Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More Books, #97 to #113

November has been a slow month for reading but as usual I still managed a respectable total since September. My goal this year was 100 books. I am already 13 past that total.

NON-FICTION
  • Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
    • I have actually been reading Moby-Dick and finding it fascinating but I own a copy of it so my library books have mostly taken precedence and I haven't gotten back to it yet. 
    • So far I love it though. And I haven't even gotten to any of the "details of whaling" chapters yet. I anticipate enjoying them too.
    • This book details the history of the book and why it's an important novel.
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 5: 1987-1989 by Berkeley Breathed
    • The final volume compiling all "Bloom County" comic strips from the 1980s. I am so very glad Berkeley Breathed is back to cartooning again.
  • Furiously Happy: A funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
    • Jenny is known as The Bloggess and she is very funny and profane. She also has a mental illness centered on depression and social anxiety. This book details how she copes with it.
  • Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever
    • This was a fun read but riddled with errors and opinion.
    • It starts with the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts when they were supposed to go to Virginia. Their supplies low, the captain wished to preserve enough beer for the crew's return trip to England. (water was the source of much disease and beer was safer to drink). And she thinks the Pilgrims were morons.
    • It covers the Civil War and the alcoholism of many generals. Another topic is the Secret Service and how their late night drinking into the morning of November 22, 1963 might have helped cause President Kennedy's death. And how the witch hunt of Joseph McCarthy may have been exacerbated by his alcoholism.
    • I'm not sure I'd blame the Secret Service for the death of Kennedy. Here are some of the other errors and odd opinions:
      • President James McKinley instead of WILLIAM McKinley.
      • Talking about Ambrose Bierce and his doings in 1950 when he died in 1914.
      • Equating George W. Bush with Joseph McCarthy. I mean, I'm not a huge Bush fan but McCarthy?
      • There were more but I only started taking notes about 3/4 of the way through.
    • An interesting book that could have been much better.
  • Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
    • A collection of essays commenting on various areas of her life. It was a quick read but I think it's more a love letter to her daughters that she's sharing with the public. As such it's not the most exciting read but Drew seems like a very nice woman and I am glad she has such a happy life now.
  • The Outlandish Companion, Volume 2: The Compnaion to The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
    • Diana Gabaldon has written a series of 8 novels (so far) about Jamie and Claire. Jamie is an man in 18th Century Scotland, Claire is a combat nurse in World War II. She tumbles back in time and the story move from 1743 to 1778 (so far).
    • I love the first four novels best. I haven't loved the last four as much so a book like this is invaluable when a new novel comes out. All I need to do is read the detailed synopses and I am ready to start reading Book 9 when it comes out in a few years.
  • When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
    • This book was fascinating. During World War II there was a book drive early on to supply the men with books to read. This was in reply to the book burnings by the Nazis. In America, ideas are free! (Until they aren't.)
    • But the hardcover books of the day were too heavy to carry in packs and there were too few with millions of men in uniform. Even with 20 million donated books, there weren't enough for various reasons. Ultimately a series of  small paperbacks were issued called Armed Services Editions (ASEs).
    • Hundreds of titles were released as ASEs and millions were printed. The U.S. Congress passed a law at some point prohibiting political references and other things, thus causing brief censorship of the books printed for the soldiers, marines and seamen. Cooler heads prevailed, explaining that censorship of books was what Germany was trying to do and Congress retracted the law!
    • Highly recommended!
FICTION
  • The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A. R. Kahler
  • The Immortal Circus: Final Act by A. R. Kahler
    • The final two books in a series. I totally enjoyed them as I read them but I remember nothing specific about the plot ending.
  • Another Day by David Levithan
    • This book is a sequel to a book I didn't know was going to have a sequel! (Or rather, not a true sequel because the events in each book are concurrent.) The original book is called Every Day. In it a person named "A" changes bodies every day --- male and female --- and has since birth. While in the new body A has control of the body and the person inhabited remembers everything vaguely.He meets a girl named Rhiannon and falls in love with her while in her awful boyfriend's body. This new book is told from Rhiannon's point of view.
    • And apparently there is another book/sequel to come in the series which is irritating. If I had known that from the start I might have waited until the final book is published in the next year or two. But I really like David Levithan's books and this one is good too. But the plot is no further along than than the last book's!
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
    • Sometime in September I happened to see a TV ad for a movie called "The Martian". It looked interesting so I looked up the book it's based on at the library and it was available immediately. I read it and then CPA Boy read it and then we used Thor's family discount at th e theater and saw the movie.
    • Now there is a huge waiting list at the library so I lucked out!
    • Here's the gist: A manned mission to Mars. Big dust storm causes emergency evacuation. They think a fellow crewman is dead when he gets hit by the communication satellite dish so they leave and head back to Earth. But he's alive! But he has no way to communicate with Earth and not enough food to last until the next scheduled Mars mission. And thus begins the tale.
    • You'd think it'd get boring but it really doesn't, cutting between the stranded astronaut and the people at NASA. The book is basically one crisis after another for the astronaut, very "Perils of Pauline". If something can go wrong it will. Will he survive until a rescue attempt?
  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick
    • Selznick also wrote the children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, made into the movie "Hugo" by Martin Scorsese.
    • This book is told in two parts: the first is all drawings and the second an illustrated narrative about a famous family of actors from the 1760s through the year 1990.
    • There's a mystery involved and the story is interesting and quick to read.
  • Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
    • The final book in the series about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The author uses old found photos to illustrate the story which is about children with various powers and their protectors. A movie will be coming out next year at Christmastime.
    • The series ended satisfyingly enough. Glad it's done.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Lowell
    • A college freshman named Cath (and her twin sister Wren) write fan fiction about the Simon Snow book series, a fictional character who lives in a Harry Potter-type world. Wren has left Simon behind but Cath has not.
    • Everyone else seems to LOVE Rainbow Rowell and I kept reading and waiting to see when that love would kick in for me. It has not, based on this book.
    • Cath is a complete moron, living off the snacks she brought from home because she HAS NO IDEA WHERE THE DINING HALL IS and is too afraid to try to find it. Um, seriously? 
    • There is a new Rainbow Rowell book out that is actually the Simon Snow story told from the perspective of Baz, Simon's nemesis and roommate. I will pass on that one, sorry RR fans. Maybe I am just too old for this. I honestly have NO interest in fanfic. I may try one of her other books and see what happens.
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
  • A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
  • The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani
    • A trilogy about two girls from a small village where two children are abducted every 4 years and no one knows what happens to them. This time two girls get taken. One is Sophie who dresses as a perfect fairy tale princess and the other is Agatha who lives in a cemetery and dresses in black sack dresses. They are best friends.
    • They are taken to the School for Good and Evil. Our assumptions are overturned when Sophie goes to the School of Evil and Agatha enters the School for Good. And so the tales spins out. Are they wrongly placed or are they in the right schools after all?
    • Real fairy tale characters and their descendants, both good and evil, exist in this world too. It was cute and subversive at the same time. Both girls are well written but I think the ending was a bit abrupt. Some story threads were just dropped or unresolved. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto!

