The Brain: Nature’s Own Computer
Johns’ book explores how the brain functions. He talks about how we are the result of a blend of natural instinct and nurture. Humans bond with their primary caregiver and this shapes how they interact with others and who they are attracted to later in life. Johns explores the common theory that children develop most of their core identity in the first six years and that abuse within that key time frame can seriously stunt development. He discusses the idea of brain maps and that certain ideas, concepts and feelings are soft wired not hardwired into us. This means that those habits can be changed over time.
While I rarely comment on the layout of books since a good layout should invisibly support the story this layout puts itself forward. The choice of a blue background instead of the more traditional white is odd and never explained. For instance, a children’s book about the sun might have a yellow background. The color blue doesn’t seem to have a link to the material and so ends up alienating the reader as it constantly separates them from the text.
The table of contents is also strange as it appears to list images and tables instead of chapter headings or perhaps as well as chapter headings. A separate list of illustrations would add clarity here if the author wishes to include that information. HTML 4 is an odd choice for writing a book. The urge to be different and stand out from the crowd is understandable but the wheel is still used today for a reason. Book design is the place where a book should be marketed but an author needs to remember that the primary purpose of a book is to be read and if the layout interferes significantly with that goal than it is time to try something else.
The core material Johns is presenting is not new but he is correct that it is often not presented in a way that is accessible to a lay person. Unfortunately, Johns inserts his marketing ideas into his writing and this creates an authorial voice that talks down to readers. It is important for an author to consider the audience for his book, but they do not need to include this information within the book. They also do not need to explain their voice or word choice. Doing so says that the author lacks faith in their readers and it becomes annoying. All in all, this book has possibilities but as it stands it needs more work.
A refreshing take on grief and living with mental illness, IT ISN'T CHEATING IF HE'S DEAD deals with one woman's struggle to come to terms with her fiancé's death. Jemima Stone's fiancé Gerald has been missing for four years. Before his disappearance, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and went off his meds. The novel opens with Detective Finn Wight telling Jem that Gerald has been found murdered in a Montreal dumpster. Jem is a defense lawyer in Calgary, and before he got sick Gerald was researching a cure for cancer. Jem is now left alone to try to piece together why Gerald left and how life goes on without him. She takes his leaving as abandonment and a sign that he didn't love her. Jem struggles with feelings of worthlessness because of Gerald's loss. As the novel progresses, Finn helps Jem learn about Gerald's life, medical history, and the missing four years before his death. By the novel's end, Jem is able to rediscover her sense of self-worth and lay Gerald to rest. IT ISN'T CHEATING IF HE'S DEAD tells the story of Jem's grief over her fiancé Gerald's death and her search for answers. Julie Frayn's novel is a compelling study of mental illness. It asks some hard questions about how we treat the mentally ill. Althea's (Gerald's mother) denial of mental illness destroyed her husband and her son. Yet Jem's acceptance and support weren't enough to hold Gerald. Ms. Frayn rightly points out that we still have no good way to treat illnesses of the mind. She has Gerald tell Jem that the meds are killing him slowly and the disease is killing him quickly and ask how can he live with either? Still, Ms. Frayn does not create a suicidal character. Gerald leaves to continue the fight on his own. This leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the future in spite of Gerald's fate. The use of a third person limited narrator causes the reader's viewpoint to be filtered through Jem's thoughts and feelings. It is an interesting choice to write a book about mental illness from the point of view of those left behind. The only problem is that this is not a romance novel; it is general fiction. While Jem does end up with Finn, that is not the real story being told in this novel. It is instead a brilliant and insightful exploration of grief, loss and living with the mentally ill. - See more at: http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooksreview.php?bookid=21781#sthash.ZuFzUuGK.dpuf
Elizabeth Ramsay is English tutor and ESL Teacher.