Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Review: The Survivor's Club

The first rule of the Survivor's Club: everyone is a survivor. After reading this title, you may well believe that. Ben Sherwood takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of near death tales ranging from a pilot ejecting at supersonic speed to a woman that nearly died after tripping on knitting needles that pierced her heart. Each chapter includes a theme along with two or three examples of real life survivors to back up the overarching idea introduced. The book is interesting in taking many stories and preserving how fantastic they are, but bringing the narrative back to the same idea. While you may scoff at the idea of people finding religion in near death experiences, it's hard to refute Mr. Sherwood's research after interviewing so many people.

The title approaches the subject sociologically; interviewing people and tallying statistics. While the footnotes are informative, I think the hardcore readers will want some of the statistical information backed up more credibly without having to thumb through the extensive bibliography. I read the book not as someone looking to increase my survivor mindset; I think if you go into reading the title this way, you will enjoy it. It may work for the reader looking to increase their chances of survival in everyday life, too. The book has some great suggestions. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the online code it comes with on the inside cover; if you go to the website listed in the book, you can determine your 'survivor personality' after taking a 15 minute online quiz. Definitely worth your time, and a great addition for your library as well. Recommended.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Book Review: Any Given Doomsday

I really tried with this book. I read, I cringed, I put it down for awhile, I picked it back up, and then I read some more. I’ve gotten about halfway through at this point, and I really think it’s about time to throw in the towel. It's amazing how a bad book can become even worse. The only impending apocalypse that "Any Given Doomsday" prophesizes is the hopeful end of Lori Handeland's writing career. Toted on the cover as a New York Times bestselling author... I think they may have to make that print bigger if they expect to sell more copies. Then, of course, is the problem of people actually reading it and realizing the book is so poorly written it will give you a migraine.

Let me give you just one amazing example of this literary masterpiece. Note my sarcasm. On page 104, "Jimmy stood in the doorway and surveyed what appeared to be a mass murder. I got a pretty good idea what Jonestown had looked like. Except that there were no remnants of poison Flavor-Aid, just blood on blood and then, hey, more blood." That is not made up. It's an actual excerpt from the book. The premise is a true “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” knockoff which doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that it’s… well, just plain bad. The main character, who in 150 pages I’ve come not to care about at all, is a psychic orphan who became a police officer who… I guess she got fired? Her partner died? She has an ex-boyfriend named Jimmy who cheated on her who is half vampire. He is also a DK, which stands for Demon Killer. Yeah. Not making this up people. Even though calling him a DK is clearly… well, just plain bad… she keeps doing it. She’s called him a DK or referenced DKs at least two dozen times. It’s almost caused me to throw the book out the window. I also don’t believe this woman was a police officer at all. Read the book and you’ll see. On second thought, don’t. Spare yourself the migraine.

I’m a little shocked and severely disappointed by the reviews I’ve read on LibraryThing commenting that the book is “not that bad” and is an overall good book but “lacks character development.” Guys, seriously. That was your biggest problem with this title? How about the fact that none of the characters react realistically to these situations at all. Granted, they are dealing with monsters and the like, but that’s no excuse for creating characters who have never dealt with anything that fantastic shrugging off the situations like they were no big deal. The book also does mention sexuality way too much. That has been brought up in the reviews, but really not enough. At times, it reads like a trashy romance novel. Emphasis on the trashy. I don’t care that the main character is horny. I guess you're supposed to because it's brought up in nearly every chapter. I don’t want to read about how she can feel a man’s junk rubbing up against her thigh. Sadly, these parts aren’t even well written. As a librarian, knowing books like this exist just make me plain sad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book Review: Repair for Kids

Children's materials are hardly my forte, and this book was somewhat difficult for me to get through. As the subtitle suggest, the book is not really in a linear format; it acts as a sort of a series of different strategies for getting a child to talk about being sexually abused. Only it doesn't. The book is really aimed at getting a child talking about their emotions, presumably one who isn't talking very much because of a situation of sexual abuse. I mean, that's my guess. It really could be applied towards getting a child talking about their emotions in general. It uses a model called REPAIR, which also stems from the book's title. In implementing the REPAIR model, the first step: R for 'Recovery' - has to make the assumption that the child is broken. Indeed, many of the early mentions in the title speak of the child needing to be 'fixed.' I wasn't really a fan of using this type of metaphor for a child, especially because the book reinforces the idea that nothing is wrong with them over and over again. It gives a mixed signal; the child is broken, but nothing is wrong with them. I think that can lead to confusion from the child who has definitely already suffered enough. Using the REPAIR model, the child is also compared to a stepped on garden plant (p.16). If you take care of the plant, talk to it, etc. it can be REPAIRED! the book tells us. I have a problem with comparing abused children to stomped on flora, especially if I'm expected to read this idea aloud to the child as the text intends.

