Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #18 - Turtles All The Way Down

Today's review is for:

Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green
Pages: 304

This is what mental illness looks like.  Sixteen year old Aza is trying to be a good person, but she is stick in her mind.  She is convinced that she is going to get sick (especially from C Diff).  She has a cut on her finger that she will not let heal - sure it will be infected, and she cannot stop spiraling and convince herself it isn't.  She lives constantly in fear of germs.

In this story, a billionare goes missing.  His son, Davis, is a childhood friend of hers, and she decides to look him up to see what the story of his dad's disappearance might be.  There is a $100,000 reward for anyone with information in finding his dad.  Aza never intended to get involved, but when she sees Davis, she can't stop herself.  She starts to fall for him, but is so tortured with her own thoughts, that she struggles to have a relationship with him.  Instead, she helps Davis and his brother find what happened to their dad and with that - come to terms with her own demons.

I have read all of John Green's books.  And I have to say - I find them hit or miss.  Some of them are fantastic, and others are....fine.  This one was fine.  I loved many parts of it.  Seeing into the mind of a truly mentally ill person is fascinating.  (is that the right word?)  I found myself gripping the book as Aza spiraled out of control with her thoughts, wanting to shake her and tell her to "get a grip".  But she can't.  She can't help it.  She would give anything to not have these irrational fears and thoughts, but she cannot stop them.  And no matter what it looks like to us in the outside world, to her it is very real.

The "eh" part for me was, well....mostly the rest.  Her best friend is a bit of a jerk.  Her mom seems to only parent about 50% of the time (letting her daughter stay out until 11pm on school nights without much care, even though her mom is a teacher).  There isn't much background to Davis' father - we never really hear the whole story, but I guess to be fair - that is a very minor part of the book.    The book felt a little jumbled and scattered, but maybe that was the style he was going for.

I read the book in one day.  It is a quick read with not a lot of dialogue.  It is definitely geared toward the YA crowd, and I know for a fact my 14 year old daughter would love this book.

Hard to say, hard to say.  If you like John Green - give it a go.  I think it has enough value - especially in the world of mental illness - to not be passed up.

Stars: 3 1/2

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #17 - Interpreter of Maladies

Today's review is for:

Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Juumpa Lahiri
Pages: 198

This is a collection of short stories.  Each story is about an Indian family that has to balance traditions with the modern world.  There is a story of a couple who struggles in the wake of a stillborn child.  Another about a woman who is having an affair with a married man.  An interpreter who works for a doctor but also drives tourist around India.  Another about a young woman with seizures that no one can find a husband for (yet this is all she wants).  A family who watches the war in India and Pakistan on TV - worrying about their families still in those countries.  And many more.

This was a pretty good book.  Most of the stories are short and entertaining.  They are well written, even though some of the stories end abruptly and go no where.  I didn't like it as well as her other books, but I am glad I read it.  It only took a few hours to read.

I would recommend it.  If you like her other books, you may enjoy this one.

Stars: 3 1/2

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #16 - My Not So Perfect Life

Today's review

My Not So Perfect Life
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Pages: 464

Katie Brenner is working hard to re-invent herself.  She has moved from the country in England to London.  She changed her name to Cat and moved into a tiny apartment.  She spends time instagraming restaurants and places in London she can't really afford to eat.  Her family and friends have no idea how much she really is struggling to become the person she thinks she wants to be.

She works for a branding company, with a high powered boss who seems to have everything Katie wants.  Just as Katie is starting to get on her feet, she is fired.  With no job, she is forced to move home with her dad and stepmother.  While she is there, she helps them start up a business.  After three months, her previous boss shows up at the camp.  Her boss realizes who Katie is and secrets are revealed.  Katie now has to make a decision about who is truly is.

True to Kinsella - this was a sweet book.  The story is funny, and light.  The character, Katie, has some depth and she is smart and ambitious.  All the main characters in this book are very likable, so that made me not want to put the book down.  The ending went a direction I was hoping it would take, but that I actually wasn't sure it would.  I think Kinsella tackles a lot of important issues - women in the workplace, relationships with step parents, young women trying to make something of themselves on very little money.

I highly recommend the book.  Even though it is 400 pages, it is a quick and light read, and I promise you will enjoy ever page.

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #15 - The Hunny Bunny

Today's review is for:  The Hunny Bunny
Author: Jack Murtha
Pages: 334

This is the story a true story of a family.  A young couple who were expecting their first baby.  Shortly after their baby, Katherine's, birth, the couple is told that the baby has a very serious heart defect called Ebstein's Anomaly.  Most children who are born with this have to have many heart surgeries over the course of their life, and many do not survive. 

Over the next 10 months, Jack walks us through what it is like to have a very sick baby.  Katie - as she soon becomes- only ever gets to spend a very short few weeks at home, but the rest of her short life is spent in the hospital.  Jack tells the tale of what it is like to be a parent who wants to fix everything, make enough money so they can afford Katie's care, and be there for his wife.  He brings to light what it is like for these parents day in and day out in a hospital room.

I grew up in Connellsville with Jack.  Our paths crossed as children in religious classes, so it was nice to see Connellsville mentioned a few times in this book.  When a relative of his recommended this book, I was thrilled to read it.  I am so glad I did because it was a great book.  You don't often get to hear a heart wrenching story from a parent's perspective.  It gave you a good insight on how these parents feel.

Full disclosure - I have been a pediatric nurse for 20 years.  A few things he said about nurses did sting, but then I realized - like every profession there are people who shouldn't be in that profession.  There are bad nurses just like there are bad doctors, and bad lawyers, and bad teachers.  When a family is hurting, they take it out on the nurse.  If the nurse cannot react with compassion and understanding to that, and know it isn't personal, then she shouldn't be there.  When a parents is dealing with a terminally ill child and is working out of his league, and is tired and helpless - that is not the time to take a stand. 

Down off the soap box.  Grab this book and read it.  And make sure you have kleenex handy.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #14 - Unsaid

Starting to slow down.  Life has started to go back to normal - so the time for reading has been less.  This week has been busier than most, lately, but with all good things.  I don't mind forfeiting reading to spend time with friends and do some hiking.

Today's review is for: Unsaid
Author: Neil Abramson
Pages: 384

This story is told by a woman named Helena who has died from cancer.  She keeps an eye on her grieving husband and his now responsibility to care for all of her animals.  He is more than reluctant to care for their 3 dogs, several cats, pig, and two horses, but he does it for Helena.  He finally hires help so that he can return to his life as an attorney.

Enter a long ago colleague of Helena's named Jaycee.  She has been working with a chimp named Cindy, and has proven that Cindy can communicate on a 4 year old level.  Her research partners, though, don't agree because Cindy won't talk to anyone but Jaycee.  They want to shut down the program and put Cindy into an animal testing facility that would subject her to harm.

Helena's husband agrees to take Jaycee's case to help save Cindy.  He does it for his late wife and help deal with his grief.

I wanted to like this book - I really did.  I am an animal lover, and anything with a dog on the cover attracts my attention.  But this book just wasn't entertaining.  I didn't ever really like any of the characters.  Some of the science just didn't seem to be correct.  There was a little boy with Autism that seemed to have magical powers (which his mom would call "episodes").  The second half of the book is a long drawn out trail around saving Cindy, and it just droned on and on.  It wasn't that interesting, and I struggled to finish it.

I won't be recommending this book.  It wasn't TERRIBLE, but it wasn't good either.

Stars: 2

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #13 - The Art Forger

Today's review is for

The Art Forger
Author: BA Shapiro
Pages: 384 pages

This story begins at the home of struggling artist - Claire Roth.  She cannot afford an apartment and an art studio, so she lives in her studio.  She is extremely talented, but an incident with an ex-boyfriend three years ago has left her black marked in the art world.  So she makes her living doing reproductions of paintings - mostly Degas.  She is certified as a Degas expert. 

One day, the owner of a prestigious gallery approaches her with an offer.  It isn't one she really can refuse - or wants to - because it ends with her getting her own show in the gallery if the deal is pulled off.  But the offer is risky, and due to her past, she is worried that if caught - it could further hurt her career.

She accepts the offer, and in the process, she discovers the past of Degas and the missing paintings from the Elizabeth Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It leads Claire down a dangerous path that could land her in jail.  She is torn between doing the right thing, and the thing she wants most.

This was a GREAT book.  I have said that a lot lately, and I am glad!  Sometimes I get into a slump with one so/so book after another, but so far - it has been a pretty good reading start to the year.  Anyway - another well written book.  I moved to Switzerland from Boston, and I am familiar with the Elizabeth Stewart Gardner Museum.  I lived there for 6 years and I never knew that there was an art heist with that museum in 1990 where 500 million dollars worth of art was stolen.  And it still hasn't been recovered.  (There is a 10 million dollar reward for anyone who returns the art).  This was a big part of the story, and I liked how the author used the truth. 

I couldn't stop reading - had to get to the end to find out what would happen to Claire and the missing art, and I know you will feel the same. 

Stars: 5

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #12 - The Misremembered Man

Well, my German test is over, and I am on to the next level.  Being an adult learning a very difficult language has been a treat and a pain all at once. 

Today's review is for :The Misremembered Man
Author: Christina McKenna
Pages: 325

This is the story of a man name Jamie who lives in Derry, Ireland.  The story takes place in the 1970s.  Jamie is a 40 year old, unmarried farmer.  He spends most of his time, alone on his farm, tending to his animals.  He has two good friends, his neighbors, that look after him and they encourage him to find a mate.  Jamie doesn't have a high opinion of himself, and doesn't feel that is an option for him.  After a very troubled childhood as an orphan who was beaten badly by the nuns who cared for him, his lack of trust is understandable.

He meets a woman, named Lydia who is around his same age.  She she a lonely school teacher who cares for her ailing mother.  Lydia's friends encourage her to find love so that she can get out from under her mother's thumb, so Lydia puts an add in the paper that Jamie answers.

What follows is unexpected and their relationship takes a turn that neither of them imagined.

This was a GREAT book.  It was sweet, and funny, and very well written.  Jamie is such a likable guy - you are rooting for him the entire story.  His childhood will make you cringe, and you just keep hoping that his luck turns.  There were even some funny parts to the story - especially the dialogue between Jamie and his neighbors as they try to get him a date. 

There wasn't anything I didn't like about this book.  If you are looking for a heart warming story with an amazing - yet a bit surprising - ending, this book is for you.

Stars: 5