Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Christmas Cottage/Ever After by Samantha Chase (Read 12/28/15 to 12/30/15)

This was a book I received in my December Lit-Cube Box.   The description is "THE CHRISTMAS COTTAGE:  Lacey Quinn does not believe in happily-ever-after or the legend of the Christmas Cottage. But her best friend does, and she’s the one getting married. It’s Lacey’s job to make sure everything at the cottage is perfect for the newlyweds. Instead, she finds herself snowed in with the best man, and she begins to wonder if fairy tales really can come true.
EVER AFTER:  Ava Callahan wants desperately to believe in love everlasting. But when Brian McCabe walks back into her life and upsets her carefully organized world, her commitment to perfection makes it hard to accept the love that’s right in front of her. Will it take a night in the Christmas Cottage for Ava and Brian to find their happy ending?"
I am not normally a romance reader, but it was christmas time and after the Fisherman I wanted something I knew would have a happy ending, and Romances have a formula that include a happy ending, so this was my next read.  This fit the bill pretty perfectly.  The two stories are intertwined, and flow together very nicely.I forget how perfect romance novels make love seem, that once in love all the troubles go away because love conquers all.  It was a nice change of pace.  Enjoyable and an easy read.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Fishermen: A Novel by Chigozie Obioma (Read 12/20/15 to 12/28/2015)

This was a book I received in one of my Book Riot boxes. The description is "In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990's, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family.  Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fisherman is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990's Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings.  What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of its characters and its readers. Dazzling and viscerally powerful, The Fishermen never leaves Akure but the story it tells has enormous universal appeal. Seen through the prism of one family's destiny, this is an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions-economic, political, and religious-and the epic beauty of its own culture."
This book has a ton of great reviews about how magical the writing was and how profound the story was.  I found it depressing.  Their lives and what happened to the narrator at the age of 10 was depressing and awful.  I did not find it magical or enthralling.  I was not drawn to the characters or the story, I found myself forcing myself to finish it, telling myself that in the next chapter it would get better.  It didn't.  Obioma's writing was great, he was smooth and the story moved at a nice pace.  I just wasn't invested in the story.  I think I may have been in the wrong mood for the book, I wanted something with a happy ending and I didn't get it with this book.

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier (Read 11/12/15 to 11/19/15)

 This was a book I received in one of my Book Riot boxes. The description is "At age twelve, Kevin Brockmeier is ready to become a different person: not the boy he has always been—the one who cries too easily and laughs too easily, who lives in an otherland of sparkling daydreams and imaginary catastrophes—but someone else altogether.  Over the course of one school year—seventh grade—he sets out in search of himself. Along the way, he happens into his first kiss at a church party, struggles to understand why his old friends tease him at the lunch table, becomes the talk of the entire school thanks to his Halloween costume, and booby-traps his lunch to deter a thief."
I really was not thrilled with this book.  The cruelty of the 7th grade boys hit a little too close to home for me I guess.  I found myself forcing myself to read and just hurry the f**k through.  The problem wasn't the writing, he had great writing, it was the storyline.  I felt too much like the bullying I experienced in 7th grade and I didn't want to relive those feeling through another character, my experiences were enough.  I did force my self to finish, and the ending was a little better than the beginning.  Junior High is a rough time, and this reminded me just how much.  I suppose it is a credit to Brockmeier that his writing did resurface so many memories.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Read 12/6/15 to 12/22/2015)

This was the BOTM selection for December. The description is "A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it's not too late to start over.  After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).  It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle."
I did the audiobook version for this month's read, audiobooks are harder for me to focus on, and I find myself re-listening to large chunks because I loose focus and miss stuff.  I like all the characters, they are all screwy and screwed up, in some ways they remind me the Royal Tenenbaums.  Their background stories make me chuckle.  Overall I would say that it was 3 star.  It was chuckle worthy and entertaining, but I wasn't ready to rush out and recommend this book to everyone I know.  It ran a little long, and wrapped up a little too nicely.  But if you want a light, laughable book this one fits the bill rather nicely.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs (Read 12/6/15 to 12/20/15)

This was a gift from my husband.  The description is "Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes.  Plus, insightful interviews with fangirl faves, like Jane Espenson, Erin Morgenstern, Kate Beaton, Ashley Eckstein, Laura Vandervoort, Beth Revis, Kate Leth, and many others."
This was a fun and entertaining read.  It had a lot of great geeky resources and gave me some ideas of books/comics/shows to read/watch.  It also gave me some great resources for Cons (I have never been to one, but I know my Hubby likes them).  I may attempt one in the future with him at my side.  It was an informative read.  I liked the layout and the interviews.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Royal Progress by Pen Fairchild (Read 12/14/15 to 12/16/15)

