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Friday, June 24, 2016

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite - David DiSalvo

The brain is one of the least understood organs in our bodies. It controls involuntary movements that keep us alive, like the heart pumping and breathing. And we use our brains consciously to perform acts like tying shoes or completing a complex math problem. But how much more is the brain controlling that we don't recognize?

How accurate is memory? How can questions and preparations change our observations and recall?

Are our predictions of how we would act accurate when faced with the actual situation?

If doing a certain action causes your mind less stress it indicates you are on the right course of action. Or does it?

Written in 2011, the studies and data used in this book are new and serve to further our understanding of the brain and how it works. With its short-length it's more of an overview than an in-depth look, but it's worth listening to because of the current findings the author uses.

Recommended Reads:
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives - Leonard Mlodinow
The Seven Sins of Memory - Daniel L. Schacter
The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits - Kent Greenfield

Friday, June 17, 2016

Assassin's Quest (Farseer Book 3) - Robin Hobb

The Sixth Duchies is in ruin and at the mercy of the Red Ships. Verity, the rightful king, has gone out to seek the help of the legendary Elderlings effectively abandoning the kingdom to his brother Regal, who cares not for the people or the land but for his own comfort.

Although Regal killed Fitz, he's not completely convinced of his death because of his Wit magic. Although alive, Fitz is not unscathed and must recover from his ordeal under the care of Burrich, hidden in the woods. Fitz is haunted by his visions of Molly and her life and the continuous call of his King Verity.

After seeking to fulfill his own revenge, Fitz finally returns to the pull of Verity, only to find a mad man on the mountain.
With the Red Ships destroying the kingdom from the outside and Regal destroying it from the inside, there may be no hope left for the Sixth Duchies and its residents.

While I always enjoy the realistic narration of the characters' turmoil by Hobb, I sometimes find myself suffering from sympathy fatigue while listening. I liked the strictly mentally-based magic system with its limitations that was eventually revealed to be something much bigger. Despite Fitz's many losses throughout life, in the end the joining of friends and allies gives him a new one.

I enjoyed reading this series and I plan on reading the other books that take place in this world.

Books in the Series:
Assassin's Apprentice
Royal Assassin

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wheel of Darkness (Pendergast Book 8) - Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Aloysius Pendergast and Constance Greene go on retreat to a Buddhist monastery, only to have it cut short when they are asked to retrieve a sacred object chasing stolen during their visit.

Such an unusual artifact should be easy to track down with it having to run through customs, but with corruption everywhere they have their work cut out for them. Finally they are led to the most unusual place: a cruise ship. With the added evil influence of the artifact on a disgruntled crew and greedy customers the ship soon becomes a island of the worst.

Despite all of his encounters with the supernatural, it would seem that even Aloysius isn't immune to the seduction of the unusual item. If he can't save the ship, there may be no hope for anybody. Not the crew, not the passengers, and not Constance or even himself.

I've begun asking friends for their favorite media (books, movies, music albums) as gifts. Two of my friends named the Pendergast series as their favorites and gave me this novel to start me with. I was immediately hooked with the supernatural flavor of the novel. I feel I would have enjoyed it more if I had read a few previous books to get a better feeling for the two main characters, but I still enjoyed their company as they took me along for the ride. Aloysius is a character with a flare for theatrics and a plethora of skills, while Constance is better with infiltration and social interaction.

I will be joining them again soon on their investigations, I have no doubt.

Books in the Series:
Relic (Book 1)
The Book of the Dead (Book 7)
Cemetery Dance (Book 9)

Friday, June 3, 2016

To Bless the Space Between Us - John O' Donohue

This beautiful Book of Blessings is filled with poetry and prayers that will spark the hearts of those who read it. Organized by topic, it's easy to locate the blessing that may serve your purpose.

Beginnings contains prayers for the Morning, the start of the new year, and new jobs. Desires contains love, of course, along with companions like friendship and abscence. Within Thresholds are prayers for change like becoming a mother or father and events that bring us to the brink like death and the incarceration of a loved one. Prayers greeting mother, father, sister, brother, and sleep are all in the chapter titled Homecoming. States of Heart are invocations for things like courage and to give strength during times of loneliness, failure, grief, and suffering. Callings holds blessings for priesthood, nursing, teaching, and many others. And finally Beyond Endings hopes to bring closure for hard times like death, the end of friendships, and broken trust.

While the prayer at the very end titled "The Eyes of Jesus" is obviously Christian, many of the prayers are non-denominational and could readily be used by those of many different faiths. I noted that many of my non-Christian friends would likely find his "In Praise of [Elemental]" series, one for each of the four elements, useful. My favorites from this collection came from multiple chapters, including "For the Senses", "For a New Father", "For Exile", and "On Meeting a Stranger".

The only qualm I have with this book is the gold ink used for the titles of the prayers and the blue ink used for the prayers themselves. While it was easy on my eyes, I could see it being an issue for those who have difficulty seeing. I will undoubtedly be purchasing this wonderful book for my permanent collection and reading more of O'Donohue's fabulous work.

More By This Author:
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong