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Archive for June, 2012

Friday Fun! (Talkin Bout a Heat Wave)

June 22, 2012 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

After an oddly cool month (which I was soooo not complaining about), Boston got hit starting Wednesday with a heat wave.  We’re talking 97 to 100 degrees (36ish degrees for my non-US followers).  You guys. I’ve. Been. Dying.

I am a northern girl. Cold weather is what I am all about.  Even if it’s super cold out, that is easily remedied by an electric blanket, hot chocolate, and a good book. What’s not to like about that picture?  Hot weather though. Ugh.  When it’s hot out your entire body is coated with sweat and then you proceed to look like a furry because your cat’s fur sticks all over said sweaty skin and everything itches and your feet are so swollen that you get blisters and bloodiness everywhere and…

Ok, maybe a lot of that is just me.  But still!

I tried so damn hard not to use my ac at all this summer, but around midnight on Wednesday night when my hair had dried in a record 30 minutes post cold shower I decided I had to cave, and I put in my ac unit all by myself.  (Sorry neighbors for the timing of that adventure).  In any case!  The gym must be working, because I was successful. Nothing was dropped and lifting that unit didn’t even seem that hard.  I am, however, relegated to sleeping on the couch directly in front of it until this heat wave is over.

Be sure to check out Waiting For Daybreak‘s Goodreads page, because the reviews and ratings are starting to come in!  Next week I will be announcing the tour schedule as well as the tour banner.

I’ve also been working on Ecstatic Evil‘s formatting and cover issues.  I am soooo glad I decided to do a novella first to practice.  I’m happy to say that the formatting issues are now entirely taken care of, and in response to multiple reviews not enjoying the cover, I’ve decided to give it a new one.  The original cover was designed by a friend.  Designing Waiting For Daybreak‘s cover showed me what style works for me and that I can do it myself.  So I’ve come up with a cover for Ecstatic Evil that will be designed by me in the more linocut fashion that you see on Waiting For Daybreak.  Anyway.  The new Ecstatic Evil cover will be announced next week, and there will be a surprise to celebrate it. 🙂

Happy weekends all, and I hope my fellow New Englanders manage to stay cool! *waves*

Cookbook Review: Vegan Vittles by Joanne Stepaniak

June 21, 2012 3 comments

Image of a country kitchen.Summary:
A farm sanctuary is a farm whose sole purpose is to save animals from farm factories and slaughter.  The Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York was started in 1986.  In this cookbook, one of the proprietors has gathered vegan recipes inspired by farm life.  Think down-home cooking that is cruelty-free.

Review:
As a country girl, I was delighted to find a down-home cookbook free of animal products.  Everything about the cookbook hearkens back to classic American cookbooks from the layout to the simple black and white pictures at the beginning of each section to the layout of each of the recipes themselves to the sayings peppered throughout the book.  (The sayings are veganized versions of classic American ones).

The cookbook starts with an intro to the Farm Sanctuary, followed by a very personal explanation for her veganism by Stepaniak.   This is followed by the more scientific explanations for eating vegan and how to do it properly.  Substitutes and special ingredients are explained, and the intro is rounded out by a sample weekly menu.

The recipes themselves are divided into: tips and tails (hints and basics), beverages, breakfasts and breads, uncheeses butters and spreads, hearty soups and stews, salads and dressings, sandwiches, the main dish, sauces gravies and condiments, and happy endings (desserts).  Each section starts with a photo of one of the rescue animals and their story.  It’s a sweet, light-handed approach to veganism that I appreciate.

So what about the recipes?  They are definitely geared toward beginner plant-based cooks with a desire to replace their animal-based recipes with similar tasting ones.  There’s a plethora of traditional American recipes with the animal products simply switched out.  As a long-time vegetarian, I found this focus not quite my style, but I can see it being enjoyed by newbies or when hosting omni friends and family or to find that one thing you still really miss like bacon or meatloaf.  Personally, I found the dairy substitutes far more useful and interesting, since these can be expensive to buy, but are far healthier for you then the dairy norm.

I was able to find quite a few recipes of interest to me that I copied out.  So far I’ve only been able to try one, but it was amazing!  I tried Chuckwagon Stew on page 89. Seeking to replicate a hearty, country stew without the meat, the stew is built around tempeh.  The ingredients were easy to find (I got everything at Trader Joe’s), cheap, and the recipe was a quick one to make.  I fully admit I inhaled half of it that very evening.  I am eager to try the rest of the recipes, particularly the Crock Cheeze on page 74 and the Seitan Salami/Pepperoni on page 40.

