Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Extra Book - The Shadows

 Book: The Shadows

Author: Alex North

Pages: 326

This is my 81st read for the year

This is the story of Paul and his friends.  Paul meets a kid named Charlie while he is in high school that talks him and his friends into trying lucid dreams. Charlie thought he and his friends could meet each other in the dreams and "deal with" people they didn't like.  Charlie commits a murder, and 25 years later, Paul is still dealing with the aftermath of that murder.  Copycats have tried to replicate Charlie's murder, and things are getting out of hand.

Paul returns to the town he grew up in to see his dying mother.  After the murder, Paul had walked away from his hometown and never looked back.  That included not seeing his mother in many years.  His mother - now sick with dementia - tells Paul that there is something inside her house, so Paul starts to investigate.  New murders are popping up in town, and what Paul finds in his mother's house leads him down the path of his past that he swore he would never go again.

This was a pretty good book.  I enjoyed North's "The Whisper Man" earlier this year, and felt that one of his haunting tales were needed for Halloween.  This one wasn't as good as the Whisper Man, but it held my attention.  Just like Whisper Man, it drew me in, leading up to the big revelation, but it ended up being not as scary as I hoped.  Not as mythical as I imagined.  While I found The Whisper Man much more intense, I am not sorry I read this one.  I read it slowly over the course of a few weeks, k  between some other books, and maybe that was the problem - should have read it a little faster for more story continuity.

Stars: 4

Read The World - Laos - Mother's Beloved

 Book: Mother's Beloved

Author:  Outhine Bounyavong

Pages: 176

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: YES

I have visited: NO

This is my 80th read for the year

This is a book of short stories.  One side of the page is writing in the Laos language, and the other translated into English.  They are stories of ordinary people doing ordinary things in Laos.  You get a peek into the day to day living in Laos.

This was a pretty good book.  Some of the short stories end abruptly leaving you wanting for more.  I do find that with short stories, though, so maybe it is was should be expected.  The are entertaining and hold your interest, and give you some insight into life in Laos.  A charming little book I am glad to add to my Read The World collection.

Stars: 4

Friday, October 30, 2020

Read The World - Phillippines - State Of War

 Book: State Of War

Author: Ninotchka Rosca

Pages: 367

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: YES

I have visited: NO

This is my 79th read for the year

This book opens during a festival in the Phillippines with three young people - Eliza, Anna, and Adrian.  Adrian is rich and the son of a prominent family.  Anna is a widow who was recently detained and tortured by the military.  And Eliza is the daughter of a courtesan.   As the festival is going on - so is a war.  Anna gets in contact with the rebels who are planning to bomb the festival and Adrian is captured. 

The book jumps to the past of these three families to trace the history of Adrian's family money, and that Eliza is a relative of Anna's.  weaving together their stories, the final part of the book brings us back to the present and lead up to what happens with the war and the rebels.

This is an okay book.  Quite confusing.  I think the middle part - the history - was my favorite.  It took me awhile to get into this one and it actually required a lot of attention to keep me reading.  It had some redeeming qualities.  Like I said - the history in the middle of this book is the longest section and the most interesting in my opinion.

Stars: 3 1/2

Monday, October 26, 2020

Read The World - Guyanan - The Sly Company Of People Who Care

 Book: The Sly Company Of People Who Care

Author: Rahul Bhattacharya

Pages: 288

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 78th read for the year

This is the story of a 26 year old journalist who flew from Bombay to live in Guyana.  During his year long sojurn in Guyana, he recounts the different towns in the country and the people he meets.  Written with a mix of Guyanese language it brings to life and paints the picture of the country from his point of view.  He recounts his time panning for gold and diamonds with someone named Baby.  The second part of the book delivers some Guyana political and social-cultural history.  (this area of the world speaks English, but 30% of the people are Afro-Guyaese - decendents of slaves).  The third part actually takes the narrator out of Guyana and on a trip with a woman to Venezuela.  

This book was fine.  It was a little slow moving, but if I put everything else aside and tried to absorb my thoughts all on reading this book- it actually had some redeeming qualities.  I like the incorporation with the Guyanese language in with the writers.  I liked the section about the history of Guyana the best of the three parts.  IT was a little rambly, and I found myself putting it down more often than picking it up, however, it will stay my Guyana book.

