Beyond the Gates of Gomorrah

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Beyond the Gates of Gomorrah is the true story of a psychiatrist who is beginning a new job in the forensic unit of a mental health hospital in California (which he refers to as Gomorrah).  Every day he walks among rapists and murderers, all there because the justice system deemed them not responsible for their actions due to mental illness.  Despite being terrified to go to work, being the target of threats of and witnessing violent attacks he is able to see the humanity in his patients and even misses one of them when gone.

Dr. Seager also deals with several current issues, most notably proposed gun law changes after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. To target those who have been treated for some kind of mental illness would do nothing to reduce mass shootings, he says.  Those who commit this type of crime are a specific, small subset of those afflicted with a mental illness: paranoid, but organized (are able to hold down a job, handle money, etc.).This type of person will refuse treatment and would be less likely to be picked up by a background check.  The assumption that the mentally ill are, as a whole, dangerous is false; they are more likely to be victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators.
I was drawn to this book because I did a co-op at a similar facility in Toronto when I was in school.  I could  relate to the duality of feeling that even knowing you are speaking with someone who has committed a terrible crime, in that moment you can still get past what they have done and relate to him.  Although some of the things he describes can come off as surreal (for example the staff vs. patients baseball game), it made me remember things like pick up soccer games in the courtyard during recreation periods.
In the book, Dr. Seager continually tries to figure out why he stays despite his fear. I remember the feeling of helping to care for people in the margins of society, of giving compassion to people who probably haven’t seen much compassion in their lives and I think I know why he stayed. The time I spent at my “Gomorrah” was an experience that really changed my mind about mental illness, crime and the law – and if this book is read with an open mind I think it too can make a difference.
Melissa

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Children’s Books Adults Won’t Mind Reading 900 Times

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Bedtime stories can be the bane of a parent’s existence.  Reading to your child is a wonderful thing for many reasons, but many books aimed at kids are likely to put mom or dad to sleep long before the little one.

There are some fantastic books that are wonderful at any age, and will hopefully help mitigate the sting of having your child pick one of them that needs to be read at least once a night – FOREVER.

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Is Your Mama a Llama is my husband’s favorite read aloud book for little ones.  He reads the whole thing in a ridiculous accent, and has as much fun as the kids (maybe more).  A silly little rhyming book, and very sweet.  You can also go for the Llama LLama series, by Anna Dewdney if you’re a llama fan – and who isn’t?

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I love Chester.  I would buy these books with or without children.  Mélanie Watt set out to write a book about a mouse… until Chester the cat got his paws on the manuscript.  Chester is the spiritual twin of my orange tabby Beaker.

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Click Clack Moo is the story of cows who are unhappy with their working conditions – and they’re not going to take it any more. One of my regular customers works for a union, and this is her standard baby gift for all her coworkers’ baby showers.

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The bus driver is leaving the bus for his break – and his parting works are… Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  Now, it’s on you to avert disaster. I love Mo Willems illustrations, and his pigeon with the anger management issues.

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The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales is still a book I love reading.  With heroines who solve problems with their smarts, and don’t just fall for the prince automatically, these are well told and just great.  I had a hard time finding this, and had to get a used copy.

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A Better Love Story Than Twilight – Twilight, the Sesame Street Version

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Sesame Street has a self-control themed Twilight parody.  Sesame Street is the best thing ever.

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Comfort Food for the Mind

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The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, has caught my eye more than once – I have picked it up and set it down.  One of the travails of working in a book store is settling on which of the multitudes is coming home with you this time.  Finally, it was The Firebird‘s turn.

What a lovely, lovely book.  This was such a nice read, such a perfect blend of mystery and romance.  Kearsley is a whiz at setting up landscapes and characters.

The heroine is supposed to have the gift of psychometry, the ability to learn about an object through touch – it is a gift she uses with reluctance.  She is working as a specialist in Russian art, and a client in desperate need of money brings in a family heirloom she is hoping to sell, but with no proof of its authenticity.  When Nicola touches it, she realizes it is indeed authentic, but has no way of proving it.  Touched by the client’s desperate situation, Nicola reaches out to a man whose gifts are stronger than her own, hoping to find a way to prove the heirloom’s provenance.

A fairly fast read, perfect glass of wine and your feet up at the end of the day book, or on the patio with a coffee and a decadent pastry.

I would recommend this to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, or The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen.

Christie

PS If any of you are watching Castle, that was a hell of a season premiere, eh?

 

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I Wish This Was Happening

Yeah, you know we’re all having a moment here where we imagine a universe with an animated Buffy series.  And Firefly.

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Adopt-a-School

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I am a big fan of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation - a non-profit charity whose goal is to not be needed any more.  Not only does the foundation raise funds to put books in school libraries, but it also advocates for those schools with government, trying to get library funding to an acceptable level.

