Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, September 20, 2021

Book: Later

 Book: Later

Author: Stephen King

Pages: 272

This is my 79th read for the year

This is the story of Jamie.  Jamie, a now young adult, it telling the story of his unnatural ability and how it shaped his life.  His mom is a single mother who sometimes believes in Jamie's "gift" and sometimes thinks that her son is just making it up.  It isn't until she needs him one day that she realizes that he has always been telling the truth.  When an NY police officer draws JAmie in to use his gift to find a serial killer, Jamie is taken on a wild ride as a young kid that he will never forget.

This was a pretty good book.  There is no doubt that I am a Stephen King fan.  He has hits and misses, but I still feel drawn to reading what he writes.  I thought this was a pretty good one.  It is short, and I do miss the long stories that King is more known for, but in this case - shorter was better.  He didn't add "fluff" just to add pages, which I always appreciate.  Could it have been scarier?  Sure.  But I felt myself drawn to wanting to see where the story was going, and read it quickly.

Check this one out if you are a fan.  You won't be disappointed.

Stars: 4

Friday, September 10, 2021

Book: 56 Days

 Book: 56 Days

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Pages: 320

This is my 78th read for the year

This is the story of Ciara and Oliver.  The met in Dublin right on the verge of the pandemic and on a whim decide to ride it out together.  Now - Oliver is dead, and the detectives try to piece the story together to find out if it was an accident or a homicide.  The story bounces back and for between 56 days before Oliver's body is discovered, 35 days ago - around the time Oliver and Ciara decide to live together during the pandemic, and today - where the detectives have discovered the body.  

This was a pretty good book.  I liked the idea of a murder mystery during the actual pandemic and wasn't disappointed.  I "kind of" figured out where it was going midway during the book, but there was enough suspension and twist and turns to keep me wanting to read it quickly.  There is a lot of good banter between the characters.  I love a good "quick wit" dialogue.  I liked all of the characters and the story flowed well.  Glad I read this one.

Stars: 4

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Book: The Forest Of Vanishing Stars

 Book: The Forest of Vanishing Stars

Author: Kristin Harmel

Pages: 384

This is my 77th read for the year

This is the story of Yona.  Stolen from her German parents when she was a baby, she grew up with her kidnapper in the deep forest.  She never knew she was taken until her kidnapper reveals the truth on her deathbed in 1941.  Now Yona is alone in the forest - until she comes across a group of Jewish people fleeing the Nazis.  She has no idea that a war is going on.  She vows to help these people and teach them how to survive in the forest.  She continues to help as the group grows until one day she is betrayed.  She feels that her time with this group has come to an end and she wanders into a German village.  What happens there changes the course of her life forever.

This book wasn't that good.  I had hope for it in the beginning - liked the idea of someone being able to survive in the woods and then teach the terrified Jewish people to hide and survive.  The truth is - a lot of Jewish people did survive this way (the author reveals this at the end of her book in her author notes).  That would have been an intriguing story.  Instead, she develops a far fetched story that turns into a love story and she loses me.  I never really liked any of the characters.  Their emotions were almost too extreme to be believable.

Stars: 3

Friday, September 3, 2021

Book: Freedom

 Book: Freedom

Author: Sebastian Junger

Pages: 160

This is my 76th read for the year

This is the story of the author - a journalist and novelist - who took 2 Afgan war vets and a conflict photographer on a 400 mile journey from Washington DC to Connellsville, PA along the railroad tracks.  Their journey was to unteather themselves from every day life and reflect on the time in the war, and their lives since.  The author talks about what it was like to be free - to walk, sleep, eat, and journey where they wanted.  Along with the people they meet and the towns they visit (he talks mostly about the towns in Pennsylvania) he recounts railroad history and others who have walked the tracks.  

My husband bought me this book for mother's day when he found out it ended in our hometown of Connellsville, PA.  Our sleepy little town isn't the center of a lot of books by famous writers (Junger wrote "The Perfect Storm" - a novel turned movie many of us are familiar with), so I was excited to tackle this little book.  I LOVED the parts where he talked about his journey on the tracks, the people he met in the Pennsylvania towns along the way, and espeically the small sections about Connellsville.  But this book was like two novels in one.  Instead of having one track (personal stories/personal journey) he threw in a lot of history that just felt disconnected to the rest of the book.  Not always, but enough that I found myself wishing that he would have left those parts out.  The history seemed a bit "all over the place" which is the best way I can describe it and I never felt that it was connected to their journey in a meaningful way.  I could have skipped many of those parts completely and found an enjoyable story.

