Monday, July 31, 2017

"Netopia" by Y.G. Levimor

Okay, so this is another book that I had to give up on before I even reached the halfway point. I really wanted to like it since the concept of the story was very interesting, but the more I read, the less I wanted to keep reading. Eventually I just reached a point where I decided that I just couldn’t take it any longer and had to quit.

This book seemed to be set in a futuristic world where you could connect to one person or to many through a sort of mental internet. (Sounds interesting so far, doesn’t it?) Everything about your living space can look however you want it to look, from your furniture, to the view from your living space, and even to your clothing. Since you rarely have to leave your living space, it doesn’t even matter if you wander around all day in your underwear or in nothing at all. Anyone you connect with through “Minds” will see you however you want to be viewed.

Even physical relationships can take place in this virtual world, and your avatars can look like whatever you desire. You can also genetically design your own children. Though it would appear that sometimes the computer program helping you to design your child might not catch a “bug” in the programming that causes unintentional and unfortunate results. These “accidents” don’t usually appear until the child is several years old; clearly far too late to correct the problem. (That program was quickly shut down and children went back to being conceived and born the natural and old-fashioned way.) One of the more disturbing parts here involved the creator of the child design software secretly wishing he could collect all the unfortunate results of his program and kill them all off.

What really lost my interest in this book was when it often seemed to degenerate into gratuitous, graphic sex. I don’t mind when sex scenes fit with the story, but here they were just starting to devolve into random encounters that the author would throw in when it appeared that he felt he needed one. Since the two participants didn’t even need to be in a room together, they often were set as fantasy encounters designed by the participants to amuse themselves. This is definitely not a book for younger readers. A few of these encounters were more than enough for me.

I’m sure there are those out there who might enjoy this book, I just don’t happen to be one of them. My apologies for another incomplete review, but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish this book. I tried, but I kept finding myself getting distracted and wandering off to do other things with little desire to return to reading it. Eventually I just had to admit that I really wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t want to continue. My apologies for anyone who may have been looking forward to a full review of this book.

Please feel free to leave me any comments on any of my reviews. So far, while I’m sure that at least some of you are coming back and reading my opinions, no one has given me any feedback. Hopefully you’re enjoying what I’m saying about the books I’ve read and reviewed. And with a little luck, maybe some of my reviews are helping you find something to read that you might not have picked up otherwise.

Happy reading!
Mom Kat

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Royal Replicas" by Michael Pierce

This time around, I chose a sci-fi/fantasy novel that takes place in the Kingdom of Westeria. Westeria appears to be technologically slightly ahead of our time with a touch of old world royalty thrown in. It is ruled by a queen whose heir and daughter has not been seen in public in close to a decade. It’s well known in the kingdom that the Princess Amelia has always been very ill, though she is being treated and rumored to be getting better.

The story is told from the perspective of a girl by the name of Victoria. She is being raised by a family, and it seems unclear if she is merely a servant (as she is treated as one) or a member of their family. (She has a governess and is expected to learn much the same things as the two daughters of the household.)

One thing I do need to mention here, as a warning, is that the main character of this book is physically abused by the man raising her, and it does happen more than once throughout the book. While there doesn’t seem to be any sexual abuse involved, the man doing the beatings clearly seems to take pleasure in causing her a great deal of pain as punishment for any perceived fault. He also forces his two daughters to participate in the beatings as well. It is clear that his wife is aware of this abuse, though she never seems to do anything to try to stop it or to protect any of the girls from her husband’s temper and beatings. For many readers, this may be enough to cause them to want to avoid this book.

The premise of this story is that Victoria, as well as 6 other girls scattered across the kingdom, are clones of the Princess Amelia. None of them were aware of their heritage, nor had they any reason to suspect they were anything other than ordinary girls. Then one day, a message arrives from the capital summoning them all to the castle. The girls learn that they are each clones of the sick princess. They are told that the princess had died several years earlier and that one of them would be chosen to take her place, would be married to the Prince from the neighboring country, and would someday become the next queen of Westeria.

