Saturday, March 2, 2024

Leopard's Hunt

I don't know what exactly possessed me to take Leopard's Hunt out from the library. I'm not really a romance fan, but the book sounded intriguing so I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately I was fairly disappointed by it from the get-go; I should have stopped reading it, but I ended up finishing it earlier today. I didn't really want to blog about it, but I wanted to make sure I had a record so I don't go taking any other Christine Feehan books out - they're definitely not for me.

Leopard's Hunt is about two leopard shifters who find each other and work through their brokenness to make a relationship. Except they are also special leopard people - they are faster and stronger and have more gifts than regular leopard people, and so need to keep themselves hidden (but go around killing people in front of others (their own people, who they originally wanted to stay hidden from too) with their gifts all the same so they're not really trying). Both of them have ties to the Russian leopard mafia: Gorya was born into it, and had to hide what he was (he worked on taking it down from the inside while training up his leopard and his powers), and Maya was a slave who got out after some horrendous stuff happened to her (this is triggering, but she was r-worded as a child as a sex slave), and so she has devoted her life to tracking down the people who did this to her. Their leopards are mates though (though he doesn't remember it, Gorya and his leopard saved Maya and hers when she was younger), so they belong together for reasons.

This book has a lot of bad stuff in it. The pair are against sex slavery and so take down a huge ring, encountering lots of depraved things (and that's on top of their horrible backstories). Plus every time I thought we were through the bad stuff, more things came up (it ended with Maya's long lost sister appearing, who gave a graphic telling of what happened to her when they were separated as children. I will not write it here). 

The book also was just repetitive. Maya and Gorya say the same things to each other through most of the book, not believing they're good enough for each other, but clearly fine. Maya's tragic backstory and complete dislike of men prior to finding Gorya didn't stop her from giving her all and skipping through their steps to get them to a physical relationship quickly. Surprisingly, there was only one main sex scene - it just went on forever (I think it spanned two really long chapters) and was kind of weird and uncomfortable (I had to Google a few words to figure out what was happening, and a few things sounded really gross the way they were described). I admit that I'm not really interested in sex scenes, so others may like this part of the book more than I did.

So all in all, I didn't like this book. I should never have read it. Once I started it, I should have stopped. Now that I did read it, I cannot in good conscious recommend it to anyone because it has lots of horrible things that happen (and uses a lot of it as backstory). I will not be reading anything else by this author.

As Old As Time

I snagged As Old As Time by Liz Braswell from the library. It is a "what if?" Disney story - "what if Belle's mother cursed the Beast?" I thought that was intriguing, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite Disney movies, so I was onboard.

I honestly wasn't really prepared for this book to impress me as much as it did! The story is broken up into a few parts. The first one goes back and forth between the rough story the movie tells and what happened in the past to Belle's mother and father. There's quite a bit of interesting world building that happens, showing how the last kingdom of refuge for les charmantes slowly becomes a place of hate and intolerance. This part culminates with Belle touching and accidentally shattering the rose, cursing the Beast and all the castle's inhabitants for all time. 

The second and other parts are where Belle's story wildly starts to differ. Now that the curse is coming to pass, the castle is being swallowed up by magical spiderwebs designed to keep the castle inhabitants inside; these webs are also slowly dragging the castle into the earth. The enchanted objects also start to have weird moments where things are going wrong - you can tell it's an indication of much worse that is still to come. The Beast also starts having more and more violent outbursts, having a harder and harder time controlling himself. 
Belle decides to stay and try to break the curse (since it's her fault this has happened anyway), and so she and the Beast spend a lot of time researching and investigating. Together, the two of them try to figure out what happened to her mother, why her mother cursed the Beast, and how they can break the spell. While differing from the movie, the story does still hit many of the story beats, though they end up different. 

The book was a tad predictable in a lot of ways though. I figured out fairly early on who the villain would be (and I was not disappointed). But even still, I was surprised. The book takes a few brutal turns that I wasn't expecting, and the ending doesn't end exactly happily ever after. But it was still an excellent read, and I recommend it for any fans of Beauty and the Beast who are interested in another take on the tale. I'll definitely be looking out for more of these Disney Twisted Tales!

Friday, February 2, 2024

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

I don't remember exactly where I came across OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as a method of goal setting. But I was intrigued and bought John Doerr's book Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. I had previously encountered SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), but OKRs sounded like a better way to set goals. Having tried and failed with SMART goals a number of times over the years, I thought OKRs might be a better fit.

Doerr was a big fan of Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel who first introduced Doerr to OKRs. So Doerr wrote this book in an attempt to better spread the OKR mantra. In Measure What Matters, Doerr give a history of Grove's methods and how they related to Doerr's life, then goes on to explain the method with a series of case studies from successful businesses that use the model.

At the beginning of the book, I was quite on board with things. The book was well written, the case studies were interesting, and I was excited to make OKRs work for me. Unfortunately, the more I kept reading, the more my enthusiasm for the book waned. I started to feel like I wasn't really getting to understand the method in a more in-depth way, which I would expect from the book. The case studies also weren't really helpful - the more the book went on, the more it felt like everyone was saying "we succeeded because of OKRs," without really going into nitty-gritty details. I actually felt like the most useful part of the book was the appendix with Google's OKR playbook (published with their permission), which actually walks you through how to set good objectives and key results, as well as pitfalls to watch for. Prior to that, a good chunk of the book started to feel like fluff and filler, which wasn't great; it made me want to stop reading.

I also went into reading Measure What Matters hoping for help with personal goal setting. But Measure What Matters is very much written for companies and their leadership, not for an individual trying to improve themself. So that was very disappointing as well.

While I am glad to have encountered the idea of OKRs, I didn't feel like Measure What Matters was a very effective book for learning about them. I also feel like other books will be more helpful for individuals wanting to set effective goals for themselves than this one is.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding


While perusing the library the other day, I stumbled on Daniel E. Lieberman's Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. Lieberman takes an anthropological look at exercise to explain why so many people in the modern world struggle with getting enough exercise, even though pretty much everyone knows how good it is for you.

Exercised is a big, dense nonfiction book, so it might be a bit intimidating to pick up. But Lieberman's writing is accessible, and his subject matter is interesting. He looks at the differences between modern Western people, and people elsewhere in the world (with a particular look at hunter gatherer people who are still around today), dispelling many myths that people have about exercise, showing that we evolved to conserve as many calories as possible, and so it is entirely alien for us to actively seek out burning calories for fun.

The statistics he shares are fascinating. He directly challenges many of the beliefs people I know hold about aging. He shows the benefits of exercise for a broad range of conditions (and it's surprising how many things are improved by exercise). While reading Exercised, I discovered a lot of fun things that I've been sharing with my friends and family, which will hopefully change our entire outlook on exercise (and aging). While exercise isn't a magic bullet that can stop everything, being active into your later years drastically decreases your chances of a shortened healthspan (and decreases your risk of many chronic diseases!)

The one thing I wish Exercised did better was tackle what we can do to increase our exercise in this modern world where so much activity has been removed (mainly thanks to driving and other modern conveniences). That chapter didn't offer much more than "be social," which, while understandable (humans are social beings who evolved to hang out with others) was a bit of a letdown. What should someone who commutes long hours and barely has time to see their family and friends do?  Are there better tips to help people get started, knowing that once they start they will feel better afterwards? I guess other books will have to help more with these and other solutions (this is an anthropological look at exercise, so in some ways I guess this chapter didn't really fit within the rest of the book, and that's why it felt so underwhelming).

All in all though, I am glad to have read Exercised. I feel like my outlook on exercise has changed, and it has inspired me to try to better fight my evolutionary drive to sit and do nothing, all in the name of better health!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

System Collapse

 I was excited to see a new Murderbot Diaries book at the library the other day!  And even more exciting, this one actually does pick up after Network Effect! Unfortunately, it's been three and a half years since I read that book, so I didn't remember a lot of what happened. :(

System Collapse has Murderbot, ART, and their humans trying to save some colonists from enslavement by a corporation, Barish-Estranza. But every time they turn around, the mission gets more and more complicated. First, there's a second group of colonists who have split off from the primary group (and the primary group long lost contact with them). Then, much to their dismay, once Murderbot, some of the humans, and a segment of ART in a drone locate them, they discover that Barish-Estranza has gotten to the second group of colonists first!  

And all the while, Murderbot isn't functioning the way it should.  Something happened to it (which it redacts through most of the book) and it is trying to make sense of everything. Unfortunately, that means that it isn't able to keep everyone safe the way it normally can.

While I enjoyed System Collapse, I really felt that I needed to reread Network Effect.  I couldn't remember who ART's humans were, and only vaguely remembered what had happened to everyone. I recommend rereading that before jumping into System Collapse if it's been awhile for you, too.