Flow: A Cultural Story of Menstruation (CBR5 #15)

There is much about Flow which aggravates me. Some things are quite simple and would’ve been easily corrected. An editor unafraid to attack with the red pen and hack up chapters and suggest deleting entire ones could easily have saved the reader from repetitive information. But other than being needlessly long and repetitive there was a larger problem.

The authors, in attempting to be friendly are instead insulting to even marginally informed women. Flow is a book written in a ‘aw shucks ain’t that interesting’ way that aggravated my last nerve.

The beginning of the book is broken into seven chapters and covers 100 pages. Several of these chapters should have been edited down and combined. Chapters Two and Three (Where We Are Today and So How Did We Get Here?) as well as Chapters Four and Five (Hysteria and Seeing Red) cover the same information twice and each pair could share one introduction and launch into the related topics. Instead pages of retreading occur. The second half of the book is another seven chapters and while generally independent of one another there is a return to information we have already been presented as if the author expects that we are going to pick this book up and read only one chapter which interests us and not the entire work.

The structure of the book strikes me as odd as well. Discussion of current understandings of a ‘normal’ period is back in chapter eleven! There are some facts hidden in the back of the book which would’ve been nice to have upfront. Alleviate some fears and “am I the only one?” type questions and then set about telling the story of how so much information about a body process which occurs in half of all humans is hidden from public understanding by various forces. As the title implies.  This is not a book written that way.

Things that I wish were mentioned earlier (just to name a few):

  • Menstruation can often aggravate chronic illnesses and disorders (migraines, insomnia, asthma, arthritis).
  •  Your chances of endometriosis increase the longer you put off having your first child or by not having one at all.
  • An oophorectomy, removal of the ovaries which is commonly performed in tandem with a hysterectomy, performed before menopause can put a woman at greater risk for dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

This book also leans heavily on the side of being anti-medication. I support informing people about exactly what they are putting into their bodies, and would hope that before going on long-term medication  women and men would research what it is made of, I detest the way the authors have placed themselves into the ‘what you’re doing is gross and weird’ camp. All the while claiming that they are about your right to choose for yourself while making light or making fun and then laying on the guilt. This is NOT conducive to a conversation.

This is most glaring when discussing where estrogen replacements come from. While the manner in which it is harvested and its source may disgust the writers, it is unfair to say that ALL women who take it are taking it because they fear aging. Plenty of women are on estrogen replacement because their bodies don’t produce any or enough estrogen and the lack of estrogen leads to other health problems. THIS IS NOT ADDRESSED BY THE AUTHORS. Instead it’s the launching pad to talk about the fear of menopause. Is it interesting and necessary to talk about historical social stigma related to menopause. Absolutely. BUT IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO ATTEMPT TO GROSS THE READER OUT BY TALKING ABOUT PREGNANT HORSE URINE TO DO SO. I admit the connection is extremely strong between the desire to postpone menopause and the development of these drugs, but the delivery was heavy-handed and annoying.

The only reasons I gave this book two stars was the wonderful amount of historical advertising placed throughout and the timeline which divides sections one and two. Don’t read this book. Skim it for pictures and make a list of things to read from the bibliography.

Secret Star (CBR5 #3)

Secret Star was published 15 years ago and, in some ways, it shows. It’s astounding to me the things which were the cutting edge of technology or  which were the extent of what was known in scientific communities are today simply not. Sometimes the lack of technology – no cell phones in every bag and pocket – pulled me out of the narrative, and while certainly a detractor, not something to be overly concerned with.

What those of you considering reading this book should be concerned with is the fact that this is the third book in a trilogy. I had not read the first two and that kept me from truly loosing myself in the narrative more than the technology gaps. If the basic plot sounds interesting, I would suggest starting at the beginning with Hidden Star.

The plot is pretty typical of the Nora Roberts oeuvre. There are three blue diamonds, known collectively as the Stars of Mithra. There is a string of murders which take place in the search for these priceless diamonds, before they enter the Smithsonian Institute. In pursuit of the perpetrators of these crimes Detective Seth Buchanan finds himself charged with solving the murder of Grace Fontaine. Who shows up very much alive and becomes something Seth cannot keep a professional distance from.

This good book had the job of finishing the series, and honestly it could have stretched the story some, used a little more action, and waited a little longer to reveal the big bad.  Perhaps my biggest complaint (yes I know I already discussed my complaints) was how short a time the action of all three novels was intended to take place, and how quickly the various couples fall in love, in bed, and then engaged.  Not a great Nora Roberts novel but a quick, pleasing read.

Star Island (CBR4 #34)

Let’s get the hard part over with first. This is not my favorite Hiaasen, and generally it falls below most of the contemporary fiction I’ve read this cannonball. In many ways Star Island is an entirely typical Hiaasen novel: its set in South Florida, it features a storyline about real estate developers and politicians trampling pristine environments, is a morality tale about the excesses of Hollywood and South Beach, and features everyone’s favorite former governor turned hermit – Skink.

Everything is better with Skink, which is how I know that I didn’t really enjoy this book because I didn’t like half of Skink’s storyline.  And the half I didn’t enjoy was the half that featured the novel’s main protagonists – Cherry Pye and Ann DeLusia.  Cherry Pye (née Cheryl Bunterman) is a pop star since the tender age of fourteen—and about to attempt a comeback from her latest drug-and-alcohol disaster in the vein of every lurid tabloid story you’ve ever heard. Then there’s Ann DeLusia her undercover stunt double.  Ann portrays Cherry whenever the singer is too ‘indisposed’ to go out in public, but Cherry has no idea she exists.

The plot revolves around Ann’s job of doubling Cherry and a photographer determined to get the ultimate shots of Cherry before what everyone, including her manager, is sure is going to happen. Her untimely death. But before this storyline can get underway Ann gets caught up with Skink. Skink ends up ‘rescuing’ Ann from a car crash along Card Sound Road in the Keys and becomes invested in the young actress after he uses her as part of his scheme to get back at an unscrupulous real estate developer. This ends up being good for Ann and bad for Cherry.

Hiaasen has created a character in Cherry who is by all definitions awful, and he writes about her with contempt in his authorial voice. Which is a problem; this is an antagonist to Ann but a protagonist in her own right so making her a punching bag does not in any way help the reader become more involved in the stories of her parents, management, publicists, security, or boyfriends. There is also a lot of lazy descriptions of Cherry whom he refers to constantly as the former Cheryl Bunterman. I would’ve preferred an acronym (TFCB).

I’d say to steer clear of this one. It’s too long, too convoluted and not even the comic send-ups of the characters futures in the epilogue were satisfying.