Monday, December 28, 2009

Gemma by Meg Tilly

Rating: 4/5

Haunting, brutal and realistic. Tilly's stark, punctuated writing style suits both protagonists well in this novel. At first I didn't like or understand Gemma at all, until her abuse comes to light in an almost off-hand way and all of a sudden. Which may be how abuse really happens in real life, so fitting. As the story went on, I found myself able to relate to Gemma's utter aloneness and self-doubt more and more. Once you get to know Gemma, she's naturally charming and enthusiastic, full of hope and love. Tilly shows us that even the severely abused can be healed with real loving attention.

The author's attempt to humanize the villain falls slightly short, understandably. I think she's brave to even try to get into an abuser's head in any sort of empathetic way, after her own abusive past. She does do a decent job at showing how abusers are able to rationalize and fantasize their way into believing they are doing nothing wrong.

I was disappointed in where the author chose to end the story. She interests us in the villain's point of view, but then does not complete his own tale. It seems she was trying to end the novel on a note of hope, and with Gemma, but it left me feeling abruptly cut-off and unsatisfied. What was the verdict? How did he react?

This moving and compassionate book is not for the faint-hearted. Its descriptions and depictions of sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect are vivid and accurate. Her abusive characters are entirely, and unfortunately, believable - such evil people exist, we hear about them on the news. It is more difficult to believe in the existence of people like Gemma's saviour, Cindy - or even that a little girl could have such strength herself - but we are tempted to do so. Tilly makes us want to believe.

I won this book free through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway, which had no influence on my rating or review.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your Flying Car Awaits by Paul Milo

Full Title: Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century

3/5

Entertaining, but ultimately forgettable. This book is written in a light style, so was not a difficult read. Interesting for the most part, it did get dull in certain parts, probably due to my own interest in the differing subject matter. Milo seems to have gotten lazy in a few places, either in his research or his writing, or both. He brings up questions and neglects to answer them satisfactorily. Certain discussions could've used more time, and others could have used less. I didn't have strong feelings either way about this book.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

4/5

Some random blathering about this book, since I've had requests for my thoughts...not a proper review.
As is alluded to in the final pages of the novel, Phineas is the only character - only human on earth, apparently, who doesn't create his enemies by projecting his shadow side outwards. In fact, Phineas does not even have a shadow - Gene functions as his shadow. Thus, neither of them are whole without each other. The tragedy is that the shadow ends up killing the "light" side: evil triumphs, light cannot survive in a world full of people whose "hearts" are defective. The dichotomy of peace vs. war parallels the struggle between Gene and Phineas, who represent the war inherent in every man between his self and his shadow. In Knowles' story, shadow wins every time.
Thus forms the thesis of this high school grade lit essay of mine! And I didn't even use Sparknotes ;)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #4) by J.R. Ward

3/5

This was my least favourite of the four books I've read so far. Butch just isn't my favourite character, and neither is Marissa. Seems like by the very next novel, all the females of the previous novels become the very same woman - a great woman, yes, but it gets boring. Marissa was different, but by the end she becomes just like the others. Whereas the men definitely have their own personalities.

Butch definitely isn't "my type" of man, and despite all his transformations I can't help but continue to picture him as an aging cop with a beer gut, a la Dennis Franz (without the mustache). The sex in this book made me uncomfortable in a way the other books didn't.

Also, Vishous has become something wholly other than he was in the first book or two. Character development doesn't even come close to describing it, he's like another person. In her dedication, Ward hints that she got him all wrong at first. Why do all these males hate themselves so very much? Why do they all need a female to bring them around? I guess that is what you get with romance novels - I have never read that genre before.

The back story, the war between the vampires and the lessers is finally getting somewhere with this book, which is a big part of why I kept reading.

All Ratings and Reviews For J.R Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels Series)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Karma of Jesus by Mark Herringshaw

Rating: 0/5 (I hesitate to even post this review, as I don't want to give free advertising to this load of misguided crap. I can't even label it non-fiction, because it's so full of bull. However, I don't believe in censorship, so...)

