baronessekat: (book)
2017-07-12 12:49 pm

2017 Reading Challenge:book where the main character is a different ethinicity than you

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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baronessekat: (book)
2017-07-06 06:40 pm

2017 reading challenge: a story within a story

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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baronessekat: (book)
2017-06-23 09:36 am

book review (not for challenge)

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one a lot better than the first book and I found the first book really good.

The only way I can describe this series is X-Men meets Hunger Games. But that does it an injustice.

I'm liking that the author is giving the heroine of the story more depth and really conveys her feeling so completely over her head and out of her depths with what is happening. Unlike in Hunger Games, she didn't even initially start out asking for what happened to her, or sacrificing herself to save a family member. She did what she had to in order to survive and now she has to keep going.

I like that she is being shown dealing with the traumas. How she's being effected by PSTD (though it's not anything said but all the symptoms are there) of the torture, abuse and sheer hell she's had to endure.

And the narrator of the audiobook is really good and her voice alone grips me and drags me in and the story keeps me.

I will certainly be looking for the next book.

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baronessekat: (book)
2017-06-05 01:01 pm

book review

Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen (Please Don't Tell My Parents, #3)Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen by Richard Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this book, it returned back to Earth and dealing with being a teenager having superpowers and not wanting your parents to know you are the head of a middle school supervillain team.

It got back to the feel of the first book and we get to see Penny coping with her skills, her desire to be a superhero when her powers are more villainous AND dealing with the fact that all the other super powered kids in her school are coming out into the open and wanting to be part of her afterschool club.

I am interested to see where the series progresses and has been one that I am recommending to both adult and child friends.

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baronessekat: (book)
2017-05-30 12:31 pm

book review

Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the MoonPlease Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I enjoyed this installment, it felt a bit flat and out of place. But that may be because I'm 40+ years old reading/listening to a book for kids.

But that being said, the story, while feeling a bit contrived, moved a a good pace, had great dialogue and inner monologues and I found myself laughing in places.

It was not so out of place that I will not continue with the series to see how Penny and her friends continue on the road to Superheroism... or Super Villainism.

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baronessekat: (book)
2017-05-23 09:36 am

2017 Reading Challenge: first book in a series you've not read before.

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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baronessekat: (book)
2017-05-17 09:16 am

2017 Reading Challenge: book about an interesting woman

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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baronessekat: (book)
2017-05-10 02:04 pm

book review

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)
2017-05-04 03:22 pm

2017 Reading challenge: a book recommended by an author you love (from the advanced list)

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)
2017-04-25 07:16 am

2017 Reading Challenge: a book of letters

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)
2017-04-14 07:52 am

2017 Reading Challenge failure (would have been book set in a hotel)

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: (book)
2017-04-11 12:33 pm

2017 Reading Challenge: book that takes place in two time periods

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)
2017-04-09 08:23 pm

2017 reading challenge: a book that's been on your TBR list for way too long

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)
2017-04-01 11:15 am

2017 reading challenge: a book you've read before that never fails to make you smile

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)
2017-03-29 12:31 pm

2017 Reading Challenge: a book written by someone you admire

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)
2017-03-23 12:48 pm

2017 Reading Challenge: a book with an unreliable narrator

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)
2017-03-20 11:57 am

2017 Reading Challenge: book becoming a movie in 2017

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)
2017-03-15 11:53 am

2017 reading challenge - a failure

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)
2017-03-14 06:35 pm

2017 reading challenge: a book by or about a person with a disability

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)
2017-03-08 06:08 pm

2017 reading challenge: a book involving travel

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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