June Book Reviews (2015) – Part 2

June books, part 2!!! Read Part 1 here.

fire and ice3 starsGoodreads DescriptionStrange things are happening at the frozen edge of the world. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan have crisscrossed Erdas in their quest to stop the ruthless Conquerors. Only the four of them, supported by the gifts of their legendary spirit animals, have the power to defeat an evil takeover. While chasing down a lead in the cold north, the heroes arrive at a quiet village where not everything is as it seems. Rooting the truth out of this deceptively beautiful place won’t be easy – and the team is already out of time. The Conquerors are right behind them.

After Still Alice ripped out my emotions, I needed something brainless and actiony. Enter children’s fiction. This is the 4th book in the Spirit Animals series, and so far, my least favorite. Still good, but not as interesting as the others have been. Still, at barely 200 pages it’s worth continuing the series.

all the birds2 starsGoodreads Description: Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But there is also Jake’s past—hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

This is one of those books that I read, but I’m not entirely sure what happened. It jumps back and forth a lot, between the present and the past, and it’s not easy to follow. The writing has sort of a lyrical quality to it, and while it’s not a terribly interesting story, I wanted to keep reading because it sounded nice in my head. If that makes any sense at all?

I really think this is another one of those books that probably would have deserved an additional half star….because it wasn’t totally a chore to read. It just wasn’t what I expected or hoped for. The ending is completely left open, which would probably bother some people, but really didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t really invested in the book to begin with.

toxic3 starsGoodreads Description: In this remarkable self-help guide, Dr. Susan Forward draws on case histories and the real-life voices of adult children of toxic parents to help you free yourself from the frustrating patterns of your relationship with your parents — and discover a new world of self-confidence, inner strength, and emotional independence.

This book has been on my list for a while. I’m not beating up my parents. It’s one of those books that’s frequently on the list of self-help “must-reads,” and frankly, I kinda figure there’s something in every self-help book that might possibly help me out. Well, no. That’s not true. There are a lot of self-help books that are terrible.

Let’s start over. I’ve had this book on my list for years, mostly because I was curious, but also because as much as I love my parents, they made mistakes and I wanted to see what this whole book was about. There were some interesting points, but mostly, it was pretty superficial. It was a quick read, and while I won’t say don’t read it, I’m also not sure how much you’ll get out of it if you think you do have toxic parents and really need to work on things.

martian5 starsGoodreads DescriptionSix days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

THIS BOOK. Oh man, this book. It’s sort of Ready Player One meets Cast Away, and it’s fantastic. I’ve heard a million things about it since it came out a few years ago, but it wasn’t until seeing a preview for the new movie that I finally decided to read it. Yes, I’ll admit it. Hollywood totally influenced me here. I don’t care. I’m glad something convinced me to move this book up in the “must read it now” list.

The Martian is a pretty quick read. It’s a feel-good story through and through, and it’s funny, and it’s kind of mind-boggling. Some people might get a little tangled up with all the space-talk….but don’t let that distract you from the rest of the story. I had no clue what Weir was talking about half the time. It was fine.

I can’t say enough about this book, so just pick it up and read it! (Preferably BEFORE the movie comes out – though I think Matt Damon will do a killer job with this character.)

margaret3 stars

Goodreads Description: If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl’s first reading of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would rank near the top of the list. Adolescents are often so relieved to discover that someone understands their body-angst that they miss one of the book’s deeper explorations: a young person’s relationship with God. Margaret has a very private relationship with God, and it’s only after she moves to New Jersey and hangs out with a new friend that she discovers that it might be weird to talk to God without a priest or a rabbi to mediate. Margaret just wants to fit in! Who is God, and where is He when she needs Him?

I know, I know. This is like…the quintessential tween book. And here I am, about to turn 31, and I’d never read it. So I did.

It was cute, and I think I would have really enjoyed it had I read it as a kid. It deals with a lot of girl stuff, like periods and popularity and boys. The religion thing isn’t a huge deal, so don’t go by the Goodreads description. I mean, yeah, it’s in there, but to me there was a lot more to the book than Margaret’s quest to find God.

Book of the Month

June’s Book of the Month was a little tough. Both Still Alice and The Martian were excellent reads. In the end though, I have to go with The Martian, simply because I think it’s got wider appeal.

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!