Posts Tagged ‘4 stars’

Not the most useful self-help book I’ve ever read (I’ve read a lot of them), but there’s some practical stuff here. It’s an easy read, and has a lot of neat exercises that can help you figure out what you want to get out of life,  and what steps you need to do to get there.

I think my major problem with it was there were a lot of little things they recommended you do every day. By the time I reached the end of the seven days I’d lost track of most of them. Maybe a checklist at the end might’ve helped?

Anyways, I found the assessment questions at the start the most helpful. They helped me assess my priorities. One of the things I find most difficult to grasp is we only have one life. I want to do everything. I want to write a million books, master several genres, master drawing, learn dozens of languages, travel the world (and while we’re at it, space looks a neat place to go), be brilliant at parkour, martial arts, and a bazillion other things.

I’ll be able to do some of those things, but until longevity research does its thing and makes us immortal, I’m left with only so much time. So that first section was an eye-opener when I listed all the things I wanted to achieve in an ideal life.  (I want superpowers by the way. Telekinesis and invulnerability are at the top of my list.) Seeing all those things helped me pare things down (I left cryogenics as my lottery ticket to immortality and hopefully cool superpowers).

The vision boards idea was interesting. I think it has to be done in moderation. You can spend so long on making a pretty vision board that you take away from time on your project.

I’m not quite syncing with meditation, but I’ve heard from other sources this is a good thing to do, so I keep trying.

The book talks about positive thinking quite a bit. For those not in the know this is where you act like you have something, then it comes to you. That might be a bad definition, but that’s how I understand it. The author talks about how he modified one of his bank statements to have a huge amount of money, then a short time later through a series of circumstances did manage to receive that amount of money.

I’m not sure how I feel about positive thinking. It seems a little new agey. Then again, there are factors like confidence that suggest there may be something to it. There are enough examples of people who win the lottery, then through self sabotaging acts lose all that money. You could argue that they didn’t change their mindset to their new amount, and so unconsciously sabotaged themselves to get back to where they were.

Still it seems a little odd to imagine yourself a millionaire then have that opportunity to become one land on your doorstep. Maybe it’s just that if you’re thinking about it, you’re more confident and able to recognize and take on those opportunities when they come?

Ok, getting back to the point. If you’re a bit of a self-help book junkie like me, then this book is worth a read. If however you’re looking for one self-help book to turn your life around and make you one million times more productive I don’t recommend this one. It’s a hard choice, but I think the most useful and practical self-help book I’ve ever come across is ‘how to become a straight A student’ by Cal Newport. Don’t be put off by the title, that one has so many productivity hacks for work, school, hobbies, whatever. And the suggestions are so easy to put into practice. Love, love, love that book.

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I admit, I haven’t enjoyed the Discworld books as much as I thought I might. The first one was good, but two and three were a bit meh. Book three had a few good moments though, so I thought I’d stick with it and try book four.

I’m still not raving about this series, but Mort was a lot more fun for me than previous books. Mort follows a boy looking for an apprenticeship, only no one seems to want to take him on. That is, until Death himself comes to him offering to take him on as an apprentice.

This is a strange coming of age tale, as we get to see young Mort grow into his role and become a confident young man. He messes up spectacularly along the way, and learns much from doing so. Some people like the humor in these books, and some don’t. Most of it hit the mark with me, but I have heard of a few people who hate every last funny line. The best way to find out which you are is to find a book and read at least a chapter to see.

Mort was a neat character, and Death’s adoptive daughter had a lot of attitude which I liked. My favourite character was definitely Death though. He’s very human for a grim reaper. He likes a good curry, and has some adventures of his own trying out important experiences of human life such as drinking alcohol.

Overall I give this book 4 stars. This is also a decent place to start out if you’re wondering what book in this series to read first. I’m reading them from the beginning since it makes my OCD tendencies happy, but there are a lot of places you can jump in. I’m told the later books are better. Looking forward to those.

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This was one of the better Stephen King books. Not my absolute favourite, but getting there. Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes dead is better….When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son — and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth — more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.

There’s less meandering in this book than there can be in a Stephen King book. The characters were agreeable enough. The female characters were less developed than the male, but they had enough flesh on them to get some idea what they were like.

Things were slow to start, but held my interest enough. I don’t read Stephen King for the action, I read it for the creeping horror that he writes so well. As with a few of his book I’ve come across, this was essentially one man’s slow decent into madness. You can understand why, and I can’t say for sure I wouldn’t do anything different were I in his place.