The girls are given 4 weeks to get to know the prince and to try to win his heart. Only one of them can become Princess Amelia, but what will happen to the other 6 clones who aren’t chosen for the role? After all, while their personalities differ from each other, they are all physically identical. It was known that the queen only had one child, so there can only be one chosen to take the place of the dead princess. What will they do with the 6 extra girls once the prince has chosen the one he wishes to marry? And what happens when Victoria accidentally discovers the secret room in the basement where the crippled, but still very much alive, real Princess Amelia has been locked away and begins visiting her?

The book is well written, and despite the issue of the abuse from one of the chosen parents, it is an interesting concept. It does, however, end with a cliffhanger. The sequel is due out in October, so anyone choosing to read this book will have to wait for a few months before they can find out what happens to the original Amelia and the cloned princesses. I will admit to being curious as to what will happen next, though I am as yet uncertain whether I will seek out book two in the series or not.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Disney" by Rees Quinn

For today, I read a biography about Walt Disney. He was born to a poor but hardworking family in 1901. When Walt was young his family lived and worked on a modest farm in Kansas. When he was 7, his parents enrolled both Walt and his younger sister in school together. While he didn't mind waiting the extra 2 years before starting school (he really had no interest in education), like most kids he didn't enjoy being in the same grade as his little sister.

Early on Walt developed an interest in the performing arts. He auditioned for and won the role of Peter Pan in a school play. He also taught himself how to draw successive images to create a flip book (basic animation) and began to develop an interest in becoming an artist. It was an interest that would someday take him to great places.

When the family farm failed, Walt's family moved to Kansas City. Their father took a job delivering newspapers. With several thousand newspapers to deliver every day, Walt and his brother Roy were put to work helping their father deliver papers every morning. All their lives, hard work was one constant that they were familiar with. Growing up with such a willingness to work hard would be one of his strongest assets and would help to take Walt to a wonderful future.

When Walt was in high school, the family moved back to Chicago. Again, hard work was still a constant in their lives with the boys often working multiple jobs when they could find the extra work. In 1918, at the age of 16 and with the help of his mother, Walt enlisted in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps. But it wasn't until after the end of the war that he was sent to France to deliver relief supplies. There, he often used his artistic abilities to earn himself some extra cash.

When he returned to Chicago he took a job in a commercial art studio where he met first Ubbe Iwerks. In 1920 the two young men formed Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. The partnership didn't last long at this point (though they would often work together again in the future), but it brought Walt to his first job creating animated shorts that ran in local theaters. Walt learned all he could, and as his skills improved, it led from the one job to others.

Walt began making quite a name for himself over the years. He started working with his brother Roy who focused more on the business they were growing whereas Walt was the creative force. It was a partnership that would work well for them and one that would continue during their lifetimes.

Walt & Roy moved to Hollywood, where they continued to learn and practice their craft of filmmaking. During this time, Walt would meet the love of his life, Lillian Bounds and the two were soon married. Although they desperately wanted to start a family, it would be some time and several miscarriages before Lillian finally gave birth to a daughter. Once he became famous enough that people began to recognize him wherever he went, Walt would do his best to keep his family out of the spotlight, having seen what can happen to the children of famous people in the world. (For those familiar with the story of the Lindburg baby, it was an example of what could happen and a good reason for him to keep his family out of the spotlight and his private life, private.)

After losing the rights to his main animated character Oswald, Walt Disney would ever afterwards be careful to retain control of his creations. It was a painful lesson, but one that would serve the Disney brothers well in later years.

Walt's next character would become his most famous and endearing: Mickey Mouse. He originally planned on naming him Mortimer Mouse, but Walt’s wife convinced him that the name Mortimer was too pompous sounding and suggested that he call the character Mickey Mouse instead.

Over the years they would continue to grow and expand, creating many new innovations and techniques that drastically improved filming of both live action and animated shorts until Walt felt it was time to make a full length animated film. Many would refer to it as "Disney's Folly" believing that no one would want to sit through a 90 minute animated film. That film, whose actual title was Snow White, went on to be the highest-grossing motion picture of 1938 and earned Walt Disney a number of awards. It also proved that audiences truly did enjoy full length animated films just as much as they did live action films. It was only the first of many feature animated films that Disney would go on to create.

There is so much more that I could say about Walt Disney, his life, and his family, but this entry is already becoming far too long. I have yet to get to so many of his other innovations and accomplishments, not the least of which includes what is often referred to as the “Happiest Place on Earth”: Disney World. He was a amazing man who lived a fascinating life. He did not always succeed in his goals, but he never gave up trying to achieve and accomplish more. He was one of the first who saw the value in creating a television show as a means of promoting his brand. Today, his name is one of the most recognizable names anywhere Ask anyone, and I doubt you would be able to find a single person who has not heard of Walt Disney. Ask any child about Disney World, and you will likely find a child who is begging a parent to take them to the park on their next family vacation.

I highly recommend reading this book to learn more about Walt Disney and his life, as honestly I have only managed to barely touch on it here. There is still so much more to learn about him. I know I enjoyed reading it and had a very hard time putting the book the down at night. My daughter was amazed at how quickly I finished reading it. Take a look at it for yourself. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Little Red: Everland Ever After" by Caroline Lee

So after the interesting but confusing book that I wasn't able to finish reading for my last entry, this time I decided to choose something nice and simple to read. I selected what I consider to be a twisted fairy tale. In this case, I the book I chose is a unique take on the classic "Little Red Riding Hood" story.

The town of Everland seems to be populated by the main characters of a number of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Abuela, the old woman who runs the orphanage in a worn out building that resembles a shoe, Rojita, and a whole host of other easily recognizable characters appear in this book.

Rojita is trying to return home to the western town of Everland where her grandfather has recently passed away. She is bringing his will, which leaves her and her brother as his heirs to everything he possessed. A vicious gunslinger by the name of El Lobo is pursuing her. He intends to kill her grandmother and brother, and forcing Rojita to marry him (whether she wants to or not.) As her husband, he would then legally have control over everything she inherits.

This is a simple but entertaining story and a very quick read. There are other books in the series that I can only assume involve other fairy tale/nursery rhyme characters who also reside in Everland. It is well enough written to allow the reader to just relax and enjoy the story without requiring too much thought.

The book is a bit on the predictable side, but still quite enjoyable. If you're in the mood for some light, fun reading material, this book would be a good choice. But if you’re looking for something that will make you think about it a bit more, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"The Iron Ship" by K.M. McKinley

This entry was a difficult one for me to write as I only made it through about 40% of the book. How can I review a book I didn't finish reading? That’s part of what makes it so difficult. The author writes beautifully and the book was very well edited. What I did read, I definitely enjoyed. So why did I give up on the book?
The author created her own world, and in the creation of this world left me feeling very confused.  I wanted to read all of it, but by the time I reached the almost halfway point I felt so confused that I realized I was losing my enjoyment in the reading of it. That told me that it was time for me to put the book aside and find something else to read. I hated to do it, but sometimes you just have to admit defeat.
So would I try reading something else by this author in the future? That would be a definite yes. Even feeling lost and confused, I was enjoying the author’s writing. For right now, however, this book just wasn’t for me. Other people might find it more to their tastes and less confusing than I did. (On Amazon’s website it received mostly 5 star customer reviews, and nothing lower than 3 stars at the time of my writing this review.) The author is very talented and I did enjoy the writing, even if I found the book too confusing to finish at this time.
I do intend to try reading this book again at some point in the future. I just needed a break from it for a while. Hopefully when I decide to come back to it, I will have better luck with making it through to the end. Until then, it’s time for me to find a different book to read and discuss with all of you.
Until next time!
Mom Kat

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Jeannie Out of the Bottle" by Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh

For today, I read a memoir about Barbara Eden. I found it an enjoyable read, (though it didn’t quite pull me in & hold my attention as completely as did the Pat Benatar memoir that I began my first blog entry by talking about). “Jeannie Out of the Bottle” was a very good book and I learned a great deal about Barbara Eden that I didn’t previously know.

