Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book between 200-400 pages: Good Neighbors

 Book: Good Neighbors

Author: Sarah Langan

Pages: 304

This is my 66th read for the year

This is the story of the neighbors on Maple Street in a Long Island neighborhood.  When the Wilde family moves in with their rock star dad, and gruff speaking mom and kids, the neighbors don't know what to think.  Rhea Schroder - who thinks she runs the block - wants the rest of the neighbors turn on the Wildes.  When a sink hole appears near the street and a tragedy happens, the block starts to believe the Wilde family is to blame.  It becomes on neighbor's word against the other until the truth finally comes out.

This was an okay book.  It is a bit dark, but a fast read.  No one in this book is a particularly nice person - except maybe a few of the kids and one neighbor.  It was almost an overload of bad characters.  I was curious to see where it was going, and it kept me entertained (I listened to it).  But it was a little weird, a little disjointed.  I still don't know exactly how I feel about it.  The characters were shallow.  It jumped around a lot (future and present).    It was just.....meh.

I listen to a lot of things that are just okay.  And I don't mind.  But I would not pick this book up and continue reading it.  So unless you are doing meaningless chores and looking for something to fill your earbuds while you work, then skip this one.

Stars 3

Monday, June 28, 2021

2021 Challenge: Author With Same First Initial As You: That Summer

 Book: That Summer

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Pages: 432

This is my 65th read for the year
(also - this author and I share the same first name!  Parents in the 70s weren't that original.  No offense mom)

This is the story of two Dianas.  Diana Starling and Diana (who goes by Daisy) Shoemaker.  Two women who are strangers until Daisy starts receiving emails from Diana Starling.  The two decide to meet and hit it off right away.  Daisy - who has a cooking business, a husband, and a teenager daughter - is envious of Diana who has a big job and beautiful clothes.  What she doesn't realize is that Diana has a big secret, and that her meeting Daisy is no accident.  Diana's true intentions start to come to light Daisy's life is changed forever.

First - this book needs to come with a warning.  This is not a typical summer beach read that Jennifer Weiner usually writes.  This book is about a woman who was raped when she was younger and how it set the course for her whole life.  So you have been warned.  I am usually a big fan of Jennifer Weiner books, but this wasn't one of my favorites.  The subject is an important one - especially right now.  But it wasn't what I was expecting.  It was very heavy, and if I hadn't been listening to it while I did yard work, I might have put it down and picked it up at a different time.  It is humorless - as it should be considering the subject.  And you do figure out where it is going farily quickly - no surprises what these two women are going to have in common.  

It is an important story.  It does have a political lean (just read the Amazon comments and that will tell you quite a bit), so if that isn't for you - you should skip this one.

Stars: 3 1/2

Saturday, June 26, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book On Your Kindle/Shelf The Shortest: The Hunting Party

 Book: The Hunting Party

Author: Lucy Foley

Pages: 352

This is my 64th read for the year

This is the story of a group of friends who are on their annual trip for New Years.  Every year they go somewhere together - each member of the group picking where to go.  This year it was Emma's turn and she wants everything to be perfect.  The estate is remote and known for getting snowed in and guest getting stuck, but the group remains unconcerned.  They are there to enjoy each other's company.

A snow storm does close them in, and past resentments among the group start to emerge.  Secrets come to surface and cause a fracture in the group that cannot be undone.  And when someone winds up dead, and the people running the estate try to piece together who did it while they wait for the weather to lift, everyone starts to wonder who among them did it.  And who might be next.

This was an okay read.  I listened to it (doing a lot of that lately) while I was doing some gardening.  It passes the time.  It is told in the voices of many of the characters, which I do enjoy.  The killer was a bit surprising, but not overly so.  I didn't love any of the characters, so when it was revealed I found it hard to care.  The ending was just so/so.  They do wrap it up, thankfully, but not in a truly satisfying way.

I read her other book - The Guest List - and liked this one only slightly better.  I think I will pass on her books in the future.

Stars: 3

Thursday, June 24, 2021

2021 Challenge: Reese's Bookclub Pick: The Last Thing He Told Me

 Book: The Last Thing He Told ME

Author: Laura Dave

Pages: 320

This is my 63rd book for the year

This is the story about Hannah.  Wife to Owen, step mother to Bailey.  One day, Owen disappears.  But before he does, he leaves Hannah a note about Bailey "protect her".  16 year old Bailey who already lost her mother tragically and wants nothing to do with Hannah.  As events unfold - Owen's boss is arrested for fraud, and FBI and US Marshall agents start to appear - Hannah realizes Owen wasn't who he said he was.  Without waiting for the police, Hannah sets out to discover Owen's past.  In doing so, she uncovers things she never expected.

This was a pretty fair book.  It unfolds at a good pace and kept me entertained while I did gardening work.  Some of the decisions Hannah makes are a bit ridiculous, but I tried to keep an open mind.  Bailey is a complete brat.  I have three teenagers of my own and so I do get some of that.  What they don't get -which Bailey does regularly - is away with it.  The big reveal about Owen was just okay.  There was no real suspsense.  

But - the ending was good.  I do love a book that shows the future.  Always a win in my book.  So that was a savior for me.  It is a good book to listen to, or for a summer beach read.  Not top literature by any means, but worth a look.

Stars: 3 1/2

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

2021 Challenge: Over 300 Pages: The Grace Year

 Book: The Grace Year

Author: Kim Liggett

Pages: 416

This is my 62nd book of the year

This is the story of 16 year old Tierney.  Born into a society who believes that women have magic powers.  Girls during their 16th year are banished into the wild to relase their magic so that they can come back to society ready for marriage. However -not all girls that are released during their "Grace Year" return.

Tierney - who doesn't want to be a wife, but is destined to be one anyway - is told that the poachers who hunt the girls during their Grace Year is her biggest fear.  However, she soon realizes that isn't the biggest threat.  As Tierney starts to piece together what the magic really is, why the girls - who are forbidden to talk about the Grace Year  - look so broken when they return, and what all of this means for her own future, she sets to change things.  However, she soon realizes that this will be harder than she imagines.

This book wasn't great.  It was way too much like the Handsmaid's Tale (which is it touted for).  I was looking for some originality in my favorite genre, but got more of the same.  Another society where men see women as property.  The love story that develops escalated so quickly that it was hard to believe.  Instalove is never for me.  There wasn't a lot of character development.  I really never developed feelings for any character in the book - not even our heroine.  This isn't a slow burn, and that is possibly why.  

Handmaid's Tale and Hunger Games this is not.  For a 400 page book, I was hoping for more.

Stars: 3

Sunday, June 20, 2021

2021 Challenge: Author with 9 letters in last name: Half Sick of Shadows

 Book: Half Sick of Shadows

Author: Laura Sebastian

Pages: 448

This is my 61st read for the year.

I got this as an early copy through my Book Of The Month Club

This is the story of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Morgana and Elaine.  Everyone knows the story.  Arthur who is to be king.  Guinevere who betrays Arthur with Lancelot.  Morgana who turns against them all.  And Elaine - who is cursed to know the fuure before the rest of them.

When the time comes for Arthur to claim the throne, the group accompany him Camelot.  Elaine tries her hardest to keep everyone together and everyone safe, but no matter what she does - the future never really changes for her closest group of friends.  She must decide how far she will go to change their fates.

This was an okay book.  I always love a good spin on a classic story.  It did move a little slower and more like a YA book (even thought these characters are in their 20s.)  The characters are a bit bland and I never really got fully invested in any of their stories.  The timeline was a bit of a mess, didn't really develop well.  And the ending - for me it just fell apart.  It left me wanting mor.  

I had high hopes for this one.  I loved the idea.  But for me it fell flat.

Stars:  3

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book You Think They Should Read In Schools: Hiroshima

 Book: Hiroshima

Author: John Hersey

Pages: 152

This ismy 60th read for the year

This is the story of the people of Hiroshima after the Atom Bomb was dropped on their town in 1945.  It is told in the memories of survivors.  IT follows doctors and a priest, mothers and fathers - all who survived and who suffered serious illness in the aftermath.  Over 100,000 people died that day and over the course of time another 100,000 died due to the after effects.  These six survivors and their stories weave a picture of what it was like that day and the years that followed such a tragic event.

This was a great book.  I finished it in an afternoon because it is so short.  I couldn't put it down.  I didn't know much about Hiroshima and an account of people's stories are always my favorite when learning about a place.  The story is unbelievable that one minute they were enjoying a warm summer day and the next their entire world was turned upside down.

Check this book out.  You won't be disappointed.

Stars: 5

Monday, June 14, 2021

2021 Challenge: And Educational Read: Van Gogh - The Life

 Book: Van Gogh - The Life

Author: Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith

Pages: 976

This is my 59th read for the year

The authors delve into the life of Van Gogh starting from when he was a young boy all the way to his death.  Written from help from the Van Gogh museum and letters that were written between Vincent and his brother, Theo, they weave a story that few know about the life of this beloved artist.  Readers get a look into his life both personal and professional and how long he struggled before he was "discovered"  We get a better picture of his mental illness and his death at the age of 37.  

This is a fantastic book - one of the best I have read this year so far.  I listened to it (all 42 hours) to pass my endless hours of painting our house this week.  I was enthralled with this story from the start.  I actually visited the Van Gogh museum just a few years ago with my family and wish now that I would have read this book first.  It goes into so much detail of Van Goghs life and how he came about his paintings.  You become frustrated with this man (he relies on money from his brother for his entire short life - never getting a job yet always spending heavily) but you also feel sorry for him because he was truly tortured.  He does bring on many of his woes himself (he was always obstinate) but he is picked on by towns people wherever he went.  Not becomes truly famous until really after he died, I found his path to being one of the greatest artist we have ever know unbelievable.  I saw his work in person, and now I know what he was thinking when he made those paintings.  Truly amazing.

If you have a lot of time to kill but more importantly want to know more than you ever thought you did about Van Gogh - get this book.  It will be worth it - I promise.

Stars: 5

Our visit to the museum (you cannot take pictures inside)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

2021 Challenge: Books With A Green Cover: Range

 Book: Range

Author: David Epstein

Pages: 368

This is my 58th read for the year

A lot of people will argue that in order to be great at something - one must start early in life.  The book opens with the story of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer - two greats in their chosen sport - with two completely different paths.  What experts have found, however, is that starting early and becoming great is the exception - not the rule.

This book delvs deep into different stories of people who started late in their careers only to becomes some of the greats we know today (Van Gogh is talked about quite a bit).  Experts argue that the path to greatness is when those who on that path experience many interests along the way, not just one focus.  They weave a varied path to discovery of what they truly want to be.  And more often than not - crossing domains, instead of focusing solely on one area of study, leads to the greats in those fields.

This was a great book.  First - we lived in the same town that Roger Federer was from in Basel, and got to know a bit about him while we lived there.  What this book says about him (and the Swiss in general) - is spot on.  Roger was able to explore many sports and interest before settling on Tennis.  Even his parents really didn't want him to focus so much on one particular sport - encouraging him to not take things so seriously and just have fun.  He, and Van Gogh, and many other tops of the fields had similar courses to greatness which I found truly inspiring.  The message is - it is never too late to find a passion.  People who think broadly will increasingly thrive.  What a great message.

I encourage you to try this book.  I think you will be blown away by what the researchers found when they started to look into the past of famous and talented individuals, and it might encourage you to find your true calling in life.

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, June 10, 2021

2021 Challenge: Main Character Is A Librarin: The Librarian of Saint-Malo

 Book: The Librarian of Saint-Malo

Author: Mario Escobar

Pages: 384

This is my 57th read for the year

This is the story of Jocelyn during WWII in St. Malo, France.  Newly married when her husband gets called to the front, Jocelyn is left to protect her home and the library she works in.  She has to billet a German officer who is crude and takes great pleasure in beating the towns people.  Jocelyn looks for hope by writing letters to a famous author telling him how she plans to passively resist by doing her best to protect the towns people and her precious library.  Not wanting to leave her precious Saint - Malo, even when things look so dire, shows Jocelyn's will to protect what she holds most dear.

This is just an okay book.  I bought it for my mother and I because 1) I visited Saint Malo a few years ago to see the remaining devestation from that long ago war, and 2) my Uncle Joe was killed during the war in Saint Malo.  This is a small town in France, so not much is known about it, so imagine my excitement when I saw a book about the town AND a library all in one?  Except it is poorly written.  It is hard to follow because the book streams through 5 years in 300 pages with very little substance.  I didn't like any of the characters.  The writing was juvenille.  I was disappointed that there wasn't more about the city in general let alone a followable story.  Just a shame.

Skip this one
Stars: 2

2021 Challenge: A Character With A Disability: Out Of My Mind

 Book: Out Of My Mind

Author: Sharon Draper

Pages: 320

This is my 56th read for the year

This is the story of Melody.  A young girl with cerebral palsy.  She cannot walk.  She has never spoken. Yet she has hopes and dreams just like all other 11 year olds.  Her parents know how smart she is, yet it takes a kindly neighbor and a school aide to get her a voice so she can communicate.  Once she has a talking board, she can prove that she is smart and capable.  She proves that her disability does not define her and how much she has to contribute.

This was a pretty good book.  It is told in the voice of an 11 year old and would make a great book for teachers to read to students in the 3-5th grade range.  It is a book about tolerance and misunderstanding when someone sees someone who cannot walk or talk.  Melody proves that given the tools she needs, there is no stopping her.  She wants what most 5th graders want - cool clothes, friends, and to be included.

As a nurse I have taken care of countless kids with cerebal palsy - many who were just as capable as Melody.  I am a better person for knowing them.   I would encourage parents to read all kinds of books about all different kinds of disabilities to their children to help use become more understanding of those who are differenly abled.  It is a good lesson and this book a good place to start.

