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Can I Tell You About Anxiety?

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by Lucy Willetts and Polly Waite

Overall: Whether or not you have kids, plan to have kids, or even just plan to be around kids this is a book you definitely need to read. 


I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. 

No matter what background you come from, we have all experienced anxiety in one point in our lives. Whether it comes from school, stressers at home, or maybe even just a subtle nagging in the back of our heads that keep us up at night, we are constantly experiencing anxiety. Some anxiety is good, it keeps us motivated and helps us in terrible situations, however, there are some individuals in the world who experience anxiety on a very serious level.

I have had my own anxieties, with panic attacks a couple times a week, or even just avoiding situations because I couldn’t stand things like crowds or strangers. And when I was diagnosed with PTSD, I became very serious on learning and understanding anxiety. Anxiety disorders, unfortunately, have also been given the same treatment as any other mental disorder: it is considered to be controlled, and could be turned on and off with a moment’s notice or a happy little thought. My opinion on mental illness is the same as probably any reasonable psychologist or student of psychology–it is the same monster as an individual with diabetes or pneumonia. It should be treated, maybe not necessarily with medicine, but it should be treated to improve the quality of life of the individual.

This book is probably the best book that I have read this year about the treatment of anxiety. Unlike the adult help books I’ve read, this treats anxiety with the compassion and recognition it needs. In this book, you meet a young girl named Megan who has anxiety. She describes in great detail how her anxiety has affected her (her separation anxiety, her General Anxiety Disorder, and other things like social anxiety and Agoraphobia), we read about relate-able experiences that can be understood by the youngest of audiences.

What is excellent about this book is the thorough yet easily understandable explanation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This has been proven a very successful treatment plan for anxiety, and the authors were kind enough to provide descriptions and examples of action plans and strategies to reduce you or your child’s anxiety. You are also given a very detailed guide on how a parent should approach the topic of a child’s anxiety, and how a teacher should assist a student of theirs who has anxiety.

The authors do not use CBT as the know-all-end-all for treating anxiety, they also encourage constant monitoring of the child’s behavior by a licensed psychologist and they do bring up the idea of medication, although it is encouraged not to use medication unless the CBT does not work.

I think this book was written in the UK, as it has a lot of different terms than if it was written in the US (lift instead of elevator, cross instead of angry), but the idea is universal. There are a list of resources and references to medical facilities and Psychiatric Offices for future reference, but if you are a non-UK reader, they will not be of use to you.

Can I Tell You About Anxiety? is by far one of the best books I have read that cover anxiety at a level that anyone can understand while not undermining or patronizing individuals who suffer from it. It provides a lot of excellent tips that someone of any age can implement. I would find this book especially important for teachers, and some nice reading material to give to the parents who have children who experience too much anxiety. This is a great, great book. I did some research that the authors have other books that cover other topics such as eating disorders OCD, autism, et cetera. If you’re looking for a good understanding of mental illness, I would see what these authors have to say!

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Reading Style: A Life In Sentences

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by Jenny Davidson

Overall: An interesting look on classic books. Should probably be called ‘Writing Style’ instead. 


Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. I was also instructed by the publisher not to use quotes from the book as I did not receive a finalized copy.

Jenny Davidson is an excellent writer, the author of a few young adult books as well as some academic books and articles, I can’t help but be amazed by how beautiful her writing style is. Reading Style: A Life in Sentences is what I could possibly expect. The book is an analysis of the structure of sentences and the writing styles of famous authors from Austen to King. The author takes quotes from famous pieces of literature and deeply analyzes what we might love (or hate) about the book.

Davidson begins with her long history about the love of her books. She recalls in detail getting lost in all of the classics, and throughout the narrative she sprinkles her undergraduate and graduate studies as well as her older interpretations of the books she read. She even offers suggestions on when to read books, her understanding of classics such as Sense and SensibilityMoby DickLolita, and so many more.

