Thursday, July 30, 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone   This book was very different even though it sounds cliche  In a world at war, an angel and a devil fall in love and imagine a different world.     But this book is so much more than the cliche.

I loved Karou.   I love that her name means hope because that is what she is.  The hope of an entire world is riding on her - the outcome of her decisions.  She is smart, selfless and brave.  She isn't a girly girl ( but that would have been ok too)   I love the relationship that she has with her best friend.   I even love the setting of the majority of the book ( Prague).   It seems so fitting.

The relationship between Karou and Brimstone is also beautiful.  I can't say too much about it without avoiding spoilers but I think the author did a wonderful job building their relationship, especially from just bits and pieces.  And then there is the relationship of Karou and Akiva.... will it be the saving grace of their world?  Or their ultimate downfall?   At the end of this book.... SPOILER>>>>

We still don't know the answer, but I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the series to find out.  4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread     Anne Tyler books - I always find the covers so appealing.  I read the back synopsis and think to myself "Maybe this time...."  and so I get sucked in.  In other words, for me, Anne Tyler's work is a lot like  a food allergy.   The strawberries look red and delicious and I think , "Maybe this time I won't break out in terrible hives"  but I always do.   Same principal here.   I have read three books by Anne Tyler - they all leave me with the same taste in my mouth - flat and unsatisfied.   This book was no exception and this time, I'm putting it down in writing - This is my LAST book of hers.  The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result, and I have been insane.  No longer.  This book cured me once and for all.

There wasn't a single character that I related to.  They were all two dimensional constructs.  The main part of the story for me is where Red's parents are killed by the train and Red and his wife ( she's so strong I character that I can't even remember her name now...)  discuss their philosophy of death.  Red wants it to be quick and the wife wants to see how it all turns out - the long goodbye.  Tyler's plot lines are like that in this book - some go on forever even though you wish desperately that they would end and others just drop off completely without any resolution.

I read to learn new things, experience new things, escape reality for a little while.  Tyler's books are like having a root canal.  Never again.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily   I love retellings of a favorite story, especially when they are done in such a unique way.   Tiger Lily was always my favorite Peter Pan character.   I thought she was so brave in the Disney cartoon when Hook set his devious trap for Pan. It turns out that Tiger Lily was so much more than I ever thought.

I loved the symbolism of the crows in this story.  For Indian tribes  crows are a symbol of mysticism but also intelligence, audacity and personal transformations.   Tiger Lily certainly had the intelligence and audacity and underwent a personal transformation throughout the course of the story.

I always hate Wendy - that still hasn't changed and Peter was somewhat of a disappointment in the end...... SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I find it so cliche when men are intimidated by strong women and opt for the softer, weaker variety.  How sad really.   Still,  I loved the ending and somehow felt the story ended the way that it must.  4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

fpo   Well, this book was a surprise.   It showed up on my bookperks for 1.99 and the synopsis sounded so interesting that I thought I would give it a try.   Now, I'm not much for mysteries usually.  I got disappointed when they are predictable and I can usually ferret out the "bad guy"  in just a few chapters.  This book was a wonderful surprise.

This is the story of two crimes that both happen in the summer of 1986 and that have remained unsolved for all these years.   The first the disappearance of a young girl.  Julianna and her older sister, Genni, go to a fair.   They win prizes and eat cotton candy.  But Genni has a problem,  she's an addict and she decided to leave her little sister to go find a high.  Julianna never sees her older sister again and she spends her life looking for new witnesses, refining her story to the police and trying to figure out what happened to her sister.

Wyatt is a private detective who lives in Los Angeles.  A favor brings him back to his home town of Oklahoma City, OK.  In the summer of 1986, he was invovled in a terrible shooting at a movie theater.   All his friends and co-workers died but, for some inexplicable reason, Wyatt is left alive.  Now his past has caught up with him.

These two paths intertwine.  The story is brilliantly told and keeps you hanging on your seat.   4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pop Sugar Challenge Update

I'm finished!  This challenge was fantastic, it really encouraged me to spread my wings and broaden my reading horizons.  Here is a list of all the books I read, at the bottom, for those so inclined I will list my top 10 - not to be missed books I read due to this challenge and the top 10 biggest busts.  Check it out

