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Friday, February 15, 2019

Getting Pumped! An Insulin Pump Guide for Active Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes

I've had Michael Riddell's Getting Pumped! An Insulin Pump Guide for Active Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes for probably around a year or so.  It's one of those books that I really wanted to read (and needed to read), but I just kept finding excuses not to.  But after a rather difficult week where I haven't been able to exercise pretty much at all due to low glucose levels (and with the long weekend coming where I want to exercise a lot), I thought that now was the perfect time to finally read Getting Pumped! (and hopefully glean some tips to help me survive the weekend).

At 96 pages, Getting Pumped is a very quick read; it's also written in very plain language, which adds to the ease (although there are some concepts that took me a second read-through to understand).  It starts out by explaining how diabetes affects the body, then goes on to show some strategies you can use while on an insulin pump (and preferably with a continuous glucose monitor) to make it through aerobic and anaerobic exercises.  It's also got profiles of nine athletic individuals of various ages living with diabetes, and some very interesting notes on some lesser-known diabetes champions.  Riddell has Type 1 diabetes himself, so he adds some sidebars with his own thoughts from living an active life with diabetes.

I was a little bit confused as to who the audience for the book is (beyond the obvious of a person with Type 1 diabetes who has an insulin pump).  There were some sections of the book that seemed written for parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, and others where it seemed to be aimed more at teens (the chart showing a starting point for ex-carbs only went up to people who are 60kg, so that seemed aimed more at teens, too).  But one of the profiles featured a sixty year old man with Type 1 diabetes, so I'm not entirely sure.

I also noticed that when Riddell was talking about running a temporary basal (the background insulin) for exercise, he didn't actually say when to stop it.  But he's included an email address at the beginning of the book, so I'm going to message him and see what he says.

Other than those rather minor things, I think that Getting Pumped! is a fantastic resource for people on an insulin pump who want to live a more active life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Editing Made Easy

I woke up early this morning and couldn't sleep.  So after tossing and turning for awhile, I decided to grab a book and start reading.  The book I chose was Editing Made Easy by Bruce Kaplan; I picked it up from the library because I wanted to brush up on editing.  Editing Made Easy looked like such a short, easy to read book that I thought it was a great place to start.  And it turned out that in this case, looks didn't lie: I finished reading it after only a couple of hours of reading (and taking notes).

Kaplan covers the basics of copy editing.  His goal is to make your writing, whether it be newspaper, a nonfiction book, a blog post, fiction, or whatever else you're writing, effective and simple.  He gives examples of common writing problems and shows how to fix them.  Some of the chapters are basically just lists of words, so those ones weren't fun to read.  But otherwise this is a great resource that you can read cover to cover to learn more about editing!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy

I bought Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy many years ago, whne I was in school. I wanted short stories to give me a break from reading psychology text books. Life didn't exactly turn out how I'd planned, so Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy (and most of the other anthologies I bought at that time) remain on my bookshelves (and on The List). While looking at my books, trying to decide what to read after Empire of Sand, I thought I'd give this a whirl.

The premise behind Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy is fun: this is supposed to be an anthology of stories dedicated to the bad girls of fairy tales and mythology, because "bad girls have more fun" and they "have their real world competition beaten, hands down, both for outrageous behavior and for sheer, unmitigated gall" (those quotes come from the introduction by editor Denise Little). Unfortunately the vast majority of the stories in this volume didn't live up to Little's hype. 

It started with "Shall We Dance" by CS Friedman, which was an odd little tale about a bewitching mystety woman who preys on alpha males, making them into shadows of themselves before abandoning them for the next alpha. This one was odd because the mystery woman spoke no words (the story was narrated by a guy who saw her destroy his friend), but it did have a bad girl. Then we had "Bitter Crowns: a Tale of Crownland," which was the first story that left me wondering why it was in this book. The story is about a female lawgiver who travels around and dispenses justice (rather like a Herald of Valdemar); she encounters a serpent from her past who traps women in trees so they can create blood fruit for it. While interesting, there were no hags, no sirens, and no bad girls. This happened again and again, with tales that either had no bad girls, or bad girls who were really good girls doing bad things. Of the 20 stories in this book, only about 5 of them had an actual bad girl doing bad things. The winner on that score waw probably "Black Annie" by Jean Rabe, a brutal tale of a hag who slaughters a village because they killed a cat in an attempt to lure her out. 