I can happily say that I really agree with how Davidson approaches the subject. She talks about the use of unnecessary pretentiousness in writing and how it affects the audience. She discusses the pointlessness of unnecessary details and overly superfluous sentences. However, this book’s title does not reflect the context of the book. I expected this book would compare to Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book but instead it’s more of a book describing the writing styles of famous authors and explaining why people could love to hate them or hate to love them. In Davidson’s defense, she does cover with the excerpts from the stories on how they read to audiences, but she focuses more on the literary techniques and poetic story-telling and not how to dissect and understand a book maybe as complicated as Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake or something else extremely difficult.

However, I cannot say this book was perfect. I can say that this book isn’t really intended for the average reader, or someone who really enjoyed Catcher in the Rye or Crime and Punishment. This book is dense, filled with a lot of knowledge and obscure references to books that probably only an English or literature major would understand. A lot of her wording was very ornamental, almost contradictory to the times she mentioned that the overuse of details wouldn’t interest the audience. I found myself intrigued but towards the sixty percent mark I was getting bored and zoning off in her narrative. But then again I read this book in an evening, if this was spread over something like a curriculum or a couple of days, you would really enjoy this book.

The book is more of an academic essay than a fun little memoir of the writer’s love for books. With that being said, the essay portion was far too inconsistent. The citations are sparse, switching from in-text page citations, to footnotes, and sometimes no citations at all. The citations did not kick in until at least forty percent into the book, and I believe this is because I did not receive a finalized copy. I hope this was edited, including the many typos that I found. I do hope the publishers also formatted the book to clearly designate when the author was quoting a piece of literature and when she was talking herself. I have not read a lot of the books or stories she mentioned, and her style of writing is so similar to some I ended up getting lost.

In the end, I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the literature classics, some sort of literary major in school, or even just a budding writer learning about all the styles of writing. This is definitely a very in-depth and eye opening look on why some books are considered classics, or why some authors are terrible authors! This isn’t a beach read, it’s very detailed and extensive. And at the end of the book the author was so kind enough to offer a very nice book list! I will definitely be reading these books in the future!

You can buy this book in physical form or on Kindle from Amazon.


Sorry about not being around! School is hectic! But summer’s here and there are so many books ahead of me!

The Pluto Files

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by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Overall: A funny and very intelligent resource for your Plutonian needs!


Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Famous astronomer, now with his own show Cosmos on Discovery and slowly taking over NOVA for the good of the public. Voted sexiest man in science, this brilliant man who was inspired by Carl Sagan strives to educate the world on all things science. But he’s not just all of that, he was the man that brought down Pluto as its planet status (well, inspired it, we have to thank all the amazing people over at the International Astronomical Union for its crash).

Pluto, this mysterious dwarf planet, captured all of America’s hearts and charmed its ways into the lives of elementary school children everywhere. Discovered in 1930 by American Clyde Tombaugh, it’s no wonder why Americans were dedicated to trying to keep Pluto as a planet. But its peculiar pattern made it the most abnormal of planets.

This book is an excellent informal essay with tons of media and graphics that describe Pluto’s history and the hype that surrounded America. With a bit of snark and wit, Tyson shows both his own account over the long debate that puzzled astronomers, cosmologists, and physicists alike. Not only that, but the pages are filled with interesting song lyrics, comics, and even the letters that Tyson himself received from angry elementary school children who were wondering why he would ruin Pluto’s planethood.

Not only does this book give you a nice resource if you are just casually interested in learning about Pluto, Tyson also offers the alternative for learning if a teacher asks “Well, how am I supposed to talk about the planets if Pluto isn’t a planet but a dwarf planet?” Everything in this book is taken with stride and very easy to understand. Without the large Appendix and the graphics this book could’ve easily been 50% shorter, so this shows you how quick this book is easy to read (also considering it is in very large font).

Enjoy this book, and enjoy Pluto!

If you’re interested, watch this NOVA special of the exact name!

Jacob Smith is Incredibly Average

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by Erin Hayes

Overall: A great book for kids and definitely one to pick up!


