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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

Disposable Minds, Expendable People

Disposable Minds, Expendable People
by C. G. Rossi

As a young girl, G. C. Rossi must contend with a mother prone to violent outbursts. Even so, she’s able to enjoy life with the help of a loving father and a great imagination. But everything changes when her father dies. At just ten years old, she becomes a ward of the state; when she contracts hepatitis, she is hospitalized and sinks into depression. Her condition becomes so serious that she is transferred to the Allan Memorial Institute. One of the institute’s doctors, Ewan Cameron, is working with the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct mind control experiments on patients. He has a number of foot soldiers working on his behalf; as a result, for the next three and a half years, G. C. is pumped full of drugs. This account reveals serious flaws in the medical and psychiatric systems. While the world may have thought that experimenting on people ended with the Nazis, the story told in Exploitable Minds, Expendable People shows that the past may continue to haunt unsuspecting, innocent victims. (amazon.com)

Hey look! A book review-post-thing! Yay! *throws confetti*

Of course this isn’t the most uplifting book to be writing about. Disposable Minds is the true account of one woman’s horrific experiences as a child and teen – that happened right in my own city! Though the memoir isn’t particularly well written and is quite repetitive a times, I honestly didn’t focus on that very much because the story itself, the memories that were put down in writing were the real reason I read this book.

I don’t think this is a history I was ever taught in high school. I know I didn’t pay much attention back then, but if it had to do with mental illness I would have. In fact, I didn’t even know about this horrifying experimentation until I read an article online about a month ago. Where I work, we get sent these daily digest emails called In the News with links to articles related to our University and other of-interest items. I happened to actually read through one of them (normally I skim them before I forward to our own internal mailing list) and an article caught my eye – it lead to me this book.

Oddly, or not, I couldn’t get a copy of this book in Montreal. I think because the city is likely embarrassed by the scandal they caused in the 1950-1960s. My own employer was involved in this as well. It’s sickening. A dear friend of mine, and coworker, said she actually did a paper on this when she was studying History in University, that’s how she found out about it. I guess unless I took specific History courses in University there was no way I would know about it myself. It doesn’t seem to be on the high school history curriculum. It should be though.

Reading about hospitals that I know and have gone to, as well as about my own University, being a part of drug experimentation on unsuspecting people was just disgusting and terrifying. That the governments (provincial and federal) would be a part of something like this is disturbing.

I have had my own negative health care experiences, but nothing, NOTHING compares to what Ms. Rossi and others must have gone through. To be given away by her mother, kept captive by the hospitals and kept in a state of illness just to justify running more and more tests! I can’t fathom the horror. I can’t. This sounds like something you’d read about in a dystopian novel or see in a movie. It doesn’t sound like something that could actually happen.

It’s embarrassing to find out that your own city could be part of something this atrocious. To the author of this memoir and to all the other unsuspecting human lab rats, my heart goes out to you. You are brave and courageous to fight back even after all these years. I wish I could right the wrongs you suffered, but I can’t go back in time and fix things.

I do know that I now need to read In the Sleep Room by Anne Collins now – if I can find it in print.

Disposable Minds is powerful, shocking and horrifying yet fascinating at the same time. I am glad that C. G. Rossi put her memories down on paper for the rest of us to learn from.

Dear Bully

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
edited by Megan Kelley Hall & Carrie Jones

There is no need to paste a goodreads summary on here. This book speaks for itself. I am so proud of Megan Kelley Hall for wanting to do something in regards to bullying. She and Carrie Jones have created a brilliant book full of emotional, poignant stories about bullying.

The 70 authors in this book have shared their stories, some heartbreaking, others more uplifting. I will admit to being slightly scared to start reading the book. Bullying is something a little too close to home for me and I didn’t want to face the emotions that would ride to the surface as I read.

Thankfully, this anthology wasn’t as devastating as I thought it would be (to me). In fact, I found the more I read, the stronger I felt. Not all of the personal bullying stories hit me as hard because they weren’t as similar to my own. Therefore I found Dear Bully  a lot easier to digest than I thought I would. In fact, these other stories, though painful and sad made me feel better. They showed that I wasn’t alone in what I went through as a child and that no matter the age or situation, bullying can happen. It’s not a personal thing against you, it’s sadly just the way the world turns.

Also, the fact that the people sharing their stories are all well-known, published authors, the book had a distinctly “It Gets Better” feel to it. Here are 70 or so people who were bullies AND SURVIVED. They are successful. Their traumatic bullying experiences made them who they are today.

Here’s the thing, had I read this book when I was a kid, a teen, I would have been caught between “I can’t believe I’m not the only one going through this. Wow.” and an eye-rolling “Whatever, this book isn’t going to help stop what’s happening to me”. I know this is how I would react, because deep down there was a tiny voice rolling its eyes (yes, my tiny voice has eyes) and saying that exact same thing.