This was a early reviewer selection.  The description is "Somewhere in space, in the last domain, 743 years from now... A princess dreams of a different reality. Her name is Bettina – ‘Bettie’ to her friends – and she thinks that anything would be better than her position as the spare behind a very irritating heir. She’s wrong.  Even princesses must grow up, but Bettie never expected to have to do it on the run. Not that it’s all negative, but can learning who your friends are when the chips are down offset the risk of beheading at the hands of a ruthless tyrant? Can growing stronger neutralize a close call with sex slavery? Can finding true love compensate for devastating betrayal? Can learning what went wrong in the Outlands help you save your “designed to be perfect” domain? Can the boy you loved, the boy you love, and the boy who loves you most of all work together with you to save your world?"
First of all I started with the Prequel which is on smash words for free, and it set things up nicelyI felt.  It really let me know what I was in for.
As for Royal Progress itself, I really liked it.  The characters were relatable and engaging, they made me want to know what happens.  I'm a little disappointed I need to wait for the next book.  Fairchild's writing is very smooth and simple, but also allows the characters to grow and evolve.  The Bettie at the start of the book is nothing like the Bettie at the end of the book.  I think it will be a great series with a lot of potential.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Naked in Death (In Death Series #1) by JD Robb (i.e. Nora Roberts) (Read 12/8/15 to 12/10/15)

This is NNCC book for January. The description is "Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she's seen it all--and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she's going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire--and a suspect in Eve's murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it's up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about--except the addictive hunger of needing his touch."
This was really good.  You can tell Robb, i.e. Roberts, has a lot of writing skills under her belt. I could tell it was a romance, but there is enough mystery, action, and sic-fi to make me immediately check my library for the whole series, which they don't have, but you can bet I requested.  The romance storyline is not obnoxious and the crime parts of the story are very well written, and she did a good job of keeping me guessing on who the murder was.  I really liked it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel by Daniel José Older (Read 11/11/15 to 11/12/15)

This was a book I received in one of my Book Riot boxes.  The description is "Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.   One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.  But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death.…"
I really liked this book, in fact about halfway through the I pre-ordered the second book from, which is coming out in January!  Carlos reminded me of a wonderful mix of Odd Thomas and Harry Dresden.  So good!  The bad guys seemed a little day to defeat and I didn't really care for the ending, but I saw it coming.   My only other comment is that sometimes the language felt a little rough, it just didn't have a smoothness to it I was expecting, and the storyline jumped around some.  Thankfully this is a series so there is a chance the next one can do it a little better.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (Read 11/3/15 to 11/25/15)

This is BOTM for November.  This is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph from the bible. This was told from Dinah's point of view, and it tells of her many brothers and her father's journey from Paddan Aram to Canaan,  and eventually Shechem and the events surrounding her rape.
I really enjoyed this book.  Diamant's writing was smooth and really drew me into the story.  It was a wonderful perspective from the women's side of things, and I really had a hard time putting it down.
Diamant's writing was so enthralling, she was really able to draw me into the characters lives, I was very invested in what happened both to them and with them.  I NEEDED to know how they were going to evolve to meet the needs of the bible story and how the bible story was the bare bones and not the whole truth.The book made me sad in so many ways, Dinah had a hard life and there were many tragedies in it, but even with the sadness she never gave up and she continued, she was a strength unto herself.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King (Read 10/18/15 to 11/1/15)

This is NNCC book for November.   Sherlock Holmes has long ago retired, and is studying honeybees in Sussex Downs.  It is here that he stumble, literally across Mary Russell.  She is an orphan that has intellect to match his own.  Sherlock sees her potential and she quickly becomes his apprentice and partner in a way Watson never could.  Then an elusive villain enters the picture and their partnership is truly put to the test.
I like this book a lot.  I loved the introduction and the story behind how the story came to be.  Mary Russell is a strong smart woman and Sherlock sees that from the start.  The writing really drew me in and I had a hard time putting it down.  The book is thicker and more complex than it looks and it made me happy.  I wanted to immediately pick up the next one in the series.  I really enjoy how much independence Mary gets and how much Holmes trusts her.
I do feel the morarity storyline and the suicide were a bit redundant.  Mainly because I recently re-watched Sherlock and since essentially the same storyline was used there, it felt overplayed.  But maybe Sherlock stole the idea from Laurie R. King.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery (Read 10/6/15 to 10/18/15)

This is my October book for BOTM.  This is the story of time travel.  The protagonist is met by his future self and is told not to marry the love of his life.  It takes some convincing, but after much sou searching he listens to his future self.  But of course the future is never what we expect it to be.  So the man is constantly visited by different versions of his future self giving him advice on what he should do to be happy.
I didn't really like this book.  It was an ok read, by that I mean it was readable, I didn't dread my weeks reading so it wasn't all bad.  I feel like the writer, i.e. the man, was pretentious and Q was perfectly bohemian.  I just didn't connect to the characters.  I felt the man was jerked around by his future selves quite a bit, they kept changing what would make him happy.
There were these were these awful parts were Mandery inserted whole chapters of the Man's writing and it was just tedious, it really annoyed me.  I wanted it to stick to the story.  It felt lazy and as storyline filler to me.
So in the end the old man, goes back to tell his original self not to leave Q.  There he meets old Q and they go off into the sunset.  The ending really pissed me off.  It was a pointless story, they end up together in the end and wasted all their youth and missed so much time with each other.  In my mind after the book ends, like within a week or so one or both is hit by a bus, because that seems fair for wasting the life they could have had even with the tragedy.  The whole reason the man didn't marry Q is their son has a horrible genetic disease and it destroys both the man and Q.  I'm sorry, but the solution is called birth control, and if Q doesn't want to agree to that a vasectomy could easily be obtained and the whole problem avoided, then they could adopt!   I was just a annoyed at the stupidity of the main character.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Harness the Sun: America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future by Philip Warburb (read 9/30/15 to 10/28/15)