Overall, this is a country style, omni-friendly vegan cookbook that lets the animals and recipes shine for themselves.  The recipes predominantly use grocery store ingredients, the exceptions being vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast, which are easily ordered via Amazon.  They are also simple enough that any moderately skilled cook should be able to follow them with ease.  I highly recommend it to omnis and veg*ns alike, as the recipes are happy, healthy, and friendly.  Personally, this is definitely going on my to own wishlist.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Note that the second edition has a different subtitle and more recipes.

Book Review: Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (Series, #5)

Women running on a beach.Summary:
The Septembers are all 29 years old now and spread out all over the globe.  Bee is expending her energy biking up and down the hills of San Francisco while Eric works as a lawyer.  Carmen has a recurring role on a tv show filming in NYC and is engaged to Jones, an ABC producer.  Lena teaches art at RISD and lives a quiet life in her studio apartment, except for the one day a week she practices Greek with an elderly woman.  Tibby took off to Australia with Brian months ago, and everyone else is in limbo waiting for her to get back.  They all feel a bit disconnected until Tibby sends Bee, Carmen, and Lena tickets to come to Greece for a reunion.  What they find when they arrive is not what anyone expected.

Review:
You guys. You guys. This book shattered me. I am not a crier, and I actually had tears fall while reading this book.  I read it in one day. I could not put it down.  As someone who grew up with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I found the sudden jump forward in age (we used to be about the same age, and now they are older than me) a bit disconcerting and unexpected, but nowhere near as unexpected as the rest of the book.

I complained to anyone who would listen at the beginning that I hated it. That I hated what Brashares was doing, and omg why would she do this.  But as the story progressed, she swept me along, and suddenly I realized that yes this is tougher by far than the earlier books.  It’s not the light girl power read the first or even the second one was.  But it shouldn’t be.  They’re 29. They’re older. Their problems should be bigger and more adult, and the lessons here hurt more to read because they’re tougher ones to learn.  It’s precisely the direction the books should have taken.  The girls change and, dare I say it, actually grow the fuck up unlike a certain other foursome that have a tv show.

I won’t tell you what made the book so powerful, because that’d spoil it.  But I will tell you, my fellow fans, to push past the first quarter of the book where you’re angry and want to throw it across the room in a Carmen-like rage.  Give Brashares the chance she earned with the first three to gradually show you what she’s doing.  It’s an emotional journey that’s well worth taken.  Fans might be frustrated at first, but those who stick it out and love the series for what it really is will love this entry. I don’t doubt it at all.  Plus, Brashares hinted that there might be still more to come.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Previous Books in Series
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood
Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood

The Neuroscience of Autism and Learning Disabilities (Science Librarian Boot Camp 2012 Tufts University)

Instead of inundating you with my notes from yet another professional development session, I decided to select out my favorite part to share with you all.  Out of everything I did in the Science Librarian Boot Camp, I enjoyed the Neuroscience presentations the most.  So, here they are. Enjoy!

“Genetics of Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” Dr. Anthony Moncao, Tufts University

