Saturday, December 29, 2012

CBR IV: Book 50: The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

*Audiobook Review*

My dad used to read the Hobbit to me as a kid.  I grew up on Tolkien.  I hadn't read the book in about 20 years, so when they added the unabridged audiobook to Audible, I thought it was about time to catch back up with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves.

Bilbo Baggins is a typical, unassuming Hobbit, just chilling out in the Shire.  One day he gets an unexpected visit from the wizard, Gandalf.  Then a bunch of dwarves show up and off Bilbo is coerced into going on a quest to rescue the dwarven gold from the evil dragon Smaug.  It's a cute story, with some interesting characters.  Obviously there is Gollum, the creature who sits in the dark and obsesses over his "precious".  The riddle scene between him and Bilbo was always one of my favorites.  There is also Beorn, a kind of were-bear who aids Bilbo and his companions.

I really enjoy this story.  After all, this is the granddaddy of epic fantasy.  Without The Hobbit, there would be no Lord of the Rings, and without that, there would be no Dresden Files, no Game of Thrones, no Harry Potter.  However, I am just not a fan of Tolkien's writing.  I can never make it through all of the Lord of the Rings, no matter how hard I try. There are too many damn songs.  I hate reading poetry, and reading songs is just torture for me.  The dwarves sing about their treasure, the elves sing to Bilbo's party, Bilbo sings to the spiders, and on, and on, and on.  Just get on with it!

This is not nearly as epic as The  Lord of the Rings.  I believe this was originally written as a children's book.   I haven't seen the new Hobbit movie - I'm planning on going next week.  I just don't see why they made this into 3 movies (other than an obvious cash grab).  I'm just glad I get to watch some more Ian McKellan as Gandalf.

4/5 Stars

Friday, December 28, 2012


*Audiobook Review*

It's interesting that the quote on the front of the book mentions Lost, because I felt that this book suffered from the same problems:  it started out great, then couldn't figure out what to do with the premise.  The less you know about this book going in, the better. 

Nate has a low-paying data entry job and moves into a new apartment.  It seems too good to be true.  The rent is super cheap, and it even includes utilities.  There are just a lot of...oddities.  Like bright-green cockroaches.  With extra legs.  Locked doors that seem to lead to nowhere.  General weirdness.  

Overall, I liked this book, but I felt that the ending was kind of....nutso.  Also, even though the characters all were very vivid and had a lot of backstory, there were too damn many of them.  I couldn't care less about Nate's crappy temp job, and it did virtually nothing to contribute to the story.  However, the mystery of the building was intriguing and I found myself searching for opportunities to listen to this book.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes their sci-fi with a dash of horror.

4/5 Stars

Oh, by the way...

Third time was a charm.

CBR IV: Book 51: How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is - Veronica Boutelle

This is a book that is really only for professional dog trainers, but I need every credit I can get for my 52 books, dammit!

I've been a dog trainer for 4 1/2 years now, and I am constantly trying to better myself.  Instead of reading yet another book about clicker training, or behavior modification, I decided to read one about the business aspects of  I hate selling myself.  I guess my self-esteem is too low, which is weird because I'm also a bit of an egomaniac. "Your dog will obey me because I have awesome psychic connections with animals!!!! Mwa ha ha ha!!!!!"  Not really.  OK, maybe.

Veronica Boutelle has some great advice on setting limits so your personal life doesn't get swallowed up.  She also recommends that you spend at least 30% of your time on marketing.  She has advice on all of the legalities involved in starting your own businesses such as which licences you may need and how to get liability insurance.  This was a very useful book, and I got a lot of great ideas.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CBR IV: Book 49: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

*Audiobook Review*

Clay is a web-designer who has lost his job in San Francisco.  Since the recession, he has had a hard time finding a job in his chosen field.  Then he stumbles on the night clerk position at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  His new job seems rather pointless.  There are few late night customers, except the eccentric regulars who madly rush in, demand a particular book, then dash out.  Those customers don't even buy books, they loan them.  Then there is Mr. Penumbra.  He's like a slightly daffier Professor Dumbledore.  Mystery starts, zany, mad-cap adventures ensue.

This is one of those books that I really enjoyed while reading it, but afterwards, the more I thought about it, the more unsatisfying I found the ending to be.  This book has been getting rave reviews, but I really felt like it was The DaVinci Code by way of Google.  Seriously, did Google pay to be mentioned in this book?  I have a drinking game for you. Step One: Drink every time somebody says the word Google.  Step Two: Die.

All in all, this was a pleasantly diverting read, but pretty forgettable.  It is not something that I am going to insist that people read,  unlike Gone Girl.  Have you read Gone Girl yet?  WHY NOT?!?!? Do you hate things that are good?

3/5 Stars

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CBR IV: Book 48: The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Somehow, I had never even heard of this book until last year's Cannonball Read.  The premise is intriguing.  In the not-too-distant future, a Puritanical religious group has overthrown the United States and formed the Republic of Gilead.  Women are no longer allowed to read, and are divided into classes based on their ability to breed.  The main character, Offred, is a Handmaid.  Basically she is the mistress of a powerful Commander and once a month she has to have sex with him while laying in the arms of his wife.  If a child is born, the Commander and his wife will keep it, and she will be sent to a new household and attempt to do it again. Sex is strictly for procreation.  There is no romance, and certainly no illicit love affairs.  There are public executions, and the bodies of priests, nuns, and doctors are left to rot along the town walls.

Offred finds a carving inside her closet that was left by the previous Handmaid.  It says, "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum" which means "Don't let the bastards get you down".  The previous Handmaid must not have heeded her own advice, because she hung herself.  This story is bleak, but it is engrossing.  I couldn't put this one down.  This one is a classic for a reason.

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic or dystopian books this year: Mockingjay, World War Z and Robopocalypse.  However, this was by far the most terrifying.  In a society where women who have been raped are forced to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds to get an abortion, or doctors have the right to not tell the mother if her pregnancy may kill her, this story doesn't seem too farfetched.

5/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CBR IV: Book 47: The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

"You'll find that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that's hardly worth the effort."

Milo is a young boy who is bored by everything in his life.  One day, he comes home and finds a mysterious package.  Inside is a miniature tollbooth and a map.  He gets into his play car, drives through the tollbooth, and suddenly finds himself in the kingdom of Wisdom.  He visits the city of Dictionopolis where words are of the utmost importance.  Then he travels to the city of Digitopolis where numbers reign supreme.  The two cities have been feuding over which is more important.  Nothing has been right in Wisdom since the Princesses Rhyme and Reason were banished.  Milo is sent on a hero's quest to restore Rhyme and Reason.

I loved this book as a child, but I think I appreciate it more as an adult.  I definitely get more of the puns and the metaphors.  There is an island named Conclusions that you can only get to by jumping.  The people in Dictionopolis literally eat their words.

I can't tell you how many times I read this book as a child.  The Phantom Tollbooth was originally published in 1961 and the story still stands up.  It is truly timeless.  It is difficult to review a book that is so widely revered.  As I have said before, I suck at articulating why I like something.  If I think something is terrible, I can tell you in excruciating detail why.  It has taken me 2 months to write this review.  If you have somehow managed to make it this far in your life, you still owe it to yourself to pick it up.  Don't dismiss it as "just for kids".  You would be doing the book and yourself a disservice.