I can’t say too much without giving it away, but I think the scariest thing about this book is that every decision the main character makes is understandable. He’s protecting his kids, emotionally and physically. You can’t fault a guy for doing that. You could argue that he could’ve talked to his wife, and gotten her help with things. He definitely could’ve used it.

Other than that, this is just a series of decisions that most parents would make given the same circumstances. That makes the conclusion so much more terrible, because there was little way around it. There are moments right at the end that broke my heart. I usually enjoy a good Stephen King, but most of his work doesn’t have the same emotional clobber for me as this one did.

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For my reviews on the previous books in the series go to:

Book 1:

Book 2:…rals-2-4-stars/

Book 2.5:…ok-2-5-5-stars/


I feel like the series has grown up in this book. It’s a little more serious. As serious as a series can be when the main characters get infected with a virus that gives them superpowers, find pirate treasure, and stumble into a crazy murderer’s elaborate game all in less than a year!

So, Hi takes up geocaching, which is where people bury things for others to find. The cache contains a puzzle that they solve to get to the next cache. This is where things stop being a game. It contains a fake bomb, and a warning from the gamemaster that if they stop playing his game then he’ll explode a real one.

People die in this book. In the previous books there’ve been a lot of close calls, and we’ve had some mentioned murders, and a couple dead bodies that died long ago. In this one we see a recent death that the kids might’ve been able to stop, and that hits them hard.

This book is a lot darker than the previous two. The boys aren’t following around a head-strong Tory who’s determined to solve a mystery for whatever reason. They’re being dragged around by a madman who for once might be cleverer than them. It’s a nice change that adds some variety into the series.

It may just be me, but the characters seem to have more even roles in this book. Instead of Tory doing most of the work, everyone chips in to save the day. Tory’s dad even shows up to provide a heroic moment. I think that was one of my very favorite parts.

And for once there isn’t a picture perfect happy ending. Most things are wrapped up, but there’s a twist that I didn’t expect that really tugged at my heart strings and showed me how fond I’ve become of these characters.

I won’t lie to you. This isn’t the best written series, but they are addicting. The characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, but they’re funny and kindhearted. The puzzles are fun (though as with the previous book some are so simple I was wondering how they couldn’t get them.) The plots, while not deep, are enjoyable and filled with action. I’m definitely hanging around for the next book.

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I watched the film of this book with my dad, and he gave up part way through and walked out. I saw why. While it still had a grip over me like most Stephen King does, it was WEIRD.

People poop out scary weasel-snake things with dozens of sharp little teeth. Weird. Also very gross. One of the main characters spends a lot of time hiding in his head from an alien, also in his head. The film was a muddled bunch of different storylines. You had our guy hiding in his head, another guy doing mostly unmemorable stuff, and flashbacks from when the men were kids and met another kid who seems to have some kind of gift.

The book still had all of these things, but it had a lot more room to wind them together into a cohesive and understandable storyline. So if you like Stephen King but couldn’t get your head around the film, try the book. It makes a lot more sense and I found it a lot more enjoyable. I’m even considering going back to the film now I’ve read the book to see if I understand it better.

Having said that, this isn’t one of his best books. I don’t think it’s terrible like some think. I found it enjoyable enough, but it was only a decent read, not a brilliant one. If you like most Stephen King like I do, then you might want to give this a go. If you’re relatively new to Stephen King and looking for a book to see if you like his work then DON’T choose this one. I’d recommend the book IT to a first time reader used to reading mammoth books, or if you’re looking for something shorter maybe take a look at ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,’ ‘Firestarter,’ ‘The Dead Zone’ or ‘Carrie.’ ‘Cujo’ is also one of my favorites of his, but not a lot of people agree with me about that one.

Back to this book. The characters were interesting, but didn’t seem as developed as other books of his. The plot was readable, but in no way mind blowing. All in all I’d call this a decent book if you love all things Stephen King, but don’t expect brilliance. It’s not one that I regret reading though. I enjoyed it, and there were moments that I really liked, such as the flashbacks. The boy’s friendship with Duddits was heart warming. The clash between the aliens and the military raised interesting questions as to what might actually happen in that situation.

Overall 3.5 stars. For more reviews on this book check out:


My review of Virals 1:

I’m a fan of Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan series, which is how I got into these younger books. They’re a lot of fun, but they are definitely aimed at a younger age group, so be warned. They remind me a lot of the Famous Five series I used to love as a kid. Teenagers get involved in crazy adventures, and somehow make it out to save the day. Totally unrealistic, but fun!

While the book starts with a recap, you’re still going be pretty confused if you haven’t read the first book. Check out the above link if you want to read what I thought of that one. The characters are fun. The main character Tory is a bit of a Mary Sue at times. That can get a little annoying. But at least she has agency. Sure, she’s suspiciously good at a lot of stuff for a teenager, and seems too sure of herself at times, but she is definitely not a damsel in distress.

So I wouldn’t call her a total Mary Sure. Others will have different definitions, but to me a true Mary Sue is someone who everyone loves even when they don’t lift a finger or do anything worthwhile in the story. Of course if they had to diffuse a bomb they magically could because they’re perfect, but for most of the story they’re sitting around doing nothing and getting fawned over.

Tory just has a few minor traits of Mary Sue. Her skill set seems a bit too advanced, which wouldn’t bother me if she also had some weaknesses pointed out. She definitely isn’t fawned over by everyone, but has a couple boys besotted with her with little reason given.  Thankfully she does make occasional mistakes, and has earned the loyalty her friends show her. Overall she’s pretty badass, and I only point out this occasional annoyance I have with the character in case some of you coming from book one have noticed this and hoped she’d get better in book two. Nope, sorry. Not in book two. On the plus side, she keeps the cool parts of her personality as well as the annoying parts.

Book two can be summed up in five words: Totally awesome, and totally unrealistic.

We’re searching for pirate treasure in this book guys. Pirate treasure!!! There’s puzzles to work out. Some easy enough that I was shaking my head at the book going ‘seriously guys, use those genius brains,’ and some hard enough that I had to wait for the explanation like a good little reader.

Why pirate treasure, you ask? Well, if they don’t get serious money soon the logger institute is going to shut down, their parents will be out of jobs, and the virals will be strewn far and wide across america. Tory hears of a pirate treasure people have been searching for hundreds of years without any luck. She decides this is it. Instant pay day.

Oh Tory. If you came to live in the real world, you would be so disappointed.

Though, to be fair they do have their work cut out for them. Other people are after the treasure too, and those people have guns. It’s a fun ride if you don’t expect too much realism.

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I read this 1100+ page beast about a man-made virus decimating the human race right in the height of the Ebola hysteria. That made things….interesting.

There’s something almost cathartic about books that show what happens after the human race gets brought to its knees and society falls. I mean, for the most part I’m happy with the way things are now. I live in a first world country. I get health care, have laws covering most of my human rights. I’m fed, housed, and have time and money for leisure. But society is far from perfect.

Society is like living in a house. It has four walls and the roof keeps the rain out, but there are giant holes that let the rats in, the electrical system keeps shorting out, and the walls must be cardboard for all the good they do keeping the cold out in winter. You like having a house, and wouldn’t want to be without one. But sometimes you think: I bet if I tore the whole thing down I could make something a lot better.

This book does a good job exploring that, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of starting again, and looking at what might happen if we had to. Sure there’s the peace and quiet, and freedom from the idea that we have to work ourselves to death to have worth, but this book brought home to me that I really don’t want to tear things down.

For one thing it took us a long time to build this society in the first place. There are good things I’d miss; like medicine, and the protection laws provide. For another, we may be starting again, but not from scratch. We’ll start with scared people clinging to their broken capitalist system, and they’ll build things up again from what they remember. I hadn’t considered that before, so this book gave me a lot to think about. Chances are in the couple hundred or so years it takes to build things up again, your house will look around the same as before.

This book has two main parts. In the first, our patient zero travels across america and infects a group of people, then things spread from there. There’s not a whole load of attention paid to the world outside america, but I assume everyone else got taken down too. The second takes place after most people are dead, and follows our select group of lucky survivors. The first part is horrible, but not supernatural. In the second part, supernatural comes into play.

People start getting dreams that lead them either to our big bad guy Randall Flagg, or mother Abigail who leads the good guys. Only, it goes deeper than that which I loved. It seems that most of the bad guys head toward Flagg, and most of the good toward mother Abigail, but there’s a lot of overlap. Most of it seems to come down to choice more than character, and a lot seems to be down to nothing more than luck.

