Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, April 30, 2023

2023 Challenge: A Book That Came Out in Spring 2023: Hello Beautiful

 Book: Hello Beautiful

Author: Ann Napolitano

Pages: 390

This is my 37th read for the year

This story is about 4 sisters - Julia, Sylvie, Cecilia and Emeline.  They grew up inseparable in the 1980s.  When the eldest, Julia, meets William - a young man whose parents never cared for him - he doesn't know what to make of these sisters and their tight nit family.  He thinks he has finally found the family he has been longing for.  However - as Julia starts to lay out their life, a darkness finds William and changes the Padavano sister's lives forever.

This was a pretty good book.  I loved her first book - Dear Edward - and was happy to read another book by this talented author.  Julia the character was infuriating, as was the mother of the sisters, but Sylvie, Cecilia, and Emeline were lovely.  The closeness of these sisters was felt as you read through the chapters - each one told from a different view point of the 4 sisters or William.  It moves through 1960-2008.  In the beginning as the story pieces together, the time moves slower in the book.  But then in the end it starts to jump years at a time, and that part was a little "eh" for me.  Whole lives took place when, for example, a chapter was 1989-2003.  Such a large amount of time to take place in a short chapter.

That is my only complaint, though.  I would have liked a little more condensed story, but I know the author was trying to cover the adult lives of these characters and give a modern spin to the quite often mentioned "Little Women".  It just left me wanting more details.

Stars: 4

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Book: The Bookshop on the Corner

 Book: The Bookshop On The Corner

Author: Jenny Colgan

Pages: 384

This is my 36th read for the year

This is the story of Nina.  She lives in a city in England and works in a library.  Due to cuts in staff, she soon loses her job and has to decide what to do next.  As she and her co-workers talk about what their dream jobs would be, Nina reveals she would love to open a book shop.  With help from her friends, she decided to take a leap and buy a van to open a mobile book shop.  She buys this van in a sleepy town in the Scottish Highlands and soon falls in love with the landscape and people and decides to stay there with her shop.  She rents a beautiful converted barn and her life is looking up.  Even her grumpy landlord cannot break her spirits.  

A temporary move soon feels like it should be permanent as she discovers that the person she thought would be her least likely partner becomes the only person for her.

This was a cute book.  I love a book about books - what reader wouldn't?  Nina sounds like someone I would love to meet.  The town sounds like one right out of a Hallmark Movie (actually the whole story could be) and I would think that if I hadn't been to the Highlands myself.  It is idyllic and breathtaking, and the people were wonderful.  

This is a great summer read - sweet, charming, good story line but not overly challenging - just little feel good story.  Check it out.

Stars: 4 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Book: The Golden Spoon

 Book: The Golden Spoon

Author: Jessa Maxwell

Pages: 288

This is my 35th read for the year

This is a story of an annual very popular Baking Show that takes place in Vermont in a stately mansion of the baking show's host.  Betsy Martin is known as America's Grandmother, and even the contestants are in awe of her stardom when they meet her.  As the contest begins, things start to go awry and contestants feel like their bakes are being sabatoged.  As the contest continues, a body is discovered, and the group tries to figure out who the murderer might be.

This was an okay book.  First - it is very short, so I didn't get a chance to be overly invested in the characters.  Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different person, so we only get bits a pieces of each of their stories.  I didn't actually feel anything for most of the characters based on how little we learned about them.  The baking contest part of this book was fun - my daughter and I are Master Chef junkies (and I think this was supposed to be like British Bake Off though).  The book is an easy read, but I was hoping for more.  It was easy to figure out who the murderer was and the other shocking secret of the book.  It is a good read for the summer, so I would not count it out.  Just don't go in expecting a deep story.

Stars: 3.5

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

2023 Challenge: A Book That Came Out The Decade You Were Born: They

 Book: They

Author: Kay Dick

Pages: 128

This is my 34th read for the year

This is a book writen in the 1970s but takes places in a dystopian future where books are banned, people are silenced, and dissidents are captured and reprogramed.  Survivors gather and hide - trying to keep a low profile all while fighting against not being allowed to have an individual identity.

This was a very short read.  I always end up with one of these on my list each challenge, but my feeling for short stories has not changed.  I am always left with wanting more.  I go in to it hoping that in 100 pages a story can be told - in my opinion - but for me, it very rarely happens.  

Dick, though, was spot on to what would come - what always comes - when people are not allowed to be themselves.   I will never understand why so many feel that they need to control other people's narratives.  But like so often in history - that mentality never quite disappears.  Now we just have a bigger stage.

Stars: 3

Book: All Good People Here

 Book: All Good People Here

Author: Ashley Flowers

Pages: 320

This is my 33rd read for the year

This is the story Margot Davies.  She is back in her home town to look after her uncle who has early onset dementia.  When she returns to her hometown, she is brought back to 20 years before when her next door neighbor - a little girl named January - was killed and the killer never found.  While Margot is home visiting, another little girl goes missing from a near by town, and Margot - and the police - start to wonder if the cases are related.  Margot is now a reporter and decides to use her time to chase down any leads to connect the two cases and maybe uncover once and for all who killed January all those years ago.  What happens is she discovers things about the people in her small town that she never would have imagined.

This was an okay book.  I was actually enjoying it for the most part for over half the book.  I listened to this one, and was looking forward to chances to listen as I did yard work or walked the dogs.  But the ending - to me - just unraveled.  I was left hanging to the point of annoyance because it didn't make any sense.  There was an epilogue, so my guess is there isn't a sequel.  But my goodness - the ending just left you with too many questions to even make sense.  I was baffled.

Also - the author used "hitched their shoulders"  more than a dozen times.

Stars: 3

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Book: Finding Me: A Memoir

 Book: Finding Me: A Memoir

Author: Viola Davis

Pages: 304

This is my 32nd read for the year

This is the author's own story.  She grew up in Central Falls Rhode Island in the poorest of conditions.  She often didn't have running water or electricity or heat.  Often went to school smelling because they couldn't wash - and didn't know how.  Their apartment was rat infested, and because she was a black kid in an almost all white area, she was subject to taunting and teasing on a daily basis.

She and her siblings grew up in an abusive household with little to nothing to eat and hardly any supervision.  But a chance encounter changed Viola's direction and lead her to a love for acting.  It took her years to find herself and to find love for herself. 

I really enjoyed this book.  I had no idea she had such a rough start and that a few of her siblings are still struggling.  She talks openly about how bad it was, and how even now when she has money, her family asks and asks and asks, but she wants to give it to them.  Feels obligated.  I really respect Viola - I have always loved her as an actress since I saw her in The Help.  She glosses over her career and the aspects of it and focuses more on her life and her family in this book which I appreciated.  She speaks freely about how hard it is for people of color - especially those with dark skin like herself - to find varied roles in her business,  For a woman who just got an EGOT - she was humble and real in the book and I am glad I read it.

Stars: 4.5

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Book: Chance

 Book: Chance

Author: Matthew FitzSimmons

Pages: 315

This is my 31st read for the year

This is the story of Chance Harker.  Five years ago when he was sixteen, he and his brother were killed when a kidnapping for money went wrong.  Thanks to cloning that is available to the very rich, Chance is revived as a clone but wakes to grieving parents that are angry and bitter.  Chance spends the next 5 years doing death defying feats for his adoring fans running throuhg 5 clones without thinking of the consequences.

A week after his last revival he awakes to find out that he has been accused of murder.  Because his memories did not get refreshed before he was killed, he has no idea what happened and who he murdered or why.  This starts him on a path to get to the bottom of the reason he and Marley were kidnapped and killed all those years ago and this changes his path forward forever.

This is a second book in a series called "Constance".  I read the first one last year, and really enjoyed it.  A bit of a dystopian future novel - right up my alley - where people are able to keep clones in reserve at in case of their untimely death, but it is available only for the very rich.  The story of Constance from the first book and Chance here in the second are interwoven about half way through the book as Chance pieces together what lead to his and his brother's death.  It is well written I would say for about 3/4 of the book, but the ending unraveled a bit for me (writing quality wise), and then redeemed itself in the last few pages.  It is left on a bit of a cliff hanger, so my thought (and hope) is there will be a 3rd book eventually.

Good science fiction series and a short book..

Stars: 4

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Book: The House in the Pines

 Book: The House In The Pines

Author: Ana Reyes

Pages: 336

This is my 30th read for the year

This is the story of Maya.  When Maya was a senior in high school, her best friend Aubrey died mysteriously in front of her and Maya's ex-boyfriend, Frank  Now - 7 years later, Maya sees a news story online where her ex-boyfriend, Frank, is with a girl who dies mysteriously at a diner.  Maya - whose memories of Aubrey's death and the time surroudning it are hazy at best, feels that Frank must be responsible for both deaths.  She sets out to get to the bottom of it by returning to her home town and piecing together the parts that seem to be missing and finds herself back to the trauma that shaped her whole life and lead to an alcohol and drug addiction that she can't quite seem to kick.

Her return to her past brings up so many memories of her childhood and time with Aubrey and while she tries to figure out what is happening with Frank, she starts to heal herself so that she can finally move on.

This was an okay read.  I knew right away who the bad guy was going to be, but it took awhile for the story to unfold with the why and how.  There aren't really any crazy twists and turns, and I would not characterize this as a thriller (even though I think that was its intention).  It is a bit far fetched and a little out there, but I did want to read it to the end to see where it was going.  Ending fell a bit flat.

Would I recommend?  Probably not.  But if you are looking for an easy read to just pass some time, it might peak your interest.

Stars: 3 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Book: The People's Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine

 Book: The People's Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine

Author: Ricardo Nuila

Pages: 384

This is my 29th read for the year

This is the author's retelling of different patients he has encountered as a doctor at Ben Taub hospital.  Ben Taub is a public hospital in Houston Texas that caters to the poorest and neediest patients.  Often a last stop for those who are un or under insured - Ben Taub is there to help these patients get the care they need after they are turned away everywhere else.

Dr. Nuila takes us through the stories of 5 patients that stood out to him over his years at the hospital.  He weaves together their stories from beginning to end - retelling their desperation for care when they could not afford it.  The sickest of the sick are often the under or uninsured, and Dr. Nuila and his co-workers are there to give them the care they need at the same level as if they were wealthy.  Between those stories, Dr. Nuila talks about a broken health care system in where so many fall between the cracks when they cannot afford the care they need.  That even those with insurance - it often isn't enough.

This was a good book.  I am well aware of our terrible health care system and how even those of us with top line insurance it still doesn't mean it is perfect by any means.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to need life saving surgery and have to pay for most if not all of it just to stay alive.  Or not even be seen when they find out you don't have insurance.  It would cause so much anxiety.  The Dr. does a good job at stating the facts of the system and keeping his opinion to a minimum.  He talked passionately about his love for public hospitals and the clientle they service and how important those hospitals are.  I am glad I read this book.

Stars: 4

Friday, April 7, 2023

Book: In Her Shadow

 Book: In Her Shadow

Author: Mark Edwards

Pages: 367

This is my 28th read for the year

This is the story of Jessica.  Her sister, Isabel died 4 years ago from a fall from her home balcony.  As the family has come to terms with her death, Jessica's young daughter, Olivia starts acting strangely.  Tells Jessica that her Aunt Izzy has been talking to her - telling her she didn't fall, but that she was pushed.  This sends Jessica on a whirlind to find out the truth about her sister, and as everyone who was in Isabel's life becomes a suspect, Jess becomes more convinced that Izzy has chaneled herself through Olivia to help get to the truth.

This book was not great.  I listened to it, figured it might be an entertaining story while I did yard work.  I didn't really care for any of the characters.  The men are all terrible.  The plot is slow.  The unraveling of the mystery becomes sluggish.  I would say the first 1/4 of the book held my interest, and then it began to unravel.  I wanted to quit but decided to see where it was going, and it just ended badly.  

Do not recommend

Stars: 2

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

2023 Challenge: A Book Bought At An Independent Bookstore: The Last Lie Told

 Book: The Last Lie Told

Author: Debra Webb

Pages: 315

This is my 27th read for the year

This is the story of Finley O'Sullivan.  A year ago her husband was murdered right in front of her, and she was beaten and raped by the murderers - not expected to survive.  A lawyer by trade, when she recovered and tried to go back to work, she has a psychological break and was let go from her position.  Her family friend, Jack, a private investigator hired her to work for him and help solve cases.  While Finley is determined to find the people who murdered her husband, Jack turns her onto an old case that has recently been reopened.  The Legard family's patriarch was murdered several years ago and the man who was convicted of that murder wants to provide new evidence.  Says he didn't do it.  Jack and Finley start the process of opening up the case and interviewing the family and friends and others involved to try and find ou what happened. One twist after another finally comes to a head when the real story of what happened to this family is brought to light.

This was a decent book.  I picked it up while shopping at our in town bookstore, and when I saw the main character was named Finley like my daughter, I decided to read it.  It isn't superbly written, but it kept me entertained.  Took me until about half the book to figure out the mystery.  I might be a little slower than others on that point.  It wrapped up decently, and I found out that this is a triology so Iwill be reading the next book for sure because loose ends were left at the end of this one.  

If you like a murder mystery - you might want to check this one out.

Stars: 3.5

Monday, April 3, 2023

Book: Moloka'i

 Book: Moloka'i

Author: Alan Brennert

Pages: 400

This is my 26th read for the year

This is the story of Rachel Kalama.  When she was 7 years old, she contracted Leprosy.  In the late 1800s, so little was known about the disease, so people were separated from their family and friends.  In Hawaii, the residents were sent to the island of Moloka'i to a settlement called Kalaupapa.  There - a scared little girl was placed first with her uncle, who was also infected, and then in a home for girls with the nuns at the island.  And there she would remain for almost her entire life.  When she first arrived, it seemed like a death sentence.  She was separated from a family she didn't think she would ever see again.  But over the years, it became her home and the people of Kalaupapa and Moloka'i became her family.  

This was a great book.  It was recommended to me by a friend and I am so glad I read it.  It is a rich story that covers Rachel's enitre life.  It is well written, the characters likeable, and the story heartbreaking as well as uplifting.  Among the fiction is the true story of this island and that it did house the Leprosy patients at that time.  In the 1980s this area of Moloka'i was designated a national historic park.  To this date there are still a few surviving people with Leprosy that live in Kalaupapa.

Check it out

Stars: 5