Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

2021 Challenge: Over 300 Pages: The Grace Year

 Book: The Grace Year

Author: Kim Liggett

Pages: 416

This is my 62nd book of the year

This is the story of 16 year old Tierney.  Born into a society who believes that women have magic powers.  Girls during their 16th year are banished into the wild to relase their magic so that they can come back to society ready for marriage. However -not all girls that are released during their "Grace Year" return.

Tierney - who doesn't want to be a wife, but is destined to be one anyway - is told that the poachers who hunt the girls during their Grace Year is her biggest fear.  However, she soon realizes that isn't the biggest threat.  As Tierney starts to piece together what the magic really is, why the girls - who are forbidden to talk about the Grace Year  - look so broken when they return, and what all of this means for her own future, she sets to change things.  However, she soon realizes that this will be harder than she imagines.

This book wasn't great.  It was way too much like the Handsmaid's Tale (which is it touted for).  I was looking for some originality in my favorite genre, but got more of the same.  Another society where men see women as property.  The love story that develops escalated so quickly that it was hard to believe.  Instalove is never for me.  There wasn't a lot of character development.  I really never developed feelings for any character in the book - not even our heroine.  This isn't a slow burn, and that is possibly why.  

Handmaid's Tale and Hunger Games this is not.  For a 400 page book, I was hoping for more.

Stars: 3

Sunday, June 20, 2021

2021 Challenge: Author with 9 letters in last name: Half Sick of Shadows

 Book: Half Sick of Shadows

Author: Laura Sebastian

Pages: 448

This is my 61st read for the year.

I got this as an early copy through my Book Of The Month Club

This is the story of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Morgana and Elaine.  Everyone knows the story.  Arthur who is to be king.  Guinevere who betrays Arthur with Lancelot.  Morgana who turns against them all.  And Elaine - who is cursed to know the fuure before the rest of them.

When the time comes for Arthur to claim the throne, the group accompany him Camelot.  Elaine tries her hardest to keep everyone together and everyone safe, but no matter what she does - the future never really changes for her closest group of friends.  She must decide how far she will go to change their fates.

This was an okay book.  I always love a good spin on a classic story.  It did move a little slower and more like a YA book (even thought these characters are in their 20s.)  The characters are a bit bland and I never really got fully invested in any of their stories.  The timeline was a bit of a mess, didn't really develop well.  And the ending - for me it just fell apart.  It left me wanting mor.  

I had high hopes for this one.  I loved the idea.  But for me it fell flat.

Stars:  3

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book You Think They Should Read In Schools: Hiroshima

 Book: Hiroshima

Author: John Hersey

Pages: 152

This ismy 60th read for the year

This is the story of the people of Hiroshima after the Atom Bomb was dropped on their town in 1945.  It is told in the memories of survivors.  IT follows doctors and a priest, mothers and fathers - all who survived and who suffered serious illness in the aftermath.  Over 100,000 people died that day and over the course of time another 100,000 died due to the after effects.  These six survivors and their stories weave a picture of what it was like that day and the years that followed such a tragic event.

This was a great book.  I finished it in an afternoon because it is so short.  I couldn't put it down.  I didn't know much about Hiroshima and an account of people's stories are always my favorite when learning about a place.  The story is unbelievable that one minute they were enjoying a warm summer day and the next their entire world was turned upside down.

Check this book out.  You won't be disappointed.

Stars: 5

Monday, June 14, 2021

2021 Challenge: And Educational Read: Van Gogh - The Life

 Book: Van Gogh - The Life

Author: Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith

Pages: 976

This is my 59th read for the year

The authors delve into the life of Van Gogh starting from when he was a young boy all the way to his death.  Written from help from the Van Gogh museum and letters that were written between Vincent and his brother, Theo, they weave a story that few know about the life of this beloved artist.  Readers get a look into his life both personal and professional and how long he struggled before he was "discovered"  We get a better picture of his mental illness and his death at the age of 37.  

This is a fantastic book - one of the best I have read this year so far.  I listened to it (all 42 hours) to pass my endless hours of painting our house this week.  I was enthralled with this story from the start.  I actually visited the Van Gogh museum just a few years ago with my family and wish now that I would have read this book first.  It goes into so much detail of Van Goghs life and how he came about his paintings.  You become frustrated with this man (he relies on money from his brother for his entire short life - never getting a job yet always spending heavily) but you also feel sorry for him because he was truly tortured.  He does bring on many of his woes himself (he was always obstinate) but he is picked on by towns people wherever he went.  Not becomes truly famous until really after he died, I found his path to being one of the greatest artist we have ever know unbelievable.  I saw his work in person, and now I know what he was thinking when he made those paintings.  Truly amazing.

If you have a lot of time to kill but more importantly want to know more than you ever thought you did about Van Gogh - get this book.  It will be worth it - I promise.

Stars: 5

Our visit to the museum (you cannot take pictures inside)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

2021 Challenge: Books With A Green Cover: Range

 Book: Range

Author: David Epstein

Pages: 368

This is my 58th read for the year

A lot of people will argue that in order to be great at something - one must start early in life.  The book opens with the story of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer - two greats in their chosen sport - with two completely different paths.  What experts have found, however, is that starting early and becoming great is the exception - not the rule.

This book delvs deep into different stories of people who started late in their careers only to becomes some of the greats we know today (Van Gogh is talked about quite a bit).  Experts argue that the path to greatness is when those who on that path experience many interests along the way, not just one focus.  They weave a varied path to discovery of what they truly want to be.  And more often than not - crossing domains, instead of focusing solely on one area of study, leads to the greats in those fields.

This was a great book.  First - we lived in the same town that Roger Federer was from in Basel, and got to know a bit about him while we lived there.  What this book says about him (and the Swiss in general) - is spot on.  Roger was able to explore many sports and interest before settling on Tennis.  Even his parents really didn't want him to focus so much on one particular sport - encouraging him to not take things so seriously and just have fun.  He, and Van Gogh, and many other tops of the fields had similar courses to greatness which I found truly inspiring.  The message is - it is never too late to find a passion.  People who think broadly will increasingly thrive.  What a great message.

I encourage you to try this book.  I think you will be blown away by what the researchers found when they started to look into the past of famous and talented individuals, and it might encourage you to find your true calling in life.

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, June 10, 2021

2021 Challenge: Main Character Is A Librarin: The Librarian of Saint-Malo

 Book: The Librarian of Saint-Malo

Author: Mario Escobar

Pages: 384

This is my 57th read for the year

This is the story of Jocelyn during WWII in St. Malo, France.  Newly married when her husband gets called to the front, Jocelyn is left to protect her home and the library she works in.  She has to billet a German officer who is crude and takes great pleasure in beating the towns people.  Jocelyn looks for hope by writing letters to a famous author telling him how she plans to passively resist by doing her best to protect the towns people and her precious library.  Not wanting to leave her precious Saint - Malo, even when things look so dire, shows Jocelyn's will to protect what she holds most dear.

This is just an okay book.  I bought it for my mother and I because 1) I visited Saint Malo a few years ago to see the remaining devestation from that long ago war, and 2) my Uncle Joe was killed during the war in Saint Malo.  This is a small town in France, so not much is known about it, so imagine my excitement when I saw a book about the town AND a library all in one?  Except it is poorly written.  It is hard to follow because the book streams through 5 years in 300 pages with very little substance.  I didn't like any of the characters.  The writing was juvenille.  I was disappointed that there wasn't more about the city in general let alone a followable story.  Just a shame.

Skip this one
Stars: 2

2021 Challenge: A Character With A Disability: Out Of My Mind

 Book: Out Of My Mind

Author: Sharon Draper

Pages: 320

This is my 56th read for the year

This is the story of Melody.  A young girl with cerebral palsy.  She cannot walk.  She has never spoken. Yet she has hopes and dreams just like all other 11 year olds.  Her parents know how smart she is, yet it takes a kindly neighbor and a school aide to get her a voice so she can communicate.  Once she has a talking board, she can prove that she is smart and capable.  She proves that her disability does not define her and how much she has to contribute.

This was a pretty good book.  It is told in the voice of an 11 year old and would make a great book for teachers to read to students in the 3-5th grade range.  It is a book about tolerance and misunderstanding when someone sees someone who cannot walk or talk.  Melody proves that given the tools she needs, there is no stopping her.  She wants what most 5th graders want - cool clothes, friends, and to be included.

As a nurse I have taken care of countless kids with cerebal palsy - many who were just as capable as Melody.  I am a better person for knowing them.   I would encourage parents to read all kinds of books about all different kinds of disabilities to their children to help use become more understanding of those who are differenly abled.  It is a good lesson and this book a good place to start.

Stars: 4 

Monday, June 7, 2021

2021 Challenge: Ending That Surprised You: Woman In The Window

 Book: Woman In The Window

Author: AJ Finn

Pages: 464

This is my 55th read for the year

This is the story of Anna Fox.  Anna suffers from agoraphobia - hasn't left her house in almost a year.  Even the idea of going outside just a few steps sends her into a panic.  She fills her days watching old movies, drinking too much, and spying on her neighbors.  One night, she thinks she sees a woman murdered, and it sends her life into a tail spin.  She isn't even sure what she saw was real, but she needs to go out of her comfort zone, and out of her house, to find out.

this was an okay book.  I listened to it because I have endless hours to kill right now with projects and figured this would be entertaining enough to pass some time.  IT was.  I wasn't a big fan of "Girl on The Train" and this book reminded me a lot of that.  A borderline alcoholic character there and here - not a fan.  It was overdone. I think if I was reading this instead of listening to it, I would have been even more annoyed.  The book is a slow burn.  A very slow burn.  And the ending was a bit of a surprise, but nothing that I thought "oh my goodness!  I didn't see that coming!"

Eh.  For something that was a best seller, I expected it to be better. 

