Sunday, May 31, 2015

And the other Pulitizer Prize winner for the year.....

All the Light We Cannot See   Wow! This book is truly amazing.  It's a bit of a slow start, but so very worth any effort to get into the story.  Doerr masterfully winds these individually beautiful stories into a true tour de force.

This is the story of Marie - Laure, a sixteen year old blind girl living in Paris during the Nazi invasion.  She and her father are forced to evacuate to the home of her great - uncle, Entienne.   I love how Doerr creates such a rich and colorful cast of characters.  There were not just one, but several who I could relate to and cheer for.

It's also the story of Werner, a young boy who wants to make something of his life who ends up in the German military.  He's an orphan and his story line also has a bevy of rich and wonderful characters.  Some are good and some are truly everything that is horrible about humanity.  I have to say that Frederick was my favorite.

The beautiful ways these stories come together - masterful.  It's been a long time since I have read a book this well written.

If you have not read this book, you are truly missing out on something wonderful.  Do yourself a favor and read it.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers: A Novel   This is the story of a family presumably doing their last vacation together as their daughter has just graduated from highschool and will be off to college.   It's an interesting cast of characters.   First their are Franny and Jim - the parents.  Things have obviously gone terribly awry in their relationship.  Somewhere along the way, they got caught up in the rest of their lives and lost one another.  During this vacation both will be deciding whether they can go forward - together.

There is also their adult son and his girlfriend, Carmen.  Bobby has lost his job as a real estate agent and has been working at the gym where his girlfriend is a trainer basically selling memberships.  He is on this vacation because he wants something from his parents.  Will he find what he needs and finally become an adult?

Sylvia, the daughter, is counting the days until she gets away from her family.  Her big goals for the summer include brushing up on her spanish and losing her virginity.  I did love the comic relief that she provided to the rest of the family, especially the contentious relationship she had with her mother.

Finally, there are Lawrence and Charles a homosexual married couple trying to adopt a baby.   Charles is Franny's best friend and that is how these two have been included in this adventure.  I could definitely relate to Lawrence and his quest to have a child.  He is probably my favorite character in the book.

As far as I am concerned, the big star of this book is Mallorca, Spain.  The descriptions definitely made me add this spot to my list of places that I want to see.  All in all, the book is well written, the characters well developed.  It was a quick easy read and while I found it entertaining it really didn't move me on any level.   I give it 3 out 5 stars.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pines: A Wayward Pines Thriller by Blake Crouch

Pines   I read this one for the PopSugar Reading challenge book made into a TV series.   And wow,  just like that, my reading rut is over.   I just finished a group of just average books and then I read this one.  It's a blockbuster!

A friend on Facebook recommended this book for this category and since I had already read Game of Thrones, this looked interesting.  I'm so glad I picked it up.  It's the story of Ethan Burke, a secret service agent who is investigating the disappearance of 2 other agents.  He is involved in a car accident and wakes up in a town called Whispering Pines, where absolutely nothing is as it seems.

So many twists and turns and I, for one, never saw this one coming.  Very creative and original story lines.   I loved the message in the book, though you have to really wait for it.  After a string of 3 and less stars.... this one is a 5 out of 5!   If you like thrillers, you will enjoy this one.   And with Matt Dillon in the series, I may even check that out, too.  

Some Thoughts on Memorial Day and Books to Read

I was talking to my daughter the other day about the importance of flag etiquette, every day, but especially on Memorial Day.  She's young and though very bright, doesn't always understand.  She said, "It's just a piece of cloth, it doesn't really matter.".   That's the way a large portion of her generation thinks, but it's so much more than a piece of cloth.  It represents an IDEAL of what the world could be, it's a representation of the FREEDOMS that we believe and hold so dear that many have been willing to die for that flag.

It got me thinking about books that celebrate real heroes and make why we celebrate Memorial Day just a little more clear.   It was hard to think about the books that I wanted to be included, there are so many.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  The true story of American hero Luis Zamperini.  He was an Olympian and a flyboy.  He and his crew mates still hold the record for longest survival at sea - 43 days adrift before being captured by the Japanese.  This is a story of heroism, courage and endurance.  If you haven't read it yet, it's a MUST.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage  I love this book because it presents the precursors to the war from both sides and honestly.   It's a true and harrowing tale of American Naval Airmen and the things that they endured during the war.   I especially loved the story of George H.W. Bush and his desire and ultimate decision to become a Navy Torpedo bomber.  

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission This is the true and courageous story of the team who engaged in possibly the greatest rescue mission ever.  I love this one because it's set in the Philippines and not only does it discuss the bravery of the soldiers but also those Filipinos who helped them.  A true story that reads like a novel.

The Things They CarriedThis one is set during Viet Nam and follows the brave soldiers of Alpha Company.  I love this one because it shows the inner struggles as well as the larger issues.  It challenges you to think and demonstrates the things they carried - not just into battle but after some of them came home.
Johnny Got His Gun Set during World War 1, this book is one that changes you forever.  It stays with you and influences you long after you have finished reading it.  Most of all, it makes you truly understand the real cost of war.

Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq  This one is a true account of a soldier in Iraq.  It isn't the media's version of the war, its just one Marine's account of what it was like, day after day after day on the ground.   Brutal and honest.

And not to be forgotten those who serve without ever being asked and yet they give their lives, right along side our soldiers.....
War Horse  This story is, quite simply amazing.  I call it Black Beauty for boys.  It's beautifully written and shows both the best and worst of humanity.  So well worth the read.

And while last, certainly not least....

Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca The true story of Lucca, a search and rescue dog in Iraq and her trainers.   Heart wrenching and honest.

These stories are what, to me, represent what Memorial day is about.  They show the heroes that flag represents.  If you want to honor them on Memorial day - REMEMBER THEM.... and never forget.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Image result for dare me by megan abbott   Maybe I'm just not a big mystery reader, though I'm not really sure that is what this book is. There is a death in the book and some investigation.  But the book isn't really about that.

To start, the main character is Addy, a teenage cheerleader.  Most of the story is about her, the girls on the squad and their new coach.   I actually thought that the story was going to be based on the real life murder of a cheerleader recently in Texas, but believe me when I say, this book is nothing remotely similar to that.

I have a new set of standards that I am using to evaluate books -

~  if a book is so terrible that I can't even finish it, one star.

~ if a book has a minimum of correct sentence structure and consistent voice - two stars.

~ if the book has characters that I can relate to - three stars.  I'm the type of person that needs someone to root for, a good guy, if you will.

~ for four  stars a book must have all of that and an engrossing/ original plot.  It's a book that makes you want to read it.

~ in order to earn five stars, the book must make me FEEL something and have a story that is timeless - some lesson or message.  

Based on those criteria, this book is two stars.  I managed to finish it, but barely.  I was really disappointed in this one.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Price of Freedom

this  is Memorial day weekend, one of my favorite holidays. I love it because it is a time to reflect on what it truly means to be free, and to thank those who have safeguarded those freedoms. 

Today, I especially reflect on the sacrifices of Col. James J. Beadling, my father, PFC Addison Hogue Thomson, my husband's grandfather, and Cpl. Scott M. Vincent, my hero.

Most of you who have read my blog already know a little about my Dad. He was a retired Air Force Colonel. He volunteered for service on the 8th of December, 1941. He served in both World War 2 and Korea. In Korea, he served as a squadron commander flying night air-to-ground support for the Marines. The stories that he told me about the Frozen Chosen will stay with me forever. Addison Hogue Thomson was a medic in World War 2. He was there D-Day plus 1 and stayed with his unit through the Battle of the Bulge and more. ( Now, if you say the Battle of the Bulge to most Americans, they think you mean the war against their growing waistline. Sigh). He told stories about coming ashore at Normandy and how he quickly learned to cover the red cross on his helmet with sand and mud? Why, you ask? Well, the Germans were using the crosses for cross hairs.

Cpl. Scott Vincent is the son of a friend. He gave up his life 11 years ago in the Anbar Province in Iraq. He always wanted to be a Marine and served his country proudly. He volunteered for three tours in Iraq. I promised his mother that his sacrifice will never be forgotten. So every year, on Memorial Day and the 30th of April, I think about Scott and the life that he gave up for Freedom. He was young. He had a smile that could light up the whole world, and a spirit to match. He had so much to live for. A girl, marriage, fatherhood.... so much lie ahead, but instead, he laid his life down for Freedom.

This Memorial day as I celebrate with family and friends, I am reminded of the tremendous gift and enormous responsibility that we all have been given. Freedom isn't free and we must all exercise our freedoms with thought and respect but most of all, we must remember to exercise them. Vote. Be involved. Don't let those who have paid the ultimate price to have given their lives in vain.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Never Never Part 2 by Colleen Hoover

Never Never: Part Two  The story of Silas and Charlie continues...... Silas and Charlie both have a problem.   They can't remember who they are.  They remember nothing about their lives - not their family, their friends, where they live, not even one another.  They must work  together to figure what has happened, as well as how and why.

This is one of the most gripping mysteries that I have read in a long time.  It's interesting to what Charlie and Silas work through their personal and family problems to find their way back to one another. In this second installment, Charlie is missing and it's up to Silas to find her before they both lose their memories again.  Who is behind it all and why?

I'm a little upset by the cliff hanger ( AGAIN!)  at the end and I can't wait to find out how their mystery is solved in Never Never part 3.   I gave this one 4 out 5 stars. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anomaly by Tonya Kuper

Anomaly (Schrodinger's Consortium, #1)  Danielle Paige, an author that I love and really respect, recommended this book, so I thought I would give it a try for the Flights of Fantasy reading challenge.  I thought that Tonya did an excellent job creating a strong female heroine and building a credible world where incredible things happen.    I loved that Josie is such a strong female character who readily embraces her inner geek.   I enjoyed the Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel universe references, though at times they seemed forced and stereo-typed.

I saw a movie a few years ago, called Push with Chris Evans, where there was a similar idea - people who could "push" reality with their minds.  I loved it that Ms. Kuper took it another step forward including in her book not just "pushers"  but also "retractors" and "anomalies".   The sides of good and evil  that she has drawn - the Resistance and the Consortium - seem very realistic.   You never really know who is truly on which side because after all, we are all a little bit good and a little bit evil.

The only issue I have with this story comes with the "reveal" at the end and the consequences of it.  I think if I found something like this out, my response would have been much different that Josie's.  Bu maybe that's just me.  Either way,  I enjoyed the book and will definitely read the others in the series to see what becomes of Josie and Reid.    4/5 stars.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PopSugar Reading Challenge Update

Well,  I'm almost finished.  I think I have 4 -5 categories left.  Any title that I rated a 4 or above will be listed in BOLD, in case any of my readers also doing this challenge are looking for an idea for a particular category.

a book with 500 pages - Black Halo by S. L. Naeole

a classic romance - The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

a book that became a movie - With Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahearn

a book published this year - The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

a book with a # in the title - 20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

a book written by someone under 30 - Split by Swati Avasthi

female author - Tease by Amanda Maciel

a mystery or thriller - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

a book with one word title - Moth by Daniel Aronson

a book of short stories - When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald

book set in a different country - Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

nonfiction book - Reading in the Dark 

a book by a new author - Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

a book recommended by a friend - Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

a Pulitzer prize winner - The 6th Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

a true story - The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

a book from the bottom of my TBR list - Heading out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

a book more than 100 years old - Call of the Wild by Jack London

a book based solely on the cover - Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

book I should have read in school - Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

a book I finished in a day - The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Matthieu

a book with antonyms in the title -  The Truth Tellers Lie by Sophie Hannah

a book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit - Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio

a book with a love triangle - The Sin Eaters Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

a book set in high school - Never Never by Colleen Hoover

a book set in the future - Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

a book with a color in the title - Golden Son by Pierce Brown

a book that made me cry - All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

a book with magic - The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

a graphic novel - Ender's Game: Battle School by Orson Scott Card

a new author - The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

a book owned but not read -

a book set in my hometown - The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

a book originally written in a different language

a book set during Christmas

a play - Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence

a banned book - A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

a book started but never finished - The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

a book from childhood - Fly-by-Night by K.M. Peyton

first book of a famous author -  Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

a trilogy - Falling from Grace, Bird Song, Grace of Day by S.L. Naeole

a book with nonhuman characters - Half Brother by Kenneth Oppal

a funny book - Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton

a book from an author I love but haven't read yet - The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

a book my mom loves

a book author with my initials - Bird Song by S.L. Naeole

a book that scares you - Not Without my Daughter by Betty Mahmoody

a memoir - American Titan: Searching for John Wayne by Marc Eliot

a book released the year I was born: Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

a book with bad reviews - The Luxe by Anna Godberson

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Guardians Book One: The Girl

Guardians: The Girl (The Guardians Series, Book 1)    I read this one for my Flights of Fancy reading challenge.  This is the story of Emerson, a teenage girl whose job it is to help a group of teenage angels find the key to saving the world.   Sounds trite, I know but the plot is actually quite good.

Now, here comes my problem with this book - the secondary characters are all extremely well developed and you feel for each one of them.  I loved the twins - especially Rio, but I also loved Reese and Jay.   There stories are rich and well fleshed out so that you can understand the motives.  The main three characters Emerson ( love this name for a girl)  Max ( really???? Max??) and Ameana are so shallow they are basically shadows of what these characters could have been.

Emerson is in love with Max, no one really knows why.  She sees him and LOVES him, Has to have him or she will just die..... but what does he do to warrant this affinity?   Absolutely nothing.  In fact, he is in a relationship with Ameana and repeatedly tells Emerson, I love you but will never be with you - LAME.  Ameana has no back story to speak of, nor does Max.  We really don't understand what motivates them other than perhaps dedication to their mission.  Worse yet, there are even conflicting descriptions of these characters - Ameana especially.  She is described as having blond hair - and it shines when she and Max are physical.  Then she is described later as being dark.  It's all very confusing.

I got this book as a Nook free Friday.  I'm glad I didn't buy it because although I loved the concept and the secondary characters, the three mains were so simply constructed that it was difficult to get past.  2/5 stars.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Image result for half brother book  I had an acquaintance on Facebook recommend this book, and I thought that it looked interesting.  I am so glad that I read it.  This is the story of Zan, a baby chimpanzee who is taken away from his mother essentially at birth, to be the star in a research project to determine whether chimpanzees can learn sign language.

Zan goes to live with the family of the lead scientist on the project.  There, he is to be raised as a human child.  Enter Ben, his new "half brother".  Ben has been forced to move away from family and friends to a strange new city in order for his parents to conduct this project.  He isn't really sure what to make of Zan in the beginning, but as he learns to open his heart, he becomes Zan's most effective teacher and yes, big brother.

This story seemed so familiar to me, so I did some research.  There was a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpski, was in fact the subject of just such a research project, only it wasn't conducted in Canada but right here in the good old United States conducted at Columbia University called "Project Nim".

 The similarities in the story are down right eerie.   If you are interested in learning more about the real Zan there is a new book out called "Nim Chimpsky:  The Chimp Who Would be Human" by Elizabeth Hess.  I haven't read it yet but may eventually.

In the meantime, I loved Half Brother.  If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.  If you decide to read it, keep your tissues handy.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Over Protective Parents and the Absurd Need to Be the Self Appointed Thought Police

  I have noticed a disturbing trend in the news lately of helicopter parents attempting to ban books from being taught in certain schools.  In some cases, these individuals and groups have gone so far as to try and have the books removed from school libraries all together, often making them unavailable, not only to their student, but to all students.  Most recently in the news, the books Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, The Kite Runner by Hosseini and 19 Minutes by Picoult.

The worst part of these attempts of blatant censhorship, is listening to why these books were banned.  In the case of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men,  one self- appointed literary critic said that "it wasn't particularly well written and it was hardly a page turner".  What the hell does she want these children to read??  Twilight????  Further, she and other expressed concerned about the "filthy language" in the book.  ( I've read it - recently- and really didn't see that as an area of concern).  Clearly this paragon of virtue hasn't been on the school bus with her little darling lately.  I can assure you that every teenager in this country has, AT LEAST, heard worse.

In North Carolina, where Kite Runner was banned, some ideological zealot wanted the rape scene and all those scenes demeaning to women removed BEFORE it could be taught.  Well, if you were to take all that out of the text, what the hell would be the bloody point of teaching it at all??  This book is about life in other parts of the world - parts where women are still treated as chattel or worse.  The point of the book is to show that.  It's a book about redemption.  Without the horrible scenes, without the cruelty, there is no redemption and there is no understanding. Clearly, for at least one person in North Carolina, understanding is apparently impossible anyway.

