Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review: Pieces Like Pottery

Hello Readers,

One of the books I read in November was Pieces Like Pottery, by Dan Buri. This is a collection of short stories about love, learning to deal with loss, and learning to forgive. Each of the stories in this anthology involves a fascinating group of characters.

The Gravesite tells the story of Mike and Lisa, a married couple trying to deal with the death of their only son. It is interesting to see how the two deal with their grief differently and how they react when new blog posts begin to appear on their son's blog. Lisa begins to think he might have somehow survived, while Mike seeks to find a more practical explanation. The story is well-crafted and well paced.

The Dominance of Nurture revolves around a man and his young son, who appears to have some handicaps. It asks us to consider the impact our choices have in our lives, and how they affect those around us. It also emphasizes the fact that much of who we are is affected by how we were raised, but at the same time, if we don't like who we are, we can fight to change it. This is a very interesting story, and I thought that the relationship between the father and his son was well written. I would like to see another story involving these two characters later in their lives.

Twenty Two was a powerful story and one of my favorites. It unfolded quite slowly and has some beautifully crafted sentences, as the author takes his time setting the scene. This story revolves around a bartender and one of his customers. Both men are struggling with grief in their own way, but while the customer is lost in his sorrow, the bartender has learned to cherish the life he does have and to accept the way that things are. At the end of the story, there is a twist, and a surprising connection between the two is revealed . It is a beautiful tale about forgiveness.

Expect Dragons is another one of my favorites in this collection. This story revolves around a young man, James, and the impact that his teacher, Mr. Smith, has in his life. Growing up, James struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality and his father's attempts to change him. His experiences  in Mr. Smith's classroom teach him to accept himself. The relationship between the two characters is well done, as are the scenes where James has to cope with the fact that his beloved teacher is very ill.

Dies Cum Anxieta describes a day in the life of someone suffering from anxiety. The language that the author has used here to describe the main character's inner monologue is well done, and as someone who has dealt with these emotions before, it is one of the more hard hitting pieces in the collection.

Father is an interesting piece about misconceptions and how bad things can sometimes happen to good people. I thought the character of Micheal Birch was well developed, as was his relationship with his brothers and with the members of his parish. While the emotions that Micheal experienced as he was going through his ordeal, and his sense of helplessness really struck a chord with me, I was left feeling a little unsatisfied, as I thought that the story ended a bit abruptly.

The Ballad of Love and Hate is a story about a couple who is going through a rocky time in their marriage. It mostly focuses on a woman, and her experiences during the couple's trial separation. She interacts with various characters, including one from an earlier story in the anthology. Each of them teaches her something about love and loss, and ultimately have a positive impact on her life and her marriage. The story is a bit long and the style of the story caused some confusion at times, but overall, I enjoyed reading it.

In sum, this was a well-written collection of short stories, about people handling grief and loss in many different ways. After reading this, I came away with a lot to think about, and I look forward to reading more of the author's works.

My Rating: 4 stars

Happy Reading, and stay tuned for my December reviews!


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

After a long delay, I was finally able to finish The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. 

Atul Gawande is a well-known surgeon who has written several best-selling novels on a variety of topics in Medicine. In the Checklist Manifesto, he discusses the importance of using checklists to reduce error and improve overall quality and safety. I am interested in Hospital Medicine after I complete my residency training and Quality Improvement is an important part of this job. Gawande spends a good portion of the book recounting his experiences working with the World Health Organization to develop a surgical safety checklist to be implemented in hospitals around the world. He was quite successful in this endeavor and use of this checklist led to substantial reductions in surgical error and post-op complications. Subsequently, surgical safety checklists have become the standard of care in hospitals everywhere.

While part of being a leader is being creative and thinking out of the box, when you are stuck, one should always go back to the basics. Checklists are such a simple concept, but like Gawande, I have found them to be extremely useful. When the human brain is under stress at work or in situations that are life-threatening, like those experienced by the pilots and emergency response teams in this book, it forgets even the most basic things. Checklists are there to ensure that this stress-induced memory loss does not lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences. The reason that The Checklist Manifesto has such an impact on the reader is because, like the author's other books, it includes many stories of how checklists have saved lives in hospitals and other situations.

In the future, my goal is to use these concepts and the power of a checklist to reduce patient error and improve overall quality of care. To scoff at the use of checklists in the hospital would not be wise - I have interacted with many overwhelmed and overworked healthcare providers, whose lapses in judgement have led to infections, blood clots, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and numerous other complications. No provider intentionally makes these mistakes, but we are only human, and it is unfortunately inevitable. All we can do is try to reduce error as much as possible, and as one can see from the results in Gawande's book, the reductions in error with the use of checklists are quite astounding.

In technical terms, the book is well written, and I think it will appeal to not only healthcare providers, but also to the general population. The author includes examples of checklists in many different fields, including but not limited to medicine, aviation, cooking, and construction. The only downside to this book, for me, is that it didn't have that "can't put down" quality that most of my favorite books have. It took me a very long time to get through the book, but once I had finished, I found it to be time well spent.

