Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review: You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney

Recently I have been making an attempt to expand my knowledge of stuff, and have been setting aside a few books about stuff to swat up on. My first area to look at is psychology, particularly how our brains work.

So, You Are Not So Smart is a book designed to prove to you that your brain lies to you, and you frequently deceive yourself in everyday matters. David McRaney goes through over 40 different delusions and lies that we tell ourselves, and presents the reality behind these situations.  Each idea or theory is clearly set out in a chapter, and McRaney uses numerous studies and other psychology books to put forward his ideas, and explain the implications for you, and how you are not so smart... And if you think that you are not one of the average people that makes up this mass of people who form the subjects of these studies, who all fit into these neat little psychological boxes... well, McRaney has a whole chapter to prove that you may not think you are one of those who contribute towards the definition of the average, but you really are. 

Listening to the book was actually quite an interactive experience. McRaney poses questions and ideas directly to the reader, and makes comments about your most likely reactions to the questions he raises. In fact, he is worryingly good at making you admit to doing many of the behaviours that he mentions. For example, he lists a large number of ways in which you think you are better than other people around you, such as being smarter than your co-workers or better looking than your friends, and just as you start to say to yourself "I don't think I am better than everyone around me", he pauses, and says "I bet you are thinking 'I don't think I am better than everyone around me'. Well, do you think that you are more honest than everyone around you? Because you aren't, you are a liar."

And just as each behaviour is proved as something that a lot of people do, and you start to feel bad that you participate in these lies and self delusions, even though many of them are on an unconscious level, the author then explains how this is an evolutionary step, that has formed as a method to survive in the wild, or to ensure the preservation of resources, or to choose an ideal mate and survival of the species via reproduction, or to prevent your ego from curling up in a shrivelled ball and sending you insane.

Overall, I couldn't decide if I felt like I was learning or not.... Scratch that... I was definitely learning, but it didn't feel like I was being educated- the information was presented fairly informally, and there was a clear sense of humour that emerged consistently through the book. However, it was a book that I couldn't listen to for too long at a time, because of information overload. Luckily, other than the first and last chapters, every chapter runs between about 5 and 15 mins, making it easily digestible. In terms of the recording, it wasn't read by the author, but the speaker's voice was melodic and fairly matter of fact, which contrasted almost humorously with the tone of the writing itself. Definitely worth a read or a listen if one is interested in how one thinks based upon a psychological perspective, without getting too overbearing with the science lingo.

Conclusions: Delusions keep us sane.
We remember what we want to remember.
Every behaviour ever has some cool psychology name.
You Are Not So Smart.

8.0 stars. Mmmm, learny goodness. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Follow me... go on, you know you want to... Stalker

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Hey look everyone, a new way to follow the blog. (well, an old one that I didn't know about?!) Enjoy.

On a side note, prepare yourself for a review of a book on psychology, and ready yourself to support (or laugh at) my continued efforts to improve my knowledge of stuff.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Discussion: Blog Management

I've been reading a lot of blog discussions over the past few weeks that have been all about how people find the time, energy and motivation to blog, and blog regularly, and I think that it is about time that I weigh in with my own views. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging- I absolutely love blogging, reading other peoples' reviews, occasionally commenting on others' blogs (although I am not nearly active enough in this), and, most especially, reading. I hate that should I not blog for any reason, I make myself feel guilty for not having tried hard enough. (For proof of this, see various posts that casually mention my lack of posting, or are dedicated promises of "must try harder".)
Since getting myself a full time job, my blogging efforts have dramatically reduced, and I constantly manage to make myself feel bad for this- and to be honest, all of the self-inflicted guilt tripping often makes me not want to carry on blogging, because I set myself targets that I know that I can't keep. It's not even necessarily that I don't have time to blog, but more that I don't have time to read the same number of books as when I was unemployed, and so have far fewer reviews to churn out. I have also stopped various memes and features (such as top-off tuesday and teaser tuesday), and while this has saved me some extra time in my week, it has made my blog look just a bit empty.

So, what is the answer? Well, each to their own, but I have been trying to work out what woks for me (and may work for others too. Who knows, right?)

Changing my reading patterns- Audiobooks on buses

Trying to find the time to get my reading fix is difficult, until you start to add up the amount of time I spend on buses during the week. Just my bus rides to and from work start to add up to some pretty impressive hours Monday to Friday. 40 minutes each way to work from my house, or 1 hour and 20 minutes each way from my boyfriend's house to work (and the sad thing is that in a car these are 12 minute and 18 minute trips respectively). That's a lot of reading time, and even more listening time (as I can listen while I walk to various stops and between various buses), hence, a change to audio-books.

