Archive for the ‘Cannonball Read’ Category

Why the book reviews sort of suck right now

Friday, April 18th, 2014

I have once again taken on the Cannonball Read Challenge. Read and review 52 books in one year. I have never actually completed it. Reading books is easy and fun. Writing reviews is really, really hard. I do this to make myself write because I want to be a better writer. The more reviews I write, the better they get. I have written a couple of reviews that I am extremely proud of. I know I can write passionately and well when I am enthused about the subject matter. I can hate it or love it, as long as I have energy I can write a great review.

I’m flexing this muscle on books I don’t have a lot of energy around. I run slow to run faster later. I bike slowly up big hills to do it faster later.  This is just another way to get better by working at it.

-fh

P.S. The Cannonball Read is a fundraiser to fight cancer in honor of Alabama Pink, someone I never met but whom I miss dearly. Check it out.

So British, you can’t open the book unless the kettle is on – Cannonball Read #4 & 5

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The Grey King & Silver on the Tree from The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. Young Adult Fantasy, heavy on the folklore.

The Dark is Rising sequence is the story of four children, the three Drew children – Barney, Jane, & Simon, and Will Stanton. Will is important because he is an Old One, a member of a race of beings who have magical powers and can move through time. The Drew children are important precisely because they are not magical beings. They are ordinary human children.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Cannonball Read 6 – Review #3

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Non-Fiction, history, kind of a biography I guess.

In 1951 Henrietta Lacks died from aggressive cervical cancer. She left behind a husband and four young children. She also left behind a sample of cancerous tissue that did what very little other human tissue had ever done before, it lived. Her tissue survived and reproduced, providing a unlimited source of human cells for experimentation. You can imagine the breadth of research possibilities that became possible when this cell line – called HeLa – originated at Johns Hopkins.

But the Lacks family couldn’t. (more…)

Possession – Cannonball Read 6 Review #2

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Possession (Fallen Angels #5) by J.R. Ward – Paranormal Romance – Spoilers ahead!

The conceit of the Fallen Angels series is that seven souls are at crossroads, heaven and hell are vying for each soul and whoever gets best of seven gets to take over the world.

Jim Heron, the hero of the series, has just traded a win in the aforementioned divine contest to get Sissy Barton out of hell. Cait Douglass, the heroine of the book, is trying to get out there and live life, energized by the death of her art student, Sissy Barton. So now Jim has Sissy and is desperately trying to tell himself and his boner that he’s all altruism. Cait rather suddenly has her choice of two hot but slightly off putting men.

Jim’s story is now far more compelling than the intra-book plot. Cait’s story is interesting and relatable. I think most of us have had to choose between two unknown but seemingly desirable options. The identity of her partner in Happily Ever After is obscured for quite a while. Obscured for even longer is who the soul in play in this round is. Which is a reflection of the fact that Jim has completely lost the plot and is so focused on “caring” for Sissy (e.g. convincing his boner to chill the fuck out) that he completely forgets to be the savior of the universe. Jerk. There is quite a shocking event at the end of the book that I didn’t think made much sense, but I’ll trust Ward to know where she is going with it.

Ward is a reliable writer. Her men are forceful and her women are too.  But she is getting a little too reliable these days. I’m a little pissed off that out of the five books and four souls so far, not one has been a woman. She has been giving us conflicted, glorious damaged male protagonists for a while and now I want a woman who could tip in the wrong direction, rather than women being what brings men back to the light side. That being said, the main antagonist of the series is a woman and she’s awfully evil.

I am hoping that the effort of keeping two series going at once (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels) does not cause either to be diluted.

-fh

 

Dragons & Warrior Daughters – Cannonball Read 6 – Review #1

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Dragons and Warrior Daughters – Ed. Jessica Yates , a collection of short stories all featuring prominent female characters or protagonists, some of which have dragons.

I picked this book up for two reasons. It has a story from Robin McKinley, one of my most beloved authors, and I am trying to populate my daughter’s bookshelf with positive stories about women and girls.

I got exactly what I was hoping to find. The stories were varied in tone and the role that each woman played. What did not vary was that each protagonist was faced with difficult choices that had no pat answers. Even more than their being women, I enjoyed that each heroine had to choose from imperfect solutions to their problems. Some of the stories had slightly improbable, happily ever after conclusions, others were ambiguous, and others downright depressing.

Some stories had more of a moral than others. The last story, a very dark revenge tale, is a caution to be careful, let we get what we wish for. A story set just after the fall of the Roman Empire illustrates that glory follows those who seek it and true heroes act out of righteous purpose, not a desire for fame. McKinley’s story, which led me to the book in the  first place, is about the power of love but also shows how our greatest proponent and and also our greatest critic lies within and that your life will follow on which you choose to listen to.