And finally, 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult banned in Massachusetts of all places.  This book is about a school shooting.  How much more timely and relevant could it possibly be?  Parent's wanted it banned because there is a date rape scene in the book.  Heaven forbid we should teach our children about things that CAN and DO happen when they make poor choices.  These kinds of things are especially important to teach and to discuss - in a safe environment - so hopefully, God forbid - your child even finds themselves in a similar situation, they know what to do and what not to do.

Heaven forbid we teach our children to read books to make them question themselves and the world around them.  We certainly shouldn't teach them to expand their world view or prepare them for a world that largely lacks understanding, empathy and love.  Arming our children is the only way to protect them.  And no I don't mean with guns.  I mean with Knowledge, Tolerance and Love.

Banning books.... I know it's something that has always happened, but honestly, I thought we were all big enough people to move beyond this,  If you don't like a book's subject matter, don't buy it - and dont' read it but don't allow you're closed mind to take away someone else's opportunity to expand their own horizons.  Rant done.

A Book I should Have Read in High School, but Didn't.

  Oh don't get me wrong, I read my share of Steinbeck in highschool: The Pearl, The Red Pony, The Grapes of Wrath and just because I personally wanted to ( it was during my James Dean phase)  East of Eden.   I was moved by The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, but The Pearl and The Red Pony were just so depressing for me that I felt I didn't get much out of them.  By the time I finished The Red Pony, I was Steinbecked out, so I never read this classic.

I am really glad that I went back and read it for this challenge.  Of Mice and Men is the tale of two men, traveling together during the 30's - looking for work and trying to get enough money together to find a place of their own.  George is slight and smart, Lennie is big and mentally disabled.  George looks out for him.

There is so much to discuss in this book - why did some of the other hands at the ranch think that it was strange that Lennie and George traveled together?  Why was Candy so afraid that he would end up like his dog?  What made Curley's wife act the way she did?  This is a hard book to read because it makes you look at yourself in the mirror and challenges the way we think.   Great books have a message that never becomes irrelevant.  This is a great book.

5/5 stars.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Split by Swati Avasthi

Split   This is the story of Jace.... a boy who grows up in a family where domestic violence is their way of life.  His older brother, Christian, made it out of the cycle of violence, leaving Jace and their mother behind.    For me, as a person who has been impacted by domestic violence - both immediately and through working with victims for three years - this book was compelling.   It truly reflects the long lasting impact of domestic violence on those who experience it, especially children.   This kind of intimate violence damages people by completely changing their thought patterns and influencing who they become.

I found the characters of the mother and  Jace's ex love interest to be hard to relate to but also very realistic.  It is hard to believe that their are women in these kinds of explosive and dangerous relationships who make the repeated decision, for whatever reason, to remain.... but it does happen.  There is a scene at the end between the boys and their mother that was especially difficult to read, but so well done.

As for Jace and his brother.... the impacts on them of their lives are different but compelling.  Is it our genes that make us who we are?  Or our own choices?   How does change truly happen?   These characters seemed very real to me.  The end of the story seemed somewhat abrupt, but the main story lines are resolved.  I gave this one 4/5 stars.  Great insight into the real life effects of domestic violence.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Celebrating Mother's Day with Books

With Mother's day right around the corner, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite mothers.... those found in books, of course!   Besides my own mother,  these women all provided  things to admire about motherhood.  Maybe some of these choices will surprise you, but when you think about it, you may just understand my point of view.

The first mother I'm going to mention is also the most unusual of those mention: Flora 717 from the wonderful book The Bees by Laline Paull.  This is the story of Flora 717 who is born to the sanitation department of the Hive, but she is meant for greater things. Flora consistently proves that she is more than she appears and even dares to break the rules of the hive in order to have a child of her own.  Flora fights to have this child, to keep it and ultimately to see this child achieve greatness.  My favorite quote, "Then please kindly recall that variation is not deformity.".