Every year for three weeks, there is direct fundraising for local high needs schools by their communities.  The school I have adopted for this year, Brookmill Blvd. JPS, is struggling with its library.  The library budget has been merged with the technology budget, which means having to make choices between books and computers, which shouldn’t be an either/or.  The school’s population has shrunk recently, which means the budget has also shrunk – making it difficult to upgrade and renew the library, the books in which average ten to twenty years of age.

You can help out by adopting the school, which costs nothing.  You can adopt the school every day.  Because this year is the 10th anniversary of the Love of Reading Foundation, there is a bonus grant of $10,000 in books to the school from each province with the highest number of adoptions.  You can also donate – every $12 donated = 1 book given.

I hope some of you are able to help out, one way or the other, and I appreciate you taking the time to check this out!

Cheers,

Christie

 

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Star Wars + Sesame Street = Awesome

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Fall Reading!!

I love this time of year.  I love the changing leaves, the pumpkin-flavored everything, and I have kind of a sweater and boots fetish.  But that is all secondary to… FALL BOOK RELEASES!  Sorry, sorry, got a little excited.

Some of what’s coming looks great – and some of it not so great.  Without further ado…

Visions by Kelley Armstrong

This is the book I’m currently reading.  I love Kelley Armstrong, and the second book of her latest adult fiction series is fantastic (no pun intended).  I do wish that the main character was a little less wishy-washy in this one, but I have high hopes – Kelley Armstrong has a strong history of kick-ass female characters who don’t wait around to be rescued.

 

THE QUEEN OF TEARLING

 

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Soooooooo good.  I really can’t do a good enough job of describing how good.  There’s been a lot of buzz around this book because it features a tough woman with drive and compassion, is royalty, and ISN’T BEAUTIFUL.  Or even merely pretty.  That fact doesn’t make you lose the story, though… and the story is wonderful.  Really, the main problem with this book is that it is the first of a series, and I read it really quickly, and now I have to wait way too long for the next one.  Also that one of my kids spilled coffee all over my copy.  Sigh.  Waste of coffee and a great book.  I guess I’m off to get another copy.

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I love Neil Patrick Harris.  If you have never watched 1) Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog 2)Neil’s Puppet Dreams, go do it now.  Especially #1.  They are both free on You Tube, and not kid friendly.    Done?  Ok.  NPH’s Choose Your Own Autobiography drops October 14th here in Canada, and you bet I will be right there, getting my copy.  It’s pure NPH style, a little truth with a lot of poking fun at himself with a dash of the absurd thrown in.  Here’s the blurb from the book:

Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further thanNeil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

 

There will be more recommendations and reviews coming, not to fret.  I am partly limiting the length of this post because of the banner you may have noticed displaying before my post loaded.  I, along with Twitter, Etsy, Netflix, WordPress and others are participating in Internet Slowdown in support of net neutrality – slowing down our sites on purpose to give you an idea of what the internet could be like if some of the big telecom companies get their way.  If you want more information, check out https://openmedia.org/

Christie

 

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Delicious Indeed

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term “food porn.”  Mouthwatering photos of food, designed to get you craving the pictured delicacy immediately, no matter how unobtainable.   The part of Instagram that isn’t cats and selfies.

Delicious!, Ruth Reichl’s first fiction work, is food erotica.  Now, there is a great story here, a little mystery, a little romance, a little history.  The descriptions of food, however, are the real stars of this book.  When Reichl describes a chocolatier tempering chocolate, and the taste of it – like rain, or the desert – you find yourself fanning your face and reading passages aloud to friends.  When she describes a visit to a family owned deli, you can almost smell and taste everything along with the character.  Reichl is so good at immersing you in the sights, tastes, and smells that when you take a break from reading it takes a minute to remember that you are not, in fact, in a kitchen in New York.  She is a well-known food writer, and I have to say after reading this I’m tempted to pick up some of her non-fiction to see if it is equally marvelous. 

Reichl loves her subject matter – New York, cooking, food – and this is so evident, and so beautiful to read.  The writing is gorgeous.  Do yourself a favour, and pick this up – just make sure you’ve got a glass of wine and something delicious to eat while you’re reading.

Christie

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Thug Notes! Like SparkNotes, but way more hardcore.

You have no idea how much I wish this series existed when I was in high school.

Thug Notes is… actually, not that unlike one of my customers, who is a huge scary dude with dreadlocks and a secret love of Harlequin romance – a delicious juxtaposition that makes me really happy.   The SparkNotes that would have made overanalysis in English Lit bearable. I just about had an aneurysm I was laughing so hard – plus the analysis is spot on.  My mission in life is to try to get one of my children to present a book report like this.

 

Thanks to the guys over at Press Start (who are not only gaming nerds, but book nerds and dear friends) for putting me on to this.

I’m going to go binge watch the whole thing now.

Christie

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