Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Tricks of The Mind by Derren Brown

Tricks of The Mind is an insight into the sleight of hand, distractive, memory and psychological techniques used by the British mentalist showman, Derren Brown. Whilst this book examines the way in which people's perceptions and beliefs can be manipulated for magical effect, it is not a manual on how to perform such tricks as predictions, disappearances and feats of memory.

In Tricks of The Mind, Derren Brown very skillfully and often humourously examines psychology, illusion and how people can be made to believe things that are not real in a way that hints at how these techniques are used in his shows.

As a showman of the highest order, Derren Brown does reveal a trick or two early on to lure in his audience, often leading them on to quite philosophical points, but also sometimes ranting in a manner that makes the reader feel like they are sitting next to the author in a bar, discussing the application of manipulative techniques over a beer. As well as showmanship and illusion, Derren discusses religion and the way in which mediums use similar techniques as his to fool vulnerable people.

This is a truly fantastic book, engaging at every level, discussing complicated philosphies, techniques and beliefs in an amusing, informative and interactive way using a memorable vocabulary. The chapter on memory techniques is particularly enthralling and I was able to achieve remarkable feats of memory soon after reading the book, indeed I can still remember a list of 20 items given in the book, three months after reading it.

I would recommend this book to a wide variety of thoughtful readers, anyone interested in the way the mind works, philosphy, magic, showmanship, religion, indeed anyone who enjoys challenging ideas and, of course, anyone who wants to improve their memory or get a small insight into how Derren performs his remarkable "tricks".

Score: 10/10

Monday, November 2, 2009

Books to be Reviewed: Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Thanks to Robert Kroese for sending me a copy of his book, Mercury Falls, for reviewing. This is a comic novel about the adventures of a rogue angel at the brink of the apocalypse.

"Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine, have left Christine Temetri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice. That is, until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who's frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting his ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist. Now, to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist."

A review will soon appear here, until then readers can order a copy here - Mercury Falls.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review: Thoughts, Life of a Suicide by Dillan Kane

This book is a self-published attempt to look at understanding suicide and how those that are left behind deal with the issue. The author is the brother of someone who committed suicide at a young age and someone who has worked in the mental health system with those who have suicidal tendencies.

Whilst this book is written from the heart, I found that the author focusses on his own feelings too much and does not really provide an insight into how suicidal people feel or what makes them feel that way. Disappointingly, the story of the author's brother is not really explored properly and I feel that if it had, a more interesting and meaningful book would have been the result.

However, I found that the first chapter of Thoughts was quite moving when the author reflects on the last days of his father's life. This may have been because it made me think of a similar situation with my own father. With this in mind those who know suicidal people may enjoy this book, they may find a connection.

Unfortunately, though, the book does not grab the reader, jumping between themes and repeating itself again and again. No doubt writing it provided therapy for the author but the reader is left wanting some deeper insight.

Apart from repetitive themes and nonsense about mediums by far the biggest problem this book has is its lack of editing. There is almost not a single page that is not littered with spelling errors and basic grammatical mistakes, on one page I found 12 such errors! Whilst no one is perfect, this level of bad English is inexcusable and I found it really irritating and it made understanding some sections difficult and detracted from what is a heartfelt message.

Although I found this book unappealing it is possible that others, who have experience of knowing people who have attempted suicide or successfully committed suicide, will find something to connect with here and may find it comforting. I would certainly not recommend it to anyone else.

Score: 2/10