Week 31 – 2017

Starting over…. I’m going to be positive. I just bought a very expensive vacuum and gloated about it (and doing it again). Officially a grown-up. Weird. My TBR is sort of out of control, but I am trying to fix that. Unfortunately, I keep going for the books on my kindle instead of the actual books piled in stacks in my apartment. My mother was sort of horrified the last time she was here. At the same time, I bet she has even more books in her house. They are just not all in one place. Week 31 covers July 31 – August 6. Feedback will be cherished if you leave any. I’m going to try a new format. Let me know if you hate it.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This was a book club pick. I loved it. No one else was able to follow it at all. I get that most people aren’t into opera and that the story does bounce back and forth between the past and the present. So this is about an opera star and it tells all about how she got there. It is set mostly in Paris during the Second Empire (Napoleon III for those of you that aren’t quite so nerdy about French history as I am). Lilliet is presented with a new opera, an original role, but when she reads it, realizes that it is based on her actual past and she needs to find out who revealed her secrets, ultimately leading her to find someone she assumed was dead. I loved it no matter what anyone else thought about it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Backstrap by Johnnie Dun – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. I love shipping containers. It’s just one of those things. It’s all about math. They are pretty little boxes that you fill with other boxes and then you fit them all together on a boat and send them places. It’s like Legos with velocity as an actual grown up job. Someone actually pays me to do Geometry all day long. I love it. I requested this book on NetGalley because it had a shipping container on the cover. And then it turned out to be about a smuggling ring. The story was exciting and intriguing. Callie goes to Guatemala to find her friend Rachel and ends up in the middle of a drug and human smuggling operation (though it made the novel more exciting and allowed it to flow better, I’m pretty sure I’d never send both of these things together on one boat but I’m not actually a criminal, so who knows), which may cause harm to her family. It was really different from most of the books I read and I really liked it. You don’t have to be a logistics or shipping nut to enjoy it either, so don’t be put off by the geekiness of my review. There is little to no actual math in the book itself.

An aside, Hapag-Lloyd is mentioned (I hope the spelling was fixed in edit) and I happened to read that part on a day that I had spoken to someone from Hapag-Lloyd (my favorite steamship line) twice on the phone, and that almost never happens. It made me laugh.

I’m giving this one 4 stars.

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is another book club pick. Different book club. I thought this was very informative and really well written, but also sort of dull. The only character that I really liked was Tesla. This is a novelization of the patent war between Edison and Westinghouse over the light bulb patent. Tesla and Bell are also characters in the novel as well as Westinghouse’s young lawyer and a young stage performer. I’m not entirely sure if those last 2 were real people or if the author made them up. I would Google it, except I don’t actually care. One thing I thought was excessively weird was that the author used quotes from modern technology innovators as the chapter headings. Quotes from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the like seemed out of place to me. But I get why the author did it. I’m giving it 3 stars.

 

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen – I borrowed this as an audiobook from the BPL. This is a full play and it has a full cast reading.  This author was totally creepy. His plays, probably not the actual author. This was a guy before his time. In this, a mother is trying to make amends for her sexually depraved, deceased husband. She has spent the money intended for their son on building an orphanage. Which then burns to the ground after the local pastor (parson? minister? whatever) advises against insuring it, and may have actually set it on fire himself after hearing the depravities of the man it was named for. And that is just the surface of all of the things that happen in the play. It was good. It was a bit disturbing. I’m giving it 3 stars.

Genevieve’s War by Patricia Reilly Giff – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is supposedly a children’s book, middle grade or something of the sort. I loved this author when I was a child, so I requested it in a Goodreads giveaway. It is a wonderfully well written book with a great story and definitely the sort of book that children should be reading. It tells the story of Genevieve who gets trapped in Alsace with her grandmother as World War II is beginning and the Germans are about to reclaim Alsace as their own. Had I known this was about Alsace, I would have started this much earlier, as that was where I did study abroad in college. Gene helps her grandmother to take care of the farm and she helps her friends in the resistance, all under the nose of a German staying in their house. Gene makes some mistakes along the way but her bravery and perseverance are her best assets. I basically read this in one sitting. I definitely recommend this one, even to adults. I’m giving it 5 stars.