  • Genetics studies Genes. Neurodevelopment studies Proteins and Regulatory DNA. Imagining studies the Brain.  Psychiatry studies Behavior.
  • Genes aren’t determinative.  They interact with the environment.
  • There is very strong evidence that genetic factors increase risk.
  • Susceptibility genes–genes that with environmental factors increase risk for these diseases
  • How do we find susceptibility genes?
  • Identify a chromosomal translocator and neurodevelopmental disorder.
  • Copy number variants –> Deletion or addition/duplication of material.  We all have these in some variation but in some instances they hit important areas.  They are inherited or de novo (neither parent had it).
  • What is “strict” Autism?
  • Impairment in: verbal and nonverbal communication, reciprocal social interaction, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of interest (don’t ilke change)
  • Onset before 3 years
  • male to female ratio: 4 to 1
  • Autism Spectrum includes Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS (removed from DSM5)
  • Autism Spectrum has a combined incidence of about 1%
  • 5% of Autism Spectrum disorders are comorbid with Fragile X, Tuberous Sclerosis, Down’s, muscular dystrophy, and other Mandelian disorders.
  • What are the genetic factors in Autism?
  • heritability is about 85 to 92%
  • rate among siblings is 3 to 9%
  • It is one of the most strongly genetic of childhood-onset psychiatric disorders.
  • No evidence yet for genes with variants in all forms of Autism.
  • Hardly any two autistic kids are gonna be the same (genetically).
  • Many of these genes are important in synapses.
  • Cadherin 8 (CDH8) is probably the culprit in these microdeletions.
  • Variable expressivity –> a deleted gene can cause multiple different outcomes (autsim, learning disorder, etc…) so evidence is strong environment is a factor
  • Future prospects include: Cohorts, sequencing, translation, use of rare CNVs diagnostically, genetic counseling, early intervention for sibs, CNVs may help us predict the outcome.
  • Projected future difficulties include: CNVs are common, so we have to be sure the one we’re calling Autism really is.  Ethical issues of testing children before they have any symptoms.
  • Autism has very complex etiology.
  • Collaboration is important to make progress.
  • Specific Language Impairment.
  • Just as frequent as dyslexia/autism.
  • It is a difficulty acquiring expressive and/or receptive language despite adequate intelligence and no physical problems (ie deafness).  Problems in producing and comprehending speech, problems reading, normal nonverbal IQs.
  • It has an almost 100% heritability.
  • Inheritance is simple but complex phenotype.
  • The damaged gene –> FOXP2
  • A transcription factor.
  • Important in how the rest of the gene is regulated.  Kind of like a master switch.
  • Not the gene for speech (found in nonverbal species but important in vocalizations.  Mice won’t squeak properly.  Songbirds can’t learn songs if it is damaged.)
  • FOXP2 inhibits CNTNAP2 from being expressed (Sitting on it and not letting it make RNA).
  • Where is FOXP2 expressed in the brain? In the basal ganglia, phallus, cerebellum (motor centers).
  • Chimps are more similar to mice than humans in this gene.
  • FOXP2 is a regulatory gene.  Its downstream targets offer entrypoints into neural pathways involved in speech and language.
  • Developmental Dyslexia.
  • It is a diagnosis of exclusion.
  • 5% of schoolchildren have it.
  • Males are 3 to 4 times more effected than females.
  • Gene variant is two times as frequent in dyslexics as in controls.
  • Variants in KIAA0319 repress the expression of the gene.
  • These variants increase risk in reading problems in the general population.
  • May inhibit migration of neurons to the right are of the cortex.
  • ectopia–small bundles of neurons in the wrong area of the cortex
  • 4 dyslexia susceptibility genes have been found so far.
  • All 4 play a role in neuronal migration and/or axonal growth.
  • DNA is not determinative.  There are many other factors involved.

“Neuroimaging of Children’s Brains,” Dr. Jean Frazier, UMass Med

  • Goal: To explore how neuroimaging techniques provide insight into potential biomarkers for childhood onset neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Basic principles of brain development: structures start small, get big, then get small again
  • 8 to 14 is an important age range.
  • They exuberate then prune, and it is the pruning that is important.
  • The more complicated a process is the more potential it could go awry.
  • Pruning is guided by “use it or lose it.”
  • The exact timing varies by structure.
  • birth to 3–time of rapid intellectual, emotional, and physical growth of brain and brain wiring
  • by age 6–95% of brain development completed
  • 8 to 13–2nd major brain growth spurt
  • 13 to 20s–pruning to organizing, especially in frontal cortex.
  • We can measure things that require energy using: PET, SPECT, fMRI, EEG, MEG
  • What MRI can tell us: structure, metabolites, blood flow, connectivity
  • MRS–noninvasive, analytic method to measure chemicals within body parts
  • If we are going to fully appreciate what is going wrong in brains, we have to fully understand what is going right in brains.
  • Whereas gray matter gets pruned, white matter increases.
  • Less gray matter, brain becomes more efficient.
  • But what happens in atypical development?
  • More blood flow in amygdala of depressed and anxious.
  • amygdala–governs ability to modulate our affect
  • Bipolars have abnormal connectivity in brain, especially in areas dealing with affect regulation and attentional capacity.
  • Application to Autism?
  • Recommends “Localization of white matter volume increase in autism and developmental language disorder” in Annals of Neurology by Herbert et al
  • Children with autism have more white matter.
  • Tracks most severely affected in Autism are growing/changing just after birth.
  • Biomarkers are a distinct characteristic that is an indicator of a particular biological condition or process.
  • Maybe the genetic risk factors are indicators of the dysfunction not the disorder.
  • Both schizophrenia and autism symptom is social withdrawal.
  • 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls (1 in 88 children) have Autism Spectrum, according to study from 2008
  • Inhibition of GABA and excitation of Glutamate are associated with autism.
  • Tuberous make too little of a certain protein. Fragile X makes too much.
  • Glutamate levels are higher in Autism.
  • Biomarkers could be used as predictors for treatment response.

Book Review: Claws and Saucers by David Ellroy Goldweber

June 18, 2012 4 comments

Paw reaching for alien spaceship.Summary:
An alphabetical guide to scifi, horror, and fantasy movies made between 1902 and 1982.

Review:
One thing I have learned from the two movie reference guides I’ve received for review since starting this book blog is that movie reference guides are not for me.  Frankly with things like, oh, the internet, they’re just not useful the way they were back when I was in undergrad and professors wouldn’t accept IMDB as a reference in your English paper comparing books to their movie versions. But I digress.

