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Book Review: Into The Magic Shop by James Doty

Book Cover for Into the Magic Shop by James Doty, MD

“Into The Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart” by James R. Doty (MD) has a bit of magic that everyone should know. 

Magic – What more could a young boy, on the cusp of adolescence, want?

Magic is something that Doty has chosen to share with the world and I am ever so thankful that he did. Doty has a sincere, and yet objective, tone throughout “Into The Magic Shop”, even as he recounts his past. A past that is no doubt painful and difficult. Yet, his retelling of his childhood family experiences are portrayed with the child-like lens that he experiences them through.

“My family had little money, and I was often hungry. I didn’t like being hungry. I didn’t like being poor.” (pg 13)

As he paints a picture of his nowhere town, it is clear that Doty was quite aware as a young child – although this could be contributed to his abusive and neglected upbringing, as a hyper-awareness can develop in the name of safety. Doty recounts the negative and positive about his childhood and the full perspective truly helps to bring the story to life.

I found early on that we had something in common: we each had a wooden box where we would keep prized possessions. For Doty, his items were: a notebook of doodles, poetry and random facts, along with a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I found it fascinating that someone so young had a copy of a book that most adults won’t even bother to read today. Knowing he cares enough to study himself at a young age, I am more than happy to join him on his adventure to the magic shop.

Enter Ruth (or rather, enter Jim).

Before he enters the magic shop in town to find another thumb (if you do magic tricks, you’ll understand why losing your thumb can be a bummer), Doty has only been known by Bobby. When he enters the shop though, he tells the older lady behind the counter that his name is Jim. Instead of a thumb, he finds Ruth casually sitting behind the counter of the store, admitting to hold a seat until her son returns. Ruth is quite the intuitive and Jim is inherently drawn to her. They converse about how often Jim practices magic and as they continue to discuss magic’s inner workings, with Jim’s aware nature at the fore, Ruth’s first bits of mind blowing wisdom bubble up:

” “I think the magic trick works because people see only what they think is there rather than what’s actually there. This thumb tip trick works because the mind is a funny thing. It sees what it expects to see. It expects to see a real thumb, so that’s what it sees. The brain, as busy as it can be, is actually very lazy. And yes, it also works because people are, as you said, so easily distracted.” ” (pg 21)

Quote - Everyone should have their minds blown once a day Neil deGrasse

Ruth’s insight into the mind is a tell for the wisdom she passes on to Doty. Once he agrees to her teaching him the ultimate trick, he anticipates learning but… not exactly the lessons that Ruth has in mind.

Ruth’s Tricks

Ruth teaches Doty daily for the duration of his summer and passes on to him the following four tricks:

Trick #1 – Relax the body

For anyone who practices meditation, this is the first step. Using breathing techniques paired with muscle relaxation, Doty learns to relax from toes to head (yes, in that order).

Trick #2 – Tame the mind

Thoughts are traffic in the mind. There are ones that we are very aware of (“I need to get out of bed”) and some that are automatic or learned (“Breathe in, breathe out” or “I’m just like my mother”). This step is difficult to get your head around, especially if you are someone who wants to action/fix/tend to each thought. Taming the mind is not about clearing it but watching it. Your mind will think regardless of whether you attend to it or not. Let it go. This is where Doty learns about mantras.

Trick #3 – Opening the heart

Ruth’s lesson here is succinct but this lesson is the hardest for Doty (and arguably anyone) to grasp: “But here’s the trick about the things that hurt us and cause us pain – they also serve an amazing purpose. When our hearts are wounded, that’s when they open. We grow through pain. We grow through difficult situations. That’s why you have to embrace each and every difficult thing in your life.” (pg 90). Something that we need to do may be simple but it may not be easy. It could be leaving a non-fulfilling but comfortable friendship. It could be forgiving someone. This trick is all about unconditional love, giving and receiving it. “What matters is that you have an open heart. An open heart connects with others, and that changes everything.” (pg 105).

Trick #4 – Clarifying your intent

Today this would be called manifestation or visualization. I love this title for the exercise, as it gets to the human side. It’s about the feeling that is achieved when the goal or mission is carried out. Digging deep into belief, this exercise shows the practitioner that they are capable of achievement and, most importantly, they are capable. Taking the time to add details to the vision every time creates a compounding effect that helps the vision to become a reality.

