Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Extra Book - The Testaments

Book: The Testaments
Author: Margaret Atwood
Pages: 432

This is my 128th read for the year.  

I was anxious to read this one, so I broke my own (set) rule of reading only 25 pages a night, and read late into the night to get it finished over a few days.

This book takes place 15 years in the future after The Handmaid's Tale.  Gilead still has a grip on its society, but the inner circle is begining to crack.

The book covers several women - an Aunt who is trying to change the course of history, a young girl who grew up outside of Gilead and will soon be used as a pawn to bring it down; and a young girl who grew up inside Gilead but decided to change her fate when she chose not to marry the Commander assigned to her, and instead became an Aunt.

These three women, along with others who are working in an undercover group called Mayday, are determined to bring Gilead to its end.  But their success is fragile.  The women need to decide how far they will go to change things.

I liked this book.  Better than I thought I would.  I think what I liked about it was that 1) it took place quite a bit into the future - not right after Handmaid's Tale ended.  2) it wasn't like the TV show (which I haven't loved).  3) That women who were part of this world decided it was time to fight for change.

I am glad I read it.  Is it top literature?  No.  But I really hadn't liked the Handmaid's Tale (more on the fact that the content disturbed me and with today's political climate - made me nervous), so this was a better "end" to what I am assuming is this book series.

Stars: 4

Monday, October 21, 2019

Read The World - Columbia - Delirium

Book: Delirium
Author: Laura Restrepo
Pages: 320
Book takes places in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my 127th read of the year

This is the fictional story of 4 people - Agustina, a woman who has sunk into madness; her husband Aguilar who tries his best to care for her; Midas - a drug traffiker who used to be Agustina's lover; Nicolas - Agustina's grandfather.  The author blends their stories together to weave a picture of how Agustina decends into madness.  

This was a pretty good book.  You have to really pay attention because there are a lot of run on sentences (style) and back and forth between the characters and no chapter breaks.  The book blends the characters lives together among the backdrop of Columbia during a turbulent time in their history.  

I am glad I read this.  When I first started it, I was afraid I was going to be put off by the style, but I got invested in the stories of all the characters, and thought that the author developed them well.  Good read.

Stars: 4

Friday, October 18, 2019

Read The World - Eritrea - I Didn't Do It For You

Book: I Didn't Do It For You
Author: Michela Wrong
Pages: 480
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but she spent time there)
I have visited: NO

This is my 126th read for the year.

I am still making my way through the vast number of countries on the African continent.  I could not place Eritrea on a map before I read this book.  And honestly - I would have had no idea it was in Africa.  Kudos to this challenge for its continued Geography lesson.

This non-fiction book delves into the small African country of Eritrea which is right on the outside of Ethiopia.  It has been part of the world's longest guerrilla war.  So many countries have been a part of it's history - Italy, Britain, Ethopia, United States, and the Soviet Union - all wanting a piece of what Eritrea has to offer.  This book is written from an insider account of the long Eritrea war.  The author interviews several key players - an African emperor, a guerrilla fighter, and an English suffragette.  She winds through the history of this AFrican nation to develop of full picture of its history over the last century.

This was a pretty good book.  It was a tad dry in spots, but the stories from the Eritrea people really helped pull the story along.  I was able to develop a good picture of this nation and what it has exhaustively had to deal with in the 20th century. 

I am glad I read it.  It was a good find for a county I knew nothing about.

Stars: 3 1/2

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Read The World - Bolivia - The Bolivian Diary

Book: The Bolivian Diary
Author: Ernesto Che Guevara
Pages: 320
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 125th read for the year

This is Che Guevara's last diary before he was captured and executed for his guerilla activities in Bolivia.  This book was complied from the notebooks that were found in his backpack after his capture.

This book was okay.  It is actually a pretty boring diary of them marching through Bolivia - starving and being sick and then finally being captured.  The diary covers about a year of their trek through the country.  I actually got a lot more out of the beginning and end recaps of the story as well as the "month in review" section of each chapter than I did from the actual journal entries.  

I know he is seen as a hero, but he did not really come off that way in this book.  IT is full of blunders through the countyside, constantly on the move and always on the brink of starvation.  I kept waiting for the book to take shape and a real battle to be revealed, but it never happened.

When looking for books around Bolivia, almost all recommended reading was about Che Guevara.  This is the only one that took place exclusively in Bolivia (his more famous "Motorcycle Diaries covers several countries), so that is why I chose it.  But I may keep looking for another Bolivian book in the future.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Extra Book: Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup

Book: Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup
Author: John Carreyrou
Pages: 352

This is my 124th book for the year.