Plus, this is great because I can be borderline comatose every morning, and effectively having someone read the book to me. And, as another little bonus, it saves my eyes for the brutality of staring at a computer screen for 8 hours straight. Whoop, less eye strain for me.

Not getting distracted

I used to write reviews with about 10 other tabs open on my laptop- goodreads, facebook, tumblr, twitter, about three other blogs,, maybe a recipe or two, and youtube. This made it so easy to have sensory overload and get massively distracted mid review. Then I would go back to it another time (or later the same night), forget my point, and spend hours making a little progress before getting distracted again.

More recently I have imposed some limitations on myself- I will literally only have one other page open at most, and that is usually goodreads if I need a refresh on a book's blurb and to get the cover image. And the result is that I get much more done, much quicker.

Blog when I feel like it

This works in two ways- if I try to blog when I don't feel like it, then I get barely anything done, and when I do, I am never happy with the result.

Secondly, if I feel like blogging, then if possible I will do it, even if I can't get near a computer. I write reviews on paper on the bus, write notes to myself on my phone, and borrow my boyfriends laptop if I don't have mine to hand. The same applies for writing in general- it has become an increasingly regular sight to see me jotting down notes, ideas and phrases at the oddest of times, such as when drunk and pre-drinking- and surprisingly, I can even sometimes read it the next morning.

Don't have a reading order on my to-be-read list

The more I try to structure my reading patterns, the less I seem to read. Whatever book I had planned to read (because it looked incredibly exciting/funny/interesting/other fundamental good-book characteristic) next suddenly seems a lot less interesting, and another one that I can see on the shelf is now whispering my name. "Rachel," it says, "read me first. I'm much more interesting than that book."

It seems that I operate best when I follow my instincts to be a creature of whim. (Anyone who has been to a restaurant with me knows this well.)

Review as soon as possible (but not too soon)

There are books that I read months ago that I haven't reviewed yet. And now, after all this time, I probably won't review them at all. My initial reaction has faded to a distant memory, and the general plot has probably become a bit muddled or forgotten. It is best for me if I leave it a day or two after finishing a book before I write my review, to make my thoughts a tad more coherent than "oh, wow" or "bore snore" but if I leave it too long I lose motivation.

What do you do to optimize your blogging? Let me know in the comments below, or link through to your own discussion posts on the matter.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review: The Memory Collector, by Meg Gardiner

Now I do have to admit that thrillers aren't amongst my usual reading genres, but I do like a bit of action in my books (even if it is normally supernatural). So when Pook gave me The Memory Collector for a valentine's day present, I was genuinely quite excited, alongside being mildly annoyed that he had got me a valentine's day present when I had specifically asked him not too.
The Memory Collector is the second book in a series, and follows Dr. Jo Beckett, forensic psychiatrist to the dead- usually, her job entails interviewing friends and family of the deceased to identify why they died. I say usually, because Jo is called to the airport to section a live patient who has tried to open the emergency escape hatch on an aeroplane, mid-flight. From there, the story is fast paced and attention grabbing (at least initially)- the patient from the plane, Ian Kanan, has amnesia, his brain is mush and he has lost the ability to form new memories. A highly far fetched plot develops, involving nano-technology, kidnappings, identity swaps and an infectious *thing* (trying to avoid too many spoilers) that drives the plot in terms of how freaking dangerous it is, in every possible presentation of dangerous. 

Meg Gardiner writes superbly, bringing each character to life with vivid description and an in-depth, high octane plot. The only problem is that the plot can't possibly be high octane all of the time, and it is in the down time between the Big events that the books loses its energy somewhat. I felt a great deal more invested in Ian Kanan's character than Jo's, even though she was supposed to be the protagonist, which makes me feel that I wouldn't be especially interested in the rest of this series, even though I enjoyed this instalment.

The best parts, in every aspect that I can think to analyse it from, is most definitely the scenes from Ian's perspective. The way it is written reminded me a lot of the Guy Pearce film Memento- you really get a sense of how uncomfortable and disorientating it must be to lose your recent memories anytime you get even remotely distracted. 

Overall, was pleasantly surprised by this book- it went in a totally different direction to how I thought it would pan out, and the story was strong enough that I didn't even mind the lacklustre romance that floated along in the background. 7.5 stars 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 Days 1-7

Bout of Books
Everyone knows that history repeats itself, and yet again, for the third bout of books in a row, these two awful things called employment, and a social life have managed to get in the way of my reading. Plus I keep missing the bus and having to walk to work, which makes it much harder to read for an extra hour in the morning.


