Bloggiesta September 2012: Ole!

So it’s Bloggiesta time again!  Time to work on the blog! 

I’m a shade late to the party (thanks, work) but I really only have one project this Bloggiesta:

Last Bloggiesta I got TONS of stuff done, but no posts.  So I’ll reverse that trend and write up some of my backlog of reviews (and a few for Brazen Reads to get ahead, hopefully). And drop in on a few mini-challenges (just lurking).


Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Stephanie Laurens: The Bastion Club (tail-end)

While reading The Lady Risks All (reviewed on Brazen Reads), I was introduced the Neville Roscoe, London’s gambling king.  At the end, there were previews for the two previous Laurens books he appeared in: the seventh Bastion Club book and the conclusion to the Cobra quartet.  The Edge of Desire was on sale so I decided to check out the Bastion Club series.

The Bastion Club is a private gentlemen’s club with an extremely exclusive clientele: aristocratic men who spent the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars behind enemy lines as spies.  They are all now rich and titled and the target of the matchmaking mamas of the ton – so the Bastion Club was born as their refuge (since the regular gentlemen’s clubs like White’s are filled with the mamas sons and husbands).  In The Edge of Desire, the last unmarried member of the Club, Christian Allardyce, Marquess of Dearne is summonded to help Lady Letitia Randall when her husband is discovered murdered and her brother accused of the deed.  Christian and Letitia were once lovers, and had vowed to marry when he returned to England after the war, but, for some reason, Letitia married Randall and broke Christian’s heart.  As Christian investigates, and enlists is Bastion Club colleagues and enigmatic handler Dalziel to help, he finds that what he felt for Letitia never went away.  The more time he spends with her, the more he wants her.  He only has to discover two things: whether she still loves him and why the devil did she break her vow to wait.  The mystery gets a little complicated (and hair-raising like any good Laurens) but the romance of second-chances was very sweet.

I also discovered that the final Bastion Club book, Mastered by Love, was on sale, so decided to read that, too.  The hero is the mysterious Dalziel, spymaster, and in reality Royce Varisey, now the powerful Duke of Wolverstone (oh, ha! That’s where Carling and Eliza wind up after being chased across half of England).  There’s a lot of backstory/emotional baggage in this novel: unrequited love, marriages of convenience for centuries, family disappointment, paternal banishment, etc., etc., etc.  Minerva Chesterton was adopted by the Variseys when her parents died (she’s some sort of cousin) and now serves as chatelaine – she is the one suffering unrequited love, having loved Royce for years.  The two fall in lust with each other, then something approximating love, and Royce has determined that he wants to marry her when they are caught having sex on the battlements by his sisters’ houseguests.  There are some behind the scenes machinations in this book, mostly due to the presence of the mysterious Last Traitor.  I find that Royce is less “dangerous” in this book than the previous book, which is odd since he’s the spymaster.  I did like seeing Devil in his pre-Honoria days as well as some other prominent Cynster characters.  I wasn’t aware that Laurens had so much cross-over between series.

stuff I read

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores (mini-review)

Ya’ll know I work in a bookstore.  You’ve seen my “‘Tis the Season” posts.

Jen Campbell has a blog where she started posting up things customers said in her antiquarian bookshop (it reminds me of the conversation in Notting Hill where some customer keeps asking questions like “Do you have the new John Grisham?” or “Do you have Winnie-the-Pooh?” to which Hugh Grant always answers “Sorry, travel bookshop”).

It got her a book deal: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.

You think stuff I posted was weird?  Check out some of her submissions.  I laughed so hard I almost peed myself.

And then I found out there was a volume two in the works and submitted a few tidbits of my own.

Update: Jen accepted one of my submissions!!  Look for More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores in April 2013!

stuff I read

Much Ado About Loving

From Goodreads:
Ah, romantic happiness.You’d think finding it would be easier now than ever before, given all the options modern life allows us. Instead, it’s much harder—because there’s so much to figure out. And we feel such pressure to find someone perfect: soul mate, sexual dynamo, emotional stalwart, and best buddy all in one. And if we do beat the odds and manage to get into something steady, then a new batch of concerns arises—like how to go from a friendship-with-benefits to a full-fledged commitment, how to deal with his overbearing mother, or how to overcome problems in the sack. In our quest to reach romantic nirvana, we turn to self-help manuals, daytime TV, magazines, talk shows, friends, relatives, and shrinks. But we’ve forgotten a far better source of wisdom: the timeless stories written by the great novelists. Jane Austen was around long before Oprah—and though ladies in tight-laced corsets didn’t have to deal with Internet profiles or speed dating, they can help us better understand why first impressions shouldn’t necessarily be lasting (Sense and Sensibility) and why sometimes it’s okay to date bad boys ( Jane Eyre).

