Foundations of Clinical Psychiatry edited by Sidney Bloch et al.

preview_bloch-final-cover_fcFoundations of Clinical Psychiatry is the trusted introductory text for students of medicine and other health professions, including psychiatric nursing, psychology, social work and occupational therapy. It has also been the essential reference for family doctors for over quarter of a century.

The four-part structure—an introduction to clinical psychiatry; conditions encountered; specific patient groups and clinical settings; and principles and details of typical clinical services, and of biological and psychological treatments—provides a clear overview of clinical practice. It also explores the causes of mental illness and the ethical aspects of its treatment, and covers the full range of psychiatric disorders encountered by health practitioners.

Review:

Yes, this is a medical textbook.  But don’t run away just yet!  If you work in any kind of health profession or have contact with people with mental illness you will find it invaluable.

For background I’m a medical interpreter. If you speak English and walk into a Japanese hospital while I’m on shift I’ll help you communicate with doctors and staff across languages to make sure you receive the best care.  I love my job – I never know what kind of patients I’ll meet on a particular day.  I’ve seen everything from heart attacks to common colds but being called to psychiatry always gives me pause.  Does someone need their medication adjusted?  Will I be interpreting a psychotic delusion?  Or is the patient thinking of killing themselves and in need of immediate help?

After reading this book I feel much more prepared for whatever may come my way.  The book is split into four parts – An Approach to Clinical Practice covers the history, classification, and ethics of psychiatry. The Range of Psychiatric Disorders covers each disorder in detail while the next section, Special Clinical Areas, highlights areas like forensic psychiatry and women’s mental health.  Last is a detailed section on the different treatment options available.  It’s a thorough approach that’s aimed squarely at people with medical know-how who aren’t necessarily doctors themselves.

I highlighted so. many. passages!  I plowed straight through but the chapters stand alone so you can read what interests or affects you.  If you work in a nursing home you’ll gravitate towards psychiatry of old age and neuropsychiatric disorders (like dementia and Alzheimer’s), and if you’re an interpreter like me the chapter on psychiatric interviews will be pure gold.

Foundations is from an Australian publisher but they use both American (DSM-5) and international (ICD-10) classifications.  I now have a deeper, better understanding of all the little corners of psychiatry and have some insight into what the doctor is thinking or aiming for during a particular consultation.

Will everyone be excited to read about mental illness?  I’m going to guess not.  ;)  But if you work in a medical environment or with people affected by psychiatric disorders you’ll learn a ton and be more prepared for whomever may walk through the door. So consider this a hearty, if narrow, recommend.

Thanks to Melbourne University Press and NetGalley for providing a review copy.

The Viscount and the Vixen by Lorraine Heath (The Hellions of Havisham #3)

28523597Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed… as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.

Now the sedate—and, more importantly, secure—union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.

Review:

I love Lorraine Heath.  She is masterful at capturing period detail and keeping things historically accurate.  Her heroes and heroines fall in love on the page and follow believable emotional journeys.  While Heath’s last book, The Earl Takes All, had a daring plot device The Viscount and the Vixen sticks closer to Regency orthodoxy.

Huzzah marriages of convenience!  In real life it would suck but this is a romance.  Of course it works out.  The compatibility of our couple is obvious from the start – they have a magnets-attract-I-must-kiss-you-now thing going on.  Instalust isn’t my jam, but their love grows slowly and naturally over time so I can almost forgive it.

Heath is masterful at keeping your mind in the period.  Check out this scene where Locke takes out Portia’s wedding ring and she freezes up:

Locksley squeezed her hand. “Unfurl your fingers.”
“You can’t want to do this.”
“Neither did I wish to get married today, yet here I am.  Open your hand and let’s get this done.”
Reluctantly she did as he bade…

“Unfurl”, “bade” – no modern narration clunking around here!

Portia is strong and goes after the things she needs, the most important of which is security.  The reason she’s concerned about her welfare is…. a secret!  Grah.  We’re kept in the dark for a while, which is nice, but it’s still a secret.  The hero finds out, he storms like a normal person would, and they figure out a solution.  Ta-da!  Wrap it up with a nice epilogue (so rare) and we’re done.

All in all The Viscount and the Vixen is a solid and enjoyable read. Recommended for those who like strong heroes and heroines, a healthy dose of not-ballroom scenes, and have have a stronger stomach for secrets than me. ;)

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Synopsis:

28110868When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away? To what extremes can war and violence push a woman who is left to fend for herself?

