Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, December 9, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #112 - Scythe

This weekend we were supposed to be enjoing Belgium, but instead I spent the weekend with my eldest daughter in the hospital.  She had her appendix out, so instead of Christmas markets and visiting friends, I read a book in a hospital room.  Fun times.

Author: Neil Shusterman
Pages: 464

In this future, there is no war, no death, no disease, no misery.  It is a post-mortal age where you have the chance to live forever.  Scythes are the only ones who can take a life away - with an act called gleaming.  The acts are random, and up to the individual Scythe.  Scythes help keep the population under control, and everyone lives in fear that their time will soon be up.

Rowan and Citra - two 17 year old kids - have been picked to become Scythe apprentices.  Neither of them wants the job, which makes them perfect.  They will spend the next year learning how to be a Scythe and take 4 test before becoming an official Scythe.  If they fail, they will go back to their lives.  If they succeed, they will spend eternity gleaming people of their choosing - meeting their quota to keep population control.

During their time as apprentances, they find that there are all kinds of Scythes.  Those who take their job seriously and are compasionate, and those who see it as a position of power.

Rowan and Citra must learn to take life and hope that it doesn't mean the end of their own.

This was a pretty good book.  I have read Shusterman's "Unwind" series and thought it was clever.  This did not disappoint.  There are a few twists in the story that kept me moving at a quick pace to finish the book.  I wanted to find out what would happen to Citra and Rowan once they took their final test.   I also found myself going back and forth between being for or against the idea of a Scythe in the age of immortality.  You can see the need for some way to control the population, but some of the methods seemed a bit....much.

This book is listed for 7th grade and up, but if your pre-teens are not really into gore and killing in books, pass this one up.  I think it is probably better suited for high school and beyond.

There is a second book which I am starting today.  I am anxious to see where the story is going.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #111 - Bird Box

I took a break from the heavy novel I am reading right now to read Bird Box.  This book has been turned into a movie (coming out this month on Netflix) and it looked interesting, so I thought - why not?

Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Pages: 272

This is the story of a world thrown into madness by an unknown/unscene entity.  If people look upon this entity they are said to witness something that drives them mad and drives them to kill themselves.  Soon, people are shutting themselves indoors, darkening their windows, and blindfolding their eyes if they dare venture outside. 

Malorie cannot believe what is happening.  She is 20 years old and has just found she is pregnant.  She and her sister and trying to decide how to tell her parents when the madness begins.  Malorie's sister succums to the entity and Marlorie is left alone.  In desparation, she answers an add in the paper about a safe house.  She is welcomed in, and learns to live in total darkness with a set of strangers.  As the day of her delivery looms, Malorie wonders how she and her child will ever survive what is happening in the ouside world.

The book jumps back and forth between the when the madness began and 4 years in the future when Malorie and her children decide they can no long stay put.  It bleeds the timelines together to solving how Marlorie ended up alone with two children, what happened to her housemates, and why she feels she must leave.  Trusting that her young children will get them all to safety with "hearing training" Malorie has done wiht them since they were babies, she sets out on a dangerous trip - completely blindfolded - to find safety.

This wasn't a bad book.  It reads so quickly that I read it all in one day.  I, honestly, didn't want to put it down because I was curious on how it was going to end.  It is an intense, nail biting novel with one horror after another.  I found it on the leves of Stephen King and M. Night Shyamalan.  Where it differed was the ending.  IT wrapped up pretty quickly AND didn't really solve how they were going to deal with the entities.  People were trying to rebuild in the end, BUT the don't fight back against the invaders how you would expect.  I found it a bit wanting.  I think if it would have actually been a little longer, it could have developed some of the characters and filled in some of the plot holes a little better.

If you are interested in seeing the movie, check out this fast read first.  It is really nail biting, so if horror and suspsense are not your thing - this book isn't for you. 

Stars: 3

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #110 - Becoming

#110 - here we go!

Author: Michelle Obama
Pages: 429

This is the autobiography of  the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama.  The story covers her life  - from growing up on the South Side of Chicago in a poor, yet loving, family - to becoming the First Lady.  She discusses with warmth what it was like growing up in Chicago, going to Princeton and Harvard Law school, meeting Barack, becoming a mother, and finally going to the White House.  She became an advocate for young girls and women all over the world. She gives readers a candid look into her life.

This was a great book.  Mrs. Obama writes with grace and intellect and even humor.  You get to find out how she really felt about Barack running for public office and then finally running for President of the United States.  You get an indepth look at her childhood and the love she had for her family.  She talks candidly about how it was to protect her daughters from the limelight and the struggle to give them a normal childhood.  How she wanted nothing else to be an advocate, a role model, a good mother and a loving wife and what it took to try and have it all.

I encourage you to read this book.  I enjoyed every page.  Well, until I got to the end and we started to creap to 2016 - the end of their term in the White House - and I felt my chest tighten.  She talks shortly about what it was like to hand over the reins to Donald Trump and how she felt about the change that would happen, but mostly she sticks with her ultimate message.  For every door that is opened for you, open a door for others.  Invite one another in.  Don't let the hate and the fear that has ruled our country for the last two years be what we become.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #109 - Us Against You

Today's review is for

Us Against You
Author: Frederik Backman
Pages: 448

This is the follow up book to Backman's "Beartown".  The town of Beartown is still realing for a young girl's rape.  The town divided and picked their side leaving the Beartown hockey team in shambles.  The hockey team might be disbanded because it was the coaches daughter who was raped.  A lot of former Beartown players leave to play for the rival town of Hed. But a newcomer gives the town hope and soon a new Beartown hockey team is formed.  The team forms around former players of the junior team - a gang of misfits who don't quite fit in anywhere.  They have a new coach who is determined to make them a winning team regardless of how that has to be done.

Before the season ends, a resident of Beartown will be dead.  Hed and Beartown will be left to decide if hockey is really what is most important.  The towns will both be challenged and be given a choice.

This book was not very good.  I was disappointed because Backman is one of my favorite authors.  I love almost everything is writes, but this one was just not well written.  First, it is extemely melencholy.  There is never an upswing for any of the characters - which makes the story just drag.  I mean - really?  Nothing but sadness?  One reviewing on Amazon said it best "It was like a swirling snowstorm that was brewing for too long".  Nother ever really happened.  Each chapter would leave you with cliff hangers and often he would say "they would remember this day".  But then....what?  Nothing of great importance.  He did too much setting up and then things would work out fine.  There was too much of that.

I don't recommend this book.  And the rumor is that there will be a third.  I honestly think he should have just left Beartown alone and not tried to continue the story.  Because it really has no where else to go.

Stars:  2

Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #108 - Art Matters

Another novella - two in one day!

Art Matters
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 112

There isn't much to review about this short little book (which has a lot of drawings).  It is an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.  He talks a lot about the importance of reading, and libraries, and talks about taking a leap when it comes to writing and creating.

As an avid reader, I believe that the world would be lost without books.  Fiction and non-fiction a like are invaluable to further educate people and lead to further understanding.  It is so important, and it is becoming more and more rare in an age of You Tube and instagram.

Read with your kids.  Read in front of your kids.  Show them that books are not a lost art and cannot be replaced.

Stars:  4

2018 Challenge - Book #107 - Elevation

Today is the review for a short novella called

Author: Stephen King
Pages: 160

Scott Carey is losing weight at an alarming speed.  He doesn't look any different than he did at 240 pounds, there has been no loss of muscle tone or stature, but he is losing a pound a day.  And wether he is wearing clothes or carrying weights, or is naked - he weighs the same.  He visits his friend - Dr. Bob Eillis - to see if he has any idea what is going on.  Together, the two men try to figure out why he is losing weight, yet not showing the outward signs.

Scott has two new neighbors that he is desperate to get to know, but don't seem to want to know him.  The one is seemingly bitter and on the defense, and tries to avoid Scott at all cost.  But the other warms to him and invites him to come to their restaurant and try their food.  The restaurant is suffering because it is being run by a same sex couple and the town in not open minded.  Scott is determined to get the town to accept these women and their restaurant, and puts his own failing health on the back burner.

The rate of his weight loss starts to speed up.  Scott - realizing that the end is near, confides in the women, and together they help Scott - and the town - find the best in themselves.

This book was REALLY short (as you can see above).  A lot of the low reviews for this book is because people didn't realize it was a novella.  (although, if you take two seconds, each Amazon page tells you how much a book cost).  I felt, though, that this story needed more pages.  The turn around of the town, and the women, and even Scott himself happened way too quickly to be realistic.  Well - as realistic as a story where a guy loses a pound a day with no known cause.  It just didn't do anything for me - I didn't come to like any of the characters or get a chance to feel one way or another about them with only 160 pages.

If you can borrow this book from the library and you are a huge Stephen King fan, then check it out.  But if your only choice is to buy it, I wouldn't bother.  You aren't missing much.

Stars: 2

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #106 - The 57 Bus

When you have a down day with bad weather, you read a whole book in one day.

The 57 Bus
Author: Dashka Slater
Pages: 320

This book is about two people - Sasha, an agender young person who lives outside of Oakland California, attends a private school, has an intact, loving family and lots of friends.  The other is Richard - a studend that attends Oakland High School, has friends but most of them are in trouble or in jail.  He does have a loving mother but she struggles to keep him out of trouble.

Despite their different schools, both kids take the same public bus - the 57 Bus - to and from school each day.  They don't know each other - haven't ever even met.  But one day, Richard - coaked by his friends - decides to play a practical joke and lights Sasha's skirt on fire.  What results is Sasha spending weeks in the hospital recovering from severe burns, and Richard arrested for the crime.

The book goes back and forth between the two kids - both the same age - and talks about their upbringing, their problems, and what lead them to that fateful day.

This was an okay book.  I was interested in it because it was a true story.  The book does a good job telling the back story of the two kids, and covering the trial and what happens to both kids once the trial is over.  IT does go a little too indepth into subject matter realted to gender identity.  And while I did learn quite a bit, I don't think it really was needed to tell the story in this case.  I think giving us more character development would have been more beneficial.

I think this book is worth a read.  It was a really fast read - a lot of the chapters are only a few pages long, so it moves along quickly.  The story happened only a few years ago, and you can actually look up the news stories from the incident and see pictures of the kids online.  The subject of gender identity is a hot button in today's society.

Stars:  3