Now, for a more tradition image of motherhood.... Marmee from Little Women  Ok, who didn't want to be Jo, or Meg, or Beth at least?   I never wanted to be Amy.  But Marmee.... who wouldn't have wanted her for a mother?  She was loving and kind and also very patient with her girls.  She raised them to be educated and independent young women.  She taught them to always seek what was best for themselves and to look out for one another.  This is a typical Marmee - ism.... "Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

One of my favorite books of all time is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Katie Nolan is a no nonsense, hard working  mother who always presses for the best for her children, in spite of the times in which she lives.  New York in the Depression certainly wasn't the easiest place for raising children. Katie was relentless in promoting education and especially the written word in their house.  The rule was that they each had to read two pages of the Bible and two pages of Shakespeare every night.  A mom who promotes literacy is my kind of Mom.

Kate Murray, from a Winkle in Time, is another great example of a literary mom.  She does everything she can to support her children and their choices.  She constantly points out, to her daughter, Meg, that things happen with children in their own time.  Charles Wallace will talk - in his own time.  Meg will develop - in her own time.  I think that is a really important lesson because often children are in such a hurry... to grow up, to be more.  She teaches her children the importance of character - things beyond the superficial.  " People are more than how they look".  

Ok, Cersei Lannister may not be the obvious choice for mother of the year, but she does a lot of things for her children, sometimes unspeakable things.  She made multiple attempts on Bran Stark's life.... to protect her secret and her children.  She grieves deeply for Joffrey, is so protective of Tommen and worries for the safety of her daughter.  She is a mother who will go to ANY length for the safety and happiness of her children and, as a mom, that is definitely something I can relate to. "if it weren't for my children, I would have thrown myself from the highest tower in the Red Keep. They're the reason I'm alive. "

Though Mammy isn't actually Scarlett O'Hara's mother in Gone with the Wind, she is certainly her mother figure and conscience. Mammy is always with Scarlett, even when her real mother can not be.  Mammy provides love and care for Scarlett and her family.  Mammy truly is the heart of Tara. "You know what trouble I's talkin' 'bout. I's talking 'bout Mr. Ashley Wilkes. He'll be comin' to Atlanta when he gets his leave, and you sittin' there waitin' for him, just like a spider. He belongs to Miss Melanie... "

And finally.... everyone's favorite literary mom... (and if she isn't.... she should be!)

Molly Weasley is nothing but pure awesomeness!  She is the mom to everyone's favorite red-heads.  She even loves Harry like her own child.   She embraces her children's individuality and encourages while worrying for their safety and well being.  I mean, if you could live at anyone's house, with any mom from a book.... it would have to be the Burrow.  Molly's love encompasses everyone there, and isn't that what a mother really does-  Loves us in spite of ourselves?  

Happy Mother's day everyone and I hope you are celebrating with a Good Book!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Accidental Book Club

The cover and the title of this book just delighted me.  I knew when I saw it, that I had to read it and I'm so glad I did.  This is an amazing story about sisterhood, family and finding where you belong.  It is also about the power of books to bring people together.  I don't know about you, but when I see a stranger reading a favorite book, I feel an instant affinity with them.  Books do that, well, good ones anyway.... They bring people together.

This is the story of Jean, she is recently widowed having lost the love of her life after 40 odd years of marriage.  She regrets being somewhat estranged from her own children and grandchildren, but she has a wonderful group of friends and a book club.   During one book club meeting, she gets a call from her son in law.  Turns out her put together daughter, Laura,  isn't so put together and now Laura and Curt need help with their troubled daughter, Bailey.

I don't want to give any more of the story away... but I will say that this book made me cry, it made me laugh out loud and it made me hug my children and my husband a little tighter.  This is a great book - I loved it from start to finish.  I highly recommend it!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Crown of Midnight by Sarah Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass Series #2)   This book is the second in a series.  The first book is called Throne of Glass.  This is the story of Celaena Sardothien, assassin, who has become the King's Champion.   The problem is, the king is evil and Celaena knows it.  She has been ordered to murder a group of rebels that are plotting to overthrow him.  If she doesn't, the king will kill all the people that she loves, but, if she does, she will lose potential allies in the fight against his evil.

Through falling in love, facing terrible hardships and eventually tragedy, Celaena somehow manages to rise above it all. As good as the first book in the series is, this second one is even better.   There were many twists and turns to the plot - some extremely predictable, others - less so - but all of them enjoyable.   I can't wait to read the next one.  I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Flights of Fantasy Update

Cover art  I added 5 more books to this challenge this month, bringing my total to 18 out of 50.   I know some people have a stricter definition of what constitutes a fantasy read, but for me,  I define it as any work of fiction that uses magic or supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element.  Whew, I've gotten that out of the way.

