Thursday, December 25, 2014

Acceptance

Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy, #3)Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the last in the Southern Trilogy, Acceptance is a most fitting title. By the time you are done you have come to a certain acceptance that you may never know all the answers, but you know enought that it feels like you can let go. I have my theories of what the point is but I will save those for discussion with those who have read it. I have often read reviews that treat all 3 as one book, and really you do have to read them in order and altogether. Altogether it was an amazing journey...crazy, dark, bizarre, beautiful, confusing, and enlightening journey. If you have ever felt like you are reading the same plots over and over, this trilogy is for you...

View all my reviews L

Authority

Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, #2)Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a sequel to Annhilation, it was much more lucid but not very forthcoming on answers. For every question it answered, there seemed to be two or three more that popped up. Still, great writing, and such imaginative writing! and it gave just enough answers that I eagerly reached for the third installment...

View all my reviews

Annihilation

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the most confusing, bizarre book I have ever read. It both haunted me and inspired me. It is the most unique book I have read to date and I both loved it and hated it . I loved it because it made my brain hurt trying to figure out what is going on, why, how? And hated it because the ending shouldn't leave you with that many unanswered questions. So glad the sequels were already out when I began this journey....

View all my reviews

The Giver

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As one of the first dystopian YA books, you can see its influence reverberate throughout many of the others that followed. It doesn't have the action that some of the later renditions add, but it raises important questions and helps us question what is important and what sacrifices we would be willing to make for a "perfect" world...lessons that sometimes get lost in these later reiterations.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tenth of December

Tenth of DecemberTenth of December by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of short stories that investigates the worth of a soul. What is our obligation to other people? What would we do/ give up for another person? What would we do if someone was going to die? What about just being raped? Why do we view some people's lives as having more value than another's? Is it money, race, intelligence, moral goodness that makes someone better? How much worth do we view our own life? Overall the stories were uplifting, though a few were disturbing (in a good thought provoking way). There is some language and sex, especially in the first two stories, but the last story, the title story, is a definite must read.

View all my reviews

Five days at memorial

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged HospitalFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fink did an excellent job of presenting the facts in an objective manner. By laying out the story in only the words of eye witness interviews and testimony, she refrains from judgement from those who weren't there and those who would "couch quarterback" it after the fact. What we discover is that these ethical questions are not as clear cut as we'd like them to be.
I will admit that by limiting herself to testimonies and interviews, sometimes I was confused on who was being referred to...was "the frizzy haired lady" Dr. Pou, I'd wonder, and have to look up her physical description again. Also, some of the events were told multiple times by different viewpoints and that was hard to keep the timeline straight. My ebook had no pictures either...that would have been useful to help picture it. I'm not sure I came up with a judgement myself on what happened The only people who will truly know what their motivations were are the doctors and nurses involved....and perhaps they don't even really know. But I do know that when a crisis comes and I am in charge, getting enough sleep, encouraging resourcefulness, keeping morale up and not allowing fear to spread are things I have learned that make the difference in good decision making.

View all my reviews

The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this as an Amazon prime free book, and as such was not expecting a lot. It turned into a fun read...a cross between ABC's Once and Night Circus with a little Harry Potter fairy dust. It 's a rather typical YA fantasy, but that's not a criticism. It was mostly whimsical and then had bits of really gory bits that seemed a little jarring. That and the overused trope of the young girl falling for the much older guy, again, were my only criticisms. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the author was Mormon at the end.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Empty Quarter

The Empty QuarterThe Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This tries to be a fast moving suspense novel. It is paced ok. I liked learning about the PJs. But the plot seemed silly and ultimately unsatisfying.

View all my reviews

My Dad is Fat

Dad Is FatDad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jim Gaffigan is hands down one of my favorite comedians. He is clean, and talks about kids and food, two things I relate to well. But being a stand up comedian doesn't always translate to a book. Half of what is funny is the delivery,and while there are a ton of funny episodes, it's not the same as hearing the "voices" and seeing the "faces". Also, some of the jokes get a little trite after 100 or so pages of the same "my kids drive me crazy but I love them" or "yeah, so I'm just a big kid, what do I know about parenting?" However, there are definitely some funny stories, and parents raising younger kids would probably really relate and find it even funnier.

