Wednesday, March 30, 2016

StarDust by Neil Gaiman

Product DetailsI read this book for my Goodreads reading challenge task #37 - I've seen the movie but I haven't read.   Now this almost never happens to me.  I'm the kind of girl where it is the RULE in my family that you have to read the book first.  Unbelievably though, when the movie StarDust came out in 2007,  I had no idea that this was a book.  So here I am, with a book for this category.   :)

I really enjoy and admire Neil Gaiman.  I think he is an absolutely beautiful writer.   I enjoyed Stardust very much.   But,  (I can't believe that I am about to say this)   I liked the movie better.  Why?   Robert DeNiro.   He was absolutely perfect as the pirate captain.  I just loved everything about his character.   And he was sadly missing in the book.  Oh, he was there but they fleshed him out - literally - so much more in the movie.

Also,  I think that the end of the book was a little skimpy.   I wanted to know more about Tristan and Ygraine.   While the book and the movie came to the same conclusion, I found the movie to be just a bit more satisfying.

I still give this one 4 out of 5 stars and if you are a Neil Gaiman fan or enjoy fantasy, this one is for you.   I really recommend the movie.   Very entertaining.  

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Product DetailsI read this book for my Goodreads reading challenge - task 20 a book with a first name in the title.   It had been on my TBR list for a while, and this finally encouraged me to get it done.

Wow.  Where to start.   I thought that book was going to spend more time talking about Kevin, it's sort of in the title.  Instead, it was a pity- party diatribe told from the mother's perspective.   She wasn't sure she wanted to get pregnant, she didn't love Kevin right away, he was a difficult child, he curtailed her lifestyle.... me, me, me.   I HATED her.   After listening to her whine for the course of the book,  I could totally understand how Kevin turned out the way he did and perhaps that was the point. 

The book was told exclusively through letters.  You don't really notice that but it is an interesting mechanism that the author chose to move the story.   There was an interesting though completely unrelated side story being told about the 2000 Presidential Election.   It seemed odd but perhaps it served to remind the reader of the mood of the country at the time that "Thursday" was supposed to have taken place.

I gave it two stars.   It really didn't do a thing for me and I was deeply disappointed in the book.   :(  I hate when that happens.

Monday, March 28, 2016

After by Anna Todd

Product DetailsThis book was pretty much exactly what I expected  -  a mash up of Beautiful Creatures and 50 Shades of Gray.   I read it for my book that has 600 pages - it was actually only 593 but considering,  I gave myself the extra 7 pages.

Now, let me be frank.  I read the whole thing and part of me enjoyed it.  It definitely makes you FEEL something.  For me, it brought back the blush of first love with the first bad boy I ever met.   The one that isn't really good for you and you know he isn't.   Like Tessa, I believed that things would be different with us.   In real life, that rarely works out.

Tessa is a young girl - 18 - off on her own for the first time in her life.  She has lead a very controlled and structured life, with her mother choosing everything for her, including where she goes to college and her boyfriend.   Imagine what happens when she is out on her own for the first time?  Not surprising, things get a little out of control.

Enter the college bad boy who, by his own admission, has fucked just about every girl at college.  There is friction between Hardin and good girl Tessa right from the start and lots of sexual tension.   Let's face it, her cardigan wearing boyfriend of 2 years just isn't doing it for her - literally.   Tessa is calm, focused and ambitious.  Hardin is angry and damaged.

The author compares their love to Elizabeth and Darcy ( hated that book),  Catherine and Heathcliff ( look how well that turned out) and Jane and Rochester (hardly).    I love that at least she made her bad boy like books.  (Oddly enough, mine did too.)   What this story really boils down to though is a young girl who has gotten turned out for the first time.   She is willing to do just about anything and give up just about anything for the way that she thinks only Hardin can make her feel.  It's sad really. That isn't love, it's just sexual satisfaction.

What is it about some women that we want men who are rude assholes?   When I was  younger, if there was an unemployed asshole in a 50 mile radius, he somehow found me.  Or I him.  Hardin is rude, mean and sometimes dangerous.  Other than being good looking and gifted in bed, I can't find the appeal.

The writing, while it does make you FEEL something, is parochial at best.   I gave it 3 out of 3 stars.  I may read the rest of the series - or at least the next book - because it is like watching a train wreck.  Hard to look away.  3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Little Lamb Lost

Product DetailsI read this one for the PopSugar Challege task #18  a book with alliteration in the title.   I also used it for my GoodReads Challenge the 16th book from the bottom on my TBR list.

