Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “genericwhitegirl”

genericwhitegirl’s #CBRIV Review #11: Fireproof by Gerard Brennan

ImageThis book is about a man who dies, is sent to hell, somehow resists eternal torture, and is sent back to earth to recruit followers for Satan.

Now before any holy rollers tsk tsk me for reading such a book, if you haven’t already realized, much of Fireproof is tongue in cheek. Brennan manages to make topics like murder, hell, and satanism seem blase, in a darkly comedic way.

Our story begins with Mike Rocks, who used to live in Northern Ireland, until he died. Now Mike is in hell with his demon roommate who can’t seem to effect eternal torture on him. So Satan calls Mike in for a meeting and decides to send him back to Ireland to recruit followers. But besides leaving hell, Mike has another reason to take this journey, and that is revenge. Mike didn’t just die from natural causes, you see. And along the way, Mike meets new associates including a girlfriend who has a very casual attitude about homicide, and a homeless man with peculiar abilities. Satan also sends a helper, the imp, to keep an eye on Mike. That’s because if Mike fails, Satan will sic Cerberus, the famed three headed dog on him. 

Strange, but entertaining, that’s for sure. The story at hand, about revenge and all that, is nothing terribly interesting. But the interactions Mike has with Satan, the imp, and basically everyone around him is worth the read. Brennan’s writing is funny and witty, and I enjoyed reading the book.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl

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genericwhitegirl’s #CBR review #10: Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Go The Fuck to SleepThe good news: if your child is young enough, you can actually read this to him. The bad news: if your child is young enough, you’ll probably be too delirious from sleep deprivation to care.

I sit here writing this review after my 7 month old has cried himself to sleep for a nap. How long did he cry, you ask? You don’t want to know. His baby book has a section for nicknames we have given him…there’s “Bug” which his dad likes because of the way he lays on his back and wiggles his arms and legs…there’s “Boo Boo” because, aren’t all kids nicknamed that? But my real nickname for him, the one I use only in my head and behind his back, is Crappy Napper. Oh, excuse me. My son is awakening from his awesome 30 minute nap…(several hours later) aaaaaaand I’m back. NOW he is laying down to sleep for the night…crying in his crib.

Which brings me to Go the Fuck to Sleep. If you ever read Goodnight Moon, you’ll appreciate this book in a nostalgic kind of way (among others). It’s written as a lullaby, to be spoken softly and sweetly to a child on the verge of sleeping. Only, your child never quite crosses the threshold to sleep, and so rings true the text of this book…

“The tiger reclines in the simmering jungle.
The sparrow has silenced her cheep.
Fuck your stuffed bear, I’m not getting you shit.
Close your eyes. Cut the crap. Sleep.”

This book is a definite recommend as a sort of vodka martini for parents who don’t drink…(why????). Or for parents to enjoy with a drink. You’ll appreciate it in a “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of way, because what’s that saying? Oh yeah, whoever said someone sleeps like a baby, never had a baby.

For a real treat, check out Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of this book here.

Check out The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl

genericwhitegirl’s #CBRIV review #9: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp

With the impending birth of my son (due in a mere 3 days!), I am open to suggestions on what child rearing methods are effective for a happy baby. I’m pretty sure my “figure it out as I go, trial and error” method could use some fine-tuning. Luckily (?) for me, there is no shortage of “experts” out there offering their advice and opinions on the subject. From popular books like Baby Wise (which I haven’t read but keep hearing about), to Time magazine’s provocative issue on breastfeeding, to not-so celebrity endorsements of attachment parenting, there is a wide spectrum of advice and views on parenting. Dr. Karp’s book addresses the specific issue of how to calm a crying child. (I guess there are more productive methods than pleading, begging, crying myself, and bribery.)

Dr. Karp’s method is the “cuddle cure.” This consists of 5 steps to calming a child who can’t be calmed with basic methods like feeding, rocking, and well, whatever else people do to calm crying children. The five steps to the “cure” are swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. In addition to explaining each step in full detail, Dr. Karp talks about why each step is important. He discusses the idea of a “fourth trimester” and focuses on a child’s first three months when using his method. His theory is that children are born a trimester too early and each of his 5 steps helps recreate the sensation of being in the womb. He gives examples of why each step is important and effective, using lessons from other cultures and history to back up his points. Speaking of children being born too early, does it annoy anyone else that other mammals are born with the ability to walk, climb, and do other really useful things, while children are completely helpless for YEARS? And kids need all kinds of crap…their own strollers, seats, food, and on and on and on. But I digress.

There is no shortage of advice out there on what is effective for taking care of a child, so you can take this book or leave it. But I am an eager proponent of having as many tools in my arsenal as possible. And I feel like his advice made sense and is easy enough to implement. And fortunately for me, it doesn’t make me want to throw up in my mouth (thank you, Alicia Silverstone). The best thing about this book, however, is that there are numerous youtube videos of Dr. Karp demonstrating the “cure” on fussy babies. These videos are pretty hilarious and you really get a sense that Dr. Karp is a kind of baby whisperer. They are also a good companion to understanding what he is actually describing in the book. But if you just want to be entertained, they serve that purpose as well.

Check out The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review 8: Blindness by Jose Saramago

I was in Portland on business and heard that one of Portland’s treasures is Powell’s books. So I checked it out. If you haven’t been there or heard of it, Powell’s is a new and used bookstore that literally takes up an entire city block. Each room has a genre, labeled by a certain color (Want a mystery book? Head to the gold room. Children’s? That’s rose). There’s also the rare book room, whose hours, if you’re only visiting for a few days, seem just as rare as the books inside. And there are other little treasures hidden within as well. If you want to take a book and read for awhile, you’re welcome to go to the coffee shop and relax. And I discovered my new favorite book “Go the Fuck to Sleep.” (If you are one of the last people, like me, to hear about this little treasure, I’ll review it next.)

I say all that to say this…there was a Nobel Prize section that featured several books by Portuguese author Jose Saramago. I had read his book, Death with Interruptions, last year, and selected it as one of my top five. So I was excited to see what else I could pick up. I saw what appeared to be several histories, like The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, and The History of the Siege of Lisbon. I figured Saramago had a boring side to him, but I should have known better. Apparently the former is a highly controversial book about the fictional retelling of the life of Jesus. It won him critical acclaim but also instant disapproval with the Roman Catholic Church (among others). But hey, cut the guy some slack. How many atheists do you know that would even give JC another thought?

And the latter is a book about “Raimundo Silva, assigned to correct a book entitled The History of the Siege of Lisbon by his publishing house. Silva decides to alter the meaning of a crucial sentence by inserting the word ‘not’ in the text, so that the book now claims that the Crusaders did not come to the aid of the Portuguese king in taking Lisbon from the Moors.” (thank you wikipedia).

What I like about Saramago is his out of the box, creative, and some would say, dangerous thinking. Each one of his books has some strange twist. If you really want to dig deep, you can talk about modern parables and allegories and whatever other literary devices people who KNOW throw out. But it’s simple for me. He’s interesting. You just have to get past his style…

Saramago has a thing about punctuation, especially commas and quotation marks. His characters engage in dialogue, but besides using a capital letter with each new speaker, he doesn’t differentiate between speakers. He also writes from a third person, narrative perspective. So I feel disconnected from the characters. But I have to say this book was loads easier to read than Death with Interruptions. I don’t think that’s because it’s actually written in an easier to read style, it’s because you can get used to Saramago’s style. And it was easier for my mind to adjust, having been conditioned by his first novel. I guess.

So on to the actual review…Blindness is about a country that is struck with a mysterious disease, only described as the white blindness, where (surprise surprise) people are instantly and seemingly randomly struck blind. Saramago begins with patient zero and those who shortly follow. The government decides to quarantine the blind and those who have been exposed to the blind. The first half of the book is about the quarantine. At first dozens, and then hundreds of people occupy a hospital, which is guarded by the military. Unable to organize, and with no one to guide them, the living conditions in the hospital degrade exponentially. To make matters worse, a group of internees withhold food from the rest of the wards. It’s almost like Lord of the Flies meets World War Z.

SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD…

The second half of the book involves the release of the quarantined after the sickness strikes the entire country. Here’s where comparisons to a zombie apocalypse really become evident. Saramago follows a small group from the hospital as they try to survive, looking for food, housing, and their families.

END SPOILER

It took me awhile to get into the book, probably because I was stumbling through it at first. But as I got used to the writing style, and the story developed, I became more interested.

In comparison to Death with Interruptions, I felt Blindness was a heavier book. Death with Interruptions, despite the subject matter, had a playful, light feel to it. Blindness, on the other hand, had a couple of disturbing scenes and emphasized the worst in humanity during the quarantine. But that’s part of what makes the book interesting. And without telling you the title of the next book (possible spoiler as well)…there is a short snippet from Saramago’s sequel to Blindness at the end.

So a solid recommend if you’re up to the challenge!

Check out The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review #7: The Likeness by Tana French

This is French’s second novel. I read her first book, In The Woods, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember what it was about. Apparently the main character in The Likeness, Cassie, was a primary character in her first book. That was totally lost on me. Fortunately, you don’t need to have read In The Woods to know what is going on in The Likeness.

The Likeness takes place in Ireland, where a Trinity college student has been found murdered in a cabin. Although Cassie Maddox works in the domestic violence unit, she is called back to work undercover on the Murder Squad for this case. We get hints of her previous time on the murder squad, which she left after nearly getting killed while undercover. Despite her hesitation, Cassie is drawn to this case, partially because she is bored with her current unit, and also because the victim bears a striking resemblance to herself. So much so, that Cassie is able to pose as the victim, Lexie, and continue Lexie’s life with her four unknowing roommates.

At its heart, this is a murder mystery, from the perspective of an undercover cop. We have the usual suspects, the not so usual suspects, and a lot of emotional baggage thrown in for many involved. The pace of the story is a bit slow. It took me several months to read the book – I would read it between other books. As the story evolved, I found myself more interested, but I can’t say I was entrenched in it. I wasn’t a fan of many of the main characters, either. Lexie’s four roommates are all Trinity College students, academics. And if you want to stereotype an academic (no TV, listening to old music no one’s ever heard of, peppering your conversations with literary references, blah blah blah) then you have that in this book. I was annoyed with the roommates’ pretentiousness. My apologies if you do any of these things, but trust me, it’s not to the extent as this lot. If it is, we’re probably not friends anyway.

So I guess I kinda have a meh feeling toward this book. It wasn’t horrible, but it is one I’ll probably quickly forget. If you have nothing else to read, it will do. But don’t go out of your way to buy it.

Check out The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review #6: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, kids are creepy. What can take a horror movie to the next level? A creepy kid. Remember the kids in The Shining? That boy who would make his finger talk and say “redrum” over and over? Or those twin girls? What about The Others? Or The Sixth Sense? Or all those other movies I haven’t seen because they have creepy kids in them and I’m too scared to watch them? Who doesn’t agree that dolls are creepy? And why were garbage pail kids so popular back in the day? Creepy kids. Has anyone seen the teletubbies? Weirdest shit I’d ever seen.

Having said all that, what drew me to this book was the eerie picture of a girl floating on the cover. The picture looks real, and it looks old. Which brings me to another creepy device…old stuff. And this is a black and white photo, so it’s old. At least, it looks old. After I did some asking around, I realized the book’s premise is based on several photos that the author obtained. They are an eclectic bunch of pictures, many of which involve amateur photo tricks like the picture of the girl floating on the cover. Some of the photos don’t involve any kind of trick, per se, but they’re just strange, out of context images. And a lot of them involve kids. Creepy kids. Riggs uses these photos as inspiration for his story, and every now and then, he’ll describe a character or a scene, and voila! On the next page is a picture of just what he is describing.

So what’s the deal? The story is about Jacob, a teenager who has grown up hearing strange stories from his grandfather, who fled to Wales during WWII. His grandfather grows up in a home with other children, who are all special in some way. Set in modern times, Jacob finds himself delving into his grandfather’s past and visiting the orphanage to better understand the strange tales he heard growing up. Although the orphanage and its inhabitants are from the 1940’s, Jacob finds a way to connect with his grandfather’s past.

It’s difficult to get more detailed without giving anything away. But the book is basically a mix of X-Men/sci-fi/fantasy all in one. My reaction to the book was a little mixed…as it is with creepy kids in general. I’m a bit put off, but intrigued at the same time. Although I was more intrigued than put off in this case. I felt the incorporation of the photos was creative, but contrived at times. I could see the author thinking, “How do I get this photo into my narrative?” and then making up a random scene just to make it work. That took me out of the story a couple of times, but I was still excited to see what photo would be next and it definitely made the tale more visual for me. The story definitely fits a young adult genre though, which I find (except in a few cases) can dilute the potential of a story (if that makes any sense to anyone other than myself).

I agree with many others who have reviewed this book – the pictures are creepier than the story itself; and the tale is somewhat immature and underdeveloped.  But despite the mixed feelings, if you like fantasy stories or are a YA fan, you may get a kick out of this one.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 review #5: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Finally, a story about a circus that is cool. There aren’t creepy clowns or abused animals in this circus. All of the food sold at this circus is out of this world and probably doesn’t give anyone indigestion. And while there is no shortage of bizarre entertainment, the freaks in this circus have talents most other circus performers don’t…and that’s the secret of the Night Circus.

Morgenstern’s debut novel takes place in England in the 1800’s. We meet two men…The first is Prospero the Enchanter, who has natural magical abilities that he disguises as illusions for audiences. The second is the mysterious Mr. A. H. who agrees to a challenge with Prospero. They will each raise a protege to compete in a magical competition of sorts. Prospero’s protege has natural ability while Mr. A. H.’s will be taught. Unbeknownst to the proteges, they will compete against each other in this strange competition. So begins the Night Circus.

Imagine you wake up one day and see black and white circus tents set up that weren’t there the day before. No one heard the trains arrive in town, no one noticed the tents being set up, but there it is. And even stranger, the circus is only open from dusk to dawn. Instead of a main tent, there are many tents and exhibitions Too many to explore in one evening. There are performers like Celia the illusionist, Tsukiko, the contortionist and Isobelle, the fortune teller. There are experiences like the ice garden, the labryinth, or the wishing tree. And each thing you see and experience seems geniune. You don’t know how the illusionist made a person in the audience disappear, or how the contortionist fit in that glass box, but you are enchanted and find yourself obsessed with the circus.

Besides the competition between Propero and Mr. A. H.’s students, the Night Circus involves a host of other characters. Morgenstern introduces us to many of them, and they are as interesting and integral to the story as the others. We learn that although the Night Circus is a magical place, it isn’t immune to human weakness. Can the circus be sustained? Can its secrets be kept? And how will the strange competition that began it all end?

This book left me satisfied. Morgenstern is a very visual writer. She takes the time to describe everything in delicious detail and as I read, I kept seeing everything as if it were a movie – which is my hope (apparently the film rights have been sold to Summit Entertainment so maybe her visions will come to fruition). The book has a victorian, romantic, and yes, magical feel. While I’m not sure it’s an automatic pick for my year’s top five…it’s definitely a candidate.

Check out The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review #4: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

This book, like my previously reviewed one (The Red Market) involves exotic locales, disturbing subjects, and how these things can affect the United States. The exotic locale? Africa. The disturbing subject? The Ebola virus. And what do these things have to do with the United States? Just the simple fact that there was nearly an Ebola breakout in Virginia in the late 1980’s.