This is an early review book I received through Early Reviewers. The description says that it is a book about America's solar revolution. The early reviewer blurb said"Solar power was once the domain of futurists and environmentally minded suburbanites. Today it is part of mainstream America—and the solar industry is absolutely booming, as it adds workers almost twenty times faster than the overall US economy. Beginning in his Boston-area home, where a rooftop solar array meets most of his family’s power needs, Philip Warburg travels the country and introduces readers to a surprising array of pioneers who are spearheading America’s solar revolution, from conservative business leaders and politicians to students and professors committed to greening their campuses. Pollution-ravaged urban industrial areas and Native American groups alike are finding that solar offers the key to revitalizing their communities—all while weaning the country off of fossil fuels. In Harness the Sun, Warburg argues that solar offers a realistic solution to the urgent problem of transforming our energy sector in a way that meets demand and is technically and economically viable."  It sounded so fascinating and when I realized I won it, I was really exciting.  The same week it came we had a scheduled appointment with a representative from SolarCity to look into putting solar panels on our own home, it seemed very timely and relevant to my own life at the time.  Then I began to read the book and I was disappointed.
The first three chapters were very tedious for me to get through, and took me almost two weeks to read. There were so many facts about business using solar, which was great to know.   But the facts were not really about the company's journey to solar as much as it was about the cost benefit and the details of the business themselves.  It felt like a sales pitch to me, look we are using solar because it is cheaper, and it is great PR that we are going green, buy from us.  I was dreading the thought of reading 7 more chapters of this.
Then in Chapter 4, it finally got interesting. Warburg began talking about the politics and controversies behind building solar fields on brown fields. Brownfield is a term used in urban planning to describe land previously used for industrial purposes or some commercial uses. Such land may have been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution or is feared to be so. Once cleaned up, such an area can become host to a business development such as a retail park. It made a lot of sense to me to re-use this land in a positive way.  Finally here was some meat and some interesting controversies and benefits of solar energy.  I began to enjoy the reading.  But then it petered out again, and I couldn't finish i.   I wanted to, but I just couldn't do it.  It was too dry and it just couldn't keep my attention.   I found myself resenting it for the time it was taking away from books I could be enjoying.  I left my bookmark it, but I just wasn't willing to force myself to slog through it anymore.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Dinner by Herman Koch (read 10/8/15 to 10/12/15)

This was the NNCC book for October, and joy of joy's it was my suggestion.  Hooray.  I first heard about this book both BBC world book club and listening to the author speak about it really made me want to read it.  Koch states in the BBC world book club that the theme is really that violence lurking inside all of us given the correct circumstances and it intrigued me.
This is the story of two couples, actually two brothers and their wives who are meeting for dinner to discuss something horrible their sons have done together.  The first third of the book we don't know what the boys have done.  The repercussions of this act by the boys is far reaching and potentially devastating for both themselves and their parent's futures.
I really liked this book.  I was so happy I selected it.  At the end of the there were still unanswered questions and mysteries that keep me up at night wondering about.  I really like the character, even the unlivable ones, Koch did a great job writing and developing them.  The mystery of the boys deeds and what their parents are going to do about it was doled out the right speed.  Koch suckered us in and kept us asking what is going on?  The characters find themselves in a very complicated situation and are very complicated characters, it all feeds into a well written and suspenseful novel that I couldn't put down once I picked it up, all other books fell to the wayside, because I had to KNOW what was going on.
It seems that at my book club I was the only person who actually liked the book, three others had mixed feelings, and the remaining four didn't like it. I understood their feelings and their reasoning, and it was actually mostly those reasonings that I liked it.
One of the big reasons the book was unlike was that the story got turned upside down, what you expected at the beginning of the book isn't what happened at the end.  I liked that Koch took us down a twisty rabbit hole, that where we thought we knew what was happening and what would happen was wrong, I like when a book proves my preconceived plot notions wrong.
Two, the characters are unlikable, they don't make you want to invest in them.  As I said earlier, I did like the characters and I did invest in them, so I didn't have this issue at all.  I think it is refreshing to sometimes read about unlikable characters, to love to hate them almost.  I didn't hate any of the characters, did I think some were schmucks, yes, did I hate them for it no.  Were some of the characters morally corrupt and not nice people, did I hate them for that, nope.  I viewed them as complicated and layered, the first layer is oh yes look as this nice family and this not so nice family, start peeling away the layers and you start seeing that things are not as cut and dry as they seem.  If felt that Koch did a great job of peeling away the layers and showing us a more complicated family dynamic than at first appeared.
Three, Koch was a lazy writer who left lots of details out because it was too much work.  I don't think he did it because he was lazy, I think he did it to reach a goal, to force his reader to wonder.  That Koch wanted us to come to conclusions.  The disease the father and mother have are never stated.  Names of people and places are often left out.
Four, why was it set in a restaurant.  Koch says in the BBC interview it was set on a restaurant in his neighborhood, and the point was to have the discussion in a public place to avoid violence.
Again I still really liked the book, I thought it was well written.  I recommend it, but I think the caveat is that you might walk away from it with mixed feelings.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What I Made!