Mariner's Compass - Pointing South EastNow that he knows what to do, what does Doty do with his lessons from Ruth?

Doty’s Journey

Ruth’s lessons and her time with Doty is only the first half of the book.  Doty’s continues on his journey into the medical profession. He creates a Goliath set of mistakes for himself. Then he returns to the employ of each of Ruth’s tricks. This makes up the second half. The latter part of the book is as important and impactful as the first. I am thankful for his work with the practitioners that he is fortunate enough to partner with. The second part is where Doty truly finds meaning in opening his heart and clarifying intent.  Don’t miss out on that – it’s a beautiful journey. If you want to go on your own journey, there is a plethora of extra information: exercises, podcasts, and a reader’s guide.

What I love most about this book is how it integrates so closely with what I’ve learned in The Happiness Advantage, Emotional Overeating, and The Thank You Economy. Learning about different ways to work with my mind and enhance my experience of life exhilarates me and encourages me to keep going.

Certainly a must read for anyone who is interested in: meditation, creating life goals or purpose, exploring how their mind works, and/or is curious about whether or not the tricks work.

 

Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises Cover - a little blonde girl is standing next to a large black dog looking out into the distance

A Girl, Her Grandmother, Their Fairytale

I read Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises as the May selection for The Girly Book Club. If you’re a gal who loves to read and you’d like to get together with other gals in your area to read a book that the club is reading internationally, find your club here. Reviews for other GBC books can be found here and here.

Relationships are important

The key point in this book is that relationships are the cornerstone of one’s life. Don’t underestimate them and ask questions so you can build understanding about the other person. Elsa’s grandmother patiently answers all of Elsa’s questions with an honesty that is gifted to grandmothers. Their relationship is clear and strong, as Elsa is bullied at school and struggles to make sincere connections with others.

“…life saving and driving people nuts are Granny’s superpowers. Which perhaps makes her a bit of a dysfunctional superhero.” (pg 3)

Granny is the catalyst to everything in this tale. She’s the true protagonist (and possibly antagonist, depending on which character’s point of view you take). Elsa and her Granny get into all sorts of troublesome situations, which I personally enjoyed. I loved that Granny would do what she pleased, even go so far as to fling poop at police. She protects Elsa in her way, using her super powers of story-telling and detail to weave an alternate reality for Elsa. This alternate reality is called the Land-of-Almost-Awake. It is a reflection of reality: elaborate kingdoms, citizens that are tangled up in wars, royals that rule the lands.

The Gift

As a knight in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, Elsa is required to take on missions and complete them. Her grandmother conjures the most detailed quests for Elsa, putting her utmost faith in her ability to complete them. Elsa, curious about the meaning of the missions, takes them on due to her knightly pride. She is a knight of the Land-of-Almost-Awake and she will not forsake her duty. Plus, her only friend in the world (her grandmother) is trusting her to complete them, regardless of how hard they may seem to an almost eight year old.

“You’re not a little kid Elsa. You always say I should treat you like a grown-up. So stop answering me like a little kid. Why do you fight?” (pg 61)

Wanting to be treated like an adult is one of Elsa’s most endearing traits. What child doesn’t want to be a part of the adult conversation? To have their voice heard and their opinion respected as part of the decision making process? I was like Elsa as a child. I loved listening to adult conversation, trying to navigate what they were talking about, enjoying listening to different points of view and deciding which camp I fell into. Blessed to have a mother who would indulge in my quest for knowledge, my questions were answered. Had I also been blessed with internet at the time, Wikipedia would have been my best friend as well. However, my tool is the dictionary. I loved looking up words to figure out a new context, a new piece to the word puzzle.

Delivering Letters

As with all good things, they must come to an end. It is fairly clear from the beginning of the story that Elsa is going to experience her own loss and coming of age. Elsa is set to go on the greatest scavenger hunt of them all while dealing with the new emotions of grief, loss, anger and forgiveness. She sets out on her journey to deliver the first letter, along with Granny’s regards and apology.

Elsa’s Granny is the best schemer of all time. She has taught Elsa that everything has meaning, even if she doesn’t understand it right now. In order to have no fear during that time of ambiguity, Granny sends her on this journey to meet people that she’s been living around her whole life but doesn’t know who they are. As she delivers letter after letter, Elsa discovers people. She discovers their messiness, stories, and love. As each of the surface level characters are taken to a depth of 1000 feet, it is apparent that Elsa is meant to come of age with a community that has been encouraged to circle her with what love they can give.

