Friday, January 30, 2015

The Girl on the Train - book #16

This one was a bit of a sleeper start for me.  Usually, I give a book 50 pages to get me into the story, this one took twice that but I was glad that I carried on.   My difficulty at first came from the completely unsympathetic character of Rachel.  She was so weak and her constant drinking made me want to head for the hills just reading about it.  I could certainly relate to how her husband, Tom, felt. 

I was really excited to read this one because everyone said it was the "next Gone Girl".  For me, it just wasn't and the reason is - with Gone Girl, even though I knew that Amy was disturbed, I could still relate to her and even felt myself cheering her on as she reaped her revenge.  There was none of that here.

The book did take me on several twists and turns as I tried to decipher what had happened.  It was fun.  I had a sense of it by about page 120 or so, but I still enjoyed reading it.  If you like mystery/ thrillers, I won't say this one is a must, but I will say it's an enjoyable read.  Don't give up on it.I have this one 4/5 stars.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Falling from Grace - Supernatural Romance

Ok,  I have to admit it, I have a weakness for a good story about angels.  Especially dark, brooding angels with dark hair and eyes. If you enjoy supernatural romance, this book is extremely easy to read and very enjoyable.  I plan on reading the rest of the series to satisfy the trilogy requirement of the PopSugar Reading challenge.

So, if I liked it so much, why only 4 stars?  Well, in my mind, I started to compare it to Twilight - a book that I abhor.  I realized that many of the qualities that I didn't like in Twilight were also present to a degree in this book.  What qualities, you ask?  Well, how about a heroine would doesn't appreciate her own self worth?  Although I must say that Grace is much stronger than Bella Swan could ever be.  When offered immortality, unlike Bella, Grace chooses her humanity.  She embraces all those things that make her unique.  She definitely grows throughout the course of the story. 

Also, Robert's initial behavior toward Graham was Edward/Jacob - esque. I thought it was wrong that Grace would stay away from her friend simply because Robert had issues controlling his jealousy.  That said, in the end, Robert and Graham do find a way to come together and Robert conquers his jealousy, learning to trust Grace.  So while there were some Twilight like moments, in the end, I think these characters rise to the occasion, something which never occurs in Twilight. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Speaker for the Dead

My husband has been encouraging me for over a year to continue on with the Ender's Quintet.  I loved Ender's Game so much and I thought that the ending was beautiful.  I loved that Orson Scott Card allowed the reader to create their own ending... and then I realize that there are more books.  I was reluctant to take anything away from the perfection that is Ender's Game and so, I put it off.

I finally picked up Speaker for the Dead and I am so glad that I did.  Ender's all grown up, both physically and emotionally.   I enjoyed the growth, understanding and compassion that his character showed throughout this book.  I could also relate to all the newly introduced characters as well and thought the added depth to this new level of the story.

A new alien life form has been found.  Horrible murders have been committed and someone has called for a Speaker for the Dead.  Will Ender be able to create harmony between the human population and the "Piggies"?  What about the cocoon of the Formic Hive Queen that he carries with him?  Will he finally find redemption for how he played his game?  

I can't say that all these questions are answered, but I will say that if you enjoyed Ender's Game, it is worthwhile to pursue the entirety of the series.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

This book was, once upon a time, a free Friday nook download.  I had nigh hopes of it being the series of books that I used for my Trilogy for the PopSugar Reading challenge.  Turns out that it will most likely go under my book with bad reviews.  You see, on goodreads, it had many well - written reviews which were less than sparkling.  To be fair, it definitely has it's fans as well.   Since it was free, I thought - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It's a romance novel - essentially.  While the writing style is good, none of the characters are ever particularly well developed. I never really felt like there was a single character that I could relate to. root for except for, perhaps, Will - the least developed character in the story.

 The plot was absurd, at best.   It was difficult for eve this sci-fi lover to suspend disbelief and that is saying something. There are so many aspects of the plot that completely defy reason but, on the off chance that someone still wants to read this book, I won't give spoilers here.  If you choose to read it, proceed with caution and see for yourself.  I won't be pursuing the remainder of the series.  On to other things.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Big Little Lies

Wow, does this book pack a wallop.  It keeps you guessing from start to finish.  I loved how all the characters were so relate -able.   I could picture all them and the cliques at the school.   I have enjoyed Liane Moriarty's other works, but this one is definitely my favorite.  I don't have much to say about it as I don't want to give anything away, but I will say, do yourself a favor and read this one! 5/5 stars

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Never, Never by Colleen Hoover

Last year, a friend recommended Colleen Hoover's Hopeless.  It was amazing.  When I saw that she had released another book,  I picked it up immediately.  I was looking for a book set in high school and this book fit the bill perfectly.   This is the story of Charlie and Silas - two high school students who develop amnesia at the same time.   It isn't clear what happened to cause the amnesia, something traumatic.  This story is how they have to work to find out who they are and what happens to them.