View all my reviews

Wheelmen

Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy EverWheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever by Reed Albergotti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't have a lot of "heros" per se. I enjoy Marvel movies purely for my kids reactions. I don't watch major sports, and definitely don't think anyone in Hollywood is above reproach. But I couldn't help but admire and root for Lance Armstrong. He won the Tour de France so many times! After he had cancer! I watched the PBS special about his unique body chemistry, which allowed him to win so much. I followed his training for the NY marathon, and chuckled when he admitted it was harder than it looked. I admired his Livestrong campaign and bought all the hype of him being an amazing athlete, a caring Dad, a survivor of cancer who gave back and inspired others. When he went on trial for doping, I was among the many who rolled my eyes and called it a witch hunt. When he confessed to doping, I was shocked and saddened. And I thought I could just shake my head and move on. But I've always wondered how and especially why...so when I saw this at the bookstore on vacation, I picked it up to get some answers.
This book is great at going inside the inner workings of a bike team, how it is run, the competition and jealousy within the ranks, how the peleton works. It also explains how the doping worked, and how it was funded. So now I knew how and a little bit of why, but the book tries to sell an Armstrong so demanding, so controlling, so duplicitous, that it strips it's own credibility to describing what Armstrong was really like. Yes, I am sure previous books by and about Armstrong filtered out the negative, but this one filters out any good. They downplay his dedication and relentless training and imply any advantage was solely on doping. But they also imply doping was prevalent among all the team leaders, but there was never any in depth coverage on that. Was Armstrong winning against those who were also doping? Or were they clean? The book talks about doping among all the top teams, but never makes this clear. Also, the doping charges were a bit of a witch hunt in the fact that they focused entirely on cutting Armstrong down. He doped and so they were not happy until he was fired from his nonprofit and banned from any and all professional sports. The authors painted the prosecution as David going up against the evil Goliath with zealous righteousness and justice. But by focusing so much on Armstrongs failings, the book came off as one sided and the prosecution came off as those who wanted to kick a man when he is down, again and again.
I am still disappointed that there Armstrong did not turn out to be the image he projected, but I can hardly believe he was as evil as the book would like you to believe. He is just an amazing athlete who got caught up in the trappings of professional sports. He is intense and at times unlikeable, but not a monster. If anything, I am cynical now of any athletes accomplishments. Is there any sport that is truly "clean"? And if everyone is doping, can we truly single out one athlete as "cheating"?

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind of TraitorOur Kind of Traitor by John le Carré
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, le Carre! I am delightfully devastated once again. Some may find le Carre's description of every eyebrow raise, every rubbing of hands, every cough and hiccup to be slightly overdoing it, but to me, it makes me feel like I am there, breathing the same air, tasting the cheese, sweating on the beach. I become invested in the characters like they are my family. I save le Carre for vacations because I become immersed so fully in his world, and at the same time, somehow see and feel my own reality more deeply. Sometimes the endings don't tie up so neatly, but that makes the endings just as real as the rest of the book.

View all my reviews

Supreme Justice

Supreme JusticeSupreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was surprised that Collins was not a first time author. I felt like the story was WAY too predictable. I caught the mole and his betrayal almost as soon as he had done it. The motive of killing justices to reform the court was identified early on and then the story went nowhere. There was a whole chapter of his daughter deliberating about sleeping with her boyfriend...for no apparent reason. The only reason I gave it 2 stars was because it was set in DC and I was in D C when I read it, so that is always fun. And the quotes ahead of each chapter were thought provoking. But if you are in oh, say, KY then maybe you should skip it.

View all my reviews

A Corner of White

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeline, #1)A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute, quick read. In this YA novel about Madeline living in this dimension and Eliott living in another dimension in the land of Cello, who end up connecting via letters transferred thru a crack between their worlds. At first I found all the characters a little too eccentric. It was like Moriarty was trying to recreate a Neil Gaiman book, but without subtlety. Then I was afraid it was turning into a cheesy YA romance. But somewhere in the middle, the characters developed some depth, and I came to enjoy reading about these teens grappling with what truth is. Just like white light contains all colors, sometimes it is too bright to look at, and like objects that absorb certain wavelengths, and create color by rejecting other wavelengths, sometimes truth is too hard to see, and we see only what we want to. I loved the bits of trivia about color, Cambridge, Newton, and Byron. It is a Y A novel that has a bit more to it than it first appears.

