baronessekat: (book)
Precipice (Awaken Online #2)Precipice by Travis Bagwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

another installment that grabbed me and pulled me in. And like the other one, left me screaming in frustration of "how dare you end it that way?!?!?!"

Once again we join Jason as his friends as he now tries to rule the Twilight Thone in the game Awaken Online, while trying to figure out what is the ulterior motive of the games A.I.

Meanwhile the creators of the game struggle to figure out what's going on in game as well. One of their biggest problems is underestimating the resolve of a teenage boy who is tired of being bullied.

I really liked following Jason as he continues to grow and develop his Necromancer persona and how he reluctantly accepts that he has become the game's Uber-bad, Ultimate Supervillan and then plays up the part when pushed. I also liked how this time he has real world friends join him and how they too start to grow and come out of their shells.

Eagerly awaiting the next book.

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baronessekat: (book)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three CodasRedshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Newly assigned Ensigns on the Starship Intrepid notice other crew members acting oddly when it comes to interacting with certain upper crew-members and when the topic of away missions comes up.

Not only is it noticeable that some lowly Ensign dies on almost every away mission, there really doesn't seem to be a reason for half the away missions to happen OR the people assigned to them make any sense. It's as if they were on a TV-show... a badly written TV show.

As a long time fan of Star Trek, I found this book hysterical. And Wil Wheaton's narration of it was spot on, and one I will be recommending to other sci-fi geeks for a long time.

This was recommended by both George R.R. Martin and Wil Wheaton

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baronessekat: (Default)
Over on facebook there was a question asked by one of my friends about how do we Peers help non-Peers. Ok that was not the real gist of it, but that was the underlying message I took away from the very convoluted line of commentary.

I got to thinking. Well, I have two active proteges, one inactive one, one un-protege and a handful of "not even as formal as an un-protege" folk that I kinda sorta mentor when they need it. But what else could I do? My biggest observation has been that non-Peers seem to feel like the Peers are the ones who do all the stuff and they don't know how to get their proverbial foot in the door.

Well, Ekat, I told myself, you may not know all the stuff, but there is one thing you do know (even if you are only figuring it out fairly recently)... you know a hell of a lot of people within the Society. And all those people know stuff. Really cool stuff. Some are kick ass fighters, some are such talented artists, others know how to serve. And all those people live all over the globe.

So I made a public post, offering my help to any who need, be they Peer or non-Peer, regardless of what they want to pursue. As I said in the post, I may not have the answers, but I have been blessed with connections and I'm happy to introduce people.

Two hours later, I have had people IM me with questions and I was able to either help or direct them to and introduce them to folks who would know. Others have posted their fear or question in the commentary and I have been able to watch others go "hey, I do that, let's chat", or say "that's not a silly question, let me share my experience".

I too may have become disenfranchised with the SCA, but just that little bit made me realize that there is something worthwhile there. And I can help.
baronessekat: (book)
The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines SeriesThe Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series by James Rollins and
by James Rollins (Goodreads Author), and Rebecca Cantrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this to be rather interesting and a story that grabbed me just on the premise...three unlikely individuals - a military forensics expert, a priest and an archeologist are summoned to investigate the aftermath of an earthquake that hit Masada, Israel, revealing a long buried and forgotten tomb. It turns out that the tomb may have been home to a lost Gospel - written by Jesus, in his own blood. And from there things get "weird" and we learn that the story of the Christ may not be what we have always been lead to believe. Further, there are people... creatures that want the book as much as the Vatican does and the three must fight their way to recover the Gospel before the bad guys do... but who really is friend and foe?

Overall, I liked this book. It played on things that I have always liked... unique takes on vampires, Russian and Slavic history, biblical archeology (as I wanted to be one when I grew up) and just enough mystery. I could have done with out the overarching sexual tension between Erin, the archeologist, and Jordan, the military man, and the strange sexual tension Rhun, the priest, felt for Erin. Because seriously, just once I'd like to read a book or see a movie that has a man and a woman, both single, who have to work together NOT end up wanting to jump each other's bones.

This book also ended at just the right point to make me want to continue in the series to find out what happens next.

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baronessekat: (quiet)
Today I am experiencing a colossal case of the "nope, don't wannas".

Which directly contradicts with the colossal pile of "gottas".
baronessekat: (book)
Dear Committee Members: A novelDear Committee Members: A novel by Julie Schumacher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was an absolute treat that had me laughing out loud in several points. A collection of letters of recommendation as written by one beleaguered, disenfranchised, and rather cynical professor of English and Creative Writing at a university. It follows just one year of his correspondences to other departments, institutions, programs, places of employment as he is asked to write letters of recommendations for students (some he's only known for the 3 minutes it took for the student to ask him to write something for them), colleagues, and acquaintances.

