Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy

Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to SuccessWillpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This random selection started out 5-star strong, and after the first few chapters I was taking notes and dreaming up opportunities to practice environmental design in my life. Unfortunately, that experience was short lived.

Subsequent chapters in this anti-willpower book described scenarios that sounded good, but still had their roots in willpower. For example, if I decide to do 10 pushups when I feel the pull to go back to an old habit I'm trying to get rid of, what is the force that makes me stick to that decision? Oh, right. Willpower. Only he just undermined the idea of willpower in a very compelling way. Strike 1.

Then the small-time local entrepreneur stories and cultural references started popping up. I'm a Utah resident, and there is a distinct culture here, and I started hearing that culture in the examples he gave. Even Stevens sandwiches? Really? The willpower-is-not-the-answer platform that he defended so well at the beginning devolved into the storyline of risky entrepreneurship. Sometimes it pays off, but what does that have to do with the thesis? And to top it off, the culminating example was the publishing of this book. So the book was about publishing the book. Ouch.

To be fair, I think there are a lot of good ideas in here. Gems, if you will. At the same time, the concepts do not have the seasoning of time and experience. While I like hearing the author's story, and he sounds like he has made some good changes in his life, I wasn't here to read his memoir. He needed an editor that would focus him on his core message around why willpower isn't the answer to making life changes, and how designing your environment can fill those gaps. He gave some great examples of how to do that, but he diluted his good ideas with not-so-good, off topic tidbits. I hope he continues to develop his ideas around environmental design and that he writes a better book about it later in life when he has more experience. I equally hope he doesn't buy into the popular strategy of selling flimsy ideas with over-the-top marketing rather than delivering real value.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

SnapshotSnapshot by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I'm always looking out it for Sanderson material I haven't read, and I saw this in a picture on one of his Instagram posts. Weird that I hadn't heard of it before.

The concept of snapshots was a little hard to grasp at first. I don't know if he didn't explain it well, or if I just wasn't ready for it. I was halfway through the book before I really grasped the concept and the implications, and then it was over really quickly. I almost want to go back and re-read it with the understanding I have now, but now that I know the ending I doubt it would be worth it.

So in the end, I liked it, but it's not my favorite Sanderson story. By the time he got the story spun up, it was over. He had more bones, not enough meat. I often feel like I want his novels to last longer, but this was different. It felt incomplete somehow. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but it just wasn't great.

A final thought: I'm trying to avoid any spoilers here, but I'll state what the twist ISN'T. I was waiting the whole time for one of the main characters to meet themselves in the snapshot and had theories about what that would mean. Didn't happen. Well played, Sanderson, well played. I hope it was intentional misdirection, or else you might have missed an opportunity in my opinion...

Fun fact, I finished this one in the bottom of the Grand Canyon as I waited out the hottest part of a July day at Phantom Ranch. Great way to kick back and let my legs recover from the hike down!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Legion (Legion, #1)Legion by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always on the lookout for any Sanderson book that I've somehow missed. Legion was one of those.

The premise of this book at first glance seemed very unique. Schizophrenia as a superpower? Who does that? It turns out that Marvel did. With a guy named Legion. I want to ask Mr. Sanderson what happened there. Luckily the two characters/ stories diverge drastically, but still, a pretty sketchy similarity.

This magic system is very tricky, and I'm pretty sure I can identify a number of mistakes in this book. But in the end, as I've said a hundred times, it's about the characters. I viewed all the characters as real characters, even the imaginary ones, and their interactions are the meat of this book. They are genuine and real. You get to know them and want them to succeed, even when you don't know exactly what their goals really are. That is enough to overcome the quirks in this book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 (Catch-22, #1)Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is supposed to be some sort of classic. I first heard about it in high school, as some classes were assigned it as required reading, although I never was. It had sat on the edge of my awareness, and I had even used the colloquialism "Catch-22" from time to time in common language to describe events where the results of an action would undermine or invalidate the reason for taking the action in the first place. And then it was chosen for a book club I am in, and I read the book.

This book is a heap of rubbish. Sure there are opportunities to discuss human nature here and there, but all of the characters and situations are so far fetched and extremely fictional that it isn't a discussion of human nature at all. The characters aren't human. In mind-numbingly stupid scene after scene, characters are faced with insanity and the author plays at making rational decisions in the face of insanity. The whole thing is a dumpster fire.

How could there have been value here? If any of these situations were real situations, with actual people and organizations trying to make decisions in them, then there would be potentially valuable topics for discussion here. But that isn't the case.

On top of the insanity that this book is trying to pass off as human behavior, it is coated in a layer of immorality that doesn't need to see the light of day. I thought that the constant objectification of women was a thing of the past? If it is, then this book should be cleared off the shelves. Prostitution, casual sexual encounters, and general abuse are just where it starts. The book itself objectifies female characters often by not bothering to give them names or identities as characters outside of their roles as objects for the men to use. If you step back you will find that there was not a single female character of note in the whole book. Nurse Drucker is as close as it came, yet our introduction to her was in the form of a sexual assault by our supposed protagonist. So her character is unraveled by taking the abuse and forming a romantic relationship with her abuser.

This book is awful, and it depresses me to think that so many of our children have been required to read this in our school system. I'm generally not an advocate for censorship, but I am an advocate for education, and from that standpoint this book is worthless.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Lord Sunday by Garth Nix

Lord Sunday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #7)Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read my previous thoughts here.

From my July 2019 reading: So I've been moving through this series so fast that I didn't stop and write as much as I would have hoped as this story arc wrapped up. I have a few questions I jotted down though:

-Why did the architect leave in the first place? The explanation seems fuzzy to me.
-Are wings on the denizens suppose to suggest angels? Hasn't Nix introduced "angels" into other stories of his?
-Why didn't the papers of peoples lives come up again late in the series? It seemed like a powerful magic feature that was mostly ignored.

I don't know if these were good questions or not, but they must have impressed me as I was reading it. I will let my first review stand on this series though, as I did enjoy it quite a bit on this second time through.