Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, December 31, 2018

Favorite Books of 2018

Well - the year is at an end.  I fit in 118 books, and I am going to narrow down my favorite 10.  They won't be in any particular order.

A Fall of Marigolds

 - One of the first books I read in 2018 and it quickly went to the top of my list of all time favorites.  It is a wonderful book and one not to be missed.  If you want to know more about it, visit my post


The Art Forget

- January was a good month of reading for me.  I had a lot of hits instead of misses that month.  The Art Forger was a fantastic read.  It is a bit of a historical fiction, non fiction, fiction book all rolled into one.  The true story of the Elizabeth Stuart Gardner Museum heist mixed into this story was a fantastic way to write the book.  If you want to read my review, you will find it

The Misremembered Man

 - another book I read early in the year, and it was just one of the sweetest books I have read.  The main character will tear at your heart strings.  You can read my review 

Little Fires Everywhere

- I am a big fan of Celeste Ng.  I love that she starts her stories with the ending.  It sucks you in from the beginning and makes you want to find out what lead to that ending.  Brilliant writer.  If you want to read my review, you will find it


Salt to the Sea

I do love a good historical fiction book.  And I have read many books about WWII, and count this one as one of the better ones.  If you want to read my review, you will find it

The Bone Garden

A good mystery book to add to your list.  This one takes place in Massachusetts (where we lived  before we moved to Switzerland), so I was intrigued from the start.  It is a well written mystery - where the author does leave the surprise until the end.  Worth your time.  If you want to read my review, you will find it

The Shadow of the Wind

I know I don't have an order to this list, but The Shadow of the Wind was probably one of the best books I have ever read.  The writing is what blew me away.  Superb writing and story telling.  This one is not to be missed.  If you want to read my review, you can see it

It Ends With Us

- A coming of age story with a woman trying to break a cycle of abuse.  It is beautifully written and told.  A powerful story that talks of love and hard choices.  If you want to read my review, you will find it

Just Mercy

 - well, I started the year with some amazing books, and I found that I ended with some as well.  Just Mercy was an excellent non-fiction book about the challenges of our American prison system and a non-profit lawyer who works with people on death row.  Very well written and a shocking story.  Read my review

A Gentleman in Moscow

 - A well told, incredibly moving book that helped me round out my 2018 reads.  Beautifully written story of a man who lives out his days in a hotel in Moscow when he is placed under arrest, the story will intrigue you from beginning to end.  If you want to read my review, you will find it

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #118 - Just Mercy

Last book of the year.  I wanted to get this one in because it is something I am reading for my book club, and we are reviewing it January 10th.  Tomorrow I start my new reading challenge, so this is it for 2018.  118 books - a new record for me.  (plus I read 15 books to my two 12 year olds this year as well).  Looking forward to starting over again.

Just Mercy
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Pages: 368

This is a non-fiction story of Mr. Stevenson and his work to get people off of death row.  He started a non profit in Alabama to help people who had been imprisoned for a variety of reasons, but some of them innocent of their crimes.

The majority of the story is about Walter McMillian who was put on death row for a crime he didn't commit.  There were mounds and mounds of evidence to prove he didn't commit the crime, but Walter spent years in prison until Bryan came along to help.  Mr. Stevenson gets tangled in conspiracies, and political underhandedness while trying to set Walter free.

The story always intertwines other cases that Mr. Stevenson tried, and also stories in general of even 12-13 year old children going to prison for life without parole and being placed in an adult system.  It opens your eyes to a broken prison system and shows how far we still have to go.

This was a fantastic book.  I didn't want to put the book down.  I was enthralled with reading all of the cases that Mr. Stevenson was involved in, but even more that he wasn't.  I had no idea that they sent young teenage children to adult prison and how scary that must be for a child.  And what it would do for them long term if they were ever released.

The story of Walter is almost unbelievable - how a man who had dozens of witnesses and were with him at the time the crime was committed is sent to prison for years and years.  If it wasn't for the perseverance of Mr. Stevenson and his non-profit, Walter would have sure been put to death.

Definitely put this book on your list.  It is well written, and a necessary story to read.

Stars: 4 1/2

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #117 - A Gentleman in Moscow

So I already have my Russian book for my Read The World Challenge, but I think this might give it a run for its money.  We shall see if I decide to add it to the permanent shelf - I might have to.

A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Pages: 480

This book is about Count Alexander Rostov who in 1922 is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol in Moscow where he resides.  An aristocrat that has never worked a day in his life must now live in the attic of the hotel, in a tiny room, and leave most of his possessions behind.  The outside world of Russia continues on without him as he is never permitted to step outside.  But his life is rich and full as a cast of characters come in and out of his life as he lives out his days behind the walls of the hotel.  He forms several lasting relationships with staff at the hotel (especially the chef for Alexander has an intense interest in good food) and two little girls who he comes to care deeply for as a father figure.  There are times where the Count feels low and wishes he could end it all but someone or something always pulls him back from the brink.  He becomes the most alive when he takes on a job as a waiter in the hotel's restaurant and is invited to taste test the food before it is served each evening.