Note: I won this book free through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I cannot stomach one more page of this book, so unfortunately my review will be based on the first 58 pages only.

Word to the wise: if you are going to write a book about something, it helps if you take the time to understand it first. Herringshaw's arguments against what he calls "Karma" have very little to do with the ancient philosophy that has been around since thousands of years before Jesus was born. His linear, black and white, God-centric thinking apparently cannot grasp the complexity and context of the real concept of karma. Arrogantly, he writes a chapter explaining how nobody can predict the consequences of their actions (and therefore it is impossible to control one's karma and escape from its "doom"), but at the end of it says with total conviction that for every good thing that comes of an action, at least 3 bad things happen. So nobody can understand consequences, except for him.

Also disturbing is his attempt to tear away the comfort that a recovering addict and street kid has found in the philosophy of karma. I can only guess that eventually this young man breaks down, feels wretched, and then is led to God by the 'compassionate' hand of this pastor.

Herringshaw is under the false impression that karma means the universe "keeps score", and that even well-intentioned mistakes reap horrible torturous consequences back on their maker. He insists that karma dictates a limousine driver will have to pay for everything from WWI through Islamic terrorism. These kinds of hysterical arguments are impossible to take seriously. The universe cannot keep score, because the universe does not make black and white distinctions between good/bad and right/wrong. What is a good outcome for one may be a bad outcome for another. The universe does not judge, does not sit up above us with a score pad. The author's inability to fathom a world without a judgmental overseer shows his lack of imagination and understanding of the context in which karma plays out.

Karma is not an inescapable 'doom' that we need an outside influence to save us from. Herringshaw seems to ignore the fact that Buddhism offers a way out. Of course, this offer does not appeal to him, because he mistakenly represents it as requiring "suppression of desires". I can only imagine the author got this idea from a mistranslation of the Four Noble Truths.

I did not expect a pastor to be unbiased when dealing with an Eastern philosophical concept, but nor did I expect him to be irrational, unreasonable and willfully ignorant. I am disturbed that such a man would waste so much time attempting to argue against the idea of karma, as if it were an affront to everything he believes in. If Herringshaw has convinced himself with his own arguments (levied at his own mistaken idea of Karma), he is suffering under a great deal of ignorance himself. If, on the other hand, this is propaganda, Herringshaw is purposefully using his authority as a pastor to spread misunderstanding and ignorance to his followers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3) by Dan Brown

5/5

The Lost Symbol fulfilled its purpose...and so did the Masonic Pyramid.

I had been waiting for a copy of this book since it was published - I was on a long list for it at the library. I was excited when it finally came in, and I really needed a 'weekend away' experience like I got with Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps not quite as gripping as those novels, The Lost Symbol still managed to draw me in and keep me reading straight through.

When I first started the book, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get into it. I don't know anything about American History, and I didn't have any interest in it. However, I do like secret societies and hidden wisdom, and once they pulled in the field of Noetic Science, I was hooked. This book delivers much more than a historical thrill ride through Washington D.C., it is full of ideas - new and ancient - that are mind-blowing. It made me remember why I used to be so into books like The Celestine Prophecy, ancient Asian wisdom and people like Carl Jung with his holistic symbolism.

One of Dan Brown's characters states: "The Masonic Pyramid's true purpose was not to reveal the answers, but rather to inspire a fascination with them". Dan Brown has used his novel-writing skills to make these ideas accessible, and in doing so has re-inspired me to look again.

I've read quite a few negative reviews of this book, and I can't imagine why anyone would choose to critic the writing style and ignore the message. This is not just a fictional mystery story, it's an invitation to expand our minds and participate in the great experiment that is human life. Noetic science is real. The ancient texts are real, and they really do correlate to quantum physics and forces we are only just beginning to understand scientifically. I am very willing to overlook Brown's formulaic plotlines - Langdon running around ancient monuments with a strong intelligent woman, caught in a pickle by an evil mystery mastermind, friends becoming foes and vice-versa - because those things aren't the point. Dan Brown's genius is in making seemingly dull dead people and artifacts come alive with current meaning, in making interconnections and asking questions. In dropping amazing ideas like seeds in amongst the action that make us want to go immediately to the library and start our own search for the truths we haven't quite yet grasped.

