Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Friday, March 24, 2023

Book: Unsweetined: A Memoir

 Book: Unsweetined: A Memoir

Author: Jodie Sweetin

Pages: 256

This is my 25th read for the year

This is Jodie's own story of her struggles with drugs and alcohol through her teens and twenties.  After 8 years as Stephanie Tanner on "Full House", Jodie found herself without a job and without a lot of friends.  At a wedding at age 13 she got her first taste of wine, and that started her down a path of destruction.  Spending the next 14 years in and out of rehab and struggling with meth, cocaine, and alcohol, Jodie recounts how the birth of her daughter at the age of 27 saved her life.  It took her being in charge of someone else to realize that her life had to change for good.

This was an interesting read.  Again - as I have written before - it is hard to review a book about someone who struggled so painfully with substance abuse.  While Jodie takes the blame more than other celebrities I have read about, she is still searching for the "why" of her situation.  This book was writte in 2009, and when I looked her up, it looks like she has been clean since that time and has turned her life around.

It was a quick read.  It started to lose steam near the end, but for the most part it was well written.

Stars: 3.5

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Book: We The Scientist: How A Daring Team of Parents and Doctors Forged A New Path For Medicine

 Book: We The Scientist: How A Daring Team of Parents and Doctors Forged A New Path For Medicine

Author: Amy Dockser Marcus

Pages: 256

This is my 24th read for the year

This is the story of how a group of parents - whose children were diagnosed with a fatal disease called Neimann Pick Type C - encouraged scientist to collaborate with them to find a cure for their children.  Scientist - who normally are tight lipped about their experiments and work - chose to work with parents to try a save the lives of these childrens.  Thus leading to the first "citizen scientists" that paved the way for other parent groups to collaborate with scientist on othe diseases.  While the cure for NPC has still not been found - the work of the parents along side of the scientist made progress that might not have otherwise been made if they did not work together pulling their resources and research toward one goal.

This was a good book.  I love a good non-fiction and one that has patient stories are among my favorites.  My husband has done with with NPC and we are very familiar with the rare disease world with our daughter having one of those rare diseases herself.  Our own foundation has been working closely with scientist on our daughter's disease for the last decade and we are grateful that the scientist in our case are so willing to work with us to find a cure.  

Well written, well researched and heart wrenching, this book is worth a read.  The stories of these families are tragic.  Children with NPC live around a maximum of 20 years, and most of those years are spent severely disabled.  Children who are born normally quickly start to lose function in their early years and their parents watch them wither away for years.  The work that these parents and researchers are doing to save these children is harrowing.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Book: The Children's Blizzard

 Book: The Children's Blizzard

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Pages: 368

This is my 23rd read for the year

This is the story of two young teachers - Raina and Gerda - and the students they are in charge of in an 1888 blizzard that hit northern Tennessee and South Dakota.  On an unusually warm January day, the weather quickly turned to a blizzard that the prarie was not expecting.  Caught at their individual schools with a group of children, these young women had to make a choice.  Barely beyond childhood themselves, they knew if they stayed at the schools, they might run out of heat before the blizzard past and they would all die.  When Raina makes one choice, and Gerda another - both lead to very different outcomes that will change their lives forever.  Told from the points of view of both Raina and Gerda plus a few other main character - this historical fiction book leads us through one of the most tragic blizzards of the time.

This was a very good book. I did not know anything about this blizzard, and while the characters are fiction, the circumstances (and the death of over 200 people) are not.  The book moves quickly through the blizzard, and I was tense the whole time wondering how Raina, Gerda, and the children in their charge were going to get through the blizzard unharmed.  The second half of the book is the "after" of the blizzard, and while I didn't find that as interesting as the build up and climax of the blizzard itself, it is still well written.  There is even an epilogue at the end, where we climb into the future of these characters which I always appreciate.

A well written, tragic tale that I am glad I read.  Don't miss this one.

Stars: 4.5

Monday, March 20, 2023

2023 Challenge: a Book That Becomes a TV Show/Movie in 2023: Anasi Boys

 Book: Anasi Boys

Author: Neil Gaiman

Pages: 368

This is my 22nd read for the year

This is the story of Fat Charlie.  This father has died, and he was just told he has a brother named Spider that he never knew about.  When Spider appears, he turns Charlie's life upside down.  Spider - who has the powers of Fat Charlie's dad (who was a god and Charlie never knew) makes a mess of Charlie's personal and work life before Charlie has a chance to stop him.  Needing help - Charlie enlist the help of the women who told him about Spider in the first place.  However - this plan backfires leading to Charlie and Spider having to work together to solve an even bigger problem.