This was a fantastic book.  It is beautifully written, and is making my list of best books I have read this year.  I enjoyed every sentence.  The book time hopes over many years - covers the Counts life as he lives out his days (and his sentence) in the hotel.  He meets several people at his time there that change his life forever, and stay interwoven in his life and this story throughout the book.

It is a beautiful story and you shouldn't miss it.  Put this book on your must read list for 2019.

Stars: 5

Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #116 - A Feast of Crows

Nearing the end of 2018.  I have read more books this year than I ever have.  I can thank the Swiss Tram system for many hours of extra reading that I wouldn't have had if I was in the United States.  Having to spend at least 1 hour on the trams each day picking up my daughter from school helps. 

A Feast of Crows
Author: George R.R. Martin
Pages: 1104

This is book 4 in the Game of Thrones book series.  King Joffrey is dead.  Cersei is now ruling the kingdoms until Tommen comes of age.  The war that raged is over.  The 7 powers seem to be at an uneasy peace.

Tommen is married to Margeary Tyrell (lake King Joffrey's wife), but Cersei is uneasy with the little queen.  She keeps Tommen close at hand becuase he is only 8 years old.  She wants it known across the lands that she is the queen regent.

Brienne has left King's Landing in search of Sansa Stark.  Sam Blackwell is heaing across the sea with Gilly and the hidden baby.  Measter Aemon is at death's door.  Jon Snow is the lord of the wall.  Jaime is off securing lands and preventing war.  Sansa is in hiding with Littlefinger and little Lord Robert.  Arya is also in hiding and learning to fight.

While Cersei is busy trying to get Margeary accused of treason, she herself doesn't realize that she is being watched.  Arya - thinking that no one she loves except Jon is alive, tries to become an unknown and learn to fight against the enemies of her past.  Sansa - trying to figure out how to keep hidden and unseen soon finds herself betrothed to someone she doesn't even know. 

This book was broken into two because it is too big of a story to tell in one.  So this book only tells the tale of Cersei, Jaime, Brienne, Sansa, Sam, Aryan and a few other characters.  We don't hear from Jon Snow, or Khaleesi or Tyrion.  They are to come in the next book.

This book was a MONSTER in size!  I did read it while I was reading other things - trying to put in at least 50 pages here and there.  And then in the last week I have tried to take in around 100 pages of this book just to get it done this year. 

I do love George R.R. Martin's books.  They are incredibly long and have thousans of characters and are in no way a light read.  But his writing is amazing.  His talent is unbelievable.  I do wonder what the inside of his mind must be like - because every character, even ones only mentioned once or twice, has some kind of back story.  I have a very hard time keeping everyone straight, yet he has developed this incredible world.

I don't think I will get to book 5 in the new year with my new challenge ahead.  But I may have to try and sneak it in so thatI can hear this story from the other character's point of view.  This book was filled with my least favorite characters - except Sam - so I am anxious to see what my favorites are up to.

Stars:  4 1/2

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #115 - Mythos

I have been reading this one in between reading some others - kept getting distracted!  Finally finished it.

Author: Stephen Fry
Pages: 464

This book follows Greek Mythology from the start of the universe, throught he birth of mankind and beyond.  Detailed story of all the gods, and there endless amount of children.  Stories retold that we have heard over the years and have come to adore.

The book was great.  Most people are familiar with at least a few Greek mythology stories (or have studied them in school at one point) - Athena, Prometheus, Zeus....but there are an innumberable number of Gods and their children that it will make your head spin.  The stories are grand and funny and tragic all at once.

I like how the author pieces together the stories with things we know in today's world (places that still exist - words we use in our every day lanauge) and how they came from Greek mythology.

I enjoyed it and I encourage you to try this one.  It is a good one to have on your shelf to revisit over and over.

Stars:  4 1/2

Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #114 - True Places

Today's review is for an Amazon First Reads book that I chose for the month of December

True Places
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Pages: 364

The story opens with a young girl named Iris who has been living in the woods with her mother.  Tiny and starving, she is out hunting when she hears her mother cry out.  She finds that her mother has falled down into a deep hole.  Iris is too small and weak to get her mother out and her mother sucumbs to her injuries.

Iris stumbles out of the woods and a woman, Suzanne, driving by sees her collapse on the side of the road.  Suzanne takes Iris to the hospital to get checked out and recover, and the police question Iris about where she came from.  Iris claims to remember very little, but does report that both of her parents have died.

