webelos8’s CBR V, Review 6: “Read No Evil” by Steven W. White

Ask nearly anyone who reads anything for fun, and they will tell you that certain books can change them, at least temporarily. They’ll tell you that it’s fun to be transported through words to a different place or time; it’s wonderful to be someone different for a while; or that hey, even non-fiction can make you smarter. 

But can a book really change you? Change how you’re actually hard-wired to do certain things? Affect your personality permanently? Not in an “I read Atlas Shrugged/Catcher in the Rye so I’m going to be insufferable for a few years” type of way, but real, fundamental, permanent change? What power, good or bad, can a book actually have over a person? What if a book could change you? 

In “Read No Evil”, by Steven W. White, the author dives into the theory that a book, specifically a digital e-book, can really change a person. The main conceit of the book is that it’s affecting all of these people around this town-suicide, missing persons, violent tendencies-boiled down to this book.

To get to the root of the problem, the protagonist, Jan Fitzgerald, reads the book and we read along with her. Who wrote it? Why? How is affecting everyone? Jan believes she is immune, mostly, to the effects of this book. In one episode, we find out she isn’t completely. 

Overall, it was a fairly quick read, and the story-within-the-story is a basic quest, and sadly, not available on Amazon. I really did like this story.

SeaKat’s CBR5 Review #6 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

ImageThe Night Circus is one of those books that suddenly seemed to be everywhere: promoted in book stores, offered for special pricing on my Kindle, and gripped in people’s hands as they waited somewhere or other. So it had been on my radar for a while when I found a hardcover copy of the book at a used book sale. $1 seemed like a pretty good investment to see what the hype was about.

dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #6: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


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First, I would like to point out that if you are going to have a book take place in Britain, with characters from Britain, consisting of the letters that these British characters from Britain are writing to other British Britains, then you bloody well spell “honour” with a U, dammit! I’m not sure who is to blame for this, the publishers, the editors, or the authors, but come. on.

As for the actual story itself? Well, I found it endearing. Of course, it was incredibly cutesy (like Stars Hollow on rainbows), and most of the main characters lacked any actual human flaws. Also, and this is a common problem in epistolary novels, most of the many different characters’ letters – male and female, old and young, educated/literary and not – read suspiciously like they were written by the exact same person. I’m sure developing a unique voice for 10+ original characters is a difficult job, but them’s the breaks if you choose to structure your novel through letter.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society reminded me of nothing so much as The Secret Garden – so, so sickeningly sweet, and everyone is ridiculously wonderful, but you don’t really care because sometimes people really can be like that, and it works. There’s room in the world for books like this (and room for books like The Big Sleep, equally).

Read the complete review here!

dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #3: How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

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I’ve read a lot of reviews that criticized Moran’s condemnation of the word “fat” while simultaneously calling people “retards” and making outlandish comparisons between that darned patriarchy and, for example, starving orphans, and I’m not sure this is entirely fair. For one thing, I didn’t read the “fat” chapter as an order to stop using the word, but more of a caution raising the awareness of what it can do to people. And for another, having scanned some reviews on Goodreads, it seems that the version I’m reading has been edited for the States, and I may be missing some of the more offensive phrasing.

However, even when I disagreed with Moran’s points or conclusions, the tone of the book is friendly and conversational. I think part of what irritates people is the fact that her manner tends to suggest that her thoughts and opinions are the be-all and end-all, but I talk like that too, and that doesn’t mean I think that my word is the final word – it’s just a manner of speaking. We think it makes us sound funnier. So I’m less inclined to get my back up about the things I disagree with.

Really, How To Be a Woman succeeded far more as a funny memoir in the vein of Jenny Lawson‘s, and less as a feminist screed, but Moran has a lot of interesting things to say, and is fearless in saying them. Whether you agree with her or not, she gives you a lot to think about, and new ways to think about it. If you’re looking for something to read the next time you’re snowed in the house, you could do a lot worse.

Read the whole review here!

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #2: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

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Cannonball Read V: Book #2/52
Published: 1980
Pages: 402
Genre: Fiction/Thriller

I’ve read just about every Stephen King book that he’s written, so now I’m reading some of the few that I never managed to pick up. Which means these are the ones I found least interesting when I read the blurbs on the back. The plot of The Dead Zone never really jumped out at me. It follows a man named John Smith (creative, huh?) as a 20-something with a nice girlfriend who gets into a bad car accident and ends up in a coma. He surprises everyone when he wakes up almost five years later. Of course by then everyone else has moved on. His girlfriend is now married to someone else and his mom lost it and started getting into some weird religious cults.