Told through letters, court inquests, and journal entries, this saga, inspired by a true incident, unfolds with gripping intensity, conjuring the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel. As she comes to understand how her own history is linked to one runaway slave, her perspective on race and family are upended. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how this generation—and the next—began to see their world anew.

Review:

I haven’t read much Civil War fiction, not even Gone with the Wind (don’t judge!) but this book is an epistolary novel.  My ultimate catnip!  You could set one in a period I know little about (Civil War) or a time and place I usually try to avoid (World War II Europe) and I will still come running.  Letters!  Inquiries!  Diary entries, oh my!  It’s a voyeuristic look at history and I love it.

Rivers handles the epistolary element wonderfully, giving the letter writers different voices that fit their personalities, situations, and the era.  She did a massive amount of research and it shows.

From the beginning there’s an unreliable narrator – Placidia is tight lipped about the child she’s accused of bearing then burying, but rumors abound and neighbors swore they saw something odd.  What really happened?  Just when you think you have an idea the letters jump 30 years ahead in time – the South is very different now, and these letter writers are as curious as the reader about what transpired.  While the shift was jarring it was in a “ooo, who’s this!” way, not a “waitwaitwait what the heck happened” way.

It’s hard to talk about the rest of the story without giving things away but the second part of the book sucked me in more than the first.  More than the new characters the promise of an answer to the mystery kept me reading.  The ending brought closure to the main storyline and hints at the futures of many of the letter writers, but not all.  It didn’t bother me, as now I can think about those characters and where life may have taken the.

The language and attitudes fit the times so if you’re sensitive about how slaves were (mis)treated you may want to skip this book.  When I read about the South it’s usually scholarly works about the black experience so the jump into plantation owners’ heads rattled me.  The book isn’t “yay slavery!” by any means, but it’s a dose of a reality I don’t spend much time in.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday is a bit out of my wheelhouse but I still enjoyed the writing and where the story took me.  I also like knowing that the fiction is rooted in fact, right down to the timing of battles.  I can’t enthusiastically recommend it to everyone, but if you like reading epistolary novels or about the Civil War you’ll probably fall in head over heels.

Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing a review copy.

Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz (Men at Work #1)

29095423It was a devastating dirty trick—Joey Silvia just found out her boyfriend of two years is married. What. A. Dick. Joey knows her best chance to get over one guy is to get under another. Of course, heading home to her family’s remote cabin in Oregon poses some challenges in the “available men” department…until she discovers this cabin comes with its own hot handyman!

Holy crap, Chris Steffensen. When did her brother’s best friend turn into a hard-bodied pile of blond-bearded hotness? He’s the perfect Halloween treat—and a surprisingly dirty rebound guy. For a couple of weeks, anyway. Except that Chris has other ideas…like proving to Joey that this blast from the past is a whole lot more than a naughty Halloween hookup.

Review:

Reisz is one of my go-to authors and she delivers again with this category romance. Categories are shorter romances that are part of a line, a niche that is dominated by Harlequin.  They tend to be shorter, rarely topping 250 pages, and the lack of real estate means the story is concentrated on the couple and their developing love story.  Wendy the Super Librarian does a great job explaining the appeal over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.  Personally I like that they’re conveniently packaged, perfect for when my brain has scattered to the winds. (2016 – good riddance.)

Shorter books are a natural fit for Reisz, who has a habit of breaking up anything over 300 pages into smaller chunks.  The plot is tight, the characters are fully realized, and the sex is oh-so-hot.  I love that there are LGBT characters whose past struggles and current joys ring true.  Sometimes categories give me emotional whiplash when a character’s development is cut short but Reisz has all the beats covered.  Joey acts more rashly than I would at times, but given her circumstances it’s completely understandable.

I also like that Joey’s best friend is real-world wise, not parent-y or moral authority-y wise.  Here’s Kira when Joey laments that the last two years of her life have gone “down the toilet”.

“Look, I know breakups are hard.  And they’re ten times harder when somebody lies or cheats.  I know.  I’ve been there.  But Ben was not your whole life. You have a job you love that you kick ass at… You have friends – me, for example – and what more do you need than me?  And you live in fucking Honolulu, Hawaii, so close to the beach you can see actual whales from your apartment window.  Can you really tell me that’s all down the toilet?  Really?  Go look.  Go look in the toilet and tell me if you see any whales in it.”

“Kira…”

“Go. Look. For. Whales. In. Your. Toilet. Right. Now.”

All in all a hot, satisfying, quick hit of romance from the incomparable Reisz.

The Reading Year Ahead – 2017

Happy New Year!  I love clean slates – perfect for ambition and all kinds of plans.  But before I get into that let’s see how I did with last year’s goals:

  • Have at least 20% of my reading be by an author who is a person of color of otherwise diverse
  • Read from more library categories than last year
  • Add at least ten titles to my ongoing Dewey decimal list

These were all successes.  I ended up around 30% diverse, with one more library category than last year and 15 titles added to Dewey. Woot.

  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing 20th Century list
  • Read at least one more book than last year.

Two fails.  I added four titles to the 20th Century (the pull of the frontlist is strong) and I just barely matched the number of books read.

Mid-year I set a goal to read all of this year’s Goldsmiths Prize nominees… which also didn’t happen.  To be fair, though, a couple of the books haven’t been released in the US yet while library holds doomed me on another.  I do hope to read a couple more in the future and plan to tackle the nominees again in 2017.  So many good books….

Overall I’m happy with what I accomplished. The goal that was the most stressful was number of books – counting feels silly when some books are 100 pages and others are 1000 pages.  So guess what I’m doing this year, bwahahahahahaha.

2017 Reading Goals

  • Read 36,000 pages

The last couple of years I’ve been avoiding chunksters to avoid falling behind on my Goodreads challenge, which is just silly.  Counting pages solves that problem and lets me get to all the delicious tomes that are sitting in heavy piles on my shelf.

So that’s how much I hope to read.  The rest of the goals help me broaden my reading life:

  • Have 30%+ of my reading be by authors who are people of color or otherwise diverse
  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing 20th Century list
  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing Dewey list (hopefully 10+)

Do you count books or pages?  This will be my first year doing pages and I’m still not sure it’ll be the best plan for me, so I’d love to hear what you do.

Here’s to a happy and book-filled 2017!

My Favorite Books of 2016

It’s been quite a year!  …that may be the understatement of the year.  Luckily I’ve read some amazing books to see me through these tough times.  Here are my ten favorites, linked to reviews and in reverse alpha order by title.  Just because.

25607518Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews

This was my first prose poetry collection and I fell so hard.  Deep and funny and skewering in turns, Andrews uses satire to show how binary gender norms are arbitrary and absurd.  If you’re not a poetry buff fear not, this is accessible and beautiful like no other.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman25067884

It won the Best Translated Book Award for a reason – the writing is both light and deep, and Dillman does an awesome job with the translation.  Short and powerful, I’ll be coming back to it in the years to come.

25330335Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell

This book clawed into my brain and never left.  The image of blood gushing into her eye, robbing her of sight, and her journey as an “apprentice blind woman” are relentless, haunting, and real.

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente3973532

The Night Circus-sized hole in my heart has finally been filled.  A novel of image and character more than plot, Palimpsest is a place to get lost in, marvel at, and be horrified by.

9780062363596_b2357Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Women and minorities regularly get left out of our histories, but here they’re finally front and center – the black women “computers” who calculated our path to the stars.  It’s inspiring and fascinating, a natural fit for the silver screen.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins25760151

My favorite Jenkins novel so far. Fascinating subject matter, firmly set in time and place, and the love story is oh so sweet. I learned a ton and the research tidbits at the end are delightful.

2635587Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

A wide-ranging, deep, and humanizing look at life in modern China.  Chang’s prose is beautiful, and her own family’s story adds nuance to an already deep story.

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui, translated by27135621 Emma Ramadan

Finally, a short story collection I love!  Laroui plays with language while exploring what it means to be foreign. Add in some absurdity and laugh-out-loud lines and it’s the new Kazen catnip.

26633749The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer

This year I got into translated fiction and Orthofer is a wise and learned guide.  Whenever I’m in a rut I flip through it and find something I just have to read – great stuff.

Committed by Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson29955558

A thorough and thoughtful look at involuntary commitment.  Miller and Hanson talk to all sides (including a Scientologist!) and cover the issue from many issues and viewpoints.  Fascinating.