[Note to my squeamish brother K2: There will be no in-depth (heh) discussion of my lady parts so feel free to read on...]

Sorry for another long absence. I had surgery on Veteran's Day for a complete and total removal of my hysteria-related lady parts. I was trying to get things done beforehand, including writing some blog posts, but I ran out of time. Things like grocery shopping, sheet changing and laundry took precedence.

I was a bit nervous about the surgery --- always a scary thing to succumb to anesthesia --- and I remember only three things from after the surgery until I woke up in the middle of the night during my hospital stay:
  1. Waking up in the recovery room briefly, knowing surgery was done.
  2. Someone's voice saying, "Here's your husband." I could not stay awake long enough to talk to him.
  3. CPA Boy kissing me goodbye for the night and saying, "There's a letter from Lady Chardonnay in your purse."
Lady C and I write each other long letters as birthday gifts and lately have done this for when we each have medical procedures. Egad, we are getting old. This was NOT A THING in our 20s and 30s!

Her letter was awesome! (Will answer soon, Sweets!) My other bestie Shell visited and brought me dinner. Pops came and babysat me while CPA Boy went to pick up a prescription for me. (And before surgery my dear in-laws came to keep CPA Boy company but my surgery, originally scheduled for 11 a.m., didn't happen until after 1 p.m. so they stayed and visited with me too before they all went to lunch.)

We are still waiting on the pathology report. My biopsy in May showed "suspicious cells", not cancer but destined to become cancer within the next 10 years, hence the hysterectomy now. My doctor doesn't think there will be any problem because uterine cancer is very slow growing. Having all the reproductive lady parts out should mean I can never get uterine, ovarian or cervical cancer.

Best part of surgery experience: I didn't barf once thanks to huge amounts of anti-emetics. Drugs are awesome. Barfing after surgery is a real problem for me. I did it after Thor was born, after my gall bladder was removed and after an ovarian cyst removal in 2010. I try to stress this to the anesthetist in the strongest possible terms. This time it worked!

The other cool part of surgery? I was operated on by a ROBOT!

In today's paper was an article about the new robot they use during surgery at Sutter Hospital, the exact one that was used on me! (FYI, it's the da Vinci robot, not the Mako robot.) Without my glasses on, I thought it looked like a giant white spider.

Many surgeries are done laparoscopically. This means three incisions about 1 inch long. One is for the camera, one is for the light and the last is for the surgical tools.

With the robot surgery I got 5 small incisions across my waistline, each 1/2 inch or smaller. Then they can use a few more cameras so my (real) doctor can see three-dimensionally and "around corners" and she is in control of the robotic arms the whole time.

Recovery is easier because they don't need to cut through muscles. This was always my mom's bugaboo. She had several surgeries in her life that left large scars down her abdomen, cutting through the abdominal muscles each time. My otherwise super skinny mom was always self-conscious about her not-flat belly because she had no muscle tone there.

Speaking of my mom, it's too bad she still isn't here. She LOVED talking about the gory surgical stuff. Most people don't want to hear any details but Mom enjoyed it along with rehashing her own surgeries too. Sigh.

In any case my innards still need to recuperate the full six weeks no matter how quickly I heal on the outside. I can't carry or lift more than 10 pounds until the end of December. (This impacts things like laundry, unloading groceries from the car and trips to Costco.)

I was able to get into our bed but it was too hard to get out so I slept in my recliner for about a week. I did that last time I had surgery in 2010 too. Now, 10 days later I can sleep on my side again so I am back in our bed.

The only uncomfortable part is that the incisions are at my waistline. Wearing undies AND pants make too much pressure for too long so at home I spend all my time in nightgowns. This is so totally comfortable that I think I could live in nighties all the time! If only...

I have a whole bunch of books to write about so that will be next in the blog queue.