Thursday, June 30, 2016

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Product DetailsThis one was recommended to me about three years ago and for some reason, it sat on my TBR list, always waiting but I just kept putting it off.   Well, I finally got to it and I really enjoyed it.   It's an amazing story about the impact of not being honest with yourself and redemption.

Noah and Jude are twins.  Very close, very talented.   They both want to attend the local art school.   They both seek their parents respect, love and admiration nd sometimes, they present themselves, not as they are, but as others think they should be.   When you lie to yourself, you kill a part of your soul and throughout the story this can be seen, especially with Noah.

I loved that the author went out of her way to create a diverse and real cast of characters.   It's rare for me to read a woman writing a male character and really relating to that character.   All the characters are beautifully drawn but I just loved Noah.

They were moments in this book that made you laugh, some that made you cry but all of it is wonderful.  I enjoyed how the author tied in the title ( I love it when that happens!)   I also enjoyed the parrots, "Where's Ralph?"   When you read the book, you will get this inside joke.  

Don't be like me.  Don't wait to read it.  Do it now.   Five stars.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Product Details  I read this one for my good reads challenge.  The category was a book mentioned in the Rory Gilmore challenge.   This also would have satisfied the category of a book about mental illness.

The main character, a 15 year old boy named Christopher, most definitely falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum.   The story starts out with the death of a dog and Christopher's desire to find out who killed him.  Christopher admires Sherlock Holmes and spends much of the book discussing Sherlock and at times comparing himself to the fictional character.

I enjoyed the first part of the book where Christopher is doing his detective work.  I could relate to him and his idiosyncrasies.   I even laughed, on occasion at his ability to out logic the adults.  But this book isn't a funny story and it really isn't about solving the murder of a dog.

What it is about are a families struggles to deal with a family member who has challenges.  I hated Christopher's mother.  I didn't understand her at all.  I couldn't exactly like his father either.  In fact, my favorite character, other than Christopher and his rat, Toby, was the elderly neighbor lady.

Once the story moved into it's second phase - with Christopher on the train to London - the story began to drag.   I loved the first half but the second half left me cold and wanting.  I suspected years ago, based on the title that this would not be a book that I enjoyed.  But so many talked and talked about it and then with needing it for my reading challenge, I decided to give it a try.  I should have left well enough alone.   I gave it three stars because I really did like Christopher.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paper Princess ( The Royals book 1) by Erin Watt

Product Details I did't read this book for any particular reason other than the cover appealled to me.  I think it would work for a book with a yellow cover.    Perhaps.

This is the story of Ella - a somewhat trite name for a modern day Cinderella, but hey, I didn't name her.   She is a brave girl - working three jobs to help her sick mother and get her high school education.   Then one day,  her white knight arrives in the form of her unknown guardain, Callum Royal.

Callum takes Ella back to his home to become part of his family.  He has 5 teenage sons.  See the trouble brewing?   Needless to say, the "Royals"  arent' necessarily thrilled with this new addition to their family.  Will Ella be able to win them over?  Does she even want to?

This is a bit of  a YA romance, a bit mystery.  I enjoyed it, but it was nothing special.  I gave it a three out of 5 stars for helping me while the summer hours away.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Product Details  I read this book for my reading challenge - fairy tale from another culture.  It could also satisfy the "book set in Asia"  category.

This, essentially, is a retelling of the Aladdin story.     Aladdin is just a poor boy, street rat who finds a ring that leads him to something greater - a lamp with a jinni who is ready to grant three wishes.    I won't tell you what those wishes are, after all, that would be giving too much of the story away.

This book isn't pulitzer material; however, it is a creative retelling of a familiar story.   The jinni was relatable and likable.  So was the princess and her circle of female warrirors.  Loved that twist.  Of course there is a villian - several, in fact.  But the main character her isn't Alladin but Zahra, his jinni.

I also enjoyed the lush setting and vivid descriptions.  This book is an entertaining YA romance.  I gave it three stars.   Worth reading if you like that sort of thing.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Product DetailsSo I read this book for the "Book Everyone's Read but You Haven't"  category of my reading challenge.   I was reluctant to read it.  I had heard so much about Harper Lee not really wanting this book to be published and I thought that what happened to her at the end of her life was just terrible.  Still,  I was curious.... After all, Scout and Atticus were too of my favorite characters growing up.

I guess it's true what they say, you can never really go home again.  Just like when we go away to highschool and then come back to elementary school and see the chairs are so little, my perceptions of both Atticus and Jean  completely changed after reading this.   Who could ever imagine calling Scout "Jean"? 

