filed for a patent for what she called the Landlord’s Game. That was years before Darrow could have possibly “invented” the game. Another individual featured in this history is Ralph Anspach, who had been a college professor, and had developed a game he called Anti-Monopoly. He fought almost his entire adult life against Parker Brothers for the right to sell this game.

This was such an interesting story – and was kind of ironic considering the manufacturers of the game Monopoly were themselves created a monopoly themselves.  This was one of the most popular games that Parker Brothers made, but not the only instance in which the company put competitors out of business.  This is a great read for board game fans.  It’s a fascinating story, not only about Monopoly, but also about the evolution of board games.

 

Time Odyssey

9780345452474_p0_v1_s192x300After finishing the Space Odyssey books I moved on to the Time Odyssey books that Arthur C Clarke co-wrote with Stephen Baxter, another series hubby recommended to me. He has been telling me I should read the trilogy for years now. I’d tried the first book once before and for some reason just couldn’t get into it at the time, however on this second time I couldn’t put it down, couldn’t put down the whole series actually. This set has several parallels with the Space Odyssey series, instead of monoliths we have Eyes, we had HAL now we have Aristotle, Thales, and their AI siblings.

Time’s Eye is the first book. Be prepared to jump around quite a bit in this book, at first it is between three groups, then it 9780345452511_p0_v1_s192x300becomes two. Time has been broken and stitched back together. It is incredibly interesting to see how the people of differing eras interact, those from even our future 2037, those from the late 1800s, man-apes much like those in 2001 and all kinds of people in between including some rather well known warriors/conquerors. Things build to an expected near end but the actual end of the book had me in shock and led to my favorite book of the set.

Sunstorm is one big long fight with as you would guess the sun, trying to save Earth and all of its occupants. One of the things I love about these books and the Space Odyssey series is the prevalent use of science fact within their science fiction. As a 9780345491589_p0_v1_s192x300space buff I particularly enjoy the references to Skylab, Apollo, the Shuttles, but these authors don’t just stick to American space program history they talk about the Russian program as well as other countries/groups of countries. All of these details make the stories much easier to believe even when they seem so unbelievable.

The third book Firstborn takes us back to time jumping as our various characters once again try to save the Earth from certain destruction. This time however all are not bonding together to accomplish this goal rather they are split into factions. While I enjoyed this book I had some questions about the solution and how it worked. What really got me though was the fact that this seems set up for at least one sequel possibly another trilogy and yet there are no further books. Unfortunately shortly after this book was finished, possibly just after it was published Clarke passed away, at 90 he had lived a long and productive life, but oh how I wish Baxter would continue the story. Maybe someday, I can hope can’t I? No matter whether a sequel is ever written I highly recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys sci fi, historical fiction,or stories of humans triumphing over major conflicts.

Book of the Month

IMG_3447Just a couple of months ago, I heard about a reboot of the Book of the Month Club.  Originally started in 1926, it offers popular new releases and bestsellers delivered to your door.  It’s just one of the many home-delivery subscription services that are available.  Now, there are services catering to everyone, with a variety of interests.  I think I am signed up for 4 – I get pretty excited about packages on my doorstep!  This one I was particularly interested in, and I got my first box in June.  Just a few days before my birthday, I got a book that I had actually put on my b-day list.

Each month, I get an e-mail reminding me that a new box will be on its way soon.  I get to choose between four or five different books.  What’s fun is that there is a guest judge who gets to pick what books are, this month it’s Allison Williams.  That’s sometimes just as much fun as reading the books!  So far, I’ve read EligibleRich & Pretty, and Modern Lovers, all of which I had planned on reading, but really loved having them delivered to my door!  I am loving this service so far, and can’t wait to see what book I get this month!!

New Fiction Friday: Rich and Pretty

41YQ0Poph7L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_I have been friends with a group of girls since high school, and though our lives have taken off in different directions, we’re still friends.  We’ve done different things, went to different colleges, married and had kids at different times, but are still able to connect.  That’s not the case for Sarah and Lauren, the main characters of Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty.  They’ve been friends for years, have been together through high school, through college.  When this story picks up they’re in their 30s.  One marries first, shifting the focus of their relationship.