Barbara started out with a desire to be a singer, but was later encouraged to study acting as well as singing. When she first signed with an acting agent, he agreed to represent her only if she would change her name. He felt her last name (Huffman) sounded much more like a doctor’s name than one belonging to an actress. And as men seemed to find her extremely innocent and na├»ve, he suggested that she change her name to Barbara Eden. She agreed, and thus began her career as a professional actress.

This book does not follow a completely linear sequence of events and occasionally skipped a bit back and forth during her life and career. Barbara met an impressive number of actors and musicians that went on to become extremely famous during their careers, though many of them, like her, were often just starting out when they first met. She also met a number who were already at the height of their careers, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Ignoring the advice given to her by many, Barbara married an actor named Michael Ansara while she was still relatively young. They were very much in love, and despite often difficult work schedules, they managed to remain married for longer than most had predicted. They had one son together, but tragedy struck during her second pregnancy. At 7 months pregnant, her doctor determined that the baby had died in utero but that she would still need to carry it to term. He felt that inducing an early labor would risk Barbara’s life. Needless to say, by the time her second child was stillborn, the stress and depression had been wearing at her for a while. It unfortunately also took it’s toll on her family and her once happy marriage.

Her best known role as Jeannie on the TV show “I Dream of Jeannie” made her pretty much a household name. Even today, many folks have seen the show in reruns or grew up watching it when they were kids. While the show made her famous, it was also a source of conflict with her costar Larry Hagman. He had hoped the show would make him a star, yet it soon became clear that he would always play second fiddle to Barbara’s Jeannie and he seemed to resent it. (He would, however, eventually gain his own fame as J.R. Ewing on the TV show “Dallas”, but that’s another story.)

There were a great many other ups and downs in Barbara Eden’s life and career. I won’t go into the details here, as I do not wish to spoil the book for anyone. But please believe me when I say that she has lived quite an interesting life thus far. I felt that her story was definitely worth the time it took me to read it. Suffice it to say that she is and has been a fascinating woman with quite an amazing life. I’d say that if you like memoirs and/or Barbara Eden, then you should definitely give this book a try.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Harvey Girls: Kit: Finding Freedom and Love by Katherine St.Clair

This book was about a group of young women, often referred as Harvey Girls, who were hired as waitresses in a franchise of restaurants at train stations across the United States. These girls came from all walks of life. Some came seeking adventure, others looking to move somewhere where they might meet a man to fall in love with and marry, and others simply seeking to make a better life for themselves.

The Harvey Girls were under a contract during their first year of their employment, agreeing to not date anyone during that first year. They were housed in a dormitory with a matron who watched over them to ensure that they did not engage in any behavior that might be considered “unseemly”. The restaurants all had very high standards, regardless of whether they were located in a big city or a small town out on the western frontier.

After their first year of employment, the girls could continue working for Mr. Harvey or they were free to leave to get married or to seek other opportunities. This book follows the story of a young woman named Kit who came from an extremely poor background seeking adventure and to make a better life for herself.

I enjoyed the story well enough to finish reading this book even though the author really should have hired a better editor. Every few chapters I would run across a sentence where a word had been dropped or the wrong word was used by mistake.  Sometimes these errors were minor, but other times I needed to read the sentence multiple times to truly grasp what the author was trying to say. The book was interesting enough to keep me reading despite these errors, sometimes taking me somewhere I saw coming, but other times taking a turn that surprised me.

In the future, I will likely try reading another book by this author as she did tell a good story. I just hope she finds a better editor to proofread her books before publication.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Wives of War" by Soraya M. Lane

I just finished reading the historical fiction novel “Wives of War” by Soraya M. Lane. It tells the story of 3 British nurses from differing backgrounds who are sent to France during the height of WWII. It was very well written and while not graphic in the details of their work, did not in any way downplay the often horrific nature of their jobs.

The conditions these women worked under were far less than optimal. Often their “hospitals” were no more than canvas tents that could be packed up and moved with very little notice. And like the soldiers they treated, they were also not immune to attack by Nazi soldiers. Trucks carrying medical staff and supplies were as often bombed as were the ambulances bringing the wounded to the nearest tent hospital. All of the medical staff would work far longer shifts than at any other time would be considered reasonable, often needing to skip sleep and meals to save as many lives as possible.

When they did get a break, food for the staff was usually less than desired, as their patients received the better and larger quantities needed to help the soldiers heal so that they could be returned to the Front to fight again. Getting a chance to bathe was considered a luxury that they often had to forego. That isn’t to say they didn’t wash, just that the opportunity for a full bath rather than a quick wash up was quite often not available to anyone. It was far more important to be able to sterilize the surgical tools and keep the wounds of the injured soldiers clean to help prevent gangrene.

Occasionally, medical personnel were sent to local convents where wounded soldiers were being hidden and tended to by the nuns who resided there. This was not optimal, as quite often these soldiers did not survive their injuries, but it did allow for some to survive until trained medical staff could arrive to assist and arrange for them to be transported elsewhere. Even the medical staff on these missions of mercy were not safe from attack as Nazi soldiers were as likely to kill women and children as they were enemy soldiers.

Given the detail included in this novel, this book was clearly well researched by the author. The story successfully draws the reader in and allows them to feel for these women, both during the war and after they returned home as their story was not finished merely by the ending of the war. Their lives were forever changed, just as were the lives of the men who fought in the war, and Ms. Lane wisely chose to show us some of the effects of those changes rather than ending their story when they left France to return home.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the women who bravely went to serve during WWII alongside the men. While this is a work of fiction, I still learned quite a bit and greatly enjoyed the story that was told.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Reached" by Ally Condie

Today’s book, “Reached”, is the third book in the “Matched” trilogy by Ally Condie. Like the first two books in the series, it was well written with very few typos. Why do I feel it is important to mention this fact? Well, if a book I read has too many typos or grammatical errors, it is very difficult for me to just lose myself in simply enjoying the story. That may not bother some people, but I will stop reading something that keeps pulling me out of the story like that. Ally Condie does an excellent job of allowing the reader to focus on the story.

In this book, we learn much more about the 3 main groups in this world: the Society, the Rising, and the Outlanders. The Society were the people living in the larger towns and who had all the advantages that were only granted to citizens. 

The Rising were the ones who chose to rebel from the Society because they wanted more freedom to choose their own lives. They wanted to be allowed to create, to write, and to learn and discover things that were not usually approved by the Society. And the Outlanders were the people classified as “aberrations” by society. Some of those known as aberrations chose the life for themselves, but many were classified as such through the actions of a parent or other relative rather than through their own actions.

The main portion of this book has all 3 groups dealing with a plague and searching for a cure. The plague had started out as a created thing, designed with a cure available, however it had mutated and the cure that one group had intended to use to save people was no longer effective. Thus the need to find a cure if any of the three groups were to survive.

While the story was enjoyable and well written, I much preferred the first book in the trilogy, “Matched”. That book drew me in and held my interest in way that wasn’t maintained by either of the following two books. I don’t know if it was because the books were intended for younger readers than myself, but I could see how this one would end well before the book reached it’s conclusion. I did greatly enjoy the book, but I kept waiting for a surprise somewhere along the way that never really manifested.

The various plot points in the story were all very neatly tied up in the end, with only one question left unanswered... what will happen next? And while that question was not answered, I find I much prefer it that way. In my opinion it leaves just enough left to the reader’s imagination to decide what might come next. Yes, the author could theoretically add another book or series of books on to this ending, but I don’t believe that she will. The way it ends, to me at least, feels complete. I find it a very good ending to the trilogy.

Wings of Ink by Angelina Steffort

Anya, after spending years in a Tavrasian Prison expecting to be killed, is instead given to the Crow Fairies. She is now to become the brid...