Monthly Archives: January 2013

Book Review: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
My rating:

2-star

 

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie is another History Book Club read that I took forever to finish. This is because the book did not keep me coming back and I read many other books while I was reading this one. About 3/4 through the book I pretty much knew what I was going to write for my review. The first part of the book, the part leading up to her marriage, was interesting, and for me the best part of the book. From that point until just before the end of the book, it read like a soap opera. She went from man to man and had so many woes. Towards the end it was the story of a geriatric old woman, and her pains. Her triumphs in war, but more so her art collections, and her passing fancies. It wasn’t that this book was written poorly, thats not it at all, I just didn’t find the story of Catherine II’s life all that interesting. Maybe for people who are more interested the her social relationships there might be more, but I didn’t find my self identifying with any of the people discussed in the book. I didn’t get to really know anyone but Catherine, which is who the book was about so again no fault of the author. I was a little let down by this one and I think it will be a while before I pick up another historical biography. I need to refresh my mental palate.

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Books of 2012

True-Blood

While I didn’t make my goal of reading 50 books in 2012, I did get through a good portion, 36.  By the numbers:

Here is a brief review of some of the winners and losers:

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is part of a series call The Last Survivors.  The series consists of 3 books so far.  Book 4, The Shade of the Moon, is expected September 3rd, 2013.  This was a book on a subject that has interested me for some time, the apocalypse.  This novel is written from a teenage girl’s point of view.  The story starts before an apocalyptic event occurs, and continues, with most of the novel occurring during the worst of things.  A good book from a child ’s view.  Some things are more important to a child than an adult so it was interesting to see things from that perspective.  While I enjoyed the book, especially the day-to-day dealing with the apocalypse stuff, it did drag on a little.  I listened to the unabridged audio of this book.  The reader was very good.  All in all this book is a solid 3-star.

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith.  This book was one that I won because of my membership in The History Book Club on goodreads.  Great book. I wasn’t really in to the royal family before, but now I have had my interest peaked. This is a great starting book for anyone wanting to know more about the royal family.  This is a history book, so if you think you will be bored reading it and you have no interest in the royal family.  Chances are you will not like this book.  Skip it and read something fun.  I have an interest in the royal family and history so I gave this book 4-star.

The Iliad by Homer.  This is on my list because I want to read more books considered to be classics by many of the ‘must read’ list floating about the Internet.  I listened to this book.  The reader was okay.  Can’t rate this any higher until I have time to read the cliff notes and figure it out more. I caught the general idea, but geez!  It was a good read, but a difficult one.  I gave it 2-star.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  A very good book about Steve Jobs.  I read this on a kindle.  I found that while Steve was a marketing visionary he was not a very nice person.  If you have ever wanted to know more about Steve Jobs, read this book first.  This is a must read for apple fans!  4-star

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris.  This is book #4 in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  I started reading this series when I first saw an episode of True Blood.  I liked the series so I started to read the books.  They are a fun read.  You defiantly don’t get much intellectual stimulation from these books, but they are a fun read to add to your line up of biographies and other non-fiction.  This was the first in the series I ‘read’ instead of listening to.  I read it on a kindle.  I enjoyed it more than the others. Great series. I’m looking forward to the next book. 4-star

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks.  I listened to the unabridged audio of this book.  Pretty good. A lot like Gladwell’s books. He even quotes Gladwell once or twice.  4-star

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris.  This is book #5 in the series.  Back to the audio book for this series again.  I enjoyed this one as much as the last.  4-star

Beowulf by Unknown.  Another attempt to read the classics.  I listened to this book and enjoyed it more than The Iliad, probably because I understood more of what was going on.  3-star for this classic.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.  I have always wanted to read Kipling.  Such a famous name and associated to many stories we all know, but few of us have read.  This clearly falls into my classics list.   I listened to a good reading of this novel. This is of course a children’s novel and must be read that way.  Even still it is a great story and I liked it.  4-star

The Witches by Roald Dahl.  A fun quick read.  I had read this before when I was much younger and I also remember the 1990 movie of the same name.  Great book, but beware, it may be too scary for some children.  My little girl Samantha, age 4, saw the cover (I didn’t read it to her) and said it was too scary.  I had to hide the book after that for fear I would give her nightmares.  4-star

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan.  This is book #3 in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  I listened to the unabridged version of this book and enjoyed it as much if not more than the other books in the series.  It was a fun quick read.  4-star

Zone One by Colson Whitehead.  I listened to this apocalyptic novel unabridged.  While I liked the idea, I didn’t enjoy the execution as much.  I was disappointed that this ended when it did. I also did not like all the switching back and forth from one timeline to another. Would have been better if it just covered the timeline it ended on. 3-star

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez.  While many would agree that this book is a classic, I have to say that I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  I still have the link to the list this book was on:  http://www.divinecaroline.com/49804/102633-30-books-everyone-read-30

I think this got better towards the end. It was a long read. Many characters many generations of the same family. There was a lot to keep track of throughout the story. Some themes and ideas weaved in and out of the story and that was a nice surprise. Great prose. Read out loud it sounds great!  It took me a very long time to read.  I kept interrupting it with other reads that were more fun to read.  3-star

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris.  The sixth book in this series.  Not as good as the last two.  I again listened to the audio of this book.  3-star

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling.  My second Kipling novel of the year.  While this was enjoyable I think I liked The Jungle Book better.  3-star

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  This one was a recommendation from my wife, who after watching the TED talk wanted to read the book.  She ordered it on Amazon and I couldn’t wait for her to finish her copy and read it on my kindle while she was reading the print copy.  It was an excellent read for everyone, especially those of us that are introverts. 5-star, the highest rating of the year thus far.