Suzanne offers to take Iris to her house and foster her until Iris' family can be located.  Suzanne's husband, Whit, and her two children Ried and Brynn, are less than thrilled at the appearance of 16 year old Iris.  Ignoring her family's existing problems, Suzanne committs to "fixing" Iris and teaching her the ways of the world.  But Iris isn't ready for everything she has ever known to be turned upside down.

Soon Suzanne and her family realize that the appearance of Iris has taught them more about themselves than they were ready to learn.

This book was terrible.  I really didn't like it at all.  All the characteres were awful, the writing was subpar, and the story went no where.  We never found out WHY Iris' family was living in the woods.  Suzanne's children were ridiculous and hateful.  Her husband silly.  All the characters were full of themselves, shallow, and without depth.  Just bad writing.

I should have quit the book.  I have to be better about it.  It wa snothing but a waste of time.

Stars: 1

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #113 - Thunderhead

Today's review is for

Author: Neal Shusterman
Pages: 512

This is the 2nd book in the Scythe series.  Since I liked the first one so much, I read the second one.

Our girl Citra is now a Scythe.  She has taken the name Scythe Anasthasia, and she has decided to stay with Scythe Curie while she is a junior Scythe.  Rowan has become Scythe Lucifer - an unofficial Scythe who has taken upon himself to kill Scythe's that he feels are unjust.  So far he has avoided capture but has caught the attention of the entire Sycthdome. 

A year has passed since the first book ended.  Anasthasia has found her rhythm.  Rowan is being hunted.  The Thunderhead cannot interfere in Scythe activities, but it doesn't like what it is seeing.  Anasthasia is challenging the "new order" of Scythes and soon her life, and the life of Scythe Curie is threatened.  The Thunderhead cannot intervene directly, but it knows it is must.  It finds a way to intervene without actually speaking to any Scythes.  The Thunderhead starts to worry more and more about human behavior and what is happening in the blind spots of the world.  The Thunderhead is trying to decide if it should take action when it feels like humans cannot take care of themselves.

This book was almost as good as the first.  The world building continues.  We see what kind of Scythe Anasthasia has decided to become.  Faraday has returned but remains underground.  Only a handful of people know he is alive.  The Scythes become a divided front - half want to have less regulations when it comes to gleaning and the other half want to follow the old ways - the old rules.  Half of scythes are worried that unlimited gleaning could lead to disaster - not just population control.

Shusterman left us with a heavy, heavy cliff hanger.  We came to the top of a very steep hill at the end of the book - a lot of peopel are dead - a lot of things were left unanswered.  Let's hope that since Thunderhead was written last January, that the 3rd book will be coming out soon.  I have to know how this one ends!

Stars: 4

Sunday, December 9, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #112 - Scythe

This weekend we were supposed to be enjoing Belgium, but instead I spent the weekend with my eldest daughter in the hospital.  She had her appendix out, so instead of Christmas markets and visiting friends, I read a book in a hospital room.  Fun times.

Author: Neil Shusterman
Pages: 464

In this future, there is no war, no death, no disease, no misery.  It is a post-mortal age where you have the chance to live forever.  Scythes are the only ones who can take a life away - with an act called gleaming.  The acts are random, and up to the individual Scythe.  Scythes help keep the population under control, and everyone lives in fear that their time will soon be up.

Rowan and Citra - two 17 year old kids - have been picked to become Scythe apprentices.  Neither of them wants the job, which makes them perfect.  They will spend the next year learning how to be a Scythe and take 4 test before becoming an official Scythe.  If they fail, they will go back to their lives.  If they succeed, they will spend eternity gleaming people of their choosing - meeting their quota to keep population control.

During their time as apprentances, they find that there are all kinds of Scythes.  Those who take their job seriously and are compasionate, and those who see it as a position of power.

Rowan and Citra must learn to take life and hope that it doesn't mean the end of their own.

This was a pretty good book.  I have read Shusterman's "Unwind" series and thought it was clever.  This did not disappoint.  There are a few twists in the story that kept me moving at a quick pace to finish the book.  I wanted to find out what would happen to Citra and Rowan once they took their final test.   I also found myself going back and forth between being for or against the idea of a Scythe in the age of immortality.  You can see the need for some way to control the population, but some of the methods seemed a bit....much.

This book is listed for 7th grade and up, but if your pre-teens are not really into gore and killing in books, pass this one up.  I think it is probably better suited for high school and beyond.

There is a second book which I am starting today.  I am anxious to see where the story is going.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #111 - Bird Box

I took a break from the heavy novel I am reading right now to read Bird Box.  This book has been turned into a movie (coming out this month on Netflix) and it looked interesting, so I thought - why not?

Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Pages: 272

This is the story of a world thrown into madness by an unknown/unscene entity.  If people look upon this entity they are said to witness something that drives them mad and drives them to kill themselves.  Soon, people are shutting themselves indoors, darkening their windows, and blindfolding their eyes if they dare venture outside. 