There are a lot of themes and questions that Stephen King explored through his characters in this book. This deep thinking was one of my favorite parts of the story. My other favorite part was the characters.

There are quite a lot of characters. They are set at various positions on the line between good and evil, and most sit firmly in the gray area. Nick was my favorite, partly because he’s deaf and dumb and I love reading portrayals of characters with differences, but mostly because he’s one of those rock solid morally driven guys. He’ll make the right choice, even if doing so costs him. There were so many others as well. Stuart who started off so badly and made the choice to be a better man. Nadine who starts so brilliantly, then makes the choice to listen to darker thoughts.

This fell short of five stars for me partly because the two parts were so different to each other. I was enjoying the surviving the end of the world plot, then things started getting supernatural which was a bit of a shock (but not too much of one since this is Stephen King.) The second part of the story was good, but I enjoyed the realism of the first part so much that some of me spent the rest of the book mourning its loss.

There were also some twists and turns in the tale that seemed not quite to fit the rest of the story. They were just there, and felt clumsy when there seemed to be no reason for them.

Overall this was a good book. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other giant book I’ve read of his: It. When I reached the end of It I felt like I’d been on a fantastic journey, and everything slotted together at the end. I didn’t get that feeling with The Stand. I just felt like I’d read a good book, but didn’t feel personally connected to it like I had with It.

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This one is the book that gave Stephen King his big break, so I’ve been wanting to read it for a while. Most literate adults, and quite a few illiterate ones have heard of Carrie. My first introduction to Carrie was watching the film as a teenager. There was a lot I didn’t like about that movie, but what resonated with me was the plight of Carrie herself. Too many of us have been that abused pushed aside child , treated as less than human just because they’re different.

And I know with me, when I’m really really angry I expect things to happen. I expect doors to slam, people to fly across rooms, light bulbs to smash. It just seems wrong to have so much chaos burning you apart inside, and none of it to show on the outside world. (I connected with Firestarter – my first Stephen King novel for that very reason.)

For Carrie, what she feels inside starts to show outside through developing telekinesis. This is beautiful, but also horrible. I think the greatest tragedy in all adaptions of this story is Carrie’s lost potential. She could’ve been someone really great. And she gets so close. She starts standing up to her abusive mother, making friends, believing she could be worth something. Then in one terrible prank she loses it and it all goes away.

Before I go any further here’s the blurb:

The story of misfit high-school girl, Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers. Repressed by a domineering, ultra-religious mother and tormented by her peers at school, her efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom.

In my honest opinion the recent remake of the film was brilliant, and a lot truer to the book than the last film, but it’s still the book that puts across this loss of potential most. There’s a heartbreaking piece from the point of view of a woman (a teen at the time) who witnessed three year old Carrie’s mother emotionally and verbally abusing her – and it’s hinted physically abusing her.  She talks about wanting to pick her up and run away with her to save her from the life she’d be about to lead with her mother. And it makes you wonder what would’ve happened differently if she had been separated from her mother at that point. Maybe she wouldn’t even develop telekinesis, but if she did then could she have used it as a force of good instead of evil?

Another big potential turning point happens when Sue, feeling guilty for joining in a bullying incident on Carrie, persuades her boyfriend to bring Carrie to the prom to make up for it. I always wonder why she didn’t go up to Carrie, apologize and determine to become friends with her. Sure, Tommy Ross was a great character. A perfect gentleman to Carrie, and he instantly knew as soon as Sue said what she’d done that she’d been wrong to bully her. But I think Carrie would’ve been happier going with Tommy if Sue gave her blessing, and maybe tried to articulate her reasons why she wanted her to go with him. And more than that, Carrie needed a friend – as many friends as she could get. Maybe if Sue had spent time with her before the prom, given her some good memories and shown there were people out there who cared about her, things might’ve gone differently.

That’s what’s so heartbreaking about Carrie. It didn’t need to end up the way it did.

The only thing that stopped this from being five stars for me, is I think Stephen King went a bit overboard toward the end. I was totally with Carrie until somewhere in the gym when she turned completely psychotic and wanted to kill everyone in sight. She then goes on a rampage through town killing everyone she can, and ends the book by killing Sue’s unborn child, even after she’d seen that Sue had tried to help her.

