Book Review: Learned Optimism

I’ve written before that one of my favorite nonfiction subjects to read is psychology–I’m fascinated by how the mind works (on the level of thoughts, not so much neurons).  I recently read Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and it was one of the most intriguing I’ve read to date.

Seligman details extensive studies he undertook and the conclusions drawn from them to define and explain pessimism, optimism and depression.  In brief, he found that learned helplessness (believing that whatever you do doesn’t change the outcome) is a key component of depression, and that explanatory style (how you explain events, especially negative ones) influences whether learned helplessness becomes prolonged and intense.  Optimists and pessimists explain their lives and events very differently, but it’s possible to learn optimism by challenging your explanations of events and consciously changing your thought processes.

This is an old book (about 30 years old) but as far as I can tell, Seligman is/was the foremost expert on the heavily related topics of learned helplessness and optimism/pessimism.  He’s the one that the later books cite, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him referenced in other things I’ve read.  I’d like to read something more recent to see if there’s been any updates in thought, especially regarding the causes of depression.

Continue reading “Book Review: Learned Optimism”

Blog Hop: Pick Your Poison

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Have you ever enjoyed the same book in two or more formats (print, ebook, or audiobook)?

Not simultaneously, but yes, very much so.  When I first started listening to audiobooks (about…four years ago?  Seems longer) I listened almost exclusively to books I had already read in print.  I think it was sort of my gateway into the format.  For a while it seemed weird to only do a book on audio, as though it wasn’t quite the same.  I got over that, and it feels like pretty much the same thing now to do print or audio–though more audio-only books means I have no idea how to spell some characters’ names!

I still like re-“reading” favorites on audio, and have done entire series that way: Narnia, Harry Potter, most of L. M. Montgomery’s canon.  I’ve read Agatha Christie almost exclusively on audio, to the point that I think it might feel weird to pick up a paper one.  I’ve probably read 15 of her books, and only the first one was paper.

I’ve read very few ebooks–probably less than five.

The only time I can recall that I did one book in multiple formats in a single read was earlier this month when I had an audiobook out from the library, and had to return it with half-an-hour left in the book.  So I got a Kindle-unlimited free trial and just read the last portion.  Otherwise, I only move between formats on separate reads.

Do you go back and forth between formats?  Do you have a preferred one?

Writing Wednesday: Retroactive Foreshadowing

I’m continuing my dual revision projects, editing Guardian III and adding chapters from Terrence’s point of view into The Princess Beyond the Thorns.  The added chapters are definitely bringing more layers into the story, and it gives me a chance to bring in elements that will be important later, that I didn’t know existed when I first wrote this.

For instance, I didn’t invent Elena as a character until I wrote the next section of the book–but she’s important to Terrence and it makes sense he’d mention her to Rose sooner.  Here’s an excerpt that mentions Elena, builds on the growing romance, and lets me poke a little fun at romantic tropes of silly misunderstandings.  Enjoy!


“Who is Elena?” Rose asked, adding a pair of gardenias to the flowers in her basket.

Someone he had simpler emotions about than his mother, and Terrence grinned.  “Elena is the other most wonderful person I’ve ever known.”

“Oh?” Rose said, turning away from the gardenias and walking a little farther down the path.

Terrence’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her back.  He hadn’t thought about the possible implications in what he’d said before he said it, might still not have if Rose hadn’t turned away just then…but what was she imagining his relationship was with this woman he said was wonderful?  And did she not like what she was imagining?

He was being ridiculous.  Why should Rose care what Elena was to him?  Why should he care if Rose cared…well.  That was less ridiculous.

“Elena is my cousin,” he volunteered, because letting any misconception go on was even more ridiculous than anything else.  “My mother’s niece.  She lived with us, so we pretty well grew up together.  I spent whole years of my childhood pretending Elena was my sister.”  Just in case the cousin clarification wasn’t enough.

Book Review: I’ll Have What She’s Having

I was looking for new audiobooks recently, and wandered into the library’s (digital) humor section.  I happened across I’ll Have What She’s Having by Rebecca Harrington, a nonfiction humor book about the author’s foray into celebrity dieting.  If you’re thinking that diet books aren’t your thing, this is far less advice and much more an exploration of weird and humorous eating experiences.