Malorie cannot believe what is happening.  She is 20 years old and has just found she is pregnant.  She and her sister and trying to decide how to tell her parents when the madness begins.  Malorie's sister succums to the entity and Marlorie is left alone.  In desparation, she answers an add in the paper about a safe house.  She is welcomed in, and learns to live in total darkness with a set of strangers.  As the day of her delivery looms, Malorie wonders how she and her child will ever survive what is happening in the ouside world.

The book jumps back and forth between the when the madness began and 4 years in the future when Malorie and her children decide they can no long stay put.  It bleeds the timelines together to solving how Marlorie ended up alone with two children, what happened to her housemates, and why she feels she must leave.  Trusting that her young children will get them all to safety with "hearing training" Malorie has done wiht them since they were babies, she sets out on a dangerous trip - completely blindfolded - to find safety.

This wasn't a bad book.  It reads so quickly that I read it all in one day.  I, honestly, didn't want to put it down because I was curious on how it was going to end.  It is an intense, nail biting novel with one horror after another.  I found it on the leves of Stephen King and M. Night Shyamalan.  Where it differed was the ending.  IT wrapped up pretty quickly AND didn't really solve how they were going to deal with the entities.  People were trying to rebuild in the end, BUT the don't fight back against the invaders how you would expect.  I found it a bit wanting.  I think if it would have actually been a little longer, it could have developed some of the characters and filled in some of the plot holes a little better.

If you are interested in seeing the movie, check out this fast read first.  It is really nail biting, so if horror and suspsense are not your thing - this book isn't for you. 

Stars: 3

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #110 - Becoming

#110 - here we go!

Author: Michelle Obama
Pages: 429

This is the autobiography of  the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama.  The story covers her life  - from growing up on the South Side of Chicago in a poor, yet loving, family - to becoming the First Lady.  She discusses with warmth what it was like growing up in Chicago, going to Princeton and Harvard Law school, meeting Barack, becoming a mother, and finally going to the White House.  She became an advocate for young girls and women all over the world. She gives readers a candid look into her life.

This was a great book.  Mrs. Obama writes with grace and intellect and even humor.  You get to find out how she really felt about Barack running for public office and then finally running for President of the United States.  You get an indepth look at her childhood and the love she had for her family.  She talks candidly about how it was to protect her daughters from the limelight and the struggle to give them a normal childhood.  How she wanted nothing else to be an advocate, a role model, a good mother and a loving wife and what it took to try and have it all.

I encourage you to read this book.  I enjoyed every page.  Well, until I got to the end and we started to creap to 2016 - the end of their term in the White House - and I felt my chest tighten.  She talks shortly about what it was like to hand over the reins to Donald Trump and how she felt about the change that would happen, but mostly she sticks with her ultimate message.  For every door that is opened for you, open a door for others.  Invite one another in.  Don't let the hate and the fear that has ruled our country for the last two years be what we become.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #109 - Us Against You

Today's review is for

Us Against You
Author: Frederik Backman
Pages: 448

This is the follow up book to Backman's "Beartown".  The town of Beartown is still realing for a young girl's rape.  The town divided and picked their side leaving the Beartown hockey team in shambles.  The hockey team might be disbanded because it was the coaches daughter who was raped.  A lot of former Beartown players leave to play for the rival town of Hed. But a newcomer gives the town hope and soon a new Beartown hockey team is formed.  The team forms around former players of the junior team - a gang of misfits who don't quite fit in anywhere.  They have a new coach who is determined to make them a winning team regardless of how that has to be done.

Before the season ends, a resident of Beartown will be dead.  Hed and Beartown will be left to decide if hockey is really what is most important.  The towns will both be challenged and be given a choice.

This book was not very good.  I was disappointed because Backman is one of my favorite authors.  I love almost everything is writes, but this one was just not well written.  First, it is extemely melencholy.  There is never an upswing for any of the characters - which makes the story just drag.  I mean - really?  Nothing but sadness?  One reviewing on Amazon said it best "It was like a swirling snowstorm that was brewing for too long".  Nother ever really happened.  Each chapter would leave you with cliff hangers and often he would say "they would remember this day".  But then....what?  Nothing of great importance.  He did too much setting up and then things would work out fine.  There was too much of that.

I don't recommend this book.  And the rumor is that there will be a third.  I honestly think he should have just left Beartown alone and not tried to continue the story.  Because it really has no where else to go.

Stars:  2

Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #108 - Art Matters

Another novella - two in one day!

Art Matters
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 112

There isn't much to review about this short little book (which has a lot of drawings).  It is an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.  He talks a lot about the importance of reading, and libraries, and talks about taking a leap when it comes to writing and creating.

As an avid reader, I believe that the world would be lost without books.  Fiction and non-fiction a like are invaluable to further educate people and lead to further understanding.  It is so important, and it is becoming more and more rare in an age of You Tube and instagram.

