Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Product Details  Something compelled me to read this book.  I loved the title, I loved the cover and most of all,  I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!  

This is such a sweet, powerful and compeling story.   It is the story of Elsa, a 7 year old girl and her grandmother.   It's a story about relationships, how lives intertwine and most of all, it's about the power of the stories themselves to unite and heal us.

I loved every character in this book and find something relatable in all of them, even Sam.  After all, some monsters don't start out that way.   I enjoyed how each character contributed in their own way and also, how they are all represented in Granny's fairytales.

I am a firm believer that, as C.S. Lewis once said, you are never too old for fairy tales.   This book demonstrated that so beautifully.  I just added everything that this man has written to my TBR pile.  I can't wait to read A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here.  Five out of five stars and if it was possible to give more, I would.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Product DetailsThis is a new release, just out this week.   I've been reading about it for a while and it's been getting a lot of buzz from publishing houses, book riot, etc......  I wanted to read this one because I thought, in light of the political season, it would be fun.  I planned to use it at my book club meeting where each reader is reading a book of their choice. 

It was fantastic!  The author really did an amazing job of what life in and around DC is really like.  ( I like in Annapolis, so close enough to know.)    This is the story of Beth and Matt, newly weds who move from New York to DC so that Matt can work on his lifelong dream of running for Political office.

They are young and he is busy working and volunteering for the Obama campaign.   They meet other young couples like themselves and form friendships.   The book does a really great job of demonstrating how power corrupts things - people, friendships, everything.   And the end of the book - the last two paragraphs are among the best I have ever read. 

I gave it four stars and I'm really glad that I read it.  I would recommend it highly to any who enjoy politics and a good read.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Glittering Court by Rachel Mead

Product DetailsLet me start by saying that I loved The Selection series.  When I read the synopsis for this book, it sounded reminiscent of The Selection, so I thought I would give it a chance.  When I went on vacation, I left my beloved Kindle behind. (The HORROR!)   So when I was at the local Books -A - Million - there it was, just waiting for me.

The Glittering Court is both a school and a business enterprise.  The purpose is to give an education to working class girls that are beautiful and then ship them to the new world where they will be brides of the new aristocracy.   Adelaide is different from the other girls of the Glittering Court.   She was born to the nobility but her title is all that is left.  Her family is destitute and only an arranged marriage to an odious cousin that she doesn't love can save her.  Enter Cedric Thorn, the representative of the glittering court.   Adelaide pretends to be a lady's maid and enters into a contract with Cedric's father to save herself and provide a future of her own choosing.

I thought the concept for the book was interesting though much of the plot felt contrived.  I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.  I gave it three stars for helping me pass the time. 

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Product Details   This is another book that was on my pile for a long time.  It was part of my Barnes and Noble settlement.  ( There is little that makes me happier than $140 in free books from Barnes and noble after all the shit they put me through!)   At any rate.....

I really have to think about this one.  This is a story about Coralie and her father who run a museum of sorts of extraordinary things.  Sometimes the things are fossils, rocks, skeletons... and sometimes they are living creatures.   Coralie is just a child at the beginning of the story, and her father never lets her into the museum.   Then, when she is finally old enough, she discovers that she is to become an exhibit. 

The cruelty that Coralie suffers at the hands of her father was extremely difficult to read.   He was a real charlatan.  I know that seems like an oxymoron, but there you have it.  

I didn't love the story.   I had difficulty reading it for the above stated reasons.  It shifts often , not just from past to present, but also from the perspective of the different characters.  It was distracting.  I would just get involved with one character and then off we go to talk about something else.  The back stories were necessary to both character and plot development but it was done in such a manner that it felt like I was watching the Blair Witch project all over again.

My favorite character was Raymond Morris, aka The Wolfman.   Raymond was born with an abundance of hair on his face.  He travels to New York where he believes that he will be able to walk freely, accepted but that is not the case.  Instead of acceptance he finds bigotry, hatred and fear.  It's heartbreaking.

I really wanted to love this book but I didn't.   I gave it three stars because it has something and if you can get over the cruelty and the sadness, you will find what that is.

This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends by [Nijkamp, Marieke]

This is the stunning picture of a school shooting from inside the auditorium.  It's told from both the victims' and the perpetrators perspective.  I am not always a fan of books that shift from character to character to tell the story, but in this case,  I thought the format really enhanced the power of the story being told.

The book is told over the span of 54 minutes.  It starts in the school auditorium after an assembly.  What starts out as an ordinary day turns out to be anything but.   This is yet another reminder of why it is so important to help those in need and not to isolate our fellow man.  Although this story is fiction, we all know that the possibility is all too real. 

