Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Justice Calling by Annie Bellet (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Series, Volume I)

Synopsis:Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress. Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe. As long as she doesn’t use her magic. When dark powers threaten her friends’ lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He’s the shifter world’s judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she’ll have to use her wits… and her sorceress powers. Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits.

Review: I only picked this up (or, downloaded it, to be precise) because I play D&D and it was free. I read it will at the gym, huffing away on the elliptical.
To say I was surprised by the quality is an understatement. I actually LOST TRACK OF EXERCISING and ended up going for eight more minutes just so I could finish this book. The action, the plot, the characters - fantastic! I loved the world building, the idea of a tiger-shifter, a sorceress, and a game shop. It's a bit short, so it feels rushed at points, but overall, I rather enjoyed this story - enough that I bought (as in, paid real money) for Volume II. Read this. It's worth the time.

NOTE: This refers to the eBook, read on a Kindle.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Print Length: 152 Pages
File Size: 963 KB
Date Finished: 6-25-2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: Jade Darcy and the Zen Pirates by Stephen Goldin and Mary Mason

Synopsis: Honor among thieves was a concept new to Jade Darcy. So when Megan Cafferty hired the computer-enhanced mercenary warrior for a mission to the isolationist world of Restappa, Jade expected to spend most of her time guarding their belongings from the devious monks who would be their hosts. But theft would prove the least of their worries. For Restappa was about to choose the new heir to religious rule of the planet. And as guests of the monastery where the selection ceremonies would take place, Jade and Megan were quickly caught up in the devious plots and intricate assassination games of the various candidates and sects - some of whom saw them as a prize to be won, while others marked them as a danger to be eliminated with all possible speed.... (from the back of the book)

Review: I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first. Jade seemed to act out-of-character, one minutes worried about being found out, the next making a huge scene in front of the very people she wanted to hide from. And her relationship with Megan was odd - friends or lovers or something in between  - it was all very vague. And the end felt rushed. The whole mystery of who killed the victims dragged on, and then bam! Mystery solved in a paragraph, with minimal effort or detail. The world-building had depth and detail, which I liked, and I felt the premise of the entire story was strong. And it was clear that Goldin meant for there to be more books, but never wrote them. At least two of storylines - one started in the previous book - where not resolved. In the end, I'm glad I read this, I like where Goldin was going and his universe has some interesting twists (The Greest, for example), but this isn't a strong story because he has the characters act outside of the personality he already established for them.

Bookmarks; 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-451-45021-3
Date Finished: 6-15-2015
Pages: 293

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: The French Beauty Solution by Mathilde Thomas

Synopsis: When Mathilde Thomas moved from her native France to the United States to expand her skin-care company, Caudalíe, she wanted to find out what American women wanted from their beauty routines. She interviewed thousands of women and was struck by how different the French and American approaches to beauty were. American women are all about the quick fix—the elusive product or procedure that will instantly solve a nagging beauty problem, even if it hurts, is wildly expensive, or is damaging in the long term. The French, by contrast, approach beauty as an essential and pleasurable part of the day, a lifelong and active investment that makes you look and feel good. Mathilde used these insights to turn Caudalíe into one of America’s top beauty brands. Drawing on her company’s twenty years of scientific skin-care expertise backed by the research of doctors and dermatologists—as well as the beauty secrets she learned growing up on a vineyard in Bordeaux—The French Beauty Solution covers everything from how to use natural ingredients such as oil and honey to wash your face; what foods to eat for healthier hair, skin, and nails; and the amazing properties of grapes and grapeseed oil. She also introduces an easy three-day grape cleanse that European aristocrats have been using to detox for hundreds of years. Blending stories, science, DIY recipes, and tons of savoir faire, The French Beauty Solution is the last beauty regimen you’ll ever need. (from the back of the book)

