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xxertz

Xxertz

I just made this account to comment on other blogs. I'm not committed to signing up to another review site (as tempting as it is).

e-Murderer: A Jenna Scali Mystery by Joan C. Curtis

e-Murderer: A Jenna Scali Mystery - Joan C. Curtis

First published: September, 2015
Genre: A Book You Own But Have Never Read

 

 

*I was provided a copy of this book from netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review*

 

BLUF: Very cute, but predictable read.

 

Plot: When Jenna Scali, a psychologist’s assistant, begins receiving emails at work detailing the emailer’s murderous fantasies, she isn’t sure what to make of it. Are these emails from a disgruntled patient? a prank? sincere? A coed is murdered close to Jenna’s apartment and Jenna realizes that her emailer is legitimate. Curious in nature, Jenna is driven to find the connection between her and the dead girl. As bodies begin to pile up, Jenna finds herself in a race to unmask the killer before he kills his next intended target: her.

 

Story: This story is very cute, what I would consider cozy (almost, the way the killer attacked the coeds may be a bit too much for cozy). It’s a palate cleanser – a good read when you want to unwind and relax.

 

Characters: Our main players are Jenna and her gay friend Quentin. Jenna is a little headstrong – wanting to solve the case by herself and refusing protection or someone nearby even when she feels she needs it. Quentin is her bff. He’s always around and available and happens to be her belly dance teacher. He’s a good sidekick, really. I haven’t read many books with such a good friendship. (It’s a nice change from hard-headed, loner detectives.)

 

Um… Really? Moments: After learning that somebody delivered a message to Jenna at home, her boss suggests that “Maybe someone heard about these anonymous e-mails and is trying to scare you” and advises her not to go to the police. Um… Really? I get that he’s trying to protect his business, but a psychologist (of all people) should have concerns over these types of threats. Tsk Tsk…

Source: http://xxertz.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/e-murderer-a-jenna-scali-mystery-by-joan-c-curtis
Apocalypse Idaho - Rich Lundeen

First published: January 29th, 2015
2015 Popsugar RC Category: A Book You Own But Have Never Read
My Star Rating: star_png1597star_png1578star_png1578star_png1578star_png1578

*I won this book through goodread's First Reads program*

BLUF: Pass! This would make a good movie, but is not a good book. (A movie would likely take away the unnecessary asides and analogies that are on most of the pages of this book.)

Plot: Apocalypse Idaho follows a misfit of characters in their fight for survival. Three students, one janitor, and one "better-than-you" movie star wake one morning to find their town deserted and isolated by no electricity or cell service. While determining the best route forward, the group encounters a practically invincible vampire, which they don't kill, but somehow manage to flee from after an intense fight. It's not a question of if, but how long can this group survive?

Story: The story itself isn't bad. It's exactly what you would want from an apocalyptic novel. The problem is the characters and the narration.

Characters: The two characters which I most hated are one of the students, Nathan, and the movie star, Derek. Nathan does not shut up. He is awkward. His is annoying. What's more, the author didn't mention that he has albino white hair until the last third of the book. (These things are important for my visualization of the book. )

Derek, on the other hand, is a total a-hole. He thinks he is better than everybody and has no problem acting the part. He is an unapologetic, egotistical self-centered crazy b. Not my thing.

[Spoiler: On top of these two, we have Autumn. Autumn cold-heartedly dumped our janitor for Derek and spends the book hidden safely in Derek's house. After release, she watches the video of her husband about to die and all she thinks is "That’s not even where I was, Johnny".]

Narration: The author tries too hard to be funny/satirical/whatever.

"But the darkness doesn't stop her. Julie can see in the blackness. Her last name is Black"

"During World War II the factory was converted to fight Nazis somehow, where it undoubtedly helped pave the way for an allied victory."

"It looks Really Really Fucking Big. The underlined capital letters in Derek Darius's voice were audible. It’s an inflection point that says, this needs emphasis. One of the vampires is really really fucking big."

"One-Eye creeps forward, past Campbell’s tomato soup and well into Progresso territory."

"Still, on the plus side,” Nathan says, “at least we’re not in Utah..."


and my favorite:

"Nathan, just because we were attacked by something doesn’t mean we’re part of a science fiction story. We’re a group of Idahoans. You’re with real people who care about each other. Yes, we’ve been through something none of us understand, but we won, and we’re still alive. It’s over. And even if it’s not, even if there are more of those things out there, we can get through this together. If we’re strong and we stick together, we can all make it out of this alive.”

Nathan’s eyes are intent. He’s pretty much speechless.

“Johnny, are you fucking retarded? ”"


On top of this, the constant analogies made me want to throw this book against the wall.

"There are parallels to a hostage negotiation scenario, but the distinct difference is that instead of police trying to rescue hostages there are vampires trying to eat them."

"It seems like the vampires are playing with the group. Nathan saw a documentary once where dolphins did something like this with fish they were eating. They would jump and play and even though they’re in the ocean you could almost hear them laughing as they ruthlessly rounded up and massacred the entire school. Fucking evil dolphins."

"It’s opinions like these that separate the optimists from the pessimists “There’s a 99% chance we’re going to die horrible deaths here,” the pessimist might say. “No,” the optimist would disagree. “There’s a 1% chance some of us might live.” It’s the classic glass half empty half full question, but with probabilities of dying."


If that's not enough, you have circular reasoning.

"The omnipresent sense of dread is almost absent from Johnny/ Autumn’s home. Instead it’s replaced with a feeling of familiarity and also of creepiness. In a way, the creepiness is there because of the familiarity."

"“If you die while we’re out,” he says, “you’re going to be dead a long time.”"

"If Derek Darius is the one who randomly does the expected, then Nathan Montgomery is the one who is expected to be random."


The narration made it feel like the author was trying for a cult classic and, I'm sorry, it didn't do it for me.

Side note: I am one of the 4% on goodreads.com who gave this a 1 star. While I am surprised, I feel like I have to disclose this as I am obviously an outlier with this opinion.

 

Twilight

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer BLUF: If you go into this book decided that you wont like it, you’re probably right.

I put everything I heard about this book aside before reading it. Truly.

Twilight follows Bella Swan after her recent move to a small town in Washington. Despite the social awkwardness and isolation she held at her previous school, she is popular from day one. Blissfully unaware, she begins hanging out with Edward Cullen, a handsome and mysterious outcast. After they begin dating (and she learns that he is a vampire), life becomes interesting. From surprise dates to fleeing from a dangerous vampire duo, can Bella’s heart take the heat?

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but I enjoyed the overall story. While Bella is a character overwhelmed by her emotions, her relationship with Edward was puppy dog cute. The way that his family accepts her despite the circumstances and actually goes out of their way to help her makes for a good story for survival.

Bella: Okay, okay, I will admit, the main character wasn’t very interesting. I found it very hard to believe that she was popular among the boys and so absolutely clumsy. She was also very self-centered. When she was in the hotel room with Alice and Jasper, she didn’t ask them any questions about themselves or care about their feelings – she only concentrated on herself and acted out in an extremely immature fashion.

Controlling Relationship Much? I would flip out if somebody demanded that I drink or eat, especially at the beginning of a relationship. I would run. If not then, I would definitely run after they admitted to stalking me. It bothered me how submissive Bella was – she is definitely not your strong typical woman lead character.

Sparkling Vampires: I’m going to be honest, I don’t really care what characteristics authors add or take away from their vampires. I do understand how the lack of tradition can be upsetting and how it’s an easy aspect to use as a jab against the book. (Personally, I was more annoyed by the controlling relationship.)

August: Osage County

August: Osage County - Tracy Letts BLUF: Play about a self-destructing family.

Not convinced? Here is the break down of characters (note: daughters not in age order)

Father – drunk
Mother – drug abuser
Daughter 1 – not good enough
Daughter 2 – control freak
Daughter 3 – depressed & naive
Granddaughter – drug user
Grandson – waste of life

The whole dysfunctional family concept is not entertaining to me. At all. I get enough crazy between my family and the hubby’s, I don’t need to read about too.

This play did not let up the arguments, cheap jabs at each other, or any of the other punches a family can throw. If that’s not enough, you get incestual hints and pedophiles too.

Act I: Relationship background & Beverly ventures off
Act II: Bev is found and put to rest
Act III: General family drama

In the end, I understand that this play is a social commentary, but it’s not my kind of read (or watch..).

Hex Hall

Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins BLUF: This is a light, fast-paced chick lit. If you expect this to be the new Harry Potter, you’re not going to get what you’re looking for.

Plot: Hex Hall is a young adult, high school novel. Need I say more?

Fine…

Hex Hall follows Sophie, a sixteen-year-old half-witch, half-human who is trying to live a normal teenage life. Despite moving schools constantly, Sophie can’t seem to control herself when it comes to performing well-intended spells to help those she knows. Her love-potion-gone-horribly-wrong gets her sent to Hex Hall. Hex Hall is a school for witches, wizards, faeries, and shape shifters for those who have been determined unfit to go to school with the humans for some circumstance or another. Sophie sees this as her final chance to belong but, after a rough first day, is unsure what the future will hold.

Oh boy, where to start.

Flaws: I’m not going to lie, this book is pretty flawed. The writing is simple, the main character makes stupid mistakes, and the mystery is disappointing.

My Take: Despite these characteristics, I adored this book. The simple writing is fine considering this is a light novel. You don’t even have to think of the murder mystery much, which bummed me out. (But thank goodness because the murder mystery was weakly wrapped up. Grr.) The stupid mistakes are fine because she doesn’t get away with it. The mystery is unsatisfactory as it comes to an end quick and without much attention.

Cliffhanger: Some people say that this book ends on a cliffhanger. I disagree. A cliffhanger causes the reader to feel as if they are missing out if they don't read more. The author may have meant for the book to end in a cliffhanger, but the ending wasn't of enough substance to compel the reader to pick up the next book. (Don't get me wrong, I am going to read the next book, but not because of the ending.)

Shh.. Don't tell: Between The Host and this book, it seems clear that this is my “Guilty Pleasure” genre.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee Aw. I'm happy I reread this. I definitely didn't grasp much back when this was required reading.

Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut BLUF: Pass on this classic.

Um.. What?I’m not going to lie to you: I had to Google what makes this book so great. I still have no idea why it is popular. Maybe because it was a hit when it came out (for reasons unknown). Maybe it is because of the attempts to censor this book soon after. If you know, please enlighten me.

Plot: Slaughterhouse-Five follows Billy Pilgrim’s life in a haphazard manner. We are led in and out of his life, through good times and bad. We visit an alien planet where Pilgrim is set on display as an exhibit in the zoo. We learn about his time within the army. We even go through his post-army career as an optometrist. It’s a mildly entertaining take on a fictive autobiography.

My Take: I didn’t have a problem with the choppy writing or with its clarity. I didn’t have a problem with the science fiction or the way the novel skipped around. I did have a problem finding interest in this story, understanding its point, and, like most, staying sane through the excessive use of the phrase “So it goes”.

Disclaimer: The only disclaimer I can give is that I don’t do too well with older books.

The Onion Field

The Onion Field - Joseph Wambaugh BLUF: Good for those who like to know the background of all players and enjoy true crime that reads like a novel.

Plot: The Onion Field is a nonfiction account of the kidnappings of Officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger and murder of Ian Campbell by Gregory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Powell and Smith kidnapped these two officers after being pulled over for looking suspicious. After a long night and an incorrect assumption about the California’s version of the Little Lindbergh Law (later repealed), which states that kidnapping is considered a capital crime only if the kidnapped is ransomed or injured (His assumption was that kidnapping was considered a capital crime.), Campbell was murdered and Hettinger survived attempted murder. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t stop after the capture and imprisonment of these two men. Many years and trials later, Hettinger is the ghost of the man he once was.

Contents: The Onion Field spends a significant portion detailing the backgrounds of the two officers as well as of the killers. We learn the full depth of the killers’ relationship with each other before we are brought to the crime. The crime is short compared to the rest of the content, but the real impact of this book is the aftermath of the crime. Between the trial, retrials, and destruction of Hettinger, the reader sees the effect surviving can have on a person.

My thoughts: When I picked this up, I thought “based on a true story” meant fiction loosely based on the event. I didn’t realize that it was nonfiction. Even as nonfiction, the pace of this book was painfully slow. I would consider this a methodical and thorough inclusion of all information necessary to get the true picture of the event, but it was drawn out and I really do feel like a jerk for thinking it.

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil - Paul Bloom BLUF: Pass on this. This book discusses morality, but will not bring you much insight into the origins of good and evil, as the title suggests.

When you title a book “Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil”, your readers expect you to primarily talk about babies, goodness, and evil. Pretty straightforward, right? Not in this case. This book spent the majority of its content on goodness, about third of its content on babies, and very little content, if any, on evilness.

Essentially, this book is on morality. But isn’t morality good versus evil? No, not really. Morality regards right and wrong, specifically in relation to one’s cultures.

As for babies and morality, this book does focus on a number of studies, which found that small children prefer characters that assist or are positive towards others over characters that cause detriment or are otherwise neutral to the situation. It also found that babies are more likely to share with a familiar face than an unfamiliar one, if you want to freak out a baby, just act frozen, and “no baby is an island”. Of course, these last concepts don’t attribute to the purpose of the book.

That’s about it for the babies in this book. No joke.

An interesting thing mentioned in this book about children is that children (when making friends or choosing who to talk to) are more likely to be drawn to a person of their own race over the race of another. At the same time, children are more likely to be drawn to a person with the same accent (regardless of race) over a child of the same race but a foreign accent. This was tied into morality through discussion of how people treat/mistreat others, i.e. racism, sexism, etc. The idea being that we prefer what is familiar and the best way to make unfamiliar cultures become familiar is through personal contact and stories. Personally, I don’t see a strong connection between morality and this information, but I do find it interesting.

The other main discussion involving children was shown to apply to both children and adults: we become bothered when we are rewarded less than those around us. As with above, I fail to see the point that relates it to the book. Again, it’s not about babies, not about good, and not about evil. Hmm..

Let’s sum up the book with one of its’ parting ideas:

“Moral deliberation is ubiquitous, but psychologist typically overlook it. This is, in part, because everybody loves counterintuitive findings. Discovering that individuals have moral intuitions that they struggle to explain is exciting and can get published in a top journal. Discovering that individuals have moral intuitions that they can easily explain, such as the wrongness of drunk driving, is obvious, uninteresting, and unpublishable. It is fascinating to discover that individuals who are asked to assign a punishment to a criminal are influenced by factors that they are unaware of, like the presence of the flag in the room, or that they would consciously disavow, like the color of the criminal’s skin. It is boring to find that individuals proposed punishments are influenced by rational considerations, such as the severity of the crime and the criminal’s previous record. Interesting.”


For having this idea (perhaps truth) about human interest, the author spends a lot of his time sharing information that one forms from common sense or is not really relevant to his books’ concept. This causes the book to fall in the “obvious” and “uninteresting” category listed above.

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Warning, this is a rant: The book provided ideas like this: “Scientist X believes in Theory Y. Theory Y is [explanation]. Most people in the field today don’t agree”. If this happened once, I wouldn’t be whining to you right now. It was so frustrating to listen to theories that made sense, but resulted in the author sharing that he doesn’t believe they are relevant for some reason or another.

Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell BLUF: This isn’t a self-help book, it’s an OpEd/Pop Science piece.

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities …”

Plot: Outliers follows the premise that people only became successful because of the opportunities provided in their life. This includes anything from the time of the year or era they were born to family background to the lucky breaks. While there is a controllable factor in success (practice), Gladwell argues that it must be coupled with other factors in order for success to occur.

My thoughts: After reading this, I’m not really sure why my father recommended this to me to read. I feel like the success of books like Freakonomics has us (my father and I included) excited for any book that explains social science in a readable and entertaining manner. Many readers (ahem.. me) take this information at face value and fail to realize any skews or dissents as they are not discussed. My point: take this with a grain of salt.

While this book’s emphasis is on successful people being formed by group effort, I think it’s unfortunate in the sense that it causes readers to say “Ahh, THIS is why I must not be successful.” Why try to be successful if success is based on factors outside of your control? It’s a demotivator and a concept that can be used to justify one’s lack of effort.

Concepts Discussed: Opining aside, Outliers presents an interesting argument about success. Malcolm Gladwell offers some ideas that seem pretty self explanatory: high general intelligence doesn’t take you far if you don’t have practical intelligence, practice in a trade or skill is necessary for mastery, and culture plays a major part in who we are and how we behave. Other ideas you may be hearing for the first time: how you were raised, arbitrary cutoff dates (schools, sports, etc.), and “what your parents do for a living, and the assumptions that accompany the class your parents belong to” matter.

Summary of Examples: Gladwell discussions include Bill Joy, Bill Gates, The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Chris Langan, Lewis Terman, Oppenheimer, Joe Flow, Alexander Bickle, Maurice and Mort Janklow, Regina and Louis Borgenict, the Howards and Turners, Gert Hofstede, Alan Schoenfield, and himself. Arguments are detailed with the use of sports and school advantages, Jewish immigrants, cultural legacies, rice farmers, and the KIPP Academy along with brief life bios for some of the individuals listed above.

Oh, BTW: When asked, “What do you want people to take away from Outliers?” Gladwell answered “My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is”.

Stay Out of the Basement

Stay Out of the Basement - R.L. Stine BLUF: Good for its target age, not so good if you’re any older.

I re-read this as a part of the 2015 Popsugar Challenge as a book from my childhood. I loved Goosebumps as a kid. They scared me, entertained me, and I read all the ones I could. I was pretty excited to revisit this one as it’s the most familiar Goosebumps from my childhood.

Stay Out of the Basement is about a family who’s breadwinner recently lost his job at the laboratory. Dr. Brewer continues his work at home in the family’s basement. His work has turned into an obsession and he rarely surfaces from the basement except to sleep. When the mother needs to take a trip due to a family emergency, the kids are left at home to care for themselves. Curiosity gets the best of the kids and, when dad’s out, they sneak in to figure out what exactly he is doing down there. Curiosity soon turns into fear as the kids struggle to deal with their dad, his changes, and his work.

I don’t know if I simply cannot put myself in a mindset to appreciate children’s books or if I don’t enjoy the writing, but re-reading this book was very unsatisfying. The story was light and quick, but it was also choppy and predictable.

The Host

The Host - Stephenie Meyer I was scared to start this book, the whole author/twilight/embarrassment thing, but I absolutely adored it. it's hard when you have to finish a book that makes you feel like you're family with the characters...

Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz It's so hard revisiting a book like this. Like fight club and gone girl, you can only read this once and then are scarred on what you didn't know then, but know now. Review pending...

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert torn on this one

A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson BLUF: Pick this up.

Plot: A Short History of Nearly Everything is exactly as its’ title suggests. This text takes us from the beginning of time to our current position – all in laymen terms.

Topics include: The solar system, geology, all things Earth, atoms, plants, dinosaurs, extinction of dinosaurs, Darwinism, quantum physics, global warming, and everything in between.

I almost DNF’d: I listened to the audiobook and quickly thought it would become a book that I would DNF. The Introduction was very difficult to process. It tried to make the book mysterious and appealing by describing what it took to make the reader, and continues on about atoms before it starts into why Bill Bryson decided to write this book.

Thankfully, I didn’t: Believe me, I am thrilled that I made it past that first chapter. Bryson writes nonfiction in the form of stories. It’s impressive. I have a hard time with nonfiction books because they tend to be dry and I tend to be unable (unwilling?) to retain the information, but Bryson is able to transitions from one topic to another in a seamless manner.

The iffy: I had a good time reading this book. It constantly made me stop and think about the information provided, as well as research the topics to understand a little more about what I was learning. (Don’t get me wrong, the book gives enough information, but I have a need to verify and ponder.) Well… one of the things I researched, the idea that “all glass on Earth is flowing downward under the relentless drag of gravity”. Turns out, this isn’t true. When one thing isn’t true, it makes me wonder what else was written that was not true.

Oh, btw: The book talks about the Swine Flu. Specifically, how it reoccurs often without known reason. I thought this was awesome (erm.. timely) given that this ended up reoccurring soon after the book was published. I love seeing something I read prove relevant.

So… What are you waiting for? Buy it, rent it, read it, enjoy it, reread it! I know I will (preferably with more fact checking, for fun).

In Odd We Trust

In Odd We Trust - Queenie Chan, Dean Koontz BLUF: Pass on this... This book is for those already familiar with Odd Thomas, but, even then, the plot is lacking.

Plot: This story has your main characters of the first book, Odd Thomas, Stormy Llewellyn (Odd’s girlfriend), Chief Wyatt Porter (Odd’s father figure), and Terri (Odd’s mother figure). Odd Thomas is a 20-year-old manboy who sees ghosts. These ghosts cannot move on from this world until their murderer is caught and/or they have accepted their death. Odd Thomas helps those who have stayed, including a recently murdered young boy. This is where we come in.

The Good: The book is short and sweet. I was looking for a quick read and this was it.

The Bad: This just wasn’t interesting to me. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the format and how much was due to the illogical plot. I mean.. Odd finds the killer, talks to him, and just lets him get away. This is after the police are onto the guy and wanting to arrest him. Excuse me? What? No. That’s ridiculous.

Overall: This passed the time well, but, if you are compelled to read it, I would recommend renting it rather than buying. I was not impressed.