So let's get on with it.... I'll break this down into three sections.... pass it by,  borrow it, and READ IT NOW!  

Pass it by:
Grace of Day by S.L. Naeole.  This was the fourth book in a series.   The first two books: Saving Grace and Bird Song, were quite good and entertaining.   The third book, Black Halo started to drag and by the time we get to the fourth book, well, let's just say that I had little but contempt for 90%  of all the characters in the book.  In my earlier review on this blog, I left it as a book that shouldn't have been written.  So often, I think writers feel they need a series, when in truth, the  story would have been better served ending much earlier.  That is definitely the case here, in my opinion.

Cold Spell by Jackson Pierce... this book intrigued me because it is a retelling of the Snow Queen.  I love fairy tales.... always have and I imagine that I always will.   This book was just simplistic, in my opinion.   There were unexpected characters that didn't seem to really work, and plot elements that just seemed out of place - for example - how does the Snow Queen turn her protectors into wolves, like werewolves only they aren't werewolves?   Needless to say, this is not a story I would recommend to anyone.  What a disappointment.

Borrow it -
The Sin Eaters Daughter - this book has a very different mythology that is quite detailed.  The love triangle aspect of it is.... developing and the story is unique.  I found this book to be entertaining.  Again, the first in a series so I hope the author knows where she is going with it.  It's worth picking up from your library if you enjoy science fiction.

And now... the good stuff.  If you love fantasy the next two books are a must!

Dune by Frank Herbert.... most fantasy lovers may have already read this one.   I had seen the film some time ago but never read the book.  I LOVED it.  It is like Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.   Its well written and fast paced with so much intrigue.  If you haven't read this one yet, do it!

and of course.... The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige.  This was just amazing, especially for those of us who truly love the Ozian  mythology.   Amy Gum, the protagonist, is like a breath of fresh air.  She's strong, clever and independent but still working on figuring out just exactly who she is.   Aside from Amy,  Danielle Paige has built places into Oz that feel like they have always been there, and yet, I never knew existed.  Trust me, the Sea of Flowers and Rainbow Falls are not to be missed!
I need 31 more books for this challenge.  It will be interesting to see what the month of May brings to the table.  Happy Reading!

Friday, May 1, 2015

An the 2015 Winner of the Pulitzer Prize goes to.....

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History  And no, it's not the one that everyone is talking about ( All the Light We Cannot See)....

 Every once in a while, my inner science geek comes out.  Seriously, I actually really enjoy nonfiction and this work is so well done, so well researched and written, I really can't recommend it highly enough.  This book covers everything from how the theory of extinction came about, the background on different scientific theories, like Natural Selection, and how they  effect extinction and more.  It really astonished me to discover that as of 200 years ago, people seemed to accept plate tectonics but not extinction.  Once people believed that all the animals that existed now, have always existed.  It's a funny thought now, knowing what we know.  I haven't seen any Tyrannosaurus Rex lately, have you?

The book also discussed various species and how they have been impacted by man.  For example, the golden frog, the great auk, the sumatran rhino, and more.  The story of the great auk was particularly interesting and sad as it is a species which is known to have been hunted into extinction by man.  How sad.  And yet, even today, some hunters claim to be "conservationists" while they ruthlessly gun down the rarest of animals.   We ate, plucked and burned the great auk until it was unable to sustain it's own survival.

I liked this book because it presents the science and it presents more than one side of each issue that the book addresses.   Here are some irrefutable facts:
1. Human acticity has transformed between a third and a half of the land surface on the Earth,
2. Most of the worlds rivers have been damned or diverted,
3. fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all ecosystems,
4. fisheries remove more than a third of the primary production of the ocean's coastal waters, and
5. humans use more than half of the worlds readily available fresh water.

I guess it's up to each of us, individually, and all of us, collectively, to decide  if these activities are sustainable for our planet and for all the creatures that we share it with.  Truly this is a fascinating work by one of our best scientific writers and it reads like a compelling novel.  If I could rate it more than 5 stars, i would.  I highly recommend this book to all.