I look forward to reading more by this author. I recently bought his book, Being Mortal, regarding end of life care in the United States, and I am looking forward to starting it.

Happy Reading! Stay tuned for my other November reviews.

My Rating: 4 stars

Monday, September 21, 2015

Featured Poet/Book Review: Musings of a Madman by Adam Levon Brown

Hey guys,

For the month of September, I got to tackle something new. I had the opportunity to review a wonderful book of poems, Musings of a Madman by Adam Levon Brown. I am so happy to have had the chance to do so! I am having trouble posting a picture of the cover as I normally do, so if blogspot cooperates, I will do so later.

This collection is well written and many of the poems are simply lovely. My favorites include: Dare to Dream, Ecocide, I Can't Breathe, Star Stuff, and Cinematic Bloodbath.

The main overarching themes of this collection are the importance of love, as well as living simply and learning to coexist peacefully with others. Many of the poems in this book focus on these themes. However, the author also includes several powerful pieces about a variety of issues, including racism, classism, war, police brutality, and white privilege.

The white privilege poem was especially interesting to me. Although I am not white and have never experienced this sort of privilege, my experiences in grad school at an HBCU made me very aware of the advantages that I do enjoy. I am part of what is known as the "model minority", which refers to Asians and South Asians. We are "well educated" and expected to become researchers, healthcare providers, and engineers.

It has been many years since India gained its independence, but the impact of British rule is still felt today. I've lost count of the number of times that I have heard members of my community casually remark on how darker skin is undesirable. It hurts to hear my brown classmates and coworkers say things to my black colleagues that were undeniably insulting. When called out on it, of course, they always become defensive and angry - how could I possibly think they were racist?

Brown repeatedly brings up the point that if we stay silent, we can hardly expect things to change. I am not perfect, but I will continue to try to make those around me aware of the advantages that we have as the more favorable minority, despite the fact that our skin tone is hardly different from that of Africans and African Americans. We need to do better by using this advantage to help other persons of color who are at a disadvantage.

As I have seen repeatedly during my interactions with patients and staff during my career so far, stereotypes are incredibly harmful. Cancer, Heart Attacks, Alcoholism, Sexually Transmitted Diseases - they do not discriminate. The middle aged Caucasian man in my clinic is as likely to be abusing narcotics as the young black male. The elderly grandma may be an alcoholic. If I didn't routinely screen everyone for many of these issues, regardless of age, race, class,  level of income or education, I would not be doing my duty.

In technical terms, the book was well formatted and well edited. I only noticed a few typos. I enjoyed that poems were written in different styles - some felt more like songs while others were more intense and written in short, hard-hitting sentences. Brown switches back and forth between lighter and darker themes, which worked well. This kept me engaged and didn't allow me to become overwhelmed by the heavier subjects.

To sum up, this was a wonderful read. I would love to read more from this author!

My Rating: 4 stars

Happy reading and stay tuned for my second September book review!

-- chaitime212

Monday, August 31, 2015

September Reading List

Hey Everyone, 

This month, I will be reading the following: 

1. Musings of a Madman, a poetry book by Adam Brown
2. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
3. Possibly something by Oliver Sacks, a well known neurologist who died this week, if anyone has any suggestions and if time permits! 

Stay Tuned,

Book Review: The Gaugin Connection by Estelle Ryan

Hey Guys,

Here's the last book review of August! I recently had the pleasure of reading The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan, which is an introduction to the Genevieve Lenard series. What a cool book! It combines my love for art and mystery novels into a novel that I couldn't put down. Genevieve Lenard is a very unusual heroine. She is a highly functioning autistic person and initially is very misunderstood. Over the course of the novel, not only does she solve a complex case, but develops several new relationships, including a potentially romantic relationship.

This book is much much more than just a simple mystery. It forces us to think about the assumptions we make about people who view the world differently from us. At work, I interact with patients from all walks of life and I put a great deal of effort into approaching every case in as neutral a manner as possible. Assumptions only hurt us and prevent us from growing, and I think this concept is presented very clearly in the Gauguin Connection. Genevieve ends up forming strong bonds with people in the most unlikely places.

In terms of character development, I loved the main character. She was brave, spunky, and funny. She was well developed and her interactions with the other characters were humorous at times. I enjoyed reading about the budding relationship between Genevieve and Colin and would love to read more. The book was well paced and kept me engaged. I was eager to see Genevieve solve the mystery

In technical terms, the book was well written with no noticeable typos. The characters were well written and complex. I would be interested in reading more about the early days of Genevieve's relationship with Philip. I would also love to learn more about Colin and Vinnie's past. This book is followed by several others in the series, and when I get the chance, I am looking forward to working my way through the rest of the series. I would also be interested in reading other books by Ms. Ryan as her writing style greatly appeals to me. Overall quite an enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend checking this series out!

