Friday, December 30, 2016

Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

Twisted Fate by Norah Olson   I read this book for my goodreads challenge - a book with two perspectives.  This is the story of two sisters, Ally and Syd, and one boy - Graham.   The book didn't have a very promising start, but since my goal this year is to finish what I start, I pushed on.  I'm glad this book turned out to be more than I originally anticipated.

Graham is the boy next store.  He's good looking and troubled - your basic catnip for teenage girls.  I originally thought that this was going to be the story of how one boy gets in between two sisters, but the story didn't quite turn out like that.

It turns out that Graham has a troubled past and it seems that he is up to his old tricks.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away here, but his activities are extremely troubling.  I was amazed at the way that he found to use the internet to cover his wrong doings.

I did enjoy the plot twists that finally came into play about 1/3 of the way through.  I didn't enjoy the author's trite way of describing the sisters - the "good" girl - sweet, blonde, apple of her parents eye etc.... and the "bad" girl Syd - dark, skater, smart, rebellious, troubled.   Please.  This is tired.  Because of that I gave this book a 3.  It was only Eh for me.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty  This was the first book crossed off my list for my 2017 reading challenge.   I really enjoy Liane Moriarty's books and this one has been waiting on my kindle for a while.  I'm glad to get it read.

This is the story of a friendship between two women -  Clementine and Erika.  Both are married, seemingly happily,  but only Clementine has children.   Erika is the child of a hoarder and because of the conditions that she grew up in, she is unable to have children.  She and her husband, Oliver, have undergone multiple rounds of IVF to no avail.  Finally, they decide to approach Clementine about being an egg donor.   That's the basic back story for this book.

Erika and Oliver invite Clementine and Sam over to ask.   Meanwhile, their neighbor, Vin, has invited both couples to a BBQ at his house to which Erika agrees.   The majority of the events unfold at the BBQ.   In typical Moriarty fashion, the story moves backwards and forward through the storyline until bit by bit, what truly happens the night of the BBQ  to all the participants, is finally revealed.

I used this one for my 52 week reading challenge - a book from the 2016 goodreads award.   I gave it 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reading Goals for 2017.

So every year I set a reading goal.  I may not always achieve the weight loss, but if reading were a way to lose weight, I'd be the skinniest bitch you knew.   Seriously.   At any rate, my primary goal this year is to be more mindful and present when I'm reading, and to read more non-fiction.   I have at least 12 nonfiction books on tap this year and I'm both looking forward to that and a little nervous about it as they usually take me longer to process.  I also want to focus on books I already own and read those first, so those books were prioritized on my list.    I'm doing two reading challenges - PopSugar and Read Harder.    I know a lot of my friends think that I'm strange for doing these challenges but really,  I do it to read outside the box.  Invariably I find that one book that I just love - like Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore - that I would never have read if left to my own devices. 
I also have to have a PLAN   So every year I find the challenge I want to do and then plan out what I'm going to read.   This helps focus my reading.  Sometimes I read something for a category other than what I planned but it's good to start with a road map.  Here is mine for 2017.   I must say,  at least for literature,  it looks like a promising year. 

Reading Goals 2017
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
8:37 AM

Goodreads 2016  AwardsTruly Madly Guilty

A book with two perspectives - Twisted Fate

A Book you meant to read in 2016 - Creativity, Inc.

A Title that doesn't have an E - Two by Two

Historical Fiction - Mischling

A book being released as a movie - Hidden Figures

Animal on the cover - Wild Ones or Memoirs of a Polar bear

Book written by a person of color - The Darkest Child

Middle of TBR pile - Boy, Snow, Bird

Dual Timeline novel - The Shadowy Horses

Category from another challenge- Some Boys

Based on myth - The Penelopiad

Recommended by a favorite author - The Parable of the Sower

A Strong Female Character - Fang

Written or set in Scandanavia- The Rabbit Back Literature Society

A mystery- The Perfect Girl

Book with illustrations- Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Book with 600 pages

NYT best seller- Modern Lovers

Already Owned  - The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Next in Series -  King's Cage

Author you haven't read before - Natchez Burning

BBC The Big Read list - The Wasp Factory

Written by two authors - The Queen

Book about a historical figure - Fire From Heaven

Adventure book - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Book by favorite author - the Horse Dancer

Non-fiction - Valiant Ambition

Indie published - The 100 Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Good Reads top 100 books - The Sky is Everywhere

5 words in the title - The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Magical realism - Bone Gap