Receiving Love

Elsa is experiences love from the adults closest to her – her mother and Granny. However, she’s the subject of the bully’s attention at school. If you haven’t ever been bullied or witnessed it, the account that is in this novel is a fairly accurate one. You learn to run, quickly. Learn to avoid certain places at certain times. Perpetuate the fear outside of the bullying environment. Being bullied results in being hyper-aware and distrustful of people. Elsa is keenly aware of her predicament and wants to have friends her own age, to feel the friendly love that familial love cannot provide. Outside of your immediate circle, it is an incredible blessing in life is to receive love.  Friends love you for who you are, who you are becoming and, most importantly, they grow with you.

Through Granny’s letter delivery quest, Elsa begins to realize that she has an ability to connect with people. Her interpersonal skills aren’t always on point but what almost eight year old has refined that super power? Elsa begins to cultivate the respect that her neighbours had for her Granny, sometimes changing it into love for herself, as she worked through her grief. This mature little girl receives love in so many ways: people taking the time to drive her, hearing the content of the letters, saving her from bullies, accompanying her on walks. It was an impressive coming together of the characters from the Land-of-Almost-Awake. As Elsa discovers each of them as their characters, she has an automatic connection with them. After all, the master tale spinner has been helping her to understand them in fairy tale form for most of her life.

Overall…

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes is a book that takes the reader through the Land-of-Almost-Awake and drowns them in the theme of humanity, particularly relationships. Elsa’s story picks up steam with the final quest, this book is an impressively simple read that is slow to start. Start to finish this one!

Four stars!

(PS I picked up the British version and loved it. Reading it with an accent and learning some new vocabulary was fun!)

Book Review: The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass

Book Cover for The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass - a girl is sitting on a swing looking up over her left shoulder at the camera

Mental Health is pervasive and Kim’s story adds to the discourse.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am in absolute love with the Cathy Glass collection. In “The Silent Cry” by Cathy Glass, mental health has a large focus and Cathy’s approach to it is amazing. As this is a book set in earlier years, I am pleased to be part of Cathy’s younger world as I am guilty of having read her books horribly out of order. I enjoy the different dynamic between Cathy and her young children, Adrian and Paula.

However, this capturing of Kim’s story is truly a story about the interconnect of relationships that each of us go through, along with the thought process that a friend has when there are clear signs that her friend is struggling. This is the first in the series that I’ve seen a disrupted and changing storyline in terms of the children that are coming into Cathy’s care. In this book, you get to experience her mainly providing respite (short term care). As she is doing this, she is also worries about Kim’s mom. Cathy’s experiences with Kim’s grandmother, which are quite cold, do little to quell her concerns.

After quite a length of time, Cathy is able to get through to the family that is covering up a mental illness. Finally, Kim’s mom receives a diagnosis of post-partum psychosis. This is a rare development that can occur after pregnancy and is treatable. After all the adults involved come together to help, Kim’s mom is on the road to recovery and health.

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Mental health is an important matter! Please ensure that you and your loved ones encourage each other to receive help when it’s needed. There are qualified, professional people in your area who are able to help by phone, email or in person.

Need help? Google “*City Name* Mental Health”. 

Book Review: Can I Let You Go? by Cathy Glass

 

Can I Let You Go? Cathy Glass

A true story about a girl named Faye.

After reading about Lucy in “Will You Love Me?”, I am hooked on Cathy Glass’ books. She creates intrigue about her career as a foster carer. I am drawn in by the histories of the children she fosters, and am inspired by her ability to work through many difficult issues with grace and dignity.

Faye’s time with Cathy is different. Cathy cares for younger children and teenagers, not adults. Faye is cognitively disabled and comes to Cathy’s care when she is in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She is like a child in many ways.

“Reassured, Faye turned her attention to what was going on outside, gazing through the window with the intrigue and wonder of a child.” (pg 71)

A lot of Cathy’s previous training and experience with younger children is used during Faye’s stay. Thankfully, Cathy’s three children (including Lucy) are older, in their late teens and 20s, and are able to help support Faye wherever they can. Cathy explains in each book that fostering is a family experience and choice. The decision to take on Faye and her baby eventually poses challenges for each of the family members and they make it through each difficulty as a team.