Read with your kids.  Read in front of your kids.  Show them that books are not a lost art and cannot be replaced.

Stars:  4

2018 Challenge - Book #107 - Elevation

Today is the review for a short novella called

Author: Stephen King
Pages: 160

Scott Carey is losing weight at an alarming speed.  He doesn't look any different than he did at 240 pounds, there has been no loss of muscle tone or stature, but he is losing a pound a day.  And wether he is wearing clothes or carrying weights, or is naked - he weighs the same.  He visits his friend - Dr. Bob Eillis - to see if he has any idea what is going on.  Together, the two men try to figure out why he is losing weight, yet not showing the outward signs.

Scott has two new neighbors that he is desperate to get to know, but don't seem to want to know him.  The one is seemingly bitter and on the defense, and tries to avoid Scott at all cost.  But the other warms to him and invites him to come to their restaurant and try their food.  The restaurant is suffering because it is being run by a same sex couple and the town in not open minded.  Scott is determined to get the town to accept these women and their restaurant, and puts his own failing health on the back burner.

The rate of his weight loss starts to speed up.  Scott - realizing that the end is near, confides in the women, and together they help Scott - and the town - find the best in themselves.

This book was REALLY short (as you can see above).  A lot of the low reviews for this book is because people didn't realize it was a novella.  (although, if you take two seconds, each Amazon page tells you how much a book cost).  I felt, though, that this story needed more pages.  The turn around of the town, and the women, and even Scott himself happened way too quickly to be realistic.  Well - as realistic as a story where a guy loses a pound a day with no known cause.  It just didn't do anything for me - I didn't come to like any of the characters or get a chance to feel one way or another about them with only 160 pages.

If you can borrow this book from the library and you are a huge Stephen King fan, then check it out.  But if your only choice is to buy it, I wouldn't bother.  You aren't missing much.

Stars: 2

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #106 - The 57 Bus

When you have a down day with bad weather, you read a whole book in one day.

The 57 Bus
Author: Dashka Slater
Pages: 320

This book is about two people - Sasha, an agender young person who lives outside of Oakland California, attends a private school, has an intact, loving family and lots of friends.  The other is Richard - a studend that attends Oakland High School, has friends but most of them are in trouble or in jail.  He does have a loving mother but she struggles to keep him out of trouble.

Despite their different schools, both kids take the same public bus - the 57 Bus - to and from school each day.  They don't know each other - haven't ever even met.  But one day, Richard - coaked by his friends - decides to play a practical joke and lights Sasha's skirt on fire.  What results is Sasha spending weeks in the hospital recovering from severe burns, and Richard arrested for the crime.

The book goes back and forth between the two kids - both the same age - and talks about their upbringing, their problems, and what lead them to that fateful day.

This was an okay book.  I was interested in it because it was a true story.  The book does a good job telling the back story of the two kids, and covering the trial and what happens to both kids once the trial is over.  IT does go a little too indepth into subject matter realted to gender identity.  And while I did learn quite a bit, I don't think it really was needed to tell the story in this case.  I think giving us more character development would have been more beneficial.

I think this book is worth a read.  It was a really fast read - a lot of the chapters are only a few pages long, so it moves along quickly.  The story happened only a few years ago, and you can actually look up the news stories from the incident and see pictures of the kids online.  The subject of gender identity is a hot button in today's society.

Stars:  3

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #107 - The Power

Two reviews in one day!  I read two books at the same time, and wrapped them up together.

The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Pages: 400

The teenage girls of the world are devloping powers.  The power comes in the form of electricity that they can generate to cause pain or even death to others.  The women have a new organ that has developed - called a skein.  Soon the power can be given to older women and the balance of the world shifts.  The book rotates through 4 main characters - one who becomes "Mother Eve" - claiming to be hearing and doing the work of God.  The men become more and more afraid and start to fight back.  The tone of the book is one where women are viewed more like objects and now with this new power, they hold the upper hand.

This was a terrible book.  I don't want to spend a lot of time reviewing it, because I could hardly make it through it.  The writing isn't good, the sex in the book is ridiculous and way out of place in telling the story, and it is overall just not that entertaining.  I love dystopian future novels - it is my favorite genre - but I could barely make it through.  I should have quit reading.

Don't bother with this book.  The idea was a great one - a chance to write about a shift in power between men and women, but it fell flat. 

Stars:  2

2018 Challenge - Book #106 - Where The Crawdads Sing

Today's review is for

Where The Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owes
Pages: 384

This is the story about Kya who lives in the Marsh in North Carolina in the 1950s.  She is the youngest child in her family - a family that is extremely poor and undereducated.  Her dad is a drunk who often beats his wife and kids barely bringing home any money to support him.  One by one, Kya watches her family leave the marsh and not return - starting with her mother, then her eldest siblings, and finally, her brother Jodie who is the closest to her in age.  At the age of 6 she is left alone with her father who sometimes comes home/sometimes doesn't.  Kaya starts to figure out how to take care of herself - feed herself and learn to live off the land.  She only ever attends school for one day, chosing instead to stay hidden in the marsh.