I didn't enjoy it as much as Hopeless because the story was much shorter and didn't feel complete.... (probably because it isn't.... part two comes out in May).   It does have a very interesting plot line and some great character development.  I will definitely read part two to see what happened to Charlie and Silas and where they go from here....  4/5 stars.

I Don't Usually Do Short Stories...

but for the PopSugar Reading challenge this was one of the subjects. I think the thing that I usually don't enjoy about them is the disjoint nature of them.  I'm always looking for some commonality - some prevailing theme that each story shares.  That is what I liked about this choice - When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald - even though each story is independent, they are inter-related.

So Molly Ringwald - you heard that right!  As in the Pretty in Pink girl that everyone wanted to be in the 80's.  I have to say that I chose this book, at least in part, because, being a child of the 80's, I loved her so much.  It turns out that she is an amazing writer and I was more than pleasantly surprised.  I loved that while each story could be read alone, they all had a common link.  In some cases, the link took a little while to discover, but it was always there.  I loved that I could relate to most of the characters, except Phillip.  I could feel what they were feeling and relate to the situations that they found themselves in.  This book is well written and highly enjoyable.  It also makes you think and encourages reflection.  I would recommend it highly - 5/5 stars.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Moth by Daniel Arenson

I have to start out by saying that I chose this book for two reasons: 1.  I read Requiem by the same author and thought it was amazing, and 2. it fight nicely into a much needed category for my PopSugar Reading Challenge.

Daniel Arenson is an amazing writer who does incredible work building worlds and back story for his fantasy novels.  The premise of this one is so interesting - imagine the Earth stops turning and one side is always in the light, while the other lives in perpetual dark.   The story is about two people, one from each side of Moth, as the Earth is now called.   They each have misperceptions and misgivings about one another and about people from the other side  This book is about tolerance and bravery.  Bravery isn't always fighting battles but sometimes, it's about listening to avoid them. 

I read a lot of YA because I have two daughters that are avid readers and I'm a teacher who is always looking for books to suggest to my students.  This book is perfect for ages 9-11 but a bit simplistic for anyone over that age group, in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne

I loved John Wayne.  I grew up watching "The Duke" epitomize on the screen what it meant to be an American.  My favorite movies are of his are:  The Quiet Man,  The Longest Day,  The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Cowboys, The Searchers, True Git and The Shootist.   He always reminded me of my Dad - a gentle but gruff man who always tried to do the right thing.  
It was interesting to get a glimpse of the man.  For example,  I had no idea that his family traveled to California by covered wagon. ( That's just so hard to imagine) His father was a pharmacist who had difficulty keeping a job.  His family often subsisted off of money raised by Marion's ( John's real name) paper route.  His dog's name was Duke and Duke would follow him to school every day and then hang out with the local firefighters.  The firefighters taught young Marion to fight ( you can imagine with a name like that, he was bullied a lot) and the same firefighters gave him the nickname Duke.  For many years, he actually went by the name Duke Morrison.
There are so many wonderful tidbits and great stories in this book.  There was also a lot that was difficult to reconcile with my image of of John Wayne.  Like anyone else, he was a human being that had many facets to his character. I'm glad I read this book and I will always be a fan of the Duke. 4/5 stars only because of the occasional liberal bent of the text.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I read the first book in this series, Red Rising, at the end of December.  I absolutely loved it and was thrilled that I didn't have long to wait for the release of it's sequel.   As much as I loved the first book, this one is even better!   It starts with a bang and never lets you go until the very end of the story. Our hero, Darrow, is trying to create a better world by destroying the Society that is oppressing his people.  I mentioned, in my review a comparison to Hunger Games, Ender's Game and even Game of Thrones.  All of those are right on... but with Golden Son.... it's more like Game of Thrones meets Star Wars... two of my favorite fandoms.  There was even a "Never tell me the odds" reference.  You have to love it.  Still, for all the borrowing that Brown does, he manages to write a completely original story and I just can't wait to get my hands on that third installment.  5 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Book About My Hometown

This book by Michael Chabon has been on my TRB list for a while.  I finally found in on BookBub for 99 cents, but then, it just sat on my Nook waiting.  For the PopSugar book challenge, I needed to read a story about my hometown.  Finally, the time was right.
It's strange reading about all the places that I loved as a child and having them pictured perfectly in writing.  The way that Chabon describes the cloud factories describes perfectly what so many of the factories that sit off the three rivers look like.   No one is really sure what they do or make, but the clouds that come out of the stacks are perfect and white.  He talks about Shenley Park, Three Rivers, The Carnegie Mellon Museum of Natural History, Shadyside and so much more.  It was fun to read about the familiar.
There is one aspect of Pittsburgh that most people who are not from there are surprised about - it is actually a pretty big Mob town.  That aspect was definitely captured in this book.  It is definitely a coming of age novel - working through life and trying to figure out just exactly who you are.  It is extremely well written, even though some of it was difficult for various reasons to read. I described it to my mom as being reminiscent in some ways of Gatsby, and I will stick with that.  
I enjoyed it.  4/ 5 stars.