Preston begins his tale in Kitum cave in Kenya, a possible origin of the ebola virus. He details accounts of people who have suffered from the virus, or similar viruses and describes their symptoms in horrifying detail. Besides Ebola itself, Preston gives a lot of interesting information about viruses in general, viruses related to Ebola, and how viruses are studied and tracked by organizations such as the USAMRIID (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). Some of my favorite parts of the book involve his descriptions of researchers who study risk group 4 pathogens. He describes the safety measures they must take, the environment they must work in, and yes, the close calls they face when things don’t always work properly.

Preston focuses the second half of his book on a monkey holding facility in Reston, Virginia that quarantines monkeys from around the world destined for US research laboratories. When monkeys at this facility begin dying, a crisis begins behind the scenes in the United States that many people are probably not aware of.

This book is a great example of why I love the non-fiction genre. It truly can be stranger than fiction. And more horrifying.

Read The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review #3: The Red Market by Scott Carney

“On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers”

Who wouldn’t want to read a book with a subtitle like this?

According to Wikipedia…

White market = legal goods in a legal market
Gray market = legal goods in an unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended market
Black market = illegal goods

According to Scott Carney…
Red Market = The secret and lucrative trade in human bodies and body parts

Carney is a freelance investigative journalist who studied how things like kidneys, blood, bones, and even human eggs are sold and traded throughout the world. Although a lot of his research focuses on India, where he lived for several years, Carney’s research also takes him to places like Brazil, China, and Cyprus. And don’t think his topics don’t make it to the United States. Although illegal trade in body parts may not be a major issue here, we are definitely the recipient of such trade – whether it’s in buying skeletons for medical schools, wigs for women, overseas kidney transplants, or childbirth services abroad.

Each chapter focuses on a different body part…er topic. While I can’t really describe any chapter as light-hearted, there are definitely some that are more disturbing than others. Is there really a village in India called Kidneyville because so many of its residents have donated their own for money? Are young children really kidnapped from their families only to be sold to orphanages that work with American organizations? Were vital organs from executed members of a Chinese spiritual group harvested for profit?

Carney addresses these and many other questions in a thought-provoking, eye-opening way. Somewhat morbid (and morbidly entertaining), this is a recommend from me.

Check out The Blist to read more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

genericwhitegirl’s #CBR4 Review #2: Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

I must admit, when I think of Jenny McCarthy, my mind goes back to her MTV days. I pride myself on the fact that I grew up on MTV during the 80’s but was sad to learn via wikipedia that McCarthy’s MTV heydays were in the mid to late 90’s. Did I really watch MTV THAT LONG?!? Or maybe I’m romanticizing the whole 80’s era…maybe it was more 90’s watching I did. But that’s not as cool in my opinion. Does this make sense to ANYONE?

Anyway, the second thing that comes to mind is that Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey were an item. Not really a big fan of either, whose faces and personas seem like caricatures more than real, interesting, complex people. What must the sex between the two have been like? I can only imagine Jim Carey ala Cable Guy, “free cable is the ultimate aphrodesiac, Jenny” (insert contorted facial expression here – met with McCarthy’s over the top exaggerated O face here).

But I suppose McCarthy is a comedian of sorts. So maybe her book about her pregnancy (with now ex-husband John Asher) would provide some comic relief, if not insights into the glories of being knocked up. Each chapter is an anecdote on some kind of pregnancy symptom, like nausea, constipation, gas, you name it. Thankfully for the book, McCarthy had a HORRIBLE pregnancy in terms of experiencing the widest range of unpleasant side effects you could pick up at the pregnancy symptom buffet. Thankfully for me, she keeps each “chapter” short, to only a few pages (although I’ll give her arguable status as a comedian, I won’t go so far as to say she’s a talented writer).

But, as a pregnant lady myself, the book was entertaining, and a quick read. At the very least, it made me feel triumphant in my own pregnancy since I’ve been pretty symptom free so far (knock on wood). And her saving grace? That glorious picture of her on the cover! May all pregnant women at least feel as good as she looks at some point in their pregnancy. If you believe her book, that’s all she had going for her during that time in her life!

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