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via Netgalley. This book is absolutely stunning. This author just keeps getting better. This tells the story of Lilly who spent the first 10 years of her life locked in her parents’ attic. Her deeply religious mother calls her an abomination and there are no mirrors allowed in the attic, so Lilly doesn’t understand why this is the case. I was having flashbacks to reading Flowers in the Attic, which the author admits to being a fan of. One night, when her father is away, the mother sells Lilly to the circus. And you’ll have to read the book to find out what else happens. It also tells the story of Julia who has run away from Blackwood Manor (same house with the attic) and is struggling to make ends meet until a lawyer tracks her down and informs her that she has inherited Blackwood Manor upon the death of her mother. Julia returns to her childhood home and starts unraveling the mysteries contained within. There is also a strong theme about cruelty to animals which adds an extra layer to the novel, sort of filling it out. I thought this was truly wonderful and I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next. I’m giving this 5 stars.

And that is it for Week 31. A couple of these were impossible to put down. Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions as to what I should be reading next.

 

 

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Week 30 – 2017

Apparently, when you are busy for one weekend, it is easy to get behind schedule. I hope that you are all enjoying the summer! I know my mom friends are ready for fall. Week 30 covers July 24 – 30. I’m going to hop right in. Let me know what you think. Feedback, as always, is greatly encouraged.

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is non-fiction. I’m not sure I realized that when I requested it from the library. It tells of one of the first women lawyers in New York City. Through research and detective work, she solves many cases and rights many wrongs. When a young girl goes missing, the family requests her assistance. Unfortunately, the book isn’t just about that particular case, which is very interesting, but about the entire biography of this woman. It’s good and it’s interesting, but in my opinion, it’s too long and a lot of the material could have been eliminated. But that’s just my opinion. I’m giving it 3 stars.

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is White Trash Zombie #3. Sometimes you just need to read something for entertainment. I really enjoy this series. There is something about the main character that appeals to me. She may be white trash, and a zombie, but she’s making every effort to make the best of things and turn her “life” around. Before you judge, you should just read them. They are entertaining, there’s always some sort of mystery, and the writing is good. I’m giving this one 4 stars.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is a psychological thriller of the highest order. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. Annie’s mother is a serial killer and after she turns her in, she is given a new identity and a foster family to look after her, while waiting for her mother’s trial, where she will be a witness. Bit by bit the story is revealed but Milly tries to keep her secrets safe from her psychiatrist foster father. The play within a play is Lord of the Flies which is an apt representation of the girls at school. Though I did find it weird that an all girls school would put on Lord of the Flies, as it is all boys in the novel, but the author’s reason became apparent. This book was excellent. I definitely recommend it. I’m giving it 5 stars.

That’s it for Week 30. As usual, my book selections are all over the place. If you have any comments or recommendations for future books, please don’t hesitate to leave a note. I love hearing from all of you.

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Week 29 – 2017

Hello Everyone! I’m going to jump right in today. Week 29 covers July 17 – 23. As always, feedback is encouraged.

Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes – I borrowed this as an actual book from the Boston Public Library. I love this author. Aside from Me Before You, I thought One Plus One was outstanding. This book is short stories and they all have a bit of a twist to them. They are single serving delights. The title story is quite good and there is another one about a jewel heist that I especially enjoyed. I’m giving this 4 stars.

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. I will read ANYTHING about ballet dancers. This one is incredibly good. It tells the story of 2 sisters who are competing for spots in the same dance company. Kate is quickly becoming a drug addict and Gwen had to return home to deal with a recent bout of mental illness. Kate is haunted by the fact that she was the one to alert her parents but also she questions her judgment and whether it was jealousy that lead her to turn in her sister. I thought it was beautiful in every way. I’m giving it 5 stars.

A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi – I borrowed this as an audiobook from the BPL. This is a collection of short stories by an Italian author that was imprisoned in Auschwitz for 11 months. In one of the stories, he re-imagines his capture by the Nazis. I thought that was the best one of the lot, but they are all good in their own way. I like a different perspective. I’m giving it 3 stars.

 

The Return by Hisham Matar – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This was something I recommended. This is a memoir by an author who returns to Libya in order to find out the truth of what happened to his father, since his kidnapping 22 years prior. I thought this was brilliant. It sort of reads like a novel, and I kept having to remind myself that these were not characters in a story, but rather actual people who really lived. It is incredibly well written. I’m giving it 5 stars.

And that is it for Week 29. Let me know what you think. I love hearing from all of you.

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Week 28 – 2017

Greetings Book Lovers! I’m really closing the gap this year. Week 28 covers July 10 – 16. As always feedback is encouraged. Also remember that these are just my opinions and something I didn’t like a great deal could be your next favorite book, so keep an open mind. I love all of the books, but not equally or without bias.