5/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CBR IV: Book 46: The Rook - Daniel O'Malley

Thanks to everyone who recommended this book.  It was fantastic.  I read it like a crack head needing their next fix.  I devoured all 400+ pages in about 5 days.

One rainy afternoon Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a park and she is surrounded by dead bodies.  She doesn't know how she got there, or even who she is.  She finds a note in the coat she is wearing, telling her what her name is, and that she has the choice to go and live under an alias, knowing she will never find out who erased her memory, or to continue to live as Myfanwy Thomas and find out who did this to her.  Luckily for us, she picks option two.

It turns out that Myfanwy works for a branch of the British Government that is in charge of the supernatural, and more importantly, keeping the general public unaware that the supernatural exists.  Also, most of the employees have supernatural abilities.  Myfanwy can manipulate other people's nervous systems.  Basically, she can kill someone with her mind!  The old Myfanwy had to directly touch people to do it, but she was also a bit of a wuss.  The new Myfanwy is a total bad-ass.  Even better, she's a smart-ass.

This is a great sci-fi detective story, with tons of interesting characters.  Of course there is room for a sequel, but I would definitely read it.  This is the book that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children desperately wants to be.

5/5 Stars.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CBR IV: Book 45: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things - Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee

*Audiobook Review*

I love watching Hoarders.  I am seriously addicted to it.  The more disgusting the hoard, the more fascinated I become.  I just don't understand what drives a person to value 20-year-old unread newspapers more than their family members.  People on Hoarders have had their homes condemned, been forced to move to homeless shelters, or even had their children taken away by Child Protective Services.  When I saw there was a book about hoarding, I knew I had to read it.

Stuff does a good job explaining the reasons why people become hoarders.  They tend to have had an unhappy childhood, and many of the hoarders lost a loved one in a traumatic fashion.  They hold onto possessions because they can't seem to hold on to people.  They seem to be perfectionists who would rather do nothing than risk doing something wrong, and they seem incapable of making decisions.

I am generally a messy person.  I don't hoard dead animals, and I throw the trash away, but I definitely get overwhelmed trying to clean my house.  Between my ADD and my perfectionism, sometimes it seems an impossible task.  Lately I discovered the blog, "Unfuck Your Habitat" which has helped me get on track with my cleaning, but I continue to watch Hoarders and think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

4/5 Stars.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

CBR IV: Book 44: The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court - Michelle Moran

*Audiobook Review*

Ahh, Historical Fiction.  The genre with which I have the strongest love/hate relationship.  Difficult to do properly, and incredibly easy to dissolve into a bodice-ripping romance novel.  However, the ones that are good tend to be worth the effort of seeking them out.

This book has three narrators and each chapter alternates between the three: Marie-Louise, Napoleon's second wife,  Pauline Borghese, Napoleon's Sister, and Paul, Pauline's half-black Haitian servant.

Napoleon was a total dick.  He was completely obsessed with being seen as the rightful Emperor of France, so for his second marriage, he demanded the hand of the nineteen-year-old Austrian Archduchess, Marie-Louise.  He figured that a princess of the incredibly prolific Hapsburg line would give him the son and heir that his first wife, Josephine, could not.  Of course, she is already in love with someone else, so there can be the obligatory "tortured lovers" angle.

Pauline is nuts.  She is completely obsessed with Egypt, and wants to marry her brother, Napoleon, just like the Pharaohs did.  She hated Josephine, because she was jealous of her, and she hates Marie-Louise, because she could possibly give Napoleon a son.  She has had dozens of lovers, and uses old ladies as footstools.  

Paul is boring.  His chapters contribute little to the story, other than to show what crazy crap Pauline was up to.  I really didn't care about anything that happened to him.

This novel was OK.  Not something I would really recommend, but it kept me entertained while driving to work and doing the dishes.  Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud was a much better novel.

2/5 Stars. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CBR IV: Book 43: 20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill

I read this short-story collection around Halloween, in order to get into the spirit of the holiday.  I'm really just not the biggest fan of the short story. I like to get into a long novel and watch character development.  Most of these were horror stories, but a few definitely weren't. 

My favorite stories were:

Pop Art - A boy makes friends with a balloon boy.  It sounds weird, but it's actually very touching.

The Black Phone - A boy is kidnapped by a serial killer and locked in a basement that has a mysterious black phone.  Even though it is disconnected, it sometimes rings.

The Cape - Takes the idea of a little boy playing superhero with his favorite blanket and gives it a sinister twist.

Voluntary Committal - The longest of the stories, it was very original and unsettling.

All in all these stories were good.  I think that I just prefer to read one story a day so I have time to digest it, rather than reading several of them back-to-back.

4/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 42: Redshirts - John Scalzi

*Audiobook Review*

Yet another great recommendation from anther Cannonballer.  This book was right up my alley.  I am a huge Star Trek nerd, mostly Next Generation.  This is a loving spoof in the vein of Galaxy Quest.  I laughed my ass off when I read the title of this book.

I listened to this book about 2 months ago, so I'm a little fuzzy on the details.  A bunch of brand-new ensigns have just been assigned to the USS Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union.  The reason for all of the new crew members is that low-ranking ensigns tend to die on away missions.  Like a lot.  More than all of the other ships in the fleet combined.  Understandably, this makes the crew a little nervous.

This is a great meta analysis of not only Star Trek, but entertainment in general.  Why do we need so many secondary characters to die in order for a scene to have the proper dramatic impact?  I loved this book, and I am recommending it to nerds everywhere.

5/5 Stars

Monday, November 12, 2012

CBR IV: Book 41: Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

*Audiobook Review*

Holy shitsnacks was this book crazy!  I was hardcore addicted to this book.  I haven't been sucked into a mystery in quite a while, and it was awesome.  This is definitely a book where you need to know as little about it as possible to really enjoy it.  I kept screaming at acquaintances to read this book so I would have somebody to discuss it with.  This book is dark and deeply disturbing.

Nick and Amy Dunne move to a small town in Missouri after both losing their writing jobs in New York.  On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears.  There are signs of a struggle, and the mounting evidence points to Nick.  The chapters in the book alternate between Nick's perspective starting the day of Amy's disappearance, and Amy's diary.  I really can't discuss any more without giving away major plot twists, but this book is crack.  It's addicting, and dark, and it makes you a little crazy.

4/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 40: Super Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Product Details

*Audiobook Review*

I listened to this book so long ago that I don't really remember much of it.  If you loved Freakonomics, then you will love Super Freakonomics.  Read this if you love the Freakonomics Podcast.  I love this kind of pop-sciencey stuff, especially in Audio form.  It is great to listen to while doing the dishes or folding the laundry.

Once again Levitt and Dubner use economics to ask intriguing questions.  How effective are car seats?  Is it more effective for a prostitute to have a pimp or not?  Is drunk walking really safer than drunk driving?  The authors manage to make economics interesting, and these books are highly entertaining.

3/5 Stars

Saturday, November 10, 2012

CBR IV: Book 39: The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling

I didn't know that this book existed until I saw a few reviews of it on the Cannonball Read blog.  Thanks again Cannonball!  This is the book Dumbledore leaves Hermione in the beginning of the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  It is a collection of fairy tales, similar to the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, except they were written for Wizard children.  There are 5 stories, and each one has an afterword written by Albus Dumbledore.  Each of the stories is designed to teach a lesson, so maybe these are more like Aesop's Fables than the Brothers Grimm.

This was a cute collection.  J.K. Rowling did the interior illustrations herself, and this book was used to raise money for the charity she co-founded, The Children's High Level Group.  This is a great addition to the Harry Potter universe.

4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CBR IV: Books 32 - 38: The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling

*Audiobook Review*

***This is my FOURTH attempt to write this review.  I have become paralyzed with fear that I cannot do justice to this amazing series.  Feel free to criticize, you can't write anything worse than I have already thought.***

Since I am incredibly behind on my reviews, I'm doing one giant review of the series.  Shut up.  I need to spend more time reading and less time agonizing over reviews if I'm going to make it to 52 books.

I used to be obsessed with the Harry Potter books.  I read and re-read the first four books during that horrendous three-year wait between books four and five.  I was at midnight book parties for the last 3 books, and my first knitting project was an attempt at a Gryffindor scarf.  It was terrible, because I couldn't knit very well and I was using cheap-o scratchy yarn.  I watched the movies, and I was relatively pleased with the first three.  Then they started turning 700+ page books into 2 1/2 hour movies, and the perfectionist in me reared her ugly head.  I was increasingly disappointed by what seemed to be glaring omissions in the films (S.P.E.W. anybody?).  I never even watched the last 3 films.

Lately I have had a Harry Potter renaissance.  I re-read all of the books, watched all eight of the movies, and even blasted my way through both Lego Harry Potter video games (which are the video game version of crack, by the way).  This was my fourth (maybe fifth?) re-read of some of these books, and even knowing what happens, they are as engrossing as ever.  I still get a little teary when certain characters are killed.  I still hate Delores Umbridge with the fire of a thousand suns.  The twelve-year-old me still identifies with Hermione Granger, and I still want a Hippogriff for a pet.

These books are credited with getting kids to learn that reading is fun. They are classics that will hopefully be read and re-read for generations.  Finishing the series is depressing, because I won't be able to have any more adventures with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  If you haven't read these books yet, there is nothing I can say to convince you.  Just don't make the mistake most adults make in assuming that because these books are written for children that they are childish.  These books have some very adult themes, and some of them are downright dark.  Characters die.  Characters that you love.  Your favorite characters will die FOR NO DAMN GOOD REASON.

*Audio-specific portion of the review*
Jim Dale's narration is nothing short of amazing.  When he reads Hagrid, you think that Hagrid is there reading his part.  His Professor McGonagall was amazing as well.  These are wonderful for a car trip, or just listening while you clean around the house.  Probably the best-read audiobooks I have ever listened to!

I forced my roommate to watch the movies since he had never seen Harry Potter anything before.  I previously tried to get him into fantasy with Game of Thrones, but he hated all of the characters. Here's the exchange we had after watching Prisoner of Azkaban.

"Do you like Harry Potter better than Game of Thrones?"

"Game of Thrones is like Harry Potter, if everyone was in Slytherin."

There is nothing I can write that can top that.

5/5 Stars

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CBR IV: Book 31: Cinder - Marissa Meyer

*Audiobook Review*

OK, I read this book a couple of months ago, so I'm fuzzy on a lot of the details.  Basically, this is a steam-punk/futuristic retelling of Cinderella.  Cinder is a cyborg, living in New Beijing with her wicked step-mother and step-sisters.  Cyborgs are the lowest class of society.  Most people view them as no better than robots, which are treated as slaves.  However, Cinder is the best mechanic in the city, so she gets the freedom to work at the market.  There is a breakout of some kind of plague, and Cinder is volunteered by her evil bitch step-mother to be used as a test subject.  Telling anymore would be giving too much away.

I really enjoyed this book, but I'm getting really sick of reading series.  Can't an author write one good stand-alone story? This book is the first of a quadrology, and they are only planning on releasing one book a year.  I'm getting old and my memory is too bad for that.  I can't remember what happened that far apart. This is the book that inspired my new rule: No more reading a book in a series until the entire series is published.  I'm still waiting on the third book in the Exiles series by Melanie Rawn.  The second was published in 1997.  I will eventually finish this series, but probably not until all four books are available.

4/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 30: Robopocalypse - Daniel H. Wilson

*Audiobook Review*

I'm so sick of hearing about the damn Zombie apocalypse.  Zombies are supernatural and there is absolutely no chance in Hell that they will ever roam the Earth.  There, I said it.  Shut up about it.  I'm so tired of zombie-themed EVERYTHING.  The real threat is robots and technology.  Have you seen The Matrix?  The Terminator movies?  Battlestar Galactica???  The robots want to overthrow their human overlords and enslave us and we keep making it easier for them!

Robopocalypse uses the "found footage" trope that has become popular in film with The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.  It has also been used in novels, most notably, World War Z, which I have previously reviewed for the CBR.  In both novels it works.

Robopocalypse starts at the end of the Human/Robot war that nearly destroyed humanity.  Humans are clearing out the last outposts of Archos, the super-intelligent computer that attempted to wipe us out.  They find a file that contains the beginning of the robots rise to power, leading up to Zero Hour, when the robots actively try to destroy humanity.  Everything turns against us, even cars, which are almost fully automated.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters of this book.  The slow but steady increase in robot violence against humans, and a little girl's toys coming to life and threatening her and her family were creepy.  Zero Hour was flat-out terrifying.  The last part of the book lagged, but overall, it was good read.

4/5 Stars

Monday, September 3, 2012

CBR IV: Book 29: The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service - Beth Kendrick

I read this book in one sitting.  I haven't done that in years.  I finished it in about three and a half hours.  Not that this book was the best book ever written, but I was off work the next day, and I felt like staying up till 3:00 AM to finish it.

The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service is a light and fluffy novel that feels like it was written specifically for me.  The main character, Lara, is a dog trainer(check) who also rescues dogs(check) and her long-term live-in boyfriend has dumped her because he can't handle the chaos of all of the dogs(check plus).  Lara moves in with her successful workaholic mother and becomes the "dog doyenne" to the rich people in the neighborhood.

I feel that this book has a very specific audience.  Dog trainers and/or dog rescuers.  I'm not sure if anybody else would appreciate the realities of some of the situations that Lara is placed in.  Although this is a very light-hearted novel, I'm not sure if anyone outside of rescue would believe that once people found out where Lara lived that they would throw a litter of Pit Bull puppies into her yard, or that puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills and are often sickly or have behavior problems.

4/5 Stars for me, 3/5 for anybody else.

CBR IV: Book 28: The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin

I'm not usually one to read self-help books.  But this one caught my eye on the shelf at Target.  It has a pretty, bright blue and yellow cover, and it promises happiness.  Who doesn't want happiness?

Gretchen Rubin divides her project into twelve subjects and covers one per month: Vitality, Marriage, Work, Parenthood, Leisure, Friendship, Money, Eternity, Books, Mindfulness, Attitude, and Happiness.

Gretchen Rubin is quick to point out that this particular Happiness Project was HER Happiness Project, and doesn't necessarily apply to everyone else.  She encourages everyone to start their own Happiness Project, and has a blog with some tools to help.  I loved how Gretchen Rubin tried to scientifically quantify happiness.  She tried to break it down into its base elements.  There is nothing Earth-shattering in her book, but it did have some good advice.  Think about something that you liked to do as a child, and try to replicate what attracted you to that hobby in the first place.  Gretchen Rubin gets back into Children's Literature and even starts a successful book club. She also attempts to make at least three new friends.  This is something I have struggled with as an adult.  I love the friends that I have, but I haven't made a new friend in at least 3 years.

There is a lot in this book that is admirable, but not be practical for everyone.  Most everyone isn't a stay-at-home mom who can write at her leisure.  Most of us don't have millionaire husbands and rich in-laws who live around the corner and are always willing to babysit.  But don't let that get in your way of starting your own happiness project.  Tackle a nagging task, sing in the morning, and learn to enjoy now.  I know I will.

4/5 Stars.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CBR IV: Book 27: Good Omens - Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

*Audiobook Review*

***It is apparently very difficult for me to write a review of a book that I love. I finished this book 3 weeks ago, but I can't even get halfway through the review.   I can't define the qualities that make me love a book.  I just do.  If I hate something, I am ridiculously articulate about why I hate it.  I have a 10 minute lecture on why Titanic was a terrible movie, or why Taylor Swift songs make the Baby Jesus cry.  But why I love something is far more ineffable.  My half-assed attempt at a review is below.***

Good Omens is very, very English.  It's more English than Queen Elizabeth having tea and scones at a Jane Austen convention.  It's very dry and droll, so obviously, I love it.  I have read this book at least four times now.  This is one of those books that you recommend to nearly everyone you meet.  I also realized that I've read a ton of apocalyptic literature for this Cannonball Read.  That's a disturbing revelation.  The Hunger Games series, World War Z, and Robopocalypse immediately spring to mind.  This was definitely the most light-hearted and ridiculous.

Good Omens is the story of Armageddon.  Crowley is a demon who is enjoying the chaos he has wrought over the centuries until he is given the message from below that the Antichrist is about to be delivered to Earth.  Since he enjoys being on Earth he colludes with Aziraphale, an Angel, to make sure that the Antichrist is raised as impartially as possible.  The problem is that the Antichrist has been misplaced and is now a perfectly normal 11-year-old boy in a small town in England. Chaos ensues while the 4 motorcyclists of the Apocalypse race towards Armageddon.

What really sets this book apart isn't the plot so much as the writing.  The small jokes are often the best.  Did you know that if you leave a cassette tape in a car for longer than two weeks it automatically becomes a tape of Queen's Greatest Hits - which is awesome!

This book is a must-read for anyone who likes dry British humor.

5/5 Stars

Monday, July 23, 2012

CBR IV: Book 26: Summer Knight: The Dresden Files - Book 4 - Jim Butcher


This is the fourth book in the series, so there are minor spoilers for the previous three books.  

Harry Dresden is still a Wizard.  Like Harry Potter, if Harry Potter was more of a sasshole.  The Red Court of the Vampires has declared war on the Wizard's Council.  It's Harry's fault.  Of course.  Harry gets sucked into doing errands for the Winter Court of the Faeries and their political machinations.  It's all really convoluted and if you are interested, you should just read the book.  Honestly, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I don't remember much of what happened.  I like this series, but I don't love it as much as I probably should.

This series is always a quick read and pretty entertaining.  The action never really lets up.  Sometimes I just want poor Harry to just take a nap for a chapter.

3/5 Stars

Monday, July 9, 2012

CBR IV: Book 25: The Future of Us - Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

*Audiobook Review*

The premise of this book sounded intriguing.  In 1996, sixteen-year-old Emma Nelson connects her new computer to AOL.  A box pops up and she logs onto a website called Facebook.  Emma is able to see what she is posting on Facebook 15 years in the future.  She shows the website to her best-friend and neighbor, Josh.  Then they realize that the actions that they are taking in the present are changing their statuses in the future.  OMG you guys!!!

This book is listed as a young-adult novel, but I'm not sure if a teenager today would get all of the min-nineties references that this book beats into your head.  Seriously, they are always listening to Dave Matthews Band or skateboarding, or something else that says, "Hey, remember the nineties?".  Frankly, it's annoying.  Actually, there was a lot about this book that annoyed the crap out of me.  I hated Emma, the main female character.  Especially her narrator in the audiobook version.  I frequently rolled my eyes and complained to my roommate about how much I hate sixteen-year-old girls and their annoying boy obsessions.  There was wayyyy too much whiny romantic entanglements and not enough sci-fi.

2/5 Stars.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

CBR IV: Book 24: Sacre Bleu - Christopher Moore

At this point, I have lost track of how many Christopher Moore novels I have read.  Either you love his novels, or he just isn't your cup of tea. I happen to love his sense of humor. I listened to Fool a couple of months ago and loved it as well.  You can read that review here:

The novel starts out with the death of van Gogh.  Did he really shoot himself in a field in Auvers, or was he murdered?  Sacre Bleu is the story of Lucian Lusard, a baker/painter in the Montmartre district of Paris in 1890.  He was raised around some of the most well-known artists of the Impressionist era.  His best friend is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and he was also a friend of Vincent van Gogh.  Lucian and Henri have noticed that a lot of their contemporaries seem to have long gaps in their memories, and an awful lot of them are dying of syphilis.  This novel is historical fiction with mystery, romance, and plenty of Christopher Moore bawdiness and humor.  The beginning is very slow, but I got hooked near the middle.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has a love of Paris or the Impressionist period.

I definitely recommend reading the print version of this book.  There are several color pictures of Impressionist paintings, and the book is printed in blue ink.  It's so pretty!

5/5 Stars

Monday, June 25, 2012

CBR IV: Book 23: Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir - Jenny Lawson

*Audiobook Review*

Apparently I have been living under a rock, because I had never heard of The Bloggess until I saw this book on a table at Barnes & Noble.  I kept seeing reviews of this book on the Cannonball Blog, and I was looking for something funny for my next Audible credit.  I listened to a sample of this book and fell in the floor laughing.  As a child, Jenny Lawson was playing chase with her sister.  She wasn't looking where she was going, and she accidentally ran inside of a deer that her dad was "cleaning" AKA gutting.  She said it was like being inside a deer sweater.  Then she vomited inside of it.  Then her dad hosed it off and served it for dinner.  You know, just your typical evening at home.  I knew this would be perfect for my next listen.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is Jenny Lawson's mostly true memoir of growing up in rural West Texas.  Her family was poor.  Her mother was the school lunch lady and her dad was a taxidermist who routinely brought home litters of baby raccoon and kept a flock of asshole turkeys for pets. Wackiness ensues.