Stars: 3

Saturday, June 5, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book About Adoption: Far From The Tree

 Book: Far From The Tree

Author: Robin Benway

Pages: 400

This is my 54th book of the year

I am streaming through audiobooks right now because we are painting our entire first floor.  Our contractors are on a 2 week break from our remodel and told us it was time to paint.  5-6 hours a day of painting calls for endless audiobooks

This is the story of three siblings - Grace, Maya, and Joaquin. All three adopted when they were very young, they have no idea the other exists until Grace decides -  as a teenager who just had a baby of her own - to hunt for her biological family.  She is an only child until she finds Maya - her biological younger sister and Joaquin - her older brother.  All three had been searching for where they belong and finding each other brings all kinds of feelings to the surface that they will work through together.  All of them have loving adoptive families who have their backs while they work out their new normal together.

This was a pretty good book.  It was a quick listen and the writing was good.  Maya is witty with some pretty good lines.  There was a BIT too much drama, but with such a quick read, it didn't bother me much.  I liked the idea of the story and how they painted adoption in a positive light along with the realities of what that means for the child who was adopted.  

Check this one out - you won't be disappointed.

Stars: 4

Thursday, June 3, 2021

2021 Challenge: Graphic Novel: Sweet Tooth

Book: Sweet Tooth (volumes 1-3)

Author: Jeff Lemire

Pages:  Book 1 - 128, Book 2 -  

This is my 53rd book for the year
Just counting it as one

The Sweet Tooth Trilogy tells the story of Gus.  A hybrid child in a post apocolyptic world who has no idea that he is different.  He has been raised with his father in a cabine in the woods - never meeting another person.  A pandemic has struck the earth and all babies born after the pandemic hits are hybrids of animals and people - all different levels of intelligence.  The humans set out to kill all the hybrids, or bring them to scientist to study them and find out why all the humans are still dying while the hybrid children are thriving.

Gus' father dies and he meets a man named Jepperd who promises to help him.  For the first time, Gus (nicknamed Sweet Tooth for his love of chocolate) leaves the safety of his cabin and his woods and follows Jepperd into the world.  What follows is the discovery of other children like him, the people who want to help them and to harm them, and his quest to find out the truth of where he really came from.

This was a great series.  It is an acclaimed graphic novel and soon to be a Netflix series, so I wanted to check it out.  It was really good.  I became invested in the story (of course it is my favorite genre - dystopian) and the mystery surrounding Gus and his beginning and the hybrid children.  Once I read the first novel I quickly got the next two because I had to see how it ended and I was no disappointed.  It is a well told story and it wraps up in my favorite way - in the future with a follow up of the characters.  

If you like graphic novels, dystopian future stories and are curious about the Netflix show - check this out.  IT was a pretty quick read, and I am so glad I read it.

Stars: 4 1/2

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

2021 Challenge: Cover The Same Color As Your Birthstone (Red): Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

 Book: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?  Big Questions From Tiny Mortals

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Pages: 240

This is my 52nd book for this year

Caitlin is back answering questions that kids have asked about death and funerals.  Caitlin receives dozens of questions daily about death and decided to composite the most asked and blends her knowledge as an experienced mortician and known history to answer those questions.  Quesions like: does our hair and nails continue to grow?  What happens to astronauts if they die in space?  Do people poop when they die?  Can I have a Viking funeral.  She brings humor and science together and gets to the bottom of these pressing questions that even adults have.

Another excellent book by this author.  Caitlin is candid and knowledgable and it shows.  She does a terrific job explaining a lot of questions that kids (and let's face it - adults) have about death and what happens to bodies.  She takes her vast knowledge and forms it into understandable answers full of history and science.  You will find yourself smiling and laughing at some of the myths that she uncovers based on the questions she gets.  I learned a lot from all of her books, but feel that this was a good book to help answer some of those questions kids have.

Check out her series.  I hope she doesn't stop writing.  She is extremely talented and smart and I am glad I have found her books.

Stars: 5

Friday, May 28, 2021

2021Challenge: Book You Would Rate 5 Stars: From Here To Eternity - Traveling The World To Find The Good Death

 Book:  From Here To Eternity - Traveling The World To Find The God Death

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Pages: 272

This is my 51st book for the year

This story is told by the author about her global travels to explore death rituals in different countries.  She discovers different customs all over the world and  how American funeral rituals compare.  She comes to the realization that the most effective rituals are when the family is directly involved.  Caitlin tells story after story of the people she encountered and gives the reader a new view on how different parts of the world view mortality.

This is Caitlin's second book and I was so excited to find it.  I read her first one (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) and was captivated.  She is an excellent story teller and her encounters are fascinating.  She shows that there is no wrong way to mourn a loved one, or bury a loved one.  She tries to show that embracing the fear of death and burial and asking for what you want.  Caitlyn keeps things light hearted and witty and lead me to some serious introspection.

She is amazing.  Her books are excellent.  And I encourage you to read them all.

Stars: 5

Thursday, May 27, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Coming of Age Novel: Great Expectations

 Book: Great Expectations

Author: Charles Dickens

Pages: 341

This is my 50th read for the year

This is the story of Pip.  He is an orphan who is being raised by his sister and his sister's husband, Joe.  He meets a convict on Chrismts Eve when visiting his parent's graves.  The convict talks Pip into stealing some tools from Joe so that the convict can remove his chains.  Pip also steals him some food.  On Christmas day, police visit Pip's home and ask Joe to help them mend broken irons they found from the escape convict and Joe and Pip help with the recapture.   

