Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, March 27, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 31, The Screwtape Letters

Today's book review is about:

The Screwtape Letters

It was under the category:  A Book About Religion

This book is about a demon that services "Our Father Below" who is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood, about how to lead a Christian astray.  Since the book is written from a demon's perspective, the reader has to reverse everything he says about Christianity.  Screwtape shows how demonic acts can be cleverly disguised to lead a faltering human to continue bad acts without feeling any guilt that he is doing something wrong.

This book was okay.  It got about 1000 five star reviews on Amazon, but I don't see the real draw to it.  I think it would have made a better audio book.  I think that the letters from Screwtape were too wordy to make the book as enjoyable as it should have been, and I think I might try it again in the future as an audio book.  There were some enjoyable parts, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as many of the other reviewers did.

It is hard to recommend this book based on me having a hard time getting through it.  It is very short - at around 200 pages - and only took me a day and a half to finish it.  I just couldn't get into it.

Stars: 2 1/2

Friday, March 25, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 30, Brave New World

30 books down!
Today's review is for:

Brave New World

It was under the category: A Controversial Book

This is a dystopian future book that was written in the 1932s.  What Huxley thought the future would look like.  A Nine Year War has taken place.  Now people take a daily dose of drugs (called soma) that keep them happy all the time.  Babies are only born in laboratories.  No one is a father or mother, husband or wife.  They attend entertainment that is called "Feelies" which is interactive movies that simulate sight, touch and hearing.  They are content and have been programmed throughout their lives to like their society.  They have different levels - Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma and Epsilon - and they are bread to be in these various classes.  The Alphas are the leaders, and Epsilons and the day laborers.  The people are programmed to like the class they are put into and that they would not want to be anything else.  There are a few outliers (an Alpha who isn't content with his station in life) and the Savages - who have never been part of the civilized community.  They beg the question - should mindless happiness take the place of deep thought and expression?

I liked this book pretty well.  I liked it more than 1984, that is for sure.  It is a book about a society that is more interested in profits and consumerism than its people.  There is the annihilation of religion.  There is a drug (soma) that is the cure for all the ails you.  The people in this future just want to be happy with their station in life, and never have individual thinking.

The book overall was good until it got to the end.  Then it just lost me.  Once the savage is brought back to the community, it got hard to follow.  It is started jumping all over the place.  John the Savage went from being a savage to meeting with the local world-controller.   I think Huxley was trying to use this opportunity to describe why society is the way it is now, but he did a poor job with it.

It is a classic book, and for the most part, I would recommend reading it.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 29, A Little Something Different

Today's book is:

A Little Something Different

This is under the category: A Book told from several viewpoints (in this case - 14)

This is the story of two kids named Gabe and Lea.  The people around them think they should be together, yet they can't seem to make things work.  Both are a bit shy and a bit awkward.  They do like each other, but can't express it.  The people around them are trying to help push them together because they are meant to be.

This was an okay book.  Definitely written for the younger crowd.  It is a sappy love story and a lot of time you are left feeling frustrated about how dumb the two main characters are being.  There are 12 people in Gabe and Lea's life that see the chemistry that these two have, and are constantly trying to pull them together.  The author keeps referencing a "tragedy" that happened to Gabe to make him the way he is, and - no offense - the tragedy doesn't turn out to be that big of a deal.  No one died - just for the record.  I won't reveal what it is, but trust me - you will roll your eyes.

I didn't really love the story.  It  I read it in a day and a half.  It is definitely something I would let my 13 year old daughter read - there is no language, or heavy love scenes.  And the writing is right at her level.  As for adults?  I would say pass.

Stars: 2 1/2

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 28, Stuck In The Middle With You

Today's book review is

Stuck in the Middle With You

This category is: Book By a person who identifies as transgender

This is a memoir about the author who went through a transition from male to female.  She was married and had two sons when she finally realized that she could not hide herself any longer.  She talked with her wife, and when through the transition from Jimmy to Jenny.  Her wife stayed with her and is still with her today.  She went from being Daddy to Maddy to her boys.  During her transition, her family faced a lot of challenges and many questions, but in the end, they stayed together as a family.  This book tells her story, but also has interviews others in her life and examines their relationships with mothers, fathers, and children whether their own or as their roles of.

I thought this was a pretty good book.  I would be lying if I was surprised that Jenny's wife stayed with her after her transition.  Her wife does not identify as a lesbian, but she loves Jenny and loved their life, so she stuck with her.  They seem like a well balanced, loving family.  Their boys are grown now, and striving, and show no ill effects of Jenny's transition.  I did enjoy the other interviews intermixed in this book - how people viewed their own relationships with their fathers, mothers and children.  And how those relationships formed the person they are today.

I suggest reading it.  There isn't a lot known or understood about people who are transgender, and I think this book gives a good insight on the struggles a person - and their family - can go through

Stars: 4

Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 Challenge - book 27, The Neverending Story

Today's Book Review is for:

The Neverending Story

This was under the category:  A  Book With A Magical Creature

This is the story of a boy named Bastian.  His mother has died, his father barely talks to him, and he doesn't have many friends.  One day, on his way to school, he stops in a book store and finds a book titled "The Never Ending Story".  He steals the book, runs to the attic in his school, and begins to read.  He enters a world named Fantastica.  Fantastica is in trouble - the Childlike Empress needs a new name, and unless she gets one, Fantastica will be swallowed up by the Nothing.  A young hero, named Atrayu, goes on a quest for the empress to stop the Nothing and find someone to give the empress her new name.  In the end it is Bastian that must save Fantastica but he isn't sure how.

I have watched the movie The Neverending Story a few times.  The first 180 pages or so covers that movie, so I was a little curious to see where the story was going to go once the credits rolled.  I was pleased that for the most part, the movie followed the first part of the book.  I know they made a second movie, but I have never seen it, and I am not sure if it picked up where the first ended.

Never the less, the book was pretty good.  The story got a little lost in parts.  Bastian enters Fantastica after he gives the empress her new name, and he tries to become Emperor himself.  He becomes spoiled, and unruly until he turns his only friends in Fantastica away from him.  He starts to forget who he was and where he came from.  The more wishes he makes, the more he loses of himself.  In the end, he doesn't even remember his name.  His friends come to his rescue to get him back home.

I suggest reading it.  It has its moments where I rolled my eyes and thought "really?"  but most books do.  This is a good book for kids as well - whether to read it to them, or - if a little older - for them to read themselves.  The main character is around 12 years old, so kids could relate to his trials and triumphs.

Stars:  4

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 26, Who Do You Love

Today's review is for:

Who Do You Love

This was under the category:  A Book Picked For You By Someone Else

This is the story of two character - Rachel and Andy - who meet for the first time at the age of 8.  The are from two different sides of the tracks - Rachel grew up in an affluent neighborhood with two parents that love her.  Andy grows up in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood with a single mother who is trying to make ends meet.  Over the course of 30 years, they will meet again and again - by chance, by want and by need.

This was a pretty good book.  I have read a lot of Jennifer Weiner's books and they are always good stories.  The two main characters clearly love each other right from the beginning, but they keep breaking up and then finding themselves again and realizing they want to be together.  Then the cycle happens again.  We see how they change over the course of their lives, finding that things they thought were crucial when they were younger, aren't so important as they age.  The book also talks about several issues like race, sex, bullying, and cheating.

Overall - I thought the book was pretty good.  It was a light little read.  It has its flaws - some ways that they met and just fell back "into love" so easily every time they find each other.  They kept breaking apart because they just couldn't make it work even though it was clear they were soul mates.  But otherwise, I think it is worth a read.

Starts: 3 1/2

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 25, An Absent Mind

One Third of the way finished!

Today's book I am reviewing is:

An Absent Mind

This was under the category:  A Book About A Medical Condition (this one was Alzheimer)

This is a story about an older gentleman who gets the diagnosis in his early 70s.  The story is told in the first person, and each chapter is told by a member of his family.  We hear how is wife, his daughter, and his son are dealing with his Alzheimer's as well as from the patient - Saul - himself.  Saul views things very differently than his family does as his starts to lose his ability to function on his own.  In the end, his family needs to make hard choices in terms of his care, and they talk about how hard it is to watch their love one no longer recognize them.

This was a good book.  It was an incredibly fast read - I finished it in less than 2 days.  I found parts of the book humorous - especially when Saul was talking.  It was also a "tug at your heartstrings" story, as we can all relate.  We are all worried that this could happen to us or our loved ones someday.  How hard it would be not to recognize anyone any more, or have them not recognize us.  How hard it would be to make the decision to put your loved on in a nursing home because you can no longer safely care for them any more.  How guilt - above anything else - is what consumes your days.

I recommend this book.  I read "Still Alice" and it was a better book, but this one was a close second.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2016 Challenge Book 24, Tomorrow When The War Began

Today's review is:

Tomorrow When The War Began

This was under the category:  A Book Published The Year You Graduated (for me it was year 1993)

This book takes place in Australia.  It is about a group of teens that take a week long trip in the summer before school starts.  They return from their trip to find their houses empty, their parents/families missing, and no power.  They soon realize that their country has been invaded and the entire town has been captured and is being held hostage.  Ellie - the main character - and her friends decide to return to their hideout where they were camping and figure out how they are going to react to the new situation.  They need to decide if they are going to hide and wait or fight.

This book was - DUMB.  Really really dumb.  I was disappointed.  It has gotten a lot of 5 star reviews on Amazon, and I had heard of it before, so I thought - why not.  It is definitely for the pre-teen/young teenager readers.  But that isn't what made it dumb.  IT was the writing.  This guy is a horrible writer and I am trying to figure out how people gave this 5 stars.  The story doesn't go anywhere.  It is a 300 page book, and yet the bad guys don't really do much, and the teenagers do even less (besides lay around, kiss, and hunt for food).  The further I got into it, the quicker I wanted it to be over.  I was actually relieved when it ended.

Don't try this book.  Unless you are 12.

Stars:  1 1/2

Sunday, March 6, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 23, The Goldfinch

Today I am reviewing:

The Goldfinch

This book was under the category:  A Book more than 500 pages.  (This book was 800 pages)

This is the story of a boy named Theo Decker.  At age 13, he survives a blast at a local NY museum that kills many people - including his mother.  He is knocked out from the blast, and when he comes to, he is near an older gentleman and young girl he had seen while he and his mother were walking around the museum.  The painting - The Goldfinch - is lying near by the gentleman, and he keeps asking Theo to remove it from site, so Theo puts it in his backpack to calm the man.  The gentleman dies from the blast, and Theo escapes the museum and heads home - painting still in tow.

His father has not been in his life in a long time (and he doesn't even know where he is), so he is taken in by a wealthy family whose son is a friend of Theo's.  He spends several months with this family, and it becomes clear that the family would like Theo to stay with them.  Just as Theo is rejoicing in the fact that he will have a loving family to care for him, his social worker finds his father, and his father - and his new wife - come to get him.  He is pulled from the home of his friend and moved to Las Vegas with a father and step mother who are drug addicts and drunks.  He friends a boy his age named Boris, and soon Theo is spiraling down the path of drugs and alcohol himself.  He spends a year in Las Vegas before his father is killed in a car accident.  He decides then it is time to return to New York and find the family who took him in after his mother's death.

What he finds when he returns is that the father of that family has had a mental break, so instead, he seeks out the shop where the gentleman at the museum worked.  He finds his partner, Hobi, and Hobi chooses to take him in and raise him.

The book then jumps 8 years into the future.  Theo has been working with Hobi in his antiques shop.  He is engaged to be married.  He has tried to get clean, but has been unsuccessful.  People from his past come back into his life, and the painting - The Goldfinch - is still in his possession.   Theo's past catches up with him and puts him in a dangerous position in the world of stolen art.

I really enjoyed this book.  It is very large, so I was reading it while I was reading a few others.  I had been putting it off (I even originally had it on my 2015 challenge book list, but took it off) due to its size.  I found myself being drawn into this book due to the amount of time that passes in Theo's life during the course of it.  He was a young, 13 year old who lost his mother, had no contact with his father and no other family.  I cannot imagine a child being in this position and having to go into the foster care system because there is no family to care for them.  Then his drug addict father turns up and carts him across the country away from everything he has ever known, and this atmosphere becomes the worst thing that ever happens to Theo.  You wonder what his life would have been like if he could have stayed with the stable family he was put with after his mother died.  And even when his father dies, and he leaves Las Vegas, and moves back to NY - he cannot get himself straightened out.  He pines after a girl he cannot have, and becomes engaged to a girl he does not love.  The person he became in Las Vegas becomes the person he is for the rest of his life - a drug addict who lies to people about the antiques he sells, and still has a priceless painting from the museum in his possession because he cannot part with it.  Then when a friend from Las Vegas comes back into his life when he is in his 20s, he spirals even further out of control.

By the time we get to the end of the book, you are feeling pretty hopeless about Theo's future.  But it does wrap up nicely, and the "moral" of the book comes out in the end.  Bottom line "Things would have turned out better if she would have lived" is what Theo tells us in the end.  And I can imagine that would be true.

Take a chance on this book.  It really was very good.  I would give it 5 Stars, but there were places in the book that I felt it dragged a bit - too wordy.

Stars:  4 1/2

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 22, The Bluest Eye

The book I am going to review today is:

The Bluest Eye

This was under the category:  an Author the same age as you.  (disclaimer - I had a hard time finding this, to be truthful.  Toni Morrison was 40 when she wrote this book, so I went with it)

This is the story of an African American girl named Pecola who just wanted to have blue eyes like the other little girls she sees.  She is a very poor girl in the 1940s with a family whose father drinks too much, and her mother is too quick to beat her over the smallest things.  The story tells of the life she has been dealt.

I liked this book okay.  It was a little hard to read.  The story was haunting, and sad, of course.  Each chapter was about a different person in the story - giving you background of how they came to be the person they were.  These were poor children in a poor neighborhood and their lives were hard.  There is a house that is burned down.  There is an unexpected pregnancy.  And all Pecola wants is blonde hair and blue eyes.

I don't really recommend it.  I mean - it is fine.  It was only 200 pages, so it only took me a few days to read it.  But I really had to make myself read it.  I think this was her first book, so to be fair, that might be part of the problem.

Stars: 2 1/2