How does  something like this happen?   What makes a person snap and commit this kind of atrocity? I thought this author did a fantastic job at giving us an inside glimpse.  I think it is an excellent read for high school students.   I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Doubt by C.E. Tobisman

This was one of my options for Kindle First.  For those of you who don't have a Kindle, each month with my Kindle Unlimited membership,  I am offered a selection of about 6 books for free before they are available for purchase to the general public.  Have I mentioned that I love my Kindle??

I enjoy court room dramas.  My favorite books of this genre are The Pelican Brief by Grisham and The Exile by Richard North Patterson, just to give you an idea of my taste.   The premise behind this book is fascinating - a new law associate with a background in computer technology is assigned to a case involving GMO's.   This book has a little bit of everything - suspicious deaths, witnesses on the run, intrigue, excellent courtroom drama.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The only aspect that I didn't like was the trite "romantic" involvement that ends predictably.  I could have done without it.  I will look for more works from this author in the future.  I gave it three out of five stars.

You by Caroline Kepnes

Product DetailsThis is another suspenseful thriller.  It had also been waiting for a long time on my TBR pile - that's what happens when your pile is literally thousands of books long, I guess.  At any rate, this is the story of  obsession. 

Guinevere Beck, "Beck", is an aspiring writer who lives in New York City.  One day, she goes into a local bookstore where she mets Joe, a clerk who works there.   Joe becomes fascinated by Beck.  He searches her on the Internet, stalks her on Facebook and it isn't long before he has insinuated himself into her life.

This book was terrifying for me because it shows just how easily someone can get information about us on the internet and those we love.  When I was younger, I had a stalking incident.  It's scary when people get into your head and your life.

The further Joe and Beck become embroiled, it becomes increasingly difficult to see just who is really stalking who.   There are so many characters, and we come to see that almost all of them are both victims and perpetrators in some way.

This book had so much potential but there were aspects of it that took away from the story.  I didn't like Joe's language, though I suppose it was real - the way a 20 something year old would probably talk. I also found it difficult to relate to the characters.  While they were fascinating, I wouldn't say that they were sympathetic.  And finally, this book really made me question just what is underneath a book store?  Perhaps I don't really want to know.  I gave it three out of five stars.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Product DetailsI put this one on my TBR pile ages ago.  It was recommended by Book Riot and the synopsis sounded interesting.  When I received my Barnes and Noble settlement,  I purchased this one.  My book club is also reading it for our September selection.

The story is about Nora, a somewhat reclusive writer, who receives an invitation to the "Hen Night"  of a long lost friend.  Now if you, like me, are American, you may have no idea what a hen night is - it's a bachelorette party. The story takes place in Great Britain and that is what Bachelorette parties are called there.

Nora is a London dweller and this party is way out in the country - off the beaten path.  She hasn't seen her friend, Clare, since they were in high school together. She agrees to attend when another mutual friend is also invited.  The cast of characters are rich, off beat and engaging.  There is Flo- the organizer of the event, the new mother, the gay guy, the mutual friend, Nora and, of course, Claire.

I loved the style of this book.  It moves backward and forward through time -not so often as to be distracting - but in such a way that  builds suspense and supports the story.   There were so many questions and for every one that the story answered, new questions would arise.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns in the plot.  I loved this one so much that I immediately purchased her new book, The Woman in Cabin 10.  I'm looking forward to reading it.   I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Half Year Review UPDATE

This is a review of my progress of the three reading challenges that I am doing for this year.  While I did not repeat books within any challenge, titles have been repeated between challenges.  New titles are in bold.  So far I have read  85 out of 130.

PopSugar Challenge:
Newbury award winner - The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Nebula / Hugo Winner - The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.
Booker Prize - Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Martel
Russian Classic - In the First Circle by Aleksandr Sholzhenitsyn
Book of Poetry - A Bit of Tickle for the Mind by Melinda McIntosh
Self Help - Positive Thinking by Hanif Raah
YA Books - Emmy and Oliver by Robyn Benway
Sports Themed book - The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football by Jack Cavanaugh
Biography JRR Tolkien
Fantasy- Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Sci-fi - All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Dystopian - Flawed by Cecilia Ahearn
American Literature   Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Non- Fiction Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
Historical Fiction - The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissolm
Best Seller - Morning Star by Pierce Brown
a Debut novel - The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford
Book with Alliteration in the Title - Little Lamb Lost by Margaret Fenton
A book because of it's cover - You Me Him by Kris Dinnison
A book with Summer in the title - A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard
A book with Winter in the title - Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong
A book with a Yellow Cover - Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Author Shares my first name - Twisted by Laurie Halsie- Anderson
New Author from 2015 challenge - The Men we Reaped by Jessmyn Ward
A book set in Asia - The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
A book set in the state where you were born - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
A book about your heritage  Brooklyn by Colm Tobin
A book about a state you would like to visit - We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Main character has the same profession as you - Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
A book your father loves - The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
A book about an island - A darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
Main character is an animal - Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde
book dealing with social issues -  All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
a book about time travel - The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
a book with Pirates - Stardust by Neil Gaiman
retelling - A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Published in 2016 - Doubt by C.E. Tobisman
a book about books, book sellers or bookstores - The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
a book over 100 years - Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
a book outside your comfort zone - The Humans by Matt Haig
a book you got for free - Gifts of the Blood by Vicki Keire
inspirational story - Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan
Guilty pleasure - The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Doesn't fit anywhere else - The Glass Sword by Victoria Avelard
Brit lit - Never let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
erotica - The Woodsman by Scarlette Belle
Adventure Novel - To Kill the Potemkin by Mark Joseph
a book everyone's read but me - Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
a book about heroes - The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
protagonist of a different gender - The Life we Bury by Allen Eskens

Read Harder Challenge
a book based on a fairy tale - A court of Thorns and Roses
National book award winner - How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
YA Best setter - Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige
book set in your home state - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
a book translated into English - Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
romance set in the future - Smoke by Dan Vyletta
a book under 150 pages - Never Never part 3 by Colleen Hoover
A NY Times best seller - Pretty Baby by Mary Kubrica
Book that's become a movie - The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
a book recommended by someone you just met - When We Collided by Emery Lord
self improvement book - Positive thinking
A book you can finish in a day - The Distance Between Us
a book written by a celebrity -
a political memoir
a book 100 years older than me -
a book with 600 pages - After by Anna Todd
Oprah Book - The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
science fiction - The Last Girl by Joe Hart
recommended by a family member - Confess by Colleen Hoover
published in 2016 - The Hopefuls byJennifer Close
Same occupation - Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Takes place during the summer - Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble
Murder mystery - In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
written by a comedian
A book of Poetry - A Bit of Tickle for the Mind
First book in the bookstore - The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher
20th century classic - Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
book about a road trip - How to Save a Life by Emma Scott
a satire - Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
a book that takes place on a Island - Wreckage by Emily Bleeker
a book that brings you joy - A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads Challenge
a book you meant to read in 2015 - You, Me Him
a book set on a different continent - Bring Up the Bodies
a book from the goodread awards - Confess
a book by an author discovered in 2015 - The Men we Reaped
a book with a title that starts with L - Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer
highest rated book on my TBR list - I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
a book about books - Little Paris Bookshop
a classic with less than 200 pages - The Pearl by John Steinbeck
a book mentioned in another book
an author you should have read by now
a book from the Rory Gilmore challenge - Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time by Mark Haddon
a childhood classic - The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
readers choice - a court of mist and fury
a book with Who, what, where, why or how in the title - What She Knew by Gilly MacMillian
a book set in the past -  Titans by Leila Meecham
a book in the top 100 mystery novels (current) - Drowning Girls by Paula Trieck Deboard
a book with a beautiful cover - 1000 Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole
a book on a summer reading list - Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeil
non-fiction - Hana's Suitcase
a book with a first name in the title - We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
a book from the goodreads recommendation page - Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
First book in a new series - Gifts of the Blood by Vicki Keare
The next book in a series - Ignite by Sara B. Larson
a between the numbers book - The Straw King by Danielle Paige
main character has an interesting profession -  Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
book buzz -  It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
book with a beautiful title I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
biography or memoir
author uses more than one name - Stars of Fortune by Norah Roberts
Fairy Tale from another culture - The Forbidden Wish
YA - Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
historical fiction - Dollbaby by Laura lane McNeil
16th book on my TBR list - Little Lamb Lost
book about mental illness- When We Collided by Emery Lord
award winning - the hero and the crown
book about a different orientation - George by Alex Gino
seen movie by haven't read- Stardust
Anti - hero - After by Anna Todd
Previous Suggestion that didn't make the list
favorite genre novella - King of the Beasts by Danielle paige
top 100 fantasy novel - a court of thorn and roses
about things that go bump in the night - Finding Jake - Bryan Reardon
embarrassed to read in public - Bookishly ever After by Isabel Bandeira
related to hobby or passion - Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart
crime story - This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
food or drink in the title -
Dystopian - The Last Girl by Joe Smith
great opening line -
written in a different language - My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Short story from a well known author - Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
published in 2016 - The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeil

Product DetailsThis book is like a combination of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"  meets Miranda Beverly - Whitmore's "Bittersweet"  - both books I loved.   I have had this one on my TBR pile for a year now, and thanks to the settlement with Barnes and Noble,  I finally finished reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!

It's the story of   Ibby Bell, AKA Liberty Bell.  Born on the 4th of the July,  Ibby grows up far from her southern heritage, but tragedy takes her back to New Orleans to meet a grandmother that she never even knew she had.   In addition to her  grandmother,  Ibby also meets her grandmothers help - Queenie and Dollbaby.  She learns the "rules"  for dealing with her grandmother and all her quirks.

This book is part historical fiction and all wonderful.  I never really realized the importance of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights act at the time, but I realize now that  it meant everything to blacks in the south and the implications that this law had for their lives was tremendous.  This book really helped me see and feel their struggle.   I loved every single character.  It's a quick read -  I finished in a day.  5 stars.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong


I read this book for my book challenge.  The category was a book with winter in the title, but I could also have used it for historical fiction.   This is the story Halina Shore, a forensic dentist who goes to Poland to help solve a mystery from the past.   A mass grave has been found in Poland.  What happened to the Jews?   Were they slaughtered by Germans?  Or their own countrymen?

This book is a mystery wrapped in a mystery.  Halina was born in Poland and then moved with her mother to Australia after the war.  But as Halina begins to pursue her own past, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book.  The bits about Mitochondrial DNA and forensic dentistry were fascinating.   I loved the scenes in the court room where they discussed how information of this type can be used to identify a perpetrator because I found courtroom thrillers ( good ones anyway)  completely fascinating. After Halina goes to Poland and begins her investigation,  the book tends to lose it's way, and then finds it again at the very end.   It started off so promising and then drags a little.   Three stars.   I'm glad I read it but I felt it was a bit long and a little too dense in parts.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Product DetailsThis book is actually a collection of related short stories.  Each chapter is about a different one of Hattie's children and through them, we get to know Hattie herself.  I usually avoid Oprah books like the PLAGUE but, the truth is, this book was on my TBR pile long before Oprah thought to mention it.  I've waited so long to read it because she did.  As an aside,  I avoid Oprah books because people read these books because a celebrity tells them to - a celebrity who has no more sense of literary value than you and I and perhaps less.  I have often found these books to be wanting, never quite living up to the hype that big O generates.

All that aside,  I found this book to be full of occasional brilliance surrounded by pages of mediocrity.   Some of the stories I just loved.   I felt every bit of Hattie's pain as she held Jubilee and Philadelphia.  I understood her dissatisfaction with her wayward husband and her shame that was a result.  I admired her strength of character as she chose to do what was right for Ella, even though it was so painful for herself.

Then, there were the other moments.  What was the point of Six's preaching?   Why did Hattie fight so hard to keep her granddaughter from falling into the same pattern?   Why did Billyups sister make him so co-dependent on their relationship?  How could any character, considering what their mother went through, look down on another? 

This book left me with as many questions as it answered, but perhaps maybe that is the point.  Definitely thought provoking and insightful into the lives of characters I would not have otherwise met.  I absolutely enjoyed the historical references and found them to be accurate.  Overall, a four star rating in spite of Oprah.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Product DetailsI read this book for the winner of the Newbery award category.   This work won the award in 1985.   Plus, it has a dragon on the cover.  What could be cooler?

This is the story of Aerin, first sol of Damar.   She has been waiting and waiting for her Gift to appear, as it should in those of the Royal blood; however, by the time she is 15, she is still waiting - unusual for her family.   The people blame her mother - the "witchwoman" of the North.  They say that the king was ensorcelled and compelled to marry Aerin's mother who died when Aerin was born because she was not a boy.

In Aerin's land, dragons are a nuisance.  They are dog size and go around eating farm animals and small children.  No one really wants to bother with them but someone has to.  So Aerin becomes a dragon slayer.  But what would happen if one of the Great Dragons were left?  Who would there be to fight?  And what if that isn't the greatest threat to Damar?  And where is the Hero's Crown that is meant to protect them? 

All these questions are answered.   I usually love action/fantasy books especially with a strong female lead.  That was not the case here.   I loved Aerin and especially her care of Talat, her father's war horse.   But many of the main characters were undeveloped, especially the villain.  As fantasy's go, just ok.   I gave it 2 stars.