Honorable mentions: The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, and Columbine by Dave Cullen.

The South Side by Natalie Y. Moore

Audiobook narrated by Allyson Johnson

25663734Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have touted and promoted Chicago as a “world class city.” The skyscrapers kissing the clouds, the billion-dollar Millennium Park, Michelin-rated restaurants, pristine lake views, fabulous shopping, vibrant theater scene, downtown flower beds and stellar architecture tell one story. Yet, swept under the rug is the stench of segregation that compromises Chicago. Unlike many other major U.S. cities, no one race dominates. Chicago is divided equally into black, white, and Latino, each group clustered in their various turfs.

In this intelligent and highly important narrative, Chicago-native Natalie Moore shines a light on contemporary segregation on the South Side of Chicago through reported essays, showing the life of these communities through the stories of people who live in them. The South Side shows the important impact of Chicago’s historic segregation – and the ongoing policies that keep it that way.

Review:

Radio people are the best, especially public radio people.  As NPR affiliate WBEZ’s South Side reporter Moore has in depth knowledge about her beat, and having grown up in the area gives her a sense of perspective few authors would be able to match.

She talks about her own family’s history in the area but it doesn’t overwhelm or derail the narrative.  It isn’t a lens but more of a frame to hang the story on and it works well.  We learn about the history of the South Side, the policies that have shaped segregation in Chicago, the rise and fall of public housing projects, the larger story behind “Chiraq”, and more.  The topics range from government policy and mayoral politics to crime and public schooling.  I bookmarked a bunch of passages to share but I waited too long and the book has since been returned to the elibrary. :(

I enjoyed The South Side as an audiobook.  Moore’s radio roots mean that there are lots of fitting quotes from her reporting, preventing things from getting too heavy or scholarly.  It tickles me that narrator Johnson is also a Chicago native.  She doesn’t put on a broad Chicago accent (for the best, methinks) but it’s comforting to know that the story is being told authoritatively by someone who lived there.

This book is wonderful for anyone with an interest in cities, segregation, or urban planning, as well as anyone who lives in (or just plain likes) Chicago.

A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell (Marrying the Duke #3)

Synopsis:

28819991A duke can’t marry just anyone. His wife must be of good family, be fertile, be young. Struggling playwright Sarah Pettijohn is absolutely the last woman Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton, would ever fall in love with. She is an actress, born on the wrong side of the blanket, and always challenges his ducal authority. She never hesitates to tell him what she thinks.

However, there is something about her that stirs his blood… which makes her perfect for a bargain he has in mind: In exchange for backing her play, he wants Sarah to teach him about love.

And he, in turn, has a few things to teach her about men…

Review:

A fun read that did some things really, really well.

The good:

  • Our heroine Sarah is strong and confident and happy in her own skin. She’s doing what she wants with her life and it’s refreshing and wonderful to watch. Some people may doubt the likelihood of the plot so Maxwell shares some of her research in an afterward.
  • Many Regencies talk about mistresses, often in the context of “oh no you don’t” or “I can’t believe he/she did”. Here we get to see that experience from the other side and how the transaction often worked.
  • The plot moves at a nice clip with some effective external conflict. I like how it stayed just this side of romantic suspense, with realistic but not overly done angst.
  • Some prickly situations come up where I thought, there is only one way this can end well. If the character does one of these ten other things I would be so mad… but it always ended that one way, well. Phew.
  • Virgin hero, yea!
  • Not being able to have children, and what it would have meant at this time in history, is thoughtfully and compassionately considered. I was afraid it would be a “barren until you” storyline but the issue is handled realistically and well. Kudos to Maxwell.

The neither-good-nor-bad:

  • This book qualifies as a Regency-not-in-a-ballroom, which is kind of amazing considering nearly all of the action is set in London.

The not-so-good:

  • The first chapter is pure info dump, and even so I didn’t realize that I had already read the second book of this series. Oops. Partly because…
  • In book two of this series the Duke comes off as a boor, while here he seems like a totally different person. If you read this as a standalone you won’t notice, though.
  • The hero, who we are told has zero experience “knowing” a woman, still manages to give the heroine an orgasm effortlessly on the first try. Sigh.
  • The plot is telegraphed, sometimes chapters in advance. The suspense factor is low so it wasn’t a deal breaker, but I don’t think the twists had the effect the author intended.