Author from southern hemisphere - The Secret Daughter

Main character is royalty - Sisters of Treason

Hugo award winner - The City and the City

Random choice - The Bone Clocks

Inspired by Classical Literature - Solsbury Hill

Epistolary Fiction - The Readers from Broken Wheel Recommend

Published in 2017 - Carve the Mark

Unreliable narrator - The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Best book of the 21st century - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Chilling atmosphere - Cold

What should I read next - The Kiss of Deception

One Word Title - Heartburn

Time Travel - the Invisible Library

Past Suggestion that didn't win -

Banned book - Cut

Book from someone else's shelf

Penguin Classic - The Woman in White

Short Stories - Paris for One

Set in a fictional location - The Wrath and the Dawn

A book recommended by a Librarian - Our Chemical Hearts

A book from bottom of TBR pile - The Stastistical Probability of Love at First Sight

A book of letters - Memoirs of an Invisible Man

A book with a season in the title - When Autumn Leaves

A book that is a story within a story - Scythe

An espionage thriller - Red Sparrow

A Book with a cat on the cover -

A book whose author uses a psuedonym

Best seller from genre you don't read - Slammed

A book about a person with a disability -  The  Princess Diarist

A book involving travel - Doon

A book published in 2017 - A Court of Wings and Ruin

A book involving mythical creatures - Seraphina

A book that makes you smile - The Year We Turned 40

A book about food -  Heartburn

A book with career advice - The Energy Bus

A book from a nonhuman perspective - Tooth and Claw

A steampunk novel - The Subtle Knife

A book with a red spine - This is where they found her

A book set in the wilderness -

A book you loved as a child - The Outsiders

A book from an author from another country - Britt Marie was here

A book whose title is a character's name - Bridget Jone's diary

A novel set during wartime - The Zookeepers Wife

Unreliable narrator - Remember Me This Way

A book with pictures - Finding Winnie - the True Story of the Worlds most Famous Bear

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity - Love in the Time of Global Warming

A book about an interesting woman - A Woman's Crusade

A book set in a different time period - Mischling

A book with a month or day in the title - The Wednesday Sisters

A book set in a hotel - a Gentleman in Moscow

A book written by someone you admire - The Heart Goes Last

A book set around Christmas - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

First book in a series - The Shadow Queen

A book you bought on a trip -

A book recommended by an author -

A best seller from 2016 - Underground Railroad

A book with a family term in title - The Widower's Wife

A book that takes place over lifespan - Life After Life or dog book

A book about an immigrant - The Sun is also a Star

A book from a genre you've never heard of - The Slade House

A book over 800 pages - Shogun

A used book -  Johnny Got His Gun

Book Mentioned in another book -

Book about a difficult topic - If I Were Your Girl

Non- fiction to read:
Lost Girls
Leaving Orbit
No Better Friend
Spare Parts
How Children Succeed
Twelve Mighty Orphans
Girls of Atomic City
Darwin's Ghost

15 from TBR Pile:
The Book that matters Most
The Defense
Love and Summer
The Someday Jar
Gone Gone Gone
The Winner's Curse
Perfect match
City of Dark Magic
The Gift
The Unimagineable
Rebel of the Sands
Hawthorne and Heathcliff
The Outliers

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best of 2016

Because I just have to be contrary,  I couldn't possibly come up with the top 10 books of the year,  I could only limit it to 12.   I rated 36 books as 5 stars this year.  You can see them on my 2016 challenge here   2016 Good Reads Challenge by Rating.   But in my opinion, the following were the best of the best that I read this year:

12.   Dark Matter by Blake Crouch   I absolutely love Blake Crouch.  His work is mind bending and really makes you think.  It started last year with The Pines and then, I saw this one.  I loved it from start to finish.  So much so that the phrase "Somewhere in the multiverse...."  is now common in my family.  If you enjoy books that alter your reality and make you think, check this one out.

The Humans by Matt Haig   This wonderful work was a book club read this year.  It's the story of an alien who comes to Earth to stop us from achieving dangerous potential.  What he learns is how to be human.  It was so much fun to see how humans might be perceived by other intelligent life.  The advice given in the book on what it means to be human is some of the best that I have read.  Uplifting and unusual. 

10. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt  This was also a book club selection.  I would never have chosen to read this one for myself, but I loved it from start to finish.  As a child of the 80's  I remember Ryan White, the Aids epidemic and so much that happens in this book.   I loved the complexities of the relationships.  It was wholly satisfying from start to finish.

9.The Circle by Dave Eggers  I just finished this one and it still made it into the best of the year.   Very Orwellian in nature, I have no doubt that someday we will look back on this book and see how prophetic it was.