The book jumps back and forth between the 1950s and 1969 where a young man named Chase Andrews has died.  The police suspect foul play - looks like he was pushed off a fire tower near the marsh.  The book follows the life of Kaya and the time from when she was little up until the murder of Chase - weaving the story of how she learned to live off the land, meeting Chase and meeting a boy named Tate, and how she tries to discover love and how it fits into her life of lonliness. 

Someone recommended this book and so I gave into the hype and read it.  It was an okay book.  I didn't love it as much as I was hopping to.  The writing was pretty good, but not as great as the reviews made it sound.  I agree with many of the 3 star reviews on Amazon that the characters just fell flat.  The story jumped all over the place, and sometimes I felt that there were gaps that shouldn't be there.  It was a love triangle that didn't hold a lot of weight (or make a whole lot of sense), and almost a fantastical story line that is hard to believe.

I don't want to NOT recommend this book - I may be judging it too harshly.  I think overall it was good.  I read it quickly - wanting to see where the story was going - not wanting to quit until I had some answers.  But I was never in love with the book.

Stars:  3

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #105 - A Spark of Light

Today's review

A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 384

This is a story told starting with the end.  A gunman has entered a family planning clinic and has shot several of the people who work there.  He has taken the rest hostage.  The lead hostage negotiator has a daughter and sister that are trapped inside, but he doesn't want to step down.  He wants to be able to get them, and everyone inside, to safety.

The book works backwards from the end of the situation to what caused it in the first place.  Each chapter is one hour in the past, and the pieces are weaved together to get to the heart of why this was happening and to learn about all of the people involved.  In typical Picoult fashion, there are surprises along the way - things you don't see coming. 

This was a pretty good book.  Picoult is always an up and down experience for me.  She is an amazing writer and incredible author.  But sometimes her stories are just so so.  This was a tricky topic that she tackled and I applaud her for that.  She has written books around racism and school shootings - really trying to write about both sides of the issue.  That she does well.  I am just not sure I loved the backwards timeline.  IT was...fine.  I think in some ways there were too many characters that she tried to get into the mix and at times it just got muddled.  I think if she stuck with just maybe the top 3-4 characters and developed there timelines, it would have flowed easier.

This is a heavy topic and a very controverisal one.  I have a feeling that anti-abortion and family planning advocates are going to have a hard time with this one.  I felt she did a good job actually giving some light to that side of the fence, but when I read the comments on Amazon - that doesn't seem to be the way they see it.  So you have been warned.  And I agree with her - I don't think that these two sides will ever agree in our lifetime.  But listening to both sides is a good place to start.

Stars:  3

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #104 - The Broken Girls

Today's review is for

The Broken Girls
Author: St. James
Pages: 336

The story opens in Vermont in 1950.  There is a home for wayward girls who no one wanted called Idlewild Hall.  It is a bording school in the middle of nowhere.  All the girls at the school believe the school to be haunted by someone named Mary Hand.  They have all seen her, and Mary shows them their darkest secrets.  One day, one of the girls disappears.  The teachers think she has run away, but her friends know better.  They are sure she has been killed, but they have no way to prove it.

Fast forward to 2014 - a young journalist named Fiona is obsessed with a case that is 20 years old.  Her sister was murdered, the man is in jail, but Fiona still doesn't have closure.  She keeps revisiting the site where her sister's body was found looking for clues. Her sister was murdered on the grounds of Idlewild Hall, which has long been closed down and rotting.

Soon, Fiona finds out that a rich benefactor has bought Idlewild and plans on restoring it to a girl's school.  Fiona contacts the new owner and tells them she wants to write a story about the school and the past.  What is unearthed during the restoration starts to piece together the past of Idlewild and the missing girl, and also Fiona's sister.

This was a good book - not great.  The story was a little loose, and the events move around quickly leaving some holes in the plot.  The story lines often felt undeveloped.  The overall idea was great - I did have a few moments of chills since it was a ghost story - but not enough to make this into a great book.

It is a fast read, and easy to follow.  I wouldn't run out and recommend it, but overall, I think it was a fine read.

Stars:  3 1/2

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #103 - Family Tree

Today's review is for

Family Tree
Author: Susan Wiggs
Pages: 400

This is the story of Annie and Fletcher.  Two people who couldn't quite get the timing right for their relationship.  They met when Fletcher moved to Annie's small town in Vermont.  There was an immediate attraction, but family problems and life long dreams continually got in the way of them being together for more than a few months.