I’m happy I picked this up and I will be setting it on the shelf for my daughter to investigate in another 10-12 years. Heck, I might even read it again!

-fh

Cannonball Read #7 – The Fire Lord’s Lover

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

The Fire Lord’s Lover by Kathryne Kennedy. Bland, Over-reaching Fantasy/Alternate History Romance.

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Cannonball Read #5 & 6 – The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The Curse of Chalion & Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The Curse of Chalion and its follow up novel, Paladin of Souls, are explorations of the human relationship with the divine wrapped in a pair of eminently readable fantasy novels. (more…)

Cannonball Read #4 – The Feminine Mystique

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. The book that gave a name to the problem with no name.

If you are a feminist or you agree with some of the principles of feminism (that women and men deserve equal opportunities and treatment) and you haven’t read this book you should. You should get ready to get mad. If you think we don’t need feminism anymore, or that we didn’t need it in the first place, you should read this book. (more…)

Cannonball Read #3 – Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Dystopia, classic, disturbing.

This review contains spoilers.

Winston Smith is dead. He is dead because he has committed thoughtcrime and thoughtcrime is death. In his dead but not-dead state he becomes free to act in a manner that disregards his personal safety. He falls in love with Julia and they have an affair. They know the affair is doomed but they pursue it anyway. Julia and Winston are caught by the Thought Police. They are tortured and made to confess all their crimes. They are afraid to die but the goal of the Thought Police, in fact, the whole government of Airstrip One is not to kill people; it is to control them. To control the circumstances of their entire existence not through exterior means, through force or extortion or the threat of physical pain. They want to control people by completely shaping and knowing their thoughts. To inculcate doublethink into the populace so firmly that a person cannot even think of rebelling against the system. Complete hegemonic control is the goal, effected through the manipulation of culture, information and language. Winston and Julia are not tortured to death, they are tortured into complete submission. They give up every secret place inside their souls and in the end they become the property of the Party.

After I finished reading Nineteen Eighty-Four I read the news. I wanted to scream “It’s doublethink!!!” The cognitive dissonance on display was suddenly transparent to me. I was able to see through to the motivation of “culture warriors” who speak without logic. They seemed to be purposefully obtuse. The purpose is to avoid logical interpretation, to breed frustration to the point that people stop trying to interpret or argue and give in to illogic because they are too tired to try and make sense of the messages anymore.  The end goal is not temporal power or even political ascendancy. The goal is control. Control is not imposed but flows from within a culture. When a group can take control of the language of a culture they don’t have to fight for power any more. They own the consciousness of the culture.

I used to wonder when my father would be incredibly offended when he thought someone was engaging in revisionist history. Now I know. When public figures espouse an opinion and a month or a year later espouse a completely different one without explanation or acknowledgement they are trying to say that the past doesn’t matter. Now I know why The Daily Show continuously exposes these incidents. This sort of exposure shouldn’t get old. The contradictions, the desire to own the narrative of history, to try to recast, revise or just erase history, these are all facets of the control that Orwell plays out to a possible conclusion.

Ninety Eight-Four is a classic novel for a reason. It is frightening because it is possible. I feel like I am watching people try to implement Newspeak in the present day. Would public figures utilizing the tools of the Party in the novel be so adept in their use of these concepts if he had not written this? Would the populace be more vulnerable if he had never written about what he saw happening?

Forewarned is forearmed, as far as I’m concerned.

-fh

 

The Colour of Magic – Cannonball Read #2

Friday, May 6th, 2011

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Snarky Fantasy.

The Colour of Magic is the first Discworld novel. It is a send up of fantasy, a genre ripe for mocking.  The heroes are a wizard who failed out of magic school and a tourist from the other side of the world, which is a disc that rests on the back of four elephants who are riding on a celestial turtle.

Rincewind, the wizard, is tasked with showing Twoflower, the tourist, around the continent. Twoflower is the first tourist from his side of the world to visit the main continent. He is extremely naive as to the culture on the continent he is visiting.  Most of the hijinks that ensue do so because of his ignorance and polly annaish nature.

Absurdism abounds and is quite diverting. Eventually it became distracting.  The satire is forced and relies heavily on puns. The tourist, Twoflower,  brings modern day concepts into the story but they are sometimes hidden behind impenetrable veils of punnery. It just broke the frame. In the end the point was the absurdism rather than the plot, which in the end meant absolutely nothing. Definitely not escapist fantasy. This book was so self aware that it is hard to get into.

-fh