She's a character, she has opinions.

Lock In by John Scalzi

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Lock InMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. There was so much in this book. It’s suspense–people are being murdered and the FBI is investigating. It’s speculative fiction–one of the FBI agents is a “Haden,” a person with Haden’s syndrome whose body is in a medical cradle at his home while his mind inhabits a robotic body (threepio–so perfect). It’s about disability and disability rights and it is very, very good at that, in my opinion. The book gets five stars from me because it combines speculative fiction with suspense/thriller and because it made me think.

What would I do, were I a Haden? Would I use a threepio and interact with the physical world? Would I never use one and interact only in the Agora (a virtual world that is utterly real to the Hadens)? Would I mix both? There was a minor incident mentioned about threepios not being allowed to use chairs in coffee shops if those chairs were needed by those without Haden’s. The particular threepio relating it doesn’t mind, but I’d mind. Oh, would I mind. There are great things like that which call into question the humanity of a Haden while in their threepio. Then there’s the housing which tends to be small and cramped for Haden’s because they are, after all, bedridden and don’t actually need space. But do they deserve it? Does it benefit them?

Oh, and the whodunnit? A wonderful mix of plots and schemes with the technology available to them. Very clever.

I could go on. I’m going to be revisiting this book many times.

Buy Lock In and its prequel Unlocked on Amazon.


Written by tldegray

November 17, 2014 at 7:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

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Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guides

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The Shambling Guide to New York CityThe Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

3.5/5 stars. Zoe is an out of work travel writer who moved home to New York City. She finds an ad for a job she’s sure she’s perfect for, only to be told she wouldn’t fit in. Zoe doesn’t take no for an answer and scores herself a job interview and an introduction to the coterie–all the supernatural monsters (don’t call them monsters!) humanity doesn’t know exist. While planning and editing the ultimate coterie travel guide to NYC, Zoe gets entangled in a dangerous plot, discovers something about herself, and saves the city.

The action is interspersed with segments from the travel guide. It’s cute, but the travel guide sections often come before the related action, somewhat spoiling it. But that’s basically my biggest complaint about this book, which I couldn’t put down and ended up reading long into the early morning.

I really enjoyed Lafferty’s versions of vampires, elementals, and all the other coterie. The travel guide format creates an opportunity to learn things you otherwise wouldn’t learn, such as coterie history and dining habits. It’s a lot of fun.

Also, I really like Zoe’s friendship with Gwen (the Welsh death goddess) and Morgen (the water elemental).

Buy The Shambling Guide to New York City from


The Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides, #2)The Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

3.5/5 stars. The Shambling Guide to NYC was a great hit with the coterie, so Zoe and some of her writers are taking the ghost train to New Orleans to write a travel guide for that city. My complaint from the first book in this series was that the travel sections often came before the action, spoiling it, and that’s fixed in this book, with the travel sections now coming after and supporting the action.

Though the first book threatened all of New York City, Zoe included, this book seemed more threatening to her on a personal level. One of her writers would happily kill her, she gets shot on the train, and some mysterious guy hints that she could be in huge danger just based upon who she is.

There is a mysterious African god Zoe meets in Jackson Square and I encourage those of you who don’t recognize him right away to google him. I think it’ll enhance your reading to know who and what he is, and it won’t take anything away from the story.

Zoe learned a lot of coterie and human-coterie history in this book and I’m fascinated to see where it goes. Yes, obvs, I am hoping for more in this series.

(Provided by publisher)

Buy Ghost Train to New Orleans from

Written by tldegray

July 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

Your art doesn’t trump my safety.

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I am angry. I am angry and I refuse to tone down that anger to make this more palatable for you. Other people around the internet have laid this out in calm and rational ways and have done a fantastic job of getting their point across. And even more people have responded to them with disdain and dismissal. Fuck those people.

So what’s up? The Davis Museum at Wellesley College is hosting an exhibit of Tony Matelli’s sculptures. They placed a sculpture of a man naked except for his underwear on a nearby campus road. We can assume that the museum and Director Lisa Fischman intended no harm. (Fischman’s statement.)

Almost immediately students began asking for the removal of this sculpture to inside the museum with the rest of the exhibit. A petition was started to “remove the uncomfortable and potentially triggering statue put up without student consent.” Read the petition. It’s beautifully written and tells you everything you need to know about the damage this statue has caused and could continue to cause. (Petition.)

Now, here is where all the trouble began. Instead of listening people responded with all that disdain and dismissal I wrote of earlier. Lisa Fischman posted on the petition that she’d seen people interacting with the statue and “[a]rt provokes dialogue, and discourse is the core of education. In that spirit, I am enormously glad to have your response.” But she never addressed the people who have been harmed by this statue, she never addressed the harm.