Review: I chose this book because I am a beauty disaster. Meaning, if I remember to brush my hair, it's a good day. I don't want complicated beauty regimes, nor would I be able to sustain one anyway. This seemed the right sort of advice for that. And for the most part, it was. Thomas has a kind cheery writing stlye, peppering her paragraphs with french words and anecdotes about her childhood on a farm in France. Her advice and information is not anything ground-breaking - the idea one should use natural products and eschew chemicals isn't new. She did have some interesting tricks and tips, and I would love to, as she says, get to the point where I feel confident enough in my skin that I can leave off the make-up. And her advice is designed to help the reader accomplish this seemingly impossible task.
My complaints are that, occasionally, she forgets us mere mortals can't afford $50 eyeliner, and several times, it felt like the book was a giant advertisement for her company, Caudalie. However, she also gives the recipe for several Caudalie products, and recipes for many more items (hair, face, and body scrubs, creams etc.). It's clear she isn't about hoarding her knowledge, but sharing it. I liked that. She's clearly a fan of grapes, lauding them as the miracle food/cure. Meh. I'm inherently skeptical when someone claims XYZ is the answer to all your problems - and encouraging women to eat nothing but grapes for 3 days and calling it a cleanse? Eh, that's a a bit too nonsensical for my taste.
The part where she explained the benefits or dangers of many of the chemicals we find in our beauty products was the most helpful, in my mind. Now, when I read the ingredients on the back of my shampoo, I know what I'm reading - and what those mysterious items will do to my skin and hair. That's knowledge worth having.
I plan to try some of her recipes. Thankfully, most of the ingredients are items you can buy at the grocery store or health food store - things like oatmeal, avocado, olive oil, baking soda, essential oils. At least in that aspect, she remembered not all of us can afford expensive beauty treatments. As far as books on beauty go, I would recommend this one, despite its flaws. Instead of the standard approach of teaching women how to hide their real face, Thomas encourages women to be natural, to exalt in their "flaws" and to proudly flaunt what makes them unique. That's the sort of beauty I want - and I think we need.

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-592-40951-8
Date Finished: 6-14-2015
Pages: 259

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer

Synopsis: No one wants to see a church die. And yet, far too many churches are dying. For more than twenty-five years, Dr. Thom Rainer has helped churches grow, reverse the trends of decline, and has autopsied those that have died. From this experience, he has discovered twelve consistent themes among those churches that have died. Yet, it’s not gloom and doom because from those twelve themes, lessons on how to keep your church alive have emerged. Whether your church is vibrant or dying, whether you are a pastor or a church member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church will walk you through the radical paths necessary to keep your church alive to the glory of God and advancement of Christ’s Kingdom! (from the back of the book)

Review: This was the pick for the Book Club at Church. It's a slim, quick, volume, with some excellent points. Rainer doesn't mince words, being straight and honest about what kills a church and what to do about it. It's an okay book. Rainer is clearly passionate about this topic and truly wants to help his brothers and sisters in Christ. The questions at the end of each chapters where well designed and obviously created to dig out the truth from the readers. But, in the end, this book just didn't reach me as I thought.
My qualm is petty, I suppose, but it reads more like a blog post that someone tried to stretch into a book. Which makes sense since this topic started as a blog post for Rainer. He tends to repeat himself and uses space and fancy design to make the book appear longer than it really is. Also, to be honest, the advice, while good, was a bit jumbled and vague.
However, I'm not sure this was something he could have avoided. One can give all the reasons in the world and all the solutions and how-to's and advice and warnings - but in the end, Churches die because people are selfish and sinful. And there is only one book that has ever helped people over come that. This is not it.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4336-8392-3
Date Finished: 6-9-2015
Pages: 101

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ramble: Reading at the Gym

I find the gym, on the whole, is boring. Plodding along on the treadmill is no fun and running with my ankles and knees always ends poorly. The bike doesn't strengthen my body enough. So, I use the elliptical. 

The best part? You can read on the elliptical! So, I've decided to plow my way through my kindle - I have piles (figuratively) of unread kindle books. 