Year's pass and Pip meets a Miss Havisham a wealthy spinster that was in need of company.  Here he meets and falls in love with Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, Estella.  He continues to visit Miss Havisham and Estella until he is old enough to become Joe's apprentice.  4 years pass as Pip learns his trade when a lawyer approaches him and tells him that he has come into a large sum of money from an anonymous benefactor so that he may become a gentleman.  Years pass while Pip lives and works and spends money in London and at age 23 he finds out who his benefactor is - much to his surprise.  Spending time with his benefactor his learns his true identity and learns more about Estella's past and her family.  

In the end, Pip leaves London, goes to work in Egypt and returns 11 years late to find Joe married with a child and asks Joe for his forgiveness for abandoning him and their relationship all those years before.  Pip hopes to settle down, repay his debts, and find Estella bringing his story full circle.

This was a great book.  I love Charles Dickens and actually visited his home (which is now a museum) in London and that was incredible.  I even went on a Christmas Dickens tour on year with my family where we learned so much about Dickens, his stories and his life.  He is an incredible writer, and I have always enjoyed his work.  This book was no exception.  I loved it from the start and was very invested in Pip's story and what would happen to him once he came into so much money.  His story takes some unique turns with some suprises and held me capitvated until the last page.  

I highly encourage you to read this one.  You will not be disappointed.

Stars: 5

Saturday, May 22, 2021

2021 Challenge - Book over 450 pages - The Labyrinth of the Secrets

 Book:The Labyrinth of the Secrets

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Pages: 816

This is my 49th read for the year

This book is the final in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.  This book opens with 9 year old Alicia Gris whose parents are killed in the war and she is gravely injured.  20 years later, she is an invetigator for the Spanish secret police hoping to solve one last case before she retires forever.  With her partner, she discovers a rare book by Victor Mataix.  Finding that book leads them on a path to try and find the missing Valls who imprisoned both famous writers David Martin and Victor Mataix.  But finding out the truth puts her and those closest to her in grave danger.  Characters from the past books - The Semperes and Fermin - return to be intertwined in Alica's story.

I would say after Shadow of the Wind, this is my second favorite in the 4 book series. This book is LONG, so it took me time to get through, but true to Zafon's style - the writing is incredible.  He was a talented writer, and I was sad to hear of his passing knowing that I would not be reading any more from him in the future.  Labyrinth - like all the other books in this series- could be a stand alone book.  He does cross a few characters in each book, and to me, this one brought a few things full circle.  We even see a reappearance of the famous Julian Carax from book one.

A book about a bookshop that is buried deep in the earth to protect the books will always be a winner for me.  The idea of a Cemetery of Forgotten books existing would be incredible.  I encourage you to try Zafon's books.  You will not be disappointed.

Stars: 4

Thursday, May 20, 2021

2021 Challenge - LGBTQ author - House In The Cerulean Sea

 Book: House In The Cerulean Sea

Author: TJ Klune

Pages: 416

This is my 48th read for the year

This is the story of Linus.  A man stuck in his ways who has worked as a Case Worker for the Department for Magical Youth for 17 years.  One day he is summoned by the management team for an assignment to check on an orphanage where 6 dangerous children reside.  His job is to check on the children and Arthur, the man in charge of their care.  Linus has met many magical children but none like the children in this particular house.  One child is apparently the Antichrist.  Linus has to put aside his fears for an entire month while he is on the island and assess the care of these children.  What he gets in return is that people are not always as they seem on paper.

This is a sweet story.  It is heartwarming and diverse.  It is also a bit ridiculous and full of cliches, but not in a way that caused me to want to put the book aside.  Every once in awhile I need to read a book that is nothing but charming and full of life lessons.  Was it a touch too sugary sweet?  Probably.    It reads as a YA novel and I found myself thinking of how my younger kids would like this one.  The ending was predictable but I was still happy it ended the way it did.  

Try this one out.  If you need a break for heavy novels and deep dark subjects, this might be the one for you.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

2021 Challenge - An Audiobook: Sound of Gravel

 Book: Sound of Gravel

Author: Ruth Wariner

Pages: 368

This is my 47th read of the year

This is the story of the author's childhood growing up in a polygamy family in Mexico.  She was her father's 39th child.  When he died, and her mom remarried and had many more children, Ruth's life got significantly worse.  Bounced around to several towns and living through the death of several siblings and family members, Ruth finally broke free of the abuse she faced.  

This was a great book.  I listened to it, and I would consider this its only downfall.  And that is only because the author chose to read her own story.  But the story itself and what Ruth faced growing up is a story not to be missed.  You will shake with horror and anger about what she and her siblings were put through as young children and be amazed at where Ruth is now inspite of it all.

This story is well written, well told and was gripping from beginning to end.  I highly recommend taking a look into Ruth's world.  It is captivating.

Stars: 4

Friday, May 14, 2021

2021 Challenge: Favorite Author: Project Hail Mary

 Book: Project Hail Mary

Author: Andy Weir

Pages: 496

This is my 46th book for the year

This is the story of Ryland Grace.  An extinction event is occuring on earth and he is on the team that is set to figure out how to stop it.  Problem is - he is now in space and doesn't remember how he got there or what he is supposed to be doing.  He cannot even remember his name.

