Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The First Quarter of 2015....

Well, it's hard to believe that after today the first quarter of this year will be a fait accompli.  Where does the time go?  Apparently, I have been busy reading, and that's always a good thing!  I've read 45 books so far this year, off to a good start.  I haven't read a lot of break out books, but the five I'm about to share truly are, and if you haven't read them yet, what are you waiting for???

5. Parlor Games: A Novel      Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio     This is the amazing story of just how far one woman will go to advance herself in a world dominated by men.  It's enchanting and engaging from the very first page.

4. Big Little Lies  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  This book is just pure fun.  It kept me engaged and guessing, quite literally right up until the last page.  I loved this one.

3.Salvage the Bones This one had to be included because not only is it beautifully written but it broadened my view of the world.  Not something that every book can accomplish.

2.Golden Son (Red Rising Series #2)  This one is a ten ticket thrill ride of a Space Odyssey.   It was amazing.  As much as I loved the first book in the series, Red Rising, this one is even better.  Can't wait for the next book and I hope I don't have to wait very long!

And finally, the best book I have read, by far, so far this year is....

1. All the Bright Places   This is a poignant look at life, love and dealing with depression.  I loved it.  It moved me.  All truly great works of fiction have one thing in common - they make you FEEL something and boy, does this one do that.

Thanks Regina Foo for the idea for this posting.  Happy Reading everyone.  :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Flights of Fantasy Update

Image result for fantasy pics

My goal for this challenge is 50 books.  This month I added The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Goddess Test and Prophecy book one of the Dragon King Chronicles to my completed pile.  13 out of 50 books completed - not too shabby.  I think I will make my goal for this challenge.

I am looking forward to several new releases that will go into this category - most notably The Wicked Will Rise book 2 in the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Page.  This book comes out tomorrow. i also have Seraphina en route from Better World books for this month and I have been waiting for some time to read that one.

It goes without saying that not all books, and not all fantasy books are created equal.  My favorites of this genre this year thus far would definitely be Golden Son by Daniel Brown and The Darkest Part of the Forest.

The Goddess Test

The Goddess Test

I love Greek mythology - have always loved it.  Stories of gods and heroes were a vital part of what enhanced my love of reading as a child.  When I saw this interesting take on one of my favorite stories, Peresephone and Hades, I was very excited.   This book got off to a bit of a slow start.  Kate and her Mom are a team and it's always been just the two of them, but now, Kate's mom is dying.  She wants Kate to move  with her to where she grew up. Here Kate meets Henry, a strange boy who tells her that if she agrees to live on his estate with him from the autumn to spring equinox, then he can keep her mother alive until she is ready to say goodbye.
I don't want to say more and give the entire plot away.  The beginning third of the book is rather slow, but it does develop.  I especially enjoyed the tests that Kate needs to pass to prove her worth.  An interesting read for ages 11-16ish who enjoy Greek mythology.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prophecy: The Dragon King Chronicles

  1. Prophecy (Dragon King Chronicles Series #1)
I read this one for the Flights of Fantasy reading challenge.  This is the story of Kira, a young woman raised to be a warrior. Her sole role is to protect her cousin, Taejo, the future king and savior of prophecy.   At first, I viewed the character of Kira as largely two - dimensional and simple because she is presented that way.  But as the story goes on, more depth in her character is revealed.  In addition to being a female warrior, which in itself is unusual, she can also see demons.  It is this threat that she protects her cousin from and it is this ability which causes her to be largely shunned by the general populace.  Isn't it true that people always fear what they don't understand?

