The Alienist: By Caleb Carr. A Review. Book 8 of 52

“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people”

Such an apropos quote for the season we find ourselves in. Nonetheless, The Alienist by Caleb Carr is what I envision happens when Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes meets Poe’s… well anything by Edgar Allen Poe really. This may not be a good thing for all of you. I did find myself losing a little patience with the story. But, it was still a good read. I think that if one has the time and space to read it, they may enjoy it.

It is significantly difficult to provide some substantive review, while remaining spoiler free, on a mystery novel. Especially one of this ilk. I do feel that Carr did an amazing job of putting me, the reader, into turn of the (20th) century New York. Bordering on the overly descriptive (trust me, I am as shocked as the rest of you that those words just came from me) the narrative puts you in the moment. I just wish that it had been a little more like the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes, pulling no punches, and yielding no major clues until it should be nearly over.

But the story, the story was amazing. Enrapturing even.  Worth the read just for that in and of itself.

I am giving this book three out of five. stars Though there may be many that love it more, I am happy with that. Onto the next book in my 2018 Reading Challenge.

The Giver: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 1-52

I am not sure what my apprehension was behind not reading this series. Until I was challenged by a friend on Facebook for my self-imposed 52 book reading slurry, I just cast it aside. Perhaps it has something to do with the “Left Behind” series that started just two years later, which I have read, and do not like. I recall there being a love for this book, accolades showered like shooting stars from the mouths of every reader. Much like that of “Left Behind”. However, I was challenged to read this book, in fact the quartet. Having finished it (in two days) here is my (spoiler free) review.

“The Giver” starts off slow, rhythmic and lulling. Not painstakingly slow like other books I have read. Almost enjoyable. Perhaps it was, in part, due to the winter season that the pace was restful. However, Lowry is a skilled writer. Well adept in the art of building a climax. Even better in letting the climax drive the story, pulling at all of your emotions. There is subtle imagery that is used. Without trying too hard you find yourself looking through the eyes of the protagonist, even if you do not want to.

There is a very particular point that the metronomic pace is shattered. Perhaps the moment that I wish I was warned about before reading at work. Thankful for a door that I could close, and an undisturbed few moments to collect my thoughts. Combined with my projections of one of my own sons onto one of the characters, I found my heart racing more often than not. I felt pulled to read the last half of the book as fast as I could. To reach the end and find out the conclusion.

“I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope.”

When I did reach the end, I found that I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope. But, it was not to be. There is closure, but I was left wanting more, so much more. I screamed, not in my head, not in my heart, I screamed “THAT CANNOT BE THE END”! I fought the urge to research. To take to task and find out what happened after the final words of the book. Oh how that sentence has haunted me. “But perhaps it was only an echo”.

All in all, I will give this book a 4.9 out of 5. It has risen to my top ten. If you have not read it, do yourself a favor and do so. Right now. Seriously. Go and buy it. Head to a library and check it out. Just read it. Trust me.

In full transparency, I am on the second day of my second week. But I am almost done with my third book.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

"Get Ready for the Code" Review

Guess who is super proud of herself? Last Friday Zoey and I completed her very first workbook, Get Ready for the Code Book A! I say “we” because I took a very intentional approach to getting the most we could out of these lessons. I know some have used these more as a distraction tool when there are older children to teach, but I found a great foundation here to build a competent and confident reader.

This is the first of three in a series (Books A, B, and C) designed at the PreK level, which serves as the launching pad for the larger Explode the Code series. The series focuses on phonics and reading, with a lighter emphasis on handwriting as well. There is also a complementary Beyond the Code series of 3 books, designed to help with reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

This book begins with teaching a single consonant sound through pictures, matching, and a bit of handwriting. It then progresses through a handful of additional consonant sounds, using a few different exercises that are repeated. The entire alphabet is covered by Book C. I had read many positive reviews about this series, and thought it would be a great way to combine learning different letter sounds with speech exercises to reproduce those sounds. As with most things, Zoey is comprehending the idea of phonics much quicker than she is able to speak them, but she is slowly and noticeably progressing. This workbook has helped me to see how often she will mark a correct answer, even if her verbal response sounds very little like the actual sound that is normally associated with a given letter. It has also helped me to discern which letters give her the most trouble, which understandably seem to be those which she also has the hardest time saying. As much as I know that Zoey is too active to appreciate learning every subject through a workbook, I see a lot of value in spending 15-20 minutes a day on this series. It has been a great start into our homeschooling adventure, both for her as an avid learner, and for me as I struggle to find better ways to teach and assess her.

I didn’t want to treat this one as a “playing school” resource, and as a result, Zoey took it more seriously as well. David may not need as much focus to complete this when it comes time for him to join the ranks, but I would still value this series for him as a way to consistently cover every letter over the course of a year or so. I highly recommend the series for anyone wanting step by step directions for teaching phonics in a simple and direct manner, or as an inexpensive resource for developing reading skills.

