Monday, June 29, 2015

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy Series #2)

I read this one for my flights of fantasy challenge.  I read the first in the series, Shadow and Bone, over a year ago and I finally got around to reading book 2.   This was a wonderful continuation of the story.

This story continues with Alina and Mal trying to hide and escape from the Darkling.  It's not easy for a sun summoner to hide among the average people and it isn't long before they are taken captive by a Privateer, Stormhond.   Alina is given the opportunity to obtain a second amplifier for her power, something that she believes has never been done before.  

I like this second book in the series because Alina is so much more than she appeared in the first book.  She is stronger, more self sufficient and she knows what she wants.  No one is quite sure what is best for her and for the country, Ravka, but Alina is fighting for her desires and to help the people she loves.

I also love the characters that were added in this book.  My favorite is Nikolai.   He always seems to see people for exactly who they are and that is a rare talent.  He also tends to bring out the best in others.  I think he, and the twins were a great addition to this book.  I'm looking forward to seeing how their characters develop.

I downloaded the third in the series last night and began reading it.  I am looking forward to seeing how the story ends.  I gave this one 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Zoo  This one is coming to the small screen on the 30th of June.  It read sort of like a screenplay and I think, for me, this might be one of those rare works that is actually better in a more visual format.

This is the story of a biologist, Jackson Oz, who notices that something is very wrong with the animals.  Oz has a theory about the animal behavior, which he calls HAC or Human Animal Conflict.   As news stories escalate about animals attacking, Oz heads to Africa, in hope of getting some support for his theory.  Once there, Oz finds some very startling evidence.  He teams up with ecologist Chloe Tousignant, and they bring their theory to world leaders, hoping that it is not too late.

The premise was interesting and I certainly loved the idea that animals had finally had enough of humans shit. The story of the mother elephant who goes on a rampage because she doesn't want her baby to endure the very real tradition of phajaan.  During this training, a baby is separated from it's mother and better repeatedly with hot spikes and hammers, whatever is handy basically, until it either accepts being ridden or dies.  You'll excuse me if I'm rooting for the elephants here.

After that though, the science gets a little murky and the story kind of loses it's way.  It will be interesting to see if the television series is able to develop that aspect of the storyline more completely.  I gave this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Bumped   I read this one for my Flights of Fancy challenge.  It was a really interesting mash up of The Handmaid's Tale and The Wolf of Wallstreet.   The basic premise is this,  93% of the population has contracted a virus which makes them completely infertile.  The hope of humanity?  Apparently teenagers retain their fertility until they are approximately 18 years old.  ( God help us all) 

Melody is the first girl in her school to go Pro.  She is selling her Pregg ( her pregnancy and ultimately her baby) to the highest bidder.   The family who hires Melody to be their Suragette, also hires number one man-candy Jondoe to "bump" with Melody.  The only complications?  Melody's twin sister Harmony and Melodies pre- agreement with Zen, who she has feelings for.

I loved the concept.  The writing was entertaining, but certainly not Pulitzer worthy.   Still, a 3 out of 5 stars and an entertaining summer read. 

Up next?  The Zoo by James Patterson.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Flights of Fantasy Update

I only added 5 books to my total for this challenge over the last month and a half.  I've been busy with other things, I guess.   Still, there were definitely some enjoyable titles here.  My favorite new addition is  Crown of the Midnight Throne by Sara J. Maas.  This has been a wonderful series so far, I liked book two even more than the original.   I also thoroughly enjoyed Anomaly by Tonya Kuper.  This one was recommended by the author of Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Paige, and it did not disappoint.  I look forward to continuing this story when the next installment of the series comes out.

Not as entertaining: Guardians - Book One - The Girl.   Talk about a hero that is a real pain in the ass and not really likable?  Max and Emerson definitely have that covered.  All of the secondary characters were much more interesting than these two duds.   Won't be continuing on with this one - I just didn't care enough about the story to press forward.

I included two somewhat supernatural stories this time - both very worth reading.  The first - The Pines by Blake Crouch is now a series on TV with Matt Dillon.  I loved it and the twists and turns were fantastic - I never saw it coming.