Currently, I'm reading Mercenary Instinct (The Mandrake Company series) by Ruby Lionsdrake. It was free (as are most of my kindle books) and actually, good so far. But I have to wait for the next gym day to read further! Now, I'm actually looking forward to the next workout!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor by Stephen Goldin (The Rehumanization of Jade Darcy, Book One)

Synopsis: Planetary brawls were an easy way for Jade Darcy to earn her keep as the only human on the planet Cablans. As one of the top bouncers at Rix's Place - where any alien that could walk, crawl, slither, roll, or otherwise arrive with enough energy unit to its credit was welcome to food, drink or its native equivalent - Jade had often used her military skills to keep the peace. But when another human suddenly turned up on this farthest outpost of the universe looking for her, Jade was sure her worst nightmare had finally caught up with her. And so she sought escape from her human past on a suicide assignment against the most violent alien conquerors this sector of space had ever known - a mission of honor to launch a one-woman, interstellar war. (from the back of the book)

Review: Goldin created an interesting character in Jade. Computer-augmentation, a fierce intelligence, and years of military training have made her tough, nearly invincible in a fight. And yet, she lives in fear - fear of the past, fear of discovery, fear of other being hurt or betrayed. This makes her vulnerable in ways she doesn't see. It takes a rich businesswoman and a man with honor and nothing else to help her see herself for real. The book starts slow, it seems, with details about Jade waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast. It seems like it would be boring, but it wasn't. I enjoyed reading about her life, her work, her character. Goldin put the same depth in his secondary characters - creating multiple alien species, as well as the two main secondary characters. The author is creative, to say the least. Plots and Pace are both good, with action, adventure, mystery, and emotion. But in the end, it's the character of Jade that kept me hooked. The books ends when several unanswered questions, but since there is a sequel, I expect to find the answers there.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-451-15613-7
Date Finished: 6-2-2015
Pages: 254

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: Headstrong: 52 Women who Changed Science - and the World by Rachel Swaby

Synopsis: In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light? Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats. (from the back of the book)

Review: In "A Room of One's Own", Virginia Wolf created a fictional sister of Shakespeare and lamented that this girl may have been of equal genius as her brother, but for lack of education and "a room of her own", she languished and died without her intellect ever being realized. No disrespect to Wolf or her imaginary heroine, but perhaps they should have taken note of the women in this book. While many of these women were encouraged to be educated by family, several were forbidden. But they learned anyway, even if it meant swiping books on physics from their father's library, like Sophie Kowalevski. As for space, often these women were denied pay or proper research space strictly because they were women - and yet, they turned janitor's closets into laboratories for radioisotope research, like Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, or a made world-changing scientific breakthroughs in dank, small labs with no bathrooms, like Lise Meitner.
Unlike the Wolf's fictional genius, these real life geniuses persevered, demanded space, and when denied, made it for themselves anyway. These amazing scientist knew what Wolf didn't seem to  - a woman with a passion is a force of nature, one that cannot be stopped.
Swaby does an excellent job of giving a brief overview of each one of these remarkable women. In fact, to my mind, she was a bit too brief. She could have added a more information and the book would have been better for it. However, her work stands as remarkable and worth reading. And mostly, worth sharing. I have the urge to buy this for all the young girls I know. Swaby was wise enough to add an extensive bibliography in the back, because as the reader, you will want to read up more on all of these remarkable scientist!

Note: I received this free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviwer Program in exchange ofr my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-553-44679-1
Date Finished: 5-30-2015
Pages: 254

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: First Woman and the Strawberry: A Cherokee Legend by Gloria Dominic

Synopsis: A story about how the Great Spirit used Strawberries to quell First Woman's anger.

Review: This is a sweet, clever tale. Based on a Cherokee legend, the prose are simple and strong, and when paired with these stylized illustration, the overall effect is lovely. First Man and First Woman live in harmony, until they have a disagreement. In her anger, First Woman strides off and ignored First Man's attempt to catch up. The Great Spirit creates the bright red strawberry, to tempt First Woman and remind her of the love between her and First Man. It's a fun story with the ring of truth to it. In addition to the story, the last few pages have simplified facts about Cherokee history and heritage, complete with pictures. It's a fabulous addition to the story. I highly recommend this book for any kids, and it would be an excellent addition to classroom.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8167-4513-7
Date Finished: 5-29-2015
Pages: 48

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Acquistions: The Book Haul, Part Two

My MO when I get large book hauls is to slowly go through the books, doing research on the book and author, and sorting the volumes into keep, sell, give, or donate piles.