So I have been searching for a good reading journal.
For a while I had been using this beautiful notebook I had picked up from amazon for $13.45 back in January of 2013.   I loved the cover and the feel of it in my hands.  It made me happy to just hold it.

Then I started using it and I discovered there were some issues.  First of all it is blank inside, which I knew it would be when I bought it.

So that meant that I needed to write in all my own entries about my reading. Which I did for about 8 months before I said screw it!  It was a major pain in the butt for me for some reason, probably just that I am lazy.  

I still loved the book but it  just wasn't meeting my needs, I then put the journal in a drawer and began taking book notes on my phone, easier to transfer to my blog sometimes, but it didn't have the feel I wanted.  I wanted a book journal. I knew there had to be a way to revive my little beauty.  So I began searching the internet and Etsy for something I could use.   On Pinterest I stumbled across a free journal by the Modern Mrs. Darcy.  I joined her mailing list and was emailed a PDF of the journal.  I did not use most of it, I admit that.  But the parts I did use were PERFECT!!
There are 5 pages near the back of the journal that were just what I wanted as headers for my journal pages.  Each page had 6 copies of the box I wanted, so I printed the pages 3 times to get enough to fill out my journal and pasted them into it.  There were also these great literary quotes at the bottom of pages, 18 each so I pasted them into my journal on every 5th page, just to give me something to look forward to reading.

I had this small close pin that I am sign a place marker.  
I also used the front quote from her journal and pasted onto the front of mine. That way anyone who looks at it will know exactly what it is.

And Viola, a wonderful custom reading journal that makes me smile every time I pick it up!

Lit-Cube September box: We will never be royals (received 9/21/15)

This was the first box I have received from Lit-Cube.  I was disappointed with the Quarterly box, and really wanted a monthly box with good swag.  Lit-Cube really grabbed me with their themes and the reviews.  It is $29.99 +$5 shipping = $34.99 per month.  It includes one or two books book, a t-shirt (not every time but it says most times), and other book swag.  I loved it.  It was what I imagined my book subscription would be.

 The book was Cage of Deceit: book 1 of Reign of Secrets by Jennifer Anne Davis. ($12.95)  This is the first in a new series, I am suspecting I will be looking forward to the next ones.  I have to say, I don't know what they did to the cover of the book, but it appeals to me textile wise.  It has this soft rubbery feeling cover that just makes me happy to touch for some reason that I can't explain.  anyways the book is about a princess that is also a vigilante.  In order to save her kingdom from war she has to marry a neighboring prince, and it wouldn't be a true fantasy novel if this didn't complicate things.  Its sounds fun and lighthearted.  There was a signed book plate by the author which I immediately put in the front of the book so it wouldn't be lost.

There was a free audiobook The Only Ones by Deckle Edge ($14.99).  It looks like it is a post-apocalyptic novel.  It is from Listen Up, I'm not sure especially since I can't find my free code.  Ooops, it is in my office somewhere I am sure of it.  Hopefully it doesn't have an expiration date.

There was a signed book mark by Nadege Richards, who wrote The Bleeding Heart Trilogy.  I am not sure what this is worth.  I have never read the books but they are available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99 I was able to buy the first one..  Maybe I will be more excited about the signature after I read the series or at least the first book.

There was a wonder full Star Wars Game of Thrones Mash Up T-shirt that I LOVE ($16.99)  I have already worn it a couple of times and it makes me smile every time I put it on.

There was a tin of tea based on the TV Show Once Upon a Time  I got Emma Swan's Tea the Savior,  it is my favorite tea Irish Breakfast mixed with blackberry, Vanilla, Rose Hips and Marigold Flowers.  It is so yummy and makes me very happy!  I received a sample tin worth $4.

There were some little foil crown nail art, super cute and I will totally use at one point. ($2)  Maybe for halloween as we are dressing up as knights and princesses this year.

The final item was this tiny 4oz mug. ($8)  Not nearly big enough for a caffeine addict like me, but I am currently on the hunt for a pretty succulent to plant in it.

Overall I am super happy with this box.  It has tons of good swag and I am looking forward t the book.  So in my book this is a win.

Book Riot Quarterly Box #8 (Recieved 9/17/15)

So, I'm a little behind on posting.  This is my second quarterly box, and I really feel on the fence about it.  I liked this one better than the last one, but I still wasn't jumping up and down with excitement.  It was just kinda eh to me.  I'm going to wait for the December box shows up and make my final decision then.  Besides who doesn't love more packages at Christmas time.

My favorite thing I received was a koozie that says Read More.  I have used it more than anything else received.  It is perfect for an ice cold Dr. Pepper or beer.  I really like it.  I'm not sure how much it is worth as you can't seem to buy it anywhere, so I guess it is priceless.

Another item that is priceless was this custom pennant that says Books!  Per the description it was exclusively created for Quarterly subscribers.  It was ok, I have it hanging on my wall, I wasn't really all that thrilled about it, but it was not bad. 

There was also a bundle of three notebooks titled Field Notes, they are listed on Amazon for $9.95.  My husband really likes to keep notebooks in his pocket at all times so he can easily write down whatever he is thinking.  These books are 3.5" x 5.5" so they fit perfectly in his jean pockets.  I was quite willing to give them up and encourage his free flow of thoughts on paper.

