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Fixing Hell by Col. (Ret.) Larry C. James, Ph.D.

Fixing Hell by Col. (Ret.) Dr. Larry C. James, Ph.D. is a nonfiction book about how one army psychologist takes on the task of cleaning up after public relations nightmares at detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Dr. James is sent to reform these prison/detention centers after scandals break out regarding the treatment of prisoners and detainees. After conducting research and reviewing the Stanford Prison Experiment, which details how otherwise “good” people can commit atrocities in a prison system, Dr. James heads to Cuba.

He outlines some ground rules before he gets to Guantanamo Bay. One of the main rules he sets forth is that leaders must be seen and present. James walks throughout the complex at different hours of the day, even at 2 a.m. He finds that some of the guards on duty in the wee hours are asleep at their posts, while others claim to have never seen a colonel or other military leaders.

Dr. James leaves Guantanamo only to be sent shortly thereafter to Abu Ghraib following the highly public denigration of Iraqi prisoners at the detention center. Soldiers at the prison disrobed prisoners, posed them naked in a human pyramid, and shot photos of the incidents, which were later plastered all over the news. As a psychologist, Dr. James was sent to the detention center to clean up the facility and establish protocols to prevent further incidents.

The audio of this book was well read and engaging. It certainly kept our attention during our early morning commutes, and it was intriguing to get an insider’s look at the military’s psychology department and protocols. My husband enjoyed the details about how Dr. James remedied the problems at Abu Ghraib and the insight those details provided about the actual facts of the situation.

However, the last chapters of the book slowed down the flow of the book for us. Dr. James offers a great deal of explanation about how the media played up the Abu Ghraib incidents and printed misinformation that maligned the reputations of fellow psychologists and himself. While we understood his need to set the record straight, the information was unnecessary given the timeline he issued throughout the book. Any reports placing him or his colleagues at the detention centers during the scandalous incidents could easily be dismissed.

With that being said, anyone interested in military or war history will enjoy this insider’s look at the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and the military’s psychology unit.

About the Author:

Colonel Larry C. James, PhD, served as the Chief, Department of Psychology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the past five years. In this capacity, he also was the Chief Psychologist for the Army’s northeast region and had responsibility over 100 psychologists in this region. Currently, Dr. James is the Chief, Department of Psychology, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. During the Military’s response to 9/11 at the Pentagon, Col. James was the Chief Psychologist for the Mental Health Task Force. Dr. James has been awarded the Bronze Star and the Joint Service Commendation medals for his superior and distinguished services during the global war on terrorism. In 2003, he was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at GTMO, Cuba, and in 2004 he was the Director, Behavioral Science Unit, Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Col. James was assigned to Iraq to develop legal and ethical policies consistent with the Geneva Convention Guidelines and the APA Ethics Code in response to the abuse scandal. Also, while at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Dr. James was tasked with developing a mental health clinic to deliver services to approximately 8,000 prisoners.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Check out the winner of the Green Beauty Guide and an announcement about First Book.***

Charanavi and Animal Fortune-Telling

Masahiro Tsurumoto‘s Charanavi is a book I received from one of J. Kaye’s Book Blog Raffle. I’ve had fun with it ever since. The premise of the book is to explore your own personality and improve your relationships through animal fortune-telling.

This psychological theory was introduced in Japan in 2000 and has grown in popularity since then crossing language and cultural barriers. It gained popularity in the United States in 2003. It is now taught in college courses and among companies, which use it as a communication tool.

The book is a simple read and helps the reader easily locate their animal character based upon their birth date and simple mathematical formula. After quickly running through the formula, I discovered I am the Lovable Wolf or “living common sense.” Along with my animal character, I learn that I belong in the Earth group, which is equivalent to scissors. What does all this mean? I’ll let you read the book to figure that out, but I will tell you that it has a lot to do with how well communications progress between character groups.

The book continues to breakdown the Earth, Moon, and Sun groups into behavioral patterns, and for me as an Earth Group member, I tend to be goal-oriented and practical.

The book also aims to help readers learn how to navigate communication with their partners and loved ones based upon their animal characters and tendencies. In the latter portion of the book, there are practical guides to use in conversation, business settings, and at parties. There is even a chart to help a single male or female discover which animal personality is the best “love” match.

It’s been a fun book to read and learn about the animal personalities. I cannot vouch for its accuracy in terms of practical application. I recommend anyone interested in various philosophies or communication tools check this book out.