Let me tell you what excuses are not valid when you are told you are harming someone: I know someone who says it’s okay; but it’s art.

Fuck you and your art. Fuck you and prioritizing your need to provoke over other people’s need to be safe. Move your damn statue inside the free museum where it’s available to everyone who wants to view it and away from everyone who needs to avoid it. Stop thinking your lived experience is the only one and have some damn compassion.

Non ministrari sed ministrare, my ass.

Written by tldegray

February 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Health Resolutions for the New Year

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Work with my PCP and Clinical Pharmacologist to better control my blood pressure. This includes trying various new medications, having as many appointments as they deem appropriate, and checking and recording my blood pressure at home.

Better track my health issues. Use the apps I have. Tracking can lead to finding triggers and that can lead to better overall control of my disease.

Get a medical marijuana prescription. Confirm my hospital’s policy, then find a pain management doctor if necessary. Register with the state as needed.

Commit to taking a multi-vitamin daily. This is the one supplement I always forget and I need to be better about it.

In 2013 I accomplished the majority of my health resolutions. I did change my DMD from Copaxone to Tecfidera and I haven’t had an exacerbation (with new disease activity) since. I increased my gabapentin dosage and had a remarkable upswing in my walking ability because it much better controlled the pain and muscle fatigue. As for my migraine triggers, they seem to frequently come along with other MS pain, so I still need to track them further to figure this out. I did not obtain medical marijuana last year as the state was not yet set up to provide it, but I did join an organization supporting patients so that I could learn about the process.

Written by tldegray

January 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

Gothic Graphic Novels

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Will O' the WispWill o’ the Wisp by Tom Hammock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aurora’s parents die when they eat death cap mushrooms. Aurora survives and is sent to live with the grandfather she’s never met on Ossuary Island. At first she thinks she doesn’t fit in, but gradually she makes friends with her grandfather, his pet raccoon Missy, Mama Nonnie the hoodoo conjurer, and even a boy she meets in the swamp. But things on Ossuary Island aren’t right. People are disappearing. Dying. And the people might need Aurora’s help to survive.

This book was beautiful. I loved, loved, loved the art. The ends of things–hair, beards, tails, clothes–drift off into question mark shaped wisps. It was great how Aurora’s gradually wore more black and white stripes–there were times she and Missy were matched striped friends. It was as cute way to show how Aurora began to fit in on the island and in her new family.

I don’t know a great deal about hoodoo, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of it in this book. But I did find it to be treated respectfully. Though Aurora and her family are white–Aurora especially so with her pale skin and white hair–you will see a variety of people of color living in this Louisiana town. I worried at first that Mama Nonnie would be a “magical negro” but she was fleshed-out as a character with her own dreams and desires, she didn’t exist only to further the plot.

I liked this a lot. It was eerie, sad, and beautiful, all at once.

(Provided by publisher)

Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine, #1)Hopeless, Maine Volume 1: Personal Demons by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salamandra is an orphan. One of many on the tiny island of Hopeless, Maine. And she’s very afraid and lonely. Until she meets a friend, someone who’s always there for her. The only one who loves her, the only one who understands. Her own, personal, demon. When Sal gets rid of the demon, it moves on to target others. Together with Owen, a real friend, Sal fights this personal demon and makes things on Hopeless just a bit brighter.

This book is lovely. It’s dark and slow and feels like three a.m. when anything could happen even though you’re so close to the dawn. The island is alive, with eyes and wisps that reach to grab. Sal is beautiful, a bit wild, a bit frightened, and very smart, and Owen with his height binds the sky to the ground in the same way he binds Sal to Hopeless.

Hopeless, Maine Volume 2: InheritanceHopeless, Maine Volume 2: Inheritance by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The authors say this book isn’t about growing up, it’s about thinking you’ve already grown up and realizing you have a ways yet to go.

Finally giving her full name, Sal finds out she has a living relative on Hopeless. A grandfather, who lives in a lighthouse, and who everyone thinks is crazy. At the same time, Owen’s mother lays dying. Everyone tells him there’s no cure, but he believes there has to be one and that they’re letting her die.

Sal’s grandfather lives in the lighthouse for a reason. He’s there to guide people away and to wait for them to come back. He did it for his family, and now it’s possible he could do it for Sal and Owen. But only one of them can leave Hopeless; who will it be?

If anything, I think the art in this book is even better than that in the first. Everything is living. Hopeless is as alive as its inhabitants, and as eerily beautiful.

