Review: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz – Don’t Trust Your Gut (S)

Don’t Trust Your Gut
Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

“Big decisions are hard. We consult friends and family, make sense of confusing “expert” advice online, maybe we read a self-help book to guide us. In the end, we usually just do what feels right, pursuing high stakes self-improvement—such as who we marry, how to date, where to live, what makes us happy—based solely on what our gut instinct tells us. But what if our gut is wrong? Biased, unpredictable, and misinformed, our gut, it turns out, is not all that reliable. And data can prove this. In Don’t Trust Your Gut, economist, former Google data scientist, and New York Times bestselling author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals just how wrong we really are when it comes to improving our own lives.”

This is not a business type book that I normally read, but it was really interesting! The introduction is a little long and slow – mostly because it has a lot of sports which I’m not interested in. Once the book starts and gets into it though, the data is really interesting. It’s so hard to trust any data that’s on the internet, so it’s nice to have it in a book and a well presented format that is really accessible for everyone (and hopefully reliable!).

The author is a really good storyteller and uses the data in a presentable format. Although it’s a really interesting book, it doesn’t have anything to really take away and apply to life decisions, despite the cover saying you will “make better choices”. Yes there is data on what makes people happy, but I believe that this is going to change depending on the person.

It’s not a self help book with key takeaways to use everyday but the book is a fascinating and entertaining read. I recommend it – 4 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 5 July 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Alice Ryan – There’s Been a Little Incident

There’s Been a Little Incident
Alice Ryan

Molly runs. Molly travels. Molly brings the life to the party. Molly is running away from death. She’s run off again – this time we aren’t sure where, but we will track her down!

This novel was.. average. I kept reading it because I expected something to happen. I was hopeful the ending might redeeem it, but I was disappointed. It potters along throwing out tidbits about Molly’s life, and the life of her siblings/aunts/uncles/cousins and poor ?brother? who is far away in Australia. Come on! It’s not forever away any more! And I don’t see why they need to track down Molly at all. I received no sense of closure when the book was finished.

I received this as an ARC so I already felt invested like I should enjoy it. Sadly, it let me down. I hate books with multiple perspectives, and I hate books with inserted text messages / poems / songs. This book had both and I don’t think either of them added anything! The multiple perspectives weren’t awful, but because I didn’t really care about whether they found the main character (Molly – she could be dead for all I cared), I didn’t care about each of their own minature stories.

There’s an attempt at a twist as a young nurse has gone missing, but it’s not really enough to catch anyone’s interest. It does eventually entwine with the rest of Molly’s family, but it doesn’t seem to have very much significance. If you asked me, they are all just running around crazily and could probably benefit from some paid psychological help.

Ugh. 2 stars because I finished it, but don’t waste your time. I’m really not sure who this novel would appeal to.

Head of Zeus | 1 November 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Brigid Kemmerer – Defy the Night

Defy the Night
Brigid Kemmerer

Tessa Cade makes adrenaline-filled supply runs to dying individuals in the Wilds. The Kingdom is threatened by a fever that noone knows the cause of, and only moonflowers can cure it. The rich, of course, have more moonflower elixir than they need. The poor are dying, and the King and his cruel brother don’t care.

I found the illnesses that weren’t the fever particularly interesting. It seems like the moonflowers were good for the fever – but that was it! So Tessa’s experience as an apothecary was useful in more than one regard. I find it so hard to believe that people are still buying solutions that are useless – but I guess some people need to buy hope (COVID19 quacks anyone?)

The ‘sectors’ in this novel unfortunately just remind me of The Hunger Games. It seems super weird to me that a city would be set out as sectors, let alone a whole kingdom. Anyone else feel that way? I never really got a clear picture in my head about how it worked, or how large they were. The Royal sector was probably small, because Tessa and Wes could cover it in a night? Or was I misinterpreting how time works there

No! Stop! Before you read the blurb, or have a glance at the next novel, don’t do it! You’ll ruin some of the fabulous suspense that’s in this novel. If I was the King, I’m not sure I’d have bought Tessa or Corrick’s stories. I think he’s right to not trust anyone!