For such a short book, there was really no reason to throw in "beef" for this book.  I can imagine what he saw, heard, and the people he met along the way could have filled many books.  I am glad I read it for the Connellsville part of this story, but without that connection, this would not have been a book I would recommend.

Stars: 3

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book: Firekeeper's Daughter

 Book: Firekeeper's Daugher

Author: Angeline Bouley

Pages: 496

This is my 75th read for the year

This book is about Daunis Fontaine.  She has just graduated from high school  - top of her class - but has chosen to go to a local state school to stay close to her family.  She meets Jamie - a newcomer in town, and quickly falls for him.  She feels he is hiding someting from her, though, and when she finds out what it is - she is sent on a path she never expected to be on.  The path is dangerous and ends in tragedy for one of her friends and her family.  It is a lot to carry for an 18 year old girl and in the end she gathers the strength she needs to make things right for her community.

This was a pretty good book.  I listened to it and it moved at a good pace.  It covers the growing problem of methamphetamine addiction and how it affects the Native American communities.  You learn a lot about customs of Native American tribes.  The downsides were - it was a bit long and you did figure out who the drug dealer for this community was pretty quickly.  There were a few surprises here and there, thought, which helped.  And I feel like I leanred a great deal, so I am glad I read this one.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Book: Malibu Rising

 Book: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Ried

Pages: 384

This is my 74th read of the year

This is the story of 4 Riva children.  They are the children of the famous Mick Riva who grew up without him after he cheated multiple times on their mother and left them to find for themselves.  Nina - the eldest - is having her annual party in her mansion in Malibu but this year it is shortly after her husband left her for another woman.  Jay - the second eldest is a champion surfer, Hud - the half sibling brother who is a renowned photographer, and Kit the youngest is the adored baby sister.  The 4 of them raised by Nina after their mother dies, have long put their deadbeat famous father out of their mind and made their own lives.

The party -which Nina never wanted to have - is quickly spiraling out of control.  By the morning, the house has burned down and the siblings have faced all their demons.  Told in a timeline from when Mick met their mother to present day, we find out how the siblings ended up where they are.

So - I don't get the good reviews for this book.  And I was happy to see Amazon reviewers that agree with me.  This book was terrible.  I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.  But this one was not good at all.  I found myself wanting to skip read over the bad writing and terrible characters.  I didn't like any of them except for maybe Nina.  The chapters with the party were so disjointed I couldn't follow the madness.  Characters were unbelievable.  Name dropping of fake celebrities was dumb.  

My vote is skip it.  

Stars: 2

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Book: Life's Too Short

 Book: Life's Too Short

Author: Abby Jimenez

Pages: 384

Thisis my 73rd read for the year

This is the story of Vanessa, a young woman who started a vlog when she discovered she might have the same disease that killed her mother, her sister, her grandmother and an Aunt - ALS.  She travels the world and her videos went viral.  She gives most of the money she makes to ALS research, and uses the rest to support her family.  

Vanessa's world is turned upside down when her young half sister leaves her newborn daughter on Vanessa's doorstep and says she cannot take care of her.  Her sister has struggled with drugs ever since their older sister died of ALS, so Vanessa stops her traveling and her vlog and tries to figure out what she is going to do with a newborn especially when her own life might be coming to an end.  Enter - the handsome next door neighbor, Adrian, who offers to help knowing very little about Vanessa and about her life expectancy.  Now Vanessa - who vowed to never fall in love, never get attached, is struggling with both.  She is now hoping for a future she may never see and for things she can possibly never have.

This book would be the perfect Hallmark Christmas movie.  Not only does it start out in December right before Christmas, it moves along as the best of those cheesy movies always do.  Everything falls into place and what to do you know.....the ending is perfect.  I rolled my eyes quite a few times during this book, BUT then I remembered that I do love those cheesy Hallmakr Christmas movies.  It is sweet and Adrian is of course perfect.  Vanessa a hero.  The baby - a charmer.  Everything unrealisticly resolved.  Everyone is rich.

This is the lightest of the lightest reads and honestly - I think that is why I stuck with it.  Sometimes you have to read cheesy, predictable books when you are in the middle of a pandemic.  I can recommend it for that.  If you want a silly, predictable, perfect ending read - this book is most definitely for you.  Great literature it is NOT.  But fun - yes.