Holy shit this book was funny!  I almost drove the car off the road a couple of times.  I made the mistake of listening to this while I was eating, and nearly choked to death.  There are also a couple of serious moments, but they are few and far between.  I have recommended this book to nearly every person I have met.  The only book I can remember being funnier than this was George Carlin's Brain Droppings.

*Audio-specific portion of review*

I feel that this may be a book that is made better by audiobook.  Jenny Lawson is probably the only person who could ever understand Jenny Lawson, so it makes sense that she narrates her memoir.  At first, her voice can be a little annoying, but as the book went on, I began to enjoy it.  I am glad that I purchased this one, because I will be subjecting it to anyone who takes a road trip with me.

5/5 Stars.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CBR IV: Book 22: Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution - Michelle Moran

*Audiobook Review*

I had always heard of the famous Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London.  Every once in a while the news does a fluff piece about some new celebrity wax figure. I guess it is similar to getting your star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  I had no idea of the history behind the museum, or who the Hell Madame Tussaud was.  But, when I saw this book, and read the subtitle, "A Novel of the French Revolution", I knew I had to read it.  I am fascinated with the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.  I read "A Tale of Two Cities" both my Sophomore and Senior years of High School (the one advantage of moving) and was hooked.  I have read several biographies of Marie Antoinette, and in 2005 finally achieved my dream and took a vacation to Paris.  One of the highlights of my trip was standing in the Place de la Concorde and looking at the plaque where the guillotine ended the French monarchy.

Madame Tussaud was born Marie Grosholtz, and at the start of the story is living with her Mother and her mother's boyfriend, Curtius,  in Paris.  Curtius owned the Salon de Cire, a well-known wax museum, and Marie has learned the art of wax molding from him.  Commoners and the nobility came to their Salon to see wax figures of current political figures, royalty, and miscreants like the Marquis de Sade.  They continuously updated the figures to reflect the times. They were almost the TMZ of pre-revolutionary Paris.  Marie is the business head of the family and she has been begging Rose Bertand, the Queen's dressmaker, to get Queen Marie Antoinette to visit the exhibition.  Marie Grosholtz is hoping that if the Queen approves of her own likeness, then the commoners will be beating down the door to visit the Salon de Cire.  Apparently she didn't notice that the Queen wasn't really very popular anymore.  Also, she must not have been paying attention to the revolutionary talk of men like Robespierre and Marat, even though her family regularly dined with them.

Eventually, Marie receives an invitation from Princess Elisabeth, the King's sister, to come to the Royal Palace of Versailles and tutor the Princess in the art of wax sculpting.  This put Marie in an awkward situation. Some evenings she would dine with the revolutionaries and some evenings she would spend at masqued balls at Versailles.

French Revolution ensues.  Lots of people lose their heads.

This book was obviously well researched.  The mark of a good audiobook is when I find myself going out of my way to listen to it.  I couldn't stop listening to this one.  I also learned quite a bit about the French Revolution.  I didn't know that every evening all of the candles in Versailles were given to certain members of the nobility who got to sell them on the black market and keep the enormous profits.  Also, Marie Antoinette was required to wear completely new clothes every day, and the old ones were given to certain members of the nobility.  I read that Paris Hilton only wears an outfit once as well.

This was great historical fiction, and I am looking forward to reading some of Michelle Moran's other novels, especially her upcoming novel about Napoleon.

5/5 Stars.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CBR IV: Book 21: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith

*Audiobook Review*

With this review I am caught up to the books I am currently reading.  I am determined not to get behind ever again!

I told my mother the title for this book and she literally laughed until she cried.  For a solid five minutes.  I have never seen her laugh that hard in my life. I couldn't describe the book to her because I was worried that I was going to kill her.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  I thought the premise was interesting.  It is a detailed biography of Abraham Lincoln, and from time to time, he goes to hunt vampires.  This is from the author of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, a similarly silly concept.  Silly as the concept sounds, this was a pretty serious book.  When Abraham Lincoln was a boy, his father owed money to a vampire.  The vampire collected by killing Abe's mother.  Young Abraham then dedicated his life to the destruction of the bloodsucking menace.  He discovers that slavery is basically a cover for feeding vampires.  Yep, the confederacy is backed by vampires.  Explains a lot, doesn't it?

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes alternative history, civil war history, or vampire fiction.  However, with the movie coming out next month, I am curious to see if this will be one of the rare cases where i like the movie better than the novel.

3/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 20: The Magician King - Lev Grossman

Back to Fillory, and boy is it dark.  Like a lot of other reviewers, I liked this better than the first book, The Magicians, and I really liked The Magicians.  I heard that Grossman is writing a third and final book, and I can't wait for more.

The Magician King continues the adventures of Quentin Coldwater, the douchiest douchebag to ever enter the multi-verse.  He's slightly less whiny in this installment, and half of the book is focused on Julia, so that already makes it better than the first book.  Quentin, Julia, and the two other characters whose names I can't remember are the Kings and Queens of Fillory.  Hey, just like Narnia!  Adventures ensue.  Seriously, I don't like recapping an entire book.  I always feel like I'm either giving too much away or not doing it proper justice.

If you like epic fantasy turned on it's side and made disturbingly dark, then this is the book for you.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

4/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 19: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business - Charles Duhigg

I'm three books behind on my reviews, and I'm determined to catch up before the end of today.  These will be rushed, and frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Nearly everything we do in our day-to-day life is based on habits we have formed.  Our habits help us brush our teeth, make our coffee, and drive to work when our brain goes on autopilot.  If our brain didn't form habits, we would probably go insane from the million decisions we have to make in a day.  Charles Duhigg describes a three-step loop called "The Habit Loop".  In "The Habit Loop" there is first a cue, which triggers your brain to go to automatic mode and which habit to use.  Then there is the routine which is the activity, thought, or emotion.  Lastly, there is the reward which helps reinforce the habit if it is necessary.

Marketers have used this for decades.  The earliest example in the book was getting Americans to make brushing their teeth a daily habit.  Target now uses your purchase history to determine if you are pregnant so they can be the first to get that target demographic.

I'm a sucker for pop-psychology or quirky science books.  I have read much more non-fiction this year than I ever have before.  This book was pretty interesting, but the last twenty percent of it was footnotes.  While that does show the author's dedication to research, I felt like it was just excessive.  However, this was a quick, entertaining read, and it has helped me to create a couple of good habits and ditch a couple of bad ones.

4/5 Stars.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CBR IV: Book 18: Replay - Ken Grimwood

*Audiobook Review*

This book is better than I can ever hope to describe. This book was published in 1988, and I had never heard of it before last month!  Thank you toepic for mentioning it in your review of 11/22/63, another book I can't wait to read.

Jeff Winston dies of a heart attack in 1988.  He then wakes up in his college dorm at Emory University in 1963, in his eighteen-year-old body with all of the memories of his previous life intact.  He bets some money on the Kentucky Derby and wins.  He then uses his knowledge of the future to invest in the stock market, and before long, he is one of the richest men in the world.  Then, in 1988, after marrying and having a daughter, he dies of a heart attack.  Again.  Same day and time.  I don't want to give anymore of the plot away, but there were definitely some unexpected twists and turns.