Over time, his memory starts to return and he remembers what is happening back on earth and what his mission is.  His is all alone and has to puzzle out how he is going to save humanity and if he will ever see earth again.

Andy Weir quickly became one of my favorite authors after reading The Martian.  Artemis was equally as good.  I was so excited to read this book and it didn't disappoint.  It is written in true Weir fashion - extremely science driven with a touch of humor thrown in for balance.  I would say for me - this might have edged a bit on the too science driven - too technical with the details.  However - Weir's passion for the subject shines through, and with the story bouncing back and forth between Grace in space and Grace before his mission, it comes together nicely.  While the ending leaves me a tiny bit wanting - I think it was planned that way.  He wraps it up, but I did want a bit more.  

It is a great read.  If you have read his other two books and are a fan of science and science fiction - this book is for you.

Stars: 4 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

2021 Challenge - Book with Multiple Character Point Of View: Americanah

 Book: Americanah

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 588

This is my 45th read for the year

This is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze.  They grew up in Nigeria and watched as some of their friends left and headed for the West.  Ifemelu gets a chance to go to America to study and discovers what it is like to be black in America.  Obinza hoped to follow her, but he isn't able to and ends up in Britian and then back to Nigeria.  15 years after the last time they saw each other they are reunited.  So much has happened in both of their lives that it will be hard to find their way together.

This was a pretty good book.  I read Half of a Yellow Sun as part of my Read The World challenge and really enjoyed it.  Adichie is a talented writer, and I thought this was a well told story.  She tells a through provoking story in an intelligent manor.  The characters were well developed and the narrative flowed well.  I am glad I finally got to read this book

Stars: 4 1/2

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Book With Discussion Questions At The End: As Bright As Heaven

 Book: As Bright As Heaven

Author: Susan Meissner

Pages: 464

This is my 44th read for the year

This is the story of the Bright family.  In 1918, Pauline and her husband Thomas move their young family to Philadelphia when Thomas is offered a job as an undertaker with his uncle's business.  Little did they know that the Spanish flu was coming and before things got better, the Bright family would be changed forever.  These changes will lead the 3 Bright daughters on three different paths trying to make sense of a world that claimed the lives of so many.

This was just an okay book.  I loved the first half of this book.  The story of this family in the midst of the Spanish Flu - trying to keep up with all the dead who are left at their funeral home - reminded me a lot of our current pandemic.  But the second half - was just fluff.  I was so disappointed when the book jumped 7 years into the future just to tell mundane stories of these three sisters and their love stories.  IT was like I was reading two different books.

The Fall of Marigolds, by Meissner, is one of my favorite books.  I was excited to dive into her writing once again - there is no doubt she is talented.  This story just didn't do anything for me after page 150 or so.

Stars: 3

Friday, April 30, 2021

2021 Challenge: Watch Out For Dragons: The Hobbit

 Book: The Hobbit

Author:  J. R. R. Tolkien

Pages: 300 

This is my 43rd read of the year

This prelude to Lord of the Rings is the story of Bilbo Baggins - a Hobbit that is enjoying the quiet life.  One day Gandalf the wizard and his company show up at his door and together they go on a quest to raid the treasure of Smaug the dragon.  Bilbo reluctantly agrees and has no idea what is in store for him.

I have to admit that I have not read Lord of the Rings AND I was unaware that The Hobbit was a children's book.  Once I realized that part, the book made more sense to me.  It is written simply.  It was a good an enjoyable story, but I didn't really get into it.  I found my mind wandering, and it just wasn't for me.  However - I am thinking that kids would enjoy it.   I wonder if I had read this when I was younger I would have something different to say about it.

Stars: 3 1/2

Sunday, April 25, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book Written By An Author Who Was Over 65 When Published: Angela's Ashes

 Book: Angela's Ashes

Author: Frank McCourt

Pages: 368

This is my 42nd read for the year

This is the story of the author's childhood.  Starting from his short time as a small child in America, and then his middle and teenage years in Ireland.  One tragedy after another befalls his family.  He grows up extrememly poor in Ireland with many siblings and an absentee father.  They barely have enough money to feed themselves and cloth themselves and the ups and downs he and his family experienced are astounding.  His drem is to save enough money and move to America.  Frank weaves a story of how he and his family barely survived a father who barely worked and drank his wages away, and how hard it was to just stay alive.

This was a really depressing story.  It is well told, however, and that helped.  I could picture where he grew up - down to the smell and desparation.  It is a raw, heartbreaking story and makes me thankful for the childhood I had. I know I am late to the game reading this one, and I have never seen the movie.  I am glad I finally pulled it from my TBR pile.

Stars: 4

Friday, April 16, 2021

Book: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

 Book: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Pages: 416

This is my 41st read for the year

This is the 2nd book in the Legacy of Orisha Series.  Amari and Zelie have brought magic back, but the magic not only returned to the Maji, but to nobles who had magic anestry.  No the enemy is just as powerful as the Maji and Zelie must unite with all the Maji she can find to keep control of Orisha.  Amari remains torn between protecting the Maji and protecting her brother.  Her choices make it hard for Zelie to trust her and keep the Maji safe.