8. milk and honey by Rupi Kaur  I'm not usually into poetry but this book was so worth the read.  It's real and heartfelt and so relative, I really think that there is something that everyone can relate to in this book.  It's brave.  Probably one of the bravest things I've ever read because the author really lays herself bare for all the world to see.

7.A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole  This book looks simple.  I read it because I loved the cover and I thought it would be this quick and easy YA novel.  This book was nothing that I expected it to be.  It packs ALL the feels from the very first page! I laughed, I cried and I loved every minute.   I highly recommend it.

6. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult  Probably my favorite Picoult ever.  Previously my favorite was 19 Minutes, and if you read that book, you have to know how wonderful this one is to have unseated it as my favorite.  This tells a very complex story about race relations.  It's timely and it made me see my life in a whole new way.  It isn't every book that can do that.  Read it.

Mischling by Affinity Konar  Chosen by the NY Times as one of the best books of the year - they weren't kidding.  It's the story of a set of twins - Pearl and Sasha- who find themselves "patients" of Dr. Mengele in Aushwitz.   It's a timely reminder  of what happens when we register people and separate them for being different.

4. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman  This book and it's author, Fredrik Backman, was the discovery of the year.  I loved this book so very much!  This book tells relates how stories effect us and influence us, how we relate to one another through their pages.  Fredrik Backman is perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time.  Many authors write books but they don't all tell stories.  I also read A Man Called Ove and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer.  They were ALL 5 stars but this one was my favorite.  I already have Britt Marie was Here on my TBR list for 2017 and his new book, Bear Town, on automatic download on my Kindle.  This author is one who, whatever he writes,  I will read it.  He's THAT good.

3.It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover  The most powerful book I read this year.   What a great message told within a beautiful story.   I love Colleen Hoover, anyone who reads my blog knows I am a big fan.   This is her best - bar none.  If you haven't read it, stop what you are doing and read it now.  Now.

2.A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas  I'm in love with this series.  As much as I loved the original book, A Court of Thorns and Roses,  this sequel is 1000 times better.  I love the strong female characters but then, all the characters have a depth to them - all are more than they appear.  It's refreshing to read a writer who puts so much into character and world development.  I read everything that Sarah J. Maas writes - she never disappoints.  I am waiting on pins and needles for the next installment.  I MUST know what happens.   I had a book hangover for weeks after finishing this one...

and the BEST book that I read in 2016, and you can see it's in some pretty exclusive company...
1.Morning Star by Pierce Brown  I never thought I would elevate another author into the same sentence with Tolkien and Rowling but Pierce Brown wrote a completely original and compelling story that just captures the imagination.  I laughed, I cried, I HOWLED.    I can honestly say that no book has ever made me feel like I needed a cigarette when I was finished until this one.  It's exhilarating right up to the very last page - no kidding!   I loved all the characters, except those you aren't supposed to.  I wanted to crawl into their world and join them in their quest to live for more!  I can't wait for the release of Iron Gold in August of 2017.  Obviously on automatic download.   Pierce Brown - You're the Man! 

Red Rising series - GoodReads Book of the Year for 3 consecutive years and it is truly worthy of the honor.  Read it.  You won't be sorry.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Image result for the circle   This one has been sitting on my TBR list for over two years now.  I was finally motivated to read it when I saw that there is a movie coming out in the new year starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.  I love both of them!  We have a rule in our house - you can't see the movie until you've read the book.  It's a great rule and so,  I picked up the book and began to read.

It starts off slowly with Mae getting a job at a social networking company called The Circle with the help of her friend, Annie.   The book starts off with what her life is like at her new job, how utopian it is and how the Circle is helping so many people in many different ways throughout the world.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away here.

I will say that it took me about 135 pages to really get into the story but once I was in, things started to happen quickly.  I'd like to say that I can't see how things that happened in the book could happen in reality but the truth is,  I can see EXACTLY how those things happened.  I mean, I read a book and what am I doing?  I'm here on social media sharing my thoughts on what I read.  It's what we do. 

The Circle struck me as very Orwellian in nature and I suspect, that like Orwell, one day this book will be considered prophetic.  One quote in particular stayed with me and I want to leave you with it:

Secrets are Lies
Sharing is Caring
Privacy is Theft.

I gave this one 5 stars.  Powerful and thought provoking.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Product DetailsI'm not usually one for poetry but I had heard some buzz about this book and I thought that I would check it out.  I'm so very grateful that I did.  What I found upon reading was a braze and heartfelt examination of life, pain, love, and loss.