The author includes a guide for adults using the title towards the beginning. One of the steps includes encouraging a child to talk about natural language, i.e. penis, breast. So it becomes confusing for me when you read on in the book and the text seemingly avoids using this type of language. I think a child might feel more comfortable using natural language if the words were spoken by an adult administering the program or stated in the text itself first. Ideally, both would probably be key. This at least gives the child a point of reference so they can feel more comfortable speaking this way. I also think the title should have a little bit more of a guide for adults at the beginning. It encourages adult to speak to children 'on their level of language' ... but gives no tips or hints how. Several generalized statements like this throughout made me feel frustrated while reading. I ultimately cannot give this book a completely low rating because of the activities that are included. Several of them are good and even clever at getting the child to talk; some are just 'write down your feelings' exercises, while others give multiple choice questions. Many would probably get a child's creative process going which would no doubt get them talking and, ultimately, feeling more comfortable with the adult administering the program. If you can take one thing from this text, take the activities. I think if a child isn't talking, and you need to try to get them to tell you what's happened, these activities can help accomplish that. The workbook format with fun, colorful pictures throughout are also a nice touch. This gives a child the ability to do the activities independently which is good for the intended range of ages 6 to 12.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Book Review: Baltimore

This is not my first foray into Mr. Golden's non-Buffy work. I've also read one of the Body of Evidence series titled Skin Deep. That was a young adult novel. Despite Mike Mignola's illustrations, which may make the title seem like it's intended for a younger audience, the first chapter lets the reader know clearly it is not. The scene opens on the battlefield, with the titular character, Henry Baltimore, leading his troops on a sneak attack against Hessian soldiers. The war itself is never really mentioned. It is only implied that this is all taking in the early 1900's. The first chapter does not go well for Baltimore, climaxing when he encounters something he initially thinks is a 'kite' (and referenced as such several times throughout the book, which I was into). After that, we don't see him really until the end of the story.

The true story really follows three friends of Baltimore; a doctor (who removed Baltimore's leg after the first chapter... yeah, I told you it wasn't good for him), a sailor he hung out with after parting ways with the doctor, and his childhood friend, who is presummably the last person Baltimore saw before disappearing. He has them all meet in a hotel bar to await his arrival. Each share stories of the last time they saw Baltimore, followed by their own personal experiences with the supernatural. Each of these stories (with the exception of one) was fascinating. The sailor speaks of his experience with some killer Marrionettes in what is revealed to be a ghost town. Maybe I'm just not scared of puppets, but the sailor's story didn't do it for me. I would have put a good succubus, or some sort of story of sexual woe... something the story lacks with a bunch of dudes. Plus, the sailor at 19 is decribed as kind of hot. You know some demon chippy would have wanted a piece of that.

The childhood friend (who is myteriously absent in decription for the early part of the book; I really thought he was going to be revealed as evil. He wasn't, and I was slightly disappointed) tells a tale of entering a city, seeing a plague-ridden ship, then noticing one of the 'kites' scurrying away. The novel slightly drags here, but this is the only other part that I wasn't truly entertained. Not only is Baltimore a good read; it's a book that has made me want to start reading true books again. Golden is a master and delving into horror and madness, and it's a thrilling ride to follow each of his characters every step of the way.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Month of Love

So February is finally here. It kind of makes me glad January is over. I lost my wallet and have to wait until the end of this month to get a new ID. Work has reached a new level of suck so that has been great. All in all, there's nowhere to really go but up. And there's nothing like spending Valentine's Day alone that makes me really want to kill myself.

At Kay's suggestion, I spent most of the evening with her doing a "roommate night." This is mostly just us cleaning the apartment together. I have promised to clean the bathroom once a month. I have to say, it really needs to happen once every two weeks. It doesn't get too gross, but... ick. It needs a good sprucing. I helped her sweep up and swiffer the rest, but I hate being watched while I clean. It's not why she wants to do it together; I think she wants to make it fun. But it's cleaning. I get stuffy from the chemicals and I'm in a bad mood. We got Chinese food. I paid for it, which is good, because I've been such a cheap-o lately. Anyway, I'm actually kind of looking forward to next month now. First Monday of every month, baby.

I guess there's some small notes for y'all:
-I resigned my lease with Kay this past weekend. Pending my firing or layoff (which kids, could actually happen! Yeah, work's been fun...) I will probably be staying in New York City until the end of February 2010.
-I am now actively looking for a new job. While that is no surprise if you have talked to me in the past few months, and while I will probably stay where I am given our economy and all, let me know if you hear of any library jobs in NYC.
-I am coming back to NH! For a week! At the end of this month! Exact dates are TBA, but I'm thinking of a Monday - Thursday scenario. Could be shorter 'cause of Tina. I really only need one day to get a new ID.

I guess that's not that many notes after all. I feel like there was more to tell you, I just probably forgot it all. It was a really nice day today. I hear it's supposed to snow tomorrow. Not looking forward to whenever it snows, mainly 'cause I've become a 'walker' again.

I've finally passed page 200 in The Survivors Club. This is good news, since LibraryThing, in its infinite and random algorithmy wisdom has decided to give me a new book to review for February. I'll give you more details on the new book later, but I'm hoping to finish SC sometime in the next week or so. Honestly, it's just so big :)