Daunted by how hard it would be to mine books like those for the best nuggets? Don’t be. The authors of Much Ado About Loving have done it for you, combining expert dating advice with lit crit as they discuss classics of literature. Avid readers and relationship gurus, Maura Kelly and Jack Murnighan have gone through as many romantic highs and lows as Bridget Jones and Don Juan combined. They’ve also stayed in plenty of nights, comforting themselves with great novels and learning a few lifetimes’ worth of lessons in the bargain. Trading off narration chapter by chapter, they explain the key romantic eurekas that more than thirty books have given them. Whether they’re talking about Moby-Dicks or why brides are prejudiced, each chapter will get you thinking—and keep you laughing all the way to a great relationship.
You don’t have to be a bookworm to learn about love from great novels. Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly have done the reading for you. Their take on life’s greatest love lessons from literature’s most memorable characters will enlighten you about all sorts of questions, like:

* Why shouldn’t a relationship develop too much online before it enters the realm of reality? Love in the Time of Cholera was published long before went online, but it demonstrates the dangers of getting your hopes too high before you meet.
* Are you more excited about having a wedding than being married? Pride and Prejudice can help you take off those “champagne goggles” and get real.
* Is hanging out at bars your go-to move for meeting dates? Bright Lights, Big City shows why that’s no way to find a new relationship.
* Should you marry a man with a past? There are times when it’s the most principled thing you could do—and Jane Eyre can help you see why.
* Do you have a TMI problem? You should rein it in if you want romance to bloom—as Brothers Karamazov shows.
* Should you cross the political aisle for love? Howards End has the answer.
* Nobody who’s interested in you is ever good enough? Get over your intimacy issues with a look at The Bell Jar.
* Why do men talk so much, and why do women put up with it? Infinite Jest will tell you everything you need to know.

Whelp….I liked Much Ado About Loving but my expectations might have been rather high since I liked Murnighan’s Beowulf on the Beach.  I probably would have liked it better from the outset had I NOT started it around Valentine’s Day because it was too much advice for someone with a rather pathetic dating life. And I wasn’t looking for a dating advice book.  Coming back to it in September was much better.

I like Murnighan’s chapters more than Kelly’s – probably because I LOVED Beowulf on the Beach and was looking for more of that.

So a good book, a decent read, but not as good as I expected.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Duke’s Tattoo

Summary from Goodreads:

First comes revenge then comes love and marriage in The Duke’s Tattoo, a historical romance set in Regency England.

After being grievously wounded at Waterloo, Jeremy Maubrey returns from war to find his new life as the tenth Duke of Ainsworth painful, dull and full of obligations. That is, until he wakes to find himself indelibly decorated in a mortifying place and mocking manner.

Though he cannot recall much of the hellish night when he was abducted and tattooed, he cannot forget the waif-like villainess responsible or her haunting eyes. Ducal duties must wait till he finds the culprit and takes his revenge.

Miss Prudence Haversham, Bath’s only female apothecary, knows she has a problem. A big, broad shouldered problem. At least she will have, if the tenth Duke of Ainsworth ever discovers she is to blame for tattooing him. Unfortunately, she meant to have tattooed the previous Duke of Ainsworth, who tried to debauch her and disgraced her with his lies. Worse yet, she learns this duke is one of four infamously implacable cavalry officers known as ‘The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’

No sooner has the vengeful duke traced his abductress to Bath, than Prudence Haversham overturns the duke’s every expectation and intention. In turn, the duke proves himself an honorable and surprisingly forgiving man who earns the wary apothecary’s love.

I generally shy away from self-published work – what I have read previously is spotty at best.

This book, though, is an entertaining, well-thought out start to a new Regency series – “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Intrigued?  And it came recommended by Lady Wesley, on Goodreads, and she’s has pretty good/similar taste to mine.

This first book finds Jeremy Maubrey, tenth Duke of Ainsworth, waking up after a night of, well, who knows – he can’t quite remember what happened – to find that he has acquired a tattoo. In a rather sensitive location (“tup a lamprey?” has got to be a catchphrase somewhere). Miss Prudence Haversham has long harbored a grudge against the Duke of Ainsworth for ruining her reputation as a teenager. Not Jeremy, but his elder brother, Phillip. Prudence doesn’t know that Phillip has died and when presented with the opportunity to revenge herself on the Duke, she does. Only to take a closer look later and realize she snared the wrong man. Jeremy seeks to take his revenge for his tattoo…we all know where this is heading – it’s a romance novel!

I liked both our hero and heroine. Jeremy is a man unprepared to turn himself into a pink of the ton, being used to military life, and Prudence has found her own way – as a trained apothecary – in a society that is unforgiving to women who misstep. And they have the customary trust issues and “helpful” best friends.

I really only have two major quibbles with this book:
1) Prudence’s odious brother and sister-in-law aren’t very well-drawn. Therefore, I really didn’t understand the motivation to essentially throw a teenage girl out of her brother’s house. Prudence hints that the SIL doesn’t like her, but we don’t see much evidence of this.
2) The falling action drags on. Very few romance novels violate convention and fail to deliver the Happily Ever After (this is why On the Way to the Wedding delivered a heart-stopping scene before giving us the HEA – it actually seemed for about 10 pages that it wasn’t going to happen). Sending Jem to London where he dithers there for several chapters followed by multiple scenes where Prudence refuses Jem’s offer of marriage. Over and over. Needed a bit of tightening up.