This was a pretty good book.  This is the 2nd in the American God's series which I read a long time ago.  Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and I always enjoy his books.  This one did not disappoint.  It is well written with an engaging story.  Is it my favorite of his books?  Not at all - I would say it is one of his weaker novels.  But still well written and kept me entertained.   I am glad I read it.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 17, 2023

2023 Challenge: The Longest Book on my TBR List: The Lincoln Highway

 Book: The Lincoln Highway

Author: Amor Towles

Pages: 592

This is my 21st read for the year

This is the story of Emmet Watson and his brother Billy.  It is 1954 and they have recently lost their father, and their farm has been forclosed.  Emmet - after serving 15 months in a juvenile camp for involuntary manslaughter - has decided it is time for he and Billy to move on.  Billy has an idea that he and Emmet should go west to California to find their mother who left when Billy was just a baby.  Emmet is not so sure, but has no other plans.  Billy - an avid reader - wants to follow the Licnoln Highway across the country - knowing that the postcards that his mother sent them long ago, will lead them right to her.  Before they can set off, though, two of the boys that were in the juvenile camp with Emmet - show up and have other plans.  This story spans only 10 days - told from view points of several characters - sents Emmet and Billy on a journey they never expected.

I know this book has a lot of 5 star reviews, but I didn't enjoy it.  I really liked his other book - A Gentleman in Moscow - and was anxious to read this one after it received so much hype.  However - I found it hokey and just so so.  Based on the title, I expected this to be an open road journey book of Emmett and Billy, and even the other two juveniles - crossing the US on the Lincoln Highway.  But alas - the Lincoln Highway had about a 5 minute appearance in this book surrounded by constant thwarting of events before Emmett and Billy can start their journey.  And then it just.....ends.  I did finish the book despite me getting more and more frustrated with the direction of the book (so many repeated plot from different view points it got tiring) because I wanted to see it pan out.  And it never did.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Book: Unaccustomed Earth

 Book: Unaccustomed Earth

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Pages: 352

This is my 20th read for the year

This is a book for 8 short stories.  The first series are unrelated stories about families and couples who are mostly of Indian heritage who live and work in the United States.  They are Bengali's who are trying to combine their heritage with American culture.  The last set of stories are all related - a girl and a boy - told from each of their points of view - from when they were children through when they were adults and found each other again.

I enjoyed the book.  There is no doubt that Lahiri is a talented writer.  I am not a big fan of short stories because I never feel like I get enough of the characters to form feelings.  I was pleased that the last several stories were related, and enjoyed that part of the book most of all.  She is from around our area, (Boston), so she incorporates large parts of that city into her narrative which I liked.  

Overall another well written book by Lahiri.  This one has been on my shelf for awhile (it is one of her older novels)- given to me as a hand me down-and I am glad I finally decided to pick it up.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 3, 2023

2023 Challenge: A Book You Think Your Friends Will Life: Home

 Book: Home

Author: Penny Parkes

Pages: 400

This is my 19th read for the year

This is the story of Anna.  She is a woman in her 30s who has been a house sitter for the decade since she left Oxford.  She doesn't have a home she calls her own, but travels to beautiful places stepping into other people's lives whil caring for their homes and pets - meeting new people as she goes.  A bad encounter on one of her house sits, gets her boss set on having Anna take a break for awhile and take a real vacation.  But Anna's past as a foster kid who never found a real place to call home - struggles with the idea.  It takes a chance encounter with another young girl who is struggling, and the support of her best friend, to see that roots is exactly what she needs.

I really enjoyed this book.  The reviews are all over the place, but I was surprised by that.  I found Anna endearing and the banter between she and the other characters sweet, fun, and often times - humorous.  It is not a love story except that Anna learns to love herself and figure out what she needs to make herself happy.  It is sweet, well written, and I really enjoyed it.  I listened to it, and I thought that the reader did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life.

Stars: 4.5