Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #112 - Becoming

#110 - here we go!

Author: Michelle Obama
Pages: 429

This is the autobiography of  the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama.  The story covers her life  - from growing up on the South Side of Chicago in a poor, yet loving, family - to becoming the First Lady.  She discusses with warmth what it was like growing up in Chicago, going to Princeton and Harvard Law school, meeting Barack, becoming a mother, and finally going to the White House.  She became an advocate for young girls and women all over the world. She gives readers a candid look into her life.

This was a great book.  Mrs. Obama writes with grace and intellect and even humor.  You get to find out how she really felt about Barack running for public office and then finally running for President of the United States.  You get an indepth look at her childhood and the love she had for her family.  She talks candidly about how it was to protect her daughters from the limelight and the struggle to give them a normal childhood.  How she wanted nothing else to be an advocate, a role model, a good mother and a loving wife and what it took to try and have it all.

I encourage you to read this book.  I enjoyed every page.  Well, until I got to the end and we started to creap to 2016 - the end of their term in the White House - and I felt my chest tighten.  She talks shortly about what it was like to hand over the reins to Donald Trump and how she felt about the change that would happen, but mostly she sticks with her ultimate message.  For every door that is opened for you, open a door for others.  Invite one another in.  Don't let the hate and the fear that has ruled our country for the last two years be what we become.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #111 - Us Against You

Today's review is for

Us Against You
Author: Frederik Backman
Pages: 448

This is the follow up book to Backman's "Beartown".  The town of Beartown is still realing for a young girl's rape.  The town divided and picked their side leaving the Beartown hockey team in shambles.  The hockey team might be disbanded because it was the coaches daughter who was raped.  A lot of former Beartown players leave to play for the rival town of Hed. But a newcomer gives the town hope and soon a new Beartown hockey team is formed.  The team forms around former players of the junior team - a gang of misfits who don't quite fit in anywhere.  They have a new coach who is determined to make them a winning team regardless of how that has to be done.

Before the season ends, a resident of Beartown will be dead.  Hed and Beartown will be left to decide if hockey is really what is most important.  The towns will both be challenged and be given a choice.

This book was not very good.  I was disappointed because Backman is one of my favorite authors.  I love almost everything is writes, but this one was just not well written.  First, it is extemely melencholy.  There is never an upswing for any of the characters - which makes the story just drag.  I mean - really?  Nothing but sadness?  One reviewing on Amazon said it best "It was like a swirling snowstorm that was brewing for too long".  Nother ever really happened.  Each chapter would leave you with cliff hangers and often he would say "they would remember this day".  But then....what?  Nothing of great importance.  He did too much setting up and then things would work out fine.  There was too much of that.

I don't recommend this book.  And the rumor is that there will be a third.  I honestly think he should have just left Beartown alone and not tried to continue the story.  Because it really has no where else to go.

Stars:  2

Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #110 - Art Matters

Another novella - two in one day!

Art Matters
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 112

There isn't much to review about this short little book (which has a lot of drawings).  It is an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.  He talks a lot about the importance of reading, and libraries, and talks about taking a leap when it comes to writing and creating.

As an avid reader, I believe that the world would be lost without books.  Fiction and non-fiction a like are invaluable to further educate people and lead to further understanding.  It is so important, and it is becoming more and more rare in an age of You Tube and instagram.

Read with your kids.  Read in front of your kids.  Show them that books are not a lost art and cannot be replaced.

Stars:  4

2018 Challenge - Book #109 - Elevation

Today is the review for a short novella called

Author: Stephen King
Pages: 160

Scott Carey is losing weight at an alarming speed.  He doesn't look any different than he did at 240 pounds, there has been no loss of muscle tone or stature, but he is losing a pound a day.  And wether he is wearing clothes or carrying weights, or is naked - he weighs the same.  He visits his friend - Dr. Bob Eillis - to see if he has any idea what is going on.  Together, the two men try to figure out why he is losing weight, yet not showing the outward signs.

Scott has two new neighbors that he is desperate to get to know, but don't seem to want to know him.  The one is seemingly bitter and on the defense, and tries to avoid Scott at all cost.  But the other warms to him and invites him to come to their restaurant and try their food.  The restaurant is suffering because it is being run by a same sex couple and the town in not open minded.  Scott is determined to get the town to accept these women and their restaurant, and puts his own failing health on the back burner.

The rate of his weight loss starts to speed up.  Scott - realizing that the end is near, confides in the women, and together they help Scott - and the town - find the best in themselves.