That being said, it was as very entertaining and quick read. Best wishes to author Miranda Davis on the rest of the series!

stuff I read

The Power of Habit

In my quest to become a more productive adult I decided to pick up Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.  I seem to have trouble forming/keeping good habits – good intentions are only a small part of the battle – so I thought this might be a book with some good ideas.

Well, sort-of.  Duhigg uses case studies and examples of corporate culture to demonstrate how habits have a cycle.  A cycle of cue –> routine –> reward –> [repeat] that is self-reinforcing.  A man with post-encephalitic brain damage so severe he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia retained old habits of eating, taking a walk, and watching television; even though he couldn’t create new memories the neuroscientists were able to train him to form new habits.  Target uses shopping data to analyze shopping habits and predict which coupons a customer would be likely to use (i.e. if a purchase shows onesies, a stroller, and a maternity top then the shopper is likely a pregnant woman and Target can send coupons for diapers) thereby getting the customer back into the store to buy more product.  The new CEO for Alcoa boosted productivity and profits by focusing on a single “keystone” habit – how worker injuries were handled (the cue loop for that one runs worker injury (cue) –> must be reported within 24 hrs (routine) –> get a promotion for using the system correctly (reward)).

Some of the examples don’t fit so well.  The development and success of Febreeze is posited as the desire to have a clean-smelling house.  The chapter on Starbucks’s career development programs is interesting but many of the notes say the program has been discontinued making the whole section less useful.  At the end of the book Duhigg tries to pull viral networking and the issue of biology vs. free will into the discussion but those last two chapters feel very tacked on.

The money chapters are Chapter 2 (The Craving Brain: How to Form New Habits) and Chapter 3 (The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs) as well as the appendix which offers a readers’ guide.  These sections go into depth using case-studies of people who have changed their habits.  One quite biting her nails.  Tony Dungy’s training program is reviewed.  Brain imaging is discussed (surprise: the neural pathway for the “old” habit never goes away, the new is only overlaid which offers up one explaination why bad habits have tendency to come back).  The guide is nice in that it takes the habit loop evidence and lays it out very simply.  I haven’t yet put it into practice (I have a really bad habit of always eating out and driving to work rather than cooking for myself and taking the bus) but the loop theory is good to keep in mind.

Of course, while I was reading The Power of Habit I was thinking about how to apply the habit loop to handwashing at work (even tweeted Eli about it).  For those of us in healthcare epidemiology, we sigh and grumble everytime we see the perennially abysmal hand-hygiene compliance numbers.  A lot of money is being thrown at the issue to study everything from high-tech sensor motes, immediate electronic feedback, and research assistants to watch HCWs wash their hands, to pizza parties, new antimicrobial handrubs, and focus groups.  The methods don’t seem to stick, though.

In my own personal experience, it seems to come down to habit (if a physician or nurse claims poor education they ought to leave the profession).  And HCWs are experts at the habit of excuses for why they don’t need to wash their hands.  I have stood and played the “what-if” game with nurses and doctors:

  • What if I only have to silence an alarm? (the alarm is in the patient’s environment, use the handrub on the way in) 
  • What if I have a cup of ice for the patient?  (Since it’s unlikely that you’ll only put the cup down and leave, hit the handrub bottle on the way in and rub it in once you’ve put the cup down) 
  • What if I have to step out and grab some meds?  (You’ll be touching the cart/PYXIS/patient) 
  • But I used the pumper bottle thirty seconds ago, why do I have to use it again on the way into see a patient?  (And you’ve touched the computer keyboard and the counter since then)
  • What if, what if, what if….

So how would the habit loop of cue –> routine –> reward work in this situation?  The cue and routine portion is very straightforward: when you enter or exit a room, don gloves, etc. per the WHO Five Moments guidelines that is the cue, the act of hand-washing is the routine.  So where’s the reward? Perhaps the Alcoa situation is similar and hospitals needs to start recording individual HCWs’ hand-hygiene rates; those HCWs with good rates get first pick of vacation days or that becomes part of the promotion package (I can hear the union complaining now).  Or perhaps, given that tying HH rates into career might seem “mean”, a hospital could provide HCWs with HH>90% a voucher for a free meal or coffee one a month.  We could back it up and apply the reward to the students – the more a habit is “baked in” in nursing or medical school the more likely it is to be carried through into the post-graduate workplace.


BBAW 2012 Day 5: Saying Goodbye

Friday’s prompt:
what did you get out of this week? What will you take with you in the future? I liken it to the end of camp when you say goodbye and exchange addresses and promise to stay in touch!

BBAW is the number one reason why my Google Reader grows in size: I find new bloggers.  Each Bloggiesta I go through and clean out blogs that have (sadly) permanently ceased production…and each BBAW I add easily twice that number of new-to-me blogs. 

The kind comments of other bloggers always gives me a burst of blogging energy.  Since I’ve been in a slump and are quite behind the evergy is gratefully appreciated this year.  I intend to return the commenting favor – it might take me a few weeks to sift back through the Linkies but I will!

As always, many, many hugs and thanks to Amy for putting this all together and thinking up BBAW in the first place!  *mwah*

And now I leave you with the Muppets: