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Showing posts from April, 2010

Cannonball Read 2 #33: Heat by Bill Buford

The full title of this book is Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. It sounds exciting, but for me it really was not. The writer, Bill Buford, decides--for reasons that are never fully explained--that he wants to be an apprentice to Mario Batali, a famous American chef. Buford takes a job in Batali's kitchen, travels around Italy learning the secrets of butchering, pasta making, and Italian food in general. There is a lot of information on Batali (most of which puts a serious dent in his Disney-fied Food Network image of cheerful sweetheart in goofy shoes--there is much discussion of his drug use, occasional bad temper, and lack of concentration on his business projects once he became famous) which can at least be somewhat amusing.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this book more if I were really into cooking. I bought it for The Boyfriend, and he really enjoyed it. I personally am not interested …

Cannonball Read 2 #32: Columbine by Dave Cullen

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am fascinated by disasters. I know more about shipwrecks, fires, and molasses floods than anyone I know. I love the historical context, the idea that disaster brings out both the best and worst in people. However, I like my disasters in the past--a past where men wear watch fobs and women wear corsets and people travel by buggy--basically, a past so distant to me it might as well be another planet. I am not quite as comfortable when the disaster occurred during my lifetime--for example my review of 1 Dead in Attic, a series of essays written about the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. However, that still seemed pretty foreign--I've never been to Louisiana, and have no real reference as to how that whole thing might feel. Columbine was different.

I was a junior in high school on April 20, 1999. I remember when the news reports of the massacre in Colorado started trickling in--this was in the days before cell phones were everywhere, before textin…

Cannonball Read #31: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

SookieStackhouse is back, and boy, do her troubles keep increasing. Now that the weres have come out into the open, things in Bon Temps get more and more bizarre. Her friend Arlene's attachment to the Temple of the Sun reaches its boiling point, and some recently discovered relations of Sookie's are making her life about as complicated as she can stand. Luckily, there's always Eric the Vampire, whose feelings for her are as intense but confusing as her own for him. Danger is on the way--and there is going to be some death in this one.

The plots of these things are just getting more and more ridiculous, but I don't care. I am hooked on them. I love Sookie. I love Eric. I love the varied and entertaining cast of bit players who flesh out the town of Bon Temps and surrounding areas. On the whole, not nearly as good as #4, but one of the more entertaining books in the series, as far as I'm concerned.

Cannonball Read 2 #30: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

The full title of this book is The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence. Gavin de Becker is a world-renowned expert on violent behavior, and with this book he explains how we can protect ourselves from violence, no matter what direction it comes to us from.

De Becker's premise is that human intuition is a very powerful tool that modern humans have lost the ability to use effectively. We may feel the pricking of intuition, but we have been trained to ignore "gut feelings" or "hunches" and only believe in things we can see. We've spent our lives learning that we must have a good reason for feeling fear, and that feeling fear at an inappropriate time is rude, or politically incorrect. According to de Becker, if you are afraid or uncomfortable, you probably have a reason to be, and the first step you should take--instead of trying to convince yourself that nothing is wrong--is to try and discover what exactly is bothering you.

In his long…

"Fuckin' iguana." : The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

Yesterday afternoon, just as I started watching this movie, my roommate--Starbucks Queen--arrived home from work and joined me in the living room. "What are you watching?" she asked. "Nicolas Cage movie," I said, "You know I can't resist Nic." "Who can?" she replied.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans is the story of Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, an officer with the New Orleans police department. We find out in the first two minutes that he's not a very nice guy to start with, and a debilitating injury does not improve him any. He is completely immoral--shaking down teenagers for drugs, threatening people, and generally behaving like a out-of-control crazy person (lots of that good old fashioned "bug-eyed and screaming" Cage here, of course. Then again, when you're playing a crackhead, maybe that's finally justified?) As he investigates the murder of five Senegalese immigrants, his world begins to unravel at f…

Cannonball Read 2 #29: Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

I have always enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk's work, so I'm not sure I can really give an objective opinion on this book. Then again, I don't think an objective opinion of his work is really possible--it seems that people either love him or hate him (and most people know which category they fall into before even finishing one of his books.) If his weird, clipped, style that starts out odd and then continues to spiral out into complete insanity is for you (as it is for me) then you are willing to follow him wherever he decides to go. If you're not a fan, his outlandish and in-your-face books are gratuitous and obnoxious and completely nonsensical.

Rant is the tale of Buster Casey--a young man raised in a small town, whose favorite pastimes included sniffing sanitary waste, sticking boogers to his wall, and being bitten by dangerous creatures. He goes on to move to the city, where his behavior starts a snowballing disaster...culminating in a world-wide plague of rabies and city …

Cannonball Read 2 #28: The Night Country: A Novel by Stewart O'Nan

The Night Country is narrated by Marco, one of three high school juniors who died in a horrible car crash. Along with Toe and Danielle, Marco has been drifting as invisible ghosts through the small town of Avon, being "called" to those who are thinking of them. They spend most of their time with Brooks, a police officer who was there the night of the accident and has been unable to forget, Tim, their friend who somehow escaped the crash unscathed, and Mrs. Henderson, the mother of their friend Kyle, whose body survived the crash, but whose personality and mental capacity didn't. One year to the day from the tragedy, we--with the three ghosts--watch events spiral out of control.

The book is great, and although not what I call a "ghost story" necessarily, it does have a lot of suspense regarding what the living characters will do, and what--if anything--the ghosts will do to intercede. The tension builds and builds as it becomes obvious what Tim's plan to cel…

Cannonball Read 2 #27: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

I have made clear several times on this blog that I love Stephen King. I cut him a lot of slack--I've found SOMETHING to enjoy in every book of his that I've read...except this one.

It took me three attempts to finally plow my way through The Tommyknockers. The damn thing is SO DULL and almost nothing interesting happens during the first 2/3 of the book (and 2/3 of a book that size is a significant number of pages to wade through.) The main characters did not capture my interest at all, nor did any of the peripheral characters (no, I take that back, I did enjoy the lady sheriff during her brief appearance). The "big reveal" was nothing to write home about. The plot, frankly, was kind of dumb and the ending was...well, let's just say it was a Stephen King ending through and through.

I was not spooked, not entertained, not interested by this book. I would advise avoiding this one.

Cannonball Read 2 #26: The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam

The House of Lost Souls is mostly the story of Paul Seaton, a former journalist turned neurotic wreck. Once, long ago, he went into a house--a house he shouldn't have been in and wished he'd never heard of. Something in that house nearly destroyed him, but now he has to go back. Along with Nick Mason, a tough military man, Paul has to go back to the Fischer house in order to save the souls of three young coeds, including Nick's younger sister.

The story is made up mostly of flashbacks--it is mostly Paul's story, and revolves around the concepts of obsession and satanism. That sounds like a fascinating concept for a book, except this one is...not. The scary, spooky bits are not especially frightening. For a haunted house story, the house is mentioned hardly at all. I found the characters weren't particularly well fleshed-out, and the descriptions were dull at best. Although I didn't necessarily see a few of the final twists coming, I found that by the time I got …