Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book #80 - Humans of New York

My last book of the year.  I think this was a good one to end 2016 on.

The book is Humans of New York.

Mat got me this book for Christmas.  It wasn't on any of my lists - he just thought I would like it and he was right.  It is a photographic story that was started in 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton.  Brandon went to many of the neighborhoods in New York to capture the people who lived there.  There were several stories that accompanied the stories.  This book is a result of his blog, which has millions of followers.

The book is beautiful.  I grew up going to New York City several times a year - taking in the sites with my family, and also attending countless Broadway Shows.  One of my first cousins grew up to become a Broadway actress, and she is still there today.  Now that I have my own family, we continue the tradition into New York City with our kids.

This book captures New York City perfectly.  The wide variety of people who live there and who are not afraid to live out loud never ceases to amaze me.  Me - always being one who isn't comfortable with my own skin - always envy those who are.

This book is a quick read, but if you are looking to see some amazing pictures and hear some incredible stories of real people, I encourage you to grab this book and give it a read.  It is something I will treasure for years to come and constantly look at when I need a smile.

Stars: 5

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Challnege - Book #79 (Extra Book) - The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

A second book my mother recommended was

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

She really liked this one so she bought a copy for me.

This is the story of Julia who goes to Burma in search of the father that abandoned her and her mother.  She has never forgiven him but wanted to know why.  She has found a love letter among her father's things, to a woman she has never known.  Julia need to know the answer to her father's disappearance from her life, so she heads to the village where the woman supposedly lives.

She meets a man who promises to tell her the story of her father and who knows of the woman, so she agrees to listen if it means she gets her answers.  In listening to the story, she uncovers her father's past and a love that spanned a lifetime.

I thought this book was wonderful.  I had a hard time putting it down, because I was enjoying listening to the story of Julia's father's childhood and how he met the love of his life.  Julia's father was blind as a child for many, many years, and since my own daughter is legally blind, this hit a cord.   I enjoyed reading his resilience to his sudden blindness and how he still found friendship, and love.  And in the end, we learn who the man is and how he knows the story of Julia's father which ended the book perfectly.

I encourage you to pick up this book and read it.

Stars: 5

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #78 (Extra Book) - The Book Club

I still had a few weeks before the end of the year, so I kept reading.  My mom had lent me two books, and I was able to finish them both off.

The first one was called The Book Club

This is the story of five women who are in a Book Club together.  They are friends, but just barely.  There is Eve, whose husband sudden death sends her entire family into a tailspin and upends her very cozy lifestyle.  There is Annie, who is an attorney, who is trying to have children a little later in life, and it isn't going well.  Doris views the Book Club as a support group - she is trying to save her marriage until she is faced with her husband's betrayal.  Gabriella is the sweet innocent nurse whose husband loses her job, and instead of helping herself, she takes extra shifts to support her family while her husband stays out of work for a year.  And there is Midge who is an artist who is not married and has no kids, but has to deal with her over barring mother who decides to move back to Chicago to be near her daughter.

These five women come from different walks of life, but in the end, they see how much they need each other.  It becomes more than a book club - it is a support group for these ladies at the turning points in their lives.

I liked this book.  My mom deemed it "just okay", and I agree with her.  It was a nice easy read during a busy holiday month.  The writing was just so/so, but it passed the time.

If you are looking for a beach read, this may be a good one for you.

Stars: 3

Friday, December 16, 2016

Extra book (#77) - A Bizarre of Bad Dreams

After that last book, I needed myself a good read.  I walked into our local bookstore, and saw this Stephen King book, and thought it sounded good.  It is a book of short stories, so there is no way to review it except to just tell you all but about 2 of them were great.

The stories range from anywhere from about 10 pages-50 pages.  One of the longer ones is one of the ones I didn't like much - it just seemed to drone on.  But like I said, most stories in this 700 page book were good.

What I liked the most is before each short story, Stephen King did a small introduction about when he wrote the story and how it came about.  It gave me a little more insight into one of my favorite authors.  It helped me understand his thought process for the story he was writing, and I thought that was great.

Give this one a try.  Because it is short stories, you could pick a few and read them, and put it down and come back to it whenever you want.


Stars: 4 1/2

Extra book (book #76) - Come Home

My challenge may be done, but my love for reading hasn't ended!  I still had several weeks to go, so I picked up a few books I couldn't fit into the challenge - things that friends lent me.

Today is about the book - Come Home

This is the story of a divorced mother who is finally getting her life back on track after a bad divorce.  She is about to remarry, has a job as a pediatrician, and her daughter is a happy teenager.  Things take a turn when her ex-stepdaughter, Abby, shows up at her house one night claiming that her dad was murdered and begs Jill to help.  Jill agrees - even though her fiance doesn't approve - and finds that things don't add up.  It does look like her ex-husband's death was not accidental.  The further involved she gets with her ex-stepdaugher's life and the supposed murder, the more in danger she becomes.

I didn't like this book at all.  It was truly awful.  The characters were boring, and I rolled my eyes more than once at the constant "I love yous" and hugs these people had for each other.  It was overkill and poorly written.  I just have nothing good about it.  I understand this author has a lot of other good books, and I put one on my challenge for next year, but after reading this....I might re-think it.

Stay away.

Stars: 1 (and that is generous

Sunday, November 27, 2016

2017 Challenge

Now that it is nearing December, and I have read all of my books for 2016, it was time to make my list for 2017.
I wanted to try and read 75 books again.  It is hard to find that many categories in one challenge (and Goodreads only does a 50 book challenge each year), so I had to kind of piece the categories together.  It was harder than I thought to get 75 DIFFERENT categories than I did last year.

There are a few categories I still need to add books to.  Some I won't choose until we get into the year, but most I have filled.

This year I have decided it was time to tackle more classics.  I am not sure this was a wise choice - only time will tell.  I read a lot of things I liked in 2016, but I tried to make it easy on myself for a lot of the categories.  Wanted to make sure I finished the challenge.  So this year - I am going to make it more about quality than quantity, and STILL try to read all 75.  We shall see how that goes.

So here are the categories, and the books I have chosen so far.  (I linked the books to an amazon page so if you want to know what the book is about - just click on the book name and it will lead you to it!)

1. A Memoir: Orange is the New Black
2. A Book About a Curse or Prophecy: The Solomon Curse
3. A Book That Is Over 500 Pages: A Clash of Kings
4. A National Book Award Winner: Inside Out and Back Again
5. A New York Times Best Seller: The Girl On The Train
6. A Book That Is Becoming a Movie in 2017: Ready Player One
7. A Book Written By a Celebrity: Seriously.....I'm Kidding
8. A Political Memoir: Hard Choices
9. A Science Fiction Novel: Dune
10. A Book Published in 2017:  TBA
11. A Book With A Protagonist that Has Your Occupation: Promise Not To Tell
12. A Book That Takes Place In The Summer: The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh
13. A Murder Mystery: Chaos
14. A Book Written By A Comedian: I Know I Am But What Are You
15. A Book With A Blue Cover: The Age Of Miracles
16. The First Book You See In A Bookstore: End of Watch
17. An Autobiography: The Story Of My Life
18. A Book About A Road Trip: Travels With Charley
19. A Book About A Culture You Are Unfamiliar With: Three Cups of Tea
20. A Book That Takes Place On An Island: Utopia
21. A Book You Pick Up Randomly Off The Shelf of the Library: TBA
22. A Book About A Historical Event: Maus - My Father Bleeds History
23. A Western Book: Lonesome Dove
24. A Book With A Wacky Pun In The Title: Bored of the Rings
25. A Book That is More Than 150 Years Old: Uncle Tom's Cabin
26. A Book That Someone Tells You "Changed Their Life": TBA
27. A Book Recommended By A Family Member: Small Great Things
28. A Book About Finance: The Book On Rental Property Investing
29. A Book By An Author You Have Never Read Before: The Ocean At The End of The Lane
30. A Book With A Great First Line: Everything I Never Told You
31. A Book That Is 10 Years Old: The Name Of The Wind
32. A Book Set In Canada: Hatchet
33. A Book With A Map In The Front: At Home In Mitford
34. A Book With A Character That Has a Disability: Mockingbird
35. A Classic You Haven't Read Before: Walden
36. A Book That Intimidates You: Middlemarch
37. A Book About Non-Western History: Hungry Ghost: Mao's Secret Famine
38. A Book About An Indigenous Culture: The 500 Years of Resistance
39. A Book About Women In War: The Girl You Left Behind
40. A Book About An Immigrant/Refugee To The US: Christ In Concrete
41. A Book About A Post-Apocalyptic Fiction By A Woman: Into The Forest
42. A Book About Anything You Want - Free Choice: TBA
43. A Book You Borrow (from Person - Not Library): Don't Go
44. A Book With A Really Long Title: You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You are Deluding Yourself
45. A Book With a Duplicate Worth In The Title: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
46. A Book About Sports: Friday Night Lights
47. A Book You Think Looks Boring: Crime and Punishment
48. A Book With Royalty In It - Real or Imaginary: Cinder
49. A Book You Read Outloud to Someone Else: TBA
50. A Book From Rory Gilmore's Reading List: Christine
51. A Crime Novel: The Daughter of Time
52. A Book About An Antihero: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
53. A Book Recommended By Your OLDEST family member: Ladies Detective Agency
54. A Book You Saw Someone Reading In Public: Choosing to See
55. A Book About Something You Love: A Thousand Days In Tuscany
56. A Book About A Conspiracy Theory: The Ninth Orphan
57. A Book You Couldn't Fit In Last Year's Challenge: Covered Wagon Women
58. A Book Set On Another Continent: Endurance - Shackleton's Journey
59. A Book That Is A Saga: East of Eden
60. A Non-Fiction Book About Science: Packing For Mars 
61. A Book With A Number In The Title: The Thirteenth Tale
62. A Book Based On Greek/Roman Mythology: The Lost Hero
63. A Newberry Award Winner: El Deafo
64. A Nonfiction Book About History: Alexander Hamilton
65. A Book Whose Story Span Generations: One Hundred Years Of Solitude
66. A Book With A Country or City Name In The Title: A  Walk In The Woods
67. A Book With A Fruit In The Title: If Life Is A Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing In The Pits
68. A Book By One of Your Favorite Authors:
69. A Book About Ancient History: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
70. A Book Where The Author Has A Mental Health Issue: Wasted
71. A Book That Won An Award For The Best Translation: A Man Called Ove
72. An Author's Final Book: Go Set A Watchman
73. A Book With The Word Grand In The Title: The Grand Sophy
74. A Book About a Career You Admire: Baby Catcher - Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
75. A Book About Native Americans: The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian

Saturday, November 26, 2016

DONE - 75 books read

I am DONE!  I have read 75 books - which was my challenge for this year.  I had 73 categories to put books in, plus I read two extra books of my choice.  (and I am working on #76 right now).

This was a big challenge for me.  It is the most books I have ever read in a year.  I tried to pick a lot of books around the 300 page or less sizes to help me make it, but I did read quite a few 500 plus books as well.  Pretty proud of my accomplishment.

I have already picked my categories for next year's challenge, and I am looking forward to starting those in January.  I chose a few harder - and bigger - books for next year, and quite a few more "classics".  I let myself off easy this year, so we will see how it goes.  Next year I picked 75 true categories, but there are a few categories I have not filled yet (and won't until the year begins), so that gives me a little wiggle room to pick a few books later on.

I think this year, I only changed one book out of the 73 categories.  Meaning - a book I had picked late in 2015 that I thought I would like, got into it, and just could not make myself read it for any reason.  Not bad considering I never know what I am getting into.

I am so glad I started this type of reading two years ago.  After being in a rut for a very long time, and just walking around the book store/library with no direction, it gave me a way to read books I would have never chosen on my own.  There are so many amazing books out there that I would never have given a second look to if I had not added them to a category in the challenge.

If you are in a reading rut, I challenge you to give this a try.  You don't have to read 75 books.  You don't even have to read 50.  You could look at the different reading challenges that are out there, and pick one that is right for you - whether it is 10 books or 1000.  Make your own challenge by taking a few different categories from different reading lists.  That is why I did for the 2017 challenge.  (there are not many out there to read 75 books or more).  It gave me a little control but still had me reading outside of my comfort zone.  A perfect combination.

The most important thing you take away from all of this is to read.  Don't let reading ever leave your life.  So many young people say "why do we need libraries?  Libraries are obsolete".  We must fight to make sure that is NEVER made true.  The time we stop reading and books stop being important is the time where life has truly taken a dark turn.

Get out there and read.  Learn!  Knowledge is power.

2016 Challenge - Book #73 - The Righteous Mind

Today I am reviewing the LAST book that was in a category for 2016.  (73 categories, and 2 "extra books" is what I wanted to read this year).  I cannot believe I made it!  And still a month to spare - so I will be adding a few more books I am sure before the year ends.  We will see how that goes - December is a busy month.

The book is - The Righteous Mind - why good people are divided by religion and politics

This was under the category: A Book Involving Politics

This book was written by a social psychologist who tries to challenge conventional thinking about politics, morality, and religion.  His life's work was on morality, and he sets out to prove that judgement arise from not only reason, but from personal feelings.  He talks about how liberals and conservatives have such different views on right and wrong.  What he proves is that both sides are actually right about their central concerns.

This book was just okay.  I actually had a hard time with a lot of it because it read like a drone manual.  Just a lot of.....blah.  It would get very wordy and very technical, but never really went anywhere in large sections of the book.  There were a few things that were interesting spattered here and there in the book, but for the most part.....I just worked to get it over with.

I don't recommend it.  I think there are probably better books out there about the divide of religion and politics.  This one just never really did much and took too long to get to the point in most chapters.

Stars: 1

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #72 - Brazzaville Beach

Today's book review is called Brazzaville Beach

It was under the category: A Book Written By A Man with a Female Character

This is the story of a chimp researcher, Hope,  who relocates to Africa after her husband succumbs to mental illness and they separate.  She goes to Africa and dives into her research but another crisis develops which threatens her career and her life.  She is watching chimp behavior when she discovers behaviors that conflict with her boss's research.  No one believes her when she reports her finds, and soon she finds her life and her career being threatened by the researchers around her.

While we are thrown into Hope's story as a researcher, the story also travels back in time to the beginning of Hope's relationship with her husband and his dissent into madness.  These two stories together help the reader discover why hope came to Africa in the first place, and what makes her return to London in the end.

This was a pretty good book.  I really enjoyed the sections about the chimp research and chimp behaviors.  It also helped push the story along when the author gave us the background of Hope and what lead to her work in Africa.  The transfer from past to present flows easily in this book.

I definitely would recommend this one.  It isn't a large book, and it isn't a hard read.  Check it out.

Stars: 4

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #71 - The Secret Garden

Today's book is

The Secret Garden

It was under the category:  A  Classic Children's Book

This is a story of a little orphan girl named Mary Lennox who was sent to a mansion in Yorkshire to live with her uncle and cousin.  Mary had grown up a spoiled child and when she went to live with her uncle, she finds that he wants nothing to do with her.  Her cousin has been tucked away as well, and he and Mary become close friends through their isolation from the world.  Hidden behind a huge wall is a secret garden which was discovered by Mary.  The garden has been neglected so Mary and Colin set to bringing it back to life.  While working in the garden, both Colin and Mary become healthier and happier.

This was good book.  All the main characters are sort of forgotten in one way or another, and this story was about bringing life and growth through love.  It has a great lesson about the importance of hope in life and how important it is to care for one another

This is a great book for children/teens.  It was written in 1911, so the style of writing is not what kids these days would be used to, but I do think they would still enjoy it.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 Challenge - book #70 - The Story of Jane

70 books!  Whoo hoo!!  This is definitely a new record for me.

Today's review is for

The Story of Jane

This book was under the category:  A Book About Feminism

This is the true story of the underground abortion group from the late 60s, early 70s called Jane.  In a time before abortion was made legal by Roe vs. Wade, women had nowhere to turn if they found themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.  The women in Jane wanted to help these women and promote a feminist movement at the same time.  The wanted to have control of their own lives and their own bodies, and not have the government dictate what they could/could not do with a private matter.  By the time Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal, Jane had helped several thousand women get health care they could not have gotten without this group.

I know this is a controversial issue, and no matter which side you stand on - this was a good book.  It has a lot of good points about the way women were treated mid-century and how we are still fighting a lot of battles still today.  It took a group of women to say "no more" to make changes in this country in relation to women and their bodies.  You simply cannot shut out people because you feel differently than they do - there are two sides to every story.  It was a good book and told well.  You saw the positive aspects of the group, but also the side where many women came and went from the group over the years due to changes in the hierarchy.

Worth a read - check it out.

Stars: 4

Monday, November 14, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #69 - One for the Money

They just keep coming!!  I read a bunch of shorter ones/ones I wasn't thrilled about in a row here, so bare with me.

This is

One For The Money

It was under the category: A  Book With A Word Play In The Title

This is the story of Stephanie Plum - she has money problems, so she turns to her family for help.  She starts working for her cousin who owns a bail bonds company.  She talks her cousin into letting her take a bail recovery job of a person who is running from a Murder One charge, so she can earn $10,000.  The criminal ends up being someone she slept with when she was in high school - Joe Morelli.  Other characters join the chase, and Stephanie realizes she is in over her head.

This book was pretty good.  It was funny and kept me interested.  It is quick, light reading, so that made it enjoyable.  There was humor and romance, but the plot did fall short.  But not to the point that I didn't want to finish the book.

Stars: 3

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #68 - Fireflies

Today's book:


This is under the category:  Historical Fiction set before 1900

This is the story of a young boy named Ennis.  He lives with his parents and his 6 siblings in Pennsylvania.  Since his birth, Ennis has been followed by lost souls.  But nothing comes to light until he is 6 years old and helps a hurt bird by healing it.  His sister, Teagan, witnesses this but tell Ennis that he can never tell anyone what happened.  One day, Teagan is injured badly, and Ennis heals her.  At this time, his sister thinks they must tell their parents because she does not understand what is happening.

Their mother dismisses the claim that Ennis is healing people until she and their father witness it for themselves.  Soon Ennis reveals he has a gift of sight and soon starts questioning his parents about their past voyage to America from Ireland.  And he can see that a neighbor is physically hurting his children.  His gifts start to bring many past secrets to light, and soon Ennis realizes the connection between his father's past and the reason for his gifts.

This is a pretty decent story.  It moves pretty fast.  The writing isn't great - seems to be written for middle grade readers.  She does a good job developing the characters.  At the end of the book, it left me wanting to know what happened to them, so I took that as a good sign.  The author wasn't consistent with her writing - the characters were immigrants from Ireland.  Sometimes she would write as they had an Irish accent, and sometimes she wouldn't.  It was like she forgot whom was speaking.  But, if you can overlook that, it is a sweet story.

Stars:  3

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #67 - Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence

Today I am reviewing

Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence

This was under the category:  A book that takes place on a continent that isn't America or Europe

This is the true story of three young Aboriginal girls who were taken from their families and put in a Native Settlement in Australia.  The reason they were taken was because they were "half caste" (their fathers were white), and they were being forced to be "made white".  They were 100s of miles away from their families, but they decided to escape.  The knew there was a rabbit proof fence that would lead them back home, and if they found that, they would get back to their parents.

This book was very poorly written.  It was unorganized and confusing and I had a very hard time getting into it.  It took half of the 160 pages to even get to the story of the girls, and then it raced through their escape and return home.  The book was so jumbled that I was sure it was written by a child.  There is no plot development, no character was just a jumbled mess.  The author switched back and forth between using Aboriginal words and English words, but never really takes the time to explain what the Aboriginal words meant.  She wrote it as if all readers would know what she was talking about.

Just poor.  Don't bother.

Stars: 1

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #66 - Life on the Refrigerator Door

Today's book is

Life on the Refrigerator Door

This was in the category:  An Epistolary Book

This is a story of a mother and daughter who don't get to see each other very often.  They leave each other notes on their refrigerator door as a way of communication.  The mom - a physician - works odd hours, and the daughter - a teenager - spends so much time with her friends outside of school that the two hardly talk.

Then a family tragedy strikes, and as much as the mother and daughter try to make more time for each other, they just can't seem to make that happen.  Their are many regrets and things that are left unsaid.

This was a very quick book.  Each page was a note from one person or the other - took me no longer than an hour to read the whole book.  It was fine.  I got the idea - never put off spending time with your loved ones.  Nothing is more important.  I liked that the whole story unfolded just through notes left back and forth between the mother and daughter, but they could have made it more in depth.  I didn't get very attached to the characters with the story written this way.

If you are looking for a really, really fast read, you can pick up this book.  I wouldn't spend money on it - if you can't borrow it, then skip it.

Starts: 2 1/2

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #65 - The Fifth Season

Today I am reviewing

The Fifth Season

This is in the category: First Book In A Series By A Person Of Color

This is a story that takes place in a world called "The Stillness" which is a world that has suffered many different seasons and catastrophes.  The story is told by three different narrators who are known as orogenes - people who have power to move the earth.  Orogenes are not well admired or liked.  Most of them have to be trained to control their powers, and some are in hiding pretending to be something different than they are.  The story starts with Essun - whose husband has just murdered their son and run off with their daughter.  She starts on a journey to find her husband and daughter during a time when a seismic activity has just happened and a new Season begins.  Her story is told along side Syenite a young orogene who is becoming more powerful and is on a journey with the most power orogene alive, and Damaya who is a child orogene who was just discovered and brought to the Fulcrum to begin her training.  Over the course of the book, their stories converge but not in the way you were expecting.

I liked this book.  Didn't love it.  I have a hard time with authors who make up words for the sake of making them up.  It is like they are trying too hard to develop a world.   The stories of the three narrators jumps around quite a bit as well.  Especially for Syenite's character.  We find out she is pregnant, and the next thing - it is two years later.  She jumps forward quite a bit for two of the narrators, but not so much with the third.  The story gets bogged down with her crazy words and technical speak.  I really wanted to like it - I am usually a fan of post-apocolyptic fantasies.  But this one just didn't work.

Stars: 3

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #64 - If

Today I am revewing:


It is under the category: A Book About Religion

This book talks about getting people to transform their "if only" attitudes with "What if" possibilities.  The author talks about how he tries to live his life in the "what if" category - always looking for new opportunities around every corner.  He talks about overcoming doubt, guilt and fear to live the life God intended for you.

I am not very religious, but I enjoyed most of this book.  Were there a few moments where I rolled my eyes?  Yes.  Do I think much of pastors that have "super churches"?  Not usually.  Of course, the book was from the point of view of the author, but honestly, he didn't seem much like the usual super church pastors.  He gives millions to missions and charity work.  He lives in a comfortable townhouse and owns a car with 200,000 miles on it.  So maybe (maybe) in this case - he is not the typical TV pastor we all come to dislike.

I did agree with many of the points he tried to make.  How we should be living a life taking chances and making the best of any situation.  I think it was a good read, and while I felt like there were many passages where he rambled and said the same thing several times in a row, the main idea was clear.

Stars: 3 1/2

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #63 - It's Kind Of A Funny Story

Today I am reviewing

It's Kind Of A Funny Story

It is under the category: A Book Where The Main Character Has a Mental Illness

This is the story of Craig Gilner who is a teenager in a high profile high school in New York City.  He worked very hard to get into a Pre-Professional High School to keep him on track to get into a good college.

The stress starts to take it's toll, and Craig starts to consider killing himself.  He hasn't been able to sleep or eat well in weeks, and really feels like he is spiraling out of control.  He makes a plan one night that the next day he will kill himself.  But instead, he called the suicide hotline and gets himself to the emergency room a few blocks away.  He is admitted to the hospital's psych ward for an inpatient 5 day stay.  During that stay he learns a lot about himself, his friends, and others with mental illness.

This book was fine.  I understood where it was coming from, and I liked its message.  I liked that the main character decided to seek help and not commit suicide.  And that he was able to pull himself out of his lowest low and start working toward healing.

What I DIDN'T like was how "hunky dory" they made his 5 day stay on a mental ward.  He made friends and fell for a girl.  It seemed to stray from the point of the story.  He was there to heal and get better (a theme his doctors continued to preach throughout the book, yet he ignored).  He was there 5 days and the relationships he developed were as if he was there for years.  They just didn't make sense.  Maybe it was because the main character was a teenager, and this was a teenager mentality - that it wouldn't only take 5 days to latch on to "others like you".  But I think the story was a bit too "happy" to be realistic.  This was a kid who was committing suicide.  Had a lot of problems - from not being able to eat, to not sleeping, to not taking his medication.  No way in 5 days did he basically become 100% better.

Anyway - judge for yourself.  Like I said - the message was there.  It was just hidden under fluff.

Stars: 2

Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Book Challenge - Book #62 - And Then There Were None

Today's book

And Then There Were None

This is under the category:  A  Famous Book

This is an Agatha Christie classic about a group of 10 people lured to Indian Island by an various pretext.  Once they are gathered in the house, they are prompted to listen to a gramaphone recording in which all of the people in the group are accused of murdering someone.  They have all escaped punishment for their crimes.  The group quickly panics and tries to find out who the killer is.  In the mean time, they are slowly killed off - one by one in accordance with the "10 Little Indians" nursery rhyme that is displayed all throughout the house.  The group becomes more and more afraid of being alone and sure that one among them is the killer.

This was a pretty good book.  Believe it or not, I have never read an Agatha Christie book before.  I did enjoy this book.  It took me awhile to get used to the writing -since it was written in the 30s.  It was a quick read, and pretty entertaining.  Lots of "!", which I found funny.  My husband is always yelling at me for my over use of those, but yet here is one of the most famous writers of all time using them constantly.

I would recommend it.  It isn't very scary - probably because it was written in the 30s - it doesn't compare to scary today.  But it did leave you wondering who the killer was.  And when it is revealed, you definitely didn't see it coming.

Stars: 4

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #61 - Laughing At My Nightmare

Today I am reviewing

Laughing At My Nightmare

This is under the category: An award winning non-fiction book

This is a story about Shane Burcaw - the author - who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  At the time of the book he is 21 years old and has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 3.  He covers issues that are related to the every day teen/young adult, but also talks about what it is like to have a life threatening disease.  Shane loves sports, video games, and hanging with his friends.  He talks light heartedly about dealing with everyday issues from a wheelchair and how it affects him as his condition worsens.  He reminds us that it is not worth making mountains out of molehills - especially with situations that are not in our control.

I enjoyed this book.  It was definitely written by a young adult male - lots of bathroom humor and crude language.  But it didn't distract from the message of the book and the story he had to tell.  You don't often seen people who are in their 20s and still alive with SMA.  It was interesting to hear about the disease from his perspective.

The book was written a few years ago, and I did look up his blog, and he is still doing well.  Still living a full life with his limited time remaining.  Good message for us all.

Star:S 4 1/2

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #60 - Yellow Wallpaper

Another one I missed reviewing!  At least I am catching up.  You know you are excited.

Today's book is "Yellow Wallpaper"

It was under the category: A Book Under 100 Pages

This book was written by a woman who was depressed and sent to the country to rest.  The woman wants to be a writer, but her husband and doctor feel that she just needs to rest and relax so that she can get back home to her children.  But instead of resting, she is confined to a room in a house with "hideous" yellow wallpaper where she descends into madness.

This is a very short book that was originally written in 1892.  It captivates a "rest cure" that doctors used to prescribed to women who seemed to be depressed after childbirth.  This woman sinks to insanity and blames most of it one the yellow wallpaper in her room.  She starts to hallucinate that there are people in the wallpaper that are trying to get her.

This book is a good depiction of depression and how it can be misdiagnosed and mismanaged.  It was a quick read, and an interesting one at that, so check it out.

Stars: 4

Monday, October 17, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #59 - The World According to Humphrey

This review is for

The World According to Humphrey.  I read this one a while ago to the kids, but didn't realize I forgot to write about it.

It was under the category:  Read a Book Outloud to Someone Else

This is a book (Well quite an extensive series, really) about a little classroom hamster named Humphrey.  He is in a classroom of second graders.  He loves school, and gets to spend his weekends with a different student each time.  In the night, after all the kids have gone home, is when Humphrey has all of his adventures.  He has a "lock that doesn't lock" on his cage that allows him to get out and explore.  He keeps a little notebook and pencil behind the mirror in his cage so that he can learn along with the students.  He helps the kids in his class when he can - always looking out for others.

This series is really cute.  My two 10 year olds have had me read every single one of these Humphrey books to them.  They have good lessons about friendship, family life, classroom behavior.  And who can resist a cute little hamster.  If you have little ones, definitely check out this series.  They will love it.

Stars: 5

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book #58 - Ella Enchanted

The book I am going to review next is called

Ella Enchanted

This is under the category: A book based on a fairytale, myth, folklo

This is the story of Ella of Frell who was given a gift at birth - the gift that she will always be obedient.  It was a gift from a foolish fairy.  For Ella's whole life, she has always had to do what people tell her to do, and if she doesn't she gets physically ill.  When she is nearly grown, she goes on a quest to find the fairy who gave her this curse.

This story is a silly one.  It is definitely a book for 3rd-4th graders.  It is a version of Cinderella - her mother dies, his father married an "evil stepmother" who comes with two daughters of her own, and she meets a prince that she falls for.  The differences are great, though (no talking mice) but the premise is the same.

It is a cute book.  Younger kids will love it.

Stars: 3

Saturday, October 15, 2016

2016 Challenge book #57 - The Light Between Oceans

Today's review is The Light Between Oceans

It was under the category: A Book that was made into a movie

This is the story of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne who live in Australia.  Tom returns from the war and meets Isabel.  They fall in love and get married.  Tom has decided to take a job as a lighthouse keeper on the island of Janus Rock, and Isabel agrees to go with him.  They try desperately to have children but Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth.  One day, Isabel hears a baby crying on the shore of Janus Rock.  She discovers a small infant in a boat with a dead man.  Isabel is immediately drawn to the baby, since she just lost one of her own.  Tom - her husband - wants to report the incident immediately to the authorities, but Isabel begs him to wait for awhile and let her care for the baby girl.  Tom and Isabel fall in love with the little girl and name her Lucy.  They never report her as a baby that was found in a boat, but claim her as her own, since Isabel was recently pregnant (and no one knew of the stillbirth).

When Lucy is two years old, Tom gets leave to return to the mainland.  They take Lucy to meet Isabel's parents who are thrilled to finally have a grandchild.  But they find out that their decision to keep the little girl has devestated someone from their small town, and now face the consequences of their decision.

This was a great book.  I have had it on my shelf for a long time, but it took the movie coming out to remind me I had not read it.  I can't imagine having a life on an island where it is just you, your family and the lighthouse.  It would take special people to be so isolated for years at a time.  The only visitors they ever received was a supply boat every 3 months.  Isabel wanted a child so desperately, and when her heart is broken with a stillborn son, and this baby shows up on the shore alone and hungry, I can't imagine more people not making the decision she made.  She was sure the baby was going to be put into an orphanage, and that she and Tom would not be eligible to adopt her because of their lifestyle.  So it is hard to judge her for the decision she made.

I definitely recommend this book.  It kept me captivated from beginning to end.  Now I can't wait to see the movie.

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, October 14, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 56 - The Gift of Rain

Today's book is

The Gift of Rain

This was under the category: Book by an Author from Southeast Asia

This is the story of 16 year old Phillip Hutton.  He is half Chinese, half English and from a prominent family in Penang.  While his siblings and father are away on vacation, he chooses to stay home alone.  He gets to know Hayato Endo who is a Japanese diplomat.  Philip spends time showing Endo around and in return Endo teaches him Japanese and aikido.  When the Japanese invade Malaya, Phillip learns that Endo is a Japanese spy.  It is clear that Endo has taught Philip aikido to help save his life and possibly the life of his family.

This is a pretty good book.  I have to admit I had a hard time getting into it.  I don't think it was the book's fault, though.  I think it was when I was trying to read it, so I don't want to judge it too harshly.  I did like the characters.  Endo-san and Phillip develop almost a father/son relationship.  Since Phillip's mother had died when he was a baby, and she was his Chinese ancestor, he never felt as close to his father and half siblings.  This book does a good job mixing the three cultures together - Western, Chinese, and Japanese.

I have read a lot of WWII books/pre-WWII books, but this is the first one from Southeast Asia.  I recommend trying it out.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 55 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Today's book review is for

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This was under the category: Biography

This is the story of a woman named Henrietta Lacks.  The world of science knows her only as HeLa.  She was a poor tobacco farmer who died of a cancerous tumor in the 1950s.  Before she died, doctors took a sample of her tumor into the labs at Johns Hopkins and for the first time ever, had cells that multiplied instead of perished.  Her cells are used all over the world still today for vaccines, medicine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.  There are billions of her cells all over the world that were sold for research, yet it was without Henrietta's knowledge or her families knowledge.  This book was written to introduce the world to Henrietta and her family so that we could learn more about the person who changed the face of medicine.

This was a fabulous book.  My husband is a geneticist and went to Johns Hopkins medical school.  There they used and learned about HeLa cells on a regular basis, but were never told of the woman behind the cells.  The woman who wrote this book did years of research to track down the family, and the doctors and the researchers who were involved in the initial removal of Henrietta's tumor.  Henrietta's family was very angry that this all happened and yet they could not even get health insurance.  They never saw any money related to these cells, and felt that Henrietta was violated because they were taken without her knowledge.  The author of the book spent years breaking into the family and getting them to talk to her, and getting them to trust her that she was trying to find out the truth about Henrietta and what happened with her cells.  The author spends most of her time with Henrietta's daughter - taking her a long for many of her investigations so that she can discover things about her mother she never knew.

The story was wonderful, and the author taking the time to find out about the person behind the cells was even more wonderful.  I am so glad I got to read about it.  I hope these days that the scientist are explaining where HeLa came from and the person she was.

Stars: 5

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2016 Challenge Book 54 - Wonder

The book I am going to review today is:


This was under the category: Middle Grade Novel

This is the story of August Pullman who is a 10 year old boy with a facial deformity.  He has never been in public school, but by the time he is ready for 5th grade, his parents feel it is time for him to get out into the world and make friends his own age.  Even though he is used to people staring at him and keeping their distance, he isn't prepared for the reactions of many of the kids at his new school.  Soon, though, he makes a nice set of friends that see August for who he is - beyond his physical appearance.  His friendships grow and soon almost every kid in school sees themselves as a friend of August.  They see him for the person he is - not based on his physical appearance.

I really liked this book.  It is a favorite of my 13 year old daughter, and she encouraged me to read it.  I think it sends a great message about acceptance and seeing beyond the outside of a person.  It teaches kids that it is okay to ask questions but to always choose kindness.  If the kids in August's school never approached him, they would never have found out what a funny, kind, smart kid he is.  I would love to see this book read in classrooms across middle schools.  In a time where kids see so much negativity among adults and in the news, it would be nice for them to be reminded to be kind.

Go!  Read!

Stars: 5

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 53 - How To Train Your Dragon

I would bet you thought I gave up on this blog.  The start of the school year has been madness, and even though I am reading regularly, I did not have time to sit and blog.  But today I have decided it is time to catch up.

Today's book I am going to review is

How To Train Your Dragon

This was under the category: A book made into an animated film

My guess is that most of you have seen this movie.  It is a favorite in our house, and the book wasn't like the movie in many aspects.  Considering it came out about 4 years before the movie, I am not surprised.  This is the story of a Viking named Hiccup.  (for reals).  He is nothing like his "Head of the Clan" father because Hiccup is scrawny and not very brave.  His job is to find a dragon to train and he finds one as scrawny as he is, and names him Toothless.  (if you have seen the movie, you would know that Toothless is anything but scrawny).  Hiccup has unusual techniques that he uses to train dragons and in the end, he and Toothless become the heroes of the story.

I liked this book.  Because I saw the movie first, it was a bit weird because it really was very little like the movie.   There were so many things that happened in the book (a large challenge among the youngest Vikings) that never happened in the movie, you really needed to view it as a completely different story.  I read this with my 9 year old son and we both enjoyed it.  I would recommend it for the 8-11 year old range.

Stars:  3 1/2

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Extra Book - The Nightingale

We did a long drive recently, and I needed something to listen do since I did most of the driving.  So I picked up

The Nightingale

No category for this one!

This is a WWII story (I seem to read a lot of these) that takes place in France.  It is the story of two women - sisters - taking two very different paths during the war.  One sister has a husband and a child, and when he husband is sent off to war, she is left home alone to care for their home.  A German soldier billets with her while her husband is gone.  He is gentle and cares for Vienne and her daughter, Sophie.  He tries to help her as much as he can.  He sends care packages to her husband when he becomes a prisoner of war, and makes sure they have enough food to eat.  Vienne's sister Isabelle is young and foolish, but decides she cannot sit around and wait for the war to end.  She throws herself into helping the anti-war unit and getting soldiers from other countries across the Pyranees to safety.  Both women learn things about themselves during the war, and come out on the other side heroes in their own right.

This was a pretty good book.  The story was captivating.  Every time something happened to Vienne - her herilooms were taken by the Germans.  They had a food shortage, and had to stand in line for hours for scraps.  She lost her job.  She made clothes out of blankets and bits of was terrible.  I just can't imagine having to live through that - not for a few months, but for years.   The story ends with Vienne telling her sister's story years later.  The whole story was humbling.

I encourage you to read this book.  Heck - I encourage you to read any stories during the WWII era, to get a sense of what they endured.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 52 - A Game of Thrones

This was another whopper sized book, so it took me a bit to read.  Plus - I am actually finding that summer is harder to find time to read rather than easier.

Today I am reviewing:  A Game of Thrones

It is under the category: A book recommended by a spouse

This is a story about a land where there are 7 kingdoms, and many people who want to rule them.  Right now there is one King.  There are lords that rule the other areas of the kingdoms, but they all bow to one King.  There is magic, dragons, lords, ladies, princes, princesses, soldiers, sorcerers, and seers.  In this land, summers and winters can last for years without end.  There are many who want to be King (or Queen) of the seven kingdoms and will do anything to make that happen.

I really enjoyed this book.  I was worried it was going to be boring and overly nerdy.  My husband and I watch the show together, but mostly because he loves it and I am in the room at the same time.  But I have grown to like some of the characters, so when he suggested I read the book, I gave in.  I am so glad I did.  It is really well written.  It is not for the faint of heart.  This is not a love story.  This is a story of war, and power, and wealthy people getting what they want.

I encourage you to read it if you like fantasy fiction.  You will not be disappointed.

Stars: 5

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 51 - Watership Down

Today's book I am going to review is

Watership Down

This was under the category:  A Book About an Animal

This book takes place in one of England's Downs called Watership.  It is a story about a group of rabbits to decide to leave their Warren due to some foreseen danger predicted by one of the rabbits.  This rabbit has been known to be a bit of a seer, so his closest friends believe him and leave the Warren together.  They set out to find a place to settle down.  They meet several rabbits and other creatures along the way - some who become friends, and others who become enemies.  A few rabbits don't make it to their final home, but most do.

Once settled, they start to realize they will need does to form a complete Warren.  (the band of rabbits that traveled were all male).  They use the help of a new friend - a bird - to search out warrens near by for does.  They then take their bravest rabbits to visit the warren to see if they can encourage some of their does to follow them to their new Warren.

The rabbits overcome impossible odds to settle a new Warren and begin a new life.  The guidance of their leader, Hazel, makes it possible.

I enjoyed this book.  It was a slow start, I have to admit.  But as I got into it, I become more and more involved in the stories of the main characters, willing them to live through every battle, and every mission.  When one of the main rabbits seemed to be doomed for good, I worried what would happen to the morale of the whole group.  They had come so far together, and there were so few of them from the original Warren.

The book has a whole language thought up by the author, which after awhile I started thinking about in my every day life.  He has a glossary of terms in the back of the book, which was nice for when you forgot what one of the "rabbit language" words meant.

This is a mature book - definitely suited more for middle school students, but children ages 13 and over would enjoy the story.    I say give it a try.  The battle scenes went on a little long in my opinion, but don't let those get in the way of enjoying the overall story of this book

Stars: 4

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 Challenge - book 50 - I Am Legend

Lucky number 50!!!  If I was doing my original challenge, I would be at the end.  But I have chosen to do a 75 book challenge, so onward we go.

This book is:  I am Legend

It falls under the category:  A book by an author that writes under more than one name

This is another "end of the world" type of story.  There has been an illness that is causing people to turn into vampires.  (I know - for real).  The main character's name is Robert.  He is pretty sure he is the last man on earth that isn't a vampire.  During the day time, he goes out into the city hunting vampires who sleep like the dead (and won't attack him) and hunt for food and supplies.  At night he has to hole up in his house to try and keep the vampires out.  They know he is in there, and are constantly trying to break in.  He can't get away from the city where he is because once the sun goes down, he has to be back in the safety of his house.

Robert also spends a lot of time at the library trying to figure out if there can be a cure for the people who are not "too far gone".

This is a really short story.  The book has many short stories in it, and this is just one of them.  I have seen the movie "I am Legend" and it is nothing like this book.  Well - almost nothing.  Yes there are vampires and yes there is Robert, but that is where the similarities end.  So I was shocked when I read it - expecting it to be similar.

The story holds its own.  Robert is very infested in finding a cure.  He is desperate for human contact.  He hardly sleeps because at night the vampires scream for him to come out and join them.

The ending was the same as the movie (if you have seen it - no spoilers if not), but it just happens in a different way.

You could try this book.  It wasn't really my cup of tea.....maybe because it was so short.  I never really got as invested in the characters as I would have liked.

Stars:  3

2016 Book Challenge - book 49 - The Stand

Wow - I have been missing for awhile!  I have read a few books, but one was huge and took me a long time.  Let's start with that one.

The book I am reviewing is:  The Stand

This was under the category:  Book Originally Published the Decade You Were Born

This is the story of good versus evil.  A patient escapes from a testing facility where everyone has died from whatever has been released into the air by accident.  He makes it half way across the country before he stops - too sick to continue.  Along the way he has infected anyone he has come in contact with.  They call it "the flu".  There are few people who are immune.  Everyone else dies of the flu within a week or so of becoming infected.

The people who remain form two groups.  One is lead by 108 year old Abigail Freeman who follows God's calling.  The others are lead by Randall Flagg who represents the devil.  These two people come to the remaining survivors through dreams - calling them to join them.  In the end, there is a stand against evil to help restore humanity.

This is one of my favorite stories that Steven King wrote.  I try to read at least one of his big books each summer.  (this one was a whopping 1100 pages).  I have seen the TV miniseries and love it.  IT is a great story, and exactly how I imagine it would go if the population was invaded by a deadly disease and what was left were people who were good and people who weren't.

I definitely recommend this book.  Yes, it is a doozy to read, but you will not be sorry.

Stars:  5

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 48 - Each Vagabond By Name

Today I am going to review

Each Vagabond By Name

This was under the category:  A Book Set Somewhere You Love

This is the story of a small town in Western Pennsylvania named Shelk (made up town).  It is a sleepy town until a group of traveling people (known as gypsies in the book) come to town.  A local bar owner, Zac Ramsy is drawn into their world when a young traveler named JT shows up at his bar hungry and cold.  Ramsy's old girlfriend, Stella, is also drawn to them because she believes her daughter that was kidnapped 15 years ago may be among these travelers.  The travelers begin to rob local homes and tensions rise among the townspeople.  Ramsy tries to encourage JT to have his boss move the group out of town, but JT says his boss won't hear of it.  Tragedy strikes, and changes the town for good.

I grew up in Western PA, and the woman who wrote this book - Margo Litell - is a dear friend of mine.  This is her debut novel, and it doesn't disappoint.  It is wonderfully written, and I can picture many things about our childhood home in this book.  The characters, town, and nuances were spot on.  I was easily sucked into the story - wondering what would happen to the towns people and to the travelers if things didn't change.  The ending is haunting but very well written - which I know is hard for authors to do!

I encourage you to check out this book.  It does not disappoint.

Stars: 5

Friday, June 24, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 47 - The Last Star

Today's book review is "The Last Star"

Did I read this book in one day?  No I did not.  I am just behind.

This book is under the category: A Book Published in the Year 2016

This is the third book in a triology I was reading (and enjoyed).  The first book was The 5th Wave which was a major motion picture this past winter.

This is a continuation of a story where aliens have invaded and have wiped out 7 billion people on earth.  There have been 4 waves of disaster that have wiped out most of the population and now it is time for the 5th and final wave that will wipe out the rest.

The remaining humans have chosen to fight until the end.  They don't know what the 5th Wave will be, but they are aiming to find out so that they can try and stop it and save what is left of the human race.

I don't want to say more because if you haven't read the other two books, it wouldn't make much sense.  The first two books were pretty good - especially the first.  I liked the concept.  But this book?  Bleh.  IT was like the author gave up.  Some parts were pretty good, and I liked the ending okay.  (not a lot but it was okay).  But the writing was bad.  It wasn't written well.

I know this happens a lot with trilogies, but I keep holding out hope that one of these days the 3rd book will be as good as the first.

Stars: 2

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 46 - Everyday

The book I am reviewing today is called


This was under the category: A Book Recommended by a Teacher or Librarian

This is a story about "A" who switches bodies every day.  He is never the same person twice.  At midnight he leaves the body he is in and wakes up in a new one.  He can access their memories and no one is ever aware he was there.  He tries not to interfere or get too attached to anyone knowing he is only there for one day.

It has been this way for as long as he can remember.  He ages just like he would in his own body, but he doesn't remember ever having his own.  He wonders if there are others like him.  One day he arrives in the body of a boy named Justin.  He falls for Justin's girlfriend, Rhianna.    All of the sudden he has found someone he wants to be with each day.  Rhianna and A try and figure out how they could ever be together when each day, A is a different person on the outside.

This is an interesting novel.  It is a neat concept - changing bodies every day - never knowing who you are going to be in the morning.  Boy, girl, happy, sad, good family, bad family.....he never had control.  He didn't know why it happened or when it started.  He doesn't remember being any different.

But  when he meets Rhianna, it becomes a teenager novel.  He falls for her immediately after only knowing her a few hours, and then no matter what body he is in, he has to see her.  Try to be with her.  She has a boyfriend.  He finally tells her what he is, and she is accepting, but never really agrees they could be together.  A pushes back - says there has to be a way.  They both struggle with the idea of what it would be like to be with someone who never looks the same two days in a row.

I won't spoil the end of the book, but I did like the ending.  A redeems himself in my eyes.  It is an interesting idea, and I did enjoy the story, so I vote to give it a try.

Stars: 4