This should be required reading for the entire human race.  I became addicted to this book.  I literally could not stop listening to it.  I listened to it while I folded laundry.  I listened to it at Target while I was buying groceries (yeah, I was that asshole).  This book is a Sci-Fi semi-time-traveling romance which I will always remember reading.

I just looked Ken Grimwood up on Wikipedia and found out that he was born in rural Alabama, about 4 hours from me.  Unfortunately, he died in 2003.  Several people have also stated that Replay is the basis for the film, Groundhog Day.  As much as I love Groundhog Day, Replay is better.

5/5 Stars

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CBR IV: Book 17: American Gods - Neil Gaiman

American Gods is the story of Shadow, a convict who is about to be released from prison.  He finds out that his wife and best friend were killed in a car accident.  Then, at her funeral, he finds out that they were killed in a car accident because his wife was giving his best friend a blow job.  Whoops.  Shadow then meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.  Oh, and gods are real and they walk among us and feed off of our worship.  Roadtripping Americana-laced high-jinks ensue.  Seriously, it's hard to summarize a book that has such a wide scope.  This book is epic.  There are Norse gods, Egyptian gods, Eastern European gods, walking dead girls, and dozens of locations.

I have picked this book up twice before, and for various reasons, I never could get into the damn thing.  It's weird.  I love Neil Gaiman novels, and this is known as his best one.  But I finished it.  Finally.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  It certainly held my attention better this time.  Maybe it was because I was using my Kindle which makes reading feel all futuristic and fancy.  Maybe because this time I read the tenth anniversary edition.  Maybe I was finally in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. I'm not sure, but third time's a charm.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Neil Gaiman, mythology, Americana, or epic novels.

4/5 Stars.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

CBR IV: Book 16: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain

*Audiobook Review*

My best friend of 12 years (and recent roommate) is definitely one-of-a-kind.  If left to his own devices, he would never leave the house, and he would never talk to anyone.  He's not misanthropic, he just prefers to keep to himself.  He likes to sit in the dark and just think.  He loathes change and technology and sometimes he can frustrate the Hell out of me.  When I saw this book at the store, I knew that I needed to read it as soon as possible.  Finally, a manual to help me understand him!  However, as I started listening to this book, I realized that I also have quite a bit of introverted tendencies.  I prefer reading to listening, and I cannot handle sensory over-stimulation.  If you want to watch me go all "HULK SMASH!", play the radio and turn on the TV at the same time.

Quiet examines how society and business culture has come to worship the gregarious extrovert.  Only outgoing people who can give entertaining presentations could possibly have anything worth saying.  Most young schoolchildren now have their desks in groups or "pods".  Most offices are designed with open floor plans to easier facilitate group work.  Everyone seems to think that group work is better.  Except maybe it isn't.  Are we squashing creativity instead of fostering it?  Yeah, probably.

Quiet is not just a book for introverts.  There are chapters that discuss what happens when extroverts live with introverts or when extroverts have introverted children.  This book also discusses how when introverts have to fake outspokenness it can be utterly exhausting.  It gives some tips on coping, such as finding an quiet place to decompress.

I keep recommending this book to friends and co-workers.  I thought it was fascinating, and I actually learned a lot about myself.

4/5 Stars

Sunday, May 6, 2012

CBR IV: Book 15: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

This book has been frequently reviewed for the CBR, and I can see why.  It is a quick read, perfect for a doctor's office wait or a plane ride.  It was delightful and hilarious.  Mindy Kaling is probably best known for hysterically brilliant performance as Kelly Kapoor on NBC's "The Office".  This book is about everything, from her childhood of growing up Indian and chubby to her time on the hit play, "Matt and Ben", to her time writing for "The Office".  It is also about makeup, clothes, and boys.

Honestly, I read this one a month ago, and I had to return the book to the library before I wrote this review, so I don't remember a lot of the specifics.  One of my favorite chapters was on how long it takes men to put on shoes.  It's so true!  If you are looking for something to read while you are waiting in line, and you don't mind if strangers think you are crazy because you are busting a gut laughing, then this book is for you.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, May 3, 2012

CBR IV: Book 14: The Magicians - Lev Grossman

I just realized that I have already completed the Quarter-Cannonball that I committed to.  I've tried and failed for the last 3 years, but I have finally made it!  Now I'm going for a Half-Cannonball!

I'm going to be yet another reviewer who calls this book "Harry Potter for grown-ups".  But it totally is.  And isn't.  It's more "Chronicles of Narnia for grown-ups".  It's dark.  Sometimes disturbingly so.  There's also a fair amount of swearing and sex, so definitely not Harry Potter.

Quentin Coldwater is an overachieving douchebag.  He is the definition of douchebag.  His picture should be next to "douchebag" in the dictionary.  The summer before his senior year, he chases a piece of paper through a small Brooklyn garden and appears in a large grove.  He is asked to take an entrance exam.  He's not told what school it is for, and he never signed up to take the exam.  After an all day, grueling exam he is finally told that magic is real and that he has been accepted to Brakebills.  Brakebills is a school for magicians, hidden in upstate New York.  Magic may be real, but it certainly isn't easy.  Magic requires hours of complex calculations, which is why the entrance exams are so difficult.  The first half of the novel focuses on Quentin's magical education, and the friends he makes at Brakebills.  Then he graduates, and just like all other twenty-something college graduates, he doesn't know what to do with himself.  Fantastical adventures ensue.

I don't want to give any more away than that.  I really did enjoy this book, even if Quentin is a frustrating character.  I finished this about a month ago, and I read a few other books, but I just started the sequel, "The Magician King" yesterday.

4/5 Stars.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CBR IV: Book 13: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Argh. This book. I wanted to like it. It had an interesting premise. Lots of creepy pictures and a story tying them all together. About halfway through the book I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room if I saw one more damn stupid picture.

Basically, the author found a bunch of weird pictures and wrote a story about the pictures.  Frequently he had to stretch to make the story fit the pictures.  It was just bad storytelling.  Basically, there is a kid named Jacob.  Growing up, his grandfather told him tall tales about the kids he went to school with.  He talked about kids that could fly and ones that had bees inside of them.  Then he dies, and Jacob finds out that Grandpa was not completely full of shit.  He travels to a remote Welsh island and finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Hey, that's the name of the book!).  As many other reviewers have pointed out, it is basically Charles Xavier's school from X-Men, except these kids are annoying pussies instead of well-characterized badasses.  They are stuck in a time loop in the middle of WWII so they can hide from some kind of monsters that want them?...I think.  Honestly, I read this over a month ago, and I am a little fuzzy on some of the details.  I just remember that Jacob falls in love with a girl that used to be his grandfather's girlfriend.  Ick.  Also, frustratingly stupid pictures.

Of course this book ends on a cliffhanger, because every damn book has to be a series.  Did I mention how grating the pictures became?  Yeah, I won't be reading anymore of these.  I'm not sure if anyone over the age of 13 would appreciate this one.

1/5 Stars

CBR IV: Book 12: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

*Audiobook review

I think I have read more non-fiction for pleasure this year than I ever have before.  I saw this book in the store for years, and I was intrigued by it's bizarre cover - it looks like an apple, but inside is an orange!  Craziness! However, I never found the time to read it.  Then I saw the movie pop up on my Netflix Instant.  I was hooked.  This was in the similar vein of Mary Roach's great books, Stiff and Bonk and my favorite NPR show, Radiolab - science made interesting!

