Monday, April 17, 2017

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo   This book seems so simple, but it isn't.  It's a beautifully written work about issues that are difficult and deeply personal.  Issues that  we, as a society, are struggling with how to deal with and yet this breaks it down into such an understandable  and personal way.

Andrew knows that there is something wrong.  All of his life, he has felt off, like something was missing. 

Amanda is the new girl at school.  Just like all teenagers, she wants to fit in, make friends, fall in love.   But Amanda has a secret and she is determined not to let down the walls protecting herself for anyone..... until she meets Grant.

If you read one book this year - this is it. I gave this book to my mother and it opened her eyes and changed her heart.   This book proved to me, once again, the power of words.  They can raise awareness, make us more compassionate and ultimately change the way we view our world.  This book is so much more than it seems.  It's a powerhouse.  Read. It. Now.  5 stars and I would give it more if I could.

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

This is the third installment in the Red Queen series.   The second book left us with quite the cliff hanger.  Mare has agreed to turn herself over to Maven in order to secure the safety of her friends.  What's ahead for her is literally a living hell.

I loved this book because it demonstrates, once again, what a strong character Mare is.  She has focus and a strength of will that many would  be lacking.   I love the way that this author brings the story full circle for the Lightning Girl.  Will she be able to escape the Kings Cage only to fall into another?  I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I will say that  I can't wait to read the next part of Mare's story. 

This is YA at it's best.  5 stars.

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull   I wanted to read more nonfiction this year.  This was  one of the first books that I chose.   I have to say, it didn't disappoint.

I had no idea exactly what was behind Pixar.  The creative minds, the practices they employed, the cultural changes that they were involved in - fascinating.

Ed Catmull wanted to work for Disney since he was a child.  When he had his opportunity, they offered him a job as an engineer creating rides in their theme parks.  He took a pass.  It wasn't his passion, it wasn't what he wanted to do.  But honestly, how many of us pass up on our dream because it was just a little shy of perfect?

All the greats are here:  Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, George Lucas and the list just goes on.  I found this book fascinating and riveting.  I was inspired.  5 stars.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Our Chemical Hearts Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

This is a story about high school.  It's a story about first love.  It's a story about life.  My daughter's favorite librarian recommended this one to both of us, so I gave it a shot.  Perfect for the "recommended by a librarian"  part of my reading challenge.

Henry has never been in love.  He thinks he is impervious.  He wants to survive his senior year, become editor of the school paper and move on.   Then he meets Grace Town and his romantic heart begins to beat.  I'd say that Grace isn't like other girls, but I hate it when books and reviews say that - it sounds so trite.  Grace becomes the co-editor of the paper and Harry discovers that there is something very mysterious about Grace. 

I don't want to give the plot away.   So I will just tell you what I liked about this book instead.  I love that the reader gets the full flush of exactly what young love feels like - the rush of hormones,  the urgency of it all.   I love that the reader also comes to understand that sometimes  love just isn't enough. I gave this one four stars.   I highly recommend it for 8 - 12 graders.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Star- Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi   This was one of the 15 books from my TBR pile that I committed to reading this year.   I'm so glad I did. It got bumped up on my pile when I realized that it's sequel will also soon be released.

This is also a story by an author from another culture that I don't really know much about and I have been trying to expand my reading horizons.    Maya, the main character, is cursed.  She is born with a horoscope that promised death and destruction in her wake.   Her father arranges a competition of sorts which will allow Maya to chose her husband.  Her father's intention is to betray that choice and the results are disastrous for his kingdom and surprising in many ways for Maya.

There are so many interesting characters in this book.  Maya herself,  Amir- her husband,  Kemala - the talking demon horse ( a personal favorite) and Maya's younger sister , Gauri.

I thought this book was original, creative and wonderfully told.  I'm looking forward to the next installment,  A Crown of Wishes.    I gave this one for stars.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood  If you have read any of my prior blog posts, you already know that I am a fan of Margaret Atwood.   Her revolutionary The Handmaid's Tale opened my eyes to so much that is currently going on and alerting me to what could be going on.