Overall I enjoyed A Date at the Altar as a quick, satisfying read despite the nitpicks.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

25058120Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

Review:

I was looking for a quick read and stumbled upon The Red Notebook.  While it’s short and easy to get through it’s not fluff – there are beautiful observations and turns of phrase, just enough to keep your brain happy without overload.  Many are of the ah-yes-I-know-that sort:

As soon as she stepped inside the door, she was hit by that feeling of coming home after a long time away, when the dust seems to have been blown off things you had become so used to looking at you had stopped seeing them.  Everything suddenly seems more intense, like a photograph restored to its original colour and contrast.

The story stays small and fills out the short-ish page count perfectly.  There are just enough secondary characters, the right amount of conflict and romance, and a satisfying ending, all rolled into 200 pages.  It’s not a life changing book, or a thinking book, or a testament to the beauty of language… it’s a good yarn.  And sometimes that’s exactly what you need.  Just the thing for a lazy Sunday.

The Fire Inside by Steve Delsohn

Synopsis:

y648While there’s an abundance of television shows about police officers and more than a few about emergency medical folks, lesser attention is paid to fire fighters and their day-to-day dealings with disaster. But Steve Delsohn has found a wealth of material by interviewing scads of fire fighters across the country, from smoke jumpers flown in to fight forest fires to crews in action-filled urban departments. You learn the humorous lingo of fire fighting, where “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff” is paramount. You’ll also relive more than a few gripping, emotional stories–the kind that might make good fodder for a drama series.

Review:

Recently I ran across a metafilter thread titled What single book is the best introduction to your field for laypeople?  Go have a look – it’s chockablock with fascinating introductions to everything from materials science to brewing beer and graphic design to poetry.  I fell into the thread and emerged some time later with a longer TBR (so much good stuff!) and grabbed The Fire Inside from my e-library.  My brother recently became a volunteer firefighter and I wanted to learn more about what he’s doing.

This book is awesome for that.  It covers a large range of firefighting experiences – full-time paid, volunteer, wildland (think smokejumpers), women firefighters, paramedics, the gamut.  Delsohn interviewed over 100 people and let them speak anonymously so they can be perfectly honest about the highs and lows of their work.  The statements are short and grouped by topic under headings like Rookie Mistakes and The Psychological Toll.  The wide range of people interviewed makes for sweeping examples of things that can go right or wrong.  A section called The Scariest Things They Face is a list of situations I hope I never have to deal with – steam leaks that can boil you alive.  Booby traps in burning buildings.  Being overcome by a forest fire.  Riots.  Arriving at an assault before the police and facing down a shooter unarmed. Falling through a roof. There are juxtapositions, too – one person praising counseling after a deadly fire is followed by an old-timer too tough to talk about their feelings.

Delsohn does a great job pacing and ordering the stories so the reader isn’t faced with too much death and despair at a time.  That awful list of fears includes one firefighter deadpanning,

Well, none of us likes propane much.

I appreciate the well-placed chuckles and rescue stories amidst the more gruesome aspects of the job.

This book was written in 1996 and while it is a product of its time it has aged surprisingly well.  Hurricane Andrew and the Oklahoma City bombing are illustrative examples, as well as the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco.  While the equipment and disasters have changed over the last twenty years the basic principles – put the wet stuff on the red stuff – remain.  I would even argue that the age of the examples makes them feel more real, as the images aren’t seared into my brain like more recent events.

If you work in a medically-adjacent field, as I do, you’ll love the last chapter about EMS and paramedic care.  Where I grew up ambulances were separate from the fire department, but in many areas they are one and the same.

See, I have these three rules.  One is, You don’t spit on the floor of my ambulance.  Two is, You don’t get sick and throw up back there.  The third rule is, You don’t die in my ambulance when I am back there with you.

In particular I love the section about the importance of bedside manner, especially when the bed is a stretch of asphalt, including whether it’s okay to lie to a patient (“Doc, am I gonna make it?”).

If you couldn’t tell I love this book.  The stories are compelling and you get a feel for each firefighter even though they may only speak for a paragraph or two.  I wouldn’t recommend pulling it out in public, though, as rescues and failed rescues can be a surprise attack on the tear ducts.

Required reading for those who work with or are related to first responders, and guaranteed to be fascinating to pretty much everyone else.