Oct 30, 2012

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Book Description: Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas.  The worst thing most people can say against him is that he's a little slow and a little boring.  But, then, most people don't know about the sickness--the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger.  The sickness that is about to surface again.

This book was written in 1952. One of the big issues I have with older novels is that the writing style is dated, which makes me bored. Unlike most old books, it doesn't read like an old book. It reads like it could have been written yesterday, and set in 1952.

A first person account from Lou Ford - Deputy Sheriff and Psychopath. Ok, I'm no psychologist, so I'm not sure that's the correct diagnosis, but he's got "the sickeness". He's a manipulative, charming liar and he likes to kill people.

I found the book interesting and suspenseful. I really liked the first person aspect of it - seeing both the real Lou, and the Lou he showed to the rest of the town. And I absolutely didn't see the ending coming until it happened.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Quite Great. Well written and stands the test of time thus far. 

Oct 25, 2012


Containment by Christian Cantrell

Book description: The colony on Venus was not built because the destruction of Earth was possible, but because it was inevitable…
A brilliant young scientist and one of the first humans born on Venus, Arik works tirelessly to perfect the science of artificial photosynthesis, a project crucial to the future of his home, V1. The colony was built on the harsh Venusian surface by the Founders, the first humans to establish a permanent extraterrestrial settlement. Arik’s research becomes critical when he awakens from an unexplained, near-fatal accident and learns that his wife is three months pregnant. Unless Arik’s research uncovers a groundbreaking discovery, V1’s oxygen supply will not be able to support the increase in population that his baby represents.
As Arik works against time, he begins to untangle the threads of his accident, which seem inextricably linked to what lies outside the protective walls of V1—a world where the caustic atmosphere and extreme heat make all forms of known life impossible. For its entire existence, Arik's generation has been expected to help solve the problems of colonization. But as Arik digs deeper and deeper, he discovers alarming truths about the planet that the Founders have kept hidden. With growing urgency and increasing peril, Arik finds himself on a journey that will push him to the limits of his intelligence and take him beyond the unimaginable.
This book has an interesting premise, that although isn't new, will continue to be interesting to me in it's many forms. First off Earth colony and it's trials and struggles. Generally, when something has a theme I love (zombies, dystopian futures), I either love it or hate it, so I try not to get my hopes up too high. 

The beginning was a bit slow. There was a lot of history of earth and colonization of space stuff. The only thing that got me through was that, chapter to chapter, we jumped back and forth through time, breaking the dull bits into more manageable chunks.

I really liked the characters, although I have no idea why. They were awfully one dimensional. I still found myself caring about them and wanting good things to happen to them.

As I was writing this, I learned Christian Cantrell is also a technology writer. A piece of info that was not at all a shock after reading his novel. There are a lot of very detailed descriptions of the tech used in the V1 colony. Although there were times when I felt like I wished the author would get on with whatever it was he was moving toward, for the most part I didn't feel like details bogged down the story.

I was not a fan of the ending. There were just too many unanswered questions. Purposely unanswered, which bugs me even more. I'm all for a little bit of unknown at the end of a story - if everything is spelled out for you, it seems forced and fake. I'm not looking for an And-Everyone-Live-Happily-Ever-After situation. But there's a fine line between leaving a little to the imagination and leaving your reader feeling unfulfilled. Containment didn't make it to the line. If it seemed that the author wanted to make room for a sequel, I'd maybe be a little more understanding. This book doesn't need a sequel though. It needs an epilogue.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an All Right, I Guess. It could have been better, but it could have also been much worse.

Oct 18, 2012

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk

Description: The most comprehensive zombie handbook ever published.  In one indispensable volume, Matt Mogk busts popular myths and answers all your raging questions about the living dead.  With foreword written by Max Brooks!

It might go without saying, but I have a thing for zombies. I spend a lot of time thinking about them. Two of my favourite books ever are zombie books (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide). I am itching for The Walking Dead to come back on air. I love zombies. Well, not actually because zombies are horrifying. You know what I mean.

This book is better than The Zombie Survival Guide. I'll let that sink in for a minute. In The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks takes some creative liberties (such as knowing how zombies come into existence) in the name of entertainment. Which is fine. Great even. As I said, The Zombie Survival Guide is one of my favourite books ever. What makes Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies the better book is that it is all fact. Although zombies are a fictional being, science says they aren't impossible. The book provides good insight into that.

The book not only explores the science of zombies, it gives an in depth look at all manor of zombies in popular culture - from film, literature and video games to zombie walks and zombie proms. It really is everything you wanted to know about zombies.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Totally Awesome. It joins the ranks of my favourite books of all time. If you even have a slight interest in zombies, you should read this.

Oct 17, 2012

Savanna Cheetah Cub and Puppy (Max) Play at the Cincinnati Zoo

Watch this cheetah cub and puppy named Max play, while letting the mid week doldrums melt away.

...that wasn't supposed to rhyme.

Anyway, the video is adorable. Watch it.

Oct 16, 2012

Naked Cruelty

Naked Cruelty: A Carmine Delmonico Novel by Colleen McCullough

Description: Carmine Delmonico returns in another riveting page-turner by international bestselling author Colleen McCullough.
America in 1968 is in turmoil and the leafy Holloman suburb of Carew is being silently terrorized by a series of vicious and systematic rapes. When finally one victim finds the courage to speak out and go to the police, the rapist escalates to murder. For Captain Carmine Delmonico, it seems to be a case with no clues. And it comes as the Holloman Police Department is troubled: a lieutenant is out of his depth, a sergeant is out of control, and into this mix comes the beautiful, ruthlessly ambitious new trainee, Helen MacIntosh, daughter of the influential president of Chubb University.
As the killer makes his plans, Carmine and his team must use every resource at their disposal—including a highly motivated neighborhood watch, the Gentlemen Walkers.

This is the third novel staring Carmine Delmonico, Captain at Holloman Police Department. I didn't read the first two. When I picked this book up (for $4.99, off the bargain table at my local mall book store) I had a feeling that there were previous books but it wasn't super clear. I had no idea how many came before it until I started writing this review. I rightly assumed that it didn't matter - almost always when a book says it's an [insert name here] novel, it's just a bunch of books that that happen to star the same character. A few times while reading I thought, hmm, I'm sure that would make more sense if I'd read the other book(s)...but never during important plot points.

First and foremost I want to talk about the rape scenes. They were incredibly graphic and started as soon as the book did. If that's not the sort of thing you want to read, this is not the book for you. The graphic-ness of it came as a shock to me - generally you have some sort of warning about these things, even if it's just an inkling. I guess I'm used to police books having everyone show up after the fact, when everything is kind of glazed over and fuzzy. You get that something horrible has happened, but you aren't hit in the face with it. This book hits you in the face. You've been warned.

So, this book has a lot going on. That's another way it was different from most police investigation books I've read (and tv shows, and movies). Generally speaking, you usually have your one crime and it's the only thing (more or less) that the police unit in question is dealing with. Totally unrealistic but not something that's ever bothered me. Anyway, in this book you've got a sadistic rapist turned murder, you have someone vandalizing a glass shop, a bank robbery, a weapons cache found at a school and a kidnapping. And that's just the crime. There's also a bunch of personal and professional issues happening both within the police department and in Carmine's home. Even with all of that going on, it was still pretty easy to follow. I had really hoped that some - if not all - of the sub-crimes would be entirely unrelated to the big case (the rapes/murders). Sadly, all but one were connected together in one way or another, although some of the connections were tenuous at best. It wasn't exactly all wrapped up in a neat little box with a ribbon and a bow, but everything fit in there more or less. I was disappointed, but it was ok.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Pretty Good Boarding On Just Ok. I guess what kept me from really liking the book is that I didn't really like any of the characters. I also didn't hate them. They were just kind of there. That's a problem. But there was always something happening making it never boring. Would I read another Carmine Delmonico book? Probably not, but I wouldn't say never.

Oct 10, 2012

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Description: A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.

They succeeded by transforming habits.

The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core,
The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

 This book follows a very familiar format. Basically, it mixes of neuroscience with both personal and professional/business stories to prove the point it's trying to make - in this case, the power of our habits and how to change and cultivate them for a better life and a better world. Luckily I love this type of book. See my reviews of Quiet, How We Decide and Imagine. After what happened with Jonah Lehrer/Imagine, I do take the information contained in them with more of a grain of salt, so to speak, but I give the authors the benefit of the doubt and don't let one bad apple spoil the whole genre.

We all have habits we'd like to change. The big question on everyone's mind is Will this book help me change them? To that I say...I don't know. Maybe. Probably. I mean, it's definitely not going to hurt. Knowing is half the battle and the underlying principals seem sound. Plus, the writing is good, the stories are interesting and it's an enjoyable read. And if you want to get into the habit of reading more, reading this book would be a pretty good first step.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Extremely Awesome. Although the format is familiar to the point of almost overdone, I still loved every bit of it.

Oct 9, 2012

Who was Che Guevara (and why is his face on all those T-shirts?)