I thought that the Japanese and particularly the Korean influences in the story were unique.  While I enjoyed the story, I found much of the plot to be predictable and while entertaining, not completely engaging.  Not sure I will continue on with this series.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Parlor Games: A Novel by Maryka Biaggio

Parlor Games: A Novel

I'll be honest,  I first picked up this book because I found the cover to be completely intriguing.  I am definitely one of those visual people who like a book with cover appeal.  This book has cover appeal and so much more!   The story takes place in the late 1800's - early 1900's.   May Dugas is a young woman, from the upper peninsula in Michigan, who goes to Chicago to make her way in the world.  Young May is audacious. She works every advantage that she has to make her way in life and to better the lives of her family.   
The story progresses from Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo to Canada, back to the Upper Penisula and on to New York,  London, places throughout Europe and even Eygpt.  All through her travels and many adventures, May's trail is dogged by a determined Pinkerton agent named Reed Doughterty.  He is determined to bring May to justice for daring to want better for herself in a man's world, but May could have some tricks left up her sleeve.  
The voice of the book is quite enjoyable.  It takes some interesting twists and turns, but all the while kept me engaged.  Glad I picked this one up. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth

My friend, Martha, recommended this book to me probably about a year ago.  I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to read it.  This was well written and thoroughly enjoyable.  It's the story of Serena, a bright girl from the English country side with prospects.  She has a talent for Math and so her mother encourages her to pursue an education in Mathematics.  Considering the story is set in the 1972 English countryside, this was a fairly bold proposition.  Although Serena does go to school for Math, it's Literature that is her true passion.   This passion, coupled with her love of Solzhenitsyn, is what lands her a job working for Mi5. 

It is a convoluted story with many twists and turns - I don't want to give too much away here.   It is so worth the read and enjoyable literally right up to the very last page.  Don't miss this one if you enjoy spy stories.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More Irish Magic..... The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey

The Mermaids Singing

This is the story of three generations of Irish women brought together by family, love, and tragedy. Cliona is a woman who has faced the consequences of her actions head one.  She is strong but often unreadable.  Her daughter, Grace, seems to struggle to find her place and happiness in this world.  Finally, Grace's daughter, Grainne, is left to deal with ramifications of all the decisions made by her mother and Grandmother.

At 15, Grainne finds herself motherless, meeting a Grandmother that she has never known and a father that she has yearned for.  This is Irish story telling at it's very best.  I love how Lisa Carey weaves the stories of these three very different women together.  She makes it so that the reader can understand and relate to each character, no matter how different their character or circumstances.  This is a beautiful story of love and loss and ultimately, redemption.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  4 stars. 

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild (Illustrated)

Jack London has been one of my favorite authors for a long time.  I read White Fang when I was 14 years old, and to this day, it is one of my favorite books ever.  I never read this, his more famous work, until now.  I once caught a brief glimpse of the movie with Clarke Gable and just didn't think my heart could take it.  I was probably right.

One writing style alone, this one deserves 5 stars.  London crafts beautiful sentences and creates  environments that are so real, you feel you are there.  His depiction of the klondike along with his descriptions of the nature of the men and creatures who live there is simply breathtaking. His sentence structure is perfection.  It's hard to believe that this work was serialized by the Sunday Evening Post in 1903.  When compared to our papers of today, we seem to have declined quite a long way when just the quality and difficulty of the text is considered.

This was a difficult book for me to read, being an animal lover.  There are so many examples of the cruelty and often stupidity of humans.  Buck suffers so greatly in this book and yet, his spirit is not defiled. There are moments of compassion and love also demonstrated, but that really isn't the point of the story.  I'm glad that I finally read this one, but where I read White Fang over and over, this is a one time read for me.  Still, Jack London has been firmly ensconced in my heart forever as a great American writer. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Graphic Novel - Ender's Game: Battle School

Ender's Game: Battle School

I want to preface all of this with saying that graphic novels are not my thing.  I choose this one because 1. I thought it would have stories that were not included in Ender's Game about the battles between the armies and 2. I was already familiar with the story.  It was a mistake and I was disappointed.  There was nothing new here just a abbreviated and diminished version of Ender's Game.

I know some people really like graphic novels.  For me, the pictures are distracting - too many pictures with words all over the place that I have to work at to make sense of their order.  I like to read a story and create the images in my mind for myself.  When this is down for me, it reduces my enjoyment of the story.  That said, if this is the format that other's enjoy - more power to you.  I don't care what you read, as long as you are reading! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tease by Amanda Maciel


This book is cautionary tale about bullying.  In the story, Sara, is angry with Emma, who she thinks is trying to steal Sara's boyfriend.  Apparently, Emma has been quite popular with quite a few of the boys and Sara and her friends don't view the competition well.  Emma is portrayed as both a victim and an offender.  The reader never really gets a clear sense of who she is, but then, the story really isn't about her.  It's about what happens after.

