Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obsidian - Flights of Fantasy Challenge

Obsidian (Lux Series #1)This one really didn't fit into my Pop Sugar reading challenge.  I am also doing Flights of Fantasy - my goal is to read 50 Fantasy books this year.  Shouldn't be a problem for me since it is one of my favorite genres.  I have already read 10 out of 50, including this one ( Obsidian, Rise of the Dragons, Golden Son, Moth, Never Never, Falling from Grace, Speaker for the Dead, Bird Song, Black Halo, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend).

This one was your typical YA supernatural romance.  It had it's moments and the relationship building between the characters was quite good. The author does an especially good job developing the tension between Daemon and Katy and also the friendship between Katy and dee.    I found the story line to be original, which is always a plus.  I read this purely for the brain candy.  It was a quick and easy read that kept me entertained.  Mission acommplished.

I gave it 3/5 stars because I found Daemon at times to be overbearing and obnoxious.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Image result for love and treasure   This was the book that I chose based entirely on it's cover.  For whatever reason, the peacock really spoke to me.   This is the story of a man, Jack, whose duty it is after the end of World War 2 to guard the infamous Treasure Train in Budapest.  Inside the train, wealth and treasure that was taken from the Jews by the Nazis.   Jack falls in love with a girl who is broken inside.  She can't love him the way he wants and eventually he returns home with a single talisman from the train,  a golden pendent with a peacock on it from the girls hometown as a reminder.

On his death bed, Jack feels guilty about having the peacock and asks his grand- daughter, Natalie, to try and return it to it's rightful owner.  The rest of the story is about Natalie's quest and what she finds along the way.

This was a really interesting story about a part of history that I really didn't know a lot about.  I, of course, knew that the Nazi's had taken treasure and possessions from the Jews but I didn't really realize that they weren't the only ones.  Even our allies were guilty.  I also didn't know about the political power struggle to gain ownership of the treasure nor of the struggle of militarized jews to have the nation state of Israel created.

I loved the symbolism in this book - peacocks being a symbol of disaster and bad luck.  As the history of the pendant is traced back through untold atrocities.... the symbol is always there.  It's a deep book and certainly not a quick read but very interesting.  I'm glad I read it.  4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fly by Night by KM Peyton

I read this book for the category " a book from childhood".   My youngest daughter and I read it together   I was so pleased that it held the same magic for her that it did for me.  I remember reading everything and anything by KM Peyton that I could get my hands on.

What struck me the most about this book the second time around is how real it is.  Ruth has a lot of worries, mostly about money and relating to the care of her pony.  The book really demonstrates just how badly Ruth wanted a pony and how hard she worked to achieve her goals.  I think that it an important life lessons is that things don't always come easily but those things, those achievements, that we have to work the hardest for, mean the most in the long run. 

Since KM Peyton is a British author and most of her works are out of print, getting hands on some titles is difficult.  Just scored a first American edition of The Team ( sequel to Fly by Night) for my youngest.  I hope she enjoys it.   

Thursday, February 19, 2015

All The Bright Places

All the Bright Places

I will put this one under the category - book that made you cry.  A truly great story is one that makes you FEEL something and this book certainly does that.  It's the story of Theo Finch and Violet Markey.  They meet on the bell tower of their school where they are both, for various reasons, committing suicide.  Violet is grieving for her sister who died in a car accident.  She is living a half life - refusing to get in a car - quitting all the things that mattered to her out of misplaced guilt for what happened to her sister.  Until she meets Theo Finch. 

They end up doing a geography project together where they have to explore Indiana.  Through these "wanderings" they learn about life, each other and especially themselves.  I loved all the symbolism in this book - the blue holes, the cardinal story and especially the names.  The author took such great care with the names that I knew it couldn't be an accident.  She mentions two birds prominently here, so I looked up the symbolic meaning of Finches.  I was not surprised to learn that a finch is both symbolic of happiness and enjoying the journey; whereas, ultraviolet is the color or mourning.

Don't miss this book.  It's the best I've read so far this year.  I loved it from start to finish.  Take the time to also read the afterward by the author.  If I could give this one more than 5 stars, I would. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Inherit the Wind Book #23

Inherit the Wind

This was book #23 for the Pop Sugar reading challenge.   This category was a play.  The story is actually quite interesting - based on a true story.   The story was the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trail.  A high school teacher was arrested for breaking a local statue against teaching Evolution.    It was probably one of the greatest and most sensational trials until that time.