I had to read a book based on myth for my challenge.  Greek mythology and the Odyssey, in particular, have long been a favorite. This tells the familiar story but from Penelope's point of view.   We see the cunning Odysseus from Penelope's eyes and we also witness the events leading up to the Trojan war.   Penelope rightly tries to dissuade Odysseus from going off to war, but he refuses to listen and the result is quite tragic for Penelope. 

I'm sure, if you are reading this, you are familiar with the story so I won't bore you with my humble attempt at a summary here.   I will say that I found the treatment of Penelope's handmaidens to be the most interesting part of the story both in this life and then, their judgement of Penelope in the afterlife.

I gave it three stars.  Not because it isn't well written but because I was hoping for a more than rehashing of an already familiar story.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler   I read this one for my "book recommended by a favorite author".   This book was recommended by Margaret Atwood, so I thought I would give it a try.  This is the story of  Lauren, a minister's daughter growing up in a possible future of ours.  Her world is effected by global warming and the blight of greed.  Her family lives in a neighborhood community behind a wall that they have to guard to protect themselves from outsiders.   These outsiders come in and pillage the food the community is growing and steal much needed resources.  

Lauren's brother, Keith, decides that he will go into the outside world and make a way for himself.  He doesn't think that the outside world is as bad as everyone says it is.  Needless to say, that doesn't end well for Keith or his community.  Lauren is the only one who appears to see what is truly happening in the world around her and to be preparing for what she knows will come.

The book has many interesting philosophical questions in it, particularly regarding the nature of God.  I found it interesting and thought provoking but not enough so to continue on with the series.  I gave it three stars.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

I've waited for a long time for Veronica Roth to come out with a new book.  I loved Divergent but by the time Allegiant came out, I felt that the story had gone horribly astray so it was with some trepidation that I read this book.  

In a world where everyone develops a currentgift - or power meant to help them achieve their destiny - Akos and Cyra receive more of a curse.  One's gift is to give and share pain while the others is to hear nothing with their gift but silence.   Akos comes from the peace loving  nation of Thuhve, while Cyra comes from a warring tribe of  Shotet.   Somehow the fates or the current bring them together.

I enjoyed reading this book thoroughly.  I loved that, like Tris,  Cyra is an extremely complex and strong character.   I love how through the course of the story she  comes to accept her gift.   Akos is very different than Four.   He is strong and capable - a good leader - but he does it in a quiet way. 

I look forward to reading the rest of the series.  I gave it four stars.

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks  If you have been reading my blog, then you know that I am a Sparks fan.  That said, though,  I find his books to be hit or miss.  As I see it - the hits -  The Notebook, A Walk to Remember,  The Longest Ride, Safe Haven, The Guardian,  The Last Song and The Lucky One.  The  misses -  Message in a Bottle,  See Me,  The Best of Me,  The Wedding and any others not mentioned here.   This book actually fits into neither category.

It was extremely well written.  It's a beautiful story about the relationship between a man and his daughter - great for a Father's Day book club discussion.  It also has wonderful familial relationships built into the story, particularly between Russ and his sister.   At it's core, the story is about the things we do for the people we love.

So here's my criticism, if you want to call it that.   I admired Russ but I didn't love him.   I usually read books to learn about things I'm unfamiliar with - a different time, a different place or to escape from my daily life.  This book didn't provide either.  It was just ok.

I gave it three stars.   No more - no less.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn  I was curious about this book because I loved Nick and Nora's Endless Playlist.  I didn't know that other, similar books had been written.  I needed a book set around Christmas for my goodreads challenge and I thought this one would be perfect.

Lily is a 16 year old girl living in New York.  She's an original.  She loves books, her grandfather, her dog walking job and intelligence.   This Christmas, her parents and grandfather are out of town, leaving Lily with her brother who is in a new relationship.   He devises the idea of leaving a notebook with a treasure hunt, if you will, in a red moleskin notebook in Lily's favorite bookstore on the Strand.

That's how Lily meets Dash.  A boy who loves books, his independence and intelligence.   They correspond through out the book mostly through the exchange of the notebook.  They go on crazy adventures and finally meet one another.