This was another book recommended to me by a friend.  Same friend as Empty Manions - and it was two wins in a row from them.

This is the true story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos.  She claimed that she was going to be able to run 100s of blood test from a drop of blood.  She wanted to prevent people from painful bloodraws and also put this technology in people's homes so that diseases could be caught earlier, and could be better managed.

The reality was - she had nothing.  No working product, no ability to draw such a small amount of blood and get accurate results.  But she lied for over a decade and took millions and millions of dollars from unsuspecting companies and people.   All of her employees had to sign agreements not to talk when they were either fired or quit their jobs.  It took one brave young employee that finally talked to the Wall Street Journal that brought the truth to light.

This was an incredible book.  I could not stop shaking my head at the fact that for 12 years this company existed, took money, and had nothing.  No product.  It is baffling that this woman and the people closest to her were able to pull this off.  Walgreens even bought it.  People like Ruper Mudoch bought into it.  They believed every lie she told.  The test that she said her machine could run all came back incorrect.  Or didn't work at all.  Employees came and went through a revolving door - not lasting long once inside and discovering what was really going on.

Today - Elizabeth Holmes company no longer exist.  She and her ex-boyfriend Sunny who ran this company are on trial for a 20 year jail sentence.  All the money is gone.  The trial is set for June 2020 to determine if they go to jail for what they did.  The could have killed people.

I recently watched the 20/20 episode on this story and it pulled the book together.  And a movie is in the works.  I am anxious to see where this all ends for Elizabeth Holmes.  My hope is jail.

The book is really good.  It is well written and thoughtful.  It pieces together the story from her leaving Stanford at age 19 all the way up until present day.  You watch it unfold in an "after the fact" fashion where it makes it hard to believe that people fell for this.  However - if you truly didn't know what was going on behind closed doors, I would have fallen for it too.

Don't miss this read - it is worth it.

Stars: 5

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Extraordinary Book Titles

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Artsy Reader.  You can see her blog HERE.  Follow along with the fun!

Today's topic is:

Extraordinary Book Titles

These will be my opinion, of course.  I am drawn to a book by the title first and foremost.  If the title seems interesting, I pick the book up, or look it up on Amazon to see what it is about.

But what makes them Extraordinary?  I have no idea.  So I am going to list just some titles that drew me to the book in the first place and then caused me to read it.  And in the end, became a book I am glad I finished.

I am going to try to use titles of books I don't use often in these Top Ten Tuesdays.  It is hard when you have favorite books that fit all kinds of these lists.

I have linked to the Amazon page for each book - so just click on the title if you want to read what the book is about.

1) And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

This is a very short book by one of my favorite authors.  He packs a whole story about Alzheimers into 96 pages.  It is definitely worth a read.


2) The Astonishing Color of After

The title of this one drew me in the first time I saw it on instagram.  And then it became a favorite read for me so far this year.  IT is an incredible book.  I highly recommend.

3) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime

If you have not read this book, you need to put it in your TBR pile.  It is about a boy with Autism and his adventure after he discovers that a neighbor's dog has been killed.  The story is incredible.  I have seen the play in New York City and it is equally as good.

4) Ella Minnow Pea

What a great title, right?  It is a book I read to my kids and it is just the silliest and most fun book.  The town keeps forbidding its citizens to use certain letters when they talk and it makes it harder and harder for people to talk.  It is a fun book that is worth a read.

5) A Fall of Marigolds

The title of this one drew me in when I saw it in the bookstore.  And then it became one of my all time favorite books.  The story is increidble.  And it is extemely well written.  I recommend it to everyone.

6) The Lovely Bones

This is an oldie but goodie.  The title gives you no clues about what this book is going to be about.  One of the most disturbing reads I have ever read.  And I have seen the movie as well.  I recommend both.
7) The Ocean At the End of the Lane

This was my first Neil Gaiman book.  The title drew me in, and the book ended up being incredible.  I have gone on to read just about everything he writes, thanks to this one book.

8) Salt To The Sea

This book title really drew me in.  Once I read the back, I knew it was something I wanted to try.  And I am so glad I did.  This book was amazing.  You have to read it.