View all my reviews

I, Claudius

I, Claudius (Claudius, #1)I, Claudius by Robert Graves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very well written "autobiography" of Claudius as he witnesses the rise and fall of the emperors of Rome before unexpectedly becoming one himself. I will admit I got bogged down a little in the just how wicked everyone seemed to be. There was killing to get gain, killing to get money, killing to create fear, killing for revenge...so much killing...how was anyone alive? On that level, it was a bit depressing, but the fact that it was based on history was very interesting...if I were to teach ancient history, this is how I would do it. I loved the quote "“, that there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth.” And “And if by serving the cause of truth we admit our revered ancestors to have been cowards, liars, and traitors? What then?" I loved that discussion of history...wouldn't that be a great thing to discuss in a class? Do we really want our heros to be human? Lots of great history, ideas, and writing.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chasing the Sun

Chasing the Sun: A NovelChasing the Sun: A Novel by Natalia Sylvester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great read....well written, great characters, suspenseful story line. If you can see the ending coming before the characters do, it's only because we are usually the last to know what we should do with our lives. It brought up questions of how we live our lives in the same way until a crisis forces us to reexamine our lives and our relationships. Will we shut down, move on, or move back? And is moving back the same as moving on?

View all my reviews

Monday, April 7, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

RMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, # 1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this original, action packed novel. I thought the ideas and characters were fresh and interesting. The plot was unpredictable yet made sense. The pictures which were the inspiration, were fun to see. Ironically, the authors desire to fit these pictures into the thread of the narrative felt contrived and broke the flow of the novel. The very inspiration for the novels brilliance was also the most irritating part of the novel. I loved the story, but it might be a bit dark for younger readers.

View all my reviews

The Marriage Plot

EThe Marriage PlotThe Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book because it was $5 and had the words Pulitzer Prize on the front. (Also I thought it was a book whose glowing review I had read, but I was mistaken: upon double checking, that book was The Newlyweds). The first 100 pages or so are almost unbearable. I believe one of the goodreads reviewers used the word Pretentious. It opens on graduation day at Brown and you are introduced to a bunch of Pretentious 80's intellectuals who base their relationships on what obscure author they are reading or what philosophical class they are taking. Since no one, even the "poor" students have a job, they can sit around and theorize about all sorts of crap. But because I can never not read a book once I've started, I slogged along and it actually got a little more interesting. Mainly because a couple of the characters had to actually deal with real life; namely, manic depression, and a religious exploration. I found both of those story lines well told and thought out. I especially appreciated that an author would allow a smart, Pretentious youth to search for meaning in religion. The ending was also satisfactory and refreshing. I never did like the Pretentious heroine though. And the book had more sex in it than needed to be there.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1)The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book. Recommend for everyone wanting a clever, fun read. Was told this was an easy read, but I mistook it for a short read and got caught at book club not having finished it....(the downside of e books). But loved everything from the beginning to the touching end.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Time Machine

TThe Time Machine (Signet Classics)The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We read this for book club. It was a good early foray into science fiction. Someone pointed out that it was Wells that coined the term time travel. Indeed, the argument for the possibility of traveling in the Fourth dimension was intriguing and the most logical argument for it that I've come across. Still while the story of the time traveller was interesting, it didn't hold either the interest or horror for me that it would have for earlier audiences. Too much apocalyptic literature these days, I suppose. In fact, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman must have borrowed a lot from Wells, because it reminded me a lot of each other. It would be nice if someone travelled into the future and found out that we didn't annihilate ourselves, though. It wouldn't be as interesting, but I'm just sayin, it would be nice.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Night Film

Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. Though I will add the caveat that I have a readers crush on Pessel ever since I read Special Topics.... And I have been eagerly awaiting her sophomore novel ever since. So I might be biased. But I wasn't disappointed.
First of all, can I say I loved the apps and all the extra stuff that came with it?! It made the book that much more alive, and I sort of became obsessed with it. Yes, I read everything on the "syllabus" and looked up to see if I could find the ending of the story of Bartho Lore. The whole app thing made me giddy and it was not disappointing.
I liked the characters, and loved going down the rabbit hole with them. I didn't find the "multiple endings" annoying, rather it leads to an ambiguity that would have made Cordova proud. Another criticism I came across was that Cordova's films didn't even sound that scary. I think that shows little imagination or understanding of scary movies....it is rarely the plot that is scary but rather the way it filmed, the score, the tension, that makes a thing scary. And I assume that Cordova was the master of it. I found it interesting that the plots of his movies all dealt with depravity of man without any supernatural elements. I can't help but think Pessel did this intentionally.
The other thing I appreciated: though the novel had all of the elements of horror...supernatural stuff, S&M clubs, spooky kids, dream sequences, it was all very PG. But in no way boring.
What was distracting, I will agree is the abundant use of italics. At first I even thought there must be a secret second novel made up of the italicized words...there were so many! Also, she describes Ashley with dark hair and then has colored pictures of her with light brown hair...distracting!
Other than that, loved it and will try to be patient for another 7 years while Pessel reinvents another genre.

View all my reviews