There were two books included in the box.  The first is On Beauty by Zadie Smith ($17.00). The back of the book doesn't really tell us what the book is about.  The description did tell me some in the Quarterly letter, but I still had to look it up on Goodreads.  I guess it is about affairs and mixing of cultures in a family.  The descriptions is leaving me still unsure what the book is actually about. Hmmm....I'll give it a shot, but I think it is lower on the to-read list than the other book received.

The second book in the bSkippy Dies by Paul Murray ($16.00).  This is about roommates at a Dublin school.  The fact that this is set in Ireland is enough to move it up on my list all on its own.  My anniversary is St. Patrick's day, and my husband and I are trying to plan an Ireland trip to celebrate one of these years.  (If only I could stop buying books, right?)  So, it seems as we plan I am drawn to anything Irish, and this perks up my ears.   It is about these 14 year old boys exploring the mysteries of life and death after their friend (Skippy) dies.  It sounds fun and I am looking forward to it.  There was also a poster created for Quarterly with the Seabrook song and has a bunch of graffiti on it.  I'm thinking the poster will make more sense and be cooler after I read the book, but right now its not really that fantastic to me.  And again it is priceless.

The overall verdict is that this was a good value for the money, I'm just not sure it was a good value for me.  Maybe third time will be the charm.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Read 9/8/15 to9/22/15)

This was September's BOTM read.
The Handmaid's tale is set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population. The story is told from the point of view, of a Handmaid, Offred. Her job is to be an incubator of sorts, she has a history of being fertile, so it is her role to produce a child for a Commander and his Wife, in a strict biblical sense.
Because I didn't fully understand the social structure I did a little research and I found a great synopsis of the women's social class on

The highest class of women is the “Wives”—those married to officials and other elite. Wives may adopt or naturally acquire “Daughters”, while all others seek the service of Handmaids. Domestic duties of ruling-class households are undertaken by typically older and infertile subservient women known as “Marthas.” Forming the middle-class are “Econowives.” This group of fertile women is married to the non-elite and performs all domestic duties, such as childrearing and cooking. The most autonomous class is the “Aunts”—literate, unmarried and infertile women who train and watch over the Handmaids. The remaining women who cannot integrate into this social order are deemed “Unwomen” in the eyes of the state and banished to the forced labor camps, where the unlucky suffer a slow death cleaning up toxic chemicals.

I liked the book. Was I frustrated that we never found out what happened, a little. But there were the historical notes, and I got it. She wanted it to be like a piece of History. Like Anne Frank's diary. A snapshot, not a full story. In a way I think it made me think more, it made me focus more on the issues Atwood wanted brought to life, and less on the character. I feel like the true purpose was the social commentary on where she feels society is going, which per the BBC interview she still feared as of 2002, and the character was actual unimportant besides being a way to relay the message.
The message was to not give up our civil liberties to protect us from a fear, that can lead to repression and/or Totalitarianism. In the interview she said she finds things currently happening in our country disturbing, for example the Eyes in the book use the eye symbol from the dollar bill as their logo, so does homeland security. I get it, I can see how she would be fearful. The rise of the tea part, and all the legislation that has been tried to be passed that removes the separation of state and church, I get it. Atwood saw things that disturbed her about our country and our society (remember this was written in the Regan years). And she used the medium she had and knew to express her concerns. All the how's are not important, if it was like Anne Frank's Diary, the reader would know the general facts anyways. I think the book is more about the message and not about the how's or the characters.
Maybe it's just me but after reading any of the parts where Offred discusses being separated from her daughter I had to go sit with mine to calm down.  Is it a mommy thing?  I also had trouble sleeping those nights and would have to check on the kids multiple times.  I read the kindle version and I liked it so much I feel the need to add as a paperback to my shelves, I finished and immediately bought from Amazon.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla (Read 9/11/15 to 9/26/15)

This is a book I read because my husband love Nikola Tesla and we are reading a book of his papers together and I wanted to know more about him. Tesla was born in in the village of Smiljan, Vojna Krajina, in the territory of today's Croatia. By birth he was an ethnic Serb, a subject of the Austrian Empire and later in life became an American Citizen. He was a genius inventor and mechanical and electrical engineer. He is frequently cited as one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity, a man who "shed light over the face of Earth," and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Tesla was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. But due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist. He died impoverished at the age of 86.
Tesla lead an amazing life, in some ways it almost reads like fiction. The diseases he survived and the work he did, but it wasn't, it was true.  Some of the book was hard to follow, his mind jumps at light speed. And I won't lie the science was hard for me to follow sometimes.  But I think I got the general gist of it all, it will make discussions with my husband easier for sure.  Tesla seems to be both a man with great intelligence and great compassion.  His desire to improve the world through his inventions is inspiring.  I now understand why my husband admire him so much.