Standing up for yourself isn’t always going to work. Certainly not right away. There is a complete hopelessness when you are the victim of bullying. Sometimes you have to actually just physically leave the situation behind. No amount of standing up, teaching talking, parent talking helped in my case. It only stopped when I left the school and started a new one. Only there was bullying there, too. There will always be bullies. Often you get better at dealing with it. As you get older and are less inclined to care about what people think about you, you become stronger and it’s easier to walk away from the bully. In my own life right now, bullies are shining through and you know what? I don’t have patience for them anymore. I don’t. So I fight back, but this time I am smarter about it. I research and know my resources so that they don’t have any leverage on me. You tell me if I don’t do something that I won’t get paid? Well, lookee here at this charter of rights that says I don’t have to do what you’re telling me to do. Oh, and look at this hotline number to report people who are trying to make you do things you don’t have to do? Booyah.

Er, right….

So, when I found out that Megan wanted to put together a book that brought attention to bullying, I was beyond thrilled. My own personal childhood experiences made the idea of this book mean so much to me. The book itself? Means the world to me.

There will always be teachers and parents who turn a blind eye. There will always be people out there who think they can bully others just because they can. If more people realized it was cooler to group together and stand up to them, that makes the difference.

This book not only allows authors to share their stories, but it also lists many references at the end for help and advice if you think you have nowhere to turn. People, young and old, need to read this book and educate themselves on the subject. More people need to care and take a stand.

A huge thank you to Megan and Carrie for caring enough to put this together. A huge thank you to all authors who shared their stories by prose, verse or drawing. It’s a very powerful book that will have you thinking about what you can do to help.

Children shouldn’t die because they can’t take the abuse. It should not happen. I was almost one of them and right now, as I write this, I am thankful that I wasn’t successful.

Buy your own copy! AmazonUS | AmazonCA

Nice Recovery

Nice Recovery
by Susan Juby

“There are families, which, through a combination of genetics, culture, and inclination, produce a startling number of professional athletes, such as tennis players or hockey stars. Then there are families like the Baldwins, which produce a high percentage of actors. My family seems to specialize in people who enjoy drinking. And taking drugs. In such families, there is usually one person who stands out as particularly gifted in the field. When I was a teenager, that person was me. I was the star, the Alec Baldwin, if you will. I started drinking seriously when I was thirteen, smoking pot with a vengeance at fourteen, and getting into cocaine at sixteen. By the time I was twenty I was done. Nice Recovery is the story of how I slipped so far off course, how I got back on track, and, most importantly, what it’s like to come of age as a sober young person.” (goodreads.com)

Sometimes fate intervenes in your book reading. At least that is what I think happened to me in regards to this book. One morning on Twitter I was praising author Lauren Mechling for writing a couple of super fantastic YA books and she asked me if I had ever read anything by Susan Juby. I said no. Lauren said I must and that the author was also Canadian (like me and half of Lauren!). I should go right out and get the Alice, I Think series and read it! That same day, in the afternoon, I was contacted by Penguin Group Canada and offered a chance to review a new book by Susan Juby. This time it was her personal memoir on alcohol addition as a teen. I jokingly asked my rep if she had been internet stalking me earlier in the day and she assures me she wasn’t. 😉 But I thought it was just too much of a coincidence to have just been told of this author and then offered a review opportunity to say no.

Also, I like reading books on addiction and mental illness and stuff. I have a few in my library about mental illness and things that are half-memoir and half made up from true stories. I would have been a psychology major except for all that science stuff and research (which I suck at).

Juby tells her story with humour and compassion. I get the feeling from reading this book that she is the kind of person who is able to laugh at herself. Now. Probably not when she was a teen, but her retelling of her experiences as a teen alcoholic are oddly heartwarming. Yes, my heart broke in a million pieces many times as I turned the pages, but at the same time I did not find her story dark and negative. There was a positive vibe among those words. In no way did that positive vibe take away from the seriousness of the addiction, but I didn’t feel like I was suffocating as I read about the depression and fear and hopelessness she was talking about.

I will admit that I can’t entirely understand the need for drinking to solve one’s problems. But that’s just me. Having my own history with depression and bullying and shyness, I was never one to turn to drinking. I was always too scared of those who did drink because people became someone else when they did and they almost inevitably threw up near me.  Makes me sort of happy I didn’t know Susan Juby when she was going through her addiction, she herself states that she was a puker when she drank. Ick.