Read the rest in my blog.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #1: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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Cannonball Read V: Book #1/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 503
Genre: Fiction

I think this book is best read by going into it without thinking that it was written by J.K. Rowling. I know it’s been said to death, but this is definitely not Harry Potter. The Casual Vacancy starts off with the death of Barry Fairbrother. His death was sudden and now everyone is plotting to see who will get his seat on the town council. There’s a lot of politics in this book, which is probably why I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

Read the rest in my blog.

 

ColeenDK’s #CBR5 Review #02: Redshirts by John Scalzi

51GMwpNlpqL__SL500_AA300_The review in which I find out that Redshirts is not the book I wanted it to be but that it involves enough pantslessness to still be an enjoyable readSpoilers below…

My thoughts prior to reading this book were as follows:

“It’s like Star Trek the Original Series but told by a non-essential character, ohlala!’  “In the last 5 minutes, I have read 50 post on my favourite websites sites about how this book brings a whole new light to an tired genre!”  “Oh and turns out Will Wheaton does the auto book!!  I should total cheat and just listen to that and not read the book at all!”  (5 minutes later) “Ah goddam guilt, I can’t do that.”  “Ah hell, the book covers super pretty, and red, and shiny!  I’ll just buy it and just read it. Let’s get-er-done!”

What is clear about my thoughts prior to actually reading the book is that the number of exclamation points was directly associated to how many spoonful’s of raw cookies dough I ate during that conversation with myself.  Clearly decisions fueled by sugar are made quick and with little forethought.  What is also clear is that covers are still super important when it comes to choosing books to read.  And lastly, it is clear that this book was pretty hyped up on the internet.  But the question is, should it have been?

Short and simple: probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, I though the book was fun.  In the second half of the book, during a little time travel escapade into the past vis-à-vis Star trek IV The Voyage Home//The One With The Whales, the characters get in those classic sticky situations that brings about the most fun the book has with any of the characters, including, but not limited to: repetitive pantlessness and implied sexual encounters with a characters doppelganger.  However, overall the book is pretty one-dimensional.  The characters never really develop past those preliminary explanations of who they are, where they came from, and why they are presently here right now.

My other problem was that this book was conversation heavy.  There would be entire chapters that were just dialogue, which was, in my mind, a failure because of the opportunity to really world-build and give the reader a clear picture of the grander of the 22nd century.

Of course, the thing is the book explains away the lack of character and world-building by going meta.  Hardcore meta.  Because this book isn’t just about a story taking place that is only happening because the characters are being controlled by people in another time and place (who just think they are writing a bad sci-fi show) but it’s actually a story about that story, i.e., the authors writes himself into the story and has the main character figure out that he’s actually in that authors story.  It’s sort of like a fanfiction Inception.  Fanception.

Which is the crux of the problem with the book, the whole book gave me a fanfiction vibe throughout.  The author was trying to be clever by bringing up the questions the audience would ask but instead of answering them he would just explain them away with rational like “the show is badly written science fiction that’s why it doesn’t make sense!”  I felt that this book had the opportunity to be better than original Star Trek show.  I wanted the book to have an extra dimension of character, to world-build, and to have human ties that could actually draw the audience into the story but it never quite got there.  That could have just been my fault for wanting more.

If you are looking for what I was, this is probably not the book for you.  If you are looking for the type of read that is easy and at times pretty fun, then this book may be exactly what you need.   Whatever choice you make, try not to make it after binging on raw sugar-filled cookie dough.

Reginadelmar’s #CBR V #1 You are not that Smart by David McRaney

Image The subtitle of this book could easily be “We are not Spock.” As much as we like to believe that we are rational free-thinking individuals, McRaney tells us that we are not. I found a lot of the material familiar, but liked this book because of the way it is organized. Unlike most books about human psychology, the chapters are short and snappy. McRaney shares the results of numerous studies anecdotally, adding to the books readability.

So why are we not so smart?  Our memories are lousy, we’re controlled by our emotions,  we believe a lot of stuff that isn’t true.  We think everyone is paying attention to us, we cheat if we can get away with it, we conform.

In the “The Just-World Heuristic” chapter, McRaney reminds us that most people believe that things happen for a reason, that people get what they deserve. If a woman dresses provocatively, get’s drunk, gets raped, people often blame the victim. McRaney explains that you tend to blame the victim, “not because you are a terrible person but because you want to believe you are smart enough to avoid the same fate. You inflate whatever amount of responsibility the victim may bear into something bigger, something you would never do.” Apparently this belief may be anchored in a need to predict outcomes of our own behavior or justify past decisions. (for example, I was safe walking home at night because I was sober and dressed conservatively). McRaney’s point: If we recognize that life isn’t fair, it is easier to fix responsibility where it belongs.

This book reminded me that I’m not so smart, but also that I’m not all that unique, you aren’t either.