PopSugar Challenge book 5 - Rise of the Dragons

So, I have to say that I am a pretty big Morgan Rice fan.  My youngest daughter and I have read her complete Sorcerer's Ring series.  When I saw her new book, I was excited because it would fit into several categories that I might need for the challenge. Plus, it has dragons....

I thoroughly enjoyed the main character, Kyra.  She is strong and brave, a fierce protector of those she loves and a friend to animals.  Kyra isn't like other girls, she wants to be a warrior and he father, a war chief, doesn't quite know what to do with her.  Kyra's destiny and possibly the destiny of her people finds Kyra during an act of kindness in the form of a dragon.
The story really has three main threads, with three seperate leads.  Kyra is only one of the leads.  Merck and Alec are two additional characters that you get a brief glimpse of, but they are not fully developed yet.  I found the story to be somewhat choppy moving in and out of story lines, unlike her other works.  Still, I think the potential is there for later development and for this to be a truly wonderful series.  I will definitely read the next one to see how the story progresses.  I gave it 3/5 stars, only because the story didn't necessarily flow easily. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl

I chose this one to meet part of my Pop Sugar reading challenge.  This book was on the banned/ challenged list and just speaking about literature alone, it's easy to see why.   The author does do a nice job of recreating that rush of first love - it's urgency - but beyond that - nothing.   The story involves three very different girl all with the same boy.  They all think that he is different with them, that he really cares about them.  In none of the cases is that the truth.  Sadly the lessons learned from the girls in the book is that a bad boy is never good for a girl.  Never.  2 stars and a check mark off my goal for the year.  Moving on.

The Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

This one was suggested by a friend for my IRL book club. I thought it sounded interesting, so I am really glad that it was ultimately chosen.
This is a poignant story about Max, a young boy with special needs, and Budo, his imaginary friend.  I felt the book was extremely insightful about what it is to live as a child with special needs.  I love how he described Max, " You have to be the bravest person in the world to go out being yourself everyday, when no one likes who you are."   I think this is so true, especially of people with special needs who are so often misunderstood.
I love how Budo worked so hard to do the right thing, the hard thing.   He acts completely outside of his own self interest, finally, and that is a very difficult choice to make.  I love how he helps Max.  I especially enjoyed the scene with Max and the 5th grade bully.  A teacher can really appreciate how likely a story like that could be, especially a teacher who works with children like Max.
Finally, I would just like to say to Mr. Dicks, who is a teacher - not all "paraprofessionals" are like Mrs. Patterson and yes, sometimes the children really do love us - quite a lot.  Even those with special needs.  I gave this one  4/5 stars only because in some bits it seemed to drag on in an irrelevant way.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Truth about Alice

I guess the cover of this book is really what got me interested in it.  It seemed, from the cover, to have a similar plot to other books I have read, most noticeably by Laurie Halsie - Anderson.  Still, there was just something about it that spoke to me, so I decided to read it.  I'm really glad that I did.
This is the first book I have ever read of Jennifer Matthieu's, but it won't be the last.  The story is about a girl named Alice, who is going to be a junior in high school.  She is a popular girl, but not the queen bee.  The story is mainly about what happens to Alice when people start spreading horrible lies about her and how quickly people, even her friends, are to believe them. 
Sociology was one of my favorite classes in school - understanding why groups of people behave in the ways they do and what makes them behave that way.  The changes in behavior that her friends exhibit don't happen over night for Alice, but they do happen and seem to be easier and easier for people as time goes on.
Alice is an extremely strong heroine and yet, we don't have a single chapter from her perspective until the very last one.  The entire story is moved through the point of view of others.  It is extremely well done.  I loved this book and admired Alice's ability to rise above the stupidity of others.  She reminded me of my daughter, though thankfully, nothing terrible like this has happened to her. 
It's a great read, and easy.  I read it in less than a day but the story, and it's lessons, will stay with me for a long time. 
Oh, and for those of you who know me, it totally didn't hurt that there were numerous Outsiders references in this one.  Gotta love my Ponyboy.  Stay gold, everyone.