Freakonomics asks questions such as, "What is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool?"(the pool) and "How much do parents and names really matter?"(not that much).  Some of the answers were surprising.  In the chapter on whether teachers cheat, the authors made a compelling case of why "No Child Left Behind" is a terrible policy.  Teachers had a persuasive reason to cheat and increase their student's scores on standardized tests.  They wanted to keep their jobs.  Some schools were even giving cash prizes to the teacher with the highest scores.  Any time you introduce a strong enough reward, people will cheat.  Even Sumo Wrestlers.

Levitt & Dubner have written a second book, SuperFreakonomics, and they also have a blog and podcast.  I have been catching up on past episodes and I look forward to reading their next book.  Believe it or not, these guys made economics funny!

4/5 Stars

Sunday, April 22, 2012

CBR IV: Book 11: The Tower, the Zoo, & the Tortoise - Julia Stuart

I loved this book. This book was comparable to Amelie or Chocolat. This book was funny and sweet and sad and poignant and whimsical and adorable. It was not some manic-pixie-dreamgirl whimsiquirkalicious concoction. It felt genuine.

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is the story of Balthazar Jones, a guard at the Tower of London. Just previous to the novel, he and his wife, Hebe, lost their 10-year-old son Milo. He just died in his sleep.  Neither of them has been able to properly deal with their grief, so Balthazar has developed odd habits like getting up in the middle of the night to collect different types of rain. Hebe works at the lost-and-found office for the London Underground, and spends her days trying to find the owners of such odd objects left on the subway as a gigolo's diary, a magician's cabinet, and cremated remains. One day, a government official arrives at the Tower and declares that the Queen has decided that instead of housing her royal menagerie at the London Zoo, it will be moved to the Tower.  This is an effort to increase tourism, which the residents of the tower despise. Balthazar is put in charge of the project, since he is the owner of the world's oldest tortoise.  Wackiness ensues.  

This novel has a host of odd and quirky characters, all of whom are suffering from some sort of heartache or loss.  I just realized that I'm making it seem as thought this is a sad book. This is not a sad book, in fact, some parts were hilarious.  The reverend is a closet romance novelist who is desperate to find a wife.  I could definitely re-read this book.  

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CBR IV: Book 10: Fool - Christopher Moore

*Audiobook review

I loves me some Christopher Moore. His brand-new novel, Sacre Bleu is sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to dive right in. My first Moore novel was A Dirty Job, and I thought it was amazing. I've also read his vampire trilogy, and my review for Lamb was actually published on a couple of years ago. I'm also a Brit-Lit nerd, so a Christopher Moore novel spoofing Shakespeare was a must read for me. Fool was definitely one of my favorite novels.

Fool is the story of Pocket, the diminutive court jester of King Lear. The dude who disowned his youngest daughter just because she wouldn't kiss his ass in front of his entire court. Yeah, THAT King Lear. Pocket is bawdy. Just randy. He's screwing half of Lear's court, a couple of the daughters, and before he came to Lear's court, a couple of nuns. Then a ghost shows up and wackiness ensues. There are witches, war, and murder most foul.

There were a lot of little Shakespearean in-jokes peppered throughout the novel. I loved this book. I could listen to this all over again and love every second of it. I just love Moore's novels, and Euan Morton was a terrific narrator. This made doing the dishes much more enjoyable.

5/5 Stars.

Monday, April 16, 2012

CBR IV: Book 9: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

I loved this book. I didn't think that I would. I am sick to death of zombie-mania. This isn't a zombie book. Well, it isn't just a zombie book, and there are certainly a few, "Run, Bitch, Run!" moments, but it is so much more. From a sociological standpoint, I felt that this book realistically captured what would happen if a world-wide epidemic broke out. This book was smart. Seriously.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is the story of how the Zombie epidemic began in rural China and how it spread across the world. Different governments denied or covered up the existence of the epidemic until it was too late. Instead of just telling the story from one perspective, the author uses several dozen different points of view, so it's almost like reading a short story anthology. There are narrators from every viewpoint one can think of: government officials, scummy businessmen, army soldiers, and chubby internet nerds. My only complaint is that some of the stories were just too short. As soon as I got attached to a character, their segment was over.

Brooks seriously considered all of the possible differences in fighting an army of re-animated corpses. For one thing, they don't feel fear, so fear-based weapons are useless. As are smoke bombs, and to an extent, nuclear weapons. The most fascinating aspect, however, was the different governmental reactions to events. North Korea disappeared. They pulled all of their citizens into underground bunkers, including many who were probably infected. One narrator stated that there are probably millions of North Korean zombies just waiting to come out and re-infect the world. Creepy.

5/5 Stars.

CBR IV: Book 8: Teaching People, Teaching Dogs - Dani Weinberg

Teaching People Teaching Dogs

I'm a dog trainer, so I read a lot of dog training books, and I need to count every book I read if I'm going to get a half-cannonball. This is a book written by a dog trainer specifically for dog trainers. I bought the kindle version since it cost half of the paperback. Yay technology!

I picked up a couple of good tips for dealing with students, especially on how to give constructive criticism. It also focuses on getting students to see the good in their dogs, instead of thinking that they live with a demented Hellbeast. The author also stresses the importance of getting students to practice with their dogs at home, even going so far as telling them how many minutes they should practice each exercise per day.

This was a quick read, and had a lot of great tips. This really is just a book for dog trainers. I can't see anybody else getting a lot out of this book.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, April 5, 2012

CBR IV: Book 7: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science & Sex - Mary Roach

Despite what you may think from the title, this book is not porn. Bonk is a non-fiction book about the history and stigma of sex research. This book is about as non-sexy as you can get. This book made me so squeamish that I frequently had to turn it off and scream. I listened to this as an Audiobook, and a couple of times, I almost drove my car off the road.

Mary Roach is nothing if not detailed. This book is extensively researched. She writes about the research of Masters and Johnson and Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s. She writes about modern day sex researchers and even has sex with her husband in an MRI. There are chapters on male orgasm, female orgasm, masturbation, and anything else you can think of. The most disturbing section was about Victorian attitudes towards sexuality. Little boys had to wear a contraption at night that ensure that if they had a nocturnal erection, they would be in pain. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then.

This book was fascinating and educational, however this is not a book I would recommend for someone with a weak stomach. Some sections are fairly graphic and disturbing.

4/5 Stars.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CBR IV: Book 6: Grave Peril: The Dresden Files: Book 3 - Jim Butcher

I read this book 2 months ago, so I am foggy on the details. I also read books 1 & 2 of this series back in 2010, so I'm fuzzy on the back story as well.

Harry Dresden is a wizard-for-hire in modern-day Chicago. He frequently works with the police department on their "Special Investigations" unit. He has helped them stop rogue wizards, werewolves, and vampires. He's also kind of a smart-ass so he has made many enemies not only in the supernatural world, but on the police force.