This was an okay book.  Not as good as the first.  It is entertaining and a good audio book while doing yard work. Inin - Amari's brother - wavered so often in the book that it got tiring.  Pick a side man.  The angst in this book (hey they are teenagers after all) was a bit much for this adult reader.  It just went on and on to the point of "move on already".  

I understand there is going to be a third book - this book does leave open ended.  I may check it out hoping that the story will move forward and evolve beyond teenage woes.

Stars: 3

Sunday, April 11, 2021

2021 Challenge - An Author of Color: Children of Blood and Bone

 Book: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Pages: 544

This is my 40th read for the year

This is the story of Zelie and her people.  She remembers a time where magic ran through the Deviners and Maji.  However, a tyrant king made sure that magic disappeared forever leaving Maji dead.  Zelie's mom - who was a powerful Reaper - was taken away in chains and killed shattering their family.

Now Zelie is on a path to bring magic back.  With the help of her brother and some unlikely allies in the kingdom, she has one chance and one moon cycle to return magic to her people and rid the kingdom of their tyrant king.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it while I did yard work (it si 15+ hours) and the reader was excellent.  I got invested in the story and its underlying message.  It started a little slow and confusing for me, but as I started to invest in the characters it got better.  The chapters move between 4 differend POV which I have always been a fan of.   I like hearing from different people throughout a story - see how they view what is happening around them.  It is a story of heros, good vs evil, and how everything isn't always as clear cut as it seems.

This has been a popular book out there forever, and I kept passing it over, but I am glad I finally read it.  And I am definitely going to read the second book in the series.


Friday, April 9, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Book With A Deckeled Edge: The Prisoner Of Heaven

 Book: The Prisoner Of Heaven

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Pages: 278

This is my 39th book of the year

This is the 3rd book in the 4 book series "The Cemetery of the Forgotten"

Daniel returns in this book - our hero from Shadow of the Wind - as a grown man who is married with a baby.  He is running the bookshop with his dad and a family friend named Fermin.  A stranger visits the bookshop one day, buys the most expensive book in the shop and tells Daniel to give it to Fermin along with a mysterious note.  This leads Fermin to tell Daniel about his past and how it intertwines with Daniel's mother, Isabella, and David Martin - whose story was the last book.  This books starts to weave all these lives together and leaves Daniel wondering who he really is.

This was a good book.  Well written, as I expect from Zafon.  I liked it much better than the last book.  I was very invested in the story of Fermin and how it intertwined with DAniel's story from Shadow of the Wind and David Martin's story from The Angel Game.  I am anxious to read the 4th book to see if it ties up nicely in the end.

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, April 2, 2021

Book Challenge 2021 - An Author Who Is Deceased - The Angel's Game

 Book: The Angel's Game

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Pages: 544

This is y 38th read for the year

This is the story of David Martin.  He is a writer who lives in Barcelona.  He starts writing novels under a pseudonym that take off in popularity, and he decides it is tie to work on a novel.  He rents a big house he has always admired. 

He starts to write when he receives a letter from an admirer that wants to pay him a large sum to write a book that has the power to change hearts and minds.  The mysterious stranger asks for very little in return - only to meet with David every once in awhile to check the progress of the book.  When David falls ill and the stranger helps him in the most miraculous of ways, David begins to wonder who he is really working for.

The book takes David on a path that he never wanted to be on.  A dangerous, dealy path controlled completely by the man who is paying him to write his book.  David starts to piece together the past of the house he lives in and this man and knows that he, and the people around him, are in danger.

This was a pretty good book.  Zafon's Shadow Of The Wind remains one of my favorite books ever, so I was anxious to read another one of his.  This book has connections to Shadow Of The Wind - not as many as I like - and that is what drew me to it.  It is well written.  The story dark and twisted.  However it isn't as good as Shadow of The Wind as far as story line.  The story was overly complicated,and did not hold my attention as well as the first book in this series.

I do understand that this one is the weakest of the group, so I am anxious to keep going to see how the others are.  Zafon is an excellent writer and I am glad I read this one, but it just wasn't as good as the first.

Stars: 4

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Book Challenge 2021: Book Related To The Word Fire: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

 Book: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Pages: 272

This is my 37th read for the year

Told in her own words when the author worked at a Crematorium and eventually went to mortuary school.  Caitlin, always curious about people's choices when it comes to death and burial tells stories of countless families who crossed her path while she worked at the Crematorium in California.  She weaves their stories into facts about what happens when a body is cremated, the history of undertakers, and changes in the practice of funerals.  Her wit and curiosity will change your mind about how we treat the dead.

This book was fantastic.  Fair warning - it is as graphic as it is illuminating, so it is not for the faint of heart.  The stories are facinating.  She does an excellent job of telling stories of the people who she creamated and their families while remaining professional and sympathetic to her topic.  I didn't want the book to end.  I listened to it, and she does her own reading, which made it all the better.

If you have read the book "Stiff", then you have to read this one.  Highly recommend.