  • 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 - And the Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige
  • a book with a number in the title - 20 Boy Summer 
  • a book written by someone under 30 - Split 
  • book by a female author - Teasy by Amanda Maciel
  • mystery or thriller - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • book with a one word title - Moth by Daniel Aronson
  • book of short stories - When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
  • a book set in a different country - Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • nonfiction - Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane
  • new author - Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • a book recommended by a friend - Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
  • Pulitzer Prize winner - All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr
  • a book based on a true story - The Boys in the Boat
  • a book from the bottom of my TBR list - Heading out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
  • a book 100 years old - Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • a book based on the cover - Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
  • a 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
  • a book with antonyms in the title - The Truth Tellers Lie by Sophie Hannah
  • a book set somewhere I've always wanted to visit - Parlor Games 
  • a book with a love triangle - the Sin Eaters Daughter
  • a book set in high school - Never, Never by Colleen Hoover
  • a book set in the future - The 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
  • a new author - The Good Girl by Mary Kubrica
  • a book owned but not read - The Story Teller by Jodi Picout
  • a book set in my hometown - The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
  • a book originally written in a different language - little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
  • a book set during Christmas - Saving Grace by S.L. Naeole
  • a book series:  The Selection, The Elite, The One
  • a banned book: A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
  • a book started but never finished ( but now I have finished )  Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • first book of a famous author - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • a book from childhood - Fly by Night by K M Peyton
  • a book with non human characters - Half Brother by Kenneth Oppal
  • a funny book - Hark!  A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
  • a nonfiction book - The 6th Extinction: An Unnatural History
  • a book from an author you love but haven't read yet - The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
  • book based on a TV show - The Pines
  • a book with an author with my initials - Bird Song S.L.  Naeole
  • a book that scares me - Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
  • a memoir - American Titan - Searching for John Wayne
  • a book released the year I was born - Jonathan Livingston Seagull
  • a book with bad reviews - The Luxe\
  • a book my mother loves - Gifts from the Sea by Ann Murrow Lindberg

And now, those books that I would probably not have read wtihout this challenge with were absolutely FANTASTIC - in no particular order:

  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Salvage the Bones
  • All The Light We Cannot See
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Speaker for the Dead
  • All the Bright Places
  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
  • Half Brother
  • The 6th Extinction
  • The Pines
Some books that I wished I had passed on - over hyped or just not well written, in my opinion:
  • The Girl on the Train
  • Ender's Game: Battle School - Graphic novels are not for me, too distracting
  • The Good Girl
  • Little Mercies - so bad I couldn't force myself to finish
  • A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl - just as terrible as it sounds
  • Hark! A Vagrant!  - once you've read Hyberbole and a Half - nothing else is ever quite that funny
  • The Luxe
  • Moth - loved Daniel Aronson's other stuff, but this one was really flat.
  • The Boys in the Boat - I wanted to love it and just didn't.

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen Series #1)   At first I thought this book was a simple mix of The Hunger Games, Red Rising and the Selection.  It seemed like the obvious Cinderella story - boy and girl meet, boy and girl fall in love, underprivileged girl becomes Queen.  That's how I thought that the story was going to go.  Boy was I wrong!

Yes, this book is like a mesh of Huger Games, Red Rising and the Selection, but it is also much more than that.  I loved the creative twists that the author built in.  I won't reveal here - no spoilers.  I that the the author did a great job developing all the major characters and even fleshing out the secondary characters like Julian and Kilorn as well.  Sometimes I read a book and it is so unmemorable that I can't remember the names of the characters the day after I finish.  Not so in this case, definitely not so.

Mare really becomes a stronger character as the book goes on.  It was annoying, at first, how she seemed to be leaning on the male characters but press on, it does get better.I am really excited to read The Glass Shard, which will be coming up sometime very soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ashenden: A Novel by Elizabeth Wilhide

Ashenden    This is the story, initially, of a brother and sister who inherit a country estate in England.   But honestly, this book is so much more than that.  It's a living history .  It tells the story of many characters, of births and deaths, marriages and separations, joy and sadness.   Ultimately,  it's the story of the house and the house really becomes the main character as it's life is told from those people who inhabit it.  I loved that the story wasn't just told from the perspective of the owners of Ashenden but also the architects and the people who loved and lived there, those who worked there.  The depth and breadth is fantastic.   All fans of Downtown Abbey should definitely read this book.  4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada  Greetings, Starfighter!

  Ever since I read Ready Player One,  I have been a huge fan of this man.   When this book came out, I was beyond excited.  Downloaded it right away.  So glad that it didn't disappoint.

Some people think that this was a rip off of the plot from The Last Starfighter.  It isn't.  I've seen The Last Starfighter, probably more times than I should admit to, and this isn,t it.  What this book does is pay homage to so many of those wonderful science fiction books and movies of the 80's that so many of us grew up with and loved, of which Starfighter is one.

I loved how the names in the story gave nods to various movies and pop culture.  Lightman, anyone?   Happened to be Matthew Brodericks' character in War Games. And others of course, which I won't spoil for you.

Some people have suggested that the character development is flat.  The pace of this book is faster than Ready Player One, so there isn't as much time for that.  However, of course people can and do change in a 72 hour period - especially when they are going through something as life altering as Zach does.    This book was fun and it even managed to hide some important lessons in there.  No, it's not Pulitizer material but it is fast- paced, thrilling, nostalgic and fun.  I especially loved the Raid the Arcade mix.  I already had most of them on my ipod but not grouped together - I do now.  And Black Betty?  That's been in my head for days now.

If you grew up loving  sci-fi, like I did, don't miss this one.  5 out of 5 stars for just being a thrill ride.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ideal by Ayn Rand

Ideal: The Novel and the Play   First, let me start off with saying that I am always a little trepidatious about reading books that are "found" and released posthumously.   If an author chose not to release a book, there is probably a reason and that reason should be honored.  Still, being a huge Ayn Rand fan, I had to read this one for myself.   I guess Ayn is right and we all have our price - new reading material is mine.