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout has a child's perceptions of her father.  He is perfect - measured, reasonable, intelligent and kind.   In this book, events occur which cause Jean to re- evaluate those thoughts.   It's funny how when we are children our parents often seem to perfect but as we get older, we realize that they are human.  

This book seems largely an argument that Jean has with herself .  I like to think of it as Jean vs. Scout.  I won't tell you which one wins or even if there is a winner at all.    It's also about Jean standing up to her father, challenging him and thereby challenging her own beliefs.

It isn't the perfect book that I have always viewed To Kill A Mockingbird to be, but it is worth reading. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football by Jack Cavanaugh

Product Details Anyone who knows me at all knows that I have been a fan of Irish football for as long as I can remember.  I grew up with my Dad telling me stories of Knute Rockne, the Notre Dame shift, the Four Horseman and of course... the Gipper.  

All fans of Notre Dame football should read this book.  I thought I knew all there was to know about George Gipp but I was wrong.  More importantly, there was much about the early days of football, of which Notre Dame is an integral part, that I was unaware of. 

During his career at Notre Dame, Gipp set records that still stand. He led the Irish in rushing and passing each of his last three seasons (1918, 1919, and 1920). His career mark of 2,341 yards stood for over 50 years, until Jerome Heavens broke it in 1978. Gipp did not allow a pass completion in his territory throughout his entire career. He scored 83 touchdowns from 1917 to 1920.  He was even the first Notre Dame player to become an All American, an honor he achieved while on his death bed.

No one knows for sure whether his deathbed discussion with Rockne about "winning one more for the Gipper" is true or not, but one thing that is certain,  any fan of Notre Dame will love this book. I gave it 4 stars - only because it was a little dry at times but worth the effort! 

A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard

Product Details I read this one for my PopSugar Reading Challenge.  This book satisfied the "Book with summer" in the title task.   Look at that cover though?   This book was a  great way to start the summer - a perfect summer read.

It also starts with a perfect and titillating sentence - "Nothing ever changes at Wauregan".   Wauregan is the fictional summer island/ resort where the story takes place.  Set in 1948, this is the story of Helen and her son, Jack.  Some years before, Helen's husband, Arthur,  joins the OSS and mysteriously disappears.  His best friend, Frank, makes the trip back but Arthur is declared missing in action.

As Helen watches her son grow and she goes year after year without word of her husband, she wonders if it is time to move on with her own life.  Frank is waiting in the wings, but, then another veteran appears on the island.  Peter has his own issues recovering from his duty in the Pacific, and he has a very special friend, his war dog, Max.   While Max and Peter befriend Helen's son, Jack,  Helen fights her own attraction for Peter.

Will Helen and Jack finally learn the truth and be able to move on?  Is it really true that nothing ever changes at Wauregan?   If you enjoy a great beach read,  give this one a try.   5 stars.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

This one was free on Kindle Unlimited.  ( Can I just say that I love my Kindle and Kindle Unlimited?)   I fell in love with the cover.  I mean, look at it.  The waves, the sun.  What's not to love?   Not to mention the irony of the title.  It just begs to be read.

It was nothing like I expected.   I mean, Libby finds out that she has cancer, but the book isn't really about that.  I thought the book would make me cry, but instead,  I found myself laughing out loud.  The situations were unexpected and the reader has to admire how Libby goes about living life on her terms.

Yes, the ending was trite.  But you know what?  I'm ok with that. I don't want to say more because I want you to read this one for yourself.   It's a great live your life book.   I really enjoyed it.  I gave it 5 stars.  After all, it's not every book that can make me laugh.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

First, I have to say that I absolutely adore Truman Capote.  I think he is a perfect writer.   I love his style and the rich verbiage that he uses.   I love the time period in which he lived and how his writing reflects that time.   He was a brilliant observer of people and their behaviors.   I think no other story more  accurately reflects that talent than this one,  Breakfast at Tiffany's. 

Most people know the story through the famous Audrey Hepburn movie.   Audrey epitomizes Holly Golightly with her simple, yet elegant, dress and her overlarge sunglasses.  I suspect as with many of his other works, that this one was based, at least loosely on his own personal experiences.  I think Holly was probably a caricature of many people. 

I loved "Fred", the writer.   I could relate to him - his excitement over being published, his fascination with Holly who is so very different from himself.    I delighted in the symbolism of the story - the masks, the cage.   It was all perfect.   Holly was a little more difficult to relate to.  Her carefree manner, her rather loose behavior with men,  and yet she is appealing.   She set her own standards, she changed and defined who she wanted to be.   She was unexpected.