Stars: 3

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Book: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman

 Book: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman

Author: Julietta Henderson

Pages: 370

This is my 72nd read for the year

This is the story of Norman.  A 12 year old boy who just lost his best friend, Jax.  The two had planned on becoming a comedy duo at the Edinburg Fringe when they are older.  When Jax dies, Norman decides he needs to do this festival himself as a tribute to his friend.  What he realizes as he starts his journey that Jax was the funny one of the group.

When Norman approaches his mom, Sadie, about his idea of doing the Edinburg Fringe, she wants to do what she can to help him.  Norman is lost without his best friend, so she tells Norman that she will help him.  Norman has another request - he wants to find his father.  Sadie enlist the help of her friend and co-worker - an 80+ year old man named Leonard - to help them.  The three set off on a wild adventure to meet the men that could possibly be Norman's father and help him fulfill his dream of stand up comedy.  

This book is so sweet and heartwarming, you will want to read it all at once.  Sweet Norman, who just lost his best friend, pulls at your heartstrings as you easily imagine what it would be like for one of your own children.  Sadie - a mom who loves Norman more than anything else in the world, but who cannot fathom how she is going to pull this off without watching Norman get his heart broken.  And Leonard - a sweet old man who is savvy with the internet drives them wherever they want to go and is Norman's biggest cheerleader.  The story has one great turn after another where you are rooting for Norman to be successful in his quest and regain some happiness after his tragic loss.

Definitely read this one.  You won't be disappointed.  

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, August 6, 2021

Book: The Rose Code

 Book: The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn

Pages: 656

This is my 71st read of the year

This is a story of three women who answered the call during WWII to break German Codes.  In 1940 The three British women arrive at Bletchley Park among with other great minds from all over the country, and set out to find out what the Germans are planning before it happens.  Oslo who is beautiful and wealthy, and currently seening Prince Phillip of Greece (before he became THEE prince Phillip), Mab - who grew up poor and wants to find a husband, and Beth - a meak girl who needs to get away from her mother who thinks all Beth is good for is taking care of her.  Oslo and Mab take Beth under their wing and soon discover that Beth has a brillian mind for puzzles.  But soon, a terrible tragedy tears the women apart.

The story jumps to 1947, days before Prince Phillip is to marry Princess Elizabeth.  Beth has called Oslo and Mab to help her with one last encrypted letter that she believes is the key to what broke their friendship apart and also got Beth sent to an asylum.  Oslo and Mab reluctantly agree to unbury the past and help Beth with this one last task.  It is dangerous, but Beth knows it has to be done.

This was a good book.  It is LONG.  I listened to it, and it kept me entertained.  The story flows nicely, and you get invested in the lives of these three women and the tragedy that pushed them apart.  IT jumps back and forth from 1940 to 1947, spending most of the time in 1940 while the women work together to break codes.  We get a look into what it was like to be on a code breaking team and how hard it is to keep secret that this is what you did during the war - even after it is long over.  The women who were code breakers were some of the most brillian minds of the times, and not something I was familiar with going into this story.  While this is a historical fiction book, you still learn a lot about what the process was like, which I always enjoy.

This was a good one.  I highly recommend.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Book: The Partials

 Book: The Partials

Author: Dan Wells

Pages: 528

This is my 70th read for the year

This is the story of Kira in a world that has very little people left due to a virus and a vicious group of synthetic humans called The Partials.  The only remaining survivors in North America are now all together on Long Island.  For over a decade, every baby that has been born dies within days, so pretty soon, no humans will be left.

Kira, who is 16 years old, and training to be a medic is desperate to find a cure.  When one of her closest friends gets pregnant, she knows that she must do anything she can to save that baby.  She sets out to find a Partial that she can study because she is sure they are the key to humanity's survival.  What she discovers along the way will change her path completely.

As most people know, I am a pretty big fan of dystopian novels.  When I can get my hands on one, I give it a try.  I got this book in a haul from a friend, and was surprised to see the limited reviews for it on Amazon.  (it is an older book).  It was a pretty good story.  It is lengthy, but it held my attention through the whole book.  It is a fresh take which I always appreciate.  The plot flows along nicely, and there are some twists you don't see coming.  For a YA novel, it has pretty good world building. It keeps pace, and the ending left you wanting more AND was wrapped up nicely in case you don't wish to read the other novels in the series.

I have heard that the next two are dreadful, so I might stop here with this one.  It left me satisfied enough that I don't need more if I am not going to get a good story.