At least that is how it was for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

Rating: 2/5

The ending saved this book for me. The pace was very slow throughout, and very repetetive. King would have done better to shave the book down by 1/3. The main character's disappointment with who the Tommyknockers turned out to be took some of the edge off my own - a good literary device on King's part. Still, King's imagination and characterizations were as amazing as ever, so though I had to push myself to finish this one, I am glad I did.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

4/5

Very well written, interesting...after perusing the internet for what it "means", I discovered that it means whatever you think it means. To me, it describes very well the fate of so-called "useless" people in modern society. The infirm, the invalid - are seen as nothing but an embarrassing, disgusting burden on their families, who eventually seek only the relief of the useless person's death. Brings up the question: is life valuable in itself, or only for what it can materially produce?

The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson

4/5

There aren't enough books about this topic, and none are as accessible as this one. I was validated to find that I had already, in my own way, completed some of the suggestions in this book, and happy to find new ideas that I can easily integrate into my healing journey. This book is pleasant to read, free of the heavy psychological theories that make up most self-help books, which makes it a light, short, to-the-point read, which I really appreciate since I'm regularly wading through thicker books for the few gems inside. So it is not hard to recommend this book to every woman who puts herself low on her priority list (which is most women, unfortunately). Making sure your needs are met is necessary for happiness, period.

Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties by Laurie Edwards

Rating: 1/5

I was pretty disappointed with this book. I was convinced by the title that it applied to me, but there was almost nothing within that I could relate to. This book is for people who have been suffering from chronic illness since they were children, and/or experience frequent hospitalization. It does little more than touch on subjects such as managing careers and relationships, deciding whether to try to have a baby, and learning hospital "lingo", none of which applies to my situation. The author's and interviewees' stories are interesting enough, but overall, I feel like this book did not live up to its implied promises. Once again, the single person's situation falls through the cracks, ignored. The author can be seen as an inspiration, but not everyone has such a huge network of support to help them achieve success. In my experience, most people suffering from chronic illness are isolated, with few supports, frustrated with doctors who don't know what to do (unlike the author's physicians), and suffering from co-morbid mental illness(es) like depression. I felt that the author glosses over these nasty bits of reality in favour of her own experience. In light of this, she probably should have written a memoir instead of a self-help book.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Rating: 3/5

This book is part memoir about the author's experiences in Nazi concentration camp, and part explanation of his psychotherapeutic theory, logotherapy. It was interesting, but I found logotherapy as he explains it to be a bit simplistic and superficial. Yes, a person who sees meaning in his life can suffer through anything, and reframing your suffering into positive, meaningful experience is an excellent attitude. But shouldn't we strive for a bit more? Surviving a concentration camp is surely a heroic acheivement, and anything one does afterwards is grand icing on the cake. But there should be more to ordinary life than surviving our own suffering. Frankl does not have any thoughts about what the next step should be, that is, how to go from meaningful suffering to finding a life of happiness.

The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything by Ken Wilber

3/5

A pretty good introduction (or in my case, refresher course) on integral theory. Midway through, Wilber goes on quite a long (for a "very short" book) rant about the difference between pre- and post-rational spirituality, but it was interesting and well written. Skip the last two or three pages unless you wish to be suddenly overwhelmed by mystic-speak. It was an unnecessarily melodramatic ending to a cool little book.

Her Last Death: A Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg

Rating: 2/5

My immediate reaction: A melodramatic family, interesting read, but I'm not sure what the point was. Maybe I'm bitter because after such a crazy childhood the author turned out well. HOW????

Later I wrote: Forgettable, but an interesting reading experience. I've read way better books about growing up in a screwed-up family, but I didn't hate this one either.

