Review of “Seeking Shadows” by E. A. Cartwright

Title: Seeking Shadows
Author: E. A. Cartwright
Series: Chrionicles of the Balance #11
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Published: 2021, EC Editorial
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Death can be a curse, but also a blessing. For aeons, the reapers have been the keepers of the Balance, maintaining the universal order of life and death in the human realm. And as a High Reaper, it will one day fall on Branwen to guide the flock… should she be crowned, that is. For she is not the only one eligible to take the throne, and with a tarnished reputation, Branwen has long since accepted she will remain a pawn of her lifelong rival, Taren. For why would the Balance crown her, the reaper disfigured with a power to embarrass all of her kind?

But Branwen is forced to confront her insecurities when Taren does the unthinkable. Jealous and impatient, he allies himself with a pompous businessman hungry for invincibility, transforming the world of Kana into a deathtrap as humans unite under a common goal: no more reapers, no more death.

While starving reapers grow weaker and humans feel the consequences of a life with no end, it falls on Branwen to navigate a world of technology to bring Taren to justice and restore the natural order. But an unlikely friend leads her to a discovery that there is more to the humans’ unified behaviour than meets the eye, and saving the worlds may no longer be so straightforward.

The problem is locked inside an old clocktower, and the solution could tear the worlds apart.

 

MY REVIEW

The idea of reapers and angels taking and giving life is intriguing and Seeking Shadows is the first book I’m reading on the topic. And I loved it!

Cartwright is writing in first person perspective from all the three main characters and she does it really well. I like that you feel the characters more this way if you write it correctly and she really did. I’m thinking a lot about the writing style while I myself am writing in first perspective and I wish that I will reach the varied and interesting yet still easy way of writing that she does. The story flows so easily.

One thing I thought about in the beginning of the book was how I got the feeling that when she is writing, she really lets the characters decide where conversations are going. I recognize it since I myself end up there pretty much every single time I’m writing dialogue. I have an initial thought but then the characters keep on talking and discuss other things than what I had had in mind.

One thing I didn’t quite understand though was the consumption of the reapers. The Shadows have different professions, some are reapers, some are readers for example. I assume that the reapers are the only ones who go to the world of Kana to reap the souls who area ready and that’s how they gain their energy, by consuming souls. But how do the readers consume? I didn’t quite understand it when Ina, a reader, consumed a soul and felt sick at first when it was trapped. Other than that, her world-building totally made sense.

It is definitely a fast-paced first book. Things are always happening and you as a reader don’t know at all where the story is going. At the end it was easier to guess, but that’s how it’s supposed to be if you wrote the story the right way, I guess?

I loved the ending! It was an end, but at the same time definitely not and I really hope that she will write her butt off so I can continue the story.

I received this as an e-ARC copy in exchange for my honest review in time for the release on February 6th this year. Life came in between and I am now posting this a couple of weeks too late. I don’t like stressing out a book and this way I can enjoy it more. Which I did. It gets a 4 out of 5 and I cross my fingers she will release the follow-up soon!

Review of “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 15 hours 17 minutes
Published: 2017, HarperAudio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

 

MY REVIEW

When I was younger, history was not something that always appealed to me. I understood that we had to know the past to not make the same mistakes again and all of that. All I wanted (and perhaps still want?) is to leave reality and explore other worlds. But I’ve come to realize that the past is another world. And that is now super clear to me after listening to this book by Yuval Noah Harari.

I’ve heard people talking about Sapiens and the follow-up Homo Deus and at least this first one, did not disappoint. The title really gives the content justice, it is a brief summary, but I also feel like it covered so much. There’s a lot of information an author can squeeze into 15 hours of audiobook. And I guess that I learned more about our history than most people who are interested in history did. It was interesting.

The book covered a lot, from the agricultural revolution, to the introduction of the stock market, slavery, wars, exploration, colonies, capitalism, religion, and at the end he discussed happiness and a small introduction to our future (which Homo Deus covers). I haven’t finished the Science of Well-Being class yet, but I recognized everything he had to say on the matter and it was a good ending to the book. Are people today more happy than the peasants in the middle ages?

There was so much said in this book that I can’t get into details. It feels like I’m just rambling. The narrator was great! The book was great. It was provocative and made me agree with the author: we have gone in the wrong direction. I kind of feel bad for being a human, even if I specifically am not to be held accountable by all the horrible things our kind has done to bring us to where we are now. Sapiens gets a strong 4, I highly recommend it.