Stars: 4

Monday, July 19, 2021

Book: Mother May I

 Book:Mother May I

Author: Joshilyn Jackson

Pages: 336

This is my 69th read for the year

This is the story of Bree.  She grew up poor, but married rich.  She has a good husband, three beautiful kids and a beautiful house.  One day, her youngest - a baby boy just a few weeks old - is taken while she was watching her older daughter rehearse a school play.  She receives a threatening note and a phone call that if she does exactly what she is told, she will see her baby again.  Not wanting to worry her husband who is out of town, or her daughters, she takes her daughters to her mother's houes for the weekend and sets out to get her baby back.

The person who has taken her baby is an older woman who is also a mother.  Trying to figure out why a mother would do this, and why Bree herself has been targeted sets her on a path to discover secrets of her husband's past she wishes she never knew about.  But Bree will do whatever it takes to get her baby back and protect her family.

This was an okay book.  I listened to it - like I do so many of my books this summer due to endles yard work - so it passed them time.  The plot is pretty predictable and not that captivating.  You figure out pretty quickly where this is going and why.  The ending is neatly wrapped up which, to be honest, I usually love.  But this just all seemed to easy.  IT was pretty lengthy and could have been shortened to get the point across.  Getting so wordy took away some of the suspense for me.  

If you are looking for a mild suspense novel with a neatly wrapped up ending, then give this book a try.  If you want true suspense, look elsewhere.

Stars: 3

Friday, July 9, 2021

Book: Local Woman Missing

 Book: Local Woman Missing

Author: Mary Kubica

Pages: 352

This is my 68th read for the year

This is the story of three missing women and the community where they lived.  Shelby - who went out running one night and never returned, and Meredith - a midwife and her daughter, Delilah, who disappeared without a trace.  As the women turn up dead and the daughter never found, the community is realing thinking a serial killer is on the loose.  Moving through time back and forth 11 years, we watch the story of these wome and Delilah - who shockingly returns after being missing for those 11 years - trying to figure out the truth.

This book was just okay.  And that is probably being generous.  I didn't like one character.  They all seemed like horrible people who couldn't possibly be friends.  I could never imagine talking to m friends the way these people talked to each other.  The ending was terrible.  When the truth comes to light it becomes pretty unrealistic.  Quite a few plot holes.  (if even a mediocre medical examiner did an autopsy on Meredith the mystery would have wrapped up much quicker) 

I would skip this one.  There are better thrillers.

Stars: 2 1/2

Monday, July 5, 2021

Book: What Could Be Saved

 Book: What Could Be Saved

Author: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Pages: 460

This is my read of the year

This is the story of Laura, and Bea whose brother was stolen from their family when they were very young.  The family was living in Bangkok in the 70s where their father worked, and one day their brother disappeared without a trace.  40 years later, Laura is contacted by a stranger saying that a man claming to be her brother was looking for her.  Her sister, Bea, is skeptical and doesn't believe it could possibly be him, but Laura has to find out.

The story alternates between the past and the present as Laura tries to figure out if this man is her long lost brother, Robert.  The story builds their life in Bangkok in the 70s leading up to Robert's disappearance and what the family think happened to him.  The family - seeming to live a life of luxury there with servants and dinner parties had their lives turned upside down when Robert disappears.

This was a pretty good book.  I do like books that travel back and forth across timelines.  As Laura tried to piece together if this was her brother, we learned about what life was like for expats in Bangkok.  When they leave Bangkok without Robert - whom they presume is dead or out of the country - their lives are never the same.  And when we learn Robert's story and who took him and what his life was like in Bangkok, the pieces of the story all fall together.

It is well written, maybe a tad long, but a good story overall.  Glad I found this one.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book between 200-400 pages: Good Neighbors

 Book: Good Neighbors

Author: Sarah Langan

Pages: 304

This is my 66th read for the year

This is the story of the neighbors on Maple Street in a Long Island neighborhood.  When the Wilde family moves in with their rock star dad, and gruff speaking mom and kids, the neighbors don't know what to think.  Rhea Schroder - who thinks she runs the block - wants the rest of the neighbors turn on the Wildes.  When a sink hole appears near the street and a tragedy happens, the block starts to believe the Wilde family is to blame.  It becomes on neighbor's word against the other until the truth finally comes out.

This was an okay book.  It is a bit dark, but a fast read.  No one in this book is a particularly nice person - except maybe a few of the kids and one neighbor.  It was almost an overload of bad characters.  I was curious to see where it was going, and it kept me entertained (I listened to it).  But it was a little weird, a little disjointed.  I still don't know exactly how I feel about it.  The characters were shallow.  It jumped around a lot (future and present).    It was just.....meh.