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. It’s funny. It’s entertaining. Did I totally love it? Not really. I think I need a better imagination to totally get this one. So dragons I get, in theory, except not too sure how they don’t set fire to themselves. But there is a lot of weird ass shit in this book that my brain didn’t really like. Like swapping the brain of a lion for a worm. Really? And I get the concept that a dragon might be able to grow a new tail or new horns, but an entire foot? Or a wing? That just seems improbable. Of course I had no problem with nanobots, so I’m sort of all over the place with this. If you just accept this book the way that it is, it’s quite funny. I’m going with that. I’m giving it 3 stars.

The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff – I borrowed this as an actual book from the Boston Public Library. This was a book club pick. A member of the group had The Orphan’s Tale on a list that they brought to the June meeting so I suggested this earlier book by the same author. I liked it nearly as much. The only criticism I have is that it wraps up a little too nicely in a bow. But it’s a novel, so I guess whatever. Maybe I’m just a little too used to all of the best characters dying. This may also be considered young adult or new adult, which tend to have nice endings. Nothing follows any real rules anymore. That seems to be the new rule. I didn’t even describe the book. Here is the synopsis. I’m giving it 4 stars.

The Devil & Sherlock Holmes by David Grann – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is non-fiction. It is different scenarios about obsession. The first is about a Conan Doyle enthusiast who ends up dead, mostly because of his obsession. There are murders and mobsters and scientists trying to capture a giant squid. It is all excellently researched. It’s quite impressive. The author did a great job with this. I’m giving it 3 stars.

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama – I borrowed this as an actual book from the BPL. This was another book club pick. I was actually late to the meeting because I was in a scramble to finish it. This tells the story of a Chinese student, Stephen, who is sent to Japan to recover from tuberculosis. The Japanese are in the process of invading China. Stephen stays in his grandfather’s beach house with a servant, Matsu, who takes care of him. There is an undercurrent of prejudice running throughout the novel. It is quite good and I liked it overall, but it’s not a very exciting book. I’m giving it 3 stars.

And that’s it for Week 28. I need to get going or Week 30 is not going to have any content. If you have any feedback, I love hearing from all of you.

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Week 27 – 2017

I’m nearly current! I’m really going to have to clean my apartment now. Week 27 covers July 3 – 9. At least 2 of these books made me cry, but I’m not telling which ones. You’ll have to read them to figure it out. As always, feedback is encouraged.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This book is amazing. Set during World War II, it tells the story of 2 unlikely friends, girls, who find themselves stranded in France when their plane crashes. They aren’t together. One has been snatched by the Nazis and the other is hiding in a barn with the help of the Resistance. One is apparently spilling all of the secrets while the other is trying to find her, rescue her, and get both of them back to England. The author makes a few leaps but doesn’t venture entirely into the improbable. This is fiction, and in my opinion, allowed for the sake of the story. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This was one that I recommended. It is Dark Artifices #2. This author has an incredible imagination. The original series was Harry Potter fan fiction (supposedly), but this has totally taken on a life of its own. Read Lady Midnight and then read this. I have no way to describe this without giving spoilers. This ends on such a cliff hanger that I didn’t even know what to do with myself afterward. It rips your heart out. And then stomps on it for a bit. And then rolls it around in the dirt. And then you wonder what went so horribly wrong. If you need happy endings and it bothers you when the main characters are all slaughtered at the end like something out of a George R.R. Martin, this is not for you. None of this author’s books are for you. I am anxiously waiting for the author to please write another. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Morningstar : Growing Up with Books by Ann Hood – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is a book about books. It’s an author’s memoir of reading. She tells about all of the books that lead her through childhood and into the adult she eventually became. She picks topics that the books helped to guide her through and books that really resonated with her at the times when she read them. I thought it was really interesting. She picks some books that would not have been obvious choices and I admire her for that. She is clearly someone who values all books for whatever they imprint on the reader. It’s really short and if you like books about books, I definitely recommend it. I’m giving it 3 stars.

You can probably guess which of these didn’t make me cry. So much for keeping secrets.

