Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #59 - The Alice Network

Today's review is for

The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quinn
Pages: 528



This is the story of two women - Eve and Charlie.  The time line flips back and forth between the early 1900s when Eve was a young girl who was recruited to be a spy during the first world war, and the late 1940s after the second world war.  Charlie - 19 years old in 1947 is pregnant, single, and looking for her lost cousin Rose.  Her mother and father want Charlie to "take care of" the baby, and put her on a train to Switzerland to have it done.  But Charlie isn't sure that is what she wants.  While traveling with her mother, she sneaks away because she wants to find her cousin, Rose.  She meets Eve and begs her to help her find Rose.  Rose is now an older woman, in her 50s.  She is drunk most of the time and not really looking to relive the past.

Charlie proposes money and will pay for the whole search, and mentions a name that Eve knows.  Eve agrees to help Charlie.  While together, Eve starts to tell Charlie of her time as a spy, and the mission launches them both in a direction they aren't sure they want to go.

This was a good book.  There are pieces of true history (The Alice Network and one of the characters who was truly in the Network, plus a bombing that really happened during the second world war) mixed in with fiction that made the story a good read.  One half of the book takes place in 1915, and the other in 1947.  The part during WWI is definitely the stronger of the two in this story - better written and more interesting.  The story of the Alice Network is fascinating and learning what these women did to save 100s to 1000s of lives was amazing.  The second half of the book was a little trickier to like.  Charlie and the male "love interest" did not add much to the story, and neither were really likable or realistic characters.

Don't skip it - I think it is worth a read especially the parts about Eve and the Alice Network.  The evil characters are truly evil, and once again the horrors of those wars are brought to light.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #58 - The Deal Of A Lifetime

Review for:

The Deal of A Lifetime
Author: Fredrik Backman
Pages: 65



This sweet little novella starts with a father talking to his son on Christmas Eve.  His son - who he hasn't seen in many years, and hadn't seen much as he was growing up because he was too busy being successful - has agreed to meet him to reconnect.  A week before this meeting, the man met a 5 year old girl who is dying of cancer.  She knows that she won't be leaving the hospital - knows she will die soon.

Suddenly - the man is given an opportunity to do something good.  Something that would change the little girl's destiny.  But before he can do that, he wants to see his son and wants to tell him his story.

this was a great, short book.  I have read all of Fredrik Backman's books and he never disappoints.  This was a clever, small book (I read it in 30 minutes), and I highly recommend it.  I wonder how many of us would chose to trade a life for a life.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #57 - In A Dark Dark Wood

Today's review is for

In A Dark Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Pages: 352



This is a story of Leonora who is invited to a weekend away from a long lost friend.  Her friend, Clare, is getting married and has invited Leonora to a "hen do" (British for a bacelorette party).  Leonora hasn't seen or spoken to Clare for 10 years, and she finds it odd that Clare wants to see her now.  At the maid of honor's insistence Leonora agrees to go. 

There are only 6 people invited to the "hen do" and none seem to have much in common.  It is revealed during the weekend why Leonora is invited by Clare, and soon things start to unravel and people end up dead.  The next thing Leonora knows is she is in the hospital with memory loss and a cop sitting outside her hospital room door.  Leonora starts to piece together what happened, and becomes even more in danger than she was before.

This book was fine.  Not worth the hype, that is for sure.  It is a quick reading murder mystery.  It was easy to figure out the killer pretty early on, but I kept reading to see how it ended.  All the characters were pretty shallow.  You don't end up liking any of them.  The ending was a bit crazy - seemed like the author gave up.  It wasn't well thought out or made much sense.  Really made the main character seem dim witted.

Eh - I wouldn't bother.  It could have been a lot better.

Stars: 2

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2015 Challenge - Book #56 - Little Fires Everywhere

Today I am reviewing the book I was most excited to read this year

Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Pages: 352



This is the story of two families - the Richardsons, who are a prominent family in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  They have 4 children, a beautiful home, and a picture perfect life.  The Warrens are a nomadic family that have moved continuously.  Mia and her daughter Pearl have never stayed in a place long.  Mia, an artist who barely scrapes by with the art she sells, picks up and moves when things get rough.  She landed in Shaker Heights when Mrs.  Richardson offered their small investment property to Mia to rent.  In exchange Mia would work part time for the Richardsons so she had time for her photography.

Things are going well for a long time.  Pearl becomes fast friends with the three eldest Richardson children - Lexie, Moody, and Trip.  Izzy - the youngest Richardson child is broody and a family outcast who is shunned by her older siblings.  But Mia and Izzy form a bond in the time that Mia works for the Richardson family feeling that Mia actually understands her.  Pearl falls fast and hard for Trip. 

When old family friends of the Richardson's attempt to adopt an abandoned Chinese baby, a custody battle erupts and divides the town and even divides the Richardson family.  Secrets of the Richardson family and the Warren family start to surface during this time that will devastate both families.

I loved this book.  Celeste Ng is a terrific writer.  I didn't want to put this book down - finished it in a day and a half because there were so many twists and turns - I needed to see where it was going.   What I love about Celeste Ng's books is that she starts with the ending.  Meaning - she gives away the whole reason for the book right up front, and then works the character development.  She did this in "Everything I Never Told You" and I found it so refreshing and different I hoped she would write more novels.

The only problem I had with this book was a little bit of the Chinese story.  And that was only because that type of thing is person to me.  We adopted a little boy from China 11 years ago, and I would never want people to think that he isn't "Chinese enough" because he is being raised by white parents.  I think Celeste tried to be sensitive to adoptive parents, but it did give me a twinge none the less.

Grab this book and read it - and if you haven't read her other novel - read it first.

Stars:  4 1/2

Friday, April 13, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #55 - The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Today's review is for

The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author:  Heather Morris
Pages:



This is the true story of Lale Sokolov who was a concentration camp survivor.  The author tells his story of what it was like for him during the 3 years he was in Auschwitz.  He was chosen to be the Tattooist who tattooed the numbers on the prisoners each day when they came to camp.  This job helped him stay alive during those three years.  He also befriended people who came to the camp to work each day who would bring him food that he could share with other prisoners.  He helped saved the lives of many while he was in camp, and when he was finally liberated, he was able to marry the love of his life (whom he met in the camp).

I have had this on my list and was excited to read it.  It was chosen as a book "not to miss this year".  The story is unnerving.  I have read quite a few stories - fictional and non-fictional - about WWII and what the Nazi's did, but this was by far the most bleak.  I was horrified by what Lale reported from first hand eye witness inside the camps.  The attitudes of the guards, and even the doctors.  That people who treat other human beings this way is something I will never understand.  How they would shoot people for no reason other than because they felt like it.  That even when they were liberated from the camps, they still were not free.  It took Lale awhile to get free of being a prisoner and find Gita - his soon to be wife - and start a real life.  They moved away from Slovakia - where they were from because they needed to escape.

The writing wasn't particularly great, but I encourage you to look past that to hear this story.  I read a few days ago that the Holocaust is being forgotten.  But how can that be?  It can not be forgotten - we cannot afford for something like this to ever happen again.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #54 - What Happened To Baby Jane

Today's review is for

What Happened To Baby Jane
Author: Henry Farrell
Pages: 304



This is a story of two sisters.  Jane was a star as a young girl (think Shirley Temple).  Then along came her younger sister, Blanche who was prettier and more talented.  She started to get a lot of acting jobs and a lot of attention, and Jane was pushed to the side. 

One night, Jane and Blanche are in a terrible car accident and Blanche is left paralyzed from the waist down.  Everyone blames the accident on Jane - saying she caused it because she was jealous of Blanche's success.  Over the last 20 years Jane has been caring for Blanche - closed up in Blanche's mansion.  But Jane is unstable, and still holds a long grudge of Blanche's success.  Things start to go downhill for the sisters.  As Blanche tries to get outside help to get her away from her unstable sister, Jane becomes more dangerous.

This book was not that great  It wasn't entertaining, and it wasn't well written. I know it was written in the 1960s, but it just wasn't that suspenseful.   It was predictable, and none of the characters very likable. 

I don't recommend it.  I was glad to be finished with it.

Stars:  2

2018 Challenge - Book #53 - The Life She Was Given

Today's review is for

The Life She Was Given
Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman
Pages: 304



This is a story of a young albino girl named Lily whose mother felt was a monster.  This young girl was kept in the attic of her home - locked away from the world - until she was 10 years old.  At that time, her mother snuck her out into the night and sold her to the circus that was visiting town. 

For the next decade, Lily was part of the circus.  First in the freak show, and soon working with the elephants.  She had a gift with animals that no one had ever seen.  She never saw her mother or father again, and the circus became her family.

The other half of this story is about a girl named Julia.  Several decades into the future from Lily's story, Julia has come home to settle her parents affairs.  Her mother has recently died and left the house and a horse farm to Julia.  Julia-  who was never close with her alcoholic father and God fearing mother - comes home to find that there are several secrets her parents kept from her.  As she tries to piece together her parent's past, she discovers a secret about herself.

This was an okay book.  The story was really depressing from beginning to end.  The writing was only fair.  There is a big twist in this book, but it is easy to figure out pretty early in the book.  The characters were not well developed.  I never really saw Lily grow up in the book, even though the book covers almost a decade of her life.  The ending seemed to wrap up quickly without much depth.

I would say skip it.  I did not find it an enjoyable read.

Stars: 2