The stories I enjoyed were "The Light of Ra" by Phaedra M. Weldon, which was about Isis, Set, and Osiris, "Mother of Monsters" by Greg Beatty, which was said to be one of the really good stories of this volume by other reviewers, "Lilith" by Peter Orullian, another one listed as really good, and "Heart of Stone" by Scott William Carter, which tells of how Medusa learned to love. 

I know that anthologies are really hit and miss, but I found it to be a real slog to get to the better stories in this volume. I almost didn't finish reading Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy because it was such a slog. But I made it through, and now I can finally cross it off The List for good).

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Empire of Sand

I saw Tasha Suri's Empire of Sand at work the other day.  It sounded really interesting, so I decided to give it a read. 

Empire of Sand is the story of Mehr.  She is the illegitimate daughter of an Ambhan Governor and an Amrithi woman.  Her mother was exiled when Mehr was younger and her father married another woman who disliked Mehr almost immediately because she visibly looks Amrithi.  The Amrithi are outcasts, considered to be barbarians by the Ambhan, I think mainly because their culture is so different: the Amrithi are nomads who dwell in the desert and are descended from the daiva.

Mehr lives mainly in solitude, taking comfort only in the times when she is permitted to visit her younger sister, Arwa.  Arwa doesn't visibly look Amrithi, so their stepmother has taken it upon herself to raise Arwa in ignorance of her Amrithi heritage (which Mehr insists on practicing - her father, out of guilt, allows her to continue her practice).  So Mehr spends much of her time dancing the Amrithi rites her mother and later her friend Lalita taught her; the rites bring her joy.

A dreamfire storm is approaching Mehr's home soon (dreamfire is the manifestation of the Gods' dreams - the Gods are slumbering under the desert).  Her teacher promises that they will dance one of the rites together; Mehr is excited because it is the first time she as ever been able to.  But when her teacher fails to appear, Mehr leaves the house to look for her.  When the storm surrounds her, she pleads with it to lead her to Lalita; she finds only Lalita's friend and guardian Usha dying instead. Once the storm passes, Mehr is found by her father's guards, but disgraced because she is wearing no veil.  Her father tells her her actions will have consequences, and so she will be forced to marry.  While Mehr has never wanted to marry, especially someone from another province because she does not want to lose her Amrithi heritage, she at least will be given the choice of who to marry: this choice is the only one permitted to Ambhan women - the choice of whose burdens to share; it is a choice that the Ambhan take very seriously and is respected by all.  And while Mehr is part Amrithi, she is also part Ambhan, and so this is a choice she will have to make for herself.

Unfortunately Mehr's actions during the storm draw the attention of the Maha, the spiritual leader of the Ambham Empire (and the first Emperor who has been alive for many generations).  He has been searching for Amrithi with the gift and Mehr has revealed herself to have it.  His mystics arrive and inform Mehr that the Maha has a possible suitor for her.  Everyone knows that Mehr is not being given a real choice, that if she refuses the Maha he will have her family killed.  The nobles are angered, and her father wants to spirit her away to another province, but Mehr insists on accepting the match to protect her family, especially her sister.

And so she is married to Amun.  Unexpectedly, the vow is a physical thing on her skin - that is why the Amrithi make no vows (and why Mehr's mother refused to marry her father).  Vows are true binding things to the Amrithi - going against a vow will physically hurt you (and can literally kill you).  Amun has been bound to the Maha, and was instructed to lie with Mehr so that she would be bound to share his burdens (which are whatever the Maha demands); hating that Mehr was given no choice in the matter, Amun chooses to fight the vow subtly - they lie together but do not have sex to seal the deal. 