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (Hardcover) by Philip G. Zimbardo

2/5

Well I did not get to finish this book, it was due back at the library, but I did read a good chunk of it. It was just interesting enough to keep me reading, despite its authors' annoying self-references, sometimes ill-conceived statements, and indecision about whether this was a self-help or a social science book. In my opinion, books should be one or the other, and this one should've left out the self-help exercises and let the readers apply the conclusions gathered from the interesting studies to their own lives. I may or may not reborrow this book to finish. I am interested in the psychology of time, but perhaps there is a much better-written book out there.

If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World by Dan Neuharth

4/5

Very validating. Stirred up a lot of emotions, and judging from the exhaustion I feel when reading it, a lot of them are subconscious. Not many new ideas about how to heal, since I am already doing a lot, but confirmed that I am on the right path.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Awakening (Darkest Powers, #2) by Kelley Armstrong

3/5

When I started this book, I had lost all memory of the first book in the series, The Summoning. I just knew that I'd given it 4 stars. Luckily the important bits came back to me as I went along, and my reading experience didn't suffer for it.

At about page 60, I was wondering what was so great about The Summoning, and why I'd so badly wanted to read this sequel. Nothing stood out for me as particularly good. But I kept reading, and I figured out what I'd liked about the first book - the pace. Never a dull moment. The relationships between the characters can be rather interesting as well, and they do have distinct (though bordering on stereo-typed) personalities. There's no deep hidden themes going on, but you don't usually get that with young adult books. I am pretty tired of young adult books, but I will read the final book in this Dark Powers trilogy when it comes out. It's a fun, quick read and I'm somewhat compulsive when it comes to finishing series.

The Awakening is better written than the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but has a similar pace, imagination and sense of humour. Over all I think the two series are about equal in my esteem. Where Harris fails in writing, she makes up for in humour and sexiness. Armstrong does better with introspection, but I prefer her more mature works from the Women of the Other World series. Which seems appropriate since I'm 35, not a teenager!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Seeds of Yesterday (Dollanganger, #4) by V.C. Andrews

Rating: 3/5

** spoiler alert ** Oh the end was so very sad, just like Watership Down, hence it made me cry. That Chris should have to die so Bart could become human is so wrong! Why did Joel go away once Chris was gone? Did he feel like his job was done? Horrible horrible. And yet it was as 'happy' an ending as it could be considering all that had happened. I think I might read something else before starting Garden of Shadows...I need a bit of a break from the monsters!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) by Charlaine Harris


Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)
by Charlaine Harris


Rating: 3/5

When I started this book, I was really disappointed with Charlaine Harris' writing style. I expected a lot more out of a book that is so popular, and as I struggled through the first half of this book, I wasn't sure I'd be able to continue. However, once I'd made allowances that this wasn't going to be good literature, I was able to enjoy the story. Harris mostly makes up for her lack of description and introspection with her sense of adventure.

I'll review the whole series here (no spoilers) since there is little difference in quality from one book to the next. The stories are imaginative, fast-paced and absorbing. There were times I did get annoyed with the repetition of past events in each books, and repetition of descriptions in each and every book - such as the racing stripes on Jason Stackhouse's truck (in one book she changed them from pink and aqua to pink and purple & and I wonder if she did it just to see if anyone noticed LOL).

Sookie is so stubborn sometimes you feel like slapping her (this didn't fail to translate in Anna Paquin's portray on the TV show - which I love), but realistic characters are never black and white. Harris uses a thesaurus, but not in the best possible way. She could really do with some help varying her sentence structure and length.

I read most of these books back to back, but I had to take a break every once in awhile and read something else when the flaws started to irritate me too much. Despite my criticisms, I enjoy the saga. It's as far into the 'romance' category I'll ever go, and I don't plan to stick with the 'fluff', but it was definitely a fun adventure.

