Walter Cronkite, a biography

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Walter Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley

I was very excited to read this biography as Walter Cronkite has always been someone I admire. I remember watching him when I was a little girl. He was the news anchor on CBS. I still remember his last broadcast on the day he retired.

Unfortunately, the book wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. The information was interesting, but it was presented fact after fact, with little attempt to break it up into meaningful chunks or themes. I listened to this one and I think that was a mistake. The reader had a rather monotone voice that nearly put me to sleep.

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The Wandering Land: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions remain my own.

40003673 The Wandering Land by Jamie Killen

Book Description:

The Maze House. The Fox Woman’s Garden. The Caverns of the Queen. These are the things that await you in the wandering land. 

On a summer night in a sunbaked desert city, the wandering land appears. A fairytale village nestled in dense forest, it is a place of ruined castles, abandoned treasures, and strange creatures living in the shadows. Brought together by this impossible place are five visitors: failed painter Eli; art professor Amal; young lovers Darcy and Wes; and mysterious, haunted Coyote. Together they explore their own secret village, an entire world hidden in plain sight. 

But there is darkness beneath the magic, a force pulling the visitors deeper and deeper into the place’s mysteries. As the boundaries between the secret land and the outside world begin to collapse, each of the visitors is confronted with visions of an otherworldly child, a child whose existence holds the key to understanding everything about the place that has drawn them together. 

Who is this child? Why did she choose them? And will she ever let them go?

I love a good, creepy story. My idea of great horror is something that takes the familiar and makes it slightly but definitely other, then taking the story and letting the otherness grow until the whole story is just horrifying. It doesn’t even have to have supernatural stuff in it – a creepy, suspenseful story is always immensely satisfying. One example would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I loved the book description on The Wandering Land, and I was really hoping the story was just as good.

I was right. Killen delivers a very satisfying story with a truly creepy payoff. The story starts with five different people who all discover a way into a hidden world. Each of the five is creative in a different way – an artist, a writer, a cartoonist, an editor, and a musician – and they discover that through their art they can create new and sometimes unsettling changes to this hidden world.

As they redesign the world, they are given tasks to complete, all at the direction of a hidden queen. The further they progress in their tasks, the more the world begins taking hold of their every day life as well. Soon it becomes almost impossible to separate the two. They have to dive deep to uncover the history of this wandering land if they are all going to be able to free themselves from its spell.

There was so much to enjoy about this book. First, I loved the concept of a hidden world that chooses its new residents. It’s set in Tuscon, and I think that’s a great place to imagine a portal to a hidden world. The desert is definitely a landscape where you feel like anything could happen.

But my favorite part of this book was the characters. While the story was great, well-imagined and original, the characters were the part that really made this story shine for me. I loved that the author was able to get such diverse group of characters  without making it seem like she was just checking off boxes for the sake of diversity. Lovers Darcy and Wes work together on a comic, but they have to work hard to overcome the differences in their upbringing. Eli has a family to support but he can’t help feeling this connection to the wandering land that threatens to overshadow his responsibilities. Amal is a professor who has just moved in with her girlfriend. And Coyote has no family, only one friend, and lives only for her music. Each character has a compelling back story and a unique voice.

In short, I’m really glad I had a chance to read this one. I haven’t read any other books from this author, but I would definitely recommend this one.

 

Friday Flashback!

This review appeared earlier.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com
Themes: royalty, family, ambition, religion, commerce, politics, love
Setting: 13th century EuropeGreat story about four wealthy and powerful sisters who changed the fate of Europe. They were the beautiful and charming daughters of the Count of Provence, Raymond Berengar V, and each one of them became a queen: Marguerite, the eldest, became Queen of France and married Louis IX, Eleanor married Henry III, Sanchia, the saddest story of them all, married brother to King Henry, Richard, who became King, but not Emperor, of the Holy Roman Empire, and Beatrice, who married Charles of Anjou, brother to King Louis, who became the King of Sicily by conquest.

Despite all the royal names and politics involved, this one was an easy read that was more like a modern family drama than a dry historical treatise. There was plenty of feuding, an occasional war, going on Crusades, a rebellion here and there – it was certainly not a boring time to live. This is a great one for the RTT theme this month.

I could have used more maps, but even without them, I really enjoyed the book. Maybe somewhat slow to start, but once the first couple of sisters were married, I couldn’t put it down. I’m not really familiar with this time period, although I recognized a lot of the names, so I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. 4 stars

Pirates AND Dragons!

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Are you looking for a great escape read? After watching Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War – no spoilers, I promise! – I *really* needed something light and happy. What could be better than a fantasy story with a love triangle, pirates, and a little dragon? How about a kick-ass heroine who gets in there and mixes it up? And how about doing it all for less than a dollar?

The book is Moss Forest Orchid, book 1 in the Silver & Orchids series by one of my favorite fairy tale writers, Shari L. Tapscott. I’ve talked about Shari’s books before on here, so you know that I love them, but these books are not based on a fairy tale. They are entirely new.