My Review: 5 Stars

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Featured Photographer: Uday Misra

Hi Guys,

Time for something a little different. As I said earlier, I would like to feature noteworthy artists of all kinds on this blog. Today I would like to focus on a young and talented photographer named Uday Misra. Uday is a college student and a business major with an interest in photography. I've taken a look at some of his photos and he has a knack for taking a standard photo-op and putting his own spin on it. In his own words, his goal is to "frame the conventional in an unconventional way". Take a look at some of his photos below.

The most important thing for any artist is honest feedback. Leave a comment and let Uday know what you think. If you are a photographer, give him some advice! Also feel free to send me photos to feature on the blog!

Don't forget to be polite when you are giving feedback!


Book Review: Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J Pepper

Hi Guys,

One of the books I read for the month of August, is a book that has been on my to-read list for quite a while! Here is my review for Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J Pepper.

I've always enjoyed the "fractured fairy tale" format, in which an author takes a well known and well loved story and puts their own spin on it. Death of a Mad Hatter is a very unusual book. It is about the relationship between a young boy Ryley and Alice Mae, from "Alice in Wonderland". I don't want to spoil the book for you by giving away too about Ryley's identity. To give you a quick rundown, there is a prophecy in Wonderland, about the person who will end the Queen of Heart's Reign of Terror. The Queen of Hearts sends Alice to bring Ryley to her, who she assumes is the person named in the prophecy. Of course, Alice and Ryley fall in love.

It took me a few chapters to start liking this book. At first, I was trying to put all the pieces together and I was a bit confused. Once some of the pieces fell into place however, I started to really enjoy the book. Alice was a fascinating character! She was well developed and likable. The book looked past the absurdity of Wonderland and showed us that at her core, she was simply a young girl who had been through a lot and wanted to be loved.

Ryley was also very interesting. I enjoyed finding out his connections to Wonderland and the prophecy. The author did a good job with developing his character. He started out as immature and somewhat irritating but became an unconventional hero.

I would have liked to learn more about some of the Wonderland characters, especially the Joker. What happened to make him so very sadistic? I also wanted to know more about Ryley's father and uncle and how they ended up in Wonderland in the first place.

From a technical standpoint, the book was well written and only had a few typos. I do think the pacing was an issue. As I said above, it took a few chapters before things fell into place and I could enjoy the book. It's a complex story and I understand that the author didn't want to give away too much upfront but I was pretty confused at the beginning.

To sum up, this was a very interesting book. It took a standard story and turned it on its head. When I think of Wonderland, I imagine it as a crazy place where Alice went to escape her dreary life. The Wonderland depicted in this book, however, is dark and scary. Alice herself is flawed and traumatized by a lot of what has happened to her, but the relationship that develops between her and Ryley helps her to heal. I would be interested in reading more about this couple as well as the other characters in the story. I would also love to read other books by this author.

My Rating: 4 stars

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chai Time Buzz # 1

Featured Artist: Degas

I recently saw this painting at the Barnes Foundation in Philly. The above picture is linked to a post in the Smithsonian magazine where you can read about Degas and his ballerinas in more detail. I am a dancer, although not a professional and I absolutely love the above picture. The dancers are waiting in the wings to perform and Degas has made them look so graceful.

Featured Music: Cheerleader by OMI

This song is a total guilty pleasure. It's incredibly catchy. Not a particularly thought provoking song but it really gets me in summer mode and makes me want to take a trip to Jamaica. 

Featured Movie: Mr. Holmes 

I LOVED this movie. It was so different from the other Sherlock Holmes movies that have been released in recent years. It shows Sherlock as an elderly man, many years after his last (unsolved) case. Ian Mckellan is brilliant. He struggles with memories of the extraordinary detective he once was, and tries to deal with the vagaries of old age. 

Featured Photo:  From Humans of New York

This picture sums up the frustration that I often feel as a young woman in Medicine.

As a Marylander and a lover of all things Poe, I had to feature this poem first. It is spooky and wonderful and I never tire of hearing it. 

Featured Book: Hyperbole and a Half 
Written and illustrated by Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half started as a blog. It is laugh out loud funny and I couldn't put it down. Filled with hilarious stories from her awkward childhood as well as a piece on depression that was particularly poignant. 

Please send me your submissions! I want to feature artists, musicians, poets, photographers, and writers from all over.

For the month of August, I'm going to
review the following books : 

The Gaugin Connection by Estelle Ryan
Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J Pepper 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I'm Back!

After a very long time, I want to start my blog again. I am trying to decide what I want this blog to be. I want it to be more than just a book review blog. My tentative goal is to make it a place where I can showcase things of my own and things created by other artists, including writers, poets, painters, musicians, photographers, etc.

Some of the other things I would like to feature on here are:
-movies and music
-my own writing

If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them :)

-I am looking for two books maximum to review on this blog for the month of August 2015. For those authors whose books I did not get to before my blog went on hiatus, I am very sorry. I am looking through my backlog of books and will be emailing you. I will do one book from my preexisting list of books to review and one new book. I will announce my choices this week!

Looking forward to hearing from you guys.

-- chaitime