Mehr is brought with the mystics to the Maha's temple.  Everything she ever knew and loved is forcibly ripped from her (and even her culture in many ways - Mehr was raised as an Ambhan noblewoman, which meant she wore veils like armor - here her face is always bare for all to see).  The only constant is Amun, who Mehr learns is not at all the animal the other mystics treat him as.  She learns that the two of them are required to perform the Rite of the Binding, which is how the Maha has been living so long (and making the Empire prosper) - he channels the dreamfire through his Amrithi servants and uses his mystics to direct the dreams of the Gods to favour the Empire.  Mehr dares to dream of escape, for both her and Amun.  But Amun is truly bound to the Maha, and has no idea how long he can fight his vow and keep Mehr free.

Empire of Sand was awesome!  I particularly loved the worldbuilding - it's based off of Mughal Indian culture, I believe.  I loved how the Amrithi vows worked, too.  And also the Rites, how they were dances. 

I also quite liked Mehr and Amun.  Even though she felt very out of place and at times useless, Mehr helped Amun dream and hope again.  I started out not sure how to feel about her (she talked about using people a fair bit, but she was also raised in a very bad situation with her stepmother before moving into an even worse situation under the Maha, so it was kind of understandable).  In the end I thought she was a very noble woman who had grown a lot into a better person.  Amun had a rather quiet and understated character, but that was okay because it was him.  He had a subtle humour, which I loved, and was just a perfect match for Mehr in so many ways.  I really enjoyed reading about their adventures.

One thing that made me kind of shake my head (although this wasn't exactly a bad thing), was how the "bad guys" of the story were: they treated both Amun and Mehr as tools and as subhuman.  The Maha and one of his female mystics, Kalini, were particularly bad for that.  I wonder how the story might have been had people been kinder to Mehr?  If the Maha hadn't taken great pleasure in making her fear him?  Or if Kalini had encouraged Mehr to make friends (particularly with her sister, Hema?)

Overall, I loved reading Empire of Sand.  Between the worldbuilding, the characters, and the story itself, it is a fantastic book that I cannot recommend enough!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Fair Game

After reading The Night Circus, I decided to continue on with the fantasy reading.  The Night Circus reminded me of urban fantasy (but without the vampires, werewolves, witches, and fae), so I decided to read Fair Game, the third Alpha and Omega novel.

Fair Game takes place quite some time after Hunting Ground.  Werewolves have outed themselves to the world.  The Marrock Bran has tightened werewolf law; where once young wolves may have gotten a warning, now they are executed if they break that law.  And Charles is the one who gets to do the honours.  He's been sent out as his father's executioner for about a year now.  And the job is killing him. 

Luckily for Charles, he is mated to Anna.  Anna knows what is happening because Charles has stopped playing music and has shut down the bond between them.  She goes to the Marrock, who doesn't listen to her.  So then she gets Asil to help her.  It is Asil who finally gets through to Bran that Charles needs to do something else to get his mind off of all the killings he has had to do for the pack.

Luckily an opportunity comes up that is perfect: there is a serial killer loose in Boston, and the FBI want a werewolf to help them find the culprit.  Bran sends Anna to consult with them, with Charles as her bodyguard.  They discover that the victims have largely been half-blooded fae, along with a few werewolves thrown in since the werewolves have gone public.  Unfortunately for Anna and Charles, helping the FBI puts them on the killer's hit list.

I loved this book.  Reading about Anna and Charles felt like going back to visit old friends.  Fair Game was also a bit of a departure from the way Anna and Charles are in earlier novels though: Anna is in many ways the stronger one here, while Charles is the weaker one (ghosts from his executions are literally haunting him, and he is terrified they will hurt Anna so he has shut the bond down between them to protect her, even though that is hurting her terribly).  I loved the change in Anna in particular because she has grown into herself now, refusing to be anyone's victim (she even says that Charles teaching her to protect herself is the best gift he ever gave her; that he is still willing to come and help her/protect her is the second best).  And seeing Charles truly vulnerable to something was refreshing (and how the power of love literally does save him, because fearing for Anna's life helps him break through the stranglehold the ghosts have on him).

This was the first book though that I felt might have benefited from me reading more from the Mercy Thompson series (which I haven't read since 2009).  A lot of time passes between Hunting Ground and Fair Game and there's even reference to things that have happened to Mercy that I really feel like I should have read first.  But really, it's not a huge deal - those references are only made in the first chapter or so, then Fair Game goes onto its own path.

