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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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True GritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was a surprisingly enjoyable, though a bit predictable book. I had never seen the movies that were based on this book so I had no preconceived ideas about how it should be.

I do admit that I found the main character of Maddie a bit annoying and I really could not understand how Rooster and Lebouef would let her seemingly run roughshod over them and dictate the actions of a US Marshall and Texas Ranger.

I do believe though that had this book been written and published today, it would classified more of a YA book instead of regular fiction. And with that thinking I thought it worked just fine.



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The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant (Fred, the Vampire Accountant, #1)The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Poor Fred was your stereotypical nerd - a bit on the cowardly side, no real social skills, liked to be left alone and play with numbers. But then he became a vampire, which really didn't change much for him. He was still nerdy, cowardly (to the point where he used blood bank blood so he wouldn't have to fight or attack anyone), socially awkward and liked his job as an accountant.

But when he decided to be brave and go to his high school reunion, despite his condition, life got interesting. Regardless of what he wanted, he found himself having to be the vampire. And in the end he got a girl, an assistant and a group of friends.

I enjoyed this book and found myself both laughing at/with as well as sympathizing with poor Fred. I do believe I will be looking to continue with this series.



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Salt: A World HistorySalt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I came to this book because several years ago a friend was reading it and I became intrigued by her description, but I never got around to actually reading it until now.

I went in expecting a rather dry, fact based information dump. I mean, how interesting could salt be? Instead, what I got was a in-depth look at how salt, its production and trade of it influenced not just human development but also human history and interaction.

Yes, there seemed to be a bit of creative license to tell a good story and keep the reader entranced, but I accept that for the overall telling in the book.

This is also the second book I have listened to with Scott Brick as the narrator and found that I enjoy his reading of non-fiction books.



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Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-QaedaLeft of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda by Douglas Laux

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


What a load of self-centered narcissistic dreck.

I expected from the title that this would be about someone who actually went undercover into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Not an informant handler who never went close to undercover. And by the telling was some one who just was able to come in and turn things around. I have trouble believing he was the first operative in Afghanistan who spoke fluent Pashtun (despite that he had been trained in a completely different dialect and had to relearn on the job). That he was the first and only one to suggest that the danger in Afghanistan was the Taliban and not Al-Qadea?

From the descriptions I felt more like he was a small town High School Quarterback who lived off of his self-perceived glory. That he was God's gift to everything - women, the CIA, the world. His girlfriend is mad at him, but the minute he takes off his shirt and she sees his fabulous abs she has to have sex with him right then and there? Give me a break.

And the attitude he claims he had with superior officers... dropping out of communication for two months and just going off on vacation jaunts without checking in at all, and he's not disciplined for it... I don't buy it.

sorry, no.

The only reason I give this book a 2 instead of a 1 is because I liked the reader. He's the only thing that kept me listening to the book.



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MacbethMacbeth by A.J. Hartley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am torn with giving this a 4 or a 5. If I could do a 4.5 I would. I thoroughly enjoyed this novelization of my all-time favorite Shakespearean play. I really liked how the authors brought more depth to the characters of Macbeth and his wife, added more eerie creep factor to the three witches and overall rounded out the story with more history and battles.

Add all that to the reading done by Alan Cummings and you have an utterly entertaining audiobook that I highly, highly recommend.



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The Rime of the Ancient MarinerThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I first read this back in high school and remembered enjoying it then. Now, 25ish years later, that has not changed.

I loved the overall tale, the imagery, the use of words. Returning to the tale after having experienced adulthood, I understand more of the cautionary tale the Ancient Mariner was trying to impart to the young Wedding Guest.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was, is and will always be a true classic and I hope they still have it as required reading in school these days



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Open House: Open House: by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


How in the world did anyone like this book?

I picked it for a reading challenge for a "book from Oprah's Book Club" and now rather wish I didn't. I found the main character of Sam annoying, self-obsessed, prone to flights of fancy only to become annoyed when those fantasies proved wrong, and down right in need of a good slap upside the head.

Half way through the audiobook I found myself actually saying "are you still yammering on about that?" Then there was the whole mini scene of she looks up Martha Stewart's phone number, calls and leaves a message for her and Martha calls her back... and they end up chatting! Seriously?!?!?!?

1 star is rather generous and most of that is for the actress who read it. Save your time, save your sanity and don't bother with this one.



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(recommended by woman I was sitting next to on my plane ride home from Thanksgiving - she was reading it and I asked if she would recommend it to another)

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one is tough to pick a rating for. Part of this is my fault as, based on the title and descriptive blurb I went into this book thinking it was more of a murder mystery novel that happened to be set at the Chicago World's Fair. It is not.

But once I got past that, I felt torn. It really felt like the author wrote two separate books and once they were done he shuffled them together to combine one big one. There is the book all about the minute details of the World's Fair and the creation, building and running of it. Then there is the much smaller book that deals with the psychopathic Holmes and his grizzly deeds.

Because of the title of the book, I honestly expected much more content surrounding the murderer and his actions. Instead he almost felt much like an afterthought.

That being said, I found the book compelling and I learned a great deal about the World's Fair. For what the book turned out to be I'd give it a 4. For what I had expected it to be, I'd give it a 2, maybe a 2.5 so I compromised with my rating and gave it a 3.



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Let Me InLet Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The best way I can describe this book is a non-stop parade of "WTF?"

A Swedish Vampire story where the vampire is the least scary character, and we see that the truly scary people are tween age boys.

I found the book riveting and disturbing and one that I will never, ever read again, nor do I think I will look to watch the movie either.



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