Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Reviews: Or, Why I Haven't Posted in a Long, Long Time

The Wolfblade Trilogy
by Jennifer Fallon

These books are the primary culprits for my recent long bout of silence on the interwebs. These, combined with regular doses of The Mentalist, have commandeered all my spare time and attention. I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but Abe has been recommending this author to me for a year or more, so I finally broke down and read Wolfblade. It took me a little while to get into it--mostly, I think, because my reading opportunities usually come in five minute spurts of time--but I got hooked pretty quickly and, as you know, invested every single one of my 15 spare minutes a day into the series.

These are the things I liked about the Wolfblade series:

-Complex, multi-faceted characters with realistic psychological make-up.
-An engaging plot.
-A socio-political emphasis in lieu of the usual fantasy quest/dragon-slaying rigamarole.
-Interesting ethical questions raised in a non-polemical way.

These are the things I didn't like about it:

-The lazy editing. Nothing like an occasional typo or a malformed sentence to jerk a person back into reality.
-The ridiculous covers.

Overall they're a worthwhile form of entertainment, though the series does contain some sex and violence that some readers might find objectionable.

Don't Shoot the Dog!
by Karen Pryor
Non-fiction, Pyschology

Applied behaviorism 101.

Karen Pryor was a professional dolphin trainer for many years. As part of her work, she learned--and learned to apply--the basic principles of behaviorism. In spending a lifetime training animals, she discovered that these principles of change could be effectively applied to people as well. Her feeling was that, while a lot had been written about behaviorism, very little had been written about how the principles could be applied in real life. Her goal in writing this book was to fill that gap.

Don't Shoot the Dog! makes an excellent case for the use of reinforcers-- never punishment--to bring about permanent behavior change. It describes many effective ways to bring about meaningful, long-lasting behavior modifications in all sentient beings--from fish to people--without using punishments.

All in all, the book contained some useful ideas and a warm conversational writing style. The only shortcoming is that Pryor used a lot of anecdotes and very little data to back up her material.

Death Match
Lincoln Child

Eden Incorporated is a dating service that stands out from the crowd. It promises a perfect match, guaranteed. Thousands of couples have used the service and found happiness through their flawless compatibility. Years have passed and the business continues to create successful unions.

But then three couples--three Eden couples--are found dead in their homes, presumably murdered, and Christopher Lash, a retired forensic psychologist, is called in by the company to investigate the deaths.

Intriguing premise, addictive plot.

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter
Barbara Robinette Moss
Non-fiction, Memoir

It's kind of hard to review a memoir-- it's like assessing someone's life and the way they feel about it. That said, I did enjoy reading Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter.

Barbara is the third of eight children, growing up in abject poverty in the South in the mid-20th century. Her mother sings and recites poetry. Her father drinks and stomps around abusively. The children run around participating in the sort of antics kids in really big families do.

Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter was well-written and engaging. There was a distracting theme/topic change at the end, but other than that, it was good stuff.


heidi said...

Coolness! A new post! That psychology book sounds really interesting to me... I still haven't read the cognitive behavioral one you recommended, nor the one about how to have Important Conversations... but obviously I'm still thinking about them! I think I may OWN the crucial conversations book... and started it. Someday I'll finish it and be able to have a cool conversation about it.

And guess what? I'm 35 in ten minutes! Don't you feel grave reverence for my elderly status flooding you already?

Delighted to find a new post. I marvelled (along with Karen) at your last post, and your ability to REMEMBER all your anniversaries. I've had 9, or 16 anniversaries w/Paul (depending on whether I'm counting wedding or first date) and they've all sorta swirled together in the mists of time and forgetting.

Part of growing old, I guess.


Collette Smith said...

Ha ha--"every singe one of my 15 spare minutes a day"--boy, can I relate!

I welcomed this list of book reviews. I am reading "Elantris" (fantasy). I'm enjoying the story, but I feel impatient with all the dead weight/lack of editing/dumb dialogue I keep coming across. Probably just a matter of taste. I do prefer minimalist writing.


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