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