I enjoyed the fact that most of the poems in this book were succinct.  Each one used just precisely the words that it needed to.  It isn't verbose for the sake of using more words.  It's elegant.  I was able to read a poem or several poems at a time and really reflect on each one.  There is so much in this work, that while different from my own life experiences was powerful and relatable.

You were a dragon long before
he came around and said
you could fly

You will remain a dragon
long after he's left.

Image result for dragon

5 stars for this breathtaking work.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Product DetailsIt just so happened that I saw this book, with it's amazing cover, on the NY Times list for best books of the year.  Later that same week, it was on sale on Amazon for $1.99.   I love it when that happens.  I figured that I had nothing to lose!

This is the story of two twins, Pearl and Stasha, that happen to be Jews.  Their story begins on the train into Aushwitz when they are approximately 13 years old.   They are taken from their family and selected for "special treatment"  by Dr. Mengele because they are twins.

The good doctor does horrible experiments on children who are multiples and also those with any type of genetic mutation like dwarfism, albinos, etc.     While those selected are treated better than others at the camp in that they receive more food, they undergo the most horrific experiences.   The worst part of this particular story is to know that while Pearl and Stasha were likely not real people - Dr. Mengele and his experiments were VERY real.

This story seems particularly important in light of recent societal events - particularly the election of Donald Trump and his desire to create a registry of people.  Now more than ever, it is important to remember what happened the last time we allowed people to be categorized based on religion or nationality.  I gave this one 5 stars and recommend it highly.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Product DetailsJune and Delia were  inseperable when they were young.  Something happens as they get older which causes a rift between the two.   Apparently no one told them the old adadge - Boys are here today, but friends are here to stay.

At any rate, June, although estranged from Delia, is deeply affected when she learns that her former friend has committed suicide.  She barely has time to grieve when Delia's boyfriend shows up and convincers her that Delia was murdered.

June feels compelled to find out what happened to her friend.  She feels badly that she didn't help her in life, so she chooses to investigate her death.

The result is crazy, topsy- turvy ride that the reader could never expect.   I gave it only three stars because the story gets a little convoluted at the end and seems to lose it's way.  Still, it was enjoyable and I like it when I can't foresee how things will end up.   I gave it three stars.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendra Blake

Product Details Well, this story was really something different.   It's the story of three sisters- all born at the same time but with different abilities.  All meant to be queen, but in the end, only one of them will be.

They are separated at a very young age and given to their own faction - for lack of a better word - to be raised.  There is  Katharine- the poisoner.  She can supposedly ingest the most deadly of poisons without the slightest stomach ache.   Mirabella is an elementalist. She can light fires and conjure deadly storms.  Finally, the third sister is  Arsinoe - a naturalist.  She can control the forces of nature. 

On their sixteenth birthday, the battle for the crown begins. The three must fight until only one queen remains.  But what happens when one or all of the queens have a different idea for their own destiny.

The plot is wonderful.  Extremely original.  The writing style was somewhat simple which is what made this book a 4 instead of a 5.   I will definitely finish the story though and I hope that the story will grow as the series progresses. 

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Product DetailsThe forces of good send three angels to a small town to give the people hope, light  the way in the darkness.   There is Gabriel - the warrior, Ivy- the healer, and Bethany - a young angel with no particular relevant experience who falls in love with a mortal boy - something which is strictly forbidden, of course.

There must be some reason that Bethany was chosen for a mission like this, but what could it possibly be?  While she attempts to show the world love and goodness, she risks her own immortal soul.

I have a weakness for books about angels.  I guess it's my Catholic upbringing raising it's head;  but this one was just average.  While there are more books in the series,  I am unsure whether I will even finish it.   I gave it three stars.  It was entertaining while I read it, but I don't feel compelled to learn what happens to the characters as there story goes on.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone

Product DetailsI got this book on Kindle First.   If you aren't familiar with Kindle First, it's an amazing program which allows Prime members to choose one book to own one month prior to it's actual release date. You never know what you are going to get, but in this case, it was a real gem.

This is another case of an unreliable narrator.  Evelyn is unhappily married and her psychiatrist husband has prescribed pills as a sleep aid.  One night, after taking her medication,  Evelyn receives a call from her husband - he's hit a deer and he needs Evelyn to come and get him.   At the accident site, Evelyn thinks she sees another woman and begins to suspect that her husband is having an affair.

The book is about Evelyn before and after that night - how she responds to tragedy and stress.  It definitely took some unexpected twists and turns though I did think that Evelyn seemed to lose her way.   It was enjoyable, especially for a debut novel.  I gave it three stars.