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Who doesn't like freebies? More specifically, who doesn't like free books?!

So, there is this awesome girl whom I stumbled upon at Goodreads. Her name's Amanda, and she's the mastermind behind the book blog:
elfswood


Guess what - her birthday is soon, and to celebrate she decided to give away books. Seriously? Seriously.

Clickity click to have a go

You can follow the link the banner directs you to to join - it's open for everyone. There are giveaways for more than one person, FYI. Check out the details at her blog post, it's really easy. Good luck ♥
Watermelon!
Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2)Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

4/5


A great follow up on the first book! I think this series is just 'my kind' of fantasy - I almost went to order the third book, I'll patiently await the paperback, though.

I still really like the characters and their flaws, although I still miss those lost in the first book and I appreciate that Locke and Jean did as well. I'm glad those characters still got mentioned from time to time and not just discarded as unimportant secondary characters. During the second book we also get to see Locke and Jean's characters growing and learning in some ways. These two really are brothers in all but blood.

I still think the world building is superb and not too overwhelming. Particularly awesome was how we got to see a whole cool new chunk of this world, as we get to experience whole new cities and all sorts of people. To be honest, I'm not that big on pirates and don't know a thing about ships (I got to learn along with Locke about those!), but still enjoyed their adventure on sea.

I also enjoyed how the author still used a similar approach to providing the reader tidbits of information of the past. These flashbacks were certainly not intrusive and presented just right. Finding out how Locke and Jean built their con, their motivations behind it - some great parts of this book.

A lot of readers seemed to have been hindered by the plots within plots and twists and turns - I think these make this series what it is: awesome.



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Watermelon!
A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini




4/5
A Thousand Splendid Suns was such an engaging read for me. It depicts the struggles of two Afghani women throughout different wars and regimes, while having to deal with domestic struggles so common to females in their social construct and traditions. I found myself genuinely invested in their fates.

The bleakness, violence and brutality happening in these people's lives was very depressing. But, it's the truth, isn't it? Before I read this book, the oppressed lives of Afghani women were much more abstract to me. This book, even though fictional, gave me a whole new perspective on these women.

I've read reviews where people complained about all the historical information that Hosseini slipped in his dialogue and narrative. To be honest, I'd be lost without all that, that's how uneducated I was. Of course, the author himself admits to some artistic liberty and not all details may be fact. However, I'd never, for example, have known that once upon a time there was some degree of gender equality in urban Afghanistan. I'd never have known that there was a time when women were allowed to become scholars and surgeons. I'd never have realised how many steps backwards that country has taken. It has also made me much more hopeful for all the women there - as they could do it once, surely they can do it again?

Three quarters in, I started to question the possibility of the book having a hopeful ending. While it turned out that things were indeed looking up by the end, I can't say I liked it. It seemed too good to be true, or maybe more accurately, too soon to be true after all the difficulties they'd gone through. Tariq's comeback puzzled me. Is it really possible to find someone you've lost for years in such a situation? No means of (tele-)communication, no remaining relatives... His remark about not recognizing anything and anyone was also curious, didn't they use to live in a wholly different place? Or did I miss something?

The book as a whole, weaves an amazing tale of human perseverance, which I thought was well written, interspersed with plenty of background information to educate people like me. While, of course, I cannot say how accurate a depiction it is, it struck me deeply and as a woman, I'm feeling very grateful for everything that I can and have achieved in my life.

[According to my mum, we should have a copy of The Kite Runner buried somewhere in one of the bookcases. Guess what's on my to do list!]



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Watermelon!
The Almond TreeThe Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


[This comment is long overdue - the author kindly sent me a copy when I won it during one of her giveaways, which I received and read months ago. Recently, I rediscovered my almost-finished review of this book and polished it up a bit.]

I thought this book presented an interesting perspective on how a person lives through wars and conflicts. It follows the life of a young boy, as he struggles and perseveres through his depressingly difficult live, until he's a successful adult. Most of the book is sad, but inspiring.

To me, a reader of minimal knowledge of Middle Eastern conflicts, this book gave me much more personal and interesting perspective on it. I thought the details seemed genuine and well-researched - I enjoyed experiencing the different world-views (despite some of the black-and-white-ness) and the little traditions that we encounter throughout this book.

While I understand that it is no easy feat to compress 60+ years of one's life in one novel, I thought some events were disappointingly (and oddly) under-explored. Take, for example, (view spoiler)[the death of Nora (hide spoiler)]. It came out of nowhere, and it was told retrospectively and to me seemed to be rather lacking emotion. The flow of the story was also a bit choppy at times, where the time skips just didn't really fit, but they weren't too disruptive overall. It does, however, tell about Ichmad's life as if it's one continuous period of misery - as we experience it from suffering to suffering, while the periods in between may have been much more peaceful. Of course, I understand that the real lives of many Palestinians are one continuous struggle, but this book could do with some levity. Most supportive characters were also rather one-dimensional and underdeveloped, and ultimately, difficult to relate to.