This is the story of Claire,  a social worker who is employed by Child Protective Services.   She has a client, Ashley, who was a former crack addict that she is helping to get clean.   Ashley lost her child, Michael, but then went into rehab and worked hard to get him back.  Ashley has been clean for a year and a half, but suddenly,  Michael shows up dead under suspicious circumstances.   Is Ashley to blame?  Should Claire have seen it coming?

This story is all too real.   I remember when I lived in Florida the story of a little boy named AJ who kept being returned to his "family" by CPS.   He died, cold and alone and they let it happen.   He was kept in a cage,  he was fed dog food when he was fed at all and he endured horrors that no creature should ever know.   This book hit close to home but, at the same time, was completely emotionally lacking.  I didn't care about Claire - I didn't care if she lost her job.  I didn't care about Ashley because I couldn't understand why she wouldn't do EVERYTHING in her power to bring those that actually harmed her child to justice.   The only character I did care about was Michael, which I guess is why I continued on with the story, because I wanted to know who killed him and why.   It turned out that it wasn't much of a mystery.

Keeping in mind that mysteries aren't usually my thing,  I gave this one 2 stars.   It was ok but I hate it when the plot seems obvious.  Task down and I probably won't read any more from this author.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Humans by Matt Haig

Product DetailsThis book is a real gem.   I read it for both the Goodreads and the PopSugar reading challenge.  It would fill several tasks for any who may be interested:  Book outside my comfort zone,  book where the main character is not a human, a book with a male protagonist, and a science fiction book.

This is not the type of book that I would usually select for myself, but I am eternally grateful that I read it.  I loved every minute of it, from start to finish.  It's irreverent and funny and yet so thought provoking all at the same time.   This is the story of an alien who comes to Earth and takes over the body of a famous mathematician. This mathematician,  Andrew,  has proven the Reimann hypothesis which will allow humans to make many technological advances in medicine, technology, space travel, etc..... The aliens don't believe that the humans are ready for these advancements because they view us as violent, crude and greedy.    The aliens job is to erase all evidence that the hypothesis has ever been solved, including killing people who may know.

The alien Andrew is experiencing so many things for the first time.  He learns about the importance of clothes, both in reality and metaphorically.   He learns to speak English by reading Cosmopolitian magazine - no wonder he's so confused!   He experiences emotions and music and art and so many things for the first time.   I don't want to give too much of the book away but this one is a real treasure.   Read it.  

My favorite part comes at the end - a list of advice for being human - some of my favorites:

To like something is to insult it. Love it or hate it. Be passionate. As civilisation advances, so does indifference. It is a disease. Immunize yourself with art. And love.”  

Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.”  

“The single biggest act of bravery or madness anyone can do is the act of change.”  

Men are not from Mars. Women are not from Venus. Do not fall for categories. Everyone is everything. Every ingredient inside a star is inside you, and every personality that ever existed competes in the theatre of your mind for the main role.

And finally, my favorite:
“If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing.”  

It goes without saying that I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.   Read it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige

Product DetailsAnyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I am a HUGE fan of Danielle Paige.   I think her Dorothy Must Die series is brilliant and original.  It's difficult to take a cast of characters that the world knows and loves so well and make it something original.

This is the third book in the series.  Amy and her friends are still looking for a way to stop Dorothy.   This time, they end up back in Kansas looking for a way to get back to Oz.   Amy makes some meaningful parallels between her own connection to magic and her mother's addiction.   This book has so many lessons in it, and is so creative. It's so much more than meets the eye and yet, can also just be enjoyed for it's own sake.   I am anxiously awaiting the next installment.  As usual, Ms. Paige left us with quite the cliff hanger.   What will become of Amy and Nox?   I hope we don't have to wait a year to find out!   4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Rose Garden by Sussana Kearsley

Product Details  I discovered this author during last years reading challenge.  I read her book, The Winter Sea, and loved it.   I read this book for this years reading challenge - a book with Time Travel.  I'd already read Outlander and The Time Traveler's Wife and about a million other time travel books, so this seems like a good option.

This is the story of Eva,  a young woman who loses who beloved sister much too soon.  She wants to return her sisters ashes to a place she was "truly happy"  so she returns to Trelowarth house, where she and her sister spent their childhood summers.    While there, she begins to heal from her sisters loss, but then strange things start to happen.  She hears voices in "the other room" and starts seeing things - paths in the road - that aren't there.   Finally she fades into a different time.