This is one of the things the recent film did a lot better than the book, and the previous film. (If you haven’t seen it, go see it.) In the film, Carrie was never a psychopath. She was a victim. She killed people in the gym, but only as a response to what’d happened. There was a great moment when she almost lost it and killed the gym teacher who’d helped her, and tossed her to safety at the last moment. Then she went out and killed the people who’d just killed Tommy. In the film you could understand her actions.

In the movie, her last act is to save Sue by using her telekinesis to push her out when the house collapses. I felt this was a more believable, sympathetic Carrie than the book where her last act is to kill an unborn child of two people who’d tried to help her. In the book Carrie slipped quickly from victim to monster, and her thoughts and actions were that of a monster. The film understood better that you don’t have to be a monster to do monstrous things, and I wish Stephen King had shown that a bit better in that part of the book.

My verdict: If you’re a horror fan, and maybe even if you aren’t this is a classic. Read it, but also watch the latest film adaption for it. Unusually for a movie adaption of a book, the movie actually does better in some areas than the book itself.

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This one is the sixth book in this series, and if you haven’t read at least ‘gone baby gone’ you’re likely to get confused. In that book little Amanda went missing at four years old. I was just as surprised as Kenzie to find out she’s sixteen now.

Yup, this book is a jump ahead in time from the last one. Kenzie has a family and everything. Guys, he has a daughter who is amazingly cute, and has his love of word play which leads to some odd but amusing conversations. I thought he was starting to feel a little creaky around the edges in the last book, but in this one he’s definitely not feeling like a spring chicken anymore.

Here’s the blurb:

Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston neighborhood twelve years ago. Desperate pleas for help from the child’s aunt led investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda’s aunt is once more knocking on Patrick Kenzie’s door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, clever young woman—a woman who hasn’t been seen in weeks.

Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. Their search leads them into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, a mentally unstable crime boss and his equally demented wife, a priceless, thousand-year-old cross, and a happily homicidal Russian gangster. It’s a world in which motives and allegiances constantly shift and mistakes are fatal.

In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro will be forced to question if it’s possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong. As they face an evil that goes beyond broken families and broken dreams, they discover that the sins of yesterday don’t always stay buried and the crimes of today could end their lives.

Gone baby gone was always my favorite book of the series, mostly because of the moral problem Kenzie and Gennaro found themselves in once they finally found Amanda. There is no right answer. I mean, you can’t just take it on yourself to snatch kids from neglectful parents. If an individual off the street is allowed to judge parents and find them lacking, then where would that lead? On the other hand, Amanda could have had a much better childhood if she were allowed to stay with the parents who loved and took care of her instead of going back to her mother.

This book takes another look at those moral problems we faced in that book, and see the impact of the choice Kenzie had to make. And of course there’s a whole boat load of action, made even more scary by Kenzie being a little rusty and stupid thugs threatening his daughter what seems like every couple minutes. I didn’t realize what a unique position he had before only having friends who can kick ass until there’s a little girl these guys can try and use for leverage.

On a happier note Bubba has a decent amount of face time, and is much loved uncle Bubba now. He’s shooting guys in one scene, then babysitting in another. It’s both cute, and scary.

The plot is as usual for this series full of twisty twistiness. I think the only thing that stopped this being five stars for me was my sadness about Kenzie losing his grove. Still, he does pretty good, and I guess he does have to slow down eventually.

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There’s something captivating about reading this book right from the first sentence: ‘The circus arrives without warning.’ There’s a certain rhythm to the words that reminds me of listening to a beautiful song or reading a fairy tale. This makes for a pretty read, and it was easy to be swept away when the marvels of the circus are described. It makes a very interesting use of the second person in a few short sections dotted through the book, making it feel like you are there seeing each act with your own eyes.

Let’s look at the blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn. As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Reves. The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

Most of the book is from an omniscient pov (though I did suspect it of delving into head hopping a couple times). This helps add to the exotic mysterious atmosphere, but doesn’t help us get much of a read on our characters. Indeed, even toward the very end I didn’t feel I knew that much about how the two main characters had felt through the events of the book. The supporting characters are interesting, though some also suffer from this lack of being able to get to know them.

The book is set over a large period of time which drains the immediacy, particularly when the contest hinted at between our main characters turns out a lot more anticlimactic than it sounds. Don’t expect much action, but expect a lot of beauty. As long as you’re OK with a slow but remarkably pretty book, check out this one.

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