Outlanderby Diana Gabladon (Read 8/17/15 to 9/20/15)

This was my September read for NNCC.
The book is set in the year 1945 and 1743, it is the story of Claire Randall, she is a former WWII combat nurse,and has just reunited with her husband Frank on a second honeymoon in Scotland.  One day she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles  and is suddenly transported back in time.  In 1743 she is a Sassenach, an “outlander," in more ways than one,  Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans and it is a far more dangerous time than her own, death is around every corner.  Claire is suspected as a spy and is pulled into the intrigues of the lairds and must be smart an cunning to save her own life.  It is at this time that she meets James, i.e. Jaimie, Fraser.  He a gallant young Scots warrior, who steals her hear and forces her to be torn between two times and two very different men.
I read this book back in high school so I was familiar but it was still a fresh read for me.   This is far more of a romance than a historical novel, there are some historical items in, but they play second fiddle to the romance and the love triangle Claire finds herself in.  It is a first book, the reader can tell by some of the writing, there are places where the details are too lengthy and did't add to the story line.  I liked the book.  I felt that with everything happening in my life currently, work, small children, other book clubs, parties, etc. that this was not a tome I would have picked up of my own free will.  It was too long of a book for my current life, and I liked it well enough, but not so well that I will drudge through the remainders in the series.  Although I am willing to put them on a potential to be read list in the future when I have more time.
Ok I am about to go off on some parts of the books that are definite spoilers and use some not so nice language, so if you don't want to know what happens or you don't want to read curse words I would stop reading now.
I think that one of my biggest pet peeves about this book was the inconsistencies of Clair, and not inconsistencies because her character is supposed to be wishy washy but inconsistencies because Gabaldon did not write her well.  The impression that I have is that Gabladon wanted Claire to be a strong woman both for her time and for Jamie's time.  And Claire does start out the book as a strong independent woman.  But by the end she is weak and a little bit simpering in my mind, waiting for Jaimie to "take care of her" or "rescue" her.  There are many times in the book that she acts completely opposite of how her character should act if she was this very forward thinking, strong independent, woman she is described as in the beginning.  Take for example the incident where Jaime "spanked" her, in reality he BEAT her.  She was unable for days to walk or ride comfortable, she had bruises covering her entire body, and he even said in fact that he lost control and it was much more severe than he intended.  It went beyond a simple discipline of his wife.  I understand it was the times and it was common for both disciplines and beatings of wives.  Do I think it was right, no but I am aware it was a different time and women were treated differently.  My issue is how Claire reacted.  At first she was right angry and wanted nothing to do with Jaimie.  That was in character with the portrayal of who she was.  What was not in character was that in less than 48 hour she had forgiven him, agreed with him that it needed to be done, and allowed him back in her bed.  All because he told her of some beatings that his father gave him as a child, however my opinion is that his father never beat him the way Jaimie beat Claire.  And her forgiveness, although not completely impossible to imagine happening, came too soon and with no true apology and did not fall in line with her character.  It is really at this point that I began to see inconsistancies.
Another big inconstancy for me is at the end when Jaimie is in prison and Claire goes to find him.  She kills a guard one moment, is hiding in a corner terrified the next, totally fucks ups the rescue and leaves Jaimie to Randall's mercies, then kills a wolf with her bare hands?  What the fuck!  So she goes to the prison, she wavers between bravery and cowardice, then when she gets to Jaimie's cell she becomes an idiot.  Jaimie tells her Randall is coming back and instead of being the smart woman she is supposed to be she plays into a stereotypical role of victim.  She wastes all of her time trying to hurry up and get Jaimie out of his chains instead of setting up a plan to knock out Randall and allow herself time to work the lock.  And surprise surprise it doesn't turn out well.  Then she has had all this self defense training, it went into great detail on how much time and how much training she did, and she doesn't use any of it to get away from Randall.  She lets Jaimie make the awful bargain of himself for her life.  Ok we are being a helpless woman needing our Man to save us.  But THEN, Gabladon has Claire kill a wolf with her BARE HANDS.  Please!  If she was able to kill a wolf with her bare hands, she could have taken out Randall, maybe not killed, but at least knocked him out and tied him up.  Make up your mind, is she a strong heroin or a weak victim.
Another thing that really bothers me is how quickly she forgets Frank, I know that they had been separated for 8 years, and were trying to re-connect, but still it took her NO time at all to move on to Jaimie.  And once they were married, which admittedly wasn't all her choice, she jumped into bed with him quite readily on an extremely regular basis.  If Gabladon had spent just a little less time not the sex scene descriptions, and a little more time on the character development I think this would have been a much better book.  Don't get me wrong, my rants don't mean I didn't enjoy the book, but they do mean that there was potential there for me to have enjoyed it more.

The First 15 Lives of Harry August by Claire North (read 8/13/14 to 8/23/15)

BOTM for August. This is a book of time travel, sort of. Harry August's life repeats itself. When he dies, he goes right back to the beginning, but with all the knowledge and experience from his previous life. Our story takes place at the end of his 11th life, when a little girl appears at his deathbed with a message for the past....the world is ending quicker than it should. What he does with the information is the true question. How can he save another the past and the future?
I liked it, I like the storyline too. But I don't have much to say either. It's good but not very a comment inducing. There are multiple flashes of Harry's previous lives,I like the flashes, I think they add depth and explain Harry's motivations really well.
I loved a quote in the middle of the book, it summed up an amazing view on life, whether you have one life or 15. "Men must be decent first and brilliant later, otherwise you're not helping people, just servicing the machine."