I won't give too much of the plot away, but if you like historical romances, this was a quick read.   It wasn't quite as good as the Winter Sea, but it passed the time.   I gave it 3 out of 5 stars and I will continue to look for works by this author.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Product Details I read this one for my Goodreads challenge - a title that begins with L.    I have never read this author before and I was shock and awed.   I just spent the last week literally living with Miranda and her family in Howell, PA as they faced all the travails in the aftermath of the moon being struck by an asteroid. 

This book, while the science may not be accurate, is real.   It definitely makes you feel the things that this family is dealing with - the fear, the frustration, the hopelessness of their situation.    I sat and started to think what my life would be like if something like this were to happen.  The images weren't pretty.

I think that this was an amazing book.  But I'm not sure that I can continue on with the series.  It's just so intense.  If you like survival stories, this is a really great read.  4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Product Details I read this one for my GoodRead, s reading challenge - book from a summer reading list.   Well, all I can say is the truly best thing about this book is the cover.    I love beach reads, summer reads and usually spend the month of February reading a ton of them so that I can get a taste of the beach.   I was a little behind this year, having been sick, but I wanted to give this one a try. 

Sad.  That's all I can say.  It's the story of Van who left Whisper Beach suddenly and with a secret.  A funeral brings her back to face her past and come to terms with it.   I'm all about things coming to a conclusion so that a person can move on but this book was a little heavy.

When I read a book about the beach,  I have certain expectations.  I want the magic of feeling the water kiss my toes,  the wind on my face and the salt in the air.  I want a little romance and memories of my youth - happy ones.   In this book, even the beach was depressing with no one visiting it anymore.  If you are looking for a light hearted summer BEACH read, this book is not for you.   2 out of 5 stars.  While it is well written, it was just flat out depressing.  No thanks.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Product Details  First of all, if you are a Kindle user, this is currently available on Kindle Unlimited.  It's awesome.   A wonderful, hopeful story that will just lift your heart.  

This is the story of Jody, Virginia and a dog named T-Rex.   Somehow all their lives are inexplicably intertwined.   Can the love of one dog bring them together and make the wrongs right?   The answer in this uplifting novel is a resounding yes.   This is one of the things that I really love about Kindle Unlimited is that it helps me find new authors that I haven't yet read and gives me the opportunity to try their writing without making a real commitment.   I'm so glad I did.  I've added quite a few of Ms. Hyde's other works - many also on Kindle Unlimited - to my TBR list.

I read this one for my PopSugar Reading challenge task Book with NonHuman Characters.  I could also have used it for a Free Book, Book with a Yellow Cover or Book Outside My Comfort Zone.  Give it a try, you won't be sorry.  5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Missing Pieces    I am a big fan of this author.  I have read and all loved all her books but one - Little Mercies - I just couldn't read it.   This book is Ms. Gudenkauf back in fine form. 

This is the story of Sarah Quinlann and her husband, Jack.  They seem to have the perfect marriage.  Until... Jack gets a phone call that his aunt has fallen down the stairs and is seriously ill.   Jack has to return home to a small town in Iowa for the first time in twenty years.   While there,  Sarah discovers that everything Jack has told her about his past is a lie.    Will she uncover the truth in time?

I couldn't put this one down.  Finished it in a day - it's' that good.   If you enjoy mysteries, this one if full of plot twists and I highly recommend it.  5 out of 5 stars.

Ruler of Beasts: A Dorothy Must Die Novella by Danielle Paige

Product Details  I read this for my GoodReads reading challenge.  We had to read a novella, which is something that I don't usually do.   That said,  for those that have been following my blog for a while, you already know that I am a HUGE fan of Danielle Paige and her Dorothy Must Die series.  Ms. Paige does a simply incredible job with adding beautifully to an already familiar and beloved world. 

I wanted to understand why Dorothy had come back to Oz?  What had gone so very wrong with her and her friends?   The main series doesn't reveal too much of this but the prequel novellas are a treasure trove of information and insight into what may be coming in the about to be released Yellow Brick War.

In this book,  our beloved Lion is sent to the Emerald City on behalf of Glinda - the questionable witch to find a ruby necklace.   While there, he befriends the new Queen of Oz, Ozma and helps her save the city.   What transpires between them explains so much about the Lion and his actions.   If you, like me, are loving the series,  these Prequels are a must.   4 out of 5 stars.

Bookishly Ever After by Isabele Bandeira

Product Details I read this one for my Goodreads Reading challenge.  I used it for task #44 - a book you are embarassed to read in public .  As a grown woman,  I take a lot of crap for reading YA books like this one.  