Lucia is from a family of chicken farmers, looking for a way into a better life. She teams up with best friend (and grandson of the local lord) Sebastian and sets up as adventurers. Unfortunately, she invests all their earnings with a man who turns out to be a con artist, and the two have nothing to show for all their hard work. Then they hear about a new job – bringing back a cutting of a rare flower, an orchid that only grows in a distant and dangerous swamp. The pay would be enough for Lucia to pay back Sebastian and make a new start.

There’s only a few problems with this plan. First, Lucia and Sebastian can hardly talk to each other without fighting, so teaming up is going to be rough. And second, there’s this distracting (and sexy) pirate captain who keeping turning up. Finally, Lucia has hm, acquired a dragon egg, which is going to be trouble. The whole thing is a bit of a mess. But hey, pirates are good!

I loved this one so much that the love triangle didn’t even phase me. Normally I avoid those books, but this one was just done right. I was really deceived by the first book, but as soon as I finished, I downloaded book 2, Greybrow Serpent, and completely switched my ship! The first book is available on Amazon right now for only $1 so you have no reason not to check it out. Love, love this series!

 

 

A Lack of Temperance – a review

A Lack of Temperance by Anna Loan-Wilsey

Hattie Davish arrives at her new job as a secretary to an older woman. But whe she get there, she finds that her employer is missing and she’s right in the middle of a storm over temperance. Her employer is the president of a large protest organization and they’re hosting a rally that week. But her new boss turns up dead and the police haven’t got much to go on. Hattie better figure out what’s going on before she become a victim herself.

I liked this series debut. The setting, Arkansas in the late 19th century, was well done. I liked the resort town. It’s certainly one that’s not overdone, so I hope that the writer keeps the books in the same area. But I wasn’t as crazy about the main character as I was about the setting. I felt that she was a little inconsistent and times and not especially likeable. Still, she might grow on me.

Overall, recommended. I received this book for review from LT Early Reviewers program.

The Time Hunters – A Review

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The Time Hunters, book 1 

by Carl Ashmore

Becky is a typical thirteen year old girl. She likes Facebook, gossiping and plenty of sleep. So when she and her brother, Joe, are invited to stay with their ‘loony’ Uncle Percy at his stately home, she thinks it’ll be the worst summer ever. What she doesn’t realise is that Bowen Hall is also home to a baby Triceratops, two Sabre-tooth tigers and the mythic hero, Will Scarlet… 

‘The Time Hunters’ is a thrilling adventure that takes Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy and Will on a quest through time to find the legendary Golden Fleece. 

The Clock is ticking…. 

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Becky and Joe are sent off to spend the summer with their Uncle Percy, whom they’ve never met. Neither is very excited about it, but it turns out to be the most exciting thing that could have happened to them – and something that could change their lives forever.

This is actually a tricky book for me to review. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy it. I did. Rather, it’s because I’m not the target audience. This is clearly written for younger readers. I wish I could have given it to a young teen and asked them what they thought. For me, I thought it was pretty over the top, a little too much going on in here and not enough character development. But it wasn’t written for me.

The book has plenty that would have appealed to my kids when they were younger – the idea of time travel, the fun look at classic myths and the twists the writer includes, and hey, dinosaurs. What kids wouldn’t enjoy that? I liked that the writer looked at time travel from a kid’s eye. Most adult time travel books have them going back to see famous historical events like Washington crossing the Delaware or the Battle of Hastings. But kids would absolutely be more interested in dinosaurs, in events they have personal knowledge of, or things that affected their family. I felt that was very real.

That said, I hope that as the series progresses we see some character development. Becky and Joe are pretty typical siblings – they don’t get along great most of the time. Joe is very much treated like he’s too young to understand what’s going on while Becky gets the full explanation. I’m not sure that’s completely fair. There’s only two years separating the kids. I’d like to see their relationship develop and the kids mature. With the big reveal near the end of the book, there’s certainly room for some growth.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it for parents with kids about 9 – 13. As it is, I don’t think I’ll be reading more, but it was a fun read.

 

Bosch: A Review

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Have you watched this Amazon show? I only saw the first episode, but since I mentioned it in a blog post recently, I thought I would rerun my review of the first book in the series by Michael Connolly.

The Black Echo by Michael Connolly

This may be the only time I can remember that I am giving a book 5 stars, but I’m not planning to read anymore in the series.

It’s not the main character. I really liked Harry Bosch. Maybe he’s a bit cliched, but I found him a likable sort of loner with a messed up past. A crummy childhood, combined with some serious PTSD from the Vietnam war, has left him unable to trust anyone. It’s a good thing, really, because with just a couple of exceptions, everyone in this book is exclusively working for himself.

When the body of a fellow Tunnel Rat, a guy from Harry’s old army unit, is found apparently dead of an overdose, Harry feels like he owes his old buddy more than the cursory glance the rest of the police force wants to give the case. Add to that some guilt Harry feels about letting his old buddy down, and he’s just not about to let things drop. So when his investigation leads to a connection with a major bank heist that the FBI is still investigating, he starts asking questions. A lot of questions. And now he’s being followed by two guys from Internal Affairs who can’t wait to shut him down.

This all sounds pretty good, so what am I complaining about? It’s just the general feel of the book. It’s unrelentingly pessimistic – life stinks, you can’t trust anyone (and Harry can’t), everyone is hiding something, and there’s no such thing as a happy ending for anyone. It’s Harry against The World. And I’m just not going to read more of that. My own life is complicated enough; I don’t want to read somethings this dark when it’s supposed to be reading for fun. So I guess I’m saying that it’s a good book; it’s just not the right book for me.

Astounding Antagonists – review

Astounding Antagonists by Rafael Chandler.

Dr. Agon, a megalomaniacal inventor with an arsenal of lethal gadgets. Motley, a wisecracking jewel thief with nothing left to lose. Chillpill, a cryogenic drug lord who just wants a normal life. Baelphegor, a demonic psychopath with an ugly score to settle.
They’re the most dangerous supervillains on Earth, and they’re about to pull off the perfect crime. There’s just one catch: if they succeed, they might accidentally save the world.
From the skyscrapers of Apex City to the gates of Hell itself, the Antagonists are pursued by violent superheroes and billionaire vigilantes. But as loyalties are tested and old hatreds are rekindled, the line between friend and foe begins to blur… 

I really expected to enjoy this one, but it didn’t work for me at all. There were a few characters I liked, but for the most part that were just really unpleasant. I hate books where I don’t like the characters. Then the superheroes and the villains all sit around discussing politics. Really? Socialism vs. capitalism? That’s your banter?

I think the author had some interesting questions in here, like what happens when the heroes get powerful that they can’t be controlled, what would happen to an average dude who got super powers, but it was just so preachy. I was so disappointed

Blog Tour! Happily by Chauncey Rogers

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Hey bookies! I’m so excited today to tell you about this book that I really enjoyed, Happily by Chauncey Rogers. Today I’m just doing a book review, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun Q&A with one of the main characters!

No Fairy Godmother

No Magic Pumpkin.

Just One Grumpy Girl

And a Glass Slipper.

C’mon, how can you resist a tag line like that? I’m such a sucker for fairy tale retellings (In fact, I’m writing one myself!) that I knew this one was going to be fun. Cinderella without the magic? Yes, please!

Only this one is not about Cinderella. It’s about Laure, a street urchin who’s been hustling to survive on the streets of the capital. Laure is trying to make a big score, one that will get her out this miserable town and her rotten life and onto something better. But the day of her big score, everything goes wrong and she winds up in the company of a wannabe merchant named Luc. Luc is completely the opposite of Laure in terms of personality and outlook. He’s sure things will get better, but he needs Laure’s help. She comes up with a scheme, and here’s a hint – it involves a glass slipper.

I enjoyed this one so much! Laure is a brat in the beginning of the book, but I did come to like her and Luc is just great all the way through. I loved the way the writer took a familiar tale and added his own twist, by creating new characters and a fresh plot. Laure and Luc’s dynamic is well done, with the way they have to team up in the beginning, but slowly coming to trust each other as the book progresses. I just heard that a sequel may be in the future. This one does have room for more developments, but it’s not a cliffhanger, so if you hate those, don’t worry about that. Also, it’s available for free right now through Kindle Unlimited.

In short, if you like fantasy or fairy tales, give this one a try.

Soonish: a review

I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an  honest but unbiased review. My opinion remains my own.

34490192Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything

by Dr. Kelly and Zach Weinersmith

Synopsis:

What will the world of tomorrow be like? How does progress happen? And why do we not have a lunar colony already? What is the hold-up?

In this smart and funny book, celebrated cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith give us a snapshot of what’s coming next — from robot swarms to nuclear fusion powered-toasters. By weaving their own research, interviews with the scientists who are making these advances happen, and Zach’s trademark comics, the Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.

New technologies are almost never the work of isolated geniuses with a neat idea. A given future technology may need any number of intermediate technologies to develop first, and many of these critical advances may appear to be irrelevant when they are first discovered. The journey to progress is full of strange detours and blind alleys that tell us so much about the human mind and the march of civilization. 

To this end, SOONISH investigates ten different emerging fields, from programmable matter to augmented reality, from space elevators to robotic construction, to show us the amazing world we will have, you know, soonish.

My reaction:

I really enjoyed this book. I am definitely a science nerd. I love stuff like this, about technology and how it might impact our lives in the future. I only got to read an excerpt from the book, but I really enjoyed what I read. The book starts out with the very big and goes to the very small. The first chapter starts with cheaper space travel – because why can’t we go all Star Trek yet and what’s it going to take? The authors break it down, with what space travel involves and why it is so expensive. I also love the style. The whole book is written for readers like me, who really dig science, but aren’t experts at it. Then there are cartoons, because we get a little distracted too.

I would definitely recommend this one. I think it would also be a great gift for the science nerds you love, including your teenagers.