Tag Archives: neuropsychology


Author: Ingrid Lawswitch

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Savvy, vol. 3

Gypsy Beaumont lives in an extraordinary family, and one of the most outstanding things about this extraordinary family is that everyone, on their thirteenth birthday, gets a special talent, one particularly suited to them. Gypsy was understandably excited to get her new talent (called a savvy) of seeing the future, but things just don’t seem to work out like she’s imagined. In trying to prevent bad things she sees from happening, she ends up looking silly–and the bad things end up happening anyhow! Then one day, Gypsy’s family gets a call that her grandmother’s mind isn’t doing well anymore and that she needs help. A decision is made to move her grandmother in with them–a decision that turns the whole household around as emotions fly all about and, worse, savvies get all confounded. Gypsy’s quiet, disappearing brother Samson now flames, literally. Her savvy-perfect Momma becomes savvy-clumsy. Her baby brother Tucker gets an astonishing talent years before he should have. And Gypsy’s own talent changes remarkably as well. They’ll all have their hands full learning to handle these new savvies, and that’s only the beginning of their challenges.

I absolutely loved Ingrid Law’s first two books about this remarkable family (Savvy and Scumble), so I approached Switch with high expectations. Those expectations were certainly met, if not exceeded. She manages to maintain all the things I loved about the first two volumes while also crafting something unique and pertinent. The wonder and adventure of the story are excellent while still being accessible for a middle-grade reader–and being completely clean. More than that, Law brings to the story a rich cast of interesting characters, and even many of the side-characters have an unexpected depth. She creates a story that reminds us all to be ourselves, to do the right thing, to support our family no matter what, and to love others even when it’s hard. Beyond that, she gives us a story about the very real challenges of dealing with relatives who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, acknowledging the difficulties while challenging us to recognize the moments of beauty in the midst of the brokenness. And she somehow brings all that in a story that had me literally laughing aloud. I would highly recommend Switch to just about anybody, but especially to those dealing with family members who have dementia–for the laughs and for the reminder that you’re not alone.




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The Dead Zone

Author: Stephen Kingthe dead zone

My rating: 4 of 5


If you know something’s going to happen, are you morally bound to do something about it? Johnny Smith never imagined considering that sort of moral conundrum the night he took his girl Sarah to the fair. They were just having a good time . . . until a tragic accident later that night left Johnny in a coma. Nearly five years later, he awakens to find his world irrevocably altered: his girl married, his youth vanished, his health crippled. And the strangest changes to his mind. Johnny Smith finds that memories related to locations are a “dead zone” in his brain, something he can’t bring into focus. But as if to compensate for this loss, he also finds that he sometimes gets what can only be termed “psychic flashes” when he touches things–memories of pasts that he never knew, awareness of present events that are deeply-kept secrets, and worst of all, knowledge of future events and the corresponding responsibility of that knowledge.

The Dead Zone was a fascinating read from a psychological and moral standpoint; it’s more introspective than some of King’s writing (although I am regularly impressed by the way his books tend more towards the psychological and less towards the thriller–a very positive thing in my thinking). Johnny Smith’s character was a good choice in that he’s a “good guy” from a religious heritage, and although not religious himself, he has strong moral feelings about life–but he’s also conflicted in a lot of ways. That makes for some very interesting psychological development. Plus, he’s the sort of guy who just wants a normal life; he’s totally not interested in the whole “psychic” gig. King’s exploration of the effects of brain damage and the resultant flashes on Smith’s daily thought processes in interesting also. Additionally, I think he did a good job progressing the plot through foreshadowing and hints without there ever being a great deal of “action” per se until the very end. In spite of that, I never found the story boring–okay, I consumed the entire 400+ pages within a couple days. Without giving away details, I thought the ending was more Carrie-esque, while still fitting the rest of the story; I guess you could say it was the inevitable conclusion of Smith’s condition. In any case, for adult readers who enjoy a good psychological thriller, I would highly recommend The Dead Zone.

NOTE: I forgot to add this above, but I found his treatment of the 1970’s U.S. to be quite interesting as well, especially his treatment of the political environment of the time.

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More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam SilveraMore Happy than Not

My rating: 4.5 of 5


Every life is a mixture of good stuff and bad stuff. Aaron Soto is no exception, and he tries to be happy with what he’s got. But sometimes it really seems the good just isn’t enough to make up for the bad. Sure, he’s got an incredible girlfriend, a job, a home–but he’s also got the memories of his father’s suicide, his own attempted suicide, poverty, friends who don’t really care. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that the memory-altering procedure offered by the up-and-coming Leteo Institute really seems like a good option. But when Thomas comes into Aaron’s life, always knowing just what to say, things begin to change . . . for better or for worse.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up More Happy Than Not, and in a lot of senses, this isn’t a book I would usually read. But I have to admit, it pulled me in, right from the first few pages–and the great pacing and interesting story continued throughout. The writing style is very engaging, a personable first-person taste of Aaron. And while his story is certainly sad, it never gets depressing to the point that I didn’t want to continue reading–a balancing act that takes some talent to pull off. There are a lot of things about Aaron that I don’t really care for (like the way he can’t stay committed to a relationship), but the transparent depiction of the conflicts he goes through within himself are honest and moving. And the struggles he deals with in realizing and dealing with his sexuality in a number of senses is eye-opening. I do have to say, the cyberpunk Leteo thing threw me when it became a bigger part of Aaron’s story, although it had kind of been hinted at right from the beginning; I guess I’m just blind in that sense. And the ending really threw me, but at the same time, it works quite well. Finally a word of warning: this is an older YA book, and there is ample sex, drugs, language, violence, etc. But for a mature reader looking for an engaging but challenging story, I think More Happy Than Not is a great choice.

