baronessekat: (book)
Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own BodyGhost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When Martin was 12 he fell ill and eventually lost all control of his body and fell into a coma. At the age of 16 he started to become aware again, but still had no control over his body. He was trapped in a prison and at the mercy of those around him. When he was 21, a worker at one of the care centers he went to on a daily basis, started talking to him and realized that there was an active mind behind his eyes and fought to get him help.

This book was difficult to deal with in places, especially as I have had family trapped inside their body and as someone on the outside looking in, you hope that you are doing right by them. It was really easy to empathize with Martin as well as his family.

The only thing I had trouble with was that this book is written in present tense as it goes from age 21 to 30-something. While there is nothing wrong with that style, it is not one I am fond of for memoirs.



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Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad (Funny in Farsi #2)Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad by Firoozeh Dumas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


While I found "Funny in Farsi" funnier, I enjoyed the stories in this installment more enjoyable and ones I could relate to more.

this time we get to experience even more of her personal life, both growing up and after being married, and how she had to deal with Parents from a very different culture than what they were living in. The story of her mother, husband and the bright red bedspread had me giggling to no end. Her realization that Jewish Mothers and Iranian Mothers are the same creature, just separated by religion, classic.

I highly recommend both this and "Funny in Farsi" and at roughly 6 hours each, they are both quick listens.





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The Gospel of LokiThe Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am totally kicking myself for letting this book sit on my TBR list for as long as it did. I completely and utterly enjoyed this book and it was made all the better by Allan Corduner's narration.

This book tells the Norse Myths completely from the point of view of Loki, the Trickster god. The first person narration makes it even better.

I've always been a sucker for the anti-hero/bad boy and this was all about him. It gave a great perspective on the myths and I totally LOVED how it ended.

If you like stories of the Norse myths, I cannot recommend this book enough.



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Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in AmericaFunny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What a fun book. An enjoyable look at one woman's struggle growing up in the 70's and 80's in California after immigrating from Iran and dealing with being both American and Iranian by culture when her parents were strongly Iranian (pre- Iranian revolution Iranian culture, not what we associate with Iranian culture today).

I found myself smiling throughout the entire book and have already obtained a copy of the author's next book as I am looking forward to more of a glimpse into her life and family.

Highly recommend.



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A Distant MirrorA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I wasn't sure going into this book what I'd think. But I found an engaging and entertaining look at Europe in the 14th Century, specifically France and England and the dealings regarding the 100 Years War. I learned a lot of things that I did not know about the century, and am glad I took the friend's recommendation for it.

I did the audiobook and think the reader was a huge help in keeping me engaged for the entire 29 hours. If it's an option for you, I would recommend listening to this book.



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Amish Vampires in Space (Peril in Plain Space #1)Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


They say "Don't judge a book by it's cover". Same holds true for the title.

I went into this book expecting a written version of a story you'd see made into a movie shown on public access TV at 2am, or torn apart by Mystery Science Theater. I mean, come on, a book entitled "Amish Vampires in Space"? What else could it be but camp and nonsense?

Boy was I wrong. Instead I got a well written, enjoyable Science Fiction story that wove Amish, Vampires and Space Travel together with a logical thread that made me go "Huh, I never would have thought of that, but it makes total sense".

Oh sure, you can figure out early on where the bad guys come into the picture. But that's secondary to how the crew of the Raven and the Amish settlers deal with them.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and have actually started recommending it to others. I may even look to get the next book in the series now.



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The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


30 years ago I was a hardcore Stephen King fan, but had somehow missed reading The Shining. So when a reading challenge category of "Book that takes place in a hotel" came up, I decided to revisit the author.

I now remember why I stopped reading his stuff. I don't know if it was the book itself or the narrator but I kept finding myself looking to see how much time I had left in the book and going "I still have HOURS" to go. I found the reader to be rather monotone, and it wasn't until the end that his voice took on any kind of excitement that made me feel even remotely interested.

I never saw either the movie or the made for tv miniseries and frankly have no desire to do so. But I can see how this book could have translated well into a suspense thriller on screen. I just wish I had felt it while listening to the book.



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The Girl with Ghost Eyes (Xian Li-lin, #1)The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


if Goodreads let us do 1/2 stars, I would give this a 3.5.

Xian Li-lin is a 22 year old widow, living with her father in Chinatown in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century. She studies Daoist traditions and strives to not bring shame on to her father. The thing that makes her unusual is that she has Yin or Ghost Eyes which means that she can see and interact with the Spirits.

She's approached by the son of one of the most important men in Chinatown, who asks her to help his friend who has a friend who died but needs help crossing over to the next realm. She agrees. From there things go sideways.

The blending of the Supernatual with traditional Chinese beliefs and attitudes at the end of the 19th century was something I had not seen before and enjoyed greatly. I do think that I would have liked this book more had a read it rather than listened to it. Not being familiar with Chinese names, it was hard at times to keep them all straight. Add to that, is that I first encountered the narrator through another series of books (also in the first person) and I had a hard time separating that series' main character from Li-lin. Had either book been in third person I do not think I would have had that trouble.

Overall, it was a fun book.



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The Neverending StoryThe Neverending Story by Michael Ende

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was definitely not the target audience for this book. And I can see how a person of a much younger age might have enjoyed this book. However, I felt incredibly eh about it.

if you've seen the movie by the same name, the movie is the first third of the book. I have not seen the sequels but from those that have, they encompass the rest of the story.

I found the first third interesting and I vividly recalled the movie parts as they came up. But once we reached the part where the first movie stopped, I really had trouble focusing and caring about the characters.

In the end I felt that the book was aptly named... as it felt like it was neverending.



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Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain (Please Don't Tell My Parents, #1)Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book grabbed my attention because of the title. It sounded fun. And, hands down, it was.

13 year old, Penelope's parents are Superheroes. The two smartest ones known. And Penelope's been waiting for her powers to start manifesting so she can join the ranks of LA's Superhero community.

But when her powers do start to manifest, she's told by her parents that it's going to take a few years for them to fully form. But what she doesn't tell them is that the powers are growing faster than expected. And what those powers prove to make her into... a mad scientist. So Penny, along with her best friends Claire and Ray, who both also develop powers, team up.

They start proving themselves to the Superhero/Supervillain communities, hoping to be taken seriously. And while everyone labels them to be villains, Penny hopes to one day still be part of the Hero side.

But until then, what's a 13 year old Mad Scientist to do but have fun and show up the Grown-ups.

I completely enjoyed this book, found myself smiling throughout it and am looking forward to the next one. Highly recommend.



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The Princess DiaristThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. Especially with Carrie reading the modern stuff and her daughter reading the journal entries.

The humor had me smiling throughout the book and even the serious points were touched with Carrie's special outlook on life.

I liked how she described what it is like "being Leia" and how, even long after the movies were out, she would often ask herself "what would Leia do" to get through a difficult situation. I liked her takes on what it means to be an iconic celebrity and likens autograph signing at conventions to lap dances.

All in all, a most enjoyable book and I do see myself looking for her other books, especially if she is the one narrating the audio versions.



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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: (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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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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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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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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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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