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (read 9/3/15 to 9/8/15)

This book seemed written for book lovers, and as I am one I loved it. Our Heroine is an introverted book lover herself. I was able to relate her in so many ways. And sometimes I found myself jealous that she got so spend much time with books. Margaret Lea works in her father’s antiquarian bookshop, and her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to begin writing them herself. She one day Margaret gets a letter asking her to write the biography of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winters. Mrs. Winters is a recluse who also toys with journalists, every time she does an interview, she gives the journalist a different life story. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Vida’s strange, gothic tale features the Angelfield family: dark-hearted Charlie and his unbrotherly obsession with his sister, the fascinating, devious, and willful Isabelle; and Isabelle’s daughters, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. The story is captivating. Margaret doesn't fully trust Vida to tell her the truth, so she goes and does some fact checking and discovers the truth isn't always what it seems.
I loved this book, I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the mystery, And I loved the truth. This was a book that I had to force myself to put down to sleep, and I spent my days wondering what was going to happen next. The twists and turns were engrossing, and I'm still not sure at the end if I got the full picture. This goes in my re-read list for sure. The writing was so smooth and doled out the mystery at a perfect speed. Both the images and writing were just dark enough, not horrific but a dark tell for sure. I could see the whole book characters, places, plot in my minds eye like a movie. I loved it!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (read 7/31/15 to 8/11/15)

This was one of the books I received in my Book Riot July Quarterly Box.  I was excited to read it, it sounded so interesting.  The Premise is that that in what I assume is an alternate reality books, libraries, and newspapers have at last become things of the past. Everybody used devises that are called Memes for all their communication and entertainment needs.  I imagine them to look like Blackberries and be extremely advanced smart devices. The Memes are intuitive and can anticipate the users needs, dialing the doctor before the user knows they are sick, or prompting the user with forgotten words or definitions of unfamiliar words. Yet there are still a few dedicated wordsmiths who are working on the final print edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language. One evening, right before it’s released, Anana Johnson finds that the chief editor—her father—has vanished.  The book then follows Anana and her colleague Bart as they search for her father from a single clue he left her in his office.  There is intrigue and danger and a giant conspiracy that must be unraveled.  All while trying to avoid succumbing to the deadly "Word Flu."  People are losing their language, whole words are disappearing and some are even dying.  How is it transmitted, why is it here, what does it have to do with Anana's father?This was a great read, I was enthralled with it, it was scientific and terrifying and engrossing.  I can see the way we are all attached to our smart phones and understand how we are losing something in our communications and our interactions with each other. This read was very thought provoking on the language breakdown.  There were lots of subtitles, that even if I didn't catch them all it didn't detract from my read.  For example, I  didn't realize the chapters were in alphabetical order until the last chapter. I will need a second read to catch it all I think.  There was a lot of science regarding the word flu and how it spread and how it was created, it was fascinating, but I think deserves a second read to fully comprehend.  The writing was great, it flowed really easy and kept my attention.  I really liked it, in fact I have recommended it to my book club as a read.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (read 7/11/15 to 8/6/15)

In the opening scenes of the book we see Hollywood star, Arthur Leander, having a heart attack while on stage during a production of King Lear.  Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, Jumps onstage and performs CPR and tries to save Arthur.  As Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as life as we know it disintegrates around them.
Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress, watches as Jeevan tries to save Arthur.  Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony, a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.  Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who leaves. And the search for troupe members left behind ensues.

The book is told from multiple points of view, separate stories and separate times that all weave together in a way that doesn't come together until the very end.  The magical way a single person can have so much impact, reminds me of the old story about dropping a pebble in a pond and the ripples created are countless.  We had alot of debate in BOTM as to who the main character of the book truly was.  I know who I feel, but if I shared that would take away some of the magic of this story.  Some of the characters were flawed, but it made them more real in my mind.  The writing was smooth, and moved the story along at a really nice pace.  I really liked this book, I am glad I bought it rather than just checking out from the library.  I will want to re-read for sure.  I think a stormy winter night by the fireplace will be perfect for that.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (read 7/27/15)

NNCC selection for August, now that I know one of the main characters names is August it seems especially appropriate.  I finished this book in a single cross country flight, I could not put it down. Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the story of Lily Owens.  Her life has been full of tragedy and starved for love.  When Lily was 4 she accidentally shot and killed her mother under questionable circumstances.  Her father is an abusive and cruel man who withhold his love and generally makes her life miserable, one day he is especially cruel and shatters Lilly's dream of her mother, causing her to flee.  She does not escape on her own, Lilly breaks her black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen out of jail and they leave town together.  The only thing clue Lilly has to her mother is a picture of a black Madonna with the town Tiburon, SC written on the back.  When they reach Tiburon date guides her to August Boatwright and her two sisters May and June.   It is here that "Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna."
The writing drew me in, and it reminded me of how quickly I read The Help.   Strange as this may sound, but despite the great descriptions I could not picture the peach farm or the pink house, but the women, they are clearly defined on my minds eye.  Full vibrant characters that made me love them, and I was sad to come to the end and have to say goodbye.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (read7/22/15 to 7/27/15)

Christopher John Francis Boone is strange.  At the age of 15, he knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.  Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, everyday interactions have little meaning. He lives on patterns and rules.  Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his world is upturned.  Christopher decides to be his favorite detective, Shelick Holmes, and he sets out to solve the murder, and solves more than the murder.
Christopher has either Aspergers or autism.   Interesting to read from his point of view, especially after reading Still Alice.   The writing was a little dry, but I suspect it was meant to be since Christopher is a bit dry.  I thought it was okay, not a favorite but it was interesting to read the story from his point of view.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (read 7/18/15 to 7/20/15)