Spoiler alerts below!

When Faye first meets Cathy and her family, she is adamant about not referring to her baby. She is avoiding emotional attachment and prefers to avoid the topic all together. Cathy struggles with how she is going to help Faye prepare for the final trimester of her pregnancy and ultimately the delivery. Also, there’s the aspect of who-dun-it. Who is the father of the baby? Was Faye taken advantage of?

Faye continues attending her prenatal appointments and experiences changes in the baby’s physiology, she broaches the subject of wanting to keep her baby. There are concerns as to whether or not Faye would make a fit parent but those on her care team oblige with her wishes. They work diligently to have her trained and evaluated after the baby is born at a centre and take on the task of informing her grandparents and the adoptive parents of her decision.

There is little time for Faye to learn an immense amount of information that new parents are expected to. Her delivery is soon. Cathy is by Faye’s side as she goes through labour. She hopes that the new information shared and practiced with Faye has stuck. A few days after the birth, Faye confides in Cathy:

“There’s too much to learn…lots and lots of things I can’t remember.” Page 265

The reality of her ability to care effectively for her child is apparent to Faye. She agrees to go through with the original adoption.

Sounds like a happy ending for all right? Well, there’s one more plot twist but I’ll let you find out what that is.

Onto my next Cathy Glass book!

Book Review: Stuffed by Patricia Volk

Volk Stuffed

Stuffed by Patricia Volk was one of those books I couldn’t finish reading.

As a reader, if I am struggling with a novel, I try twice to give it a chance to wiggle its way into my heart. Stuffed is one of those novels that had the change and doesn’t make the cut. The appeal to ead about a restaurant family includes the restaurant and less about the interpersonal relationships in a family.

I am a narrative reader, and in this book, the train of thought is a cataclysmic mess, with stream of consciousness taking place for the duration of my experience. Time and place have no context, no clear movement from one to the other. It is like a conservation with an elderly person who you’ve asked to share their life story. Now they are fifty and in the next breath nineteen. It is mind numbing to read.

Finally, the triggers in the book is what made me set it aside for good. The way Volk’s mother speaks and acts toward her is disgusting and I chose to not endure it:

“What she wantes for me is an even cleaner, thinner, happier life than she has. Mom made me, and now she will make me better. I’m unfinishes, something she can’t stop sculpting, something it’s her job to complete.” (pg 61)

While I can’t recommend this book, I would like to share something with you. Mother’s Day is right around the corner and while Volk had a mother that saw her as not good enough, not thin enough, not anything enough, I hope differently for you. Relationships are important to have and are important pieces of long, healthy lives. The research says so and I’ll share that in one of my upcoming reviews.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Book Review: Will You Love Me? by Cathy Glass

A true story about a girl named Lucy.

Will You Love Me? by Cathy Glass is a true story about Lucy. She is in Cathy’s care after eleven long years. She experienced neglect, abuse and poor interactions with the UK’s foster care system. Over her mere decade on this planet, Lucy endured many challenges. Multiple moves, with her mom and in the foster system. A lack of proper nutrition.  Very little bonding with her mother. Adult figures came in and out of her life without any intention of parenting her appropriately.

The story follows chronological order, as best as Cathy could piece together. The basis is from the notes taken by various care and foster workers who are in the folds of Lucy’s story. Lucy starts off as an infant with her mother, Bonnie, and is soon in the transient lifestyle. Bonnie reflects on her days before she was a mother and recognizes that her perspective shifted:

“One of the girls had had a four year old child with her, and at the time Bonnie had thought it was wrong that the kindshould be forced to live like that and felt it would have been better off in foster care or being adopted, but now she had a baby of her own it was different; she’d do anything to keep her child.” (pg 19)

As her childhood progresses, Lucy experiences multiple moves – until social services steps in and works to get her into permanent care.

Through multiple interactions at different levels from social services, Lucy’s plight is well documented. Most of her experiences in and out of the care system is retold by Cathy:

“Lucy improved dramatically in the eight months she lived with Annie and her family. She gradually lost her fear of strangers, began playing and talking more, and was starting to catch up with her peer group.” (pg 73)

Understandably, Lucy has challenges and demonstrates ebbs and flows in her adjustment to her carers.