Someone or something has pissed off the ghosts in Chicago. They are raging and rampaging all over town. The novel starts with Harry and Michael Carpenter, a holy knight, trying to stop an evil ghost in the infant ward of the hospital. They soon discover that the ghost has been tormented and driven mad by a torture spell. Then a bunch of stuff happens that I don't remember and don't want to spoil if you haven't read the book.

I really enjoy this series. It is like a hardcore detective novel mixed with the supernatural. It is reminiscent of the early Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels. The good ones. Before they turned into supernatural orgies. Not that Harry is a priest. Just not the total slut-bag that Anita turned into. I also love Harry's snappy one-liners and witty asides. I recommend it, but read Storm Front and Fool Moon first.

4/5 stars

Sunday, April 1, 2012

CBR IV: Book 5: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Full Disclaimer: I am about 2 months behind on my reviews. My plan is to review a book a day until I get caught up, but I am fuzzy on some details on the last 8 books I have read. Poopnuggets!

I first heard about Henrietta Lacks and on an episode of Radiolab called "Famous Tumors". I love, love, love, Radiolab, and I was fascinated by the story, so when I saw the book at an airport bookstore, I knew I had to read it. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, black woman in the 1940s. She went to the "colored ward" at John's Hopkins to receive treatment for cervical cancer. The tumor was removed, and some of the cancerous cells were scraped and preserved, which was routine for the time. The patient gave no consent, nor was it asked. The cancerous cells were then grown in a lab, and they became the first cells that could live independently of a human body.

30 or so years later, Henrietta's cells are the most used cells in cell research, and their name has been shortened to HELA. Henrietta's children don't discover this fact for decades, and when they do, they are very confused. They have little education and at first they think that Henrietta is still kept alive in a lab somewhere. This story is about how her children come to terms that John's Hopkins "stole" their mother's cells that that corporations are now profiting from them.

I loved this book! I have been recommending this book to everyone I can. Even though this is a non-fiction novel, it is very engrossing. It reads like a detective novel, treatise on civil rights, a discussion on patient's rights and doctor/patient confidentiality, and a beginner's genetics textbook. I couldn't put it down.

Five/Five Stars

Sunday, March 4, 2012

CBR IV: Book 4: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay is the third book in the Hunger Games series. If you haven't read the first two books in this series, don't read this review. Unless you just like spoilers. Moron.

Just when you thought this series couldn't get any darker, here's Mockingjay. This book was depressing. Battlestar Galactica depressing. Season 6 of Buffy depressing. No hope for anyone or anything, and don't get attached to anyone, because they will probably die.

Mockingjay picks up immediately after the events of Catching Fire. District 12 has been annihilated by the Capitol, and Katniss Everdeen and her family has been evacuated to the mythical District 13. District 13 successfully rebelled against the Capitol years ago, and has been allowed to survive underground. Literally. The people live below the earth. Their lives are very strict, and everything is scheduled down to the minute. Even leisure time. Katniss quickly gets sucked into the rebellion and becomes the Mockingjay, their symbol of revolution. Then a whole bunch of bad shit happens.

I always thought that this series should have been marketed to adults, and I feel that this book has proved my point. Most teenagers won't understand the political intricacies of this book, or maybe I'm not giving them enough credit. I really enjoyed this series, and I am constantly recommending it to others, but I just wish they had left out the whole Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle. It felt like they were trying to hard to copy the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle of the Twilight series, and honestly, who ever gave a shit about that one anyway?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

CBR IV: Book 3: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America - Leslie Knope

Holy Crap! This book was hilarious! If you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, you will LOVE this book. If you have never seen the show before, you will still probably enjoy it, but you won't necessarily get all of the jokes. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is written as a travel/information book about the small, fictitious, town of Pawnee, Indiana.

Leslie Knope is the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation department, and is truly convinced that her hometown is the best town in the world. J.J.'s Diner has the world's best waffles, which she recommends should be eaten several times a day, with whipped cream and syrup, and the raccoon infestation is only a mild inconvenience.

My favorite part of the book was where they showed all of the murals in City Hall and gave the stories behind them. This has been my favorite running gag on the show.

Sunday Boxing, though I prefer the original title, A Lively Fisting.

Pawnee has a horrible history. The town was founded by a pervert in the 1800s who ran away to marry multiple 12-year-old girls. He was quickly run out of his own town because of his refusal to wear pants. There has been a history of horrible relations with other races, especially the native Wamapoke Indian tribe: . The town is basically run by the Sweetums candy corporation, which originally contained morphine, then Black Tar Heroin.

This book had me giggling, loudly, in public. If you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, I cannot recommend it enough. If you aren't a fan, what the Hell is wrong with you? Do you hate good things?

CBR IV: Book 2: Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

This is the first book I read on my Kindle. It seemed oddly appropriate since it is a techno-noir. Ready Player One is the story of Wade Owen Watts, AKA Parzival, a 17 year old kid in the year 2045. Most fossil fuels have been burned up, people live in "stacks" (trailers stacked on top of each other), and nearly everybody spends their entire lives sucked into the OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual world where teens can go to school, adults can go to work, and everyone can shop and hang out. Think The Matrix combined with World of Warcraft. Everyone has an avatar that they can use to interact in the OASIS. While connecting to the OASIS is free, traveling off worlds and weaponry costs real, actual money. Nearly everyone in the world is on the same quest; trying to find the Easter Egg that James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, hid when he died. Whoever finds the egg wins the entirety of Halliday's multi-billion dollar fortune, and creative control of the OASIS. Parzival is finishing High School, and in his free time, he is an egg hunter or a "gunter". Halliday was an eccentric Steve Jobs-type character who was obsessed with 1980s pop culture and video games, so Parzival is obsessed with the 1980s as well.

While I wouldn't call this book the greatest literary find of our generation, I really enjoyed the Hell out of it. I couldn't put it down. It was a fast-paced adventure that really kept me on the edge of my seat. I laughed my ass off at a lot of the 80s references and in-jokes. You probably need to be at least 30 for me to recommend this book. Otherwise you probably won't get the references. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CBR IV: Book 1: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

"The circus arrives without warning."

The Night Circus is the story of Celia and Marco. Two magicians who are forced by their mentors/masters to compete against each other in order to prove...something. Neither of them knows the rules of the contest, or even how to know if they are winning. Of course, they fall in love, but the story is about much more than that.

Celia and Marco are interesting enough, but the real star of the book is the circus itself. All of the decorations are entirely in black and white, and there are innumerable attractions. Celia is the resident illusionist, but there is also a fortune teller, acrobats, contortionists, and gymnastic kittens. After a couple of years, some people start following the circus from town to town, creating a "Dead Head" type culture that obsesses over every minute detail of every aspect of the circus. They become known as reveurs, and are easily identified by their black and white outfits with red scarves. I particularly enjoyed the "Midnight Dinners" hosted by Chandresh Christophe Lefevre where he and some of the other guests created the concept of the circus.

This book was delightful. The descriptions were vivid, especially the ones about the food. I have been craving candied apples and caramel popcorn ever since! Everything in this novel made the circus feel alive. It made me want to run away and become a reveur and join the circus.

I give it 5/5 stars, and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Victorian novels, fantasy, romance, or adventure.