Wednesday, December 16, 2015

January 3 is the date for the PBS premier of the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey.  Fans are anxious to find out what has been happening with the inhabitants of Downton, both upstairs and downstairs.  To get ready for the final season, fans will enjoy this Ultimate Map of Downton Abbey Locations from

Clicking on the icon for each location will show you a photo and more information about the place, including how it was shown in Downton Abbey.  The icon at the top right of the map also shows what types of locale are included (museum, castle, etc.) and whether or not they allow visitors.

This great map will surely give fans of the series plenty of ideas of places to visit during their next visit to the UK! In the meantime, enjoy the map and see if you can spot any of the places when series 6 begins in a few weeks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It's no secret that bad habits (including negative self-talk) are hard to break.   The revised and expanded edition of Change Your Brain Change Your Life explores how to make lasting changes that will help you overcome behaviors and compulsions that are holding you back from living a productive, fulfilling life.

The author, Daniel G. Amen, is the head of a group of clinics that use SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) studies to scan the brains of patients to determine if there are biological issues causing such problems as anxiety, weight control, or ADHD. Most patients he sees have never had studies taken of their brains, but have rather immediately been prescribed numerous medications in an effort to attack their symptoms, without ever trying to get at the root of the problem. Dr. Amen's philosophy is to see if non-pharmaceutical therapies might not work better and be long-term solutions for many of his patients. He does this by seeing what parts of the brain suffer from decreased blood flow or activity, and developing an individualized plan for treatment of that specific condition.

Even if you don't have access to a center where a SPECT scan can be done of your brain, Dr. Amen uses what he has learned from studying brain scans over the years to give advice to people suffering from various behavioral and emotional problems.  Various conditions are explored (including anxiety, impulsiveness, worry, etc.) including what part of the brain controls such behavior.  Then, strategies for dealing with each condition are outlined in 4 areas: biological, psychological, social and spiritual.  Plenty of examples involving real people and situations are used to demonstrate how each condition might manifest itself followed by coping strategies in each of the 4 areas.

Even if you suffer from a condition, such as ADHD, there are differing types.  Chapter 16 goes into detail about the various types of ADHD, anxiety and depression, addition and overeating.  If you suffer from any of these conditions, you will probably see yourself in one of the descriptions. One thing I found surprising was how resistant the medical community was toward using brain scans to diagnose biological causes of medical problems.  As Dr. Amen says, psychiatrists are the only doctors who don't get a look at the organ that is troubling their patients.  His advice is useful for everyone and likely will help to reduce the number of unnecessary medications that are taken by people with problems caused by underlying biological conditions.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Change Your Brain Change Your Life from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

Most days the news brings us a story of some compelling human interest. While we are riveted for a few days, invariably another story grabs the headlines and we soon forget about the people whose story fascinated us just a few days ago.  It's rare that we get to revisit these people and find out what happened to them once the spotlight faded. The book "My Name is Mahtob" involves a young woman whose name we might not know, but whose story is likely familiar.

Mahtob Mahmoody was born in Texas in 1979 to an American mother and an Iranian father.  Her story eventually was told in the movie "Not Without My Daughter" starring Sally Field.  This book is the story of the young girl who was the center of that drama, and what has happened to her since the events in the book.

At age five, the family went to Tehran to visit her father's family, but he had no intention of coming back to the United States.  He was unpredictably violent and abusive, and refused to allow Mahtob and her mother to return to the United States.  He also censored their mail from relatives back home, and forced them to write letters about how much they loved their new lives in Iran.  At the same time, the war between Iran and Iraq was escalating, and bombings were a frequent occurrence.  Mahtob's controlling father at first refused to allow his wife and daughter out of his sight, but eventually he relaxed control enough for them to go out shopping for daily necessities, which ended up taking most of every day.  They planned an escape and when the time was right, they were able to flee and return to her mother's family in Michigan.