This is the story of Phoebe, a bookish, band geek who likes to knit.   She starts to fall for follow band geek, Dev, at the prompting of her best friend.  The problem is ,they are both a little shy and Phoebe gets most of her advice from romance novels on how to behave around boys.

I read a lot of YA books.  Mostly because I have two daughters and I like to read what they are reading or be able to recommed books they might like.   But to be honest,  I also enjoy the genre - usually.

This one was a bit much for me.  There was too much going into the world of books - like a side conversation during the main part of the story.  I get it,  I think it may have been a useful plot tool, I just didn't enjoy it.   I think this book is probably perfect for it's intended audiece - self conscious 13 year olds looking for reassurance that it's ok to be yourself.  I gave it 2 stars.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Men We Reaped by Jessmyn Ward

Product DetailsI read this one for my popsugar reading challenge  task author discovered from last years challenge.   Last year I read Salvage the Bones and I loved it.   Jessmyn Ward is a beautiful writer with a true prose to her style.   This book turned personal - a memoir - and things went very awry.

I have never read such cloying self-loathing and   blame.   The author would say that this is my white privilege talking but  this is not the case.  Rather it is a direct result of her denial and victimology   The willingness of so many to just cast away their responsibility for their own lives is simply  disgusting in my opinion.

Yes,  I understand how poverty impacts families and individuals.  I work at a Title 1 school - that is my life every day.  I'm there to give these children the one tool that will open the door of opprotunity - an education.    No one can choose where they are born or to which parents, but we can and DO choose whether to get blackout drunk on a nighty basis.  Or to use heroin.  Or to associate with drug dealers and known felons.   Every day each one of us makes choices about the life we live and each day we face the consequences of these choices.

This book is the story of her life.  Sad and pathetic.   It is the cummulative excuses that she gives for the deaths of the males in her family. My father grew up dirt poor- farmed out by his family to other families in his church becasue they couldn't raise him until finally his grandparents took him in.   He worked in the open hearth of the steel mill throughout highschool and had zero prospects.  But he worked hard, he applied himself, he got an education, he joined the military and he found a way out.  He didn't blame his father's acolholism or the domestic abuse in his family.  He pulled himself up and took responsibility for his own life.

On the other hand,  I just had a cousin die of heroin over dose.  Jolly boy - everyone loved him an dhe was always ready to party.  His life was certainly a tragedy but he blamed others for that tragedy - his weak father, his complete disaster of a stepmother,  his own mother... the list goes one.  But the truth is, he never worked  hard, he never applied himself and he never found his way out until it eventually came with a needle.

I hated every minute of this book  I have no time for weakness.  I gave it 1 out of 5 stars though I still say that the author is very talented.  I hope she gets a grip on her flagrant alcoholism  and continues to write more books like Salvge the Bones.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

 In my case,  I used this book for the book set in my home state.  You could also use it for a YA book or a book with a yellow cover.  

This is the story of Greg and his friend, Earl.  They are unlikely friends and movie buffs.  They decide at a young age to make their own movies, which is essentially the basis of their friendship.   Greg knows Rachel from some sort of religious teaching school.   They sort of lose touch until Greg finds out that Rachel has leukemia.  

This book sort of has the flavor of Perks of Being a Wallflower, but isn't quite as good.   For those looking for a book about loss,  The Fault in Our Stars is better, in my opinion.   All that said though, if you are from Pittsburgh as I am, the commentary about "yinzers" alone made this book worth reading. 

I gave it three out of five stars.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I used this for the task  retelling of a fairy tale.   It could also be used for YA, fantasy, new series, etc....    I love Sarah J. Maas.   I think she is a beautiful and talented writer.   I loved her Throne of Glass series ( still reading it - anxiously awaiting the next book!)  However, as much as I loved that series, this one is even BETTER.   

This is the story of Freya,  a poor girl trying to keep her family alive.  To do so, she goes into the forest to hunt for food so that her family doesn't starve.  One day, in spite of the warnings, Freya kills a huge wolf in the forest and sells it's pelt for money.   It turns out that this wolf was a Fey,  what most people call faeries ( though not the diminutive kind). As punishment for this crime, Freya must leave her family and go to the world of Prythian, for the rest of her life.

I won't say any more about the plot, but I will say that I love how strong Freya is.   I thought the story beautiful in it's breath and scope.  I loved the anti-hero and I very much look forward to the release of the next book in the series later this year.  I gave this one five stars.