This book was REALLY short (as you can see above).  A lot of the low reviews for this book is because people didn't realize it was a novella.  (although, if you take two seconds, each Amazon page tells you how much a book cost).  I felt, though, that this story needed more pages.  The turn around of the town, and the women, and even Scott himself happened way too quickly to be realistic.  Well - as realistic as a story where a guy loses a pound a day with no known cause.  It just didn't do anything for me - I didn't come to like any of the characters or get a chance to feel one way or another about them with only 160 pages.

If you can borrow this book from the library and you are a huge Stephen King fan, then check it out.  But if your only choice is to buy it, I wouldn't bother.  You aren't missing much.

Stars: 2

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #108 - The 57 Bus

When you have a down day with bad weather, you read a whole book in one day.

The 57 Bus
Author: Dashka Slater
Pages: 320

This book is about two people - Sasha, an agender young person who lives outside of Oakland California, attends a private school, has an intact, loving family and lots of friends.  The other is Richard - a studend that attends Oakland High School, has friends but most of them are in trouble or in jail.  He does have a loving mother but she struggles to keep him out of trouble.

Despite their different schools, both kids take the same public bus - the 57 Bus - to and from school each day.  They don't know each other - haven't ever even met.  But one day, Richard - coaked by his friends - decides to play a practical joke and lights Sasha's skirt on fire.  What results is Sasha spending weeks in the hospital recovering from severe burns, and Richard arrested for the crime.

The book goes back and forth between the two kids - both the same age - and talks about their upbringing, their problems, and what lead them to that fateful day.

This was an okay book.  I was interested in it because it was a true story.  The book does a good job telling the back story of the two kids, and covering the trial and what happens to both kids once the trial is over.  IT does go a little too indepth into subject matter realted to gender identity.  And while I did learn quite a bit, I don't think it really was needed to tell the story in this case.  I think giving us more character development would have been more beneficial.

I think this book is worth a read.  It was a really fast read - a lot of the chapters are only a few pages long, so it moves along quickly.  The story happened only a few years ago, and you can actually look up the news stories from the incident and see pictures of the kids online.  The subject of gender identity is a hot button in today's society.

Stars:  3

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #107 - The Power

Two reviews in one day!  I read two books at the same time, and wrapped them up together.

The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Pages: 400

The teenage girls of the world are devloping powers.  The power comes in the form of electricity that they can generate to cause pain or even death to others.  The women have a new organ that has developed - called a skein.  Soon the power can be given to older women and the balance of the world shifts.  The book rotates through 4 main characters - one who becomes "Mother Eve" - claiming to be hearing and doing the work of God.  The men become more and more afraid and start to fight back.  The tone of the book is one where women are viewed more like objects and now with this new power, they hold the upper hand.

This was a terrible book.  I don't want to spend a lot of time reviewing it, because I could hardly make it through it.  The writing isn't good, the sex in the book is ridiculous and way out of place in telling the story, and it is overall just not that entertaining.  I love dystopian future novels - it is my favorite genre - but I could barely make it through.  I should have quit reading.

Don't bother with this book.  The idea was a great one - a chance to write about a shift in power between men and women, but it fell flat. 

Stars:  2

2018 Challenge - Book #106 - Where The Crawdads Sing

Today's review is for

Where The Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owes
Pages: 384

This is the story about Kya who lives in the Marsh in North Carolina in the 1950s.  She is the youngest child in her family - a family that is extremely poor and undereducated.  Her dad is a drunk who often beats his wife and kids barely bringing home any money to support him.  One by one, Kya watches her family leave the marsh and not return - starting with her mother, then her eldest siblings, and finally, her brother Jodie who is the closest to her in age.  At the age of 6 she is left alone with her father who sometimes comes home/sometimes doesn't.  Kaya starts to figure out how to take care of herself - feed herself and learn to live off the land.  She only ever attends school for one day, chosing instead to stay hidden in the marsh.

The book jumps back and forth between the 1950s and 1969 where a young man named Chase Andrews has died.  The police suspect foul play - looks like he was pushed off a fire tower near the marsh.  The book follows the life of Kaya and the time from when she was little up until the murder of Chase - weaving the story of how she learned to live off the land, meeting Chase and meeting a boy named Tate, and how she tries to discover love and how it fits into her life of lonliness. 

Someone recommended this book and so I gave into the hype and read it.  It was an okay book.  I didn't love it as much as I was hopping to.  The writing was pretty good, but not as great as the reviews made it sound.  I agree with many of the 3 star reviews on Amazon that the characters just fell flat.  The story jumped all over the place, and sometimes I felt that there were gaps that shouldn't be there.  It was a love triangle that didn't hold a lot of weight (or make a whole lot of sense), and almost a fantastical story line that is hard to believe.

I don't want to NOT recommend this book - I may be judging it too harshly.  I think overall it was good.  I read it quickly - wanting to see where the story was going - not wanting to quit until I had some answers.  But I was never in love with the book.

Stars:  3

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #105 - A Spark of Light

Today's review

A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 384

This is a story told starting with the end.  A gunman has entered a family planning clinic and has shot several of the people who work there.  He has taken the rest hostage.  The lead hostage negotiator has a daughter and sister that are trapped inside, but he doesn't want to step down.  He wants to be able to get them, and everyone inside, to safety.

The book works backwards from the end of the situation to what caused it in the first place.  Each chapter is one hour in the past, and the pieces are weaved together to get to the heart of why this was happening and to learn about all of the people involved.  In typical Picoult fashion, there are surprises along the way - things you don't see coming. 

This was a pretty good book.  Picoult is always an up and down experience for me.  She is an amazing writer and incredible author.  But sometimes her stories are just so so.  This was a tricky topic that she tackled and I applaud her for that.  She has written books around racism and school shootings - really trying to write about both sides of the issue.  That she does well.  I am just not sure I loved the backwards timeline.  IT was...fine.  I think in some ways there were too many characters that she tried to get into the mix and at times it just got muddled.  I think if she stuck with just maybe the top 3-4 characters and developed there timelines, it would have flowed easier.

This is a heavy topic and a very controverisal one.  I have a feeling that anti-abortion and family planning advocates are going to have a hard time with this one.  I felt she did a good job actually giving some light to that side of the fence, but when I read the comments on Amazon - that doesn't seem to be the way they see it.  So you have been warned.  And I agree with her - I don't think that these two sides will ever agree in our lifetime.  But listening to both sides is a good place to start.

Stars:  3

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #104 - The Broken Girls

Today's review is for

The Broken Girls
Author: St. James
Pages: 336

The story opens in Vermont in 1950.  There is a home for wayward girls who no one wanted called Idlewild Hall.  It is a bording school in the middle of nowhere.  All the girls at the school believe the school to be haunted by someone named Mary Hand.  They have all seen her, and Mary shows them their darkest secrets.  One day, one of the girls disappears.  The teachers think she has run away, but her friends know better.  They are sure she has been killed, but they have no way to prove it.

Fast forward to 2014 - a young journalist named Fiona is obsessed with a case that is 20 years old.  Her sister was murdered, the man is in jail, but Fiona still doesn't have closure.  She keeps revisiting the site where her sister's body was found looking for clues. Her sister was murdered on the grounds of Idlewild Hall, which has long been closed down and rotting.

Soon, Fiona finds out that a rich benefactor has bought Idlewild and plans on restoring it to a girl's school.  Fiona contacts the new owner and tells them she wants to write a story about the school and the past.  What is unearthed during the restoration starts to piece together the past of Idlewild and the missing girl, and also Fiona's sister.

This was a good book - not great.  The story was a little loose, and the events move around quickly leaving some holes in the plot.  The story lines often felt undeveloped.  The overall idea was great - I did have a few moments of chills since it was a ghost story - but not enough to make this into a great book.

It is a fast read, and easy to follow.  I wouldn't run out and recommend it, but overall, I think it was a fine read.

Stars:  3 1/2

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #103 - Family Tree

Today's review is for

Family Tree
Author: Susan Wiggs
Pages: 400

This is the story of Annie and Fletcher.  Two people who couldn't quite get the timing right for their relationship.  They met when Fletcher moved to Annie's small town in Vermont.  There was an immediate attraction, but family problems and life long dreams continually got in the way of them being together for more than a few months.

Annie's life long passion was cooking and having her own TV show.  She grew up in Vermont on a family maple syrup farm - helping all winter long with making and bottling syrup for their company Sugar Rush.  Fletcher and his dad move to town where his dad takes over a local mechanic's business.  He is hired by Annie's older brother to work at the Maple farm, and he is quickly smitted with her.  Annie has dreams of college and life beyond Switchback Vermont, but money and family obligations keep Fletcher there.  They end their relationship when Fletcher's dad is in a horrible accident and Fletcher has no time for anything but keeping his dad's business together and helping his dad recover.

The book flows back and forth between Annie and Fletcher has teenagers and then into the near future when Annie is forced back to Switchback after spending years in LA.  Her own accident has brought her back to the care of her family and back into Fletcher's life.  As she recovers, she needs to decide if what she had in LA or what she has in Vermont is what she really wants.

This was an okay book.  Here in Switzerland, the Christmas season is in full swing.  So I have started watching cheesy Christmas movies from the Hallmark channel and Netflix - an annual tradition.  This book reminds me of those movies.  This book reminded me of those movies.  A quaint little town brings girl back to where her roots were.  A long lost love that is rekindled.  A perfect life and perfect love and perfect everything is what this book is about.  It is just as cheesy as the movies.

It is a quick read, and not solid work, but was kind of fun in its own right.  I would not say to run out and read this one, but, if you have a few days as the snow starts to fall and you are looking for something light and mindless - this might hit the spot.

Stars:  3

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

2019 (and beyond challenge)

A month ago, my family and I were in Ireland on vacation.  We have been traveling a lot since we moved to Switzerland - enjoying seeing the world.  It got me thinking that all of these wonderful places we see - there are books that are set there.  Then I read the most fantastic book "The Shadow of the Wind" which takes place in Spain, and I decided, my next challenge needs to be a global one.

So next year (and beyond becuase I know this is going to take awhile) I am going to start down through all the countries and try and read a book from each.  I reached out to various online reading groups and got so many suggestions that I was off to a great start.  Then I started my online research, and I think I have a starting list.

As my lists always do - I am sure this will ebb and flow as the challenge goes on.  I am still missing a few countries where I just couldn't put my finger on a book that sounded like a good fit.  My plan - if it goes well and the book is outstanding- is to buy the book when I finish reading it and put it on my shelf.  I don't buy many books, but I would love a World bookcase.

So here is the list.  I am always open to suggestions, so feel free to make them.  If you read a book from a country that you absolutely think I should not miss, then tell me about it in the comments.  And if you know of a book for my empty country slots, I want to hear those too.

If you click on the book name, it will take you to the Amazon page where you can see who the author is and read a synopsis.

What countryBook Name
AfganistanKite Runner
AlbaniaThe Palace of Dreams
AlgeriaThe Plague
Andorra32 Yolks
AngolaThe Book of Chameleons
AntiguaA Small Place
ArmeniaLike Water On Stone
ArubaAn Island Away
AustraliaThe Light Between Oceans
AustriaMarrying Mozart
AzerbaijanAli and Nino A Love Story
BahamasAn Evening in Guanima
BahrainRound the Bend
BangladeshA Golden Age
BarbadosCaptain Blood
BelarusVoices from Chernobyl
BelgiumA Tall Man In A Low Land
BelizeThe last flight of the Scarlet Macaw
BhutanBeyond the Sky and the Earth
BosniaZlata's Diary
BotswanaThe No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
BrazilDona Flor and Her Two Husbands
BruneiDevil of a State
BulgariaNatural Novel
Burkina FasoOf Water and Spirit
BurundiThis Voice in my Heart
CamobdiaThe Rent Collector
CameroonMission to Kala
CanadaStill Life
Cape VerdeLast Will+Testament Senhor de Silva
Central Africa RepublicDaba's Travels
ChadThe Roots of Heaven
ChilieMaya's Notebook
ChinaWild Swans
ColumbiaLove in the time of Cholera
ComorosA Fish caught in time
Congo - DemocraticTomorrow I'll Be Twenty
Congo - RepublicThe Poisonwood Bible
Costa RicaCadence of the Moon
Cote d'IvoireWhiteman
CroatiaGirl At War
CubaWaiting for Snow in Havana
Czech RepublicThe Unbearable Lightness of Being
DenmarkSeven Gothic Tales
DjiboutiPassage of Tears
DominicaBlack and White Sands
Dominican RepublicIn The Time Of Butterflies
East TimorIf you leave us here, we will die
EgyptThe Memoirs of Cleopatra
El SalvadorBitter Grounds
Equatorial GuineaShadows of Your Black Memory
EritreaI Didn't Do It For You
EstoniaThe Beauty of History
EthiopiaCutting For Stone
FijiFiji A Novel
FinlandThe Year Of The Hare
FranceAll The Light We Cannot See
French GuianaPapillon
GambiaFolk Tales and Fables from The Gambia
GermanyThe Book Thief
Great BritainDracula
GrenadaGranada A History of Its People
GuadeloupeThe Bridge Of Beyond
GuatemalaPopol Vuh
GuineaThe Radiance of the King
Guinea-BissauThe Ultimate Tragedy
GuyanaOf Marriageable Age
HaitiThe Comedians
HondurasThe Lost City Of The Monkey God
HungaryThe Dukays
IcelandBurial Rites
IndiaLife Of Pi
IndonesiaThis Earth of Mankind
IraqImperial Life in the Emerald City
IrelandThe Misremembered Man
IsraelA Tale of Love and Darkness
ItalyBeneath a Scarlet Sky
JamaicaThe Book of Night Women
JapanMemoirs of a Geisha
JordanLeap of Faith
KazakhstanOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
KenyaCircling The Sun
Korea, NorthThe Girl With 7 Names
Korea, SouthPlease Look After My Mom
KosovoCity of Thieves
KuribatiThe Sex Lives of Cannibals
KurdistanMy Father's Paradise
KuwaitThe Hidden Light of Objects
LaosMother's Beloved
LatviaWith Dance Shoes in Siberian Shoes
LebanonOne Thousand and One Nights
LiberiaThe House at Sugar Beach
LibyaIn The Country of Men
LiechtensteinStamping Grounds
LuxembourgMilly's Story
MacedoniaGhost on the Throne
MadagascarBeyond the Rice Fields
MalawiThe Boy who harnessed the wind
MalaysiaThe Gift of Rain
MaldivesOn The Island
MaliBound to Violence
MaltaThe Great Seige Malta 1565
Marshall IslandsSurviving Paradise
MartiniqueSugar Money
MauritaniaTravels in Mauritania
MauritiusThe Last Brother
MayotteIsland in the Stream
MexicoLike Water For Chocolate
MicronesiaIsland of the Sequined Love Nun
Moldova,Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
MongoliaGhengis Birth of an Empire
MontenegroBlood of Montenegro
MoroccoSecret Son
MozambiqueThe First Wife
Myanmar/BurmaThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats
NamibiaBlood Rose
NepalInto Thin Air
NetherlandsDiary of a Young Girl
New ZealandThe Whale Rider
NicaraguaThe Country under my skin
NigeriaHalf of a Yellow Sun
NorwayOut Stealing Horses
OmanEarth Weeps, Saturn Laughs
PakistanThree Cups of Tea
PalauVanished The Sixty Year Search
PalestineMornings in Jenin
PanamaThe Path Between The Seas
Papua New GuineaThe Last Men: Journey Among The Tribes
ParaguayAda's Violin
PeruDeath In The Andes
PhilippinesState of War
PolandThe Last Wish
PortugalThe Book of Disquiet
Puerto RicoStories from Puerto Rico
QatarThe Glass Palace
Russian FederationThe Master and Margarita
RwandaWe Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed
Saint Kitts and NevisOnly God Can Make A Tree
Saint LuciaOmeros
Saint Vincent + GrenadinesIsland of Eden
SamoaLeaves of the Banyan Tree
Sao Tome and PrincipeSao Tome - Journey to the Abyss
Saudi ArabiaDaring To Drive
ScotlandThe Black House
SenegalSo Long A Letter
SerbiaThe Last Window Giraffe
SeychellesStranded in the Seychelles
Sierra LeoneA Long Way Gone
SingaporeMinistry of Moral Panic
Slovakia               Maria Gulovich: OSS Heroine of WWII
SloveniaVeronkia Decides to Die
Solomon IslandsHead Hunting in the Solomon Islands
SomaliaThe World's Most Dangerous Place
South AfricaThe Elephant Whisperer
South SudanThey Poured Fire on Us From The Sky
SpainThe Shadow Of The Wind
Sri Lanka                                  Island of a Thousand Mirrors
SudanWhat Is The What
SurinameThe Cost of Sugar
SwazilandThe Kingdom of Roses and Thorns
SwedenA Man Called Ove
SwitzerlandSwiss Watching
SyriaDamascus Nights
TaiwanThe Astonishing Color of After
TanzaniaThe Snows Of Kilimajaro
ThailandThe Disallowed: The Humorous Story of a Contemporary Vampire Family
TogoThe Village of Waiting
Trinidad & TobagoA House for Mr. Biswas
TurkeyLast Train To Instanbul
TurkmenistanThe Tale of Aypi
Turks & Caicos IslandsWater and Light - A Diver's Journey
UkraineLike A River From Its Course
United Arab EmiratesCity of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism
USAThe Stand
UruguayThe Invisible Mountain
UzbekistanA Carpet Ride of Khiva
VanuatuGetting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands
Vatican CityThe Fifth Gospel
VenezuelaThe Motocycle Diaries
VietnamThe Sorrow of War
YemenI Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced
ZambiaDon't Let The Dogs Go Tonight
ZimbabweWe Need New Names