Never Never by Colleen Hoover was another that I included.  Although it isn't necessarily traditional sci-fi and/ or fantasy... there is definitely something very strange going on.  Worst of all ( or best depending on how you look at it)   at the end of book 2, I still have no idea what it is!  Can't wait for the third one to finally get my answers!

So I am officially at 23 out of 50 for the year, nearly half way there!  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The StoryTeller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller   This one has been sitting on my shelf for a while, but I finally got around to reading it.  I was hesitant at first.  You see, I enjoy Jodi Picoult but the thing is, she only hits it about half the time.  50% of the time her books are wonderful - like 19 Minutes - and the other 50%?  They are horrible - like Lone Wolf.   So I was a little reticent to read this one as I didn't know which half it would fall into.

This is the story of Sage Singer,  a young woman who has experienced some tragedies in her life.  The loss of her parents drives her into a grief therapy group where she meets and elderly man, Josef Weber.   Sage and Josef develop a rapport and eventually a friendship.   Josef helps bring Sage out of her shell, until he makes a strange request and reveals a horrifying secret.

Picoult weaves the history of Sage's family into the fabric of life along with the history of Josef Weber.  It's amazing to watch the story spin. It's also difficult to read at times, but important to remember.   I fell in love with the sweet, old, dog- loving man that Josef Weber was.  I was horrified with myself when his secret was revealed.  I loved that I could experience Sage's attachment and horror right along with her.  That is truly good story telling.   I gave this one 4 - 5 stars.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The funny things kids say

So both of my daughters are avid readers.  Imagine that.  Books have been part of their lives since they were in utero.   That said, I'm swimming in the pool the other day with my youngest and she says, "Mom, if you could only save 10 books and all the rest would burn, which ones would you save?"   Naturally I asked her if I could count a complete series as "one" otherwise I've got problems.
This was a thought provoking question and like the, "What is your favorite book" question - my answer would probably vary from day to day.  However, my answer for today is this....

Of course Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia all get saved.  The world needs magic but these books are all so much more than that.  They remind us of who we want to be and all the things that are worth fighting for.  But after those three, things get a bit murkier.

There has to be some Ayn Rand in there - probably Atlas Shrugged. Maybe if I chose Fahrenheit 451, people would change their minds and no longer burn books, so that has to be one.   Also Night by Ellie Weisel - because after they burn books, they burn people.  We can never forget. How about either Reading Lolita in Tehran or A Thousand Splendid Suns?  I would choose these because I think it's important to know and understand that things are very different in other parts of the world.   It's amazing how much we, as Americans, take for granted. The Outsiders would be one for two reasons - 1.  I have always loved and will always love Ponyboy Curtis and 2.  it's a reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.  I would have to choose The Federalist Papers as a way of, I hope, preserving the best ideals that my country represents. ( One would certainly hope that among that is NOT burning books....) and finally, Gone with the Wind, just because I love it that much.  

If you had to choose, what books would you save and why???

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WIntergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls  Laurie Halse Anderson is a master at truly meaningful works of literature intended for a young adult audience.   I read her book, Speak, last year and she is now one of the few authors who I try to read consistently.  

Like Speak, this book deals with issues affecting young girls, in this case, eating disorders and literally dying to be skinny.  Lia and her friend, Cassie, make a promise to each other that together they will be the skinniest.  Cassie is a bulimic who regurgitates everything she eats.  Lia, on the other hand, suffers from Anorexia.

You talk about a book that will scare you?  Well, as the mother to two girls, this book is way beyond frightening.  It's incredible how far girls will go in order to be skinny.   The glimpses into Lia's psyche are especially intriguing.  It's so hard to imagine a girl who will literally starve herself to quite the negative voices in their head, but that is exactly what anorexics do.

I thought this book was very compelling.   I can't say that I enjoyed it, but I do think that I learned from it, and that I experienced some understanding to how a person with this problem may think and feel.  Once again, Laurie Halse Anderson does a fantastic job in helping the reader connect with her characters, even when dealing with these extremely difficult and very real issues. 