Stars: 3

Extra Book - Drama

 Book: Drama

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Pages: 240

This is my 77th read for the year

This is a story about Callie.  She loves theater, and is excited to be a part of the set design for this year's school production.  Drama between the crew and the on stage performers quickly develops.  And among that, Callie has her own turmoil with a boy (or a few) that she has a crush on.  Finding her way and trying to figure out what she wants while pulling off a terrific set for their play brings out plenty of Drama for Callie and her friends.

This is the last Telgemeier graphic novel that my daughter and I have.  We have enjoyed reading all 4 of them, and this was one was no different.  A nice message about finding your way in middle school, and figuring out who your friends are.  Plus learning tolerance of others, even if they feel differently than you.  We read this one in an afternoon and really enjoyed it.  Highly recommend.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Read The World - Guadeloupe - Crossing The Mangrove

 Book: Crossing The Mangrove

Author: Maryse Conde

Pages: 207

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: YES

I have visited: NO

This is my 76th read for the year

This story is told from many points of view, but revolves around one person:  Francis Sancher.  Francis has recently been found dead.  None of the villagers are really surprised since Francis predicted his death.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of one person who has come to view Francis body and pay respects and tells their piece in Francis' life.

This was an okay book.  Some of the stories were pretty interesting.  Overall the book was well written.  However what you will quickly discover is that this is not a mystery book and the answer to how Francis died will never be revealed.  That the stories are just those - stories.  Not pieces to a puzzle of how he died, but how he lived and affected their individual lives.  I was kind of hoping for it to be revealed anong those stories how he died, but it didn't.  And that was a bit of a let down for me.

OVerall, a fine book.  As I widdle away at the last 30 countries I have to read, it is becoming harder and harder to find a lot of choices, so this will remain my Guadeloupe book.

Stars: 3 1/2

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Extra Book - The Rules of Magic

 Book: The Rules of Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman

Pages: 400

This is my 75th read of the year

This is the sequel to Magic Lessons, which I finished reading recently.  It takes place hundreds of years later with the Owens bloodline in the 1950s.  It follows Frannie, Jet, and Vincent - three Owens children whose mother wants to hide who they really are.

A summer with their Aunt Isabelle leads them to learn more about who they really are.  One tragedy after another strikes the children, but they remain bonded and committed to breaking their family curse.  

This was a pretty good follow up book. I listened to this book, and it was entertaining while running my errands.  I was suprised we didn't land somewhere in the middle of time with the second novel (knowing there is one more to come) instead of jumping right into the 20th century.  The characters are likable and the story is pretty well written.  I didn't like it as much as I did Magic Lessons and found there to be a few eye rolling moments.  Like when Frannie falls in love, but refuses to marry the love of her life but gets pissed off when he tries to move on.  Overall, it was a solid story, and I look forward to reading the last book in the series.

Stars: 4

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Extra Book - Betty

 Book: Betty

Author: Tiffany McDaniel

Pages: 480

This is my 74th book of the year

This is the story of Betty Carpenter and her family.  The 6th of 8 children born to a mother who was white and a father who was Cherokee, her story unfolds in the 1950s-1970s in this book.  Early in her life, she and her family settle in the town of Breathed, Ohio.  Their family is poor and isolated due to their Cherokee background, but despite that, Betty grows up feeling the love from mostly her father.  A man full of stories and love for his children, Betty learns from him to become resilient.  As one tragedy after another strikes her family Betty is left with her stories and her love of writing to help her escape.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  First - you need to know that this book has a lot of very hard subjects to read about.  There is rape and abuse, and death among the love and stories of Betty's upbringing.  I THINK I understand that this is based on the true story of a real person.  And if that is the case, I really have a hard time with it.  I am sure families like this exist and they are horrible to their core on many levels with deep secrets that no one would ever guess.  I am sure of it.  But it bordered on the unbelievable.  NOW - if it is purely fiction based on the backgrounds of Cherokee families or hardships of poor families at this point in history - then it becomes a little different for me.  Don't ask me why - I cannot put my finger on it.  Beautifully written on many levels?  YES.  Cringe worthy parts?  YES.  Worth a read.....MAYBE?  Close to a yes.  

