Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Saturday, January 28, 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

Thursday, January 26, 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"

Tuesday, January 17, 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

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #3 - The Girl On The Train

Book #3.  Read this one in one day!

Today I am going to review: The Girl On The Train

It is under the category: A New York Times Bestseller

This is the story of a woman named Rachel who rides a train in London to and from work everyday.  Same train every day back and forth to work.  There is a stop on the train line where she can see a house where a young couple lives.  Just about every day she sees this couple - being loving to each other, and wonders what their lives are like.  She has nicknamed them Jason and Jess and has given them fantasy lives.

The truth still comes out about Rachel - she is an alcoholic who was divorced 2 years ago and has been floundering ever since.  She has lost her job, lives with a roomate, and has no direction in her life.  Then one day, "Jess" disappears, and Rachel makes it her mission to find out what happens to her.

I have been anxious to see the movie, so I thought I would read it first.  I have to admit that I am not sure what the hype was all about.  55,000 reviews on Amazon....I have never seen that number before!  So I thought this must be a fantastic book.  The writing wasn't great.  Positives were that she didn't really bog down with stuff you didn't need, she stuck to the point.  But I didn't like any of the characters.  Rachel was annoying.  Her roommate wishy washy.  "Jason and Jess" end up being pretty terrible people.  Jess has chronically cheated on her husband who emotionally and physically abuses her.  Hard to care about her when she disappears like the author wants you to.  The main characters lament about men constantly.  They don't have anything else in their lives - no jobs, no friends, no hobbies.  They are one dimensional characters that don't pull at your heart strings.

So....I don't know.  IT is a quick read.  Maybe something for the beach?  If you are looking for fluff, this is definitely something that would fit that bill.

Stars: 2 1/2

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #2 - 1000 Days in Tuscany

Book #2!  I was reading this one at the same time at the Decline and Fall of Rome so I didn't poke my eyeballs out.

This book is:  1000 Days in Tuscany

This was under the category: A Book about Somewhere You Love

This is a story of the author who moved to Italy once her children were grown, met a man, fell in love and stayed.  Her first book was 1000 days in Venice, and once they moved to Tuscany, she decided it was time to write again.

The author is an American chef as well as an author and her new husband was a banker in Venice.  Her husband wants a change, so they uproot their lives and moved to a quiet country side in Tuscany.  They move into a small, renovated stable that they rent from a local family.  They fall in love with the area and the people.  Especially two people called Barlozzo and Farlina who show them the town.  The new couple become intertwined in the town - helping with the olive harvest, and the grape harvest.  They spend each evening at the local pub where a local family cooks and people gather to tell stories.  They eat rich foods and learn to cook the local fair for themselves.  They dream of opening a tour company to host people visiting the Tuscan area.

This was a pretty good book.  IT is short, and moves quickly.  I found myself starving a little more with each chapter.  The Tuscan area is part of our vacation to Italy so I was mentally cataloging the delicious food she was eating.  I think it would be amazing to be able to retire to a small town in the Italian country side and do nothing but feast on the delicious food.

If you are interested in constant talk about food, then check out this book.  I would say if you are looking for a more indepth story, this isn't the book for you.  She goes over the top talking about eating and food preparation, that I even felt that it was a bit too much.  But - if you are looking for ideas of new meals to cook, take a look.

Stars: 3

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 Challenge - Book #1 - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Vol. 1

I love the start of a new year and a new reading challenge.  The hardest part at the beginning is deciding which book to read first.  This year, I decided to get the one I wanted to read the LEAST out of the way first.  And that was,

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Volume 1

It was under the category:  A Book About Ancient History

This book covers the Roman Empire from 98AD to 410 AD.  It was 700 pages long.  It covers the Age of the Antonines, The reign of Septimus Sevus, 30 different tyrants, The Persian war, the Authority of Constantine, The progress of the Christian religion, the foundation of Constantinople, Progress of the Huns from China to Europe, The Goths, the fall of the Western Empire, and everything in between.  It has a nice introduction in the front from the editor about the history of the Author - who was born in 1737 and how he came to write this series of books (there are 6 volumes in all).

This book was BORING.  Not that I am surprised.  I knew I wasn't going to love it, but I wanted to read it because 50% of my family is of Italian heritage with great grandparents who came to the United States from Italy before I was born.  We are traveling to Italy later this year, so I thought it would give me a little insight on the history of this beautiful country so when I saw the ruins, I would know a little of their history.

This book didn't help.  Well, not much anyway.  It just didn't hold my interest, and I found myself drifting often while I was reading it.  Unless I had complete quiet and zero distractions, most of the page I was reading needed to be re-read.  So many names, so many emperors.  You just can't keep up.  I did learn a few new things.  1) the apple originated in Italy and 2) I had no idea it wasn't always a Christian nation.  Don't laugh.

I did find some of it interesting.  Like the emperor that had 300 lovers - both men and women.  The number of emperors that married their family members, or married off their sisters for money.  Romans were crazy.  Still are.

If you truly love ancient history, and love reading books that read like manuals, then this book is for you.  If you are looking for an actual story, and not just stated facts, then skip it.

Stars: 2

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Challenge - It is Time

A new years is upon us, so it is time for a new reading challenge.  Last year I read 80 books.  I think I can do that again, but I have set the challenge at 75.  Last year I started with a challenge of 50, and then upped it to 73.....

I have picked quite a few challenging books for this year, so if you want to see them, click HERE.

In the last two years, I have used Goodreads to get my annual challenge categories.  But I wanted to mix and match this year and try to make sure I got categories I didn't use in the past.  That was not easy.  I think I did that for the most part.  Not that it would matter if you did a same cateogry - you would be using a new book.  But I wanted to really stretch.

So here are the 75 categories I have chosen (in case you don't want to look back in the history.  I am not going to re-post the books I chose - just the categories).  Are you up for the challenge?  You don't have to read 75 books.  You could read 10.  Or 25.  The reason I have enjoyed the challenge is because it got me out of a rut.  I have talked to so many people that stick to one Genre.  Or love a particular writer.  And those are all just fine.  But there are millions and millions of amazing books out there just begging to be read.  Classics you were afraid to tackle.  Science Fiction books you were sure you would hate.  Trust me - I was in that same place two years ago.  Then I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and reach for those books that I would never chose on my own.

Plus my mother was tired of reading my hand me down dystopian future books.

Branch out this year.  Chose this year to make reading a book from the library you have passed a hundred times but never checked out.  Make the world see that reading will always be important and nothing will replace books and knowledge.

Here are the categories.....let's read.

A Memoir
A Book About a Curse of Prophecy
A Book That Is Over 500 pages
A National Book Award Winner
A New York Times Best Seller
A Book That Is Becoming a Movie in 2017
A Book Written By A Celebrity
A Political Memoir
A Science Fiction Novel
A Book Published in 2017
A Book With a Protagonist That Has Your Occupation
A Book That Takes Place in the Summer
A Murder Mystery
A Book Written By A Comedian
A Book With a Blue Cover
The First Book You See In A Bookstore
An Autobiography
A Book About A Road Trip
A Book About A Culture You Are Unfamiliar With
A Book That Takes Place on an Island
A Book You Pick Up Randomly Off The Shelf of the Library
A Book About A Historical Event
A Western Book
A Book With A Wacky Pun in the Title
A Book That Is More Than 150 Years Old
A Book That Someone Tells You it Changed Their Life
A Book Recommended By A Family Member
A Book About Finance
A Book By An Author You Have Never Read Before
A Book With A Great First Line
A Book That Is 10 Years Old
A Book Set In Canada
A Book With A Map in the Front
A Book With A Character That Has A Disability
A Classic You Haven't Read Before
A Book That Intimidates You
A Book About Non-Western History
A Book About An Indigenous Culture
A Book About Women In War
A Book About An Immigrant/Refugee to the US
A Book About Post-Apocalyptic Fiction written by a woman.
A Book About Anything You Want - Free Choice
A Book You Borrow from a Person (not a Library)
A Book With A Really Long Title
A Book With a Duplicate Word In the Title
A Book About Sports
A Book You Think Looks Boring
A Book With Royalty In it - Real or IMagined
A Book You Read Outloud To Someone Else
A Book From Rory Gilmore's Reading List
A Crime Novel
A Book About An Antihero
A Book Recommended By Your Oldest Family member
A Book You Saw Someone Reading In Public
A Book About Something You Love
A Book About A Conspiracy Theory
A Book You Couldn't Fit in Last Year's Challenge
A Book Set On Another Continent
A Book That Is A Saga
A Nonfiction Book About Science
A Book With A Number In The Title
A Book Based on Greek/Roman Mythology
A Newberry Award Winner
A Nonfiction Book About History
A Book Whose Story Spans Generations
A Book With a Country/City Name in the Title
A Book With A Fruit In the Title
A Book By One Of Your Favorite Authors
A Book About Ancient History
A Book Where The Author HAs A Mental Health Issue
A Book That Won An Award for the Best Translation
An Author's Final Book
A Book With The Word Grand In the Title
A Book About A Career You Admire
A Book About Native Americans

Sunday, January 1, 2017

#81 - Extra Book - Covered Wagon Women

Shoot I forgot one!!  I was going through my 2017 challenge and realized I read another book.  It was originally one I was saving for 2017, but I couldn't wait.  Luckily there is a book #2, so I just replaced it with that.

The book is: Covered Wagon Women

This book is a collection of letters and diary entries made by the women who crossed the Oregon Trail in the 1840s.  They speak of the troubles they came across, the death of husbands, children, loved ones.  They talk about how their wagons overturned, and how they had to lay under their dogs at night to keep warm.  There is a story of a midwife who delivered babies while she was on the Trail - how she would travel back 5-10 miles sometimes to reach a woman in labor.

The collection comes from many museums across the United States.  It was interesting to hear the journey from a woman's point of view.  Very rarely did the woman complain about her dire circumstances, or about the death of her loved ones.  They would bury their husbands and children, and the next day they would start again on their travels.  Most of the women had around 8 children to care for, plus her husband.  They would cook for their families and keep things in order day after day.  Through the snow and rain and across the Snake River.  It was truly remarkable to read.

I really enjoyed this book, and cannot believe I almost forgot to blog about it!!  GREAT book - check it out.  I can't wait to read volume #2.

Stars: 4 1/2