9) Savvy

Years ago, I attended a book conference that was held about kids and young adult books.  A young library who was incredibly passionate about getting young people to read, talked about the lending library she had in her own home.  Students could even come to her house and borrow books that she had - because she had 100s.  She spoke about this book - Savvy - as one of her favorite books for middle grade, that I knew we had to try it.  I read it with my eldest daughter and we loved it.  It is an incredible book

10) Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers

This book drew me in as soon as I saw the title and cover.  I love non-fiction books, and after my parents decided to donate their bodies to science, I knew I would have to read this book (and then make them read it).  It is a light touch on a heavy subject, and I really enjoyed this book.  Learned a lot.  And I went on to read Mary Roach's other book.

What titles draw you in?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Extra Book: Empty Mansions

Book: Empty Mansions
Author: Bill Dedman
Pages: 496

This is my 123rd read for the year

There is going to be a review for a few "off challenge" books in a row.  We were recently on vacation and I decided to take along a few books I have been wanting to read.  This book was recommended to me by a family friend.  The Clark family originated from Connellsville and that is where I grew up.  It is always amazing to me to see our little corner of the world in a book.

This is the true story of Huguette Clark and her family.  The Clark family made their millions on copper in the late 1800s.  Huguette was the youngest child of W.A. Clark.  She was born in 1906 and lived until the age of 104.   Even thought Hugette had several houses all over the country, and over 300 million dollars to her name, she spent the last 20 years of her life living in a small, hospital room at a local hospital in New York City.  Even though she was healthy, she refused to move back to her sprawling New York City apartment.

The book covers the years from when W.A. Clark was a child, through how he made his money, his two wives and his many children.  W.A. Clark was on par with the Rockafellars and Carnegies in terms of wealth and eventually built a 121 room house in NYC.  The family owned valuable paintings from famous artist, several stradavarius violins, and countless priceless items.  

Huguette spent a large part of her life living as a recluse, yet being generous with giving her money away.  She gave away large amounts to her favorite nurse and people close to her.  She gave her most expensive Violin away (priced at 6 million dollars) to someone she knew who wanted to start a string quartet.  The amount of money she had in liquid cash, not to mention in real estate and valuables, was mind blowing.

I really enjoyed this book.  I had a hard time putting it down to do other things.  I became invested in the story.  The book is well written, and well told.  Huguette lived through so many things - the sinking of the Titanic (which she and her family were supposed to be on once it reached the United States), two World Wars, 9/11.....just an incredibly long life.  And one where she was clear and generous until the end.

I did feel like she was taken advantage of, especially by her nurse and her family, her lawyers, and even the hospital administrators.  Huguette had interest that many would consider immature - or even concerning - late into her life.  For example - she collected dolls, and doll houses.  Spending 100s or 1000s of dollars on them over the course of her life.  For those of us who cannot ever fathom seeing that much money in our lifetime, it is hard to understand spending it on things we might consider frivolous.

I encourge you to read this book.  It was really wonderful and I am so glad our friends introduced it to me.

Stars:  4 1/2

Friday, October 11, 2019

Extra Book: The Art of Racing In The Rain

Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Pages: 321

This is my 122nd read for the year

I listened to this book.  It was very short, and I finished it while I ran a few errands

This story is told from the point of Enzo the dog.  His owner, Denny Swift is a race car driver who is working to make it big.  Enzo is there through Denny's ups and downs with life, marriage, death, legal issues, custody battles, and finally making the biggest decision of his life.  The book shows what it is like from a dog's perspective - to watch someone they care about from the sidelines and never really be able to intervene like they want to.  

This was a pretty good book.  Told from the point of view of the dog, it made me wonder what our own dog is thinking as he watches our lives unfold.  How what we do or what happens to us effects him.  It is a sad story, but the ending pulled it together for me.  It is predictable on a lot of levels, but it didn't take away from me enjoying the book.  I am glad I read it.  I think I will check out the movie.

Stars: 3 1/2

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Read The World - Qatar - The Glass Palace Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar

Book: The Glass Palace Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar
Author: Nasser M. Beydoun
Pages: 248
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he lived there)
I have visited: NO

This is my 121st read for the year

This is the author's personal story of his time in Qatar.  He went to Qatar for a job and ended up being detained.  His company accused him of stealing and would not let him leave the country until he paid a large fine or admit to wrong doing.

He spent several years, and a lot of money fighting the charges until he was finally released.  This books talks about his trials and also a back story of Qatar's work-sponsorship program.

This was a very short book and it was okay.  It was a lot of talk about his troubles in Qatar and meeting with lawyers and all his effort to get out of the country.  I would have liked to have learned a little more about Qatar inter mingled with his trials would have made it a better read, in my opinion.  Overall, I learned a lot about Qatar that I didn't know before.  And I feel for this author - he had to spend several years away from his family because of what happened to him.

Stars: 3

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Read The World - Turks and Caicos - Water And Light

Book: Water and Light
Author: Stephen Harrigan
Pages: 287
Book takes places in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he was there for awhile)
I have visited: NO

This is my 120th read for the year

I have surpased last year's reading total for 118 books by the end of September (my blogging is a bit behind when I am actually finishing the books).  Pretty good!  I am hoping to make 150 books by Christmas - I think I can do it.  Sometimes with the holidays my reading slows down, so we shall see.

This is the story of the author's time in Turks and Caicos.  He went there for a deep sea diving expedition and had a chance to really explore the Caribbean waters.  He talks in depth about all of the creatures he saw, the people he met on the island, and of the importance of protecting the wildlife of the sea.  

I liked this book more than I thought.  I was worried it was going to be mostly about details of scuba diving, and it was a bit, but it was written well.  It is interesting in the fact that it talks about the history of scuba diving and the scuba gear that was invented so that people could explore underwater at greater depths.  This book was written in 1992, and I know that scuba gear has even progressed further since then and allow divers to go deeper still.

He talked a lot about the island and the people, and the wildlife that lives there.  He shared a lot of interesting personal anecdote that kept the story alive and moving.  His love for diving and the ocean is apparent in his story telling, and I am glad I found this book.

Stars: 4

Monday, October 7, 2019

Read The World - Mongolia - Genghis Khan

Book: Genghis Khan
Author: Conn Iggulden
Pages: 403
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my 119th read for the year

This is the story of Temujin - who became Genghis Khan.  The story starts when Temujin is just a boy.  He and his brothers lose their father, and the boys are left in charge of their mother and sister and getting them to safety.  Temujin and his family endured, and Temujin vows to get his revenge against the people who killed his father.  

Over time, Temujin unites many tribes and starts to build his empire.  His iron will and his ability in battle makes him a legendary khan.

I really liked this book.  I was worried that it was going to be dull or at the very least - dry.  But it wasn't.  It was well written, and very interesting.  It is historical fiction, but the author does a good job at the end of the book letting the reader know what is known from research throughout his book.

I am so glad I found this one.  I understand that this is a 5 book series, so I hope after my challenge is finished, that I can tackle a few more in this series.  It was a truly great book.

Stars: 4 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Extra Book: The Bride Test

Book: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Pages: 320

This is my 118th read for the year.

This is the story of Esme Tran, and her opportunity to come to the United States.  A woman approaches her while she is cleaning the hotel and after a small interview, the woman asks Esme to come to the US and becomes the wife of her son, Khai.  There is a large sum of money and a job in it for Esme - both what she desparately needs to help support her young daughter, so she agrees.

Khai - an emotionless man who had no intentions of ever getting married, suddendly finds himself face to face with a girl he knows nothing about.  His mother insists that Esme lives with him for the summer and he helps her get adjusted to America.  His mother is sure that Khai will fall for Esme and they will get married before summer's end.

As the summer moves on - Khai and Esme find an easy relationship with each other.  Khai finds himself opening up and Esme finds herself falling for Khai.  But the summer is quickly coming to an end, and she isn't sure that it is enough to allow her to stay in the United States.

This book is silly.  It was entertaining - the perfect audiobook for running errands or exercising, or doing chores around the house.  It is light and an easy read.  But this is not good literature.  The characters weren't endearing or easy to like.  It moved at a good clip in the beginning of the book, but then it just dragged.  It is like a romantic comedy movie where you KNOW what is going to happen, so just get to it already.  The author just seemed to be filling the last 1/4 of the book with suspense just to make the book longer.  

There is also a lot of sex obsessed talk in this book, so be forwarned.  It was unnecessary.  It was too 50 shades of grey for this type of book (which I am assuming is more of a romantic/love story book).  

The book is cheesy, the characters obnoxious, and the pace slow.  Just pass on this book.  Maybe I wil try her other one (Which people seem to like much better), but after this - I just don't know.

Stars: 2

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Six Books - One Post

Someone I follow on Instagram, posted a series of 6 books called "Forward".  They are 6 short stories written by some well known authors, and available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for Free.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you should check them out HERE

The stories are between 30-60 pages long - just little novellas, so I thought I would review them all in one post.  They only took me between 30-60 minutes each to read.

How to count these?  I guess you still count them as books read - even when they are short.  So they would be my 112th-117h reads for the year.

Here are the books.  I will just do a short review, but I will not put a synopsis with each one.  Instead I will link to the Amazon page where you can read about it yourself.

