Dishing the Dirt–MC Beaton

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This is the new Agatha Raisin book. I’ve read them all and this one is pretty solid.

There were a few shaky books in the series, with glaring continuity errors and other issues, but Agatha’s back on form now.

In this book, we pick up where we left off in the last book, with the arrival of a new therapist to Carsely.

This new therapist is, basically, evil. AND poorly qualified, with degrees in massage therapy and similar things, but not, apparently, any actual mental health education or training.

She digs into Agatha’s past and discovers her poor childhood, which she spreads throughout the village. Agatha threatens to kill her if she doesn’t stop, and then someone kills her.

Thus, Agatha and her band of detectives investigate the crime to try to get Agatha off the hook. They discover that she lied to trap a man into marriage to get away from her life as a hooker in Chicago. And basically, everyone hates her.

One thing that was startling in this book is the body count. Compared to the previous Agatha Raisin books where the body count was generally low (three or less) there are something like seven deaths in this book. Madness. MADNESS I TELL YOU!

Agatha has finally moved on from her obsessive love of her ex-husband James Lacey, which is nice, but is still jumping at any man who looks at her. I’m glad to see some growth in this character but would like to see more. It’s been a lot of books, I’d like to see real character growth and not just the same basic story and the same basic devices over and over.

In summary, this book is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve read these before, except for more murders. Recommended for Agatha fans who have some time to kill or a strong completionist instinct.

Scorpions–Noah Feldman

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A second non-fiction book in a row. I’m on a non-fiction roll, apparently. The book I’m currently reading is also non-fiction, so take that for fair warning.

This book is about the Supreme Court justices that FDR appointed. Their backgrounds and careers before the Supreme Court, their relationship with FDR and later Truman, and how they came to make the significant decisions they did during their time on the highest court of the land.

It’s incredibly interesting. These guys were characters. The more you read, the more disappointed you become in Felix Frankfurter, the leading liberal of his time who ended up supporting the Japanese internment, advocating for the limitation of free speech, and generally backstabbing the other justices.

On the other hand, Hugo Black got elected to office on the strength of his membership in the Ku Klux Klan (bear in mind that it was Alabama in the 1930s, when most of the white adult male population was apparently in the Klan, and certainly a majority of those in power were) but then became the true liberal of the court, advocating for constitutional originalism and absolute free speech.

Jackson went from being FDR’s attorney general to being a Supreme Court justice and later prosecuted the Nuremberg trials, where he famously imploded and never really regained his former standing or reputation. Hugo Black, incidentally, disapproved of the entire notion of the Nuremberg trials, pointing out (correctly!) that 1) the laws that the Nazis were being tried for violating did not exist at the time the offenses were committed and 2) it was basically a show trial, it’s not like anyone expected any other verdict than guilty. As a result, he felt that it was unbecoming for a Supreme Court justice to participate in what was, essentially, an illegal undertaking.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I have almost no legal knowledge and no knowledge of the Supreme Court and I found it easy to understand, engaging, and enlightening.

Mindset–Carol S. Dweck

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A rare non-fiction review!

This book was a revelation for me. The basic idea is that there are two mindsets people have, fixed and growth. You can be predisposed to one or the other and you can develop one as a result of your influences, like your parents and teachers.

A fixed mindset (like mine, unfortunately) is one where you think of yourself as a set quantity. Successes validate you as a person, while failure indicates that your entire life is in disarray. Hence the lack of resiliency in those with fixed mindsets.

A growth mindset is one where failure is a learning experience and not an indictment of your character or intelligence.

Obviously, those of us in the fixed mindset camp would like to be able to move over to the growth one because it’s a happier way to live. The good news is, that’s totally possible.

It’s a matter of retraining yourself to think of failure and mistakes as ways to learn and grow and to recognize the self-limiting nature of the fixed mindset.

The book is filled with examples of fixed and growth mindset people in various situations, from business to sports and education, and you get a real sense of what the fixed and growth mindsets look like in real life and in application. There are even examples of people who have successfully moved from the fixed to the growth mindset.

I’m tentatively hopeful that I can implement the necessary changes in my own life, and that I can reap the benefits of the growth mindset.

I recommend this to people who feel like they might have a fixed mindset. I think it would be helpful.