I read this as an ebook on my phone (not my preferred format) because I had received the second book for review. I wasn’t feeling up for a long series read, and I’ve previously been disappointed (and didn’t even finish/review) the second book by Kemmerer of the A Curse so Dark and Lonely series. Imagine my disgust when I realised this is yet another trilogy! 4 stars only then, not 5, because I don’t trust the author to finish their story satisfactorily.

Review: Kevin Christopher Snipes – Milo and Marcos at the End of the World

Milo and Marcos at the End of the World
Kevin Christopher Snipes

Milos and Van have been besties forever. It doesn’t matter to Milos that she’s sworn off organised religion, and it doesn’t matter to Van that Milos is a bit of a religious pariah. When Marcos walks back into their lives, Van is excited and Milos feels betrayed. How dare this boy who made him feel the wrong things be back? As they get closer and closer, the world begins to end – coincidences pile up, and leave Milos asking – does God hate gays?

What was good about this novel was the internal anguish of Milo trying to reconcile his homosexuality and his religious beliefs. It’s impressive how much internalised homophobia Milo had even after a single summer of feeling feelings for the wrong gender. Milo is very distressed, but also an idiot.

I felt so hard for Marcos! And personally, I never would have forgiven Milos for being a dirtbag. Milos continually proves that he is unreliable and a bit of an ass, yet Marcos is trying to make something of his life. Nup. Wasn’t sold on the ending because of this either.

I listened to this book as an audiobook borrowed from my library. The reader was pretty good, and my conure who is fond of male voices came and tried to sit on my phone the whole time I was listening. However, I was surprised by how long this novel was. I think that some of it (particularly the ‘Milo is a good Presbyterian boy’ repeated line) could have been skipped.

Uh, was anyone else a bit thrown by the ending? It all just seems too neat. Also, ‘making love’ – really? In a teenage novel? I know a little about the logistics of this, and it’s not really as simple as all that. If you’re looking for a book that unpacks a bit of the intersection between homosexuality and religion, this could be for you. If you’re looking for a more realistic gay romance, try Anything but Fine or Jack of Hearts. 3-4 stars from me.

Review: David Towsey – Equinox

Equinox
David Towsey

Christophor is a witch-hunter at the end of his career. He’d like a nice quiet ending with no excitement. It’s not to be though, as he is sent out on the hunt again after a child has their eyes replaced with teeth. Alexander is just along for the ride, but he eventually gets pulled into helping Christophor with the hunt.

The concept of this novel was so cool! I loved the premise that each human body had two completely separate people in it. You go through the day as one person, and then your night-sister takes over while your mind sleeps. Thus your two halves never meet, and can live almost completely separate lives. It leads to crazy things – you might have an affair with one person, but then after you sleep your day-sister wakes up with someone else’s husband there!

Naturally, because Christophor is the night-brother we have the first perspective from, I felt way more invested in ‘him’ rather than Alexander (day-brother). I then thought that Alexander was a bit of a twit! Which is perhaps what the author wanted me to think. It was interesting to see the two perspectives, even if I didn’t really understand why Alexander put up with his night-brother.

I’d had a friend review it before me reading it, and they said the book was average. Why? The ending was poor. Very poor. It felt rushed and uninteresting. There wasn’t much in the way of an explanation for the magic system in the novel, and so the ending felt forced and too extravagant. Thus, I’m only giving this 2 stars even though I finished it.

Bloomsbury | 2 August 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: David McRaney – How Minds Change (S)

How Minds Change
Making People Listen in an Argumentative World
David McRaney

“Genes create brains, brains create beliefs, beliefs create attitudes, attitudes create group-identities, group identities create norms, norms create values, and values create cultures. The most effective persuasion techniques work backwards. Ideas sweep across cultures in waves, beginning with early adopters who reduce uncertainty for the rest of the population. It’s rarely because the innovation is amazing in and of itself, but because early adopters signal to the group that it’s safe to think again. This book explains how minds change – and how to change them – not over hundreds of years, but in less than a generation, in less than a decade, or sometimes in a single conversation.”

The book I reviewed is the new version that includes references to COVID-19 and the thinking of some people around that (so this cover isn’t quite right).