The Truth Teller's Lie by Sophie Hannah

Just finished my first book of the new year.  It wasn't the book I was intending to read first, but as my Nook was acting up, it just happened that way.  This one has been on my tbr pile for a while now, ever since I read the first in the Waterhouse & Zailer series - Little Face.  I read Little Face about a year ago now, and it was just amazing.  If you love mysteries/ thrillers - don't miss Little Face.

I started this book with high expectations and it did not disappoint.  I love that each of the Waterhouse & Zailer books seem to stand alone.  Although a character from Little Face was briefly mentioned, it was in passing and I didn't feel like I had to have read that story first to follow along with this one.
Sophie Hannah tells amazing thrillers.  The stories twist and turn in ways that can't be predicted, almost right up to the very end.  I would say that I did find the Big Baddie to be a bit predictable, but the way that you get there is a wild ride.  
My one complaint about these books is the heroine, Charlie Zailer.  Although she is very smart and has a lot going for her, she seems to have a low self esteem is appears to be constantly looking for love in all the wrong places.  I believe that she could be a stronger character with all this left out of the story completely and nothing would be missing.
Still if you enjoy a good mystery, I give this one four out of five stars - for reasons stated above.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge - Making a Plan

As I reader,  I don't just read books - I consume them.  I'm always looking for ways to push myself and encourage reading books that I wouldn't usually select for myself ( hello, that's why I'm in a book club!)   I found this reading challenge and corresponding group on facebook, so I thought I would give it a try.  I realized at once that to be successful with a challenge of this magnitude, I needed a plan.  So here it is.   Any of you out there interested in this challenge  - it looks like a lot of fun.

  • a book with 500 pages - Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • a classic romance - a book that became a movie - 
  • published this year - Golden Son by Pierce Brown
  • a book with a number in the title
  • a book written by someone under 30 - V. by Thomas Pynchon
  • a book with non-human characters- Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice
  • a funny book - Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beato
  • female author- The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige
  • one word title - Moth by Daniel Arenson ( if I like the first one, I may use this as the trilogy instead)
  • mystery or thriller - The Truth Tellers Lie by Sophie Hannah
  • a book of short stories When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
  • a book set in another country- The Budapest House by Marcus Ferrar
  • a non-fiction book The 6th Extinction by Elizabth Kolbert
  • a popular author's first book - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • a book a friend recommended- Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
  • a pulitzer prize winner- Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • based on a true story - All  that is Solid Melts into Air by darrough McKeon
  • new author - The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  • mom recommends- The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  • bottom of to be read list - Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
  • a book that scares you- The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  • more than 100 years old - The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  • based entirely on it's cover - Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
  • a book you should have read in highschool but didn't - Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • a book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit - River God by Wilbur Smith
  • a book released the year you were born - Love Story by Eric Segall
  • a book with bad reviews White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • a trilogy - wolf hall series
  • a book from your childhood - Fly by Night by K.M Peyton
  • a book set in the future - UnDvidide by Neal Shusterman
  • a book with a love triangle
  • a book set in highschool - The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Matthieu
  • a book that made you cry
  • a book with magic
  • a book with a color in the title - The Black Dahlia by James Elroy
  • a book by an author you've never read before
  • a book you own but haven't read- The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
  • a book set in your hometown - THe Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
  • a book written initially in another language - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denosovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsin Or Gulag Archipeligo  Volume 1.
  • a book set during Christmas- What Happens at Christmas 
  • a banned book - A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
  • a book based on a tv show - Friday Night Lights
  • a book you started but didn't finish
  • a book with antonyms in the title- Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
As you can see, this is a work in progress, but I wanted to get the gist of it here on paper to guide my reading.  And speaking of reading, it's time I finish here and get back to my book. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Queen of the Tearling

I gave this selection 5/5 stars.   I loved the character development in it.  Sometimes with fantasy books, the author is in such a hurry to move the story that they forget that the story is about these characters and the worlds they are building.  Erika Johansen did a great job in developing all the characters, and those that still leave you guessing, that is done for a reason to move the story into the next book.

Young Kelsea, future Queen of the Tearling, is raised in hiding by her foster parents.  At the appointed time, the loyal members of the Queen's Guard appear to accompany her on her journey to take her throne.  She is being hunted both by her Uncle, the Regent of Tearling and the Red Queen of Mortmesne, who will do everything in her power to prevent Kelsea from reaching her full potential and unlocking the secrets of the Queen's Jewel.

I love strong heroines, and this story has that in abundance in Kelsea.  She is a leader who knows how to earn loyalty.  She leads through her own actions, not through orders.  If you enjoy works of fantasy, this story is well developed and written.  I am looking forward to the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, sometime in 2015.