This book was fun to read and even had me laugh out loud in a couple of places.  It was a fun jaunt, perfect for a holiday read.  Not life altering just enjoyable.  I gave it four stars.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight  I'm a fan of Kimberly McCreight.  I loved Reconstructing Amelia that I read a few years ago.   She is one of a handful of authors who I will read without question.

Molly has been struggling with the unexpected loss of her second child while still in utero.  Like any mother, she blames herself.   She became depressed causing a strain on her marriage and on her daughter.   To get away, she and her family move to a new place and Molly becomes resumes her job as a journalist with a small paper.  She usually handles the social columns but, while the lead reporters are out of town, a story lands in Molly's lap.  It's a murder - and the victim is a newborn baby.

Molly's husband is afraid that the story will bring up Molly's depression about the loss of their own child, but Molly feels like this is a story that she has to tell.

There are so many twists and turns through this cast of memorable characters.  I really enjoyed reading it.  I gave it four stars and I love that I never saw it coming.  At least not completely.

A Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson  This one has been on my TBR list for a very long time.  Finally, one of my categories for my Goodreads challenge was a book from another's  list.  What did I find?  Here was this book, just waiting for me.

This is the story of Lia,  a princess whose parents have arranged a marriage with a neighboring kingdom to solidify peace.  Lia wants to be able to marry for love, like her brothers, so she runs away to make her own destiny.   With her she takes secret documents from the Chancellors secret stash.

Lia is a very different type of princess - willing to get her hands dirty, work hard,  and sacrifice for her friends.  She doesn't care about fine clothes or jewelry.  In fact she leaves it all behind in her quest for finding a better life.  All she takes with her is her best friend and they find work in a tavern.

While there she meets many interesting characters  - some who want to help her and one  who wants to kill her.  Will she be able to discern the truth and do what is right?

I gave this one three stars.  I really liked Lia but the story got a little long winded and convoluted in parts.  That said, I will continue on with the series because I think it has a lot of promise and I want to know how Lia's story ends. 

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick   I need a book with illustrations and my children have long been fans of Winnie the Pooh.  I found this absolutely gorgeous book at the local book store and I just new that my students would love it - an all around win!

This is the true story of Winnie -  the bear, the REAL bear, that Winnie - the - Pooh was based upon.   She was found by a veterinarian at a train depot - on a leash after a trapper had killed her mother.   The young veterinarian, Harry Coleburn, payed $20 to save the bear back in 1917.   He named her Winnie after his home town of Winnipeg.   She became a beloved member of his regiment, but when they were sent to the front lines,  Coleburn sent Winnie to live at the London Zoo.

It was there that she met and befriended Christopher Robin Milne who was allowed into Winnie's enclosure because they had such a good and true friendship.   Christopher Robin named his own stuffed bear after Winne - who was a GIRL, btw - and the rest, as they say is history.

This was a wonderful, wonderful book with fabulous illustrations.  I would recommend it to anyone.  Five stars.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher  This was on my list as a Christmas gift.   I had it for the book written by someone I admire and book about someone with a disability challenge.   When Carrie Fisher died just after Christmas, I was devastated.  I grew up loving Leia and wanting to be her.   She was the first "princess" in my lifetime that showed me that we could save ourselves.  And the boys, too.

Of course I've been a Star Wars fan all my life.  I saw the first one when I was 7 years old.  It made quite the impression.   I loved Luke Skywalker - what can I say?  I was young.   Things changed when Empire Strikes Back came out and my taste for tall, dark and handsome was firmly settled.  I never knew that Carrie and Harrison had a relationship in real life, though it definitely doesn't surprise me.

I loved reading Carrie's reminiscing of that time during her life.  She didn't glamorize it but just gives it to the reader straight up -no chaser.  I hadn't read any of her other books but I was delighted to see how conversational her writing style was and most of all how absolutely hysterical she was.  I'm definitely adding the others onto my TBR pile. 

This could be nothing less than 5 stars.  I loved every minute and most of all, I loved getting a clearer picture of the girl behind the buns. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad     If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I usually avoid Oprah's book choices like the plague.     I find them usually to be over rated and the lemmings that do whatever Oprah tells them to perpetuate the illusion.  It was worse when she had her talk show but it's still bad.  Try this tea!  Oprah loves it!   So?  I most often feel that Oprah wouldn't know a good book if it bit her on the ass, but occasionally we all get lucky.