I expected a little more from the courtroom battle between the Defense and the Prosecution.    I wanted more drama.  Maybe something is lost when reading in your head versus actually seeing it performed?  At any rate,  I enjoyed the play and I am glad that I read it. 

My literary plan to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

As an American of Irish decent, I always get a yearning this time of year for that lyrical storytelling of the Irish.   It's the rapid approach of St. Patricks day, I suppose, coupled with the impending sow storm.
At any rate, I came up with a brilliant idea.  This year, to honor my heritage, I am going to focus on Irish and Irish- American writers during the month of March.  I am listing the books i plan to read here - so I don't forget.  I think my March looks very exciting!  What do you think?  Will you be reading any Irish writers?

The Book of Tomorrowa brilliant story of a girl who finds a mysterious book that seems to contain her future.

Reading in the Dark: A NovelThis book has been getting a lot of buzz.... can't wait to read it! This is a story of childhood set during the Troubles.....

Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal The tale of Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob in America.

The Mermaids Singing The story of three generations of Irish women.

Sharp ObjectsGillian Flynn's first novel.

The Darkest Part of the Forest (Signed Book)What St. Paddy's day would be complete without a story of the Fae?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Heading Out to Wonderful  
This had been on my TBR pile for a while.   I read A Reliable Wife some years ago and absolutely loved it.  Then I read his memoir, The End of the World as We Know It, and while it wasn't great, it was extremely well written.  When I saw this book, I put it on my TBR pile and there it has sat for some time.

Then the challenge came along and one of the categories was "a book on the bottom of my TBR pile" so this one finally came off the shelf and was read.

Like all his books, this one is extremely well written.  He uses an absolutely beautiful turn of phrase and paints beautiful pictures of his characters and the setting of his books.  This one is tragic.  It's about a young man coming home from the war with nowhere to call his own and nothing but a pick up truck and a suitcase full of cash.   He's looking for something wonderful and thinks he's found it in wanna be starlet and married woman, Sylvan Glass. 

For a while, I thought that something bad was going to happen to either the little boy or the dog.  It didn't ( Good thing because for me, if the dog dies, the book is OVER).  I can't say that this was predictable, but it just didn't resonate quite the way that A Reliable Wife did.  Still, 4 out of 5 stars for his stunning writing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Its Valentines Day

Well, here it is again... the day for lovers.  Always my least favorite holiday, I view it as little more than the commercialism of sentimentality.  Just because my husband buys me a piece of jewelry from Kay jewelers, or brings home the biggest bouquet of red roses he kind find, doesn't mean that he loves me any more than he did yesterday.  Or any less if he fails to do these things.  It's the same with books.
This time of year you see all the posts about what is your favorite love story?  What's the greatest romance ever written?  Well, romance novels aren't my thing but I started thinking about books where the story is ultimately about LOVE.   This post is the result of that train of thought.  This post is for all you out there, who like me, don't really do romance novels but enjoy a book that makes you FEEL something.
This is my collection of some tried and true and some books that perhaps you hadn't thought of as LOVE stories before.   So, if you are looking to read something about LOVE this Valentines day, this is a list of wonderful books for ALL ages.  Some of my favorites,from childhood to adulthood:
The Giving Tree

What could be a greater story about love than this?  The tree who gives everything for the boy she loves.....I still read this one to my children.

The Velveteen Rabbit. ILLUSTRATED
I still cry EVERY.  TIME.  This is the story about a little rabbit who loved so much he becomes REAL.

Charlotte's Web

Still the GREATEST story about friendship that I have ever read - even after all these years.

War Horse
A beautiful, beautiful story of love and loyalty.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Korean Edition)

A beautiful story of love and friendship.

The Yearling
This one puts even Old Yeller to shame.
The critics compared this one to Gone with the Wind.  I didn't believe it.... until I read it.  Now I buy EVERYTHING this author writes.  It's just that simple.
Summer Sisters
A story of friendship and that intense first love.  So well written by one of my favorite authors.
Eleanor & Park
Not your typical YA book and not your typical love story.  Amazing.

The story of the disinherited knight who loves a forbidden princess.  Action/ adventure and Robin Hood?  What more could one person want?
One Hundred Names: A Novel
From the author of PS I Love You, you just have to read this one to understand.

Wuthering Heights (Annotated)
Even though I am a firm believer of what's meant to be will always find a way, as an adult, I realize that sometimes love just isn't enough.
The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic
Probably one of the best love stories I have read recently.....