Kudos for the author for tackling such a difficult subject matter - I thought it quite impressive and thought-provoking.



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Watermelon!
02 09 13 - Still around [me, random]

by phchiu at puka_pudge


Months and months I've abandoned this journal, only to return with... nothing to tell. So, to compensate I'm posting my Goodreads book reviews here as well.

I love books and sometimes I like talking about books - better than nothing, I guess.

I'm not really into any fandom stuff at the moment, having had to do without for a while and getting out of the loop has made it a bit difficult to get back in to the loop. I still ship my ships, though ♥

Lately, I've also been experimenting in the kitchen, so I might post about that as well. I made an awesome banana brake (bread/cake - I'm still undecided on what it is) a couple of weeks ago. Yum. No pics, though, unfortunately.

Anyway, hello people *waves* Long time no see...
Watermelon!
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Maze Runner was pretty exciting as there's quite a lot of action going on throughout this book. I've got to be honest, though - I picked it up because I heard there's going to be a movie of it (with a cast that looks like a lot of fun!). Not the best of reasons for reading a book. And I've got to say, I'm also not the best adult to read YA books and to comment on them.

I liked the set up - mysterious, challenging. Pretty much the whole book takes place in a very limited world, which in many ways was still unknown even to the 'Gladers' who had been there for a long time (not so smart bunch, it seems like). Only as (view spoiler)[ they escape from the maze and we get some snippets re: what happened before and the craycray 'Creators' (hide spoiler)], we get a sense of just how limited. The second book must carry heaps of explanations of how their world works.

As for Thomas himself - not too bad. He seemed like an okay guy. Of course he's skilled and smart, but what YA book character isn't? What I really didn't like (and this has more to do with the writing than the character himself) was how he always felt tons of emotions at once ("Different emotions battled for dominance in his mind and heart. Confusion. Curiosity. panic. Fear. But laced through it all was the dark feeling of utter hopelessness,--"). He also had these sudden bursts of courage or anger, which seemed pretty odd, as he deflated soon after. Maybe just the ambivalence of a teenager, who knows.

The beginning of the story was confusing. On purpose. Oh, very much on purpose. So much on purpose that it got annoying that no one was willing to explain anything to Thomas. It's not a strange thing that the author wanted his readers to be just as confused as the main character, but the brusque brush-offs of the supporting characters and such just made it seem fishy. While there was no fishy-ness going on (not really among them, anyway). It made the first part a bit off-putting, actually.

The author very cleverly created a whole load of vocabulary to replace the usual crude words. It needs some time to get used to (as even these are not explained right away). Clever, because these teenagers get to cuss the hell out of everything while staying PG.

The ending was very obviously set up for a sequel, but I think in a good way. There's a major cliffhanger but also a sense of resolution, the closing of a chapter (or in this case, a book). It does grow a sense of wanting to know what happens next, I guess. I felt satisfied with how he ended this part, though, and am not planning to read the next installment.

Verdict: not bad for YA, not the greatest of characters, but quite full of action and a quick paced storyline.



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Watermelon!

by vaguelyunpoetic

So, name three things that you suppose would have the greatest effect on the number of visits we receive at the clinic on any given day.*

The weather? Good answer. Just like anywhere else, the weather always heavily factors into the occurrence of illness. It’s no wonder people talk of ‘feeling under the weather’. Lately, in particular, with the funny fluctuating weather we’re having, we’ve had a great influx of patients complaining of aches here and here and here, but nothing specific. Very helpful, indeed. The ‘cure’ is quite simple though, I’ll write about it another day. The weather has other effects, however – heavy rain will significantly cut down the number of patients, just because they don’t want to face it to get to the clinic. Understandable, since most of them reach the clinic on foot or by motorbike (for those unfamiliar with Southeast Asian transportation, we don’t have our people racing about on Harleys or Ninjas, neither do we have mopeds, as our roads are congested with no-idea-what-they’re-technically-called-125 cc-motorcycles). However, that makes it quite obvious that those aches are quite bearable, after all, then.

The season? Sure. When the ‘dry’ season shifts into the ‘wet’ one, mosquitoes breed and we have more occurrences of dengue fever. But that’s just an example. It’s currently also ‘mango’ season, which I’ve been told, brings an increase in cases of gastroenteritis (sounds way more sophisticated than diarrhoea, no?) As, apparently, ‘mango’ season equals ‘fly’ season and more people eating unwashed fruit on which the aforementioned flies have hopped around and thusly result in an unwelcome spread of stomach bugs. Far-fetched? Maybe, but truth is that there truly remains a lot to be desired for when it comes to food hygiene of the general population. Just have a peek at the average food stall. The rainy season also means colder temperatures, and thus more sniffles, more asthma attacks, more joint aches (osteoarthritis, really), and therefore, more visits.