The Elite and The One by Keira Cass

I started reading this series just the other day.  I described the initial book, The Selection, as a cross between the Hunger Games and the Bachelor.   Totally nailed that one.   Still, this series was a quick and entertaining read.   I was even a little surprised by the conversation about politics in the middle of book 2.   That aspect of the story was all about how a people in a Republic could or would willingly choose to accept a Monarchy.  Interesting concept, right?

I was surprised by the depth that this added plot line gave to the story.  I wish that it would have been developed further, but at the end of the day, that isn't what this YA novel was about.   Not really.  If you are looking for something fun, something that won't make you think to hard - brain candy, essentially, then this is a great read.  Don't expect any real depth here, it's hinted at but never really develops.   I'm not sure about the next book, The Heir.  I may eventually read it, but I'm not sure if I hold much hope that it will become more than it's predecessors. 3 out of 5 stars for entertainment value.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Selection by Keira Cass

The Selection (Selection Series #1)

This story is the equivalent of The Hunger Games meets the bachelor.  America Singer is a Five, living in what was formerly the United States, but after World War 3 and 4, is now the country of Ilea, named after it's King.   The society is very stratified with little movement available among the castes.  

America Singer is in love with a Six.  She and Aspen have been planning a future together.  In spite of the differences in their castes, they are sure they can make it work.  Then comes the Selection.   In the Selection, girls from every caste have the opportunity to meet with the Crown Prince, Maxon, and eventually become Queen of Illea.   For some girls, this seems like a dream come true, but for America Singer, it means leaving everyone she knows and loves.

All the characters have various facets to them.  America is hard working and talented, loyal and feisty.   Hey, she is a ginger.   Aspen is caring, selfless and sacrificing for those he cares about.  Maxon is a tougher character to know and understand.  He wants to find a love, he needs to find a Queen, and this is a difficult task, at best.   Is the Maxon we see real?  Or is it just put on for the competition?  What choices will America make? 

I enjoyed this book thoroughly and I definitely will be cheering America on as she goes through the competition. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon

Promise Not to Tell: A Novel   It was difficult to decide what book I would read after All the Light We Cannot See.   I decided that I would go with a thriller because, since it isn't my favorite genre, my expectations are not exaggerated as when I am reading a much anticipated novel of another type.  

At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  My usual problem with thrillers is that I sometimes see the twists and turns coming or determine right away who the "bad guy" is ( aka The Good Girl).   Definitely not the case here.

This is the story of Kate, a 40 year old woman who goes home to deal with her mother's physical and mental decline. When she does return, she has to face events from her past - the murder of her best friend.

This book also has an element of the paranormal, which is just enough to add to the intensity and suspense but is not overdone.   It was quick and enjoyable.  

I give it 3/ 5 stars and would recommend it to those who enjoy thrillers.  It would make a great beach read because it is quick and engaging.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Han is definitely a master story teller.  Most of her books are YA, but they all speak about relationships, whether they be family relationships, friendships or love interest, on a deeper level.   This is the continuation of the book To All the Boys I've Loved Before.  I'm so glad that Ms. Han continued the beautiful story of the Song sisters and their tragedies and triumphs. 

I loved every character in the book, except, of course, Genevieve.   I mean honestly, after everything, who could love her?   Even the minor characters have a rich story.  I loved Stormy, the senior center resident who encourages Laura Jean to really experience her life and live without regrets.  Then there is Kitty, Laura Jean's youngers sister who sorted of started this whole story in the first book.  She's hysterical.

Laura Jean is, herself, a complex girl.  Her character is written in the way that I think a sixteen year olds character should be.  She's complex - she feels lots of things sometimes all at once because that is a teenager for you.  Most of all,  I love that when her relationship goes south, she doesn't just cry and give up ( though there are tears).... but life goes on and that, is reality.  No matter how much something hurts, life can and must go on.

Finally, I loved this one because, oh boy, does she bring those feelings back.  Laura Jean is right, you never forget your first.   Firsts are special.  You never forget the first time you kiss a boy who really means something to you, the first time your heart does that little flip at his smile, or catches at the way he says your name.  This book brings those feelings back.

I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  It's a great read but you have to read the first book in the series first.