Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #45 - The Fifth Letter

Today's review is for

The Fifth Letter

This was under the category:  A Book Published in 2017

This is the story of 4 best friends who have been together since high school.  Every year they get together for a long weekend - just the 4 of them - to enjoy time away from life, kids, husbands....and to just rekindle their friendship.  At the beach house, Joni decides it would be fun if each woman writes a letter - anonymously - about a secret that none of them know.  They would read one letter a night at dinner.  There wouldn't be any judgement, just advice from friends.

As each letter is read, the women try their best not to judge and to just give advice and support.  Joni, though, when cleaning out the fireplace discovers the left over pieces of a letter.  She does some tracing on the house computer and finds that someone wrote a fifth letter and then destroyed it.  This letter is filled with hate for someone in the group and it worries Joni.

When the girls get back home, Joni tries to discover who wrote the letter.  It wasn't until one of the girls in the group hosts a party that the truth comes out and Joni knows their friendships will never be the same.

This is a great summer read.  It was easy to read and moved a long nicely.  I like how this author wrapped up the characters at the end - showed them a few years in the future since their friendships changed.  I always want to know what characters might be doing a few years in the future when the story "officially" ends, so this was great.

Add this to your list this summer - you won't be disappointed.

Stars:  4 1/2

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #44 - At Home In Mitford

So....we are moving so I have had to slow my reading.  It is making me crazy that I can't take these lazy days of summer and just read and read.  Instead I need to pack and paint and do boring stuff.

I am sneaking in a few minutes to read, so today I am going to review

At Home In Mitford

This was under the category: A Book With A Map In The Front

This is the story of Father Tim who lives in the small town of Mitford.  He is the beloved pastor of a local church who cares about everyone in town.  He often is left feeling that he wants something more.  Soon a homeless dog becomes his closest companion, and a young 11 year old boy comes to live with him while his grandfather recovers from being sick.  He meets an attractive new neighbor that he quickly becomes smitten with.  All of this while trying to manage a thief who had been living in the bell tower of his church, and helping to build a nursing home for the town.  Father Tim soon lets his own health go and almost dies in the process.

This was a really cute book.  It was an easy read and a sweet story.  Every town needs a Father Tim - someone who they can count on to help them when they are in need and to tell their problems to.  Most of the characters were likable and the author did a good job fitting them all together.


Stars: 4

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #43 - Life of Pi

I forgot about one!  I read 8!

This book is :  Life of Pi

It was under the category:  A Book You Read ALoud to Someone Else

This is the story of a young boy from India who is moving with his family to Canada.  In Indai, his father owned a zoo, and they are transporting many of the animals that have been sold to Canada.  They are on a large ship sailing across the pacific when tragedy strikes and the ship sinks.  The lone survivor - Pi - is telling the story to an author who wants to write his story.  Pi tells the story of how he spent 277 days on the ocean with a 450 pound Bengal tiger before they hit land in Mexico and were saved.  He loses his whole family when that ship sinks, and now as an adult, he recollects his experience with a fantastic story of survival.

This is a great book.  I have seen the movie, but have never read it.  My eldest daughter - who is 14 - had to read this book for school, so we decided to do it together.  I enjoyed that as much as I did the book.

This book is well written.  It has funny parts, and the story is truly griping.  My daughter was sad when the story ended because it really is a fantastic tale.  A must read.

Stars: 5

2017 Challenge - Book #42 - Walden

Well - I only made 7 books this month.  Now that the weather has gotten nicer, I have a harder time reading.  My yard is huge and needs quite a bit of tending in the spring.  Once the kids are out of school, I hope to pick up again.

Today's review is for Walden

This was under the category:  A  Classic You Haven't Read Before

This book is Thoreau's reflections on the time he spent in a home he built on Walden Pond.  He lived in a cabin in the woods for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days.  He wanted to spend the time reflecting and learning to understand society.  He also wanted to see if he could mainly be self-sustaining on the land.  He was in the middle of Concord, Massachusetts, so not necessarily in the wilderness, but off the beaten path to the point where he was 2 miles from civilization.

This book was....interesting.  First of all, Thoreau is a rambler.  I would guess, though, that any of us keeping a journal of our day to day routine would be too.  I learned about every bird in the woods.  What temperature the pond was compared to other ponds near by.  When the pond froze for the winter, how he built his house, how he kept warm, and who he talked with while he lived in the woods.  The book could have been about half the size, but he liked to talk for paragraphs about each and every animal or situation to the point of my losing interest and wanting to skim.  I did finish it, but it was trying.  I do have to say, though, on the bits that I did enjoy, he was telling.  And interesting.  And sometimes even funny.  It had its moments.

I have never been very good with the classics.  I am starting to think it is a personal problem I have - I am just not in the mindset for this type of writing.  It isn't my cup of tea.  BUT - I will continue to struggle through them because I am interested in seeing what makes them classics.  Maybe one day, I will come by one that I truly love.

Still looking

Stars: 3

Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #41 - The Nest

Book #41 - Today I am reviewing

The Nest

It is under the category:  A Book You Picked Randomly off the Shelf of the Library

This is the story of 4 siblings whose father left them a sum of money.  He wanted his children to have just enough to take the edge of their own personal finances, but not enough for them to be greedy.  Their dad died before he realized that his investor had done so well that The Nest had grown to over 2 million dollars.  Split among the 4 of them, they could off set so many expenses.  Unfortunately, one nigh the eldest brother decides to leave his wife at a wedding party and get in the car with a young waitress and take off.  They are in an accident and the waitress is seriously hurt.  After the family pays off the waitress and her expenses and the ex-wife to keep her quiet, there is nothing left of The Nest.  The three remaining siblings fret because each one of them were counting on that money to offset expenses in their lives they needed help with.  Soon - the eldest brother disappears and the hunt for him, and how the families cope with knowing the money may be gone forever - begins.

This book was fine.  It was in a section of "Seven Day Loan" at the library because it was popular.  It wasn't well written, and an easy read.  But I didn't like any of the characters.  Well - most of the characters.  There were a few minor characters that were good.  The the 4 siblings were awful.  The three who were counting on the now non-existent money - were a bunch of whiners with first world problems.  (one was mad because he was going to lose his beach house)  The had counted on that money, so they had spent unwisely, and instead of saving in case the money never came, they put themselves in bad situations and mounting debt.  I didn't feel bad for them at all when the brother couldn't pay them back the money they felt they were owed.  

Meanwhile - the eldest brother didn't feel bad about it at all.  He was a recovering drug addict, and had hidden away almost 2 million dollars over the years so that he could run away.  No one in his family knew he had this money and one day he just disappeared.  He left a pregnant girlfriend and vanished.  What a douche.

I don't really recommend this book unless you want to read about people who don't really have real world problems.  It could be good for a beach read if you are looking for fluff, but otherwise -just pass.

Stars:  2

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #40 - You Are Not So Smart: Why you have too many friends on facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways you are deluding yourself

#40!  Another milestone

Today's review is for:  You Are Not So Smart: Why you have too many friends on facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways you are deluding yourself

This was under the cateogry:  A Book With A Really Long Title

This is the author's take on how we are deluding ourselves in several aspects of our lives.  The old saying "To err is human" comes to play as he explains how every thought and action we have comes from a story we tell ourselves to explain them.  Bottom line - we are easily fooled and we don't think we are.

I really liked this book.  It was humorous, and I could definitely see how I delude myself in believing I am better in some ways when actually I am not.  It was a great big dose of humble pie to know we are not the great thinkers we think we are - on the whole - but more just a collection of biases.  It takes a lot to admit that most of the things we think we know, or remember, are tainted by our own delusions.  It shows that in reality, it is better to shrug and assume you remember it differently, and calm the waters of an argument than to insist you are right.

I definitely say try this book.  You will enjoy taking a better look at yourself.

Stars: 4

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #39 - The Name of the Wind

Today's review is for

The Name of the Wind

It is under the category:  A Book that was written 10 years ago.

This is the story of a man named Kvothe.  He has gone into hiding - presumed dead by many - until one day a Chronicler comes to town wanting to find him and hear his story.  Kvothe agrees, and such begins the story of his life.  He tells of being a little boy in a music troop.  How one night while he was playing away from the camp, he comes back to find the entire troop dead - including his parents.  The Chandrian - or evil spirits - have killed everyone "for singing the wrong kind of songs"  Kvothe escapes, and starts a life on the streets as a beggar, barely surviving day to day.  He eventually gets a small amount of money together, buys a good pair of clothes, and applies to learn at the local University.  At this University, they teach magic (what they call sympathy).  He is only 15, but he is among the youngest to be admitted and he excels quickly.  He spends a few years at the University honing his skills, and also trying to learn as much as he can about the Chandrian who killed his parents.

I liked this book.  It is LONG - almost 700 pages, but it held my interest.  I enjoyed the story of how this very poor boy who had barely a penny to his name got to the University and became a legend in his own right.  There were parts that didn't make a lot of sense to me - things I think the author could have left out to shorten the story.  For example - there was a long section of the book that he spends in the company of a young lady while he looks for the Chandiran.  He has heard a rumor that they are 60 miles north of where he is in school, so he just bolts, buys a horse on a loan, and heads out to find the Chandrian.  He seems.....out of place.  Sure - I get that he wanted to find them.  But he is a 15 year old boy - what was he going to do when he found them?  In the end - he didn't find them, but it was a wasted part of the book in my opinion.  Although - maybe the author was showing what a true 15 year old boy would do - take off without thinking.  So....whatever.  The book, also, is written in a fashion along the lines of The Hobbit.  It is a fantasy book - made up words, and made up coin......but not to the point of distraction.  There are books out there that make up words for the sake of doing it.  Here it was a nice balance.

Other than that - it was a good tale.  IT is the first book in a trilogy, but if each are 700 pages, the other books will have to wait until I finish my challenge to get to those.  If you like fantasy books, like Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit....give this book a try.

Stars:  4

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #38 - A Walk in the Woods - Rediscovering America

Today's review is for

A  Walk In The Woods - Rediscovering America

This was under the category:  A Book With a Country or City Name in the Title

This is a non-fiction story of the author's attempt to walk the Appalachian trail.  In 1996 he decided he was going to try this, after hearing about the number of people who complete it each year.  He didn't have much hiking experience, but felt that if he tried, he could complete the over 2000 miles of hiking in 5 months.

He was wrong.  He took a long an old friend on this journey.  He started in early March at the southern most tip of the trail and started to walk north.  (the trail goes all the way to Maine).  After walking for nearly 5 weeks, he came across a map that showed that they had barely touched the trail.  He felt discouraged, and decided to go about this a different way.  He wasn't FORCED to walk the trail - he was doing it for fun.  So he decided to go to the parts of the trail he wanted to see - areas he wanted to accomplish.

In the end he walked over 800 miles of the trail.  He was in better shape than he had ever been before.  He met many people along the trail who he came to admire.  He climbed tall mountains and got lost.  He slept in a tent in the rain and trudged through several feet of snow.  He said he hoped that during succeeding summers he would go back and see other parts of trail.

This was a great book.  He was a great writer with wit which made the book an easy read.  He talked candidly about the hardships he had on the trail, and the oddness of some of the people he met.  He talked about how the trails are slowly going into disrepair due to the limited budget and low staff of the national park system.  He talked about how different the trails look now to when they were first designed.  I loved the side stories he told about the cities he visited and the states.  Overall - he made me want to try it.  Would I ever?  No way.  But the idea is what he makes you excited about.

Check this book out.  It is one not to be missed.

Stars:  4 1/2

Friday, May 5, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #37 - The Age Of Miracles

Moving right along!  Trying to get back on track after a slow month of reading

Today's review is for  - The Age of Miracles

This was under the category: A Book With A Blue Covered

Life is going along as expected until one day, scientist realize that the days were starting to stretch.  It was minor at first - a minute longer, then two.  But by the time it is brought to the public's attention, the day has stretched by 10 minutes longer.  The scientist have discovered that the rotation of the earth has slowed.  Everything starts to change - days and nights grow longer, gravity changes, birds start to die off, the tides and human behavior change.  Scientist urge everyone to continue on as normal - to "keep to the clock".

There are people that try to say they are going to follow the days and nights - no matter how long they become.  But even those folks can no longer cope as the days stretch to 60 and then 72 hours long.  Schools and businesses try to stay open and it isn't until the power starts to turn off and on that people start to panic.  In the end, what scientist call the "syndrome" takes the lives of many people.  People can no longer go out during the day because of the radiation.  Crops start to die off and scientist still have no figured out how to grow them without the sun.  Time passes and relationship change and the earth turns slower and slower.  The scientist and experts have no idea how long it will last before it stops all together.

This was a really fast read.  I have read a lot of intense books this year, so this was kind of a nice "fluff" book.  And it is one of my favorites - dystopian futures.  Although just once I would like that future to be fantastic instead of "everyone is doing to die!"

I read this in a day and a half, and it held my interest.  The main character is 11 when the book starts - the age of my youngest daughter - and 23 when it ends.  It is an interesting concept - the earth's rotation slowing to almost a stop.  I was intrigued by the uniqueness of this idea.

Check it out.

Stars:  4 1/2

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #36 - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Today I am reviewing

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

This was under the category: A Book With A Duplicate Word In The Title

This is the story of two childhood friends - Larry Ott and Silas Jones.  They both grew up in rural Missisippi - one a son of lower middle class parents and one the son of a poor single mother.  They would meet secretly in the woods to shoot and play together.  But tragedy struck when Larry took a local girl on a date and she never returned.  Larry was blamed for her death and disappearance even thought the girl was never found.  Their friendship fell apart and Silas moved away.

20 years later, Silas has returned to the same town as a constable.  Larry, who never got out from under the charges, is a mechanic with no friends and no customers.  Silas has been avoiding Larry, even though Larry continues to call to talk to him.  Then another girl disappears, and because her body is found on Larry's property, Larry is blamed again.  Silas is involved in solving the case so he is forced to relive his past that he has buried deep for so long.

This was a pretty good book.  I had a little trouble getting into it, but once the mystery of the girl's disappearance started to take shape, the book picked up.  It has some surprising twists that I didn't see coming, and that helped.  The name of the book comes from the way kids in Mississippi are taught to spell Mississippi.  (M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter - I- crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback - I).

I recommend the book.  Give it a try.

Stars: 4

Saturday, April 29, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #35 - Hillbilly Elegy

I did fit one more book in before the month ended

Today I am reviewing Hillbilly Elegy

It is under the category:  Free Choice

This is a true story of the author who grew up in the Rust Belt between Kentucky and Ohio.  He tells the story of a culture in crisis - white working class Americans.  He has a biological father he didn't know until he was older.  A slew of men in and out of his life while his mother - who abused alcohol and drugs - barely could raise him.  His was basically raised by his grandparents who he credits for saving him and turning him into the man he is today.

He is now a marine veteran who went to Yale Law School.  He talks how it took him a long time to trust people and let his guard down due to his upbringing in such an unstable environment.

I really liked this book.  I grew up in a VERY stable family, but in a very UNSTABLE town.  A town full of families just like the authors (I grew up in Western Pennsylvania near the Appalachian mountains).  I watched families struggle every day and watched the cycle repeat itself generation after generation.  And when a kid broke the cycle, like the author did, it was amazing to see.  The author talks extensively how the support and stability of his grandmother's home saved him.  That seems to be the bottom line.  A kid needs stability and love to break a cycle.  The author could have ended up like his mother - a drug and alcohol abuser with a very bleak future.  But due to the grandparents, his broke away.

Great, great book.  Highly recommend!

Stars: 5

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #34- Christine

I have been on vacation for 2 weeks this month, so reading took a dip.  Since I wasn't sitting on a beach, but touring endlessly around Italy, we were too exhausted each evening to do much.

The book I am reviewing today is:  Christine

It was under the category:  A Book From Rory Gilmore's Reading List  (Gilmore Girls!!)

This story is mostly told from high school senior, Dennis, whose friend, Arnie, has just past a car he cannot live without.  It is an old 1958 Fury that he saw sitting in the front yard of an old, retired army man named Mr. Lebay.  The car hasn't run in year and needs tons of work but Arnie has to have it.   The car has a name - Christine. Dennis helps him get it to a car storage garage where Arnie begins to work on it.  He makes miraculous progress on it over the summer - much to his parents dismay (who would rather him be concentrating on college and school) and has it running by the time school starts.  Arnie also starts to change himself - he goes from a geeky kid with lots of pimples to a handsome young man who attracts the attention of the pretty new girl in school.

By Christmas time, Arnie is completely obsessed with the car and has very little time for his friends, his family or his girl.  The car is not liked by anyone else - it gives everyone a bad feeling.  It also gives off a really weird smell that everyone says smells like death.  The school bullies start to pick on Arnie and try and destroy his car.  But Christine has a plan of her own.  The car gets revenge on the bullies and starts to pick off all the people in Arnie's life that don't like him or the car.

Soon his friend Dennis and Arnie's now ex-girlfriend, Leigh, have decided it is time for Christine to go.  Something is wrong with that car and it has destroyed the person they once new.

This was a pretty good book.  I try to read at least one Stephen King a year.  I have always been curious about this one.  It had some parts where I rolled my eyes - I hate when authors stray off course with "filler" text.  But for the most part, it help my interest, and I am glad I read it.  I am anxious to see the movie to see it played out.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #33 - Endurance - Shackleton's Journey

This book is the last I will get in before we leave on vacation.

Today I am reviewing - Endurance - Shackleton's Journey

It is under the category - A Book Set On Another Continent

This is a non-fiction book about the voyage of Ernest Shackleton in 1914.  He traveled to Antartica with 27 men with a plan to cross the continent on foot.  After going through 1000 miles of packed ice, the Endurance got stuck in a patch of ice and could not get free.  Eventually, the ship sunk and the men were stranded.  The floated on ice for over 850 miles in a harrowing journey to be rescued.  This journey took 5 months and they survived by eating their sled dogs, and various seals and penguins that came upon their drift.  The entire group survived.

This was a pretty good book.  I cannot believe this entire group of men survived these 5 months in the freezing cold off of the coldest continent in the world.  They had very little shelter and very little food.  They spent most of those 5 months wet and cold.  Every minute must have been torture, but they stayed level headed and survived,

Try this book.  It is amazing what lengths people will go to for survival.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #32 - The Story of My Life

First book of April in the books

The Story of My Life

This was under the category: An Autobiography

This is a composition of Helen Keller's diaries, notes, and observations from her childhood up through her time in college.  She talks openly of what it was like to be blind and deaf, to finally learn once a teacher was brought to her that could help her learn to communicate, and how she decided what she was going to study in college.  She talks openly about her disability and how hard it was for her to go to college knowing her professors could not communicate well with her and it would be hard for her to access the curriculum.

The story of Helen Keller is near and dear to me.  Having a daughter who is legally blind, Helen Keller is an inspiration.  I see what she was able to accomplish at the turn of the century, and how far accessibility has come for the blind.  Helen was reliant on her teacher so much more than students today are.  Technology for the blind plus the development of cochlear implants for the deaf has changed the world for these two classes of disabilities.

As for the book, was fine.  IT was a little boring - as I am sure more people would find reading anyone's diary a bit boring.  I wanted to hear more about her story and and her struggle, but what it mostly was - was her mundane day to day activities.  Almost to a fault she would explain visits from people in great detail.  It was constant positive spin from Helen's point of view.  She seemed to live an extremely normal life according to her account.  What was revealing was actually notes at the end that spoke more of the truth about Helen and her daily life.  (as in - she still had a very difficult getting around even her most familiar environments).  I would rather it has been more truthful than all rainbows and sunshine.

Stars: 2

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #31 - Maus - My Father Bleeds History

31 baby!!

Today's review is "Maus - My Father Bleeds History"

This was under the category: A Book About a Historical Event

This was a graphic novel and the story of the author and conversations with his father.  His father and mother has survived the concentration camps of WWII, and he wanted to tell his story.  Because he was a cartoonist, he decided to draw the Jewish people as the mice and the German soldiers as cats.  During the interviews with his father he learns what it was like during the war.  The author had a brother that was born during that time, but was taken away and killed.  His mother committed suicide when the author was in his 20s.  Now his father, remarried and unwell, relives for his son was it was like during the years the Nazis had control.

This was a good book, and a great way to tell yet another WWII story.  I read at least 2-3 WWII novels a year, so it was nice to read something a little different about that period of time.  And because it was the true account of a family and how they survived, that made it all the better.

I enjoyed it, and I encourage you to check it out.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #30 - Daughter of Time

30!  YES.   And I have time to get one more in before the month ends.  A new record!

Today's review is for "Daughter of Time"

This was under the category:  A Crime Novel

This story is about Inspector Alan Grant who is laid up in the hospital with a broken leg.  During his boredom, he discovers Richard III and become fascinated with his story.  He sets out to find out the truth about him.  Did he really kill his two nephews to secure the crown?  Or was he framed?  Alan sets out to find out the truth of who really killed the two princes in the tower.

This book was boring and stupid.  It was listed as one of the "greatest mystery novels of all time" but I did not like it.  There was too much chatter and it just droned on.  You had to be a true historian to understand this book and follow the author's ramblings.  Just....blech.

I don't recommend.  I don't even have a lot to say about it.  I was disappointed and was hoping it was going to be so much better than it was.

Stars: 1

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #29 - Three Cups of Tea

Today's review is for

Three Cups of Tea

It was under the category:  A Book About a Culture you are Unfamiliar With

This is the story of Greg Mortenson who has built over 100 schools in Pakistan.  He was a climber who was climbing K2 and failed.  He became very ill, and ended up in the village of Korphe where they cared for him until he was well.  While he was there, he got to know the people and their need for a school.  Inspired and outraged, he went home to figure out how he could raise the $12,000 needed to build a school.  As a single, registered nurse, he didn't have any money to do this himself.  He wrote over 500 letters, but finally one person offered to fund the school in its entirety.  He returned and built the school.  When his generous giver died, he left Greg 1 million dollars to start a foundation to build more schools and help the people of Pakistan.  The need for good schools - especially for girls - was large.  So were bridges and running water.  Great set out to do all of those things and succeeded.  Girls are not going to school and going on to college because of what he did.  He set out to prove that knowledge is power and it can change a society.

This was a great book.  I was fascinated by the Pakistan culture and also by the kindness the people showed a white man from America.  I learned more about the true meaning of what it means to be a Muslim (kindness and giving and brotherhood) and the different between those who are truly religious and those who are not.  It was interesting to see how what we would consider cheaply built schools could change the lives of 1000s and 1000s of children and change their futures.

Great book.  I encourage you to read it.

Stars: 5

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #28 - The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Today's book is

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

It was under the category:  A Book That Take Place in Summer

This is the story of Art Bechstein who is the son of a mobster.  He lives in Pittsburgh, and just finished his studies at a local university.  He doesn't know what he is going to do with his life, so he takes the summer to spend time with friends, get into trouble, and figure things out.  He falls in love with a girl, then a guy, and in the end he is alone.  Still no clearer to his path in life.

This book was just okay.  I was anxious to read it because it was about Pittsburgh.  I grew up in a small town right outside of Pittsburgh and went to college there myself.  It was neat to read about the places in this book.  But beyond that - the story was rambling and a bit boring.  Characters were really whiny and all over the place.  I really had to concentrate to keep reading.

I don't recommend it.  It was FINE.  There were parts that were good, but it wasn't great.

Stars: 2

Friday, March 17, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #27 - The Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

Getting close to 30 books!  Love it.

Today's review

The Baby Catcher:  Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

This was under the category: A Book About A Career You Admire

This is the story of Peggy Vincent and her career as a midwife.  She has delivered over 3000 babies in her career, and in this book she shares some of her favorite birth stories.  She marvels how at each birth, one person becomes two, and all of the pain gives way to joy when parents hold their new baby for the first time.  Each story tells of a mother and the way she labored and how she chose to birth her baby - each story extremely different from the next.  Peggy shows how little help is needed to bring a child into the world- how a woman's body knows just what to do.  There are complications for a few home births, but for the most part - babies enter the world naturally and without much intervention.

This book was fantastic.  I am a sucker for non fiction books.  Give me a documentary over a rom-com any day.  Delving into people's lives and hearing their stories is what I like best.  This book did not disappoint.  The stories were amazing.  And the book was well written.  I didn't want it to end.  I could have read about the birth stories forever.  I did not have a natural birth - wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole at the time.  But after reading this stories - Peggy made it sound so.....natural.  What other word could be used?  I am sure it hurts like nothing else (I was an epidural girl), but in the end - most of the women labored and gave birth at home.  They had complete control over their situation, and I was in awe.

I encourage you to read this book.  I am sure you will find it as fascinating as I did.  Kudos to Peggy and all of the midwives out there.  As a registered nurse myself, I have always been in awe of what they do.

Stars: 5

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #26 - East of Eden

Today's review is for

East of Eden

This is under the category: A Book That Is A Saga

This is the story of two families - the Hamiltons and the Trasks.  It takes place in and around California's Salinas Valley (which is actually where John Steinbeck was born) in the mid to late 1800's through the 1900s.  This story spans multiple generations of these two families introducing many characters along the way.  The Hamiltons were a large family of many children who lived and worked on a farm and barely got by.  The Trasks were a more well off family with two sons that were raised by their father.

Over the course of the book - both families have children, they grow, get married, move away, start their own families.  Their families continue to interact over the years - each weaving into the other among various avenues.  There is sadness and happiness, marriage and death, and everything in between.

I enjoyed this book.  It was.....long.  I thought the writing was excellent.  It might have been a little wordy - most in the story than needed to be to get his point across, but for the most part, it flowed nicely.  The characters were likable and I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen to them.  Sagas make great books because from where it starts to where it ends, entire lives pass through and you become invested in their stories.

Check it out.  You need to invest in this book - this is not a light read, or something you can do and watch TV at the same time.  But it is worth it.

Stars:  4

Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #25 - Solomon's Curse

Today I am 1/3 of the way through this year's reading challenge.  Go me.

This review is for

Solomon's Curse

This was under the category:  A Book About A Curse

This is the story of a married couple - the Fargo's - who are archaeologists.    They have traveled to the Solomon Islands to help a fellow archaeologist uncover a lost city.  They discover it off a deserted coast.  It has been tampered with since it has sunk into the ocean, and this leads the Fargo's to try and investigate its past further.  As they start to uncover the mystery of the lost city, they are caught up in a rebel attack on the island where several islanders turn up missing.  They are lead to Australia and to Japan to try and uncover the truth about the island and its past, and they end up discovering something horrible.

This was a pretty good story.  From what I can tell - the main characters are used in other Cussler books.  They seemed to be well developed, but it didn't detract from the story.  I could follow it.  There wasn't a lot of back story or past stories about these characters, so it didn't matter I haven't read any of his other books.  It is a well written story, and well thought out.  I liked the characters, and enjoyed their adventurous spirit.

I recommend this book.  It was an easy read, and the story was definitely a page turner.

Stars:  4 1/2

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #24 - Friday Night Lights

Today's review is for

Friday Night Lights

This was under the category: A Book About Sports

This is the story of the Permian football team in Odessa Texas.  They are the winning-est high school football team in Texas history.  The book follows the year long journey of the 1988 football team.  The author moved to Odessa with his family so that he could be engrossed in the local culture and really get to know the team, coaches, and the town.  Odessa is a depressed, recently desegregated town in West Texas.  Known for being one of the worst cities to live in of all America, the town cares for little else besides football.  Drawing crowds up 15-20 thousand people for a Friday Night game, you were a local hero and star if you ever played on the Permian High School Team.  This team knows that their only goal is to win at all costs, and find that sometimes that cost it too high.

I really enjoyed this book.  I shook my head several times at the stories I read about how much stress these kids were under to perform high school football.  How education took not only a backseat, but basically wasn't even on the radar as long as their best players didn't have to sit out due to grades.  One school took it all the way to the judges in the court to make sure that an Algebra grade could be over looked so that the kid could play on his football team.  There were a few kids on the team who were as naturally bright as they were talented - one even went to Harvard.  But while they were in high school, football was king, and no matter where you were in class rank, it didn't matter if you couldn't perform on the field on Friday night.

I encourage you to check this book out.  I am going to watch the movie and TV show next to see how it compares.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #23 - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

Today I am reviewing:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

This is under the category:  A Book About Native Americans

This is the story of a 14 year old boy named Arnold who lives on an Indian reservation in Spokane.  He is a good student, so his school on the reservation is troubled, so his parents send him to the local school off the reservation.  He doesn't fit in there either, because he is the only kid who isn't white at the school.  Arnold had been born with a lot of fluid on his brain and was constantly bullied on the reservation.  When he gets to his new school he does start to make new friends and even joins the basketball team.  During the story, he has to deal with the death of his grandmother, his dog, and his sister.  He has parents that spend more time drunk than not, and often forget to pick him up at the bus stop - which is 20 miles from his house.  But his humor and resilience help him continue to believe someday he could leave the reservation and make something of himself.  He feels caught between the world he grew up in and the white world he joined when he went to high school.  He struggles to figure out who this makes him.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it, and I really don't like when the authors read their own books.  This is one of those books, and the author did an okay job, but it was a little choppy and no changes in voices for characters which made it a bit weird.  But beyond that - it was a pretty good story.  It is a short book, and written for the teenage crowd (but be wary - there is talk of sex and masturbation in the book, even though it is very little).

Check it out.  The author took some details from his own up bringing as a Native American on a reservation to develop this story, and it gives a good look into the life of being a Native American who lives on a reservation but attends school and exists in a world outside of that as well.

Stars: 4

Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #22 - Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries - What am I doing in the pits?

I finished 22 books in the month of Feb., and in another day I will have another done.  Moving right along.

Today I am reviewing:  Life Is A Bowl of Cherries - What am I doing in the pits?

It was under the cateogory:  A Book With Fruit In The Title

This is a comedic book taking a swipe at domestic dilemmas.  There isn't much else to say about this book - there are quips and quotes about different parts of life - husbands, children, mothers, marriage....

This book was written quite awhile ago.  I was reading it while I was visiting my mother, and she remembers reading it when she was younger.  That made a lot of sense because I didn't really find this book all that funny.  I chuckled a time or two, but for the most part, I did little more than smile at what she was writing.  I know it was mostly because I really couldn't relate to it.  IT was written in the 60's, so what did I expect.

I don't really recommend it because most of my friends would probably agree that this book wouldn't be funny.

Stars: 2

Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #21 - Darkly Dreaming Dexter


Today I am reviewing:  Darkly Dreaming Dexter

This was under the category:  A Book About An Antihero

This is the story of a man named Dexter which Amazon calls "A polite wolf in Sheep's Clothing".  He is a serial killer but he has a rule - he can only kill bad people.  He has had sometime "off" about him since he was a child and taken in by an adoptive family.  Now he works as a blood splatter expert for the police.  This position helps him identify his victims.  Now he is involved in a murder case that seems to be trying to be a copy cat of his own crimes.  As one murder proceeds another, Dexter becomes more and more involved in trying to figure out who is committing them.  He has mixed feelings - he wants to stop the killer because this person is killing innocent people.  But he is also transfixed with the details and way this killer presents his victims.

This was a pretty good story.  I had watched a few episodes of this show when it first started, and found it mildly entertaining.  So I knew what I was getting into when I picked this book.  The book - as usual - explained a lot more in detail the character and why he is the way he is.  Dexter is emotionless - he cannot feel love or empathy for others.  He never has.  But he has had great practice of "playing human" and to the public he comes off as a kind, caring, well meaning person.

I recommend this book.  Now that you know that the story is about, you can make your own decisions about reading this type of topic.  But it was told well.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #20 - Everything I Never Told You

20 books down in two months - YES!  Thank you crazy winter break kids had.

Today's book is:  Everything I Never Told You

This was under the category:  A Book With A Great First Line

The first line is "Lydia is dead.  But they don't know it yet"
Right off the bat, you are drawn into the world of this family.  This is the story of a Chinese American family living in the 1970s in a small town in Ohio.  Their children are Nathan - the eldest who is a bright, well liked student who has been admitted to Harvard and cannot wait to escape to college.  Lydia - the middle child and the favorite among her parents.  Her mother sees Lydia being the doctor she could never be, and her husband sees her being the popular girl he never was.  Then there is Hannah, who is the 10 year old "surprise" who is all but ignored by her family.  The story jumps all over time starting with when the parents in this story were young and growing up in very different environments.  The wife was a student in college when she met her future husband who was a graduate student.  They fell in love, she got pregnant, they got married, and she never finished college.  She always regretted it - even leaving the marriage at one point to try and finish college and go on to medical school.  But things happen and she returns to her family and her life as a stay at home mom.  When Lydia dies, the family completely falls apart.  They don't know if she was murdered or if she committee suicide, and they try to piece together what happened to the daughter that was the center of their world.

This was a great story.  I likes how it went back and forth through the past starting with when the parents were young through their early marriage and when the children came along.  Every character had their chance to tell their view point - even Lydia.  The author works through the past to the present to show how the family got to this point and how they are going to move forward.  The only thing I didn't like is that the wife did up and leave her FAMILY - no note, no explanation, when Lydia and Nathan were small - to go after her dream of being a doctor.  She felt that she couldn't be a parent and a wife and a student all at once.  It didn't make much sense - didn't really fit the character to be that selfish.  Even though she was going gone 9 weeks before she returned home, it seemed to be leading that she was never going to return to her family.

Check it out.  I think it is worth a read.

Stars: 4 1/2

2017 Challenge - Book #19 - Small Great Things

Today's review is for Small Great Things  (I have had to wait for weeks for this book to become available at the library - it was really popular)

This was under the category:  A Book Recommended By A Family Member

This is the story of Ruth.  Ruth is a 20 year veteran nurse who works at a small hospital on the labor and delivery ward.  She loves her job and her patients.  One day, she is taking care of a patient who is a white supremacist, and Ruth - is a black woman.  The patient and her husband ask the nursing supervisor to remove Ruth from their baby's care.  A note is put in the baby's chart that says "no African American care takers for this patient".  Ruth is the only black nurse on this floor, so it is clear who they mean.

During one of her shifts, the baby goes into distress after a routine circumcision while Ruth is the only nurse available in the nursery.  She is torn on what she should do because she was told not to touch the baby.  She does do CPR on the infant at the direction of her supervisor, but this results in Ruth being charged with a crime.  In court, her lawyer tells Ruth that they cannot play the race card because they want to show that Ruth was just doing her job - that this wasn't about the color of her skin.

This was a pretty good book.  I enjoy Jodi's books, and she usually pulls a huge twist in the end that I hate, but this time she didn't.  What I DIDN'T like about this book is the stereotypical black and white issues.  She almost made them too extreme.  I am sure that extreme exists - in fact I know it does - but I think Picoult took it a little too far.  I found myself saying "really, you are going there?" several times.  Especially when Ruth insisted on getting on the stand and basically explaining why this case was ALL about race.

So....I would read it.  Honestly, it got 4500 good reviews on Amazon, and I can see why.

Stars: 4

Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #18 - The Ocean At The End of The Lane

Today I am reviewing:

The Ocean At The End of The Lane

This was under the category: A Book By An Author I Have Never Read Before

This is the story of a little boy (who is never named) who lived with his parents and sister in the country.  One day, a man who had been renting a room at his family's house was found dead at the end of their road.  While the police investigate the case, a younger girl named Lettie offers to take the boy back to her house and keep him company.  While at her farmhouse, he meets Lettie's mother and grandmother and thus begins a fantastic fairytale.  Lettie takes the boy on a walk, and insists she hold his hand, but when he lets go, a "othe world being" takes hold of him and Lettie and her family must work to get this being back where she belongs.  The boy soon discovers that Lettie and her family are immortals disguised as humans and whose lake behind their house becomes an Ocean that heals when needed.

This was a great book.  I have never read anything about Neil Gaiman, and hadn't heard of him until my husband pulled 3 books of his off his book shelf.  He is one of his favorite authors and I can see why.  This is a short book compared to some that my husband showed me, but it covered the story beautifully in that short time period.

It only took me a day to read this book, but that was mostly because I enjoyed the story and wanted to know where it was going.  I didn't realize the little boy was never named until I got to the end of the book and started to look for his name for this blog post.  The boy, when he left the house after the being was put back where they belong, was made to forget why he was ever at Lettie's house in the first place.  And when he returns 40 years later, some memories return, only to be swept away again as he drives away from their house for the last time.

I recommend this book.  It was captivating.

Stars:  4 1/2

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #17 - Chaos

Today I am reviewing


This was under the category:  A Murder Mystery

This is the latest Kay Scarpetta story.  In this book, Kay is living in Boston with her husband, Benton, and is still working as a medical examiner.  She is getting ready for a visit from her sister, Dorothy, and dreading spending time with a person who has not had much time for her in the past.  She is out to dinner with her husband when she learns that a dead body has been found in a near by park by two 14 year old twin girls.  Unsure if it is an accident or foul play, Kay is called to the scene to uncover what happened.  She and her long time friend and police confidant, Pete Marino, secure the scene and try to piece together what happened to this young girl who seems to have hit a light pole with her bike and died.

Meanwhile, her husband and Marino received suspicious fake phone calls from Interpool about the case.  These calls don't make sense, and soon Kay, Marino and Benton realize they are dealing with foul play.  And they think it is from someone who has caused them harm in the past.

I was very disappointed in this book.  As a long time Patricia Cornwell and Kay Scarpetta fan, I am always excited when a new novel comes out.  I should have read the Amazon reviews and avoided this one.  For the last several books Cornwell has written about Kay Scarpetta, I have become increasingly weary.  Patricia writes her characters so rich and so fantastical these days, they it just makes me roll my eyes and hate the characters.  Half of it isn't even realistic.  Kay has everything at her disposal - you name it, she can get it.  Her niece, Lucy, is a super genius who owns several cars, planes, helicopters.....who cares!  Patricia spends more time writing about the names of their cars and suped up vehicles more than the case itself.  IT took almost 200 pages before she even got to the crime.  Kay Scarpetta has become so self absorbed and arrogant, I just couldn't stand her by the end of this book.

I am sad that this book was such a disappointment.  I think I am done with this series.  Cornwell WAS an excellent writer - back at the beginning of this series.

Stars: 2

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 - Book #16 - I Know I Am But What Are You

Today I am reviewing

I Know I Am But What Are You

This is under the category:  A Book Written By A Comedian

This is the autobiography of the author - Samantha Bee.  She tells her story about her childhood - growing up with divorced parents who couldn't be more different, how she rebelled as a teenager, and the man she finally fell in love with.  She talks openly about how she went from an awkward, introverted only child to the person she portrays on TV today.

This was a great book.  It was funny and genuine, and I enjoyed how she talked about her "shortcomings" and childhood antics.  I recommend checking it out if you want a good laugh.  Her show on TV - Full Frontal - is one of my favorites, so I knew that this book would not disappoint.

Stars: 5

Friday, February 10, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #15 - Go Set A Watchman

I think I might actually get another 10 books in this month.  We shall see.  Winter break for the kids is coming up, and we are traveling, so it is a toss up.

Today's book is

Go Set A Watchman

It was under the category:  An Author's Final Book

If you have read "To Kill A Mockingbird" - you will know all about this book.  It is a first draft to that book.  In this story, Scout is a 26 year old who lives in New York City.  She returns to Maycomb to visit her aging father, Atticus.  Her brother, Jem, has died.  Her father, in this story, is a racist as is most of the town he lives in.  Atticus is not the father that Scout thought he was, and she isn't sure she can live with that reality.

This book wasn't great.  I don't have much to say about it.  I am glad this didn't come out before To Kill A Mockingbird where Atticus is a hero and a champion among the less fortunate in his town.  Here he is just a man who doesn't think that Black people have as many rights as white people and that they are definitely a lesser people who will never catch up to the white man.  It is terrible.  And the book gets a little ranty about the subject in the end.  To the point I just wanted to finish it because I was so disgusted.

I know I shouldn't be.  I have read many a story with controversial material where people are treated much worse.  (i.e. the several WWII novels I have treasured for their writing).  I think it was BECAUSE of the Atticus we know from To Kill A Mockingbird that it made it hard for me to like this book.

My eldest read To Kill A Mockingbird this year for 8th grade.  Her teacher talked to them about Watchman, and she refuses to read it because she doesn't want to tarnish the picture perfect story she sees with Mockingbird.  And now that I have read this book, I can't blame her.

Stars: 3

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #14 - El Deafo

Today's book is

El Deafo

This is under the category:  A Newberry Award Winner

This is a graphic novel and story of a girl who is Deaf.  She got meningitis at age 4, and lost her hearing.  She has to wear large hearing aids and she doesn't want to go to school fearing that this will attract a lot of attention.  It covers her feeling left out because she still cannot hear well even with the hearing aids, and how hard it is for her to make friends when she is wearing a large hearing device on her chest (this book takes place in the 70s).  She pretends she is a super hero - El Deafo to help deal with being different.

This was a cute book.  I read it in about an hour.  My eldest daughter read it and enjoyed it as well.  She was very interested in the hearing device that was common in the 70s, since hearing aides these days are much more powerful and discreet.  They story did explain a lot about how she heard, and that talking louder and slower didn't actually help her understand better.  I think it is a great book for kids to understand (at least in the 70s) what it was like to be deaf.

There were a few characters that smoked....which is kind of unheard of in books for kids these days.  (at least in graphic novels for 2nd graders).  So teachers and parents may want to read this themselves before they share with younger ones.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #13 - Into The Forest

Today's review is for

Into The Forest

This is in the category:  A Post-Apocalyptic Fiction written by a woman

This is the story of two sisters names Nell and Eva who live in a remote section of their town on the west coast.  The story starts out where society has already started to collapse, their parents are dead and they are left to fend for themselves.  Because they are unprepared, they eat through most of their rations and play board games - sure that the power will be back on any moment.  Soon, though, they realize that this may be what they have to deal with forever, and start to use the land around them to survive.

I enjoyed 2/3rds of this book.  The story goes back and forth with the present and the past (although never really gets to WHY there has been a society collapse, just that there was).  It talks about how their mother got sick and their father died in an accident.  The first half talks about the girls original plans for the future (professional ballet dancer and a Harvard student).

And then - the story takes a 180 degree move, and I couldn't help but say...."what?"  It didn't make any sense, and didn't add anything to the story, and I was turned off by the idea that the author felt it was necessary.  After that, the book actually becomes a bit boring - talks a lot about gardening and canning and finding plants in the woods to survive on.  Which COULD be interesting, but it wasn't told in an interesting way.

The sisters never return to humanity.  They never leave the confines of their little corner of the world, never seek out others.  Not even when they learn to survive off the land, they don't venture out to help others.  It just....ends.

I don't encourage you to read this one.  There wasn't any excitement, no real story, and the ending was just...blah.

Stars: 2

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #12 - A Man Called Ove

Today I am going to review

A Man Called Ove

This is in the category:  A Book That Won An Award for Best Translation

This is a story of a man named Ove.  He is a grumpy 59 year old man that has always thrived on order and rules.  He likes a quiet life and likes to be left alone.  His life was turned upside down 6 months ago when his wife died.  He has decided to end his own life, but things keep getting in the way.

Soon - new neighbors move next door - a young couple and their two young girls who immediately take a liking to Ove.  Ove doesn't know what to make of this attention from his neighbors, and before long, he finds himself intertwined in many of his neighbors lives and realizes that there is still much to live for.

This is a wonderful story.  It is funny and endearing and sweet all at once.  Ove is hilarious as a little old man who just wants everyone to do their job and follow the rules.  He is always on the lookout for thieves and people who insist on driving their car in his neighborhood that doesn't allow cars.  He can't get rid of a stray cat who he names "Cat Annoyance".

Ove helps people but grumps about it.  But the main theme is that he can't help himself being a good person because that is who his wife saw him as.  He honors her memory by being the man she always saw him to be and in the end, all of his neighbors become his friends.

GREAT story.  Check it out.

Stars:  5

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #11 - The Girl You Left Behind

Today I am going to review

The Girl You Left Behind

This was under the category:  A Book About Women In War

This is the story of Sophie Lefrevre during World War I.  The Germans have invaded France, and her husband has been taken off to fight.  She moves to a small town to help her sister and her sister's children and run their families hotel and restaurant.  The German Kommandant has taken a liking to Sophie and a painting she has kept in her house.  It is a painting her husband - an artist - did of her before he left.  She goes down a dangerous road with this Kommandant in the hopes she can save her husband, and it leads to her being sent away from her sister.

The other main character in this story is Liv Halston.  In Liv's house hangs this painting of Sophie.  She and her husband bought it while on their honeymoon.  Now that Liv's husband has past away, she has become attached to the one last thing that reminds her of her husband.  It has been several years since he has done, and a chance meeting of a new guy who brought life to Liv once again leads to trouble with the painting.

This book has its good parts, but the parts with Liv just drove me crazy.  The story of WWI and Sophie and her family and their struggles to survive while the Germans were stripping them of everything they own, was well told and intriguing.  The story of Liv just didn't make much sense.  She was extremely attached to this painting and when the family comes looking for it - because it was thought to be stolen by the Germans in 1919 - she has a fit and doesn't want to give it up.  She ends up having to sell her house and uses almost all of her money over a painting she bought for $300 10 years ago.

While I understood in the end a BIT where she was coming from, the reality of this is - if you have a painting in your house that was stolen by Germans from people who were held captive and you had a chance to give it give it back.  This part of the story just made me roll my eyes one too many times to make me recommend this book.  IT is a shame, really, because like I said - the parts about Sophie were really good.

Stars: 2 1/2

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #10 - The Thirteenth Tale

10 books this month!  Go me.

Today's review is:  The Thirteenth Tale

This was under the category:  A Book With A Number In The Title

This is the story of a recluse author named Vida Winter.  She has been a beloved author her whole career, but now her life is near the end.  She is now ready to release the truth about her life story, which is a tragic past she has never told before.  She calls on Margaret who is a biographer, and someone that can write down her final story before she dies.  Margaret gets drawn into her story.  Vida relives the story of Isabelle and her brother Charlie, twins named Adeline and Emmaline, a ghost who lived on the property, a governess who tried to change the lives of this family forever, and a devastating fire that destroyed it all.

During Margaret's time with Miss Winter, she reveals secrets of her own family and wallows in grief at the loss of her own twin sister.  In the end, Margaret must come to terms with her grief to really understand Vidas story.

This book was good for awhile.  I loved trying to figure out how all of the characters in Vida's story fit together, and where she actually fit in the whole thing.  But Margaret started to become an annoying character, and that basically ruined the book for me.  The author made Margaret a very whiny character about a sibling she never knew.  All of the sudden she NEEDED her, and she MISSED her, and she wanted to be with her.  IT was just weird.  And kind of dumb.  I felt like it distracted from the base story - Vida's.  I don't really think Margaret's story should have been a part of this book - there was enough substance with Vida's to carry it through to the end.

Stars: 2

Friday, January 27, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #9 - Mockingbird

Today's review is for Mockingbird

This was under the category:  A Book With A Character that Has A Disability

This is a story of a girl who has autism.  She doesn't know it - only is ever told she is "special".  She is in a regular classroom, but spends time daily with a teacher who teachers her the ways of the world.  How to look people in the eye, how to start a friendship, how to curb behaviors that others might not like.  Caitlyn lives with her father.  Her mother had died a few years ago from cancer, and her brother was killed in a school shooting a few months ago.  Her father has closed himself off to the world with grief, and Caitlyn doesn't understand what he is going through.  Caitlyn befriends a 1st grade boy and with him, learns what it is like to develop a friendship with someone who truly likes her for who she is.

This was a pretty good book.  It is written for middle grade, and it is short, so I finished it in a day's time.  I think it is a good introduction into the world of Autism for young students.  The only part I really didn't like is that they never really told Caitlyn she had Autsim.  She would literally say she didn't have it, and the adults would agree with her.  Instead of teaching her what was going on with her had a name and that it was okay to have Autism, they swept it under the rug.  I think that is the wrong message to send.

Stars:  3

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #8 - Packing for Mars

Today's review is for

Packing for Mars

This was under the category: A Nonfiction Book About Science

This book is by a favorite author of mine (who wrote Stiff - you must read it).  Roach delves this time into the world of space travel.  She asks the tough questions like "What happens if you throw up with your space helmet on?"  "How do you survive a year without walking? Regular food?  Sex?"  "What is it like to hit the ground at 15Gs?"  She interviews several people from NASA and Wright Patterson to learn what it is really like to travel in space.

I liked this book.  Roach does get a little more technical than I would have liked, which made me skim a few parts, but for the most part, it was good.  She gets a chance to experience weightlessness, what it is like to have a BM in space, how they decided to package food for space travel, and much more.  Things you would never think of.  Like - they don't take carbonated beverages into space because astronauts cannot burp.  They have people who volunteered to lay 3 months FLAT in bed to test what would happen to astronauts muscles in space.  The astronauts are put through isolation chamber test for 3 months at a time.  Then their are psychoanalyzed - everything from how they set the table to how much food they left on their plates.  Every thing has to be considered because space travel is so dangerous. It cost billions of dollars to send people into space and sometimes it takes 6 years of prep to get them there.  They even analyze what happens to astronauts who can't take a bath for long periods of time since they really can't have water bathing on a ship in space.

I can say I learned a lot and have a lot more respect for the space program and what some of the greatest minds in the world come up with to keep space travel safe.  I recommend giving this book a try.  The humor and information you will know far outweigh the few sections that were a little more in depth than I felt they needed to be.

Stars:  4 1/2

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #7 - Cinder

I read a few pretty quickly and am proud of myself!

Today I am reviewing


This was in the category:  A Book With Royalty In It - Real or Imaginary

This is a story of a place called New Bejiing.  There are humans and androids that live together in this world.  A plague has ravaged the human population that has not been controlled or cured.  There are a people that live on the moon and they are called Lunars.  They are ruled by a ruthless queen who wants to take earth for her own.  She tries to persuade the prince to marry her to make peace.  But the prince knows better.

Meanwhile, the main character - Cinder - is a half human/half cyborg girl who lives with her stepmother and two step sisters (do you see where this is going).  Her adoptive father has died and left her in the care of her stepmother, who makes her work to earn her keep.  Cinder is a mechanic in the towns - fixing hover crafts and androids to feed her family.  One day the prince comes into the town market becuase he needs to fix his android.  He is taken by Cinder and her beauty and kindness, but Cinder knows they could never be together.  He can never know her secret that she isn't fully human and has no memory of her childhood.

Cinder befriends a doctor who is looking for a cure and offers to help him when her beloved step sister becomes ill with the plague.  The doctor finds that Cinder is immune to the plague, and needs her blood and DNA to try and figure out how to save the people and stop the disease.  In the process of analyzing Cinder's DNA, the doctor discovers and amazing secret that will change Cinder's life forever.

I really liked this book.  It is definitely a YA novel, and an easy read, but it is well written.  What I DIDN'T like is that it is a cliff hanger.  I didn't realize that this was a trilogy and that the story would not wrap up in the end.  Very frustrating because I don't have time right now to read a trilogy.  I am going to have to put it on my list, though, because I won't be able to stand it.

As you may have picked up - this is basically the story of Cinderella.  Not the first one I have read that has taken that original story and spun it into a different book.  What I liked about this though, is that it was original enough that for a while you could forget that you were reading basically the Cinderella story.  There is no happily ever after at the end of this book.  There is war, and plague, and defeat.   Cinder is a mechanic, and a good one.  Her best friend is an android.  She is skeptical of everyone around her and doesn't see kindness in everyone she meets.

Check it out.  I am hoping the rest of the series is as good as this one.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #6 - Hatchet

Today's book review is for


It was under the category: A Book Set In Canada

This is a story of a 13 year old boy who is in a plane on his way to visit his dad.  His parents are recently divorced, and he is going to be spending the summer with his father in the oil fields of Canada.  He is on a small plane where it is just him and the pilot.  During the flight, the pilot has a heart attack and dies and the boy is left to figure out how to land the plane.  The plane runs out of gas, and crashes near a lake somewhere in the woods of Canada.  He has no idea where he is, and the only thing he has is his Hatchet his mother gave him as a going away present.  The plane has sunk in a lake and he is all alone.

He uses what skills he can to survive for 2 months in the woods alone.  He finds food, figures out how to make a spear, a bow and to hunt.  HE fights off wild animals as well as hoards of mosquitos.

When he is finally rescued, he is a changed person.  He was so angry about his parent's divorce, and he had self pity for himself and realized that in survival there is no time for such things.  It took all of his courage just to survive until he was rescued.

This was a pretty good book.  It is a Newberry award winner, and I can see why.  It is a quick read and definitely written for younger readers.  It was written pretty well, and at less than 200 pages, I was able to finish it in less than 2 days.

I would say check it out, so have your kids read it.  It had a good message.

Stars: 4

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #5 - Travels With Charley

This review is for:

Travels With Charley

It is for the category: A Book About A Road Trip

This is the story of John Steinbeck (author of the book) and his travels across America for 3 months with his dog, Charley.  He had decided he wanted to see America, so he bought a truck with a trailer on top that he could live in while on the road.  He packed the essentials and headed off.  He meets several people on the road - inviting them to dine with him or just sit and chat.  He meets Americans from all walks of life while traveling the countryside.  He deals with his dog getting sick, and constantly getting lost before he returns home to his wife with a renewed sense of America and its people.

I really enjoyed this book.  At first, I have to admit, I was afraid I wasn't going to like it.  Steinbeck talked very little about the actual scenery around him and the beautiful places he visited.  He focused mostly on the people and what it was like to travel across the country.  I thought at first this was odd, but then the writing too over, and I was hooked.  He spoke beautiful about the people he met.  He made me laugh with stories about his dog and how it was to travel with an animal for all of those months.  In truth, I don't think Steinbeck was glad he went on this trip.  I think, like most of us when we travel, have a delusion of what to expect when we go.  And sometimes, the truth is not what we imagined, and it makes us wish we would have just stayed home.  I think he met a lot of people across the country that upset him, and he missed his wife, and his dog got sick, and he was in a cramped space, and after awhile - it just wasn't what he was hoping for.

This book had quite a few great quotes (I am a sucker for quotes) that I wanted to write here so that I can look back and remember them.

"I was born lost, and take no pleasure in being found"

"I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction"

"A journey is like a marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it"

"I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless"

"The only good writer is a dead writer"

"Where the rich lead, the poor will follow.  Or try to"

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #4 - Orange Is The New Black

Moving right along!

Today's review is for Orange Is The New Black

This was under the category:  A Memoir

This is the true story of the author, Piper.  When she was in her early 20's, she decided she needed to live a little before she settled down as a full fledged adult.  Unfortunately, she got into a bad crowd, fell for a bad girl, and ended up doing a little drug money smuggling.  One deal almost went bad, and she decided it was time to get out.

Fast forward 10 years - she has a good job, a loving boyfriend and family and a full life.  All of the sudden, her past catches up to her.  Someone from the drug ring has mentioned her name and the next thing she knows she is sentenced to 15 months in the Danbury, CT jail.  She can hardly believe that she is going to do a  year in jail for something she thought was behind her.

She is thrown into prison with women from all walks of life who actually surprise her by being mostly generous and forth coming about what prison life is like.  Piper gets used to the routines and even makes friends.  She does 13 months of her 15 month sentence before she is let off for good behavior and rejoins society.

I really enjoyed this book.  Mat and I are long time fans of the TV show, so I was anxious to read the actual story.  IT was about 1% like the TV show (not shocking), but that was actually a relief.  The TV show is really.....R rated.  And there was a lot of fighting and gangs, etc.  According to the real Piper, none of that really happened.  Most of the women were nice to her, and she never had any trouble.  She did what she needed to do, and she left.

What I enjoyed about the book the most was the way Piper talked about the conditions the prisoners were left to live in.  Yes - I get it.  They are criminals doing time.  It shouldn't be cushy.  But it should be humane.  She talked a lot about how most of the women wanted to get GEDs or college credits, but this particular prison didn't have a good program.  They sent in unqualified people to teach the programs and the women didn't really have the ability to get any kind of degree.  When it was time for them to be released, they weren't given any kind of guidance about applying for a job as a convicted felon, or getting an apartment, etc.  They were basically told to search the internet for their answers.

I think this is a big place our country is failing.  As many as 80% of criminals return to prison because they were not given a chance while in prison to get better or obtain skills to survive in the real world.  Most of them don't have families or support systems, and so the cycle of bad behavior continues and lands them back in prison.  Education and job skills need to be given to these folks while they are behind bars so that they have what they need when they are released.

Stars: 4 1/2