Rain: A Cultural History

Disclaimer: I received this book through Blogging for Books.

It seems quite fitting that I write the review for this book today. We’re expecting a Nor’easter, with high winds and lots of rain. Lots.

Rain: A Cultural and Natural History by Cynthia Barnett reads like a very long novel about rain. It’s easy to get through and teaches the reader about its origins without too much scientific mumbo-jumbo.

I personally received this book before last summer (I know, it’s been a very long time) and read it during the summer, but I think it would be a perfect read for a rainy day. I could see myself curled up on a couch, page after page about rain. It goes by very quickly, but I learned a lot. For instance, did you know that in people’s attempt to control the rain, they tried bombing the skies? To make rain.

We don’t understand how rain works, or at least we didn’t, but I’d say that some people still don’t. The book gives a great illustration of our interactions with rain throughout history, how we try to understand it and eventually how we try to control it. Because that’s what humans do, we control.

So if you’re looking for something new, or a break from your normal genre ( I normally read fantasy), pick this up and give it a try. You might be surprised!

Rating: 7.5 / 10


Book Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books .

The title, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas immediately pulled me in. What did it mean? But it pretty much became a theme as I struggled to get through the book. It just seemed like the characters were everywhere at the beginning. Who was narrating? Where were we going? The title was a great representation of how I felt while I read the book. Where am I going and why am I doing this when I could be sleeping.

It’s so unfortunate that I couldn’t get through it. I really hope to get back to it some day, because it does seem like an interesting read.

But I enjoyed the look of the book. Minimal. Stars. A nice teal/cyan blue color.

Snow Days

Today is a snow day.

We did not get the blizzard that was expected, but there’s still a good 6-8″ at my house.

At my house we measure the snow by how big the “cake” is on the table on the deck. The cake gets pretty big during big snowstorms. Definitely getting there, but the snow has started to slow.

The snow has also accumulated in our satellite dish. Which is silly. In our age of information and technology we’re still relying on satellite dishes. But oh well.

I’ve been writing a lot recently. And I hope to write some more. I want to get this book finished. I don’t know how good it will be but I like where it’s going so far. A lot of writing and practice and research about writing has gone into this moment. I’m excited. And nervous. But feeling good.

The taste of soup from lunch still lingers on my tongue. Tofu, tomato, a root vegetable, and water. Simple but delicious. And healthy.

Be safe out there.

Book Review: The Doll by Taylor Stevens

the doll

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

          The Doll is a thriller, suspense novel written by Taylor Stevens that focuses on the main character in her other books, Vanessa Michael Munroe. The title suggests some kind of master puppeteer pulling all the strings, which ties in very well with the plot of the whole story. Taken from the book’s summary:

Haunted by a life of violence and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. The ability to survive, fight, adapt, and blend has since taken her across the globe on behalf of corporations, heads of state, and the few private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise, and these abilities have made her enemies.
On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to find her, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.
In this high-octane thriller Munroe will have to fight fast, smart, and furious to overcome a dangerous nemesis and deliver her trademark brand of justice.

Right from page one, Stevens throws us into the world of Vanessa Michael Munroe. This book is definitely a page-turner. I didn’t stop reading until I finished the book. The intensity of the action and the curiosity about where Munroe would go just pulls the reader in. I especially enjoyed seeing the whole story through all of the character’s eyes. Stevens brings you to the height of the thrill chase and then changes direction by switching characters. Just when you think you’re going to find out about how Munroe and Neeva will fare in their shared car ride, the storyline switches to Bradford and his team back in America. The switch keeps the reader on their toes, making Munroe’s next appearance that much more anticipated.

The switching of perspectives also brings a great look into one of the main antagonists of the story, Valon Fumani. I really enjoyed the interactions between Fumani and Munroe. He had hopes and dreams that were brutally crushed and he reached out for a companion in Munroe except she doesn’t bite. Stevens turns Fumani from a minor antagonist into a well-rounded character. By the end of the book, I found myself rooting for him to gain some kind of closure to his problem. So it was a bit of a letdown that Stevens let that angle just disappear, ending in the way that she did. It didn’t feel like closure to me.

Munroe is a character used by Stevens in her other novels, and as such, I felt Stevens didn’t really take the time to go more in depth in Munroe’s character. For someone who has read the other novels, perhaps The Doll gives another chapter to Munroe’s life as a multi-linguist, Bond-esque persona, but as a standalone it falls short. The novel hints at bits and pieces of Munroe’s background but never gives any explanations or background so it just seems a little forced, or kind of acts as a reminder to the reader that Munroe is capable of all the feats she does in the novel because of such-and-such training. It’s a shame, since that extra touch to Munroe’s character would have brought Munroe to life as a real person instead of just a two-dimensional character.

In her novel of racing against the clock, Stevens manages to add in a touch of cultural and social awareness into the mix. Neeva, the girl Munroe must save, is a victim of human sex trafficking. I think it was great of Stevens to bring such an important topic that is generally not spoken of in America into her novel in such a large way. Her character, Neeva, punches straight to the heart of the matter when she says,

This doll-guy situation is an extreme of what I deal with in everyday life…Where men believe that what they want I want, and they project that on to me and then blame me, curse me, when I don’t respond the way they’ve fantasized, like it’s some personal attack on them, like they’re entitled to something….the dangerous ones, they just go a step further and take it anyway. Then they blame you and the way you look for what they did What’s worse is that a lot of the time, society blames you, too.

In this brilliant monologue, Stevens manages to capture the problem of how women are viewed in society and how men respond to it into one neat little package. Anyone reading this line has to take a step back and go “Whoa” when they read that line.

The book, while leading us on a great chase throughout, ends on a bit of a blah note. Everything wraps up nice and neat, a sort of brown paper packaging without any ribbon on top. It left me a little wanting, but all’s well that ends well. I’d change it, but that would spoil the surprise [no spoilers].

Overall, I found The Doll to be a fast-paced thriller, not too much adventure mixed in, with some memorable minor characters and less memorable main characters. I would recommend perhaps reading The Informationist and The Innocent first if they contain more about Vanessa Michael Munroe as a character [though I myself have not read them] before reading The Doll to fully enjoy the Michael Munroe experience. Anyone who enjoys a quick read and a suspense similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will want to pick this up. I seriously finished this in a day.

I give this 3.5 stars out of 5.


Review Funnies:

When I chose this book from Blogging for Books, I thought it was written by a guy. Taylor is a guy’s name. Plus the last name is Stevens. So imagine my surprise when the book arrived and the picture on the back is of a woman. Surprise! Sorry Taylor.

Birds go Tweet

I finally did it. I made a Twitter account. Why? Because I signed up for Blog for Books and if you have a Twitter account you can link it to Klout [still not sure what it is] and get a wider variety of books available for reviewing and requesting. 

Isn’t it evil how all these social networks are interconnected? I guess it’s nice and all, everything is in one place and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to update one and not the other, but sometimes I like my privacy. But, they got me. I will do anything for books. Free books! I mean, who doesn’t like free things? 

Twitter’s been around for years now, so why did it take me so long to board the bandwagon? I guess I just didn’t see the point in it. My view on it, and still is in a way because I am still very new to it, is that Twitter is an over-glorified Facebook status update. Except with hashtags. Except now Facebook has hashtags [that happened last year, right?] So I suppose Twitter is just a way for people to learn the minute-by-minute thoughts of people and corporations without being bogged down by all the excess stuff that might be found on, say, Facebook or their website. 

Did I get that right?

And in the past twenty four hours since I created the account [less, because I made it last night and it’s only the afternoon right now] I have posted seven times, by Twitter’s count. It’s like I’m back in my high school days where I posted nonstop status updates the moment I got home from school [ in school, too, sometimes, because those internet blockers never really work]. Am I doing this Twitter thing right?

Since I created the account for Blog for Books, I intended to keep the information I post generally in that area too. I wonder how long that’s going to last. I think that’s a main problem with social media. We are all humans and have multi-faceted interests, that it’s hard to keep our thoughts geared towards one area. Just take a look at what’s written on blogs, for instance. My own blog I’ve written about school, travel, writing, food, and Chinese holidays. The more you want to keep subjects narrowed, the more channels you need, and thus more accounts. 

Social media wins. 

I guess I’ll just see what happens. What can go wrong?


Here’s my obligatory “Check out my Twitter” : @kathissimo Follow me!

Side note: My book from Blog for Books arrives in 10-14 days so expect a book review once I finish reading!

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