Reading stats are approximate and total for the week total

Finished books: 1
Audiobooks listened to: 8 hours of A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
You are not so smart, by David McRaney- about 3 hours so far

Paperbacks read: The Memory Collector, by Meg Gardiner - FINISHED :)
         Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen- 70 pages (190 total)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: Wait for me, by Elisabeth Naughton

Mini review time, peeps!

Wait for Me, by Elizabeth Naughton, is a romantic suspense novel that is available in both paperback and e-book.

The book first follows Kate Alexander, an amnesia patient who has no memory of her life pre-accident. Kate's life is somewhat perfect, but her marriage has never quite fit, or made her totally happy- there is something missing in her life. After her doctor husband dies in an accident, she discovers a secret that he has kept from her all these years- that she has a daughter that she forgot.

Next, Ryan Harrison is introduced. Having lost his wife in a plane crash five years previously, he has focused on raising their daughter and developing his business into an incredibly successful pharmaceutical venture.

As Kate and Ryan are re-united they both have to come to terms with what they have lost, and what they have gained- Kate has no memory of their past relationship, but is strangely drawn to Ryan, whilst Ryan wants his old wife back, and struggles to come to terms with Kate's new identity, and the time they spent apart. And then there is the whole mystery behind why Kate has amnesia, and why another man had masqueraded as her husband for five years. Woo, depth and mystery in fiction land!

It has one of the most "ZOH-MY-GAWD, Did I seriously just read that?" starts to a book that I have ever read. Reading the book, it felt terribly predictable as the story developed, but I think that lulled me into a false sense of security, as eventually the book surprised me with a rather dramatic twist as the book raced towards its climax. The relationship between Kate and Ryan felt real, and rather frustrating, as they both tried to comes to terms with their relationship. The fame dynamic added another level to the story, and worked well as a source of conflict. The middle dragged somewhat, but the start and end more than make up for this with the rather dramatic premise and ending. 6.5 stars.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh

Title: Slave to Sensation
Author: Nalini Singh
Format: Paperback
Length: 334 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance

This book. Just. This Book. Seriously? Is Nalini Singh allowed to be talented enough to have not just one awesome series, but two?

Actually who cares if it is allowed, it has happened, deal with it.

So, Slave to Sensation is the first in Singh's Psy-Changeling Series. In the world Singh creates, there are humans, and two other species living amongst them- Psy and Changelings. Changelings are shapeshifters, which are a very well used trope that Singh has managed to make her own. Psy, on the other hand, are a complete creation of Singh's genius mind. In the 1960's the Psy began a program called Silence, eradicating emotions amongst their race in an attempt to reduce violent crime. A hundred years or so later, and any sign of remaining emotion amongst adult Psy is deemed a flaw, the punishment or 'cure' for which is 'rehabilitation', essentially a stripping of one's mind. This is what faces Sascha Duncan if it is discovered that, behind her impressive mental shields, she is hiding a massive case of the feels. With the terrible pressure upon her to keep her shields up, plus the fact that she is fundamentally flawed, breaking slowly, Sascha feels that it is only time that separates her from eventual madness. 

And then she meets Lucas Hunter, a Leopard changeling pack leader who she is negotiating a business deal with. Lucas needs Sascha, in order to gain access to the Psy, so that he can investigate the murders of several changeling women. Sascha agrees to work with him, almost unable to believe that any Psy could be capable of such brutal murders, or that The Council (including her own mother) would let anyone get away with such behaviour. 

The relationship between Sascha and Lucas is excellently developed throughout the book- there is plenty of chemistry, and Lucas's intrigue into who Sascha really is behind her shields is brilliantly played, and totally hawwwt to read. The whole thing builds up nice and slowly, with passion and chemistry bubbling barely under the surface throughout the book. I think the slow development really helped me buy into their unlikely relationship, as it seemed built on more than just sexual attraction. 

Sascha's self sacrificing shtick is rather irksome (but I never buy into any of that nonsense, regardless of the book), but vaguely understandable/justifiable, seeing as she is convinced throughout the book that she will mentally crack and either go insane or be sent for "rehabilitiation". But, watching Sascha battle with and then embrace her emotions was really touching. This was definitely a book that I got lost in for hours at a time, drawn in by the complex world, the gripping plot, the chemistry, and the loveable, sexy, intricate characters.

The book serves as an incredibly strong opening to a long-running paranormal romance series, which I plan to be reading over the coming months, as budget allows. There are several secondary characters that I have already pegged as ones to watch, who will have rather epic books of their own. Plus, I really want to see how Lucas and Sascha continue to develop after this book, as secondary characters in later installations.

Rather bloody good stuff, this is. Not as epic as The Guild Hunter/ Archangel Series by the same author (see my fangirling here or here) but it is a damn good effort. 8.0 stars