Nice Recovery is the first memoir I have read on the subject of alcoholism.  I was curious to see how much I might relate to a different form of addiction than what I was familiar with. I think Juby has an amazing way with words and a gift at story telling. I was surprised to find that the last few chapters are more of a study into the addition itself. Adding interviews of other (recovering) alcoholics and people in rehab it made a pleasant mix mix of personal story and statistical information. I was also surprised at the number of teen alcoholics in the world (ok, well, Canada). I guess since I have never enjoyed alcohol I find it very hard to see why anyone would!

The book is easy to read and not too difficult to get through (i.e., sad). I was nervous about the emotional impact it could have had on me. Susan Juby keeps it real and light enough that it is oddly a pleasant read. And if I enjoyed her memoir on something so negative I am very keen on checking out her actual fictional YA works. Her writing style just clicked for me.

Rick Mercer Report: The Paperback Book

Rick Mercer Report: The Paperback Book
by Rick Mercer

Thanks to the folks at Mini Book Expo and Random House Canada, I was lucky enough to get a copy of this book to read and review. I have to admit it took me a lot longer to review it since it generally takes me a while to read non-fiction – especially for this book as it’s a collection of all Rick Mercer’s infamous Rants from his shows over the years. Not really something to read all in one sitting, but a good way to entertain yourself while you’re waiting for public transportation that never shows up, or stops while you’re on it (yes, these things happened to me while reading the book.)

I have to admit, I don’t regularly watch The Rick Mercer Report. Not because I don’t like it – because I love it when I see it! – but because I have no idea when its on and I rarely have CBC on in the house (on the rare occasions I DO watch TV). Though I discovered that his website (cbc.ca/mercerreport) has video clips of all the shows. Yay! AND I just learned recently that you can get the seasons on DVD – which is something my husband and I would enjoy.

But this review is about the book, not about the TV show, although they are sort of one in the same, what with the collection of writings being the Rants he does each episode.

I used to stay away from Mr Mercer even though I found him to be hilarious. Why? Well, it was because I hate everything about politics and that’s pretty much what his entire humour focuses on and I thought I just wouldn’t get it (I don’t get quite a bit of it to be honest) or not care. But he tends to make me care about what he’s talking about. He’s just so witty, sarcastic and charming and gosh darn it if I don’t have myself a little crush on this Canadian celebrity. I would let him have my children. (Because there is no way in hell I ever want to be pregnant!)

Though his Rants don’t make me laugh until I cry like other segments on his show do, I still chuckle and smirk (gosh, Rick Mercer is dreamy when he smirks…) and most of the time I agree with his point of view.

Ooh! I know! Since we’re about to have another election or some sort of government change, I vote for Rick Mercer as our next Prime Minister! Who’s with me?

I don’t know… there just doesn’t seem to be much of a plot

Today's Driving ManualToday’s Driving Manual
by Who The Heck Knows

It is so very, very difficult for me to read anything non-fiction. I had the same problem as I suffered through school. Now you may ask yourself, why is a 31-year old just learning to drive now? Well. Many reasons. So there. Of course I actually PASSED my Theory/Knowledge test and got my Learner’s Permit all of three and a half years ago. What I didn’t do was practice my driving. For many reasons I will not get into here, I wasn’t able to and so I never went for my actual Driving Test. And now that I have been able to drive in our lovely new car, I can’t book a driving test without first re-taking the Knowledge test. Fun stuff.

Last time, I had the advantage of a Driving School where I could spend hours and hours taking practice tests on their computer. I would go through many, many multiple-choice questions as much as I wanted to. This time I do not have that option. I just have this stupid book (which I never really read in 2004!) and I have to admit I am terrified that I will never pass this stupid Knowledge test again.

I am a Visual Learner. I fear I only passed that stupid test because the driving school had very good examples of the questions (though, not the same due to legal stuffs) and I used my photographic memory while taking the official test. I don’t have multiple choice examples anymore. And I sure as heck am not going to pay another $450 just to spend time at a driving school (boy does learning to drive cost a LOT in Quebec, one of the main reasons I didn’t do this when I was 16 like the rest of the world – my family couldn’t afford it and it was more expensive back then!).

So I am slowly plugging through this manual. My test is next Friday – when the hell did it suddenly get to be almost September 14?! When I booked this test two weeks ago it seemed so far away! The panic is starting to set in and the more I read about rules and regulations and signs and right-of-ways, the more I start to fear I will never remember any of this – even though I KNOW I KNOW pretty much all of it. I just suck big time on tests. Especially tricky multiple choice tests. People who have forms of dyslexia just don’t DO well on tests. At least I don’t.

If I can ever get this stupid Knowledge Test out of the way, then I can concentrate on panicking over the driving test. Heh.

(David Eddings post coming as soon as I have some more time…)

UPDATE: Test was a piece o’ cake, and I only made one stupid mistake. I would have had 100% had I not changed one answer at the last second. Drat! Anyhow, now I just need to work on the driving part. I still feel rather like a loser about this though. Hmm.