No I don't think it's the best book of the century but it is beautifully written with deep and compelling characters. I adored Cora.  I thought she was brave and smart.   In fact the only characters that I didn't like are the ones that  the reader isn't supposed to.

Parts of the book - the plantation, South Carolina, the transits..... were action packed and riveting.  Other parts - North Carolina - for example were a little slow and dry.  That's why this book only gets a four not a five.  I enjoyed it.  I'm glad I read it but it didn't quite make me feel what Cora felt, see what she saw, smell what she smelled.  I just feel slightly shy. 

Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

Twisted Fate by Norah Olson  I read this one for the story told from two perspectives task  of my goodreads challenge.  This is the story of two sisters -  Ally and Syd and their new next door neighbor, the hot boy, Graham.

Of course one sister is pure and good and light.  She's blonde and listens to her parents and gets good grades.  She's bland and boring.   Then there's Syd - who's dark and bad and troubled and smart.   Have a I mentioned that I really hate when authors use such a trite mechanism as physical attributes to define a character.  Ugh.   This book was not off to a good start.

Grahm is trouble.  He's parents think he's "gifted" and "artistic" but the only one that seems to be onto him is Syd.  I thought this book was going to be two sisters in love with the same boy.  I'm glad it at least had a little more meat to it than that.

I found what the story grew into to be surprising and disturbing.   I gave it three stars based on the fact that it wasn't as awful as it initially appeared and the author did provide unexpected plot twists.  I probably wouldn't read another book of hers though.

Fang by James Patterson

Fang by James Patterson   I started to read the Maximum Ride novels when I was younger.  I really enjoyed reading about Max and her flock, but I never finished the series.  My youngest reminded me of it when she came home to tell me about this "awesome" book she had been reading. 

So, I decided that I would pick it up and finish the series.   I chose this one also for a book with a strong female lead because I think that anyone who has read this series can agree that Max is that, and even though the title of the book suggests it's about Max's male counterpart, it also does a fantastic job showcasing what an excellent leader Max is.

It was a quick read and fun.  Two more to go - Angel and Nevermore.  I gave this one four stars.  I love James Patterson.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly  My goal is to read more nonfiction books this year.  This one was number 1 out of 12.   I also read this for my reading challenge task book being made into a movie. 

When I was a girl,  I had trouble with math.  When I was in highschool, I asked a teacher for help.  His response was, "Don't worry about it.  You're a girl and your brain will never understand algebra".   Because of him,  I took four times the math requirement in college.   This book made me feel so vindicated in so many ways.

I loved the story, though it was a bit dry at times.  I think this is often the downfall of nonfiction - they have so many facts that they feel they have to work into the story that it weighs it down.  For example,  I didn't need to know how much they made doing laundry during the summer. I get that provides background knowledge of the characters but it didn't feel relevant to their work for NASA.

I'm really glad that this story was told and that this women were finally given the recognition that they deserve.  I really want to see the movie at some point.  I gave this one four stars.  Worth reading.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Rbbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskalainen

The Rabbit Back Literature Society   The first book of the new year, but not my first book for the 2017 challenge.  I've been working on that for a few weeks now.  I read this book for the author from another country category.    When I first picked this book up, in spite of the author's name, I had no idea that this was the case.  I had no idea that the author was from Finland and with my recent Backman  fascination,  I guess I'm starting to have a thing for Scandanavian writers.

This is one of the most original books I have read in a long time.  It's the story of Ella, a substitute English teacher who lives in the small town of Rabbit Back.  Here, the famous children's author, Laura White, is the local celebrity.  She has chosen 9 children to become members of the Rabbit Back Literature Society.  It is her intent to raise them up to be writers, which does, in fact happen.

After submitting a story to the local paper, Ella is invited to join the society.  This book is about what she learns after she becomes a member.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns and that it really kept you guessing.  The Game was a bit creepy, in my opinion.

I think that this book would also work as Magical realism because it definitely works to bridge the every day and the magical.  There is even a touch of horror in the story.  I gave it three stars.