I listen to a lot of things that are just okay.  And I don't mind.  But I would not pick this book up and continue reading it.  So unless you are doing meaningless chores and looking for something to fill your earbuds while you work, then skip this one.

Stars 3

Monday, June 28, 2021

2021 Challenge: Author With Same First Initial As You: That Summer

 Book: That Summer

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Pages: 432

This is my 65th read for the year
(also - this author and I share the same first name!  Parents in the 70s weren't that original.  No offense mom)

This is the story of two Dianas.  Diana Starling and Diana (who goes by Daisy) Shoemaker.  Two women who are strangers until Daisy starts receiving emails from Diana Starling.  The two decide to meet and hit it off right away.  Daisy - who has a cooking business, a husband, and a teenager daughter - is envious of Diana who has a big job and beautiful clothes.  What she doesn't realize is that Diana has a big secret, and that her meeting Daisy is no accident.  Diana's true intentions start to come to light Daisy's life is changed forever.

First - this book needs to come with a warning.  This is not a typical summer beach read that Jennifer Weiner usually writes.  This book is about a woman who was raped when she was younger and how it set the course for her whole life.  So you have been warned.  I am usually a big fan of Jennifer Weiner books, but this wasn't one of my favorites.  The subject is an important one - especially right now.  But it wasn't what I was expecting.  It was very heavy, and if I hadn't been listening to it while I did yard work, I might have put it down and picked it up at a different time.  It is humorless - as it should be considering the subject.  And you do figure out where it is going farily quickly - no surprises what these two women are going to have in common.  

It is an important story.  It does have a political lean (just read the Amazon comments and that will tell you quite a bit), so if that isn't for you - you should skip this one.

Stars: 3 1/2

Saturday, June 26, 2021

2021 Challenge: Book On Your Kindle/Shelf The Shortest: The Hunting Party

 Book: The Hunting Party

Author: Lucy Foley

Pages: 352

This is my 64th read for the year

This is the story of a group of friends who are on their annual trip for New Years.  Every year they go somewhere together - each member of the group picking where to go.  This year it was Emma's turn and she wants everything to be perfect.  The estate is remote and known for getting snowed in and guest getting stuck, but the group remains unconcerned.  They are there to enjoy each other's company.

A snow storm does close them in, and past resentments among the group start to emerge.  Secrets come to surface and cause a fracture in the group that cannot be undone.  And when someone winds up dead, and the people running the estate try to piece together who did it while they wait for the weather to lift, everyone starts to wonder who among them did it.  And who might be next.

This was an okay read.  I listened to it (doing a lot of that lately) while I was doing some gardening.  It passes the time.  It is told in the voices of many of the characters, which I do enjoy.  The killer was a bit surprising, but not overly so.  I didn't love any of the characters, so when it was revealed I found it hard to care.  The ending was just so/so.  They do wrap it up, thankfully, but not in a truly satisfying way.

I read her other book - The Guest List - and liked this one only slightly better.  I think I will pass on her books in the future.

Stars: 3

Thursday, June 24, 2021

2021 Challenge: Reese's Bookclub Pick: The Last Thing He Told Me

 Book: The Last Thing He Told ME

Author: Laura Dave

Pages: 320

This is my 63rd book for the year

This is the story about Hannah.  Wife to Owen, step mother to Bailey.  One day, Owen disappears.  But before he does, he leaves Hannah a note about Bailey "protect her".  16 year old Bailey who already lost her mother tragically and wants nothing to do with Hannah.  As events unfold - Owen's boss is arrested for fraud, and FBI and US Marshall agents start to appear - Hannah realizes Owen wasn't who he said he was.  Without waiting for the police, Hannah sets out to discover Owen's past.  In doing so, she uncovers things she never expected.

This was a pretty fair book.  It unfolds at a good pace and kept me entertained while I did gardening work.  Some of the decisions Hannah makes are a bit ridiculous, but I tried to keep an open mind.  Bailey is a complete brat.  I have three teenagers of my own and so I do get some of that.  What they don't get -which Bailey does regularly - is away with it.  The big reveal about Owen was just okay.  There was no real suspsense.  

But - the ending was good.  I do love a book that shows the future.  Always a win in my book.  So that was a savior for me.  It is a good book to listen to, or for a summer beach read.  Not top literature by any means, but worth a look.

Stars: 3 1/2

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