The dad in the story is amazing.  He weaves stories and tales from his Cherokee anestry that were the best parts of the book.  But many of the characters - the mom, the eldest brother, two of the sisters......cringe.

Ugh.  This one was harder than I thought.  I got those book through my Book of the Month and I am glad that I chose it.  However - as I read the very very few reviews it has on facebook, I see I might be the only one that is having trouble putting into words exactly how to review this one.

Stars:  3 1/2

Extra Book - Guts

 Book: Guts

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Pages: 224

This is my 73rd read for the year

Another tale from the author's childhood, Raina relives the story of when stress and anxiety caused her physical stomach aches and problems at school.  She had gotten the stomach flu, and then after that, every time she thought about different kinds of food or germs - she would get another stomach ache.  And then if she had to talk in front of her class - a stomach ache would come on.  She soon started talk therapy to work through what was going on with her and give her strategies on how to cope with her feelings.

This was another great one.  Reading this one with Finley was ideal because she is of the middle school age where a lot of these things come into play.  Shyness and awkardness and friendships.....the life of a teenage girl can be rocky.  I think it is important for kids to read stories about real people who had real struggles just like they do to help them realize they aren't alone in trying to figure it all out.

Good read for the pre-teen/teen group for sure.  

Stars:  4 1/2

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Extra Book - Sisters

 Book: Sisters

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Pages: 208

This is my 72nd read for the year

This is a story about the author.  She relives becomes a big her two younger siblings and what it was like growing up with them.  The younger sister she got was not the younger sister she expected.  Amara is a grouchy baby and a grouchy kid, and Raina finds her exhausting.  

A trip to visit family changes their relationship and they realize they must learn to get along.

This was another cute book that Finley and I read together.  A great graphic novel about the author's childhood - touching on the subject of two sisters tumultuous relationship as they grow.  Cute stories that had us laughing, and serious parts that had us discussing the relationship Finley has with her own sister.  I am glad we read this one.

Raina's books are great to read together with your kids or have your kids read alone.  Don't miss these ones.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, October 19, 2020

Read The World - Grenada - The Bone Readers

 Book:  The Bone Readers

Author: Jacob Ross

Pages: 264

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: YES

I have visited: NO

This is my 71st read for the year

This is the story of Michael Digson who is recruited by the local police to help solve a cold case.  He has a natural talent for forensics, so he starts the hunt for a missing boy, and in the process continues to try and solve his own cold case - the one involving the disappearance of his mother.  What Digson uncovers is not only the missing boy, but several other people who went missing on the island and uncover a spree killer

This book was fine.  It got a lot of 5 star reveiws and my guess is there are not a lot of books that take place in Granada.  The color of the island came through nicely in the book - the author writes as the locals speak - and that adds some flavor you don't see in many books.  It found it a bit "all over the place" and only mildly entertaining.  However- it is a short book, and it checked the box for my Read The World challenge, so we will hang onto it for now.

Stars: 3

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Extra Book - Magic Lessons

 Book: Magic Lessons

Author: Alice Hoffman

Pages: 416

This is my 70th book for the year

This is the prequel to Practical Magic and it begins almost 400 years ago with Maria Owens - the beginning of the Owens family blood line.  She was abandoned as a baby and Hannah Owens finds her and raises her as her own.  Hannah realizes that Maria is a witch - just like she is - and begins teaching her everything she knows.

Maria grows, and falls for a man who abandons her.  Maria decides to find him and follows him all the way to Salem, Massachusetts.  Here she raises her own daughter, Faith, and invokes a curse that will follow her family for centuries.

This was a pretty good book.  I picked this one for my Book of the Month box and wasn't disappointed.  Thought it was a good pick for the month of October.  We live very close to Salem, Massachusetts, and have visited a few times, so it was another reason I picked this one.  I have not read Practical Magic or The Rules of Magic year, but decided to start with this one (since this is the first in the series, even though it is the last she has written).

The story of Maria, and Hannah and Faith is a good one.  One daughter after the other - practicing the namless art - saving people, finding love, and figuring out who they are in a world where witches are hanged for their practices.  Maria spends her life trying to protect Faith and figuring out if she is worthy of love.

Check it out.  I am anxious to see where the story goes.

Stars: 4

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Extra Book - Smile

 Book: Smile

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Pages: 224

This is my 69th read for the year

This is a graphic novel written about the author's younger years.  Raina had fallen and knocked out her two front permanent teeth and spent 4 years getting her mouth straightened after that accident.  The book discusses her trials of dealing with that during her teenage years and how it changed her friendships and how she felt about herself.

This is a sweet book.  It was a book my 14 year old daughter wanted to read together, so we did.  We read it all in one sitting - doesn't take long when it is a graphic novel.  It was a great book and we are both looking forward to reading the rest of Raina's books.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Extra Book - The Starless Sea

 Book: The Starless Sea

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Pages: 592

This is my 68th read for the year

This is the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins.   He is a graduate student who one night stumbles upon a mysterious book in his college library.  As he begins to read the book, he stumbles upon a story that seems very familiar to him.  A story from his own childhood.  Confused how he has become the part of a very old book, he returns to the library in search for more clues about the books beginnings.  This leads him to a masquerade party in New York, a secret club, and a library hidden deep in the earth.  Here Zachary meets Dorian and Maribel, and as he continues to read Sweet Sorrows - the book that contained a piece of his path - it takes him on an adventure filled with danger and wonder.  Zachary finds himself deeply wound in the world he has discovered through books and the one he lives in as he tries to figure out where he belongs.

The Night Circus - Morgenstern's first book -is one of my all time favorite reads.  I was so excited to see that she put out a second book because she is an incredibly talented writer.  I always know I am going to enjoy a book when I am hooked on chapter one.  Magical Realism is one of my least favorite genres but Morgenstern's writing pulls me in.

This one wasn't QUITE as good as The Night Circus.  I don't think I can give it 5 stars because I didn't find the story as good as her first novel.  Expertly written?  YES.  The story just had some parts that I didn't love, and didn't tie quite as nicely as I was hoping it would in the end.  But it came so very close to a 5 star book for me.  I did really enjoy it.  Plus - it didn't hurt that she mentioned one of my other favorite books - The Shadow of the Wind - within the first few pages.  Scored some points there.

If you loved The Night Circus, or you like Magical Realism - don't miss this one.  Truly.  It is a story that will suck you in as you picture the world that Morgenstern creates.

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, October 9, 2020

Extra Book - Rodham

 Book: Rodham

Author: Cutis Sittenfeld

Pages: 432

This is my 67th read for the year

This is a fictional story about Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Mixed with truth about Hillary's past and run for President is a fictional story of what would happen if she didn't marry Bill Clinton and instead won the Presidency in 2016.  Spanning the years of 1971-2016, it tells a mixed fact/fictional story of Hillary and her life in the spotlight.  This is the author's take on what would happen if her life had taken a differnt path and she had not become Hillary Clinton.

This book wasn't good.  At all.  I had high hopes for it - thought it would be a neat idea to read about a woman I admire who did actually win the Presidency.  What it would have been like for her if she had not become a Clinton and stood on her own through her Senate and Presidency runs.  But the book had way way way too much sex in it and made Hilary more of a wanting girl than a powerful Senator and President.  I mean letting Donal Trump endorse her?  Large sections of the book actually including conversations with him?  REALLY?  

The second half of this book is a complete mess.  I could hardly finish it.  I should have quit.  I am a big fan of Hilary Clinton.  What the author made up about her thinking his rewrite of her history would be better was way off the mark.

Stars: 2

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Read The World - Benin - The Viceroy of Ouidah

 Book: The Viceroy of Ouidah

Author: Bruce Chatwin

Pages: 160

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 66th book of the year

This is the story mostly of the life of Francisco Manoel da Silva who was an African slave trader in the 1800s.  The book starts with his annual celebration of his life (after he has passed away) by his impoverished decendents in Benin.  These decendents are sure da Silva has left them riches hidden somewhere that they have yet to find.