The third is where it gets tricky. What could it be? The month of Ramadhan? Nu-uh. We’ve a considerable Muslim population, but it’s not that big around here. Public holidays? We’re closed then! And the answer is (hinted at in the title)... [drumroll] the phase of the moon. Say what? Yep, the lunar phase. As in a-woooo, all the werewolves come in bruised and battered the day after the full moon, having run around the night before? Sorry, just kidding. Not about the moon, though.

by vaguelyunpoetic

If you were to work around here, especially in a government institution, be assured that you’d be exceptionally aware of when the moon is at its fullest and when it’s absent. The average daily life of the average Balinese person living in an average village among an average family is drenched in tradition and religion (and these two are not apart, not really). The moon, and its phases in particular, plays a major role in it. Rituals, ceremonies, and offerings are a huge feature of everyday life – there are the ‘regular’, ‘basic’, ‘daily’ ones, and the ‘exceptional’, ‘elaborate’ ones for special occasions. Some of these are large, the celebration of the three month mark of a child, weddings, the biannual ceremony in each temple, cremations, the step into adulthood, the Balinese ‘birthday’, to name some. And then, every month, there are the ‘celebrations’ of both the full and new moons. This is such a priority in these people’s lives that they opt to stay home to prepare and do their offerings, instead of having their illness checked out. On the days of both the full and dark moon, the flow of patients dwindles down to what equals to a small trickle, compared to the usual flood.

Even now, after all these years, I find it quite amazing, how these people set aside things that normally would take first place (their health, their work) and focus on their ceremonies. I also find it irrational sometimes, but then again, I did neither grow up with nor belief in them (they’re called ‘traditions’ and ‘rituals’ for a reason). Still, interesting, yeah? It’s fascinating to observe how significantly the lunar phase affects how people here go about their days. Particularly when considering that the Western world puzzles about such things as ‘lunar effects’ and comes up with such things as ‘lunatics’.

*This is in no way meant to be scientific. Mostly originating from my own observations, this whole entry also takes into consideration some legit epidemiological data we have at the clinic (diarrhoea is truly on the rise during the months of November and December – mango/fly season; whether the two are related or not remains in question). However, there has never been any formal documentation on the comparison between the number of visits during the full and new moon and outside of those days. That part is pure personal observation. And meant for fun, obviously.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Watermelon!

Another child, a girl this time - around the age of 9. Around her thin left arm, a ragged, dirty piece of previously white bandage is wrapped messily. She looks at me with distrust. When I ask her and her father what the problem is, she stays silent. Her father fills me in; she fell on her arm some days before.

When I ask to have a look, she shies away. When try to remove the bandage (well, if that flimsy ragged piece could be called a bandage, still) she refuses. Again, her father steps in and takes it away, not without protest from the little girl.

Alright, so time to examine the arm now. She holds it very, very stiffly and refuses to bend it; pulls away, even. She resists my attempt at passive flexion. Ah, well then. No point in causing her more anxiety and pain, the history is quite suggestive of a break anyway, possibly with a (previous) dislocation. Let’s do an x-ray.

The result? Surprise, surprise (not really), the humerus is broken at the distal end. Rewind a bit: as I questioned the father about the when, what, why and how, he told me that she fell on her extended arm about a week before after which she experienced a lot of pain and there was a protrusion at the elbow (no longer visible at the time of her visit). So, what did they do then? Take her to a doctor? Nope. Splint it? Nah. Ice it? Nooo. Guess what, they took her to a traditional masseur to get the arm, well, massaged. No kidding. Imagine what pain this kid must have gone through, someone manipulating a new fracture like that without any pain meds. No wonder the girl was scared like hell of me.

By easterly at vaguelyunpoetic

Traditional medicine still plays a very large role in the lives of the Balinese. These traditional healers even have specializations! There are ones specifically for massages (or "musculoskeletal" problems), such as the one this girl went to, there are ones who assist in childbirth (imagine all the infections), there are ones for mental illnesses, also those who handle those patients who have a systemic illness. So, they're not only sought for illnesses if which there is no clear physical manifestation (say, some people with diabetes) that some may suspect to be caused by "malignant forces", be it evil spirits, dark magic or another person's ill intentions, but also for those with physical manifestations of which most people would be able to suspect what it is (say a fracture or skin disease).