Sarah and Lauren have been inseparable for years, but aren’t as close as they seem.  Despite the praise this book received, I don’t like either of these characters.  Not that its necessary to love the characters, they just seem to be the type of girls I would never want to be friends with.  The story itself seems somewhat interesting, but the most interesting thing to me is that the story was written by a man.  He is well tuned to the female psyche.

Of the two girls, was one meant to be the pretty one, and one the rich one?  They first meet when they are 11, both students of an exclusive private school in NYC.  Sarah’s parents are wealthy, and she meets Lauren, the recipient of a scholarship at Sarah’s school.  After college, living in the city, they seem to be equals, although Sarah’s background allows her some freedom that Lauren doesn’t have, a safety net.  Despite these ongoing differences, they remain friends.  It’s the differences in their personal lives that ultimately seem to drive them apart.

Their inability to relate, and Sarah’s marriage and quick entry into motherhood drives them apart.  If this is all it took for them to lose touch, maybe they weren’t that close after all.  Lauren has always been different from Sarah, from the beginning of their friendship.  After Sarah is married and has a child, Lauren remains an outsider.  They both evolve, and over the course of a 20-year friendship, of course they change.  There’s no climax in this story, and the story itself is mostly uneventful.  Like most of our lives, the events are marriages, births, career moves.  How do we connect with those in our lives throughout all these events and changes?  That’s the ultimate question this book poses.  Their lives are complex, our lives are complex, this story is not.

Space Odyssey

9780451457998_p0_v2_s192x300For Christmas this past year I bought my husband the Space Odyssey quartet by Sir Arthur C Clarke. I know there were two books: 2001 and 2010 as there are movies of each but I had no idea that there were two more: 2061 and 3001. Hubby read them all and enjoyed them overall.  He did have a few complaints and gave me a warning in case I chose to read the books.  So I was forewarned when I picked them up this summer which was probably a good thing or I might just have quit as I started the second book. With that said let me tell you a bit about each book.

2001: A Space Odyssey is not as I thought the basis of the movie 9780345303066_p0_v2_s192x300by the same name, rather they were written concurrently. Clarke includes a great introduction to the book that explains the process he and Stanley Kubrick went through to write both the book and the movie. There are some differences between the two though as they are mainly in location it didn’t bother me. The story centers on the monoliths that appear throughout the solar system throughout history. I enjoyed the book more than the movie, I think because at the beginning when the monolith appears in Africa and you’re reading about the man-apes you get their thoughts. It feels much more complete as a story than the movie did. The next part is nearly identical. The section about Dave Bowman, Frank Poole, and the infamous HAL has some big changes from the movie but again they don’t feel odd even 9780345358790_p0_v1_s192x300having seen the movie first.

2010: Odyssey Two begins thank goodness with a big intro by Clarke who explains that where the 2001 book and movie differed he wrote this book to follow the movie instead so there are some big differences. These were the ones that bothered hubby so much and to be honest even with the explanation it did bother me at first but as the story progressed I was able to move past it and simply enjoy. This story takes us back to space to the ship left behind from 2001 and to HAL.

2061: Odyssey Three a big jump in time for this story and yet some of the characters are the same amazingly though with the explanation given I was able to accept it and keep reading. I think this book and 2010 were actually my favorites of the set as they each have one major 9780345423498_p0_v2_s192x300conflict thread that trails through the whole book. The original book was good and it does all tie together but it feels a bit disjointed. Again in 2061 people go back to space to save someone, it really was a good story.

3001: The Final Odyssey makes obviously a huge jump in time and I was amazed at the direction it took. Unlike the previous two book this one had several small conflicts and the big one didn’t come around until about halfway through the book. Still it is an interesting and engaging story.

If you like science fiction, if you like stories about space this is a set you should definitely read. I know I’ll be rereading it at some point in the future.