Jacob Smith is incredibly average. Not kidding, he is the most average boy that you could ever come across. He’s bad at math, his favorite color is blue, and he has the most common name in the world. He’s even the most average child for a statistically correct family, he is the son in a perfect 2.4 children per household family.

If he’s so average, why is he being hunted by aliens?!

Jake wasn’t really good enough at anything and had no interest in anything.

Jacob lives in Pflugerville, Texas with his parents and his siblings Theo and Thea. Theo is the perfect jock, incredibly talented in everything he accomplishes. Thea is the rebel, with her tattoos and her heavy metal music. But lately, Jacob Smith has been having some upsetting dreams, of a snowy owl. Little does he know, he’s being watched.

But then again, that was why he was constantly in front of 592 Norwalk Street, watching him. Watching him day in and day out. For all thirteen years of his boring little life.

 Aliens are watching Jacob, special aliens who are perfection, covered in mathematical tattoos all over their perfectly symmetrical bodies. But if they are so perfect at absolutely everything, what do they want with Jacob Smith, who is absolutely incredibly average?!

Together, with Theo and Thea, a mysterious black labrador, and his alien-obsessed grandfather, Jacob has to run from these mysterious evil aliens whose colonization of planets depend on destroying the Earth with Jacob being their Key. With help from androids, aliens, and alien-fanatics they need to stop this alien race from destroying the Earth!

Jacob Smith is Incredibly Average is the perfect book for a children who are transitioning into chapter books (late elementary school) but the content within the book is enough that anyone looking for an entertaining read can enjoy. I found myself laughing, becoming emotionally invested, and getting surprised in the twists and turns that this book set up and delivered! It was an excellent read and it was hard to put down!

This book is perfect for classroom reading on an introductory lesson on interesting math topics: mean, median, mode, Fibonacci sequence, symmetry, and everything in between. It brings up some interesting concepts but in a vague way. Nothing is difficult to understand and chapters are nice and short.

The mother was safely tucked away in cryogenesis as the preservation of her condition was vital to everything at hand. The average number of children in a household in the United States was 2.4 and at sixteen weeks along, the mother had added 0.4 children to the number of her household.

There is also a deep political and anti-colonization message within this book. The colonization of planets depend on an equal vote and the planet’s representative stating their case as to why their planet should not be taken over.

But most importantly, this book has the message that no matter who you are, you have a voice and while you may be “average” you have your own opinion and not to be scared to speak up. If you believe strongly in something then you should fight for what you believe in.

“You’ve never…dealt…with the human spirit before…”

An Adult Overanalyzing a Children’s Book: The only issues that I had with this book was only because I am reading this book as an adult. With this being an easy read I couldn’t help but have my mind wander over the many questions that this book rose for me.

Jacob Smith is average. He’s so average that the evil alien race wants to use him to find the weakness of the entire human race? Last time I checked, the United States is the third largest population in the world. Why wouldn’t the aliens have tried to take someone from China or India (considering they each have well over a billion in their population). Recognizing this little fact could’ve finally added some diversity to main characters within books. Having a child from China or India would’ve been a refreshing feel and I would’ve loved this book even more.

My other issue was the ending deus ex machina. It was so blunt and made me just facepalm. But not complaining too much, it’s a children’s book. They wouldn’t care.

Lastly, what is up with these books that like to promote animals in hospitals? Every book I’ve been reading lately has a dog that is somehow always allowed in a hospital completely ignoring all protocol. Promoting the idea of lying about service animals never sits right with me and really irritated me.

In the end, this is a great book and I laughed and got angry and the ending nearly brought me to tears. This is an excellent book for a child and I highly recommend getting this book if you see it in the bookstore. I’m expecting a film adaptation.

He was no longer the most extraordinarily normal, average boy.
He was just plain old normal now. And that was just what he wanted.

Sculpting In Time

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by Andrei Tarkovsky

Overall: Definitely a book to put on your shelves!


Cinema should be a means of exploring the most complex problems of our time, as vital as those which for centuries have been the subject of literature, music, and painting.