Synopsis: HERE

I am a Vernoica Roth fan.  Her Divergent series books were pretty good.  Especially considering she wrote them when she was 24 years old.  
The Ark wasn't my favorite of the bunch.  The ending was unfinished.  I liked the idea of the book, but was hoping for me (even in a Novella).  I never got really invested in the characters.  It could be that I read it first.  Maybe if I would have started with another and got the "Feel" for this collection I would have felt differently.  Not sure.

Stars: 3

Synopsis: HERE

This was one of the best ones of the group.  I am not familiar with this author, but this short story was good.  Makes me want to read more about him.  I wasn't sure where it was going in the beginning, but it was well written, and had a nice wrap up ending.  

Stars: 4

Synopsis: HERE

I have actually just finished a book by Blake Crouch (Recursion).  I have also read Dark Matter and The Wayward Pines series by this author.  

Another great one - this book.  He is a brilliant sci-fi writer, so no surprises here.  Even in 75 pages, he managed to cram quite the story.  You get invested in the characters, and the ending has a twist.

Stars: 4

Synopsis: HERE

This is the author of "A Gentleman in Moscow" - one of my favorite books I read last year.

I would say this was the best of the bunch.  Well - it was the best of the bunch until the ending.  But none of them had good endings, so I am going to judge it on everything else.  I liked this story the best.  It really drew me in and I was anxious to see where it was going.  But - like all of these - it left me wanting more.

Stars: 4 1/2

Synopsis: HERE

This is an author I do not know.  I looked up what she has written, and I haven't read any of them.
This one was just okay.  SUPER short at 33 pages, not really feeling anything about it.  It was writen in a very confusing, continuous thought kind of way, and I just couldn't get into it.

Stars: 2 1/2

Synopsis: HERE

I love Any Weir.  He is probably my favorite author in this group (maybe a tie with Blake Crouch).  Andy is the author of The Martian - one of my favorite novels of all time.

This book is also extremely short, so I don't know if I can judge it appropriately.  It is a smart concept, and I could have used more to make a better review.  It does have pretty good character development, and it is smartly written.  I just wish there was more.

Stars: 3 1/2

The whole series was a great idea (Blake Crouch and a few others thought of it), and I hope they try it again. Or expand on these stories.  I think it was a neat idea that should be explored by more authors.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

September Review

Another month has come and gone.  How is it October already?  The weather is turning cooler here in Basel, and soon we will be in winter coats full time.  But for now, I am enjoying the slightly cooler weather, and watching the leaves turn  on the trees.  We are leaving for a vacation to Barcelona in a few days which we have been looking forward to.  A good start to a new month.

In September I read 21 books in September (and blogged about 12 of them - the rest of the reviews are to come!)  Nine of those books were for my Read The World Challenge.  I veered off quite a bit from that challenge this month only because I discovered a new library with an English section!  Hard to pass that up.

It was a GREAT reading month.  I was in a mode - reading at least 100 pages or more a day, added some audio books, and just kept a good pace.  Some of these books were short, so I doubt I can keep up this pace next month.  At least 10 would be my goal.

Here are the books I read during the last month.  If you click on the title, it will lead you to the review if there is one.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals (Read the World Challenge - Kiribati)

Prognosis (off challenge book)

The Last Window Giraffe (Read The World Challenge - Serbia)

The Cost of Sugar (Read The World Challenge - Suriname)

Recursion (off challenge book)

Maria Gulovich - The School Teacher Who Saved American Soldiers (Read The World Challenge - Slovakia)

Mrs. Everything (off challenge book)

The Country Under My Skin (Read The World Challenge - Nicaragua)

Recruitment (off challenge book)

The Whisper Man (off challenge book)

The Beach (Read The World Challenge - Thailand)

Lost on Planet China (Read The World Challenge - China)

The Ark (off challenge book) - Review soon

The Last Conversation (off challenge book) - Review soon

Summer Frost (off challenge book) - Review Soon

You Have Arrived At Your Destination (off challenge book) - Review Soon

Emergency Skin (off challenge book) - Review soon

Randomize (off challenge book) - Review soon

The Bride Test (off challenge boo) - Review soon

Genghis Khan (Read The World Challenge - Mongolia) - Review soon

Water and Light (Read The World Challenge - Turks and Caicos) - Review soon

Top 5 books of September:

The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Lost on Planet China
Genghis Khan
The Last Conversation
The Whisper Man

Bottom 5 books of September

The Bride Test
Maria Gulovich
The Ark
Emergency Skin

How was your September Reading?