February Book Reviews (2015)

I actually didn’t get much reading done this month! I was trying to read several books at once, mostly nonfiction, and it took me a while. Needless to say, I’m ready for some fun stuff – not that these weren’t fun, but I need a brain break! Plus, I realized that it’s now past time for me to read the next book in the Outlander series…and I still haven’t finished book 3 of Game of Thrones. March may be “epic books month.” We’ll see.

Ratings

I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

Groomed For Murder (Pet Boutique #2)3 starsI loved the first one. The second was good….but I didn’t love it quite as much. Izzy kinda got on my nerves this time and the story was a little too predictable. The rest of the characters are great, and I still love the setting. Plus, I can’t wait to try the enchilada recipe in the back. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how it goes if I ever get around to it.) The third book should be out sometime this summer, and I’ll definitely pick it up.

One Brave Dog: Journey Beyond the Forbidden River3 starsRead the review here.

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer3 stars

This was our February book club book. I’d never heard of Montaigne. Turns out he’s considered the father of the modern essay (not school essay, but personal essay). Bakewell’s book is a pseudo-biography that uses examples from his life and his writing (sorta) to answer the question, “How to live?”

Montaigne would have been a blogger, I think. He was all about looking inward and figuring out why he did the things he did. In a way, the book was a mix of philosophy and psychology with a good bit of history thrown in. I was expecting to read Montaigne’s writing – but other than short quotations, there isn’t any of it in here. I’ve got his Essays on my list for next month.

This is the kind of book that I think you really have to be willing to give a shot. It’s not an easy read, but it’s not terribly tough either. But, if you’re not at all interested in philosophical musings it’s probably going to put you to sleep. What I liked was that it made me think, and it made me curious.

That said, there was a lot…and I mean, a LOT….that I think could have been left out. At times, reading the history of the time periods was pretty interesting. Other times, I had no clue why it was being presented, because it made no difference to the “answer” Bakewell was presenting. I thought about half of the chapters made sense, but the other half felt like she was grasping at straws. I also think that I went into it expecting something different, and that probably messed me up a little. I was looking for more of a commentary on Montaigne’s writing, and this book wasn’t that. It was a biography, but that’s a little hard to remember with a title like “How to Live.”

What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul

2 starsThis was a Blogging for Books book, and by rights, should have its own post. Meh.

I was really excited about this. I read Intuitive Eating last year, and this book seemed like it would be similar. Plus, Deepak Chopra is supposed to be THE GUY.

Honestly, I had to force myself to finish this. There were a few things that were valuable, but mostly, I just felt like I was being lectured. Like Chopra himself was standing over my shoulder berating me. He wants you to give up all the bad stuff (including alcohol and cheese and meat), and he wants you to love doing it. He wants you to pay attention because as soon as you do, you’ll realize you don’t like alcohol and cheese and meat. And he wants you to sit at the table with your family because if you don’t you have an unhealthy home life.

And then there was this line…”Self esteem allows you to look at chocolate cake and think, “I’m not doing that to myself.” EXCUSE ME? Since when is chocolate cake the devil? (In context, I think what he’s attempting to say is that if you feel good about yourself you can make a conscious choice about whether you truly want the cake or not, but the connotation is that chocolate cake is bad.)

I mean…ok. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with him on everything, but the whole thing was so black and white. Like, just do what I’m telling you and you’ll be happy. And thin. Because you can only be thin if you do these things.

I’m sure that’s not what Chopra intended (or maybe it is?) but I got really tired of his self-importance. I did enjoy the medical information – there are a lot of good explanations about how nutrition and your body works. Would I recommend this book to anyone? No. I especially would not recommend it to someone looking for “a solution to permanent weight loss.”

Station Eleven5 starsWait, what?! A five-star??!! Have we even had any of these since I started doing these monthly reviews? (Yes. Two – Ready Player One and A Little Something Different.) They’re rare. Sometimes Jimmie tells me I’m too strict in my ratings. Sometimes I think he’s right, but then I come across a book like this and I think, nope. This is why I’m strict. Because if I gave every book I enjoyed a 5-star rating, then there’d be nothing that told you THIS IS AWESOME. Because they’d all be awesome. Anyway.

This book made its way onto my radar when our book club decided to read a National Book Award finalist (you may remember that book. Ugh.) I’d read a couple reviews of it, and finally got around to reading it. First of all, this book is 10 million times better than All The Light. And. Since it didn’t win, I can’t even imagine how good Phil Klay’s book is, so I’m going to have to read that to find out. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic story – it’s a little hard to explain, so I’ll honestly just refer you to the description. I’d make a mess of explaining it.

I think this is the kind of book you either love or you hate. I was about a quarter of the way into it, thinking, meh, this is ok…not bad, but not really grabbing me either. But I was curious, so I kept going. It’s not a hard read, though I wouldn’t call it easy either. A little over halfway through, I was hit with the most visceral reaction. I had to stop reading. All I could think was….when did this book become so real? When did I start to feel like I was in the story, and when did it suck me in? Days after finishing, I still have no idea when it happened, but it did. All of a sudden, it was real and I was both terrified and horrified and knew I was going to have nightmares. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a horror story at all. But, it’s intense. If you’ve ever read The Road, it’s the same kind of feeling.

The more I read, the more beautiful the book became. I loved the ending – if you can even call it an ending. Most of the book you’re kinda scratching your head thinking, where is this going, and then you find out, but the story is left open. Not open like there’s going to be a sequel, but open like there’s any number of possibilities and the author wanted to let you choose. It’s one of those books that this ending works…I was so glad she didn’t feel the need to wrap it up nicely with a bow.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for days – and I woke up twice in the middle of the night with my heart racing and feeling like I’d been scared to death. Will I read this book again? No. Will I recommend it to everyone I know? No. Do I think it’s an excellent book that fans of this style of fiction should read? Absolutely.

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)

4 stars

This is the second book in the Spirit Animals series, about four kids who call “Spirit Animals” and then have to save the world. Basically. Each book is written by a different author, and it shows a little bit…I enjoyed Book 2 more than Book 1. That said, Maggie Stiefvater tends to get a little too “romantic” for my tastes, so I got kind of annoyed by the not-so-subtle flirtations going on between two of the characters. I kept thinking…this is for kids. Get that out of here.

Otherwise, though, I really enjoyed the book. Meilin is still a whiny brat, but she’s growing on me. Rollan is flippant, but we’re starting to see a little more depth. Conor is the classic hero, and Abeke is the underdog. It works.

There was a lot more action in this book, and the battle scenes were fairly well done. I love that the Spirit Animals play such a big role in the story – sometimes I like them more than the main characters.

Blood Ties (Spirit Animals, #3)3 starsStill enjoying this series! I didn’t like this one quite as much as #2, but I’m still definitely hooked on them. So far, it seems that each story sort of features one of the kids a little bit more than the others. This one was Meilin, and she’s just not my favorite. I do love Jhi though, her spirit animal.

One thing that kinda bugged me though – and that I hope doesn’t continue as the series progresses – is that there are characters in Book 2 that I really enjoyed. Some of them you sort of know what happens, why they aren’t in Book 3. But some of them, it’s like they never existed. I want to know what happens to them!!!! I realize the story isn’t about the extra characters, but still…give me a little more closure!!!

Book of the MonthThis shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone after that review….. February’s book of the month is….

 Station Eleven

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

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