History

Sculpting in Time by Andrei Tarkovsky is one of the most brilliant essays that I have ever read. Not only is it an excellent, straight-from-the mouth understanding of the films from Tarkovsky himself, this book opens your eyes to philosophy, religion, and art which is understood by the brilliant director.

Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was born in 1932 to Maria Vishnyakova and the famous Russian poet Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovksy. Andrei was educated in cinema and film studies.

Andrei’s first film was Ivan’s Childhood (1962) which came from a story written by Bogomolov. In Andrei’s interpretation, Ivan’s Childhood is a war film that shows the character’s forced life within war-filled Russia. The dark and gritty nature that mixes with the purity and optimistic dream sequences from Ivan make up this baneful film.

Andrei’s second film, Andrei Rublev (1966) is a biopic of the famous titular iconographer. Andrei covers the duality and psychological effects of Andrei’s burden in his understanding of his relationship with God in medieval Russia during the Tartar invasions and Russia’s transition from a pagan society to Orthodoxy. The film is one of Andrei’s more graphic, gritty, but also the beginning of Andrei’s filmography career that focuses on religion and spirituality.

The fourth film, Solaris (1972), is a loose narrative from the Stanislaw Lem novel of the same name. This is Andrei’s first film that is in the science-fiction and horror genre. More psychological in nature, the main character–a psychologist named Kris–tries to understand the reality created by mysterious planet Solaris and struggles with the power that the human mind can do. 
Mirror (1975) is Andrei’s more personal film. It incorporates poetry written by Andrei’s father and even his own mother makes a cameo. The film revolves around the rhythm and timing of childhood memories, relationships, dreams, and the new (at the time) television program style of interview and newsreel footage. 

Andrei’s fifth film, and my personal favorite, Stalker (1979) is one of Tarkovsky’s well-known films. This science fiction, based on the novel Roadside Picnic (it is a loose narration), is an allegorical film making criticism on the modern world and the modern desires in which the Stalker suffers as he bears the burden of guiding visitors into the dangerous Zone. During filming of this film, it is alleged that Tarkovsky as well as many of the principal actors were exposed to radiation which inevitably led to Tarkovsky’s development of cancer.

Andrei emigrated to Paris due to the strict censorship restrictions on his films in the Soviet Union and out of Russia is where he filmed his final two films: Nostalgia (1983) in Italy and The Sacrifice (1986) in Sweden. Nostalgia relates to Tarkovksy’s emigration in the main character feels homesickness and the longing for his country and the things that made him human (” Я снимал фильм глубоко русский во всех его аспектах: моральных, нравственных, политических и эмоциональных…”)In The Sacrifice, the film coincides with the events of Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the main character must try to save the destroying world by giving up the things that he loves. 
Andrei Tarkovsky died in December of 1986 shortly after filming in Paris. His diaries were published posthumously. 

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Sculpting in Time is an excellent collection of Andrei’s thoughts and opinions of his films and the meaning and history behind the films. Despite some of the dark themes that Tarkovsky covers in his films, the book is uplifting, inspirational, and praises human life and spirituality. While Tarkovsky is highly religious, he covers spirituality on a poetic and universal level, relating to people in a style that is known by everyone: art.

Люблю глаза твои, мой друг,
С игрой их пламенно-чудесной,
Когра из приподыменшь вдруг
И словно молнией небесной
Окинешь бегло целый круг…

Tarkovsky also describes the nuances of filmmaking which includes mise en scene and the director’s relationship with time, rhythm, and editing to create a world that the audience can both immerse themselves in and become emotionally involved. The opinion of the author is similar to Dostoevsky, the commitment to passion in both the actors and the director himself.

And the moment of death is also the death of individual time: the life of a human being becomes inaccessible to the feelings of those remaining alive, dead for those around him.

If you are an artist of any type, you would benefit greatly to reading this book to inspire you and any medium that you choose to excel in.

One thing is certain: a masterpiece only comes into being when the artist is totally sincere in his treatment of his material.