Forty-five years ago today, Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, Bolivia. He was was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. Today he's seen as a symbol of rebellion and freedom.

But who was he really?

Oct 8, 2012

Just Put the F*cking Turkey in the Oven

Cooking a turkey today? This is the best advice on turkey roasting. Ever.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada.

Music Monday: Peaches

Oct 6, 2012

Slow Motion: Water Balloons Free Falling

This video is kind of mesmerizing, don't you think? All slow and...blobby. And set to music. The orange and white ones kind of remind me of pumpkins and ghosts, but that's probably just because it's October and my brain is kind of going there anyway, right?

...Anyway. Slow Motion: Water Balloons Free Falling. Mesmerizing.

Oct 2, 2012

The Color of Tea

The Color of Tea: A Novel by Hannah Tunnicliffe
Book Description:
Macau: the bulbous nose of China, a peninsula and two islands strung together like a three-bead necklace. It was time to find a life for myself. To make something out of nothing. The end of hope and the beginning of it too. After moving with her husband to the tiny, bustling island of Macau, Grace Miller finds herself a stranger in a foreign land—a lone redhead towering above the crowd on the busy Chinese streets. As she is forced to confront the devastating news of her infertility, Grace’s marriage is fraying and her dreams of family have been shattered. She resolves to do something bold, something her impetuous mother would do, and she turns to what she loves: baking and the pleasure of afternoon tea.
Grace opens a café where she serves tea, coffee, and macarons—the delectable, delicate French cookies colored like precious stones—to the women of Macau. There, among fellow expatriates and locals alike, Grace carves out a new definition of home and family. But when her marriage reaches a crisis, secrets Grace thought she had buried long ago rise to the surface. Grace realizes it’s now or never to lay old ghosts to rest and to begin to trust herself. With each mug of coffee brewed, each cup of tea steeped and macaron baked, Grace comes to learn that strength can be gleaned from the unlikeliest of places.
A delicious, melt-in-your-mouth novel featuring the sweet pleasures of French pastries and the exotic scents and sights of China, The Color of Tea is a scrumptious story of love, friendship and renewal.

I purchased this book because I needed something to read at work to keep me from going insane (I work in a call center). Mostly I picked it because I liked the cover. Also, the story seemed decent and it was 40% off the cover price.

First and foremost, this is a girly book. If you don't like girly books, you wont like it. I happen to like girly books, esspecially ones that aren't all about getting a man. If that's what you're looking for, this is it.

I found the quality of the writing itself was fantastic. The descriptions of things were incredible. I'd never before thought about the way the air tastes. I had a very vivid picture of the setting the whole time I was reading thanks to the author's skilled descriptions.

I really liked the characters, especially Gigi - the young, smart mouthed chinese girl who speaks fluent english. I also understand Grace, the main character. She deals with her problems the same way I do - ignore them, and hope they go away. I never felt like any of the character were too one dimensional. They always felt like real people that you actually might meet if you opened a cafe in Macau.

...it also left me with more than a little obsession with macarons. 

The story itself, although predictable, wasn't predictable in the ways that I thought it would be. If that makes any sense at all. Like, I knew what happened at the end was going to happen. I knew it as soon as Gigi walked through the door at the cafe. And then it happened, but it wasn't quite the way I thought it would happen. And the thing with her husband? Called that too, but not exactly. It wasn't exactly cliché, but...I don't know. It was very safe. Its the kind of story that you feel good about reading, but it's not going to stick in your mind. Generally speaking, I liked the little bits of surprise in my safe story.

Ok, so lets talk about Grace's mother for a minute. So, this might be a little spoilery and might not make sense to anyone who hasn't read this book, but it really bugged me, so here it goes. From the very first time Grace mentions Mama, it's pretty obvious that her mother is dead. It quickly becomes clear that Grace feels a lot of guilt about it. Through a series of flashbacks, a picture of Mama is painted - her personality, her moods. To me, it was very apparent what was wrong with her. So, when we finally get to find out what happened to Mama, I was very confident I knew how she died. But then...that's not what happened. What did happen was very...boring. And although I get why Grace felt guilty, I think my way would have been a lot more powerful. Sometimes the obvious answer is obvious for a reason. Still, even if the author had chosen anything other than what she did for cause of death...like, terminal illness or deranged gunman would have been better choices. Anything other than what actually happened. It made me feel kind of..empty? Let down, maybe?

Last little annoyance: the protagonist is a red head. A very big deal is made about this. Not just sort of red, like my hair is sort of red. Words like fiery are thrown around. Why is the girl on the cover not a red head? It makes no sense.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Pretty Great. An easy, enjoyable read.