Stars: 5

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Book Challenge 2021: Winner of a National Book Award (any year): Challenger Deep

 Book: Challenger Deep

Author: Neil Shusterman

Pages: 320

This is my 36th read for the year

This is the story of Caden Bosch.  Caden has been diagnosed with a mental illness.  Caden believes that he is on a ship headed for the deepest part of the earth.  But in reality, he is struggling with the difference between what is in his head and what is going on in the world.  His friends start to notice his odd behavior, and then his parents.  He is finally committed to a mental hospital for treatment and recovery.

This is a good book.  It goes back and forth between Caden's belief he is on a ship to his time dealing with his mental illness.  As the book goes along, the reality and the belief start to entertwine until the reality becomes the stronger.  Shusterman does a good job showing what it is like for people who suffer from delusions and how their recovery is handled.  His own son has a mental illness, and helped Shusterman piece together this book.

It is worth a read.  It is hard to watch anyone struggle with a mental illness, and this book did a good job giving you a peak into what it is like for them.

Stars: 4

Monday, March 22, 2021

Book: The Eleventh Plague

 Book: The Eleventh Plague

Author: Jeff Hirsch

Pages: 288

This is my 35th read for the year

In the aftermath of a war, Stephen and his family are amount 1/3 of the populartion survived a flu epidemic.  He, his dad, and his grandpa roam the country salvaging what they can find.  When an accident happens, Stephen is forced to seek help.  He finds a community that seems too good to be true.  He puts his trust in the town doctor to save his dad, and Stephen tries to find some normalcy in a world that is anything but.  Stephen's appearance in the town is not welcome by everyone that lives there, and it sets the community on a course that could destroy what they have built.

This book wasn't great.  I do love dystopian novels, and I was drawn to this book for that reason.  It started off okay, but then went downhill.  For a kid who was born after the collapse, nothing seemed to surprise him. (his knowledge about McDonalds or a rollercoaster, or an arcade seemed unlikely)  It didn't make any sense.  The story also went from this being about a group of people working together to get through a society rebuild to a 15 year old kid and a girl in town who were suddenly in love and becoming reckless.  The story went in circles and was weak.  None of the characters are well developed.  I found myself wanting to skim over about 1/3 of the book.

Don't recommend this one.

Stars: 2

Sunday, March 21, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Book That Is Set In the 17th Century: Girl With A Pearl Earring

 Book: Girl With A Pearl Earring

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Pages: 240

This is my 34th read for the year

This is the story of Griet.  She is a 16 year old girl who is hired as a maid for the Vermeer family in 1664.  Her father was recently blinded, so Griet needs to make money to help her family.  One of her main tasks in the household was to clean Johannes Vermeer's studio.  While doing so, she becomes fascinated in his paintings and the women he paints.  Johannes soon enlists Griet's help in getting his supplies and mixing his paints, and then finally - asks to paint her.  She becomes the girl with the pearl earring.  Her time as a maid in this household is tumultuous- one of the daughters constantly tries to get Griet in trouble, the other help in the household become jealous of her relationship with Johannes, and she develops an unwanted admirer.  The lines start to bleed between master and servant to the point that Griet needs to make a difficult choice.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it, and I was worried that it might be slow or dry.  IT was neither.  I can say there wasn't incredible character development, and the story was pretty low key.  But I liked the idea of an author taking a real person (Vermeer) and a real painting (The Girl With A Pearl Earring) and develop a fictional story around it.  Nothing is known about Vermeer's muses, and I felt that her idea of what lead to him painting this particular picture was an interesting one.

Good read.  I need to now watch the movie. We visited The Hague where this painting lives, and I wish I would have known that while we were there.

Stars: 4

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Book: Pretty Little Wife

 Book: Pretty Little Wife

Author: Darby Kane

Pages: 416

This is my 33rd read for the year

This is the story of Lila.  She has been in a terrible marriage for a long time, and she has just discovered a secret that her husband had that is unforgivable.  She needs to end her marriage to Aaron, but he is missing.  The police suspect Lila, but she doesn't know where he is.  While the police dig into her past Lila does some digging of her own and finds out more than she bargained for with her husband's past.

This was a pretty good book.  I was set for this one to be cheesy or have a terrible ending, but it was neither.  It was pretty well written and the ending didn't disappoint.  Was I surprised at the end with the wrap up?  No.  However, it did not take away from the story.  It was the first book in awhile that I didn't really want to put down - wanted to keep reading chapter after chapter to see where it was going.  

Check this one out.  It isn't a hard core thriller, but an interesting enough story that you will want to see where it ends up.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 19, 2021

Book: The Ickabog

 Book: The Ickabog

Author: JK Rowling

Pages: 304

This is my 32nd read for the year

This is a book that takes place in the land of Cornucopia.  The people were happy and healthy.  However, looming over the town was a myth of the Ickabog.  Most people believed this was a fictional being and therefor harmless.  

A power hungry member of the Royal Palace decides to bring the Ickabog to life to gain control over the people.  Things quickly spirl out of control for the Palace as a lie is hard to keep secret.  Children Berty and Daisy set out to find out the truth about the Ickabog once and for all knowing that it could help not only their own families, but the whole town.

This was a cute book.  It is definitley written as a children's book, but there is a lot of murder, so I would caution reading this with younger children.  I love that Rowling included art of children throughout the book.  The story is a cute one with a good message:  What happens when a lie spirals out of control and all your time is consumed by trying to cover it up.