A Book Review

minorinspirations:

Beyond the Grip of
Craniosynostosis
by Kase D. Johnstun

The condition of
craniosynostosis occurs in roughly 1 out of every 1,700 live human
births. It refers to the early fusion of at least one meeting place,
or suture, of two bony plates that help to make up the skull. Just as
the presentations of craniosynostosis vary depending on the number
and placement of the fused sutures, each case is very individualistic
with its own set of variables. This year, Kase D. Johnstun released a
work called, Beyond the Grip of Craniosynostosis: An Inside View of
Life Touched by the Congenital Skull Deformity. In it, Johnstun has
artfully woven the historic narrative of surgical procedures that
have been and are currently being used, with a handful of individual
patient stories including his own.  Johnstun’s level of transparency
when describing his own story is disarming and immediately connects
the reader with the reality of his journey as he re-traces his past.
He has also been careful to include a variety of cases, both in the
presentation of the sutures, and also in the patients’ different
family make-ups and personality-defined responses. His wide net of
interviews is able to directly relate to just about everyone who is
affected by craniosynostosis. It is a must-read for the families and
close friends of anyone who has been affected by craniosynostosis. It
is also a more general story of growing hope for babies with the
condition; socially, physically, medically, and developmentally.

Beyond my general
review, I would like to add a few points that struck me on a more
personal note as the mother of a child with craniosynostosis.

1) Despite my
personal research from the day of Zoey’s birth to the present, I
found myself reading facts and historical elements that I had never
heard before in this book. To my knowledge there isn’t a more concise
description that covers such a wide medical history of
craniosynostosis. To the contrary, there are a lot of sources and
stories online that are less than helpful, and this book was a breath
of fresh air in its obvious authoritative voice on the subject, while
also writing for those who have not received any medical training.

2) I have often been
worried that my emotional and psychological response to the surprise
of Zoey’s condition was not reflective of the seriousness of the
situation. While my husband was in tears over the unknown days to
come for his little girl, I rarely had the energy or feeling to cry.
While reading this work, I was able to personally relate, at least in
part, with every single parent interviewed. Some parents internalize
emotions and struggle to sort through their own feelings, and some
are too worn out to show any strong emotion, while others are in
constant tears at every mention of a surgery. Every case is unique,
but the underlining fears are universal. We all sign the consent
forms with the full understanding that these little ones may not look
at us again. I was able to relive my own experiences as I read
through the tears and gritted teeth of other parents, and ultimately
gained a renewed sense of hope and community in realizing that we are
all in this together.

3) Lastly, I was
reminded of how different the struggles are for those who personally
have the condition from their caregivers and families. Especially
with single suture diagnoses, most children born within the past ten
years or so who were treated within their first year, will experience
little more than a large scar and some family stories that are
repeated in family gatherings. Life continues as normal for them. The
main emotional struggle occurs with the family members who are old
enough to remember the trauma of that first year. Granted, there are
still cases that are undiagnosed for years, and by the time the
children receive any procedures, they have also retained a full
long-term memory. These children are more likely candidates for
therapy sessions and fuller explanations that will have a deeper
impact on them as they grow up. Those with multiple closed sutures,
as in our case, are also more likely to continue procedures through
the years of fully formed memory. There are some experiences that
words will never completely describe, and a cranial vault
reconstruction is one of those experiences. I am so grateful that the
vast majority of babies are now able to continue on with their lives
unhindered by the memories of surgical recovery.    

Now that my beloved has finished, I finally get the chance to read it! Look for my review in the coming days.

A Book Review P.S.

I forgot to add my final reflective point on my recent review of Kase Johnstun’s work, Beyond the Grip of Craniosynostosis. In some ways it is the most important for me.

4) There are references described in two of Johnstun’s parent interviews to some very similar experiences that we have had, both while Zoey has gone though testing in the NICU, and also in recovery on a hospital floor with other infants and children. Within the world of pediatrics there seems to be a large spectrum of severity when it comes to procedures and recovery. While cranio kids definitely rank high among the level of surgical skill necessary, as well as possible negative results, there is a specific timeframe which families are asked to endure. The vast majority of cranio kids will return home within five days of arriving for pre-op care. Some things have changed, but for the most part, the storm passes once the patients return home. While knowing this, we as parents encounter all sorts of other children on these recovery floors. Some battling cancer, muscular debilitating disorders, uncontrollable seizures, organ failure…the list is as dynamic as the children. In places like that we are reminded as cranio parents that, while we have a few days within five years of heart-wrenching struggle, we can expect to go home. Our kids are the strong, resilient bunch of this group. When we hold our heads up long enough to look around, we realize we are the blessed families. Yet there is enough struggle for us personally that it is not hard to feel deep empathy for the children and families who will spend holidays and birthdays in those rooms.