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli.  I’m not a big graphic novel fan but I did enjoy this book.  I probably picked it up because I had just been to Comic-Con in San Diego that month.  It was a fun read. 4-star

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl.  Another Dahl book and movie.  It was okay only.  Definitely for children.  I listened to this book and gave it 3-star.

colin_powell_book_cover

It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell.  My father-in-law shared a Parade article with me that was an excerpt from this book and that had me hooked.  I found the book on audio and loved listening to it.  Excellent leadership book, filled with entertaining stories and great advice. Listening to an unabridged version read by the author was a huge plus! 5-star, the second perfect score for 2012.

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris.  Another Sookie Stackhouse novel that I listened to the audio of.  It is number seven in the series.  This one is slow to begin, but ended so well that it still gets 4-star.

Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner.  This book was another that I won through the History Book Club on goodreads.  I didn’t have high hopes for this book, I thought it would be dry based on its topic and thickness. However, I really like how the book was laid out, covering an era at a time and what was going on in the nation and how the FBI reacted to it. It made the book very easy to follow and a nice read. While I was not very excited about the story, it was not the first book I picked up when I had time to read, it was well written. It did have some fairly excited parts for me like when discussing spies especially. I wish there would have been more discussed about spies as that is very interesting to me. However, I realize that this would have left the book astray of its intended topic.

I learned a lot about the history of the FBI so the book succeeded in its goal. I had no idea that Hoover was such a large part of the agency. For the first 2/3 of the book I felt like I was reading his biography.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the FBI. I now feel I have a better understanding of one of our nations super secret agencies. 3-star

Flight-of-the-Intruder

Flight of the Intruder by Stephen Coonts.  I really enjoyed this first book in the Jake Grafton series and I hope to read more of them.  I listened to this book and thought it was read very well.  I immediately went out and watched the movie version as well. 5-star, 3rd perfect score of the year.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  I listened to this classic.  It a bunch of stories written as poems. Some of the stories are adult in nature. Its written a very long time ago so you have to concentrate on the language to understand it. It is a good book to listen to. It was a little too old for me to enjoy. I did like some of the naughty bits as they were entertaining especially the language used! It was one of only two books I’ve read that used the word ‘defenestration’. The other was a history book speaking of the Defenestrations of Prague.  2-star

The Bible (New Testament KJV) by Anaymous.  While anyone who knows me knows I’m not very religious, this book definitely falls in the classics category, as the most read book in the world.  So of course I listened to this huge work read by non-other than James Earl Jones, which made it more enjoyable, however it was still very long and hard to get through, so it earns only 2-star.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  The best of both worlds, this book falls into the classics category but also science fiction.  While I love the idea, I didn’t love the story in this book.  I’m glad that I listened to this book though, otherwise I may not have finished it. 3-star

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan.  After a bit of a dreary story from The Time Machine, it was time for a fun read.  However, I was a little let down by this audio book.  This is the fourth book in the series and the story reads the almost the same as the previous 3.  Every time I finish one I’m not sure if I will read the next book in the series. 3-star

charlottes web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  I had already read this book before, but I wanted to read it to my four-year-old Samantha.  While her attention wavered over the 3 weeks that we read the book (a chapter a night every other day, mommy reads on the alternating nights to Samantha) mine did not, I fell in love this wonderful work all over again.  After we finished reading the book we watched the 2006 movie together.  I think I prefer the original 1973 animated movie better, but I had trouble finding that at the library. 5-star

The Athena Project by Brad Thor.  I read this via my kindle and enjoyed the story.  It was a good fun read.  This is supposed to be the first in a series of Athena books, however, it was originally published in 2010 and I can’t find any mention of a second book in the series. 4-star

Surak’s Soul by J.M. Dillard.  Part of the Star Trek: Enterprise series, book #5.  This was a guilty pleasure.  The book had a very simple plot and you have the book figured out about a ¼ into it and there is really now need to read the rest, nonetheless, I did enjoy reading it immensely.  I think I enjoyed reading the book since the television series needed so quickly with only 4 seasons.  I liked the characters in this last television star trek series, so I really enjoyed that their stories can continue in print form, or for this book at least, in pixel form and I read this book on a kindle.  I have already obtained the second book, By The Book, in the series.  I’m skipping the first since it is just a novelization of one of the episodes of the television series.  3-star

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