Whether or not you have seen the films, the beautiful pictures of Tarkovksy behind the scenes, and many still shots of all of his films are a superb resource. I believe that all film lovers and anyone who loves/writes poetry should have this book on their shelf.

Mother came and beckoned me, and flew away…

 


 

Watch some of Tarkovsky’s films (use CC for subtitles)
Stalker Pt 1
Stalker Pt 2

Andrei Rublev Pt 1 (extremely graphic)
Andrei Rublev Pt 2 (extremely graphic)

Solaris Pt 1
Solaris Pt 2

 

Не сни, не спи, художник
не предавайся сну…
ты вечности заложник,
у временив плену

For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home

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For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home, edited by Keith Boykin

 

There is someone out there who thinks you’re ugly. You’re not tall enough for them or rich enough or you’re too fat or your nose is too big for your face. But you have to believe. Against all reason. You are good enough. You are capable and amazing and beautiful and lovely and you are here, right now, breathing, full of opportunities to change worlds and forge new definitions in your wake. If you can believe that, nobody can touch it, not some headless stranger on the Internet, not some twink in a white braided belt, not blond-haired, blue-eyed lovers desperate to be worshipped. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll wake up one day, rub sleep from your eyes, yawn heavily into a foreign air. You’ll climb out from the heat of night and find the world immersed in a brave new light. You may find to your surprise, a small sort of knowing on your cheeks, a quiet smile on your lips, that maybe, just maybe, you’ve learned to love the one thing you didn’t know how.

If that wasn’t an excellent summary of the entire message of this book then I don’t know what I could possibly tell you.

For Colored Boys is a collected anthology of stories, essays, and a couple of poems written about the many issues that affects both the gay male youth as well as the of-color gay male youth. This is not restricted to black men as there are collections from both hispanic men and a couple of asian men. The stories are true accounts from the men who come from diverse backgrounds. A lot of the authors are very well known, from RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Jessica Wild (José David Sierra) to professional American football player Wade Davis. At the end of the book there is an excellent resource describing the authors as well as providing titles to the authors’ other works.

The books title is an obvious homage to Ntozake Shange’s famous For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf but is not organized stylistically. Instead of the choreopoem you are reading stories, interviews, and even a couple of poems that are organized into ten sections.

Each section carries a theme that each author tells of in their own style: from coming out, to molestation and rape, and even to HIV/AIDS. Several of the stories are highly graphic but as they are non-fiction they shouldn’t be skipped over and should definitely be read to understand the entire depth of these individuals.

To colored boys who have considered suicide
on dark and cold winter days
in closets and rooms confined and strangled by their own
insecurity…

I really enjoyed this book as a straight ally. While I support all things gay-rights, I cannot say that I know entirely of the depth that it must be to live in this world when society doesn’t accept you. I was also equally drawn by this book as it dealt with issues of people of color. Despite gay individuals being already ostracized, there is still a divide between white gay individuals and ones of color.

…For instance, white gay sex-columnist Dan Savage was celebrated for launching the “It Gets Better” campaign… That makes people feel good, but the campaign makes a range of assumptions about the audience. For young people who are experiencing poverty, racism, HIV, bad public schools, or violence within their homes, it may not “just get better” by virtue of getting older.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who really wants to understand exactly the struggles of being gay in his world, and especially a black gay male when the black culture focuses on hypermasculinity, homophobia, and an entire culture that revolves around the church. Simply saying that you support gay rights isn’t enough when you have not developed the empathy needed. At times I was a little confused and I even scoffed when I read one of the stories where the author described his ordeal as “terrorism”. But upon reading everything I came to understand the psychological trauma associated with living in a world where you are not accepted. For someone as socially liberal as myself, seeing that deep down I still had my own slight prejudices and this book really opened my eyes.

How do you start a revolution?
Does it begin in the dark,
furtive glances
in a dusky city park?

…Will we love the men
who were raped on a date
led to believe
it was just their fate?

Yes, how do you start a revolution?

With a civil war between the states

…Or with a kiss?