I am winding down this Read The World challenge, and the countries I am left with - it was hard to find books for them.  Let's put it that way.  This one wasn't bad.  It was dry.  It was FINE.  It had interesting chapters and chapters that I felt I wish I could have skipped.  It lacked substance to make it a great novel.  However - it is only 160 pages long, so I guess that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

I didn't learn much.  A bit about Benin and the slave trade - yes.  But to make heads or tails of the many people discussed in this short novella?  No.

Stars: 3

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Extra Book - When We Believe In Mermaids

 Book: When We Believed In Mermaids

Author: Barbara O'Neal

Pages: 348

This is my 65th read for the year.

This is the story of Kit and her sister Josie.  The grew up in a home that was filled with turmoil.  Parents who didn't take the time to parent instead spent their time with alcohol and drugs.  And an "brother" who came into their lives when they were teenagers who was left to care for them, but struggled with deamons of his own.

Josie ran away and killed in a terroist attack on her train.  For 15 years Kit and her mother have mourned her.  Already Kit had lost her father in an earthquake and her "brother" Dylan to a drowning.  Focusing instead of keeping herself out of trouble, Kit becomes an ER doctor.  One day, while watching the news of a fire in New Zealand, Kit swears she sees her sister in the background.  Slowing the video she becomes more convinced that Josie is somehow alive and she needs to go and find her.  She gets on a plane to New Zealand to search and find out the truth.

Kit is determined to find her, but in taking this journey she is forced to re-live her past.  Old memories and old wounds resurface and Kit can no longer run away.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it as an audiobook on my long car rides and it kept me entertained.  It is an easy listen and the story flows well between the two sisters.  There are a few eye rolling moments for me - things that just seem a bit silly or overdrawn, but for the most part, a good story.  Kit and Josie are likeable characters and it was interesting to see how two sisters from the same house had two very different life outcomes.

I would say check this one out.  As an easy beach (or winter pretty soon) read or a good audio book.

Stars: 4

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Extra Book - Dear Edward

 Book: Dear Edward

Author: Ann Napolitano

Pages: 352

This is my 64th read for the year

This is the story of a young boy named Edward.  He and his family are flying across the country to California for a big family move when their plane crashes killing everyone on board except for Edward.  His story captures the country and he struggles to figure out what to do now that his whole family is gone.  Taken in by a loving aunt and uncle who never had children, he is not sure how to fit in.  

He meets the girl next door, and they form an instant bond.  Together with his aunt, uncle, his friend and his counselor, Edward starts to move forward.  The book goes back and forth between the few years following the crash to the people who are on board the plane.  Edward tries to figure out how he - as the only one who survived - can help all of the families of the other passengers.

I had actually started a book for my Read The World Challenge, and had pulled Dear Edward for my "book to read at night".  But I started this book and couldn't put it down, so I quit the other to finish this one.  IT was a great book.  I was so tense knowing that the plane crash was coming, and how it was going to play out in those final moments before it hit the ground.  And when the crash finally happens, I found myself overwhelmed with feelings about how that must have been for those people on board.

The book is well written and flows well between the past and present.  You feel Edward's struggle with what to make of all the attention and the loss of his family at the age of 12.  He has lost everything he knew.  And it takes him years to finally come to terms with what his life would be life from now on.  You can feel his turmoil.

I highly recommend.  It was a great read.

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Extra Book - The Last Story of Mina Lee

 Book: The Last Story of Mina Lee

Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Pages: 305

This is my 63rd read for the year

I joined Book of the Month Book Box, and this was my first pick from that.  I am pretty excited to be back in the United States and have more access to monthly boxes.  

This is the story of Margot and her mother, Mina.  Margot has not seen her mother in almost a year, and has decided to go and visit her.  She has been calling her mom to let her know she is coming, but has not gotten an answer.  When Margot shows up at her mother's apartment, she discovered that she had died.  The death seems like an accident, but Margot is not so sure.

The book goes back and forth between Margot trying to solve the mystery of her mother's death, and dealing with her past - and Mina's story.  How she came to be in Los Angeles from Korea - and what she was escaping from.  Margot pieces together her mother's history and gets to the bottom of the mystery of her death and struggles to learn who her mother really was.

This book was fine.  It wasn't especially well written and I really didn't like the end.  The book fell apart in the end for me.  The plot was a bit all over the place.  I really cannot recommend it.

Stars: 3