See my reviews of: 
Dead in the Family (#10)
Deadlocked (#12)
Dead Ever After (#13)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

Rating: 1/5

Coupland was one of my favourite authors until this piece of crap came along. I was so disappointed. I'd thought the "just ok" Girlfriend in a Coma was an aberration, having loved Microserfs and others so very much. I guess age has not been kind to Coupland's story-telling. I will probably read a few of his other books, especially the pre-crap ones. I can't remember if I've read Shampoo Planet or Generation X (probably have tho), so I'll be starting there. Jpod will probably be the one that makes my decision to keep or terminate my 'relationship' with this author.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Rating 3.5/5

Back when I was 'young', the movie made from this book was one of my favourites. My friend and I gave each other the book for Christmas. In retrospect, I didn't enjoy the book as much as the movie, but that often happens when I love a movie. I found Irvine Welsh's "Filth" to be my favourite of his books (that I've read). Part of my distaste for Trainspotting might be how repulsed and horrified I continue to be by the character of Bigsby (sp?).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If There Be Thorns (Dollanganger, #3) by V.C. Andrews

4/5

I'm beginning to have a love-hate relationship with V.C. Andrews - she's keeping me up all night!

When I started this book, I was disappointed in the change of narrator from the previous two in the series (Flowers in the Attic, Petals in the Wind), but I understood why it was necessary to tell the story. Even though I missed Cathy's point of view, it was fascinating to see into the minds of her two very different sons. The evil done in this book matches that of Flowers. As I reached the climax, I could no more put this book down than I could cease breathing, though I was metaphorically holding my breath with anticipation. The ending wasn't entirely satisfying - but then there are two more books in the series, so it shouldn't have been. I can't wait to read Seeds of Yesterday and find out whether Bart turns out to be a psychopath or whether his fragile self can be turned from its seemingly disasterous path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ghosts: An Investigation into a True Canadian Haunting by Palmisano Richard

3/5

Terrible writing, but the story makes up for it. Neither the author nor his editor apparently know the difference between "where" and "whereas", but he does know how to find ghost activity. This story is the most-haunted (frequent, intense every-sense-including-the-sixth) one I've ever read. At least equal to the Amityville horror in paranormal activity. If Palmisano takes some writing courses and uses his dictionary and thesaurus, his adventures would sell much better.

Ghosts: An Investigation into a True Canadian Haunting by Palmisano Richard

3/5

Terrible writing, but the story makes up for it. Neither the author nor his editor apparently know the difference between "where" and "whereas", but he does know how to find ghost activity. This story is the most-haunted (frequent, intense every-sense-including-the-sixth) one I've ever read. At least equal to the Amityville horror in paranormal activity. If Palmisano takes some writing courses and uses his dictionary and thesaurus, his adventures would sell much better.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss

4/5

I zoomed right through this book, it was extremely interesting to me, having just gotten out of a 3 month entanglement with a full-on narcissist. In some ways I wish I'd read it 3 months ago, but I think living through it and knowing how it manifests in real life is invaluable. That said, this book is worthwhile for everyone who has standards for the kind of people they want in their lives, and could save you a lot of time, energy, pain and confusion. It's also an entertaining read about a fascinating psychological disorder.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1) by Cassandra Clare

4/5

Despite being turned off by books starring teenagers(what can I say, I was suicidal my whole adolescence and I don't like being reminded), I loved this series. The characters, the action, the humour...I only wish Cassandra Clare had written more than three! If you are only going to read one young adult series, I'd still recommend Twilight, but if you are going to read two, this should be the second. It's not as introspective and wordy as Twilight, but the emotional content is there, and the magic is amazing. You'll also meet more creatures than just vampires and werewolves.

My original review of City of Bones from weRead:
Not as good as the Twilight Series, I have to say. The author seems to rush over details to get to the action, which makes it a fast-paced story, which is great, but is not 'fleshed out' in a way that will stick with you. I did love how much lore was woven into this book, and have started the next in the series. It is entertaining once you get used to the lack of writing flourish.

Author's note (March 2013): I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote this review. In retrospect, I would probably recommend The Mortal Instruments over Twilight, though I stand by my star ratings for both. I enjoyed them both, despite the horrid Twilight movies.