Interestingly, some people may even put more trust into these traditional healers than in medical professionals. I had another patient, a little boy of about 6, brought in by his mother. His left arm was visibly bent after a handstand gone wrong about 2 weeks prior. This boy was also taken to a healer for a "massage". Alright, another x-ray - unsurprisingly showing a (healing) fracture of the radius and ulna. A fracture in a child heals very rapidly and is quite malleable, so even when quite angulated as in this child, it's possible to straighten it somewhat by putting it in a cast while in the desired position. We discussed it with the mother, who seemed quite in agreement with putting on a cast. So, she called the father for an okay from him. Well, he refused, preferring taking the kid for more sessions at the masseur. Interestingly, this family seemed to be one that was better off, with higher education and well-paying jobs (unlike the majority of the patients that go to the general public hospital). Ah, so he chose a traditional healer over us. Fine, that's their right to refuse treatment as they seem fit. Poor child, though, as he would have to endure more of the excrutiating massage sessions and the arm may always stay so bent.

Obviously we cannot deny the patient's right to seek other treatment, but that doesn't mean that we have to agree with it. And agreeing with it I never will. There's a reason it's called complementary and alternative medicine.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Watermelon!

I hope this applies to my astronomical brainlessness:

Byeasterly at vaguelyunpoetic

Yesterday makes me want to fast-forward time so I can look back and laugh.

It involved a brand new car, a wall, and a whole lot of stupidity.

Yeah.

Right now, all I want is to curl up and sleep.

And praise those who invented insurance.

*goes curl up and sleep*

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Watermelon!


A little kid is wailing.

He's sick. He has an IV line inserted into his short, chubby arm - safely wrapped with bandages to make sure he can't accidentally dislodge the thing. His belly is distended, possibly because of potassium loss after a couple of days of diarrhoea, and it looks like it that it's hurting him too.

He sees the doc, clad in a white coat. And starts struggling, shaking his head. Wailing harder.

"Be quiet! Or the doctor will give you an injection!" his mother tells him.

Uh, no. The doctor isn't going to do such a thing.

Lookie! This syringe is made of LEGO - pain free! Unless you step on it, 'cos LEGO sucks that way. From here

I seriously hate such statements with passion. I wasn't brought up with harsh words, especially not when sick, so I already don't get the general idea of speaking that way to an ill child. In addition to that, these parents actually try to scare these kids into submission with ideas that might actually worsen the initial resistance and might even leave a lasting fear for doctors and hospitals. I hate it so friggin' much.

Technically, if injected medication were indeed necessary, it'd probably be intravenous. Which, while surely seems terrifying, should be uncomfortable rather than painful in most cases as it would be given through the aforementioned line. And even then, it'd be a nurse to do the administration and not the doc.

Similar to other things I've mentioned in other posts, this thing is also so, so common. As if it's an ingrained response. A standard way to make your miserable, scared, and suffering child quiet down. As if these people copy each other's manners of dealing with kids, while it's actually damn ineffective. I've rarely seen a child calming down after that. Just what are they thinking?

If I were to make a ranked list of "I don't get it"s, this might just be somewhere near the top of the list.

F***, I just don't get it. Why, people?



...
Yes, this rather frustrates me.

Oh, and people here have rather strange ideas of doctors and hospitals anyway.

- Some time ago I heard a mother of a patient calling the father, saying, "The doc sentenced her with needing hospital admission." It is a strange statement to begin with, even more so in English (I translated it correctly, though, no unintentional poor choice of words). Seriously, what? I did what?
- Patients' families often urge the doc to get the sick one admitted, so he or she can get an IV line. They think it's some wonderful medication. A cure for all ills. Ha ha. No.
- IV lines are often not removed until all paperwork and other administrative matters have been straightened out to make sure they won't bolt (yes, phlebitis - inflammation of the blood vessel - is damn common).
- Some patients, who are better loaded than others, often ask for certain brands of drugs. Same active ingredient, a couple of times the price of the generic version (or branded, but by another manufacturer). Because, more expensive, surely it must be better? I admit, sometimes it is (smaller molecules, better carrier, or whatever), but it's definitely not the rule.
- Drugs not supposed to be over the counter, are usually available OTC in most if not all pharmacies. A fever? They take some amoxicillin. Welcome, antibiotic resistance.
- Portrayals of doctors in Indonesian soaps make me want to strangle them all (or, you know, jab 'em with a needle!). Poor acting combined with a totally skewed picture of what doctors are (supposed to be) like doesn't make us look very good. In these soaps, the patient (beautiful girl, camera haltingly zooms in on her in a very specific soap opera way) tells the doc she has headaches. The doc will nod and say dramatically, "You've a brain tumour. You have three months to live," in a dismissive kind of way. After which the patient will stare wide eyed at the (always a male, always,) doc, some dramatic tunes start, and the camera zooms in on the girl again. To be cut suddenly by ridiculous commercials worthy of some serious second hand embarrassment if you care enough.

And those are just a few examples among many.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

giraffe
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