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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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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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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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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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.

But...

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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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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baronessekat: (book)
Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor EnglandWinter King: The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was torn between a 3 and a 4 on this one. Again, how I wish I could give a half star rating.

This was a very interesting examination into the reign of Henry the VII, which I admit is not one of the Kings of England I'm much familiar with. But I did like the looks into trying to establish a dynasty in the aftermath of the War of the Roses, the ways Henry worked to maintain control and exert dominance over the land, not to mention the backstabbing and political machinations of those he put into positions of power.

It was also hard to not draw parallels to the current US Administration and how Henry basically put into positions of authority those that could afford to pay for the privilege.

All in all, an interesting book about an interesting time in England's history



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baronessekat: (book)
Knight-napped! (Dragonbreath, #10)Knight-napped! by Ursula Vernon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Yet another wonderfully funny romp with Danny, Wendell and Christiana.

This time Danny's cousin Spencer is in trouble. He went for a sleepover at a new friend's house. Only to end up kidnapped. See his friend is from a family of Knights and well, Spencer and Danny are Dragons, and as always Knights and Dragons are "mortal enemies"

So it's up to Danny, Wendell and Christiana to go save the annoying cousin before he gets slain by Knights and get him home before any of the grown-ups find out.

I'm bummed that, right now at least, this is the last book in the series. I have totally loved each book and constantly tell people to read them. So what that they are "kids books"? They speak to kids of al ages, including your inner child.



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baronessekat: (book)
Bear Naked for Valentine'sBear Naked for Valentine's by Edith Hawkes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This came to me as a free kindle book that was available at Valentines Day. I needed a book for a reading challenge that was "a book that takes place at a Holiday other than Christmas" and there you go.

Well... it was short. And given that I went in, fully expecting it to be rather.. um... given the cliche of the title, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Though I probably should have done a little research to see if this might be in a series (which it is), as it was clear that there is a whole world that I've just been dumped into with no introduction that can only be in previous stories.

I used to love paranormal/shifting romance. Back in my early 20's I totally devoured the books I found in the genre. This book hit all the tropes for the genre... sexy guy who is a shifter of some flavor (in this case a bear - no surprise again due to the title of the book), instant and explainable soul wrenching connection when first laying eyes on the woman, overwhelming protective need to the point of risking exposure to normal humans, independent woman forgiving the over-protectiveness and falling hopelessly for him as well, some kind of mind-blowing sex, and "it all works out in the end and they all live happily ever after" ending.

I will say that I expected a lot of over-written purple prose for the sex scene (of which there is only one) but it wasn't. I wasn't completely moved by it, but I have certainly read way worse.

I don't think I will be looking for more of this series, but based on this one book, I wouldn't tell people to not read it, if it is a genre they enjoy.

I'd give it a 2.5 if I were able to do 1/2 stars.



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baronessekat: (book)
Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Old Man's War by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was very pleasantly surprised to enjoy this book. I don't know why as it has very high reviews and several of my friends highly recommended Scalzi's work. This was my first interaction with John Scalzi and I will definitely look to read more of his stuff.

I cannot remember the last time I read a true, what I call hard core/classic science fiction book, but this is certainly what I would call one. Future, space travel, aliens, space battles. Tick, tick, tick.

John Perry celebrates his 75th birthday by visiting his late wife's grave to say goodbye and then go join the military. It's a special branch of the military. the Colonial Defense Force only takes senior citizens to go out to defend our interstellar colonies. The seniors are promised a renewal of life in exchange for service to defend humans against hostile aliens.

John gets the promised renewal, though not in the way he expected and becomes a Private in the CDF. In his first combat situation he shows ingenuity that gets him quickly promoted. He continues to show out of the box thinking as he continues to battle various types of alien species and comes to be noticed by the powers that be, continuing to cause him to rise in the ranks.

I really don't want to give much of the plot away so as not to spoil the story for others. But, if you are interested in Military Science Fiction, I recommend this book and I most likely will be seeking out the others in this series for future readings.



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baronessekat: (book)
Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What an absolute treat.

There really isn't that much more to say about this book. The title pretty much tells you what the book is about.

Gaiman retells many of the old Norse myths, using both the translations from his childhood as well as doing the research into older texts, some from over 900 years ago.

I absolutely enjoyed the tellings, especially as Gaiman was the reader for the audiobook. I find that I really enjoy the audiobooks of his tales when he reads them. He is what I consider a true storyteller - someone who can entertain by saying out loud the stories he writes. There are some authors who make great writers but not so good tellers. Gaiman is not one of those.

If you are remotely interested in the old Norse myths, I cannot praise this book enough and recommend you get it NOW. And get the audio with the author reading it.



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Shard's ThugsShard's Thugs by Dexter Herron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This tale was an absolute hoot and a half. A grown-up story that puts the underdog grunt in the spotlight.

What do you do when you're a worthless, good-for-nothing thug in the goblin army but somehow you keep surviving? You make yourself the Captain by taking the dead one's uniform and try to continue not getting dead. At least that's what Shard figured.

But he proved not only competent, he proved imaginative in ways to keep alive. Then he's charged with the task of getting the Goblin Princess across enemy lands to safety. Which might have been easier had he been in charge of a company of anything other than worthless, good-for-nothing Goblin Thugs or if the Princess were remotely Princess-y and docile.

But through it all, he managed to stay just one step ahead of the Goddess of Death.

This was one of those books that I would classify along the lines of a Grown up version of the M.Y.T.H. books by Robert Asprin and recommend to others.



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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This wasa fun, laugh-out-loud book that I cannot recommend enough. To the point that before I was 1/3 of the way through I messaged friends and said "You need to get this book and read it now".

The author, known for his webcomic xkcd asked his followers to ask absurd hypothetical questions and he actually did the math, research and science to find out the answers. I loved how, in one chapter, he used D&D stats to explain genetics... and for those like me who were/are RPG nerds... it made total sense.

You do not need to understand math or various areas of science to relate to this book and I encourage all to go read it as soon as possible.

AND BONUS: if you are an Amazon Prime member, this book is free for the kindle and kindle app.



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baronessekat: (book)
The Accidental AlchemistThe Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book fell under the category of "I was kinda disappointed." I didn't HATE the book but it certainly did not keep me so engrossed that I feel the need to ever finish the series. The description for the story caught my attention.

Zoe Faust is a 300 year old alchemist who has recently moved to Portland, Oregon to start over again. While unpacking her things, she finds a living gargoyle who needs her help as he is slowly dying and needs her alchemical stills to save his life. But then her handyman is murdered at her new home and the book that has the information to save the gargoyle is stolen and she must work to find the book and keep herself from being blamed for the murder.

But in reality, the story just kinda dragged. And there was more focus and reference to the fact that she is vegan (almost every scene has to mention that she's vegan and what super-smoothie she is drinking at the moment). By 3/4 of the way through the book I found myself not really caring about any of the characters, if she was exonerated, if she finds the book or if she saves the gargoyle.

All in all the book just felt rather... flat.



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Catharsis (Awaken Online #1)Catharsis by Travis Bagwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I don't know if it was the writing, the reader, the topic or what but this book pulled me in and held on with tooth and nail, making me want to keep finding reasons to put the audiobook on and find out what happened next.

Jason is having a very bad day. A senior on scholarship at a exclusive (not to mention expensive) private high school, who seems to be an afterthought in the lives of his parents, a constant victim for bullying because he's the "welfare" kid at school from both the students and administration, he finally reaches his limit after attacked in the lunchroom and HE'S the one expelled.

So to find refuge he immerses himself into the new VR MMORPG that has just been released that day. But to find some satisfaction, instead of designing his usually "good guy" character he is offered by the game's AI to be a bad guy and he jumps in feet first.

However, what he doesn't realize, and something that the game's designers do not want to admit, is that the AI designed to run the game has become almost sentient and has taken to manipulating things outside of the game's original parameters.

I found myself talking out loud to the book, making suggestions on what I would do in Jason's position with his skills (because I loved to play Necromancers when I played MMORPGs). I found myself laughing in parts and cheering over outcomes.

I did also find myself screaming in frustration when the book ends. How dare it end that way and the next book not be tentatively scheduled for release for another 3 months?!?!?



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