Side note: One of Zoey’s surgeries was a few weeks before Christmas, and we got a picture with a visiting Santa. As I spoke with a wonderful nurse about it, she lamented that she wished more Santas came around outside of December for the kids in and out year-round. I hope to have the persistence to help bring a Christmas in July to that floor one day.

A Book Review

image

Beyond the Grip ofCraniosynostosis by Kase D. Johnstun

The condition of
craniosynostosis occurs in roughly 1 out of every 1,700 live human
births. It refers to the early fusion of at least one meeting place,
or suture, of two bony plates that help to make up the skull. Just as
the presentations of craniosynostosis vary depending on the number
and placement of the fused sutures, each case is very individualistic
with its own set of variables. This year, Kase D. Johnstun released a
work called, Beyond the Grip of Craniosynostosis: An Inside View of
Life Touched by the Congenital Skull Deformity. In it, Johnstun has
artfully woven the historic narrative of surgical procedures that
have been and are currently being used, with a handful of individual
patient stories including his own.  Johnstun’s level of transparency
when describing his own story is disarming and immediately connects
the reader with the reality of his journey as he re-traces his past.
He has also been careful to include a variety of cases, both in the
presentation of the sutures, and also in the patients’ different
family make-ups and personality-defined responses. His wide net of
interviews is able to directly relate to just about everyone who is
affected by craniosynostosis. It is a must-read for the families and
close friends of anyone who has been affected by craniosynostosis. It
is also a more general story of growing hope for babies with the
condition; socially, physically, medically, and developmentally.

Beyond my general
review, I would like to add four points that struck me on a more
personal note as the mother of a child with craniosynostosis.

1) Despite my
personal research from the day of Zoey’s birth to the present, I
found myself reading facts and historical elements that I had never
heard before in this book. To my knowledge there isn’t a more concise
description that covers such a wide medical history of
craniosynostosis. To the contrary, there are a lot of sources and
stories online that are less than helpful, and this book was a breath
of fresh air in its obvious authoritative voice on the subject, while
also writing for those who have not received any medical training.

2) I have often been
worried that my emotional and psychological response to the surprise
of Zoey’s condition was not reflective of the seriousness of the
situation. While my husband was in tears over the unknown days to
come for his little girl, I rarely had the energy or feeling to cry.
While reading this work, I was able to personally relate, at least in
part, with every single parent interviewed. Some parents internalize
emotions and struggle to sort through their own feelings, and some
are too worn out to show any strong emotion, while others are in
constant tears at every mention of a surgery. Every case is unique,
but the underlining fears are universal. We all sign the consent
forms with the full understanding that these little ones may not look
at us again. I was able to relive my own experiences as I read
through the tears and gritted teeth of other parents, and ultimately
gained a renewed sense of hope and community in realizing that we are
all in this together.

3) I was
reminded of how different the struggles are for those who personally
have the condition from their caregivers and families. Especially
with single suture diagnoses, most children born within the past ten
years or so who were treated within their first year, will experience
little more than a large scar and some family stories that are
repeated in family gatherings. Life continues as normal for them. The
main emotional struggle occurs with the family members who are old
enough to remember the trauma of that first year. Granted, there are
still cases that are undiagnosed for years, and by the time the
children receive any procedures, they have also retained a full
long-term memory. These children are more likely candidates for
therapy sessions and fuller explanations that will have a deeper
impact on them as they grow up. Those with multiple closed sutures,
as in our case, are also more likely to continue procedures through
the years of fully formed memory. There are some experiences that
words will never completely describe, and a cranial vault
reconstruction is one of those experiences. I am so grateful that the
vast majority of babies are now able to continue on with their lives
unhindered by the memories of surgical recovery.    

4) There are references, described in two of Johnstun’s parent interviews, to some very similar experiences that we have had, both while Zoey went though testing in the NICU, and also in recovery on a hospital floor with other infants and children. Within the world of pediatrics there seems to be a large spectrum of severity when it comes to procedures and recovery. While cranio kids definitely rank high among the level of surgical skill necessary, as well as possible negative results, there is a specific time-frame in which families are asked to endure. The vast majority of cranio kids will return home within five days of arriving at the hospital. Some things have changed, but for the most part, the storm passes once the patients return home. While knowing this, we as parents encounter all sorts of other children on these recovery floors. Some battling cancer, muscular debilitating disorders, uncontrollable seizures, organ failure…the list is as dynamic as the children. In places like that we are reminded as cranio parents that, while we have a few days within five years of heart-wrenching struggle, we can expect to go home. Our kids are the strong, resilient bunch of this group. When we hold our heads up long enough to look around, we realize we are the blessed families. Yet there is enough struggle for us personally that it is not hard to feel deep empathy for the children and families who will spend holidays and birthdays in those rooms.Side note: One of Zoey’s surgeries was a few weeks before Christmas, and we got a picture with a visiting Santa. As I spoke with a wonderful nurse about it, she lamented that she wished more Santas came around outside of December for the kids in and out year-round. I hope to have the persistence to help bring a Christmas in July to that floor one day.