(Provided by publisher)

Written by tldegray

October 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

I’ve got the Uhthoff’s Phenomenon Blues

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Ice berg melting by Derek Keats on Flickr

Just set me adrift on this iceberg. Please!

It’s supposed to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit today and since that’s changed all my plans for the day I suppose now is a very good time to tell you about a big part of my invisible illness: Uhthoff’s Phenomenon.

Basically, Uhthoff’s Phenomenon (or Sign) is a worsening of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms caused by heat. It happens because the heat makes it even harder for your already-damaged nerves to function. Something as common-place as a hot bath or shower is enough to trigger symptoms. (Which is why, for years, the “hot bath test” was used to diagnose MS.)

You might be thinking of it as “heat intolerance” but that doesn’t describe the scope of it. I’m not intolerant of heat, I’m knocked on my ass by heat because all of a sudden my nerves no longer transmit the right messages or want to work properly. (Knocked on my ass was a literal statement; I can fall down if the heat is too extreme and I’m unable to cool off quickly enough.)

Here’s the scary part: an increase of 1/4 to 1/2 of a degree Fahrenheit is enough to trigger symptoms. Now try to imagine what an increase of, say, 30 degrees above my optimal will do to me. Yep, that’s why I’ve changed all of my plans for the day to “stay inside an air-conditioned space.”

So what actually happens to me in the heat? The symptoms come on almost immediately; it takes only minutes for me to start to feel the effects. Then I feel drowsy and my legs begin to feel weak. If I’m walking, I start to wobble. I tremble and shake. I slur and forget words, and have trouble with my memory. I feel as if I’m going to pass out. Sometimes I fall or nearly fall down.

The good thing is, under normal circumstances the symptoms can be rapidly reversed by cooling down. By under normal circumstances I mean, being able to cool down immediately. The longer you’re exposed to the heat, the longer it will take to feel better once you begin cooling down.

So if you need me today, I’ll be inside where it’s air-conditioned.

Written by tldegray

September 11, 2013 at 7:31 am

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

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iiweekadget-dontmissit11. The illnesses I live with are: Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, General Anxiety Disorder, Diabetes, ME/CFS, Asthma

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: It ranges from asthma in 1987 to MS in 2011.

3. But I had symptoms since: With MS, I had symptoms since I had the shingles in 2008.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Not being able to work or go to school.

5. Most people assume: I’m better or worse than I actually am.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Waking up into a bad pain or disability day and realizing any plans I had must now be scrapped.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: I guess it’s Royal Pains, but I don’t like it because it’s a medical show. (Once they did a spinal tap on someone’s living room floor! OMG, NO!)

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My smartphone. It stores my med list, my appointments, alarms, brings information to me, and brings me to the world when I otherwise can’t get up and out.

9. The hardest part about nights are: Being woken up by pain and being unable to return to sleep.

10. Each day I take 17 (did I count that right?) pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: consider them, try them, and think of them as something that works hand in hand with my conventional treatments. Massage, especially, works wonders for me.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I wouldn’t everm make this choice because I think everyone’s particular illness is the worst one for them.

13. Regarding working and career: I miss it. I miss it sorely. It’s a tough thing to talk about so I rarely do.

14. People would be surprised to know: I’m not sure. I’m an open book about my illnesses.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Not being able to do what I want when I want.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: I don’t think that way. I tend to assume I can do anything and then find out after trying.

17. The commercials about my illness: Are pretty much fine. I can’t say I’m swayed by them one way or another.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Being able to make plans and keep them without illness interrupting.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: School.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: No new hobbies, just more of existing hobbies.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: I feel normal now. But if I could have one day pain-free and able to move like I used to I would go outside and run and run and run.

22. My illness has taught me: Patience. Patience with others and patience with myself.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: I’m really touchy about people scowling and commenting when I use my handicapped parking placard. I have it for a reason, it is mine, and I do need it. You haven’t seen my MRI films so you have no way of knowing about my illness. Also? Hi, do you see my cane?!

24. But I love it when people: Extend invitations to me that acknowledge I may not be able to keep plans I make. Things like “when you’re feeling good” and “spur of the moment” are wonderful things to hear. They show me the person understands.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I really don’t have one. When times are tough I turn to family and friends.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: You are not alone. Seek out information on your condition. Find a good neurologist with a good nurse.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: My personal resilience. I had no idea I could withstand so much.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: The Husband often does nice things when I’m unwell.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I think it’s important to spread this knowledge.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: as if you want to understand me.

Written by tldegray

September 9, 2013 at 7:00 am