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.  Our heroine Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom since birth.  Her entire life has been training to kill him once they are wed. Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. But Nyx puts duty first and as a good little sacrificial lamb she married the immortal Ignifex on her seventeenth birthday. Although not blindly, she has a plan. Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the curse he put on her people.  But neither Ignifex or the curse is what Nyx expected.  She finds that the story she knew was not the whole story, and despite herself she begins to love her husband.
I had a hard time putting this one down once I started reading it.  The writing is simple and beautiful. There is a lot of Greek/Roman lore woven into the story that made me do a little happy dance.  The story felt very familiar, but then again Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairytales, so the story wasn't that new.  But the details were rich and gave it a fresh breathe.  I really loved that Nyx was conflicted and not always a nice person, but then again being raised the way she was how could she not have some self image issues?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (read 7/7/15 to 7/12/15)

NNCC selection for July.  This is the story of a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer's and how it steals her life from her.  I admit this sounded depressing and all the reviews saying it was a great book weren't really convincing me.  I was pleasantly surprised by it, the read was easy and the characters were likable.
There were parts that made me tear up, especially when it comes to her interactions with her husband.   The ending left me with so many unanswered questions, but I understand why.  The book was from Alice's perspective and she would be unable to answer those questions at that stage in her disease, so the go unanswered in the book.  I liked it, it was well written and drew me in.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman (read 6/8/15 to 7/2/15)

Another BOTM book.  This is the story of a polish couple that hide Jews from the Nazis during WWII in their zoo.  I'm secretly a little obsessed with WWII stories, ever since I read Diary of Anne Frank in elementary school.  Even the ones where they don't survive, I think it is because I just can't understand how such an atrocity as the Holocaust could happen, and I'm uplifted by the resilience of the survivors.  I didn't pick this book but I suspected I would like it because of the subject. 

It's a really quick read, I know it's nonfiction and based on journals and interviews, but it doesn't read like nonfiction normally does.  It's so not dry or monotonous, it has a great fluidity to the story. Ackerman does an amazing job of weaving the facts in with the personal antidotes, to create a story not just a history.  I know that it was war, and that loss of human life was devastating too.  But hearing about the zoo animals being shot and bombed was a bit traumatic for me.  Their deaths felt incredibly senseless and tragic, and knowing it was true and not fictional deaths made it even harder for me to read.

Again with the animal deaths, so senseless and cruel.  How is that a hunt if they are locked in cages?  Grrr 

For some reason I'm having problems with the timeline, it feels like it will jump from early war to late war to mid war back to late war etc.  Maybe it is just me, but I wish it was more linear.  I think the issue is that she goes off on side tangents for events or people and puts the whole blurb about them in one place so she doesn't have to come back to them or so we get their whole story, but it confuses me on the timeline for the main storyline.

I was a little disappointed, I think I expected a bit more of a story and instead I felt that we got a sporadic telling of a bunch of people pieced together in a non-linear timeline.  I liked the books, the individual stories were good, but as a whole it left me wanting.

Odd Apocalypse (Odd Thomas #6) by Dean Koontz (read 6/19/15 to 7/12/15)

We continue Odd's story,he and Annemarie are staying at Riseland estate. A woman on a horse asks him her son, since she is a ghost she can't actually tell him anything of course, but Odd being Odd says he will.  So then the hunt for the boy begins, and even for Odd things get really strange.  
I had a little trouble getting into this book, the first chapter just didn't peak my interest.  And I think that lack of excitement carried through my whole read.     I found myself putting off reading, there was laundry or dishes to be done, my book club books were more important, etc. Maybe by taking such a long break between books on the series I lost my momentum, that indicates to me that the series isn't that great after all.  There were a few ghosts, but this was more of a supernatural adventure.  Koontz's writing was as good as ever, but the storyline just couldn't seem to hold me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Odd Interlude (Odd Odd Interlude (Odd Thomas #5) by Dean Koontz (read 6/12/15 to 6/17/15)

I picked this up as a side book because my BOTM read is so quick, I do the weeks reading in one day, and I had finished NNCC this month already.  I had recently bought the latest book in the series for my husband, and I want to get caught up so I could read it.
I guess this book was originally presented as a 3-part series of eBook mini installments.  It picks up the same night as the end of Odd Hours, Odd and Annamarie are driving to Santa Barbara after fleeing Magic Beach when they stop at a small gas station/diner/motel just off the highway called Harmony Corner.  And as with anywhere Odd goes, there is more to the place than meets the eye.

This book seems rushed, Odd is in the middle of a problem before the end of the first chapter, and unlike other books the story proceeds really really fast, no set up, no mystery really, just BAM Odd has to save someone and himself. Another odd thing about this book is the only ghost is that of Boo the dog. There is a murdered boy in the story, it seemed to me that he would be a ghost that Odd encountered.  In fact it would have made more sense for Odd to have discovered there was a problem from the boy's ghost than from snooping around Harmony Corner.  The storyline feels off to me.  It was still an easy read, but it didn't feel like the other books.  Maybe it is because it was an e-book serial and not a stand alone book.  The story moves at a very rapid pace, and there is a lot packed into its 250 or so pages.  I liked it, but it felt out of character to me.