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It started out with a very long introduction with the author asking the question: “How do minds change?” Then, I realised that the book was just going to be that. For most of it, the reader was just following along with the author’s journey of asking how minds change. The problem with this was that there were never exactly any specific answers.

There is a bit of what I would call WHY minds change, in examples that it has happened to some people. There wasn’t anything specific however such as helpful sentence starters or persuasion techniques or what actually happened. It just said that the person’s values and beliefs had changed… but not how that happened. I also expected it to be a little more scientifically proven. There was a small section about getting one of the techniques scientifically proven but it was a lot of his journey on doing so and not results or explanations.

There is a step by step method on street epistemology towards the end. This is a particular method and for a particular reason. It’s specific and something that could be used in everyday persuasion conversations. Some parts of it are more basic techniques as well which I have heard of before, but the author didn’t go into any details. The author also said at some point that when someone changes their mind, then the effects tend to last. I don’t see how this could happen though and the person’s mind stays “flipped”. Really how long do the effects last for? Especially when you see a lot of controversial topics and a lot of people changing their mind. Or is everyone always being “flipped” one way and then back now?

There were definitely some parts where I was interested in the little sub story, but it really took a while to get into and wasn’t as detailed and informative as I was expecting. It just seemed to be lacking so overall I give it 3 stars. I recommend Never Split the Difference instead, as it has a lot more handy tips and tricks. I do want to read more about cults now! So I’ll read Do As I Say next.

Oneworld | 21 June 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West – The Girl in the Green Dress

The Girl in the Green Dress
Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West

“An unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live shows how MPD or DID saved her life. It is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. ‘I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.‘”

Normally I think of myself as being quite iron-stomached. This book though proved that there’s some things that I simply can’t read. I appreciated the authors’ foresight and use of stars to tell me where I could skip a section if I wasn’t feeling strong enough. I also needed to put the book down at times and reassure myself that I wasn’t in that situation and that Jeni has made it largely to the other side.

What the true horror of this situation explores is a system that doesn’t teach children how to verbalise abuse, and a system where victim blaming is common. It makes me so angry against the Church and other organisations that just cover up sexual abuse (as partially exposed in Do as I Say). We need to do better. I don’t know how, but one way I’m going to do my part is to telling people to read this book.

We fostercare and sometimes host children who display ‘sexualised behaviours’. We’re told how to provide trauma based care, but I’ve never really understood what that practically meant. Having reading this book, I feel even more strongly that it’s so important to not be surprised or judgemental. These kids don’t necessarily have the words to express how they have been abused, but it’s so important for them to talk to someone who cares. I particulately liked that Dr George gave a list of resources for people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder / Multiple Personality Disorder. These come about as a result of horrific childhood abuse – and you need specialist training to help them.

It’s not just about surviving – Jeni’s mind made it possible to do that. The problem is actually thriving after abuse, and that’s where the treatment by a professional comes in. I had heard of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) before this, but didn’t really have an understanding of how useful it could be. Dr Blair-West teachs us in the medical interludes how this can be used to process traumatic memories.

This book is not easy reading, but I think that it’s essential reading. It gives insight into sexual, domestic and emotional abuse in children and the deficits in the justice system in Australia. We still have a long way to go before the system is better – very recently the Grace Tame #metoo movement happened. The laws are still protecting predators and putting the emphasis on victims being the problem – they have to prove that they are telling the truth. It’s disgusting, and it needs to change.

Hachette | 31 August 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Lily Lindon – Double Booked

Double Booked
Lily Lindon

Georgina doesn’t want to get married. Or at least, she doesn’t think she does – she doesn’t like change. She’s happy with her same old routine dependable boyfriend, shared calendar and best friend SophieSlob. George’s a single night out at a gay bar as a favour to Sophie turns out to be an unexpected foray into revisting her musical roots and being not-straight. Cue chaos of Georginas’s life quickly deteriorating.