The characters were also a little hard to follow.  Anna and Charles meet six people initially in Boston: two FBI, two Homeland Security, and two agents from CANTRIP (the agency dealing with supernaturals), then a Fae.  Outside of the two FBI characters, who are around through the whole book, I had a hard time keeping all of the other characters straight, especially since I don't really think the Homeland Security ones show up again (so I kept second guessing myself with names and wondering who was who).  By the end of the book I was fine, but the middle got a bit confusing trying to keep everyone straight.

But like I said, I really did love this book.  I'm glad the series has continued (book 5 was published in 2018) so I'll be able to read more adventures of Anna and Charles in the future. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Night Circus

I've wanted to read The Night Circus for a while now.  My brother gave me a copy (I think last year) and I've been meaning to read it ever since then.  But every time I grabbed it, The Night Circus would sit on my nightstand while I inevitably started some other book instead.  I don't know why this kept happening - I've heard super good things about the book.  Interestingly, when I was talking to a friend at work about planning on starting it earlier this week, she said the exact same thing!  Strange.

But once I did actually start reading it, I finished it in just a couple of days. :)

I don't know quite how to describe the book, so I'm going to let the summary on Goodreads do the talking for me:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
 
So we have the physical circus, which is the venue chosen for Celia and Marco's duel.  Celia and Marco were trained from young ages to duel, but were never actually told by their instructors (Celia's father and the mysterious Mr. A.H.) what the parameters of the duel were.  Celia doesn't actually know who her opponent is for quite some time, while Marco knows it is her from the moment he first sees her; Celia is the circus's illusionist, and she assumes her opponent is someone else physically in the circus, but Marco is the proprietor's assistant and so manages from afar. 

This book is magic to read. The idea of using a physical place like a circus as the venue for a duel is fantastic.  The circus itself is a place where people expect to "see" magic, so anything Celia and Marco do to influence it just fits in with the general ambience.  I loved how the new tents they would create were basically love letters to each other. :)

It was also interesting just how much the circus became wrapped up with them.  By the end of the book Le Cirque des Rêves could not function without them.

One thing I had a hard time with were the dates.  The story twists and turns through time (specifically jumping ahead a few years to show what is happening to Bailey, a young boy who is enchanted with the circus and one of the twins who was born there), then heads back to show what is happening with Celia and Marco. Even though there were months and years (as well as the city), I had a hard time keeping it all straight in my head.  And once Bailey's story intersected with Celia and Marco's, this got even harder to keep straight!

Overall though, I really enjoyed The Night Circus.  It is a magical, unique book that I'm glad I finally read.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Back when I bought Ship Breaker, I also bought Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren.  After finishing Divergent, I saw Prisoner of Ice and Snow sitting on my shelf and decided to give it a read too. And you know what was way more fun than jumping into and out of trains?  A prison break by thirteen year olds in fantasy Russia!

Valor's twin sister Sasha was given a life sentence in jail after stealing from the royal family.  So Valor decides to spring her sister from the inside!  She gets herself thrown into the same jail by shooting an arrow at the prince.  So now she just needs to find her sister and get the two of them out.  Unfortunately they are in Tyur'ma, the prison for young offenders; no one has ever successfully escaped from Tyur'ma.  But that doesn't stop Valor!  She has a plan to get them both out!

Prisoner of Ice and Snow is a lot of fun.  Seeing how Valor needs to outsmart the warden (and the prince, who has taken an interest in her), all while trying to figure out who among the prisoners she can trust (and while dealing with unexpected setbacks) was great.  There's also some really great worldbuilding - the Kingdom of Demidova is ruled by the Queen and passes through the female line.  Valor was supposed to be following in her mother's footsteps as Queen's Huntress, and Sasha was training to be the future Queen's Advisor before she was sent to jail.  I didn't get a great sense of what most of the men in the kingdom do, but Valor's father was the current Queen's Advisor before their family was disgraced by the theft, so men do not seem to be treated as second-class citizens in Demidova, which was nice to see (I remember men being second-class citizens in Melanie Rawn's Exile's series, which I read long before starting this blog).

All in all, this was a fun, super fast read that i quite enjoyed.