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Created by Joss Whedon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine a technology that would enable people to completely remove an individual’s memory, personality, identity. . . . Terrifying, isn’t it? A girl by the name of Caroline finds herself dragged into a corporation (the Dollhouse) that does just that–for profit. For various reasons, she becomes an “Active” called Echo, her own identity erased to become whoever the client needs her to be: spy, lover, special agent in a hostage situation, whatever. Only, unlike most of the other Actives, Echo keeps having pieces of old personality imprints popping up after they were supposedly erased; memories she shouldn’t have retained begin showing up. She is evolving a self of her own, beyond that of her original, Caroline. And Echo is determined to bring the Dollhouse down, whatever it takes.

I know I’ve said before that I really enjoy Joss Whedon’s shows. . . . Dollhouse is the best I’ve seen of them yet. I absolutely devoured all 26 episodes and was saddened that there wasn’t more (although I think they ended it very well). Rather than being about the paranormal, this is very much a science-y show–but not in an obsessively, overwhelmingly geeky way. While it does give a clear and terrifying picture of what could (likely would) go wrong if this sort of technology ever did come into existence, it is much more focused on the individuals involved in this particular story. Echo herself is absolutely the focal point of the entire story, and she is an excellent character. Eliza Dushku’s acting in this role is exemplary. She shows the individuals whose minds are implanted into Echo as distinct and yet also shows the gradually developing entity that is Echo as an individual herself . . . it’s truly fascinating to watch! The relationship that grows between actives Victor and Sierra (without giving too much away) is absolutely beautiful as well. The whole show is a strong argument for there being some–a soul perhaps–that makes us who we are, even if all our memories and such are stripped away. More challenging characters include scientific genius Topher Brink (whom I enjoyed very much, although he is again, a challenging character) and Dollhouse leader/shepherd Adelle DeWitt (who is excellently played, though provoking, and in my personal opinion absolutely maddening).  I guess what I’m getting at is that the characters, characterization, acting, and character-driven aspect (sorry if that sounds repetitive) are all wonderful. I’d also like to note that the production for the whole series is quite lovely–it’s visually stunning. Plus it has a great soundtrack. I would highly recommend Dollhouse to all mature viewers (not a kids’ TV show).

Starring: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Olivia Williams, Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, & Miracle Laurie


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The Name of This Book is Secret

Author: Psuedonymous Bosch

Illustrator: Gilbert Ford

Actually, it’s not just the name of this book that’s secret; the entire book itself is secret. In fact, you really shouldn’t read it at all, or so says the anonymous narrator. In this story, a couple of eleven-year-old kids–a boy who tells not-funny jokes and talks too much and a girl who’s a survivalist and cries disaster too often–encounter a secret which leads them into true danger and looming disaster. Only their growing collaboration and unique skills will enable them to survive and rescue their classmate. We can only hope that is enough.

So. I enjoyed The Name of This Book is Secret to an extent, but I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I didn’t already love the works of Lemony Snicket. Because this book feels altogether too much like it’s trying to imitate the style of Lemony Snicket–just without all the parts I love most, like the highly individual characters and the individual author’s unique attitude and style. Everything about The Name of This Book is Secret is so very intentionally disguised–to increase the impression of danger–that it loses a lot of potential personality. On the plus side, I really did enjoy seeing synesthesia–a real and fascinating medical condition–being used as a plot device. There were several other interesting allusions to history, culture, entertainment, etc.–it’s just that they’re so mixed up together that it’s difficult to really appreciate them. The Name of This Book is Secret gets three out of five stars in my opinion; I don’t regret reading it, but I probably won’t read it again.

Note: The allusion of the author’s “name” to the not-particularly-well-known artist Hieronymus Bosch (known for busy and super-creepy paintings) is sort of interesting, I must admit.

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Author: Oliver Sacks

Over the course of many years of clinical practice in neuropsychology, Dr. Sacks has seen the inexplicable, the baffling, and the unusual many, many times. In this book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Dr. Sacks provides a varied collection of cases of interest that he has seen–everything from a woman who lost her sense of proprioception to a man who temporarily gained the ability to perceive the world as a dog would! And of course, “the man who mistook his wife for a hat”–incredible story that.

I don’t usually read much nonfiction, but this book (recommended by my brother who loves Dr. Sacks’ writing) is a definite exception. The case studies are stories. True stories, yes, and more incredible for that. Dr. Sacks’ writing is clear and lucid and simple enough to be easy to read–not “doctor-ese” at all. More impressive to me though is the humanity, respect, dignity, and compassion that permeates his tales; it’s clear that he sees the individuals he’s writing about as people not just as cases or medical charts. Indeed, the insight he draws from his interactions with these people, not only about themselves but about humanity in general, is truly illuminating. I would give The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat my high recommendations, and not only for those who like medical books, but for anyone with an interest in Story and in what makes people tick. Truly fascinating.

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