To Adore


To Adore: to worship or admire as divine or as a deity; to be very fond of

Mary E. Pearson‘s The Adoration of Jenna Fox begins with a teenager who wakes up from a coma to discover she has no memory of her life or her “accident.” But the story is much more than Jenna’s struggle to find her identity and reclaim her past. The novel examines how one person’s struggle with identity can impact a family, friends, and even people s/he doesn’t know.

***Spoiler Alert***

Jenna Fox is a teenager severely injured in an accident, and many medical professionals presumed she would die. However, through significant risk and determination, Jenna survives and awakens from a coma. She doesn’t understand the world she awakens in; a new home in a new state and a place where her grandmother doesn’t look at her in the same way. Jenna grows uneasy with the life she now leads, seeking greater freedom for herself. She makes friends again, returns to school, and learns the biggest secret of her life.

It is clear from the videos Jenna watches to regain her memories that her parents adored her, but they seem to have adored her to the point that she was perfection in their eyes, rather than their daughter–an imperfect teenager. She felt adored; she felt like she had to be perfect. I wondered if this is why the accident occurred–she wanted to break free from the perfect mold she had become. She feels guilt over her decision, and she even expresses her desire to break free before the accident. Jenna seems to ask the same question of herself; did the accident happen because her parents adored her too much and she merely wanted to be normal?

***End Spoiler Alert***

I will not go into the secret or any of the pertinent details leading up to the secret, but I will mention that I uncovered it long before it was revealed. However, I don’t think that this detracts from the overall examination of human identity and acceptance within society for those things that are not easily understood or explained.

I read this book fervently over the last week. There are so many nuances in this society that Pearson created, and each of those nuances could be discussed numerous times over.

But the one question that sticks in my mind is how far would you go to save your child when all hope is lost? I know many parents would say they would do anything to save their child, but it makes me wonder whether those decisions are made for the right reasons or for selfish ones…at least partially.

I wonder if the parents in this book thought about how their decisions would impact Jenna and her life, or if they merely wanted to save their child because she was their only child and their miracle child. However, no parent wishes to die before their child, nor to witness the death of their child. The dichotomy of this point is likely to haunt me for some time. I don’t have an answer to my own question, but I would love to hear your answers.

Yes, this is my 7th book for the Irresistible Review Challenge, which means I am nearly done with my first challenge. I first saw a review for this book here at A Patchwork of Books, which is also where I won the book. Thanks so much to Amanda’s generosity.

Anyone else reviewing this book, please leave me your link and I will add it to this post.

Also Reviewed Here:
Becky’s Book Reviews
The Hidden Side of the Leaf
It’s All About Books
Maw Books
Valentina’s Room
The Compulsive Reader
Eva’s Book Addiction (contains spoilers)
I heart reading
Karin’s Book Nook
Bookworm 4 life (contains spoilers in the quotes)
Book Obsession
Melissa’s Book Reviews
Library Queue
Life in the Thumb
Regular Rumination
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’

The Power of Hurricanes

Finally, I finished Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson. I know it has taken me an incredibly long time to finish, and there are several reasons for that; one of which is the first 60 or so pages of meteorological history I had to weed through at the beginning. The second portion was the ending, which dragged on a bit much for me.

The 2005 hurricane season is still fresh in the minds of many Americans even three years later, especially the federal bureaucracy that hindered and still prevents New Orleans from recovering fully. The 1900 storm in Galveston, Texas, faced similar problems, though in relation to the Weather Bureau, which was in its infancy at the time. Political infighting between the Weather Bureau and forecasters in Cuba caused delays in storm advisories and other notices headed for Texas and other regions west of Florida.

There really won’t be a spoiler alert for this review because I do not intend to get into the intricacies of the bureaucracy and its failure to alert the residents of Galveston that a major hurricane with winds over 100 mph was headed in a westerly direction. Isaac, who lead the Weather Bureau office in Galveston at the time of the storm, was considered one of the best forecasters in the bureau and he prided himself on his abilities. However, the 1900 storm fooled even him, which to me signals that humans take too much pride in their abilities to realize their own limitations.

Accounts derived from letters, newspaper accounts, and other records make up the bulk of Larson’s research, but I think my main problem with the book was the drab writing. I was plugging along slowly because the descriptions did not jump off the page at me as much as I had hoped, even when Larson was recounting the storm’s destruction.

I am not a major nonfiction reader by any imagination, though some will intrigue me enough to read them without a problem. This one was a bit tough to get through, taking me over a month to read for a mere 273 pages. If people are interested in the weather, the history of weather and meteorology, and historical accounts, I say pick up this book. Otherwise, steer clear.