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Week 26 – 2017

I hope you are all enjoying whatever it is you do when the weather is nice. I’m still trying to force myself to be productive. If anyone wants to come clean my apartment, let me know, lol. Just kidding. No one will ever volunteer for that. So Week 26 starts on June 26th, which is fitting, and goes to July 2nd. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. Absolutely stunning. And this is a debut novel from a young author. I never would have guessed the ending, which is the best, in my opinion. I could not put this down. I keep blaming the weather for my tiredness, but it’s really this book. Nothing could convince me to go to bed yesterday before finishing. I highly recommend it. I’m giving this 5 bright, shiny stars.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is Kopp Sisters #2. I received the 3rd on in a Goodreads giveaway, so obviously I needed to read this one first. I really like these. I was first interested because of the cover of the first one and the title. They continue to be outstanding. In this one, Constance is the women’s jail warden and she needs to find a criminal that escaped on her watch. I thought it was great. I’m giving it 4 stars.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. by Samantha Irby – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This was something I recommended and they put me on the waitlist when it was purchased. Because obviously this cover. And the title. This is essays by a blogger and she’s really very funny. She talks about relationships and her cat, who she has imagined conversations with. She talks about being fat and how much the cat hates her and not being a kid person. I thought it was great. It’s totally relateable, which is sadly not a real word. It spoke to me. I got it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. I’m not sure what I thought this was about, but I didn’t expect it to be a romance novel, which essentially it is. One that everyone on the planet has read because it surfaces everywhere. It totally sucked me in and I read half of it in one sitting. I was late going to a friend’s house (where we promptly did nothing) because of this book. Even if you’re not normally into romance novels, I definitely recommend this. It’s well written, there’s an actual story, and it flows really well. I’m giving it 4 stars.

And that’s it for Week 26. Let me know if you have any opinions or any suggestions as to what I should read next.

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Week 25 – 2017

Hi All! I am getting really close to being caught up and I am super excited. So Week 25 covers June 19 – 25. As always, feedback is encouraged.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. I sort of love this author but her books are incredibly deep. The title refers to a Fred Astaire movie in which some of the characters appear in blackface. It’s sort of indicative of themes within the novel. It’s the story of dance and race and a bit of prejudice. I can’t really do this one justice. Even the blurb about it on Goodreads is not that great at giving an idea of what this is about. You’ll just have to read it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston – I received this as an actual book via a Book Riot giveaway. I thought this book was great. It’s a fangirl retelling of Cinderella. As in, the main character, Elle, is a super fan of a (fictional) TV series about outer space. When a new movie is being made with a new cast, she writes a post on her blog speculating about the actor that was cast as the lead. Then, of course, she decides to enter the costume contest at the nearby con. The other narrator in the book is the actor playing the lead in the new movie. When he tries to text the person running the con, he ends up with Elle instead. Of course neither knows who they are texting and becoming friends with. I’m not describing this well. You know how Cinderella goes. This is probably closer to the Ever After movie version (which I love), but modern and with geeks. I’m a little sad that I finished it, actually. I really liked it. I’m giving it 5 stars.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This was really interesting.I’d categorize it as fantasy. The main character is an ambassador from Earth who arrives on Winter where the people are genderless. It is an interesting concept. Of course, these people of Winter are afraid of the first emissary from planet Earth (Genly) and they cause assorted problems for the Genly and the people who try to help him and assert his agenda which is to bring Winter into an alliance with other planets. This is the story of friendship, ultimately. I enjoyed it. Le Guin has an amazing imagination. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is a really interesting take on migration. The main characters are living in a country that is at war. It is also a love story. There is also a hint of fantasy to it. Doors to other places begin appearing and people begin moving through them, not just from poor or war riddled nations, but also from nice places to other nice places. Entire communities of refugees begin to develop in some of the better places in the world. People encounter others and begin relationships that would never have been possible otherwise. Some people stick to their original culture while others explore new things and develop new aspects of their personalities. Late in the book, the author comments on what it means to be a native and how long a person’s ancestors would have had to reside in a country to be considered a native. I thought it was extremely intuitive and while the story itself wasn’t overly gripping, the author’s message was well thought out and very interesting. I’m giving it 4 stars.

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This one is really good. I couldn’t put it down. It definitely took way less than a day to read it. I had to force myself to stop periodically so that I could accomplish other things, but it was definitely a struggle. If all books were like this, I’d probably starve because no way would I ever leave my apartment. In this, Miranda is a cop in a small town and her past is about to come back to haunt her. A beloved professor is found murdered in a rather unsavory manner and the clues are pointing to Miranda as the murderer. I hope that doesn’t give too much away. It is so gripping. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys a good mystery. It gets extra points because I didn’t figure it out until the main character did. I’m giving it 5 stars.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. If you go into this thinking that each chapter is a short story collection of sorts, I think it will make more sense to you. This didn’t really flow for me until I started treating the chapters as separate entities. There is some overlap of characters from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I don’t know if this is meant to be autobiographical, but the pictures of the author suggest there is no way he gets this much game. Appearances can be deceiving, however, so who knows. I guess the real point here is that Yunior seems like a real person, which I suppose is a narrative feat in its own right. Especially if the author flat out made this dude up out of his imagination. I’m giving it 3 stars.

Thankfully, that was the last one. How did I finish this many books in a week? Some of these really sucked me in, though so I do get it. Others were nearly finished before the week began. As always, if you have any suggestions, let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

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