One last thing that I think everyone should take to heart, is something he says in the beginning of the book. Per definition, anything that is possible is natural. Biology enables, culture forbids.

Review of “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

Title: Cosmos – A Personal Voyage
Author: Carl Sagan
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 14 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2017, Brilliance Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Cosmos has 13 heavily illustrated chapters, corresponding to the 13 episodes of the Cosmos television series. In the book, Sagan explores 15 billion years of cosmic evolution and the development of science and civilization. Cosmos traces the origins of knowledge and the scientific method, mixing science and philosophy, and speculates to the future of science. The book also discusses the underlying premises of science by providing biographical anecdotes about many prominent scientists throughout history, placing their contributions into the broader context of the development of modern science.

The book covers a broad range of topics, comprising Sagan’s reflections on anthropological, cosmological, biological, historical, and astronomical matters from antiquity to contemporary times. Sagan reiterates his position on extraterrestrial life—that the magnitude of the universe permits the existence of thousands of alien civilizations, but no credible evidence exists to demonstrate that such life has ever visited earth.

 

MY REVIEW

Sometimes I regret listening to books on astrophysics because that means I miss out on all the pictures. And I do feel that I’m not always following so I’m sure I missed a lot of good points made in this book.

First published in 1980, this book still feels very up-to-date, 40 years later. It is funny listening to Sagan talking about the US and USSR though, haha! But when it comes to the cosmos, not much changes except new discoveries. The ancient history is the same and always will be the same.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but I will now that I’ve finished the book. I think a lot of things will make more sense and it will make me remember hearing things that I probably unconsciously soaked in.

What surprised me a bit was that this was not a book strictly about planets, galaxies, and astrophysics. There was so much history in it, about communication, war, human nature. History that we need to understand in order to move forward. How will we be able to understand a possible message from an alien civilization? Who will speak for Earth when that happens? Us humans who have mass destruction weapon and kill each other for nothing?

Sagan stir up many questions. Much like Stephen Hawking does in his books. Both authors almost feel philosophical sometimes. Maybe they are? In the ancient times, the scholars were everything apparently.

After reading this, I am starting to feel the lust to listen to history books. I’m certain I would enjoy them as much!

It was a rather long book, but interesting and it makes me want to know more. I love that all of these authors that I’ve listened to lately have spurred my scientific interest again. It’s been dormant for many years. No more. Cosmos gets a strong four.

Review of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #0,5
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 825
Published: 2020, Scholastic Press
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

MY REVIEW

This book really made me miss The Hunger Games. I remember one of my hostkids in California 2013, when I was an au pair, who forced me to read them while I was there. One of the best recommendations I’ve ever gotten. We had so much to talk about after I had finished all three of them. It was nostalgic reading this prequel and I feel like I want to reread the trilogy (but who has the time?).

It was easy to recognize Collins’ writing, I was once again in Panem but this time at the time of the tenth Hunger Games instead of 74th. The games are not yet developed into the dramatic event it is in the trilogy, we get to see how it changed and that President Snow had a big part in it.

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Coriolanus Snow (the awful president) is the protagonist and it’s amazing that you start to sympathize with him. Everyone knows how horrible he is, yet you root for him in this book. That’s excellent writing!

The book led me to think that he would actually turn out fine in the end, although I knew that he would turn into the monster that he is in The Hunger Games. But it wasn’t until the very last chapter that it all turned. I was always on edge, hoping that the historical events would change and Snow would finally get his girl. Sadly, no. Still unhappy ending.

Well worth a read! If you love the Hunger Games, you’ll definitely love this book too! 4 out of 5.

Review of “Omgiven av Motgångar” by Thomas Erikson

Title: Omgiven av Motgångar (Surrounded by Setbacks)
Author: Thomas Erikson
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 9 hours 36 minutes
Published: 2020, Bonnier Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION (translated to English by me)

The successfull author Thomas Erikson has previously dealt with idiots, psychopaths, couch potatoes and bad bosses. This time, he takes on a holistic approach on setbacks in all of its forms: problems at work, in the family, economic issues, trouble in paradise, crazy neighbors, consuming relationships… When life feels like one major uphill. As usual, Thomas uses examples that all of us recognize ourselves in. With a slight bit of humor, he guides us towards the light at the end of the tunnel and points to solutions both within and outside ourselves.

 

MY REVIEW

Compared to his other books that I recently read, Surrounded by Idiots and Surrounded by Psychopaths, this book is solely based on his own experiences and that made me a bit skeptical when I started listening to this book. But after finishing it, I’m glad I spent those ten hours doing it. I don’t think these kinds of things needs to be backed up by science and trials, it’s honestly just sense and logic. What I needed was to hear it so that I could be more aware of it. In my world, what he says makes sense and in contradiction to my blue personality, I don’t feel the need to have all of his claims to be backed up by data and science.

As with his previous books, he describes how the different colors of the disc-system, that is described in Surrounded by Psychopaths, think of setbacks and success. Even if he shortly describes the colors even here, I suggest you read Idiots first to have a greater understanding.

He gives us examples of situations, what the people thought they had to do in order to be successful and why or why not they didn’t succeed. He gives us an eight point list with things we need to have in order to be successful. But the most important thing is that success and setbacks are different for all of us. Each of us need to define what we see as a success and that’s hard when we’re surrounded by all social media and commercials and other people. I thought it was great that he mentioned Hjärnstark (The Real Happy Pill) by Anders Hansen. I love that all of the books I’ve read lately, and the class I’m taking, The Science of Well-Being, all fit together and claim the same things. It makes me feel safe somehow. And more secure in myself.

As usual, I didn’t take the exercises that he gave us. But I’ve been thinking about it, and even if I can’t say right now what success is for me, I am successful. And have been for quite some time. We all face setbacks, and I’ve definitely had my share, but I think what’s had me going is my attitude that I can make things better if I want. Sometimes I don’t want, sometimes I want to be in “Later-ville”, but as long as I don’t get stuck there and keep on going toward “winning-ville”, that’s fine.

This might not have been a science book with acclaimed facts and data, but it was definitely a go-get-it book with lots of inspiration and motivation to make me want to become a better and a happier person. If you need that, it’s definitely a good read. It therefore gets a 4 out of 5.

Review of “Omgiven av Psykopater” by Thomas Erikson

Title: Omgiven av Psykopater (Surrounded by Psychopaths)
Author: Thomas Erikson
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 8 hours 39 minutes
Published: 2017, Bonnier Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Charming, charismatic, and delightful or manipulative, self-serving, and cunning? Psychopaths are both and that’s exactly what makes them dangerous. Bestselling author of the international phenomenon Surrounded by Idiots, Thomas Erikson reveals how to identify the psychopaths in your life and combat their efforts to control and manipulate.

Using the same simple four-color system of behavior classification that made Surrounded by Idiots so popular, Surrounded by Psychopaths teaches readers how to deal with psychopaths in their lives by becoming aware of their own behavior and their weaknesses. Vivid example stories illustrate ways that psychopaths can take advantage of various behavior types, helping readers identify their own weaknesses and be proactive about protecting themselves. Erikson outlines some of the most common forms of manipulation used by psychopaths—and others—to influence those around them. Since manipulation can often be a feature of ordinary, non-psychopathic relationships, the book also includes practical methods and techniques to help readers confront controlling people and rehabilitate negative relationships into mutually respectful ones.

By understanding your behavior as well as the tendencies and strategies of psychopaths, Surrounded by Psychopaths will teach you to protect yourself from manipulative influence in your workplace, social life, and family.

MY REVIEW

First of all, they reader was much better in this book than Surrounded by Idiots, which made it so much easier to follow. But I had other difficulties following this one compared to his previous book. It may be because I didn’t really recognize any of the traits Erikson described. I don’t think I have any psychopaths around me. Which makes me very glad, but I might be more oblivious if there ever will be one.

He didn’t just bring up how to respond to a psychopath’s different manipulation techniques, but also how to handle the different colors’ way of trying to get their will through. He also discussed the different colors’ weaknesses and really put weight on that each and everyone of us need to be fully aware and honest about our weaknesses so we are prepared on how they can be exploited.

Since it’s easier for me to read something, I will buy this book and have it in case I ever need to get back to this information quickly. Audiobooks are great, but so much easier to look things up, for example the list at the end on how to tell a psychopath that you recognize what he or she is doing and that it’s not going to work and the different steps in that.

I’m also glad that I’m mostly blue, which is the colors that is the hardest to manipulate. I’m also green though, so I guess I need to be careful there.

Overall, almost as interesting as Surrounded by Idiots, but for me it felt a bit more off since I don’t see the relevance to anything in my life right now. But for future encounters, I’m glad to have read it. It therefore gets a four out of a possible five.

Review of “Omgiven av Idioter” by Thomas Erikson

Title: Omgiven av Idioter (Surrounded by Idiots)
Author: Thomas Erikson
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 8 hours 53 minutes
Published: 2016, Word Audio Publishing
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Author Thomas Erikson explains that there are four key behavior types that define how we interact with and perceive the people around us. Understanding someone’s pattern of behavior is the key to successful communication. Erikson breaks down the four kinds of behavior types—Reds who are dominant and commanding, Yellows who are social and optimistic, Greens who are laid back and friendly, and Blues who are analytical and precise—and explains how to identify and interact with each type of person. Instead of being bogged down with overly technical categorizations, the simple four color system allows you to speedily identify a friend or coworker and adjust how you speak and share with them.

Surrounded by Idiots is full of practical information for interacting with people based on their color, including the strengths and weaknesses of all the profiles, how to give positive and negative feedback to each, and the best way to word an email when writing to someone with a different profile.

 

MY REVIEW

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years now but the time-deprived nerd that I am, I always prioritize a fantasy book before nonfiction. I’ve heard people talking about the different colors and had the basic understanding of them before picking this up. But I’m really glad that I decided that audiobooks actually was something for me. It’s perfect for the books that I don’t want to spend time reading myself. Perfect for squeezing in when I’m out and about. It is however a little difficult when taking tests for example (as in the end of this book), very hard to keep track of the questions and answers. Well well. I’m not here to review the book type, haha!

A while ago, we had an afterwork activity at the office where one girl asked questions, and depending on your answer, you took a step towards each corner of the room. At my management department (and among those who participated), I was the only one down in the blue corner. I’m not surprised. I’m very well-organized, I love lists and being prepared and doing a thorough job. After reading this book, I also think that I have some green in me and in some cases even red. But definitely blue.

In the beginning of the book, the author describes the main defining features of the four colors (red, yellow, green, and blue), then moves on to how to handle the different colors depending on situation, how to deliver criticism for example. He also said that we readers most likely got faces in front of us when he wrote the descriptions, but I didn’t really get any. Does that say anything about me as a blue person? That I’m more thing and result oriented rather than relationship oriented?

The book was not as entertaining as Introvert by Linus Jonkman was, but it was very interesting and factful. Easy to follow, lots of examples. It is however a very exaggerated book. And I think that if people think of this book in absolutes, it will not find them right. The author says that being just a single color is very rare and I also think it is hard to make people understand the bigger picture and meaning behind the colors if they are not extremes.

Erikson manages really well to stay objective though. All the colors have their pros and cons and he presents them very evenly and puts an equal amount of emphasis on all colors.

I don’t really agree that you can put labels on people. But I believe that this book’s purpose is to generally give an understanding of different human behaviors and how to handle them. I’m not sure that I’m aware enough of my surroundings and people (who doesn’t really interest me (yes, I’m blue)) to be able to tell who is acting how, but hopefully this book is the start of something new.

I’ve also realized that even if I’m blue, I’m right where I’m supposed to be at work. I have honestly wondered many times if I really fit in as a project manager in the construction sector. The perfect group of people consists of all colors. I don’t know if I’m all alone being blue, but if I am, I have a big spot to fill. Maybe this is when I start to see my own value.

All in all, this book deserves a 4! I look forward to listening to Omgiven av Psykopater (Surrounded by Psychopaths).

Review of “Return to Zero” by Pittacus Lore

Title: Return to Zero
Author: Pittacus Lore
Series: Lorien Legacies Reborn #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 464
Published: 2019, HarperCollins
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

After the battle in Switzerland, the Fugitive Six find their allegiances torn, dividing them into two factions. Taylor, Kopano, and Nigel return to the Academy with Nine, but nothing is the same. As fear and resentment of the Human Garde continues to grow, the United Nations decrees that all humans with Legacies must be implanted with inhibitors. So our heroes will have no choice but to rebel.

And with the Foundation still at large, Isabela, Caleb, and Ran have decided to join forces with their former foes Einar and Five to hunt them down. But when a new threat is revealed, the group may find itself painfully outmatched. Facing capture or annihilation from all sides, the only hope the Human Garde have for survival is to stand together once and for all to fight back against their true enemies.

 

MY REVIEW

Questions were answered. They knitted together the side series with this main one really well. And I feel satisfied after finishing this series and I don’t feel like they left anything out.

There were things happening all the time, the original Loric fought alongside Human Garde. The bad guys weren’t just bad guys, there was a complicated history behind their actions and they felt believable. The main characters were easy to follow, mostly because I remembered most of them from the old series. The events were really cool and it was so easy to read and the story flowed on naturally.

There has been a lot of books in this universe now. I feel like my need for alien superpowers from Lorien and Mogadore is satisfied. But I wouldn’t say no to reading new books, if there ever is any more coming.

I’ll give this ending a four. It was a book worth reading, a little bit of a crooked road to get here with too many characters, especially in the companion series, but the author wrapped it up nicely.

Review of “Raising Monsters” by Pittacus Lore

Title: Raising Monsters
Author: Pittacus Lore
Series: The Legacy Chronicles #5
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 115
Published: 2019, HarperCollins
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Contrary to what the government would have the world believe, not all of the Mogadorians are safely imprisoned. A small contingent of the alien invaders has been in hiding, working on a vicious plan for revenge and foiling Six and Sam’s every move. Even the couple’s failed attempt to rescue Ghost was nothing but a trap, and now they’ve been abducted by their old foes.

Held captive in an impenetrable underground bunker, they’ll have to find each other and then somehow find a way out if they’re going to have any hope of survival. But with their Legacies still on the fritz and Mogs out for blood it may be nearly impossible. Luckily, Six and Sam have more than a few allies with powers of their own who can help… if they’re not too late.

MY REVIEW

The fifth out of six in this latest installation of The Legacy Chronicles. It honestly rose a lot from number four. More exciting things happened. In cooler environments. Not too many characters to keep track on. And what I liked most about it was the character development in the mogs. Previously, they felt reasonable and almost like they were good. But the transition they made in Raising Monsters was really good.

Another thing that made it more relatable to the original series was that the Garde was in it more as well. I like them. Nine grew up though.

Action followed the characters in every single one of the ten chapters and it ended like it started, in suspense. This raises the grade to a 4.

Review of “The Atlantis Complex” by Eoin Colfer

Title: The Last Guardian
Author: Eoin Colfer
Series: Artemis Fowl #8
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Published: 2012, Puffin Books
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

It’s Armageddon Time for Artemis Fowl

Opal Koboi, power-crazed pixie, is plotting to exterminate mankind and become fairy queen.

If she succeeds, the spirits of long-dead fairy warriors will rise from the earth, inhabit the nearest available bodies and wreak mass destruction. But what happens if those nearest bodies include crows, or deer, or badgers – or two curious little boys by the names of Myles and Beckett Fowl?

Yes, it’s true. Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl’s four-year-old brothers could be involved in destroying the human race. Can Artemis and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police stop Opal and prevent the end of the world?

MY REVIEW

A lot of finished series lately. Game of Thrones TV show, Marvels Avengers, Throne of Glass. This series ended in 2012 though, but for me it ended today. And compared to all the other finales, this didn’t make me feel empty. Eight books in a really entertaining book series was good. It was enough and the ending was satisfying. Perhaps a reason is that Artemis Fowl will be a movie in 2020. That is something to look forward to, I think and hope. The first filmatization usually goes wrong though (for example A Series of Unfortunate Events before it got turned into a Netflix series that was amazing, The Golden Compass, Eragon), but it is Disney, and it is 2019. I don’t really see how it could go wrong. But we will see. The first film will cover the first two books: Artemis Fowl and The Arctic Incident.

Like I said, the series ended in a good way. Opal Koboi had the ultimate plan to destroy all of humanity. It was a good plot, and it was in line with the first six books (I wasn’t too impressed with number seven honestly, perhaps not two either). There were ancient magics in play, exploatation, deaths.

Did you like the rest? You will enjoy this one too, it doesn’t deviate too much. But it is an epic battle end. 4 out of 5!