Stars: 4 

Monday, June 7, 2021

2021 Challenge: Ending That Surprised You: Woman In The Window

 Book: Woman In The Window

Author: AJ Finn

Pages: 464

This is my 55th read for the year

This is the story of Anna Fox.  Anna suffers from agoraphobia - hasn't left her house in almost a year.  Even the idea of going outside just a few steps sends her into a panic.  She fills her days watching old movies, drinking too much, and spying on her neighbors.  One night, she thinks she sees a woman murdered, and it sends her life into a tail spin.  She isn't even sure what she saw was real, but she needs to go out of her comfort zone, and out of her house, to find out.

this was an okay book.  I listened to it because I have endless hours to kill right now with projects and figured this would be entertaining enough to pass some time.  IT was.  I wasn't a big fan of "Girl on The Train" and this book reminded me a lot of that.  A borderline alcoholic character there and here - not a fan.  It was overdone. I think if I was reading this instead of listening to it, I would have been even more annoyed.  The book is a slow burn.  A very slow burn.  And the ending was a bit of a surprise, but nothing that I thought "oh my goodness!  I didn't see that coming!"

Eh.  For something that was a best seller, I expected it to be better. 

Stars: 3

Saturday, June 5, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book About Adoption: Far From The Tree

 Book: Far From The Tree

Author: Robin Benway

Pages: 400

This is my 54th book of the year

I am streaming through audiobooks right now because we are painting our entire first floor.  Our contractors are on a 2 week break from our remodel and told us it was time to paint.  5-6 hours a day of painting calls for endless audiobooks

This is the story of three siblings - Grace, Maya, and Joaquin. All three adopted when they were very young, they have no idea the other exists until Grace decides -  as a teenager who just had a baby of her own - to hunt for her biological family.  She is an only child until she finds Maya - her biological younger sister and Joaquin - her older brother.  All three had been searching for where they belong and finding each other brings all kinds of feelings to the surface that they will work through together.  All of them have loving adoptive families who have their backs while they work out their new normal together.

This was a pretty good book.  It was a quick listen and the writing was good.  Maya is witty with some pretty good lines.  There was a BIT too much drama, but with such a quick read, it didn't bother me much.  I liked the idea of the story and how they painted adoption in a positive light along with the realities of what that means for the child who was adopted.  

Check this one out - you won't be disappointed.

Stars: 4

Thursday, June 3, 2021

2021 Challenge: Graphic Novel: Sweet Tooth

Book: Sweet Tooth (volumes 1-3)

Author: Jeff Lemire

Pages:  Book 1 - 128, Book 2 -  

This is my 53rd book for the year
Just counting it as one

The Sweet Tooth Trilogy tells the story of Gus.  A hybrid child in a post apocolyptic world who has no idea that he is different.  He has been raised with his father in a cabine in the woods - never meeting another person.  A pandemic has struck the earth and all babies born after the pandemic hits are hybrids of animals and people - all different levels of intelligence.  The humans set out to kill all the hybrids, or bring them to scientist to study them and find out why all the humans are still dying while the hybrid children are thriving.

Gus' father dies and he meets a man named Jepperd who promises to help him.  For the first time, Gus (nicknamed Sweet Tooth for his love of chocolate) leaves the safety of his cabin and his woods and follows Jepperd into the world.  What follows is the discovery of other children like him, the people who want to help them and to harm them, and his quest to find out the truth of where he really came from.

This was a great series.  It is an acclaimed graphic novel and soon to be a Netflix series, so I wanted to check it out.  It was really good.  I became invested in the story (of course it is my favorite genre - dystopian) and the mystery surrounding Gus and his beginning and the hybrid children.  Once I read the first novel I quickly got the next two because I had to see how it ended and I was no disappointed.  It is a well told story and it wraps up in my favorite way - in the future with a follow up of the characters.  

If you like graphic novels, dystopian future stories and are curious about the Netflix show - check this out.  IT was a pretty quick read, and I am so glad I read it.

Stars: 4 1/2

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

2021 Challenge: Cover The Same Color As Your Birthstone (Red): Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

 Book: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?  Big Questions From Tiny Mortals

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Pages: 240

This is my 52nd book for this year

Caitlin is back answering questions that kids have asked about death and funerals.  Caitlin receives dozens of questions daily about death and decided to composite the most asked and blends her knowledge as an experienced mortician and known history to answer those questions.  Quesions like: does our hair and nails continue to grow?  What happens to astronauts if they die in space?  Do people poop when they die?  Can I have a Viking funeral.  She brings humor and science together and gets to the bottom of these pressing questions that even adults have.

Another excellent book by this author.  Caitlin is candid and knowledgable and it shows.  She does a terrific job explaining a lot of questions that kids (and let's face it - adults) have about death and what happens to bodies.  She takes her vast knowledge and forms it into understandable answers full of history and science.  You will find yourself smiling and laughing at some of the myths that she uncovers based on the questions she gets.  I learned a lot from all of her books, but feel that this was a good book to help answer some of those questions kids have.

Check out her series.  I hope she doesn't stop writing.  She is extremely talented and smart and I am glad I have found her books.

Stars: 5