It's hysterical to be guided through his complaints on the conditions of his academic building as it undergoes remodeling construction for the Economics Department, as he expresses his opinions about various undergrad and post-grad programs, and is constantly trying to get favors from his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend for his recommendees, though I suspect they would have better chances if he didn't keep bringing up things from his past interactions by saying things like "I'm sure you remember X situation... please don't hold that against this student". And trying to pit his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend (who appear to be friends) against each other.

This is a book that I am glad I got the audio version for and will most certainly return to when I need a laugh.

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baronessekat: (book)
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know what I expected with this book, but I know I didn't get it. Frankly, I did not find the story all that "extraordinary" nor would I call Christopher Knight the "last true hermit", at least the "last" part of that statement.

Christopher Knight, at the age of 20 left the world. He abandoned his car, hiked out into the wilderness of Maine and disappeared, avoiding human contact. Only instead of living off the land, to survive, he chose to break into cabins and camps to scrounge for food, clothing and other living essentials. To avoid being caught, he never built a fire, even in the deepest depths of the Maine winters. To cook, he stole propane from the camps and used a small camp stove.

When he was caught, the author started a correspondence with him, though it appears to be very grudgingly on Knight's part. And the author flew from Montana to Maine to visit him in jail several times, despite Knight repeatedly demanding to be left alone. Once Knight was released from jail the author again flew out to see him, despite the family telling him to go away, despite Knight begging him to go away and leave him alone. It wasn't until Knight threatened to call the police did the author finally stop trying to contact him. To me, that's not journalism, that's the stalkery actions of a paparazzi.

The story did not make me hate it, and I finished the book, but I'm kinda glad I only borrowed the audio from the library rather than wasting a credit on audible. Not something I would generally recommend to others.

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baronessekat: (book)
The Invention of Everything ElseThe Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

I gave it a shot. But when I found myself actively finding other things to do other than listening to this book, and when I did listen, I had to constantly rewind because I found my mind wandering, I realized it just wasn't going to happen.

Which is a shame, as it sounded interesting. Tesla and a friendship he had in the last bit of his life.

I can't say what it was that didn't draw me in, if it was the writing, the reading, the story, or just my frame of mind. But sometimes you just have to give up on something. And sadly , this was one of those times.

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baronessekat: (cuss)
Over on FB there has been a kerfluffle on someone's wall over something that happened at an Event. Specifically a dress that was made for the Queen by someone, that has no historic proof but has become popular as a style in the SCA.

OMG. The one response, by someone I know, has been mortifying to witness. Rather than saying "it's a beautiful piece of art and it looks like a lot of time went into it." and then politely offer that there is no historical evidence of that style in period, we get vitriolic attacks. First attacking something because it's not period, and then not reading all the comments or choosing to ignore the MULTIPLE comments that said that the dress was a gift from someone to the Queen and she wanted to show off the workman's ship, and then berating the Queen for daring to make something to inauthentic and then wearing the dress and promoting the inauthentic. Dayum. It wasn't until several exchanges later that the commenter finally got the "it was a gift" and seemed to grudgingly apologize to the Queen for assuming she made the dress but not for the actual attack or the way he expressed himself.

All I can say is that elitist, insulting, and down right rude and mean behavior... that's why people have painted the entire Order in a bad light.

I know they say "be the change you want to happen" but when I see stuff like that it makes me wonder why I want to be in that order and be associated with people like that, even peripherally.
baronessekat: (book)
Marking Time (Immortal Descendants, #1)Marking Time by April White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up based on the description on a free e-book listserv. It sounded interesting and it was free, so why not?

For what it was, it was a fair story. I liked the concepts and the world building. The idea that people were descended from Immortal Concepts such as Death, War, Fate, Nature, etc. is something that I rarely see. However the overall story of Saira's attempt to find her mother while learning she is one of these people just kinda left me... eh.

My main issue was, just as things would get interesting in one time period (the story jumps from modern London to 1888 London at the time of the Jack the Ripper killings), she would end up jumping back to the other. It kept some of the tension up, but it made me feel more of a "oh come on!" and then we'd lose the excitement and have to build it back up in the new time only to lose it again at a jump.

I can't say that I will be actively seeking out any of the other books in the series, but maybe if the next one comes up free for the Kindle, I might grab it. Maybe. If I have nothing else to read at that time.

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baronessekat: (book)
Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim, #1)Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book. Friends enjoyed it. People on the Jim Butcher Fan page said that if you love Harry Dresden, you'd like Sandman Slim. I frankly didn't.

Now, I am all for the Anti-hero. They can be great protagonists, but for me there still needs to be something remotely... likeable? redeemable? something about them that makes me root for them. And honestly, I saw nothing in the main character through the telling of the story that made me hope that he fulfilled his quest. Pure and simple, the guy's an asshole and the only thing going for him is the "bad guys" or to be truthful, the "badder guys than him" were even more assholic that he didn't look quite as bad.

I did this an an audio book and the narrator was good. He played the part well. But that still does not change that it really wasn't until the last 40 minutes of the book that I felt the slightest pull from the story. And because of that, I just do not see myself continuing with this series.

More power to those that can.

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baronessekat: (book)
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True MemoirLet's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. The audio version had me laughing throughout

Update: I chose this book for a reading challenge's category "book you've read before that never fails to make you smile". Even with the one depressing chapter, I always find this book funny and making me laugh out loud in many cases.

The language is not one that is safe for work, but for me, makes her all the more relatable. Any I know part of the humor comes from a strong sense of schadenfreude, cuz it's not like many of us grew up in rural Texas with a father who thought bringing home wild animals was fun, if they were alive, and if not, doing taxidermy and having to use phrases like "let's take your car, mine's too full of blood".

I cannot help but feel sorry for her husband, and the post-it note wars, the bringing home 6 foot tall metal chickens and the like. But you know what... he married her.

All in all I recommend this book to others who need a good laugh.

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baronessekat: (book)
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing WorldThe Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every now and then a non-fiction book comes along and really resonates with you. This book was one such book for me. After every chapter I found myself pausing to reflect and ruminate on what had been discussed and how it made me feel, why I felt that way and what I could do to continue with that teaching.

For his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to come spend a week and discuss what is "joy". They invited another to come and moderate the discussion and write a book on it. I feel envious of the man who got to experience and witness the gathering of two such remarkable men.

You could tell from the writing that His Holiness and the Archbishop were old friends and had an almost sibling-esque relationship. I found myself smiling at the banter and playfulness the two expressed. I mean... the Archbishop and the author brought trick candles and used them on the Dalai Lama's birthday cake. That mental image had me giggling.

But through it all, the underlying reason for the book... What is Joy, how is it different from Happiness, and what can we do to bring and maintain it in our lives... was a powerful and resonating message. There were times that an almost off-handed statement made by one of these great men made me stop the audiobook, pause and just reflect. "remember, you are a masterpiece in the making". "In my faith, I am created in God's image. Therefore I am a God-carrier". and also the recurring message of "if what you fear/makes you sad is within your control... why waste the energy fearing/being sad and use it instead to effect the change needed. If it is not in your control, fear/sadness is not going to change the situation and you need to figure out what needs to be done instead with that energy".

I foresee this book being one I listen to on many occasions and one where I will learn a new lesson every time. Highly recommend.

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baronessekat: (book)
RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise was interesting. Our narrator is Jack. He has lived his entire 5 years in "Room" with Ma. Room is 11 ft x 11 ft. Jack's entire world is Room and Ma. He's allowed to watch TV every day but to him, TV is not real. The stories on all the TV "planets" are made up because the only humans are he and Ma. But to him, it's all good. He has all he thinks he needs because "Old Jack" bring them stuff. But he's never fully seen Old Jack because he has to hide in the wardrobe when Jack visits Ma.

But shortly after Jack turns 5, Ma designs a cunning escape plan to finally leave room and go "outside".

I had issues with this book and I think the majority of it has to do with the choice of Jack as the narrator. Because he's five and his entire life experience has been in confinement, he not only an unreliable narrator, he's unbelievable. The author's choice of language skills for Jack seem at the same time incredibly stunted and incredibly over-reaching. Add to that, because of his limited experiences it's hard to feel the emotional response expected for Ma's ordeal. It's not hard for an adult reader to know exactly what's happened to Ma and what she's been experiencing for 7 years at the hands of Old Jack.

The other thing I had trouble with was Jack's roll in the great escape. I just didn't believe it. A boy who's never seen another human being, never talked to anyone but his Mother, is supposed to do what he did and get help? I would have trouble believing a 5 year old who has lived in the world could do what he did, let alone one as cloistered as he was.

I also expected more psychological responses to having to now deal with "outside". I expected more agoraphobia, more reactions to having to deal with so much outside stimuli (sounds, sights, smells, etc). To me, he adjusted just way too quickly.

All in all, the book fell flat for me. and I think if you want to read something about this type of difficult topic, it would be better to read a true account of a kidnap victim or one of the psychological write ups of their treatment.

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baronessekat: (book)
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the AmazonThe Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

in 1925 Percy Fawcet became the Archeological equivalent of Amelia Earhart. He went into the Amazon jungles to find the fabled Lost City of Z (often referred to as El Dorado) and never returned. Search parties that went looking for him never returned.

David Grann, a modern journalist, became interested in the story of Fawcet and researched and then went looking to trace the route Fawcet and others might have taken.

Overall I liked this book. I was an Archeology and Anthropology major in college and would have loved an adventure like Fawcet's (maybe without the disappearing into the jungle, never to return part) and have believed for a long time that I was born to the wrong time period and gender, as I could easily see myself as one of the explorers of the 1920's.

I found the reader engaging and the story moved along well. My only complaint is that it kinda just sorta ended. No clear wrap up. Grann may have found what could have been the remnants of the ancient city that the legends were based on, but it's not very clear and he never did say anything at the end about Fawcet himself.

I want to see the movie but I do believe it will be a Netflix/Redbox rather than an in-the-theaters movie for me.

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baronessekat: (book)
Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World's Most Interesting FactsNow I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World's Most Interesting Facts by Dan Lewis

I could not finish this audiobook. It annoyed me too much, which is sad as I was looking forward to it as it sounded like my kind of book.


I could overlook saying "actor Leslie Howard, best known for HER portrayal of Ashley Wilkes". Any Gone with the Wind fan (movie or book) could tell you that Ashley is a man and Leslie Howard is a man. But when you are a factual book telling the stories behind things and you say "according to Wikipedia..." NOPE! Sorry, you lost me.

Could not finish. I don't care how well researched the rest of the book may be, when you've sited Wikipedia as your source AND you get the gender of a famous movie actor/role wrong... two strikes and you're out.

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baronessekat: (book)
The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and LoveThe Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love by Michael D. Lemonick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting look at memory and the brain.

Lonni Sue suffered a debilitating illness (encephalitis) that, though she survived, left her with an inability to make new memories and erased all but some basic long term memories. Yet she has been able to continue with her life, learn things (though she doesn't remember that she has learned them) and help doctors and scientists learn about how the brain works and how memories are made and stored.

I also found this a slightly disturbing book as it makes you look at how you would feel losing memories (though Lonni Sue doesn't realize she's lost memories most times so she is an incredibly happy person as every day is a new experience) and how would you deal if a family member, be it sibling, child, parent or partner were to suddenly fall ill and then not remember or be able to build new memories.

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baronessekat: (book)
Etta and Otto and Russell and JamesEtta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I did it as an audio and I did like the narrator's voice. But I'm wondering if I might have liked this book better had I read it.

My problem was that it constantly flipped between the present and back to the 1940's and WWII, and at times I had trouble figuring out which time we were in when a new sub-chapter started.

Etta is 80 something, suffering from the beginning of Alzheimer's (though it never says the name directly) and has spent her whole life in a small rural town in Saskatchewan and wants to see the ocean before she dies. So she packs a bag and leaves a note for her husband telling him where she's gone to and that she will try to remember to come home. Otto is her husband, who had his adventure in his late teens when he went off to Europe to fight the war, so he lets her go and stays behind to learn to live on his own.

Russell is their friend, who has had a crush on Etta since they were teenagers, and is mad that Otto just let her wander off and goes off to find her.

James is a coyote that Etta meets along the way. Only I can't tell if he is real or a figment of her imagination.

The two storylines were good, but the ending kinda left me... eh with more questions than answers.

All in all, not sure I would recommend this book to my friends, but I am not left feeling that I wasted my time.

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baronessekat: (book)
Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space RaceHidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am going to echo everyone I know who has read/listened to this book. WOW. I found myself drawn in immediately and did not want to stop listening. The women in the book are such an inspiration to all people, not just blacks, not just women... all. The determination they showed to do what they loved and be allowed to succeed was just phenomenal. That they were able to get into an organization that eventually became NASA, prove their worth and go on to have lasting influence over the space and aeronautical industries left me breathless.

I have not yet seen the movie, as I wanted to experience the book first, but now I can't wait to see the adaptation. This will definitely be one of the books I am constantly recommending to people when they ask "what should I read next"

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baronessekat: (book)
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (Beginner Books)One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I think back to the books of my childhood, this one is at the top of my list. My earliest book memories involve going to the library with my mother and borrowing this book. The library had several copies and when we returned one, I would borrow another. I remember how excited I was when Santa brought me my very own copy.

For the Popsugar Reading Challenge's category "book that you loved as a child" I could think of no other book but this one.

Even now, at the age of 43, I love the rhyming, the imagry, the pacing and just fun of the book. And it has a good lesson:

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere.

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