The lengths that Sara and Brielle went to, in order to bully Emma, were typical of the way girls ostracize one another.  Girls are so quick to label someone a "slut" or a "tease" with no read understanding of what the implications of that teasing will be.  The rise of social media, like Facebook, and the anonymity it provides, has only made the problem worse.

This story greatly reminded me of the tragic true story of Phoebe Prince, an Irish girl who moved to Massachusetts with her family.  Phoebe was horribly bullied and committed suicide, as a result.  In the Prince case, 6 students were tried for their involvement in her harassment.

I think this is an interesting story because it shows the effect of bullying on both the bully and the victim.  I thought that the story line was a bit predictable and at times, the sudden change in time and location was challenging to follow.  I think a better choice to truly see how our actions can and do effect others is the absolutely wonderul 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.   This one was a 3/ 5 for me.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Salvage the Bones.

Salvage the Bones

I challenged myself to read authors with a variety of voices this year, and I'm so glad I did.  I initially chose this book as a book I thought would make me cry.  I knew it was about the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina and it's immediate aftermath.  I also suspected ( from the cover) that dogs and dog fighting were potentially involved.  It seemed like a good choice for that category.  What I found though, instead of just tragedy, was a book about overcoming tragedy and salvaging the best that you can from the life you are given.

Usually I have difficulty relating to characters that are so very different than myself and my own life experiences. ( Just being brutally honest here)  But I enjoyed meeting Esch and every member of her family: Daddy, Randall, Skeetah and Junior.  I found myself relating to Esch, a young girl struggling to figure out who she is in a world that can be very complicated.  I loved all her references to Greek mythology because, at her age, I also loved those stories about brave heroes and defeating the odds. 

The character that surprised me the most is Skeetah.  He has an all white pit bull, named China.  At the beginning of the story, she is having puppies.  I was amazed at how Skeetah's love for China consumed him and how he works so hard to save her and her puppies.  I thought I would hate Skeetah because of his involvement in dog fighting, but instead, I found myself viewing the events from his perspective.

I am really glad I read this book.  5 out of 5 stars for opening my eyes to a different life.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Here's that Irish Magic I was Looking for.....

The Darkest Part of the Forest (Signed Book)
This is precisely the magical kind of Irish story telling that I was looking for.  It's a beautifully written story about a girl, Hazel, and her brother, Ben.  They live in the mysterious town of Fairfold along side members of the Fae.  One of these Fae is a horned boy who has been asleep in a crystal coffin in the forest for as long as anyone can remember.  Ever since they were children, Hazel and Ben have told stories about how they will free their "Prince" from his curse.
Hazel has grown up feeling quite ordinary and this is the story of how she proves to herself just how extraordinary she truly is.  She does amazing things, without magic, without being Fae.  She is brave and flawed.  Selfless and egocentric.  In other words, she is the very best kind of hero. She doesn't wait for a boy to come and save her. She can manage that all by herself.
Why is it that people are so often afraid of forests, especially the darkest parts? My husband says it's because people are so reliant on their vision and I do think that's part of it - we fear the dark.  We also fear the unknown.  That's the genius of this story - just what is found in the darkest part of the forest?
Additionally, my daughter and I have been having this ongoing conversation about lack of representation for different types of people.  This book does a fairly good job of it - though their are no Asians in the Fae court - there are people of varied colors and even homosexual boys.   It is so worth the read.  Give it a try.  5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow

This is the fourth book of Cecelia Ahern's that I have read.  I find her to be a brilliant author, with a lyrical, lilting style that engages the reader immediately; however, this book was the exception to the rule.  I found it to be cumbersome and have none of the appeal of her other works.  You certainly don't like the main character, Tamara, right away.  I get it.  She's a teenager, she's going through some extremely difficult things in her life.  I think if the other characters in the book: Arthur, Rosaleen, her mother, and even to a degree, Marcus, hadn't been so wearisome, it may have been worth continuing.  I have a hard and fast rule in my reading life - a book has 50 pages to engage me.  If you can't get me into the story in 50 pages, it probably isn't going to happen.  I broke that rule once this year for another book and regretted it.  I may break it again, based on the reviews that this book received ( slow at the beginning but worth it in the end and the fact that I love this author) but for now,  I am moving on to another book on my ever growing to be read list.  Really disappointed. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Truth about Faking

The Truth About Faking

I read a lot of YA novels - mostly to read ahead of my voracious daughters.  I do enjoy a good YA novel though, so sometimes it is just for me.  I have to say that the title intrigued me about this one.  Of course it starts out that Harley ( the girl) is trying to get with Trent, but he's just not that into her.  She decides that the best way to get his attention is to make him jealous.  Enter the "fake" boyfriend, Jason. That's all pretty cliche but it certainly isn't the entirety of what this book is about.  

What Harley finds through the course of this book is that everyone is faking.  Everyone hides a secret - even her.  I really liked the surprising ways that this book moved and told a much bigger story.   I can't say more without spoilers, so I will just say, 4/5 stars.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pop Sugar Challenge - My Progress - Over Half Way There!

This really is an awesome challenge.  I love how my reading is more focused and I am reading a wider breadth of books.  I've read some awesome works that either would still be on my TBR pile or I would never have picked up at all.  I'm definitely reading or will read a wider variety of authors and that makes me really happy.  At the beginning of the year, I mapped out a plan for this challenge.  Some categories have worked out the way that I expected, while others went in a different direction and that's ok.  I'm excited to see what the second half of this challenge will bring.  Here are the list of books I've completed, or those I am still working on ( in bold). 

  1. A book with over 500 pages - Black Halo by S. L. Naeole
  2. A Classic romance - The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  3. a book that became a movie - Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern
  4. a mystery or a thriller - Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  5. a book with a one word title - Moth by Daniel Arenson
  6. a collection of short stories - When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
  7. a book set in a different country - Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  8. a book recommended by a friend - Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
  9. a book from the bottom of my TBR pile - Heading out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
  10. a book more than 100 years old - The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  11. a book based solely on it's cover - Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
  12. a book finished in a day - The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Matthieu
  13. a book with antonyms in the title - The Truth Tellers Lie by Sophie Hannah
  14. a book with a love triangle - Falling from Grace by S.L. Naeole
  15. a book set in high school - Never Never by Colleen Hoover
  16. a book set in the future - Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  17. a book with a color in the title - Golden Son by Pierce Brown
  18. a book that made me cry - All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  19. a book with magic - Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice
  20. a new author - The Good Girl by Mary Kubrica
  21. a book set in my hometown - The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
  22. a book originally written in a different language - The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  23. a play - Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence
  24. a banned book - A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl  by Tanya Lee Stone
  25. a book from childhood - Fly by Night by K.M. Peyton
  26. a first book by a famous author - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  27. author with my initials - Bird Song by S.L. Naeole
  28. a memoir - American Titan Searching for John Wayne by Marc Eliot
  29. a book with bad reviews - The Luxe by Anna Godberson
Happy reading everyone!

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects

I read this book for the Pop Sugar challenge category first book by a famous author.   I have now read all of Gillian Flynn's books.  Of the three, Dark Places was my least favorite. 

I really enjoyed this book.  To me, it is typical Flynn.  While her books have plenty of unexpected twists and turns, her writing isn't about the big reveal.  It's the slow build up and ultimate climax as to why people do the things we do. All of her characters are flawed because they are REAL.  No one is entirely good or bad, though I suppose some people come close. 

This book is about a reporter from Chicago who has to go back to her home town to report on what appears to be a serial killer taking little girls.  You can feel her angst and reluctance to go back, the awkwardness she has with her family- the way she has been relegated to an unwanted guest in her childhood home. Camille struggles to face her own demons while working to uncover the truth about what happened to the towns little girls.

I really enjoyed this one.  5 out of 5 stars.  If you like psychological thrillers, definitely give this one a try.