I was so invested in Georgina, and she felt like a real character with some interesting flaws. Most of the time I found myself genuinely laughing, rather than thking ‘what an idiot’. Let me say though that perhaps the reason I understood how Georgina treated her friends is because I viewed her through a lens of trauma. Georgina just doesn’t seem to have processed her own father’s death. Thus, her relationships and the horrible way she treats her family and friends is, if not justified, certainly understandable.

Being bisexual is no joke, even though the ‘B’ has been a part of LGBTIQA*+. We do have to talk about a little bit of privilage here – although Gina isn’t rich, she does have her mom to fall back to, she has a stable housing situation (with backups) and she also isn’t a person of colour. If you are looking for a protagonist who doesn’t already have these things going for her, then step past this novel.

I felt like everything was perfectly mapped out by the author. However, a couple of things just seemed a little too neat. Seriously, a wedding after all that? Trust me when I say that isn’t a spoiler. I also wasn’t 100% on board with how a panic attack was treated, and how open relationships / cheating were sort of ok-ed.

Well, I know how this novel turns out now, so I’m not sure I’d read it again. I’d recommend it for those who are perhaps considering their sexuality that are past Keeping You a Secret. Or, just wanting a fun story of finding your sexuality.

Head of Zeus | 30 August 2022 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Adam Kay – Undoctored

Undoctored
The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients
Adam Kay

“Now, Adam Kay returns and will once again have you in stitches in his painfully funny and startlingly powerful follow-up, Undoctored: The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients. In his most honest and incisive book yet, he reflects on what’s happened since hanging up his scrubs and examines a life inextricably bound up with medicine. Battered and bruised from his time on the NHS frontline, Kay looks back, moves forwards and opens up some old wounds.”

The title of this book is misleading. It suggests that Dr Kay literally ran out of patients, and mislead me into believing that this book was going to tell me how it happened! Instead, it’s a chronocle of sorts about his life after leaving medicine with a few bits of past-medical scenarios thrown in. I found it unsurprising that the medical system in the UK is just as broken for training doctors as Australia!

I read this book in a little under 3 hours – there wasn’t too much there that took me time to digest and contemplate. I felt that the humour felt crude to me and I wouldn’t read his other books for that reason. I think it is a loss to medicine that he gave up medicine – all those years of training and money put into it. I confess that I just don’t find a comedian to be as personally valuable to me as a doctor.

I’m not saying that Dr Kay’s experience should be overlooked or isn’t as valid as someone else’s trauma. However I didn’t find the book particularly funny or insightful. I’ve been blessed by some excellent non-fiction lately in this genre, and this book in comparison felt a bit cheap and left me undewhelmed. I definitely felt that I’d wasted my time and not gotten anything out of it.

This book is going to be best for someone with a British sense of humour and who has read the past books by Dr Kay. It’s not for me, and I think that Australians have far better sources of medical memiors at home.

Hachette | 13 September 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Tobias Madden – Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell

Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell
Tobias Madden

Noah is in love with his best friend… who he doesn’t even know the name of, and has only ‘met’ online. Well, if we’re being honest, it’s Noah’s only friend. Noah’s mum is desperate to have him participate in a musical theatre so it could be an in…

I unfortunately found this novel quite cringeworthy, and I struggled to keep reading it. I knew from the beginning that things weren’t going to go well for Noah! Was I ever so stupid in highschool?

I was so worried about what Noah’s big secret was to why he has no friends at school, but in the end I felt a bit letdown. I also felt tricked by Eli’s mom and her job – it didn’t seem to actually be all that relevant to the narrative in the end. Oh, and what about Alex just reporting back to Noah’s mother? That was a bit weird too.

It’s been a year or so since Anything but Fine, but unfortunately I didn’t feel like the author’s style has progressed much (or maybe the topic is too same-y). I look forward to seeing more #ownvoices work from this author, but I hope that he will continue to broaden his writing out of his own experiences and into new areas (not ballet or theatre that I feel are stereotypically gay).

I feel terrible writing such a negative review. I’m sure this novel will be reassuring to some gay teens, and maybe reinforce that parents aren’t always what they seem. For me though, I was disappointed and I’m only giving 3 stars. I’d recommend Camp or Jack of Hearts over this novel, or of course the debut by this author – Anything but Fine.

Penguin | 30 August 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback