Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Book Challenge 2021: Book Related To The Word Fire: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

 Book: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Pages: 272

This is my 37th read for the year

Told in her own words when the author worked at a Crematorium and eventually went to mortuary school.  Caitlin, always curious about people's choices when it comes to death and burial tells stories of countless families who crossed her path while she worked at the Crematorium in California.  She weaves their stories into facts about what happens when a body is cremated, the history of undertakers, and changes in the practice of funerals.  Her wit and curiosity will change your mind about how we treat the dead.

This book was fantastic.  Fair warning - it is as graphic as it is illuminating, so it is not for the faint of heart.  The stories are facinating.  She does an excellent job of telling stories of the people who she creamated and their families while remaining professional and sympathetic to her topic.  I didn't want the book to end.  I listened to it, and she does her own reading, which made it all the better.

If you have read the book "Stiff", then you have to read this one.  Highly recommend.

Stars: 5

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Book Challenge 2021: Winner of a National Book Award (any year): Challenger Deep

 Book: Challenger Deep

Author: Neil Shusterman

Pages: 320

This is my 36th read for the year

This is the story of Caden Bosch.  Caden has been diagnosed with a mental illness.  Caden believes that he is on a ship headed for the deepest part of the earth.  But in reality, he is struggling with the difference between what is in his head and what is going on in the world.  His friends start to notice his odd behavior, and then his parents.  He is finally committed to a mental hospital for treatment and recovery.

This is a good book.  It goes back and forth between Caden's belief he is on a ship to his time dealing with his mental illness.  As the book goes along, the reality and the belief start to entertwine until the reality becomes the stronger.  Shusterman does a good job showing what it is like for people who suffer from delusions and how their recovery is handled.  His own son has a mental illness, and helped Shusterman piece together this book.

It is worth a read.  It is hard to watch anyone struggle with a mental illness, and this book did a good job giving you a peak into what it is like for them.

Stars: 4

Monday, March 22, 2021

Book: The Eleventh Plague

 Book: The Eleventh Plague

Author: Jeff Hirsch

Pages: 288

This is my 35th read for the year

In the aftermath of a war, Stephen and his family are amount 1/3 of the populartion survived a flu epidemic.  He, his dad, and his grandpa roam the country salvaging what they can find.  When an accident happens, Stephen is forced to seek help.  He finds a community that seems too good to be true.  He puts his trust in the town doctor to save his dad, and Stephen tries to find some normalcy in a world that is anything but.  Stephen's appearance in the town is not welcome by everyone that lives there, and it sets the community on a course that could destroy what they have built.

This book wasn't great.  I do love dystopian novels, and I was drawn to this book for that reason.  It started off okay, but then went downhill.  For a kid who was born after the collapse, nothing seemed to surprise him. (his knowledge about McDonalds or a rollercoaster, or an arcade seemed unlikely)  It didn't make any sense.  The story also went from this being about a group of people working together to get through a society rebuild to a 15 year old kid and a girl in town who were suddenly in love and becoming reckless.  The story went in circles and was weak.  None of the characters are well developed.  I found myself wanting to skim over about 1/3 of the book.

Don't recommend this one.

Stars: 2

Sunday, March 21, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Book That Is Set In the 17th Century: Girl With A Pearl Earring

 Book: Girl With A Pearl Earring

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Pages: 240

This is my 34th read for the year

This is the story of Griet.  She is a 16 year old girl who is hired as a maid for the Vermeer family in 1664.  Her father was recently blinded, so Griet needs to make money to help her family.  One of her main tasks in the household was to clean Johannes Vermeer's studio.  While doing so, she becomes fascinated in his paintings and the women he paints.  Johannes soon enlists Griet's help in getting his supplies and mixing his paints, and then finally - asks to paint her.  She becomes the girl with the pearl earring.  Her time as a maid in this household is tumultuous- one of the daughters constantly tries to get Griet in trouble, the other help in the household become jealous of her relationship with Johannes, and she develops an unwanted admirer.  The lines start to bleed between master and servant to the point that Griet needs to make a difficult choice.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it, and I was worried that it might be slow or dry.  IT was neither.  I can say there wasn't incredible character development, and the story was pretty low key.  But I liked the idea of an author taking a real person (Vermeer) and a real painting (The Girl With A Pearl Earring) and develop a fictional story around it.  Nothing is known about Vermeer's muses, and I felt that her idea of what lead to him painting this particular picture was an interesting one.

Good read.  I need to now watch the movie. We visited The Hague where this painting lives, and I wish I would have known that while we were there.

Stars: 4

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Book: Pretty Little Wife

 Book: Pretty Little Wife

Author: Darby Kane

Pages: 416

This is my 33rd read for the year

This is the story of Lila.  She has been in a terrible marriage for a long time, and she has just discovered a secret that her husband had that is unforgivable.  She needs to end her marriage to Aaron, but he is missing.  The police suspect Lila, but she doesn't know where he is.  While the police dig into her past Lila does some digging of her own and finds out more than she bargained for with her husband's past.

This was a pretty good book.  I was set for this one to be cheesy or have a terrible ending, but it was neither.  It was pretty well written and the ending didn't disappoint.  Was I surprised at the end with the wrap up?  No.  However, it did not take away from the story.  It was the first book in awhile that I didn't really want to put down - wanted to keep reading chapter after chapter to see where it was going.  

Check this one out.  It isn't a hard core thriller, but an interesting enough story that you will want to see where it ends up.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 19, 2021

Book: The Ickabog

 Book: The Ickabog

Author: JK Rowling

Pages: 304

This is my 32nd read for the year

This is a book that takes place in the land of Cornucopia.  The people were happy and healthy.  However, looming over the town was a myth of the Ickabog.  Most people believed this was a fictional being and therefor harmless.  

A power hungry member of the Royal Palace decides to bring the Ickabog to life to gain control over the people.  Things quickly spirl out of control for the Palace as a lie is hard to keep secret.  Children Berty and Daisy set out to find out the truth about the Ickabog once and for all knowing that it could help not only their own families, but the whole town.

This was a cute book.  It is definitley written as a children's book, but there is a lot of murder, so I would caution reading this with younger children.  I love that Rowling included art of children throughout the book.  The story is a cute one with a good message:  What happens when a lie spirals out of control and all your time is consumed by trying to cover it up.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 12, 2021

Read The World - Wales - The Owl Service

 Book: The Owl Service

Author: Alan Garner

Pages: 224

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 31st read for the year

*It was brought to my attention that I did a book about Scotland, but left our Wales in my Read The World Challenge.  So - I dug around and found a book from Wales - not an easy task!

**Also I used this book for my 2021 Challenge: An Endorsement by a Famous Author On The Cover

This is mainly the story of Allison, Roger, and Gwyn.  Allison and Roger are step-brother and sister, and Gwyn is a Welsh boy that is spending the summer while his mother works for Allison and Roger's family.  One night, Allison hears scratching noises in the rafters above her room and asks Gwyn to see what it is.  What he finds is a whole set of plates that seem to have a flower pattern on them.  When he touches them, he almost falls through the ceiling.  He brings a plate down to give to Allison who starts to trace the pattern on the plate.  She discovers when she puts the patter together it makes an owl.  As she traces the plate, the pattern disappears leaving only a white plate behind.  Allison becomes obsessed with the plates and traces each one and then each one becomes blank.  

With the appearance of the plates, the occupants of the house start to behave oddly, and tensions rise.  Soon the young people are involved in a mythical curse doomed to repeat itself.

This was an interesting book.  It is an older book (written in the 1960s) and full of Welsh mythology.  I had a hard time following it, even as a middle grade book.  Being more familiar with Welsh history and mythology would help a lot here.  The scratching in the attic - never resolved.  The ending?  Unsatifsying. I did continue reading - interested to see where it would go.  And I am glad I gave it a try since there isn't much out there from Wales.  I just think that this was a book that would take a lot of concentration from a middle grade reader if you were not familiar with this author or this area of the world.

Stars: 3

2021 Challenge: An Author With Only One Published Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray

 Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Pages: 176

This is my 30th book for the year

**Side note - This was touted as Oscar Wilde's only NOVEL - it is not the only thing he has written.  

This is the story of Dorian Gray.  A young model for a painter's work, when Dorian sees it he utters a fateful wish. While artist Basil paints his masterpiece, Lord Henry puts in Dorian's head that while Dorian continued to age, his portrait would remain forever youthful.  This causes Dorian to ask for the reverse.  His wish is granted, and what ensues is a life of amoral practices while the portrait ages and records Dorian's sins.

this was an interesting read.  The book, for the most part, is well written and the story engaging.  There were a few chapters that were just dialogue that drug.  The chapters with story between Dorian and Lord Henry and Basil were the best in my opinion.  It is a short book, so the few chapters that did not capture my interest didn't matter much.

Glad I read this one.

Stars: 3 1/2

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Dual Timeline: The Lost Apothecary

 Book: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Pages: 320

This is my 29th book for the year

This is the story of Nella, Eliza, and Caroline.  In 1791, Nella is running an underground apothecary that sells remedies, but lately - poisons.  Women find her by word of mouth asking to "fix" problems they might be having with their husbands or significant others.  Eliza is a 12 year old girl that comes to the shop one day on behalf of her mistress, and finds that she wants to stay and help Nella with her shop.  But a mistak young Eliza makes puts the shop in jeporday.

In present day London, Caroline has escaped for a getaway.  Leaving a failing marriage behind, she stumbles across a glass bottle with a bear on it while doing a hunt with a tour group.  This sends her on a path that connects that past Apothecary -and the unsolved murders associated with it - and changes her course forever.

This was a pretty good book.  I read it quickly because I was curious to see where it was going and how the two timelines came together.  It is an easy read and a well written novel.  I will admit that I was more invested in the timeline of Nell and Eliza than Caroline's, but it didn't distract from the story.  I just find the historical plot much richer.

Great find.  Glad I read this one.  Highly recommend!

Stars: 4

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book That Takes Place In A Country That Starts With "S" (Switzerland) - The Sanatorium

 Book: The Sanatorium

Author: Sarah Pearse

Pages: 400

This is my 28th read for the year

Elin and her boyfriend Will are taking a holiday.  Elin's brother, Isaac, is getting married and has invited Elin to the engagement party at a new hotel in the Swiss Alps.  Elin is on leave from her job and feels this is a good time to re-evaluate if she wants to continue her career as a police officer.

However -once at the hotel, a sinister storm sets in and an avalanche blocks the guest in the hotel.  While trapped, people start to go missing.  The Swiss police are not able to get to the hotel due to the storm, so Elin starts working as a detective to find out what is happening to the missing people.  Elin now has to figure out who is taking these people and how to keep the remaining guest safe.

This was a fair book.  I was intrigued by it because it took place in Switzerland.  And I love a good mystery/thriller story.  However, Elin quickly got on my nerves.  She isn't a particularly  strong character - and honestly - none of the others are either.  They lacked depth.  Every move was "sinister".  There was no range with the characters.  There were a lot of loose ends that didn't get tied up.  And the ending - well she left it wide open to interpretation.  Which could be good if she is going to write a second one?  But if not - it was just confusing.  

Stars: 3

2021 - Repeat of a Catagory - Howl's Moving Castle (Category - book with a garden in it)

 Book: Howl's Moving Castle

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Pages: 448

This is my 27th read for the year

This is the story of Sophie.  A young girl who works in a hat shop with her sisters and mother.  One day the Witch of the Waste comes into the shop, and Sophie tries to turn her away.  What results is a curse that leaves Sophie an old woman.  She sets off to try and get the curse reversed and she comes upon Howl's Castle.  She shows up and tells him that she is his new cleaning lady - hoping that he will help her break the curse.  In Howl's castle lives a young apprentice, Michale, and a Fire Deamon - Calcifer.  Getting tangled with this group shows Sophie another side of Howl and of herself and leads her on our path she least expected.

This was a great book. My husband bought me the Folio Society version for Christmas and my eldest daughter and I read it over these last few weeks.  She is a lover of Studio Ghibli - who made this book into one of their films.  We loved the movie, but it does differ from the book.  My daughter and I decided that we liked the book better - the characters fit a little better and made a little more sense.  It is a well written book, and heart felt and a fun read.  Highly recommend

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, March 1, 2021

Book: Read Player Two

 Book: Ready Player Two

Author: Ernest Cline

Pages: 384

This is my 26th read for the year

This is the continuation of the story of Wade Watts after he won James Halliday's contest.  Now a multibillionare and owner of Halliday's company and OASIS, Wade and his friends have been left a new technology as Haliday's heirs.  A system that allows people to be able to taste, feel, smell, and sense everything inside the OASIS, truly bringing that world to life.  Halliday has also given his new heir a new quest inside the game that leaves them to a mysterious prize.

However, while Wade and his friends hung for the new prize, a long lost enemy emerges to try and kill millions and take over the OASIS once and for all.  It is up to Wade and his team to protect humanity.

Well - I read the first one, so I figured I should follow up and see how the story would end.  I liked the first one okay - an interesting idea, except the character was always set up with everyting he would ever need to succeed in his quest - just seemed like a small child telling a story and building a world that would be "amazing".  The second one was full of nostalgia from the 80s.  Kind of like the first, but definitely to the point of overkill.  Too much explanation, not enough story advancement.  It was a 7 year old's fantasy of what would happen if they had endless money and toys.  I just could not get into this book, could not relate to any of the characters - or really like any of them - because they were drowned out by boring nostalgia writing.

Stars: 2

Book: A Bittersweet Surprise

 Book: A Bittersweet Surprise

Author: Cynthia Ellingsen

Pages: 298

This is my 25th read for the year

This is the story of Emma Laurent.  A young woman who helps run her deceased father's candy shop in a small town.  She has always loved making chocolate, making people happy, and putting other's needs before her own.  But now, her stepmother is selling the candy shop and Emma isn't sure she is ready to let it go.  Hoping to be able to buy it and keep her father's legacy alive, she tries to figure out how to get the money to do so.  One day, a couple comes to the shop offering a large sum of money for a painting that has hung at the candy store almost all of Emma's life.  She thinks maybe this is exactly what she needs so she can buy the shop.  But something feels off.  It leads Emma down a path she never expected to be on and it changes her lift forever.

This was a sweet book.  There isn't a lot of strife, and even the "bad guys" in the book are not true bad guys.  It was a good choice for right now as we come up on a year of dealing with the pandemic.  Very Hallmark movie.  I have read a few heavy novels lately, and this was a nice refresher to lighten the mood.  There isn't much drama or suspense, just a little bit of mystery.  I listened to it, and it kept me entertained while I ran my errands.

If you are looking for light and fluffy, this is a good one to try.

Stars: 3 1/2