I've only gone through a small part of the piles from this haul, but this is what I've found so far.

Inside a thin volume on the life of Queen Elizabeth, a picture of the Royal Family on VE Day, from the newspaper printed the second day.

A book of Hawaiian Flowers from 1947. The prints are stunning.

"Beautiful Joe" by Marshall Saunders. Extremely popular, the story of a dog who had his tail and ears cut off. He was rescued by caring family and given a home and life full of kindness and love. Saunders based this account on a true story, but told it from the dog's point of view. It was so powerful and popular, it gave rise to the modern movement against Animal Cruelty.

At least 70 Reader's Digest Condensed Books, which I don't want, but several have these lovely covers. I want to tear out the printed pages and insert lined blank ones and turn it into a journal or scrapbook.

After these lovely treasures, I'm excited to see what else I find!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors by Anne K. Ream

Review: From its insistently resolute opening essay to its final, deeply moving story, Lived Through This is a book that defies conventional wisdom about life in the wake of sexual violence, while putting names and faces on an issue that too often leaves its victims silent and invisible. Part personal history of Anne Ream’s own experience rebuilding her life after violence, part memoir of a multi-country, multi-year journey spent listening to survivors, Lived Through This is at once deeply personal and resolutely political. In these pages we are introduced to, among others, the women of Atenco, Mexico, victims of rape and political torture who are speaking out about gender-based violence in Latin America; Beth Adubato, a woman who was raped by a popular athlete and then denied justice when her college failed to fully investigate the attack; and Jenny and Steve Bush, a rape survivor and her father who are working together to share Jenny’s testimony of surviving rape at the hands of a veteran in order to alter the US military’s response to sexual violence committed by those in its ranks. Writing with compassion, candor, and, at times, even much-needed humor, Ream brings us a series of stories and essays that are as insistent as they are incisive. Considered individually, her profiles are profoundly moving, and even inspiring. Considered collectively, they are a window into a world where sexual violence is more commonplace than most of us imagine. The accomplished and courageous women and men profiled in Lived Through This are, in the words of the author, “living reminders of all that remains possible in the wake of the terrible.” (from the online description)

Synopsis: This book isn't about rape; It's about what happens afterwards. It's about how people survive rape. It's filled with personal stories from the survivors - stories from their interviews with the author. It's powerful. Mostly because it not about how rape happens or the gory details, but about overcoming it. It's about how these men (yes, men can be raped) and women reclaimed their lives, channeled the anger and hurt and brokenness, about how they went on living after something like rape. Ream included statistics and a list of resources at the end of the book. I highly recommend this book as good introduction to rape in our society and in particular, for anyone who has been raped. This book is about hope. It tells the reader they are not alone and that survival is possible.

Note: I received this free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3930-4
Date Finished: 5-25-2015
Pages: 202

Monday, June 1, 2015

Acquisitions: The Book Haul, Part One

I buy book lots via online auctions. Local ones, where I go pick up the volumes. Usually, it's a box or two. But, the hazard of buying online is sometimes, well, there are more books than I realized from the pictures.

This book haul was one of them.

It was four lots, $20 each, plus tax - so about $100 total.

I thought I was buying about 100-200 books. I was wrong.

It was actually over 700 books.

Composed mostly of pre-1960 hardback novels and heavy non-fiction, it was a jumble of dusty, crumbling, archaic volumes - in other words, it glorious treasure trove of booky goodness!

It look me about 2 hours to box them and carrying them from the upstairs hall shelves in this early 1900s house into my car. The car rode noticeably lower once loaded, being that the books went from floor to ceiling, from trunk to front seat.

It took me almost a day carrying them from the car into the dining room, mostly because I had dust off every volume before I brought it inside. Even then, the dining room was filled with dust motes and towering piles.

And books. Books to the ceiling, books to the doors, books to the rafters, books from wall to wall, books, glorious books!

I've already started digging through, and I've found some treasures - but that's a topic for another post.....