And Last but never Least,  in my opinion the greatest love story ever written.....
Gone with the Wind
and never doubt, for one second, that Scarlett gets her man.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern

This book was originally titled Where Rainbow's End but the name was changed for the movie tie in of the book.....
I still prefer this cover, though.  If you haven't read Cecelia Ahern, what are you waiting for???  She is best known for her book P.S. I Love You - guaranteed to make you cry unless you are completely heartless.  At any rate, she is an Irish writer and like so many before her, she has the true and rare gift of being a real story teller.   I have read three of her books now and loved them all.  I will probably read everything she has ever written, I love her so much.

This one is no different.  This is the story of Rosie and Alex.... best friends since childhood.   Always there for each other, their friendship growing into something much more profound.  Life takes unexpected twists and turns and Rosie and Alex.... while they are always one step away, they just can't seem to get it right.  

It reminds us all that what is meant to be TRULY will find a way.  I would give it more than 5 stars if I could.  It may be cliche but it is still such wonderful writing, such a fabulous story.... perfect for Valentines day.  I'm so glad I read it!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Black Halo

This is the third book in the Grace series.  It fairs a little better than my last review receiving 3/ 5 stars.   This book had it's moments that were touching and sweet - like the ring of grass that Robert gives to Grace or those moments between Grace and Stacey.

Still, the pot moved quite slowly at times often veering off into tangent story lines that seemed irrelevant.   The plot twists that come near the end of the book where occasionally obvious and could have come about 200 pages sooner.  I'm not sure if I will pursue the final book in this series.   I enjoyed what I read, but see the story lines wrapping up in ways that are too cliche.   Maybe later this year.  We'll see.

The Good Girl

Ok, so maybe mysteries just are't my thing.  The last two books that promised to be "the next Gone Girl"  ( this one and The Girl on the Train) were both anything BUT. This one is a debut novel.  The writing was above mediocre but I definitely had my problems with this one.

First of all, the cover thinks it's being clever- it isn't.  In fact, for me, it gave the entire plot twist away.  I had the majority of the plot figured out by about page 20.  Clearly not Gone Girl. 

Secondly, the plot is choppy moving not just between characters but also jumping timelines.  Really?  I felt like I had to keep asking myself ok, so which character's perspective is this again?  And is it before or after the "event"?   While I'm busy setting the time frame, I can't be engrossed in the story.

More than likely I will never read another book by this author again.  I felt like this one was a complete waste of my time.  Would love to hear the thoughts of anyone with a different opinion of this one.  As it is, I'm sorry I wasted my time and effort on it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans in February of 1826.  This book combines the appeal of the action/ adventure with the softer aspects of love and romance.  It's an interesting combination especially considering when the book was written.   The sentence structure is beautiful, and the description is well written though sometimes laborious.

I think the interactions between Cora/ Magua and Cora/ Uncas are particularly thought provoking. Magua and Uncas are both Indians and yet Uncas is the epitome of all that is good, whereas from the very first, Magua is seen as something to be disparaged.   In the end, would a relationship between Cora and Uncas even have been acceptable?  It's intriguing that Cooper would even be asking these questions.

My favorite characters are Uncas and Hawkeye.  I loved how Cooper described Hawkeye as having an honest face.  I can remember my Dad telling me when he was little that he and his friends would play at being these characters.  I guess that's why I choose this book.  I had seen the movie with Daniel Day Lewis some time ago and loved it, but I am very glad that I read the book.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bird Song book #17

This is the sequel to Falling from Grace.   In the original story, Grace, falls in love with an angel named Robert.  In my initial post for the first book, I pointed out that there were some ( for me) uncomfortable similarities with Twilight.  Well, this story is where the similarities end.  Oh sure, there still are some, but this book is much better written, with more care given to character development. 

In contrast to the constantly annoying Bella Swann, Grace is a character that continues to grow and delight.  She doesn't want to change to be with her love but rather insists that she be accepted and loved as she is.  Real love isn't about when people want to change us, real love truly is about acceptance.  Do I think she will eventually change in the ways implied in the book?  Likely, but I think it would be better if Robert did.  I think that tells a better story.  Oh well,  I guess we'll see where this one leads.  The next in the series is way down on my tbr list. 

For now, this was my book with author with same initials ( had to flip hers)  for the PopSugar Reading challenge.