Annie's life long passion was cooking and having her own TV show.  She grew up in Vermont on a family maple syrup farm - helping all winter long with making and bottling syrup for their company Sugar Rush.  Fletcher and his dad move to town where his dad takes over a local mechanic's business.  He is hired by Annie's older brother to work at the Maple farm, and he is quickly smitted with her.  Annie has dreams of college and life beyond Switchback Vermont, but money and family obligations keep Fletcher there.  They end their relationship when Fletcher's dad is in a horrible accident and Fletcher has no time for anything but keeping his dad's business together and helping his dad recover.

The book flows back and forth between Annie and Fletcher has teenagers and then into the near future when Annie is forced back to Switchback after spending years in LA.  Her own accident has brought her back to the care of her family and back into Fletcher's life.  As she recovers, she needs to decide if what she had in LA or what she has in Vermont is what she really wants.

This was an okay book.  Here in Switzerland, the Christmas season is in full swing.  So I have started watching cheesy Christmas movies from the Hallmark channel and Netflix - an annual tradition.  This book reminds me of those movies.  This book reminded me of those movies.  A quaint little town brings girl back to where her roots were.  A long lost love that is rekindled.  A perfect life and perfect love and perfect everything is what this book is about.  It is just as cheesy as the movies.

It is a quick read, and not solid work, but was kind of fun in its own right.  I would not say to run out and read this one, but, if you have a few days as the snow starts to fall and you are looking for something light and mindless - this might hit the spot.

Stars:  3

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

2019 (and beyond challenge)

A month ago, my family and I were in Ireland on vacation.  We have been traveling a lot since we moved to Switzerland - enjoying seeing the world.  It got me thinking that all of these wonderful places we see - there are books that are set there.  Then I read the most fantastic book "The Shadow of the Wind" which takes place in Spain, and I decided, my next challenge needs to be a global one.

So next year (and beyond becuase I know this is going to take awhile) I am going to start down through all the countries and try and read a book from each.  I reached out to various online reading groups and got so many suggestions that I was off to a great start.  Then I started my online research, and I think I have a starting list.

As my lists always do - I am sure this will ebb and flow as the challenge goes on.  I am still missing a few countries where I just couldn't put my finger on a book that sounded like a good fit.  My plan - if it goes well and the book is outstanding- is to buy the book when I finish reading it and put it on my shelf.  I don't buy many books, but I would love a World bookcase.

So here is the list.  I am always open to suggestions, so feel free to make them.  If you read a book from a country that you absolutely think I should not miss, then tell me about it in the comments.  And if you know of a book for my empty country slots, I want to hear those too.

If you click on the book name, it will take you to the Amazon page where you can see who the author is and read a synopsis.