Stars: 4

Friday, March 12, 2021

Read The World - Wales - The Owl Service

 Book: The Owl Service

Author: Alan Garner

Pages: 224

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 31st read for the year

*It was brought to my attention that I did a book about Scotland, but left our Wales in my Read The World Challenge.  So - I dug around and found a book from Wales - not an easy task!

**Also I used this book for my 2021 Challenge: An Endorsement by a Famous Author On The Cover

This is mainly the story of Allison, Roger, and Gwyn.  Allison and Roger are step-brother and sister, and Gwyn is a Welsh boy that is spending the summer while his mother works for Allison and Roger's family.  One night, Allison hears scratching noises in the rafters above her room and asks Gwyn to see what it is.  What he finds is a whole set of plates that seem to have a flower pattern on them.  When he touches them, he almost falls through the ceiling.  He brings a plate down to give to Allison who starts to trace the pattern on the plate.  She discovers when she puts the patter together it makes an owl.  As she traces the plate, the pattern disappears leaving only a white plate behind.  Allison becomes obsessed with the plates and traces each one and then each one becomes blank.  

With the appearance of the plates, the occupants of the house start to behave oddly, and tensions rise.  Soon the young people are involved in a mythical curse doomed to repeat itself.

This was an interesting book.  It is an older book (written in the 1960s) and full of Welsh mythology.  I had a hard time following it, even as a middle grade book.  Being more familiar with Welsh history and mythology would help a lot here.  The scratching in the attic - never resolved.  The ending?  Unsatifsying. I did continue reading - interested to see where it would go.  And I am glad I gave it a try since there isn't much out there from Wales.  I just think that this was a book that would take a lot of concentration from a middle grade reader if you were not familiar with this author or this area of the world.

Stars: 3

2021 Challenge: An Author With Only One Published Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray

 Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Pages: 176

This is my 30th book for the year

**Side note - This was touted as Oscar Wilde's only NOVEL - it is not the only thing he has written.  

This is the story of Dorian Gray.  A young model for a painter's work, when Dorian sees it he utters a fateful wish. While artist Basil paints his masterpiece, Lord Henry puts in Dorian's head that while Dorian continued to age, his portrait would remain forever youthful.  This causes Dorian to ask for the reverse.  His wish is granted, and what ensues is a life of amoral practices while the portrait ages and records Dorian's sins.

this was an interesting read.  The book, for the most part, is well written and the story engaging.  There were a few chapters that were just dialogue that drug.  The chapters with story between Dorian and Lord Henry and Basil were the best in my opinion.  It is a short book, so the few chapters that did not capture my interest didn't matter much.

Glad I read this one.

Stars: 3 1/2

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

2021 Challenge: A Dual Timeline: The Lost Apothecary

 Book: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Pages: 320

This is my 29th book for the year

This is the story of Nella, Eliza, and Caroline.  In 1791, Nella is running an underground apothecary that sells remedies, but lately - poisons.  Women find her by word of mouth asking to "fix" problems they might be having with their husbands or significant others.  Eliza is a 12 year old girl that comes to the shop one day on behalf of her mistress, and finds that she wants to stay and help Nella with her shop.  But a mistak young Eliza makes puts the shop in jeporday.

In present day London, Caroline has escaped for a getaway.  Leaving a failing marriage behind, she stumbles across a glass bottle with a bear on it while doing a hunt with a tour group.  This sends her on a path that connects that past Apothecary -and the unsolved murders associated with it - and changes her course forever.

This was a pretty good book.  I read it quickly because I was curious to see where it was going and how the two timelines came together.  It is an easy read and a well written novel.  I will admit that I was more invested in the timeline of Nell and Eliza than Caroline's, but it didn't distract from the story.  I just find the historical plot much richer.

Great find.  Glad I read this one.  Highly recommend!

Stars: 4

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book That Takes Place In A Country That Starts With "S" (Switzerland) - The Sanatorium

 Book: The Sanatorium

Author: Sarah Pearse

Pages: 400

This is my 28th read for the year

Elin and her boyfriend Will are taking a holiday.  Elin's brother, Isaac, is getting married and has invited Elin to the engagement party at a new hotel in the Swiss Alps.  Elin is on leave from her job and feels this is a good time to re-evaluate if she wants to continue her career as a police officer.

However -once at the hotel, a sinister storm sets in and an avalanche blocks the guest in the hotel.  While trapped, people start to go missing.  The Swiss police are not able to get to the hotel due to the storm, so Elin starts working as a detective to find out what is happening to the missing people.  Elin now has to figure out who is taking these people and how to keep the remaining guest safe.

This was a fair book.  I was intrigued by it because it took place in Switzerland.  And I love a good mystery/thriller story.  However, Elin quickly got on my nerves.  She isn't a particularly  strong character - and honestly - none of the others are either.  They lacked depth.  Every move was "sinister".  There was no range with the characters.  There were a lot of loose ends that didn't get tied up.  And the ending - well she left it wide open to interpretation.  Which could be good if she is going to write a second one?  But if not - it was just confusing.  

Stars: 3