The book is made up of a series of experiments, with each chapter focused on a different celebrity as Rebecca tries out their diet.  The celebrities range from Old Hollywood (Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor) to modern (Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz).  I’d heard of very nearly all of them, which made it more interesting.  Some celebrities offer specific dieting advice, while for others Rebecca searched interviews and biographies for the preferred foods of celebrities. Continue reading “Book Review: I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Friday Face-Off: From Page to Screen to Page


It’s time again for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is: A cover that is a movie tie-in

I know I default to discussing The Phantom of the Opera, but it seems especially appropriate this week.  I decided to see how many tie-ins to different movies I could find, while limiting myself to Gaston Leroux’s Phantom.

Here we see the Lon Chaney Phantom, one of the more famous images of the Phantom.  I’ve also noticed that, unlike every other movie Phantom, he’s virtually never shown with his mask on.  (Here’s an image, which might suggest why!)

Continue reading “Friday Face-Off: From Page to Screen to Page”

Writing Wednesday: A New Perspective

I’m doubling on my revisions right now.  I’m still revising Book Three of my Guardian of the Opera trilogy.  Meanwhile I finished the prep work for The Princess Beyond the Thorns, and have started in to revise the first short story (or short novella) I wrote some months ago, which will be Part One of the novel.

The first thing I’ve realized is that I want to bring the point of view of my other protagonist, Prince Terrence (you’ve been meeting him in recent weeks) into this first section, which was originally entirely Princess Rose.  Unlike recent Phantom revisions, I don’t think I’m going to rewrite/replace anything substantive.  But there are some places that were skimmed past, some time gaps, that I think could be filled in with Terrence’s point of view.  We’ll see how it goes!

Rose’s voice, especially in this first section, has a very fairy tale quality to it.  Details are indistinct, and we are much deeper in her head than we are in the world.  Terrence isn’t like that.  Rose has been trapped in the garden for a hundred years and, in a metaphorical though not literal sense, she’s asleep.  Her voice will change as the novel goes on–but Terrence stumbles onto the scene from the outside world, and he’s already awake.  So I’ve already started having fun contrasting his voice, putting in far more detail than I originally had in the story.

Here’s a bit from my new Chapter Two that demonstrates this rather nicely.


He wasn’t sure he had ever really expected to find the Princess Behind Thorns.  He wasn’t sure he had ever entirely believed she existed.  He had heard stories about her all his life, about the sleeping princess under a curse, waiting for a champion to set her free.  His father had a portrait of Princess Rose Amelia in his throne room, an elegant woman with golden hair piled up on her head, wearing a dress cut in the fashion of a century ago.

At least, Elena said it was the fashion of a century ago.  He couldn’t tell the difference himself.

He wished Elena was here.  She might know what to do, now that he was faced with, not a portrait, but an actual, living girl.  She looked enough like the princess in the portrait that he knew she had to be the right one—and at that thought, he laughed at himself.  Because what was the alternative?  That some other woman was living behind a wall of thorns, pretending to be a princess?

At the thought of the thorns, he pushed himself up to his feet.  He didn’t know what to do about Princess Rose, who wasn’t asleep and didn’t want to have anything to do with him, but the next logical step in a rescue was still obvious.

He retraced the path he had taken to the pond, following his own footprints on the dust of the garden paths.  The sharp edges of his boots stood out in marked contrast to the soft hollows of her footprints.  Her steps were everywhere, an endless layering of clearer prints atop worn away ones, criss-crossed by the outlines of tiny paws.

Terrence hadn’t expected cats either.

Blog Hop: Turning Back the Pages of Time

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you read historical fiction?

I do, although I suspect I read less than I think I do.  Along with actual historical fiction, I read a decent amount of fantasy books set in magical past eras–or as I like to describe the time period of my Beyond the Tales books, in the “faux medieval” era (loosely medieval, but I never worried too much about the details).

When I read historical fiction, I like books set in the first half of the 20th century,  the Victorian era, Napoleonic wars, Elizabethan…or ones that go all the way back to the Roman Empire, or ancient Greece.  With occasional forays into Camelot-era (though mostly that involves fantasy!)  I think the mere way I describe eras probably  indicates a preference for British historical fiction.  I tackled the enormous tome of London a few months ago, which pretty well covered everything of the last 2,000 years.  I especially liked the Roman era, both Julius Caesar and the days of Londinium.

There’s something fascinating about very different time periods, when life was very different–and, perhaps, the same to a surprising degree too!

Do you read historical fiction?  Do you have a favorite era?