What countryBook Name
AfganistanKite Runner
AlbaniaThe Palace of Dreams
AlgeriaThe Plague
Andorra32 Yolks
AngolaThe Book of Chameleons
AntiguaA Small Place
ArmeniaLike Water On Stone
ArubaAn Island Away
AustraliaThe Light Between Oceans
AustriaMarrying Mozart
AzerbaijanAli and Nino A Love Story
BahamasAn Evening in Guanima
BahrainRound the Bend
BangladeshA Golden Age
BarbadosCaptain Blood
BelarusVoices from Chernobyl
BelgiumA Tall Man In A Low Land
BelizeThe last flight of the Scarlet Macaw
BhutanBeyond the Sky and the Earth
BosniaZlata's Diary
BotswanaThe No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
BrazilDona Flor and Her Two Husbands
BruneiDevil of a State
BulgariaNatural Novel
Burkina FasoOf Water and Spirit
BurundiThis Voice in my Heart
CamobdiaThe Rent Collector
CameroonMission to Kala
CanadaStill Life
Cape VerdeLast Will+Testament Senhor de Silva
Central Africa RepublicDaba's Travels
ChadThe Roots of Heaven
ChilieMaya's Notebook
ChinaWild Swans
ColumbiaLove in the time of Cholera
ComorosA Fish caught in time
Congo - DemocraticTomorrow I'll Be Twenty
Congo - RepublicThe Poisonwood Bible
Costa RicaCadence of the Moon
Cote d'IvoireWhiteman
CroatiaGirl At War
CubaWaiting for Snow in Havana
Czech RepublicThe Unbearable Lightness of Being
DenmarkSeven Gothic Tales
DjiboutiPassage of Tears
DominicaBlack and White Sands
Dominican RepublicIn The Time Of Butterflies
East TimorIf you leave us here, we will die
EgyptThe Memoirs of Cleopatra
El SalvadorBitter Grounds
Equatorial GuineaShadows of Your Black Memory
EritreaI Didn't Do It For You
EstoniaThe Beauty of History
EthiopiaCutting For Stone
FijiFiji A Novel
FinlandThe Year Of The Hare
FranceAll The Light We Cannot See
French GuianaPapillon
GambiaFolk Tales and Fables from The Gambia
GermanyThe Book Thief
Great BritainDracula
GrenadaGranada A History of Its People
GuadeloupeThe Bridge Of Beyond
GuatemalaPopol Vuh
GuineaThe Radiance of the King
Guinea-BissauThe Ultimate Tragedy
GuyanaOf Marriageable Age
HaitiThe Comedians
HondurasThe Lost City Of The Monkey God
HungaryThe Dukays
IcelandBurial Rites
IndiaLife Of Pi
IndonesiaThis Earth of Mankind
IraqImperial Life in the Emerald City
IrelandThe Misremembered Man
IsraelA Tale of Love and Darkness
ItalyBeneath a Scarlet Sky
JamaicaThe Book of Night Women
JapanMemoirs of a Geisha
JordanLeap of Faith
KazakhstanOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
KenyaCircling The Sun
Korea, NorthThe Girl With 7 Names
Korea, SouthPlease Look After My Mom
KosovoCity of Thieves
KuribatiThe Sex Lives of Cannibals
KurdistanMy Father's Paradise
KuwaitThe Hidden Light of Objects
LaosMother's Beloved
LatviaWith Dance Shoes in Siberian Shoes
LebanonOne Thousand and One Nights
LiberiaThe House at Sugar Beach
LibyaIn The Country of Men
LiechtensteinStamping Grounds
LuxembourgMilly's Story
MacedoniaGhost on the Throne
MadagascarBeyond the Rice Fields
MalawiThe Boy who harnessed the wind
MalaysiaThe Gift of Rain
MaldivesOn The Island
MaliBound to Violence
MaltaThe Great Seige Malta 1565
Marshall IslandsSurviving Paradise
MartiniqueSugar Money
MauritaniaTravels in Mauritania
MauritiusThe Last Brother
MayotteIsland in the Stream
MexicoLike Water For Chocolate
MicronesiaIsland of the Sequined Love Nun
Moldova,Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
MongoliaGhengis Birth of an Empire
MontenegroBlood of Montenegro
MoroccoSecret Son
MozambiqueThe First Wife
Myanmar/BurmaThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats
NamibiaBlood Rose
NepalInto Thin Air
NetherlandsDiary of a Young Girl
New ZealandThe Whale Rider
NicaraguaThe Country under my skin
NigeriaHalf of a Yellow Sun
NorwayOut Stealing Horses
OmanEarth Weeps, Saturn Laughs
PakistanThree Cups of Tea
PalauVanished The Sixty Year Search
PalestineMornings in Jenin
PanamaThe Path Between The Seas
Papua New GuineaThe Last Men: Journey Among The Tribes
ParaguayAda's Violin
PeruDeath In The Andes
PhilippinesState of War
PolandThe Last Wish
PortugalThe Book of Disquiet
Puerto RicoStories from Puerto Rico
QatarThe Glass Palace
Russian FederationThe Master and Margarita
RwandaWe Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed
Saint Kitts and NevisOnly God Can Make A Tree
Saint LuciaOmeros
Saint Vincent + GrenadinesIsland of Eden
SamoaLeaves of the Banyan Tree
Sao Tome and PrincipeSao Tome - Journey to the Abyss
Saudi ArabiaDaring To Drive
ScotlandThe Black House
SenegalSo Long A Letter
SerbiaThe Last Window Giraffe
SeychellesStranded in the Seychelles
Sierra LeoneA Long Way Gone
SingaporeMinistry of Moral Panic
Slovakia               Maria Gulovich: OSS Heroine of WWII
SloveniaVeronkia Decides to Die
Solomon IslandsHead Hunting in the Solomon Islands
SomaliaThe World's Most Dangerous Place
South AfricaThe Elephant Whisperer
South SudanThey Poured Fire on Us From The Sky
SpainThe Shadow Of The Wind
Sri Lanka                                  Island of a Thousand Mirrors
SudanWhat Is The What
SurinameThe Cost of Sugar
SwazilandThe Kingdom of Roses and Thorns
SwedenA Man Called Ove
SwitzerlandSwiss Watching
SyriaDamascus Nights
TaiwanThe Astonishing Color of After
TanzaniaThe Snows Of Kilimajaro
ThailandThe Disallowed: The Humorous Story of a Contemporary Vampire Family
TogoThe Village of Waiting
Trinidad & TobagoA House for Mr. Biswas
TurkeyLast Train To Instanbul
TurkmenistanThe Tale of Aypi
Turks & Caicos IslandsWater and Light - A Diver's Journey
UkraineLike A River From Its Course
United Arab EmiratesCity of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism
USAThe Stand
UruguayThe Invisible Mountain
UzbekistanA Carpet Ride of Khiva
VanuatuGetting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands
Vatican CityThe Fifth Gospel
VenezuelaThe Motocycle Diaries
VietnamThe Sorrow of War
YemenI Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced
ZambiaDon't Let The Dogs Go Tonight
ZimbabweWe Need New Names