While at Cathy’s, there are serious concerns about Lucy’s ability to make sincere connections with her peer group, dealing with her anger, and her relationship with food:

“…one thing I did know was that the following day, when everyone was at school, I would go online and research eating disorders.”(pg 163)

As Lucy’s carer, Cathy is diligent throughout the book with her discovery and implementation of strategies; all efforts to make Lucy a member of her family. All members of the family love Lucy and express it openly:

“We were through to the living room where my parents gave Lucy her birthday present, and we all watched while she opened it. Lucy had previously told my mother that she wanted to be a famous beautician when she was older and do the make-up for film stars. Now, to Lucy’s unimaginable delight, the present from my parents was a large play beauty salon, set in a big red sparkling case.” (pg 233)

Will You Love Me? is a great book! It is full of moments that are wrenching, enlightening and tough to read. The book is interesting and recommended to anyone learning more about the fostering system, childhood adversity and interesting life stories. There are triggers throughout the book so I would not recommend it to anyone who may share a similar past.

Solid five stars and I am thankful to Cathy for sharing her stories with the world.

Book Review: The Toughest Prison of All by Floyd C. Forsberg

Toughest Prison of All

The Toughest Prison of All cover

Floyd C. Forsberg, bank robber and changed man, tells his story about life on the inside, outside and on some people’s bad sides. Part of the synopsis of the book is “[he] spent his time behind bars planning the biggest bank heist in history and longing for the simple love of his soul mate. When he robbed the First National Bank of Nevada in 1974, he achieved his first goal. But with a million dollars of the bank’s money in his hands and the FBI constantly on his tail, he would have to escape The Toughest Prison of All to achieve peace.”

Forsberg (or Frosty, the name of his cruder, meaner side), writes from his own perspective. He explores what it was like to plan and rob banks, escape prison and be on the run. All the while wishing for stability and a sense of normalcy. It was uncomfortable to read at first due to the retelling of his childhood and the obvious impact that would have on his future. It was uncomfortable because I wanted to root for him. I couldn’t. There were so many opportunities for Forsberg to make a change and he chose not to. A lot of people have those types of people in their lives and it is unsettling to be in their mind.

It is a bold book written with depth, capturing the attention and keeps it throughout. . Each time I remember that this is someon’es past, their history, my stomach churns. It is a true look into the American justice and prison system and there are clearly gaps within the system. A rehabilitation system. Particularly around the ability to report, investigate and punish those within the ranks, as Forsberg addresses. Overall, Toughest Prison is a decent read, with an interesting storyline and somewhat interesting characters. It’s a predictable book with a sort of happy ending and is a cautionary tale.

 

This book review was done for BookTasters. If you’d like to get free books in exchange for an honest review, they’re fabulous to work with and I highly recommend them!

What’s Up at ReadViews: January 2017

It’s January, a fabulous time to read, review and generally be ambitious.

Reading-wise, I’m pretty excited about this year. I’ve made a personal goal of reading 40 books. You can join me on Goodreads and see how I’m doing with the reading challenge!


Here are the ReadViews you can expect in January:

Cover for The Blood Red Nails of War by Hannah Warren - Reviewing January 2017
The Blood Nails of War
Author: Hannah Warren

Cover of The Cottage on the Border by Hannah Warren - Reviewing January 2017

The Cottage on The Border: The Jenna Kroon Series
Author: Hannah Warren

Cover of The Farm on Nieuw Land Road by Hannah Warren - Reviewing January 2017
The Farm on Nieuw Land Road: The Jenna Kroon Series
Author: Hannah Warren

Cover of Lover Letters by Paulette Dahl - Reviewing in January 2017
Love Letters: Extraordinary Loving for Everyday Living
Author Paulette Dahl


This month I’ll be reading:

Cover of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Reading in January 2017
The Great Gatsby
Author: F.Scott Fitzgerald

Cover of Alice Munro's Best: Selected Short Stories - Reading January 2017
Alice Munro’s Best: Selected Stories
Author: Alice Munro

Cover of Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - Reading January 2017
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Author: Brené Brown

Cover of The Rose and The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh - Reading January 2017
The Rose and The Dagger
Author: Renée Ahdieh

For The Girly Book Club

Cover of Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra - Reading January 2017
Only Daughter
Author: Anna Snoekstra