Putting on my librarian cap then why does this reference guide get 2 and not 3 stars? (3 indicating not for me but maybe for others).  It frankly bothers me how not academic it is.  It essentially reads as a list randomly assembled by some random dude down the road, not a professor of the history of film or a film critic or anything like that really.  This would be great for a blog, but not for a serious reference book.  Additionally, maybe the print edition is better, but the ebook version is badly formatted and contains none of the pictures promised in the blurb.

The book basically then is your neighbor yammering in alphabetical order about random movies he selected from the early 1900s with all of the natural individual prejudices and caveats that go along with that.  There’s nothing academic about it, and when push comes to shove, it’s something that would be better off as a blog than a book.  I will give it this though: the title and cover are excellent.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Reread Review: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

Girl in bonnet in a strawberry field.Summary:
Birdie’s just moved to Floridy from Caroliny to farm strawberries with her family.  But their neighbors, squatters headed by a mean drunk of a dad, won’t make life easy for them.

Review:
Rereading a childhood favorite is a dangerous endeavor.  However, last year rereading Reddy Fox went well, so when the ebook version of this Lois Lenski classic showed up on Netgalley, I just had to try it out.  I can see why I enjoyed it as a child, but I can’t really imagine adding it to the collection if I was a public librarian or, in the realm of more possibility, giving it to my nephew.

This is part of a series that Lenski wrote and illustrated in the 1940s about children living in different regions of America.  The thought process was that kids saw children around the world in literature but not the vastly different ways of growing up all over America.  A good idea, for sure.  I can totally see why these books, written in painstaking vernacular to boot, were popular back then.  They just didn’t age as well as they could have.  Or, at least, this one didn’t.

Unlike the Little House series where the problems and dramas and joys are relatable, Birdie’s family basically repeatedly lets the neighbors walk all over them.  There are also odd conundrums, such as how is Birdie’s family so working class and yet mysteriously has money?  Most bothersome, though, is the fact that the central conflict of neighbor worthless father is wrapped up overnight when he gets saved at a revival meeting.  Only the most evangelical of children will accept that as a fix.  Plus, it gives an unrealistic expectation to children that the serious problem of an addicted parent can be solved with some yelling from a preacher.  Not the most useful of message to be giving to children.

Although it’s not an unenjoyable read and the details of life in rural Florida in the 1940s are painstakingly accurate, it just simply hasn’t aged as well as other classics.  It is still well-written, researched, and illustrated, however.  I’d recommend it to adults with an interest in the history of American children’s literature.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (Audiobook narrated by Mike Chamberlain)

June 16, 2012 3 comments

Robot face with red eyes.Summary:
Cormac Wallace reviews the surveillance tape taken by Rob (robots) during the New War–the war between humans and robots.  He thus recounts the history of the war to the reader.

Review:
Basically this is supposed to be World War Z only with robots.  It falls incredibly short.

What makes World War Z such an awesome book (beyond the fact that zombies are better than robots) is that it is a mock oral history of a war.  This is a thing that actually happens after a war in real life.  Oral historians go around and gather real information from the survivors about the war.  Although the NPR style narrator frames the chapters, they are all given by different survivors from their own perspectives.

The problem with Robopocalypse is that it tries to use the same method for a very different story.  Much as Wilson may want a robot war to be like a zombie war, it ISN’T.  And it shouldn’t be recounted in the same way.  Wilson sort of realizes this, because he has Wallace recount the war by watching the “black box” surveillance of Rob.  The thing is, though, that really doesn’t work in book form.

A)  Why would Cormac write down something that is already available visually?  Why wouldn’t he just copy/pasta the videotape and send it out?

B)  The chapters swing wildly between Cormac describing what he’s seeing on screen (insanely boring) and random first hand accounts from everyone from himself to dead people. Yeah. Dead people have first-person accounts in this book. THAT MAKES NO SENSE.

Also, the pacing is off.  The build up to Rob attacking is painfully slow, but Rob taking over misses a lot of the details that would be interesting.  Similarly, details as to how people all over the world start collaborating and beat the brilliant Rob is sped up and glossed over too much.  Essentially, things that should have more space in the book have too little, and things that should have very little space have too much.

I have to say that the narration by Mike Chamberlain did not help matters any.  His voice is practically monotone, and he adds nothing to the story.

The concept of a robot war is a good one, although I admit to having more loyalty to zombies.  However, the format used in World War Z just will not work in a robot war.  Wilson should have focused on one small group of people or actually tried out the whole oral history thing.  This bouncing around between perspectives and verbally recounting surveillance footage simply does not work.  I cannot recommend this book. There is simply far better plotted scifi out there.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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