All in all,  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.  I only wish that Capote would have written more.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Smoke by Dann Vyleta

Product DetailsI saw the review on this book and took one look at the cover and I was intrigued.  When you look up the genre "weird fiction"  there should be a picture of this book.  It's like Edgar ALlen Poe writting in Charles Dickens' Lonon and one of this characters is Mr. Hyde.

This story is about smoke - the physical representation of sin.  Everytime a human gives in to their baser instincts - lust, hate, anger, etc... - they smoke.  The color of the smoke represents the type of sin.  Those who have learned to control their baser instincts - and limit their smoke - are members of the ruling class - usually the clergy and aristocracy.

The story starts off in a boys school.  Thomas has just arrived and is befriended by kindly Charlie.   The boys are ruled over by head boy, Julius, who appears to be perfect.   The boys take a school trip to London, where the whole city is covered in smoke.    Their teachers want them to see the morally impoverished and know what it is to be infected by their smoke in a controlled setting.    Like the smoke which obscures visibility, things in this book aren't always what they seem.

It was a bit slow moving at times, but the mystery kept me engaged throughout.   I gave it four out of five stars.  I really enjoyed the creativity of this author's work.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

One Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Product DetailsI picked this one up, after the slog fest that was Everyone Brave is Forgiven, because I wanted  something light and happy.   I didn't quite get what I was looking for but instead, I ended up with so much more!   I choose this book to satisfy the goodreads challenge - a book with a beautiful cover  task.   I'm really glad I did.

First, let's start with the cover.  I don't know about you, but this one really speaks to me.  The colors, the cherry blossoms, the heart.   Yep.  I love it!   For me, it was the perfect choice for a book with a beautiful cover.

This book is about Poppy and Rune - best friends since they were five - who realize the gift they have been give - that of a soul mate - very young in life. Unlike the last book I read, this book was very simply written.   Simple but beautiful and what Everyone Brave is Forgiven lacks, this book has in spades.  This book has ALL the FEELS.   It made me remember how much I loved my Grandmother and why.   It made me think of the magic of the first kiss and every kiss after from my own soul mate. This book was just - magic.  I gave it 5 out of 5 stars and cried most of the way through.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Product DetailsI had such high hopes for this one.  First off, it's written by the author of Little Bee, and while I hated that book,  I felt compelled by it and it was extrenely well written.  Of course this one is set during World War 2 ( my favorite time period) and it's about a teacher - sort of - so I thought it would be a winner.

Just like his other book, this one is extremely well written.  Grammatically speaking it's impeccable.  This is the story of Mary,  a young woman who wants to do her part for the war effort so she signs up with the war office.  She thinks that she will be given the glamorous job of being a spy, but instead, they make her a school teachers.   She is with the children when they are evaccuated out of London but the school principal doesn't really think that Mary is cut out to  be a teacher - she lacks discipline and a firm hand and is therefor sent back to the city to be reassigned.

Mary realizes that she still wants to teach.  This is how her story entertwines with that of Tom,  a district director for the school system and Alistair, an artist whose job, before volunteering for the war ,is perserving works of art.

I thought this story was going to be about Mary's efforts as a teacher with the children who were left behind - those who were not seen to be worthy to evacuate - the coloreds, the crippled, the mentaly delayed.   But this was not that story.

While the author dies a wonderful job of weaving this complex story - there is just one thing it's missing - the FEELS.   Honestly, less than halfway through the book, I couldn't have cared less what happened to Mary.  My favorite characters were Zachary her student and Cesar ,the stuffed cat.   That pretty much sums it up.   I gave it three stars, but honestly, that's a gift.

Guardian by A.J. Messenger

Product DetailsThis book was free on Kindle Unlimited.   I'm sort of a sucker for books about Angels - I don't know why, I just always have been.  This book was quick and enjoyable.  If you enjoy supernatural romance - it's passable; however, this book was eerily similiar to a better version of itself by SL Naeole called Saving Grace.  

Both books have a heroine who is more beautiful than she knows.  Athough she is a member of the odd crew at school, there is always something about her.   Both have the super handsome and of course fabulously wealthy angel who just can't help himself when the good girl is around.  Each story has a villian who represents the Fallen - the worst choices in all of us.  In each story, there is some reason why our fearless heroine and her one true love can never consumate their relationship.  Yep, essentially the same story.  Naeole's is better.

I gave this one 2 stars.  Entertaining enough but nothing really special.