They went by new names and Mahtob's mother achieved some degree of closure by working on the book "Not Without My Daughter."  Mahtob was negatively affected by her experiences, and grew to hate everything to do with Iran, and her father especially.  Much to her mother's credit, she tries to get Mahtob to remember some good times with her father, mainly to keep Mahtob from becoming bitter and angry.  Her mother wanted a divorce, but filing would open them up to all sorts of dangers -- their location would be revealed to her father, and likely he would be granted unsupervised visits with his daughter, leaving him free to take her out of the country again.

This situation allowed Mahtob's mother to become a vocal advocate for safeguarding the rights of parents whose children were taken to other countries by estranged parents.  Mahtob spent her childhood afraid of being abducted by her father, yet at the same time sad about her estrangement from other members of her family.  This book is a very interesting look behind the headlines into the live of a resilient young woman who overcame huge obstacles to live a fulfilling life.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of My Name is Mahtob from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fans of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency will be happy to see there are new adventures for the hardworking sleuths in The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine.  The detective agency is pretty much in the same spot where we left it: co-managers Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, and assistant Charlie are waiting in the office for clients to appear while drinking endless pots of red bush tea.

All this changes, however, when Mma Makutsi gets it into her head that Mma Ramotswe needs a vacation.  It's never easy to argue with her, and when Mr. JLB Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe's husband, endorses the plan, there seems to be no option but to take time off.  Luckily, Mr. Polopetsi, who teaches part-time at the local high school, is called upon to fill in during Mma Ramotswe's absence.

Soon this enforced leisure begins to take its toll on Mma Ramotswe.  Just why, she wonders, was Mma Makutsi so insistent that she remove herself from the office?  Is she planning a takeover of some sort?  This seems unlikely, as Mma Makutsi is already a partner and is married to the successful furniture store owner Phuti Radiphuti.  Still, the whole thing doesn't sit well . . .

The opportunity for dropping by to check on things crops up, and her visit to the office does nothing to calm Mma Ramotswe's fears.  Mma Makutsi seems to be acting in a rather strange and secretive manner, although she insists nothing is wrong and she has everything under control.  Luckily, Mr. Polopetsi contacts her with a plea for help, and that gives Mma Ramotswe the opening she needs to immerse herself in the current case, which involves trying to find out if there is any scandal attached to a Mr. Government Keboneng, who is recently late.  The case seems a little complicated, so why would Mma Makutsi pawn it off on the relatively inexperienced Mr. Polopetsi?

At the same time, the evil Violet Sephotho makes an appearance as she tries to steal some of Mma Ramotswe's thunder by opening the No. 1 Ladies' College of Secretarial and Business Studies -- a development that offends Mma Makutsi as well (as a proud graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College).  And the tiny white van is still going strong, although, as usual, it suffers some injuries in the course of the adventures of its driver.

As always, it's wonderful to take a step back and enjoy a visit with the beloved cast of characters in Zebra Drive and Tlokweng Road.  The people are friendly, their manners polite, and there's no problem so big that can't be solved over a cup of red bush tea and a slice of fruitcake.  I'm anxiously awaiting the next adventures of the No. 1 Detectives!

Final Verdict for The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine Four Gherkins, for being a pleasant trip to visit old friends

Little Miss Overshare is so excited about every little thing that happens in her life that she's sure you'll want to hear about it, too.  It doesn't matter if you are a long-suffering roommate, co-workers in a professional setting, or strangers asking directions, Little Miss Overshare will gladly and openly provide details of her life that no one wants to hear.  Not that this slows her down at all!

Little Miss Overshare is a parody in a series of books by the author Dan Zevin.  Some other titles include Mr. Selfie and Mr. Humblebrag.  While each small book no doubt reveals characters that we all encounter on a daily basis, for sheer self-absorption and cluelessness, it would be hard to top Little Miss Overshare.

The book is very tiny, only about 5 inches square and 30 pages long.  Each page of "oversharing" is accompanied by a drawing of an excited looking Little Miss Overshare along with pained looking recipients of her pronouncements.  The book is cute and entertaining, and I'm sure it will call to mind people in our own lives who are fond of imparting TMI in social settings.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Little Miss Overshare from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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