The premise is that Kay Gonda, a world famous Hollywood starlet, is on the lam from the police.  She turns to six people who claimed that they would do anything for her, looking for help.   At first, it didn't even seem like Ayn's style at all.  It even seemed , during the first visitation that she was making an anti-capitalist statement.   I got caught up in the main character being a woman and not a man, like in other works by Rand.

Then,  I realized.... Kay Gonda isn't really a woman at all.  She truly is an Ideal.  Duh!  Hence the name.... It's this wonderful and very abstract philosophical argument about what our Ideals are, and what we are actually willing to do to live up to them.  The more I think about it, the more meaning it has but it definitely doesn't come all at once.

It's very short.  Ayn chose to release this as a play and with this version, the play is included.  I only read the novella part as there was more in depth of the characters there, but it definitely reads as a play. A morality play.   If you are a fan of Rand,  it is well worth the hour or two it will take to read, and it will leave you thinking for long after.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You  I waited a long time to read this one primarily because of all the hype.  Usually when a book gets hyped by Oprah, let's say,  I usually avoid it.  Then I read One Plus One, which is another book by Jojo Moyes and loved it so much that I added everything she's written to my TBR list.  Still I put this one off.  Next I read The Last Letter from Your Lover.  Also loved it.  Finally, I decided it was time.

The burning question is.... why the hell did I wait so long???   Oh my goodness, I LOVED this book.    It's so much more than a love story - though it is probably one of the most beautiful love stories I have read in a long time.  It's also about how people who love us should bring out the best in us, it's about living up to our potential and most of all.... it's just about living.

If, like me, you have for some reason put this book off.... do yourself a HUGE favor.  Drop whatever you are doing and READ IT.   You won't be sorry.   5 out of 5 stars and I would give it more if goodreads would let me,

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel- Garth Nix    The book, Clariel, has been on my TBR list for a while.  This book is actually the first one in the Abhorsen series.  I came across this on Book Riot's list of books that remind us of Harry Potter.   I guess I should have known..... I rarely agree with Book Riot's lists and once you compare ANYTHING to Harry Potter, you are on dangerous ground.

Sabriel is the book about a young girl who, like her father is a necromancer.  However, unlike most necromancers they don't bring things back from the dead ( although they can),  instead, it is there job to bind the dead from rising.  Sabriel is at school, which teaches magic ( perhaps the only similarity with Harry Potter - well that and the great big villian)   when her father fails to appear for a promised visit.  Instead she receives an undead visitor who brings her the sword of her father and his bells.  The bells are used for various tasks associated with binding the dead.

Sabriel leaves school and heads off - alone - to the Old Kingdom - to find her father.  Sabriel is very brave, but often fool-hardy in her plans.   Like many teenagers, I guess.  Although the book is full of action, Sabriel is alone for the first third of the book.  Then, her main companion is Moggett, a free magical entity that has been entrapped by her father and forced into servitude.

The book came across as somewhat flat to me.  The action was happening but I didn't feel as if I was part of it.  Although I admired things about Sabriel - her courage, for one - I couldn't really relate to her and because of that, I didn't really feel invested in her story.  Bummed because I was really looking forward to this one but felt it was only eh.   Well written but lacking.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey

The Shell Collector: A Story of the Seven Seas   This was suggested as our August book club selection as a beach read, but it turned out to be so much more.  Not only was it a great beach read, light, but enthralling at the same time, but it also had a more important and more hopeful message.  Naive perhaps, but hopeful.

The book takes place in the not so distant future, after the sea level has risen and because of  acidification, the ocean has undergone a massive extinction level event where many of the creatures which live in shells have become extinct.

Enter Maya Walsh, the intrepid reporter who wants to finally get the evil oil barren she believes is behind the ruination of the world - Ness Wilde.   For generations, the Wilde family has engaged in unfriendly environmental practices and profited from the destruction of the ocean.  Maya is an avid shell collector, who loves the ocean.  She wants people to know the truth....

Except the truth isn't always what it seems.   I loved the story.    I loved the premise and the reveal at the end though I find it overly hopeful and as I said earlier somewhat naive.  If you are looking for a beach read and want something just a little bit different - this was quick, easy and definitely entertaining.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers


This is the story of a family - Ben, Maddy and their three children: Emma, Gracie and Ethan ( I think).   Maddy is a social worker and Ben is a lawyer and this book is about the things that can and do go wrong and also the things that make them right.  

Randy Susan Meyers does a fantastic job with storytelling in this book.  She switches the book between the main characters of Ben, Maddy and their oldest daughter, Emma.  Ben is your typical, self- absorbed idiot.  Nothing is more important than what he is doing and what he has going on.  His family takes a back seat to his self importance, until, one day, he has an accident of marriage.

This story is about how families struggle and how they come together.  I don't want to give away what happens, but this one is well worth the read.  Emma was my favorite character.  I could see parts of my own teenage daughter through her angst.   I could relate to how all the characters, even the initially unlikable Ben, felt.  

My mother recommended this book to me and she never steers me wrong.  I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars, and now I'm off looking for my next read.  What are you reading??