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Book Club: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

About The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommendthereadersofbrokenwheelrecommend

Book Club: June 2017 
Hardcover: 
394 pages
Published: January 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Why We Picked It

The theme for June was In a Land Far, Far Away. We didn’t really come prepared, so I pulled out my “Book Club Recs” list on Goodreads. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend sounded promising, and since the main character traveled halfway across the world we figured it met the theme.

My Thoughts

Clearly, I have a thing for Swedish authors. By now it’s no secret that I’m a card-carrying member of the Fredrik Backman fan club. I also really loved the Millennium Trilogy (that’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), written by Stieg Larsson, also Swedish. As is Katarina Bivald.

Needless to say, I’m going to look for more Swedish authors, so let’s hear those recommendations.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is kind of a love story to books and small towns. Sara is a bit of a wet blanket, but for once in her life has decided to do something bold by traveling halfway around the world to spend two months in a town she’s never heard of with a pen pal she’s never met. Unfortunately, the pen pal dies right before Sara arrives, so she’s stuck in town and knows literally no one. It’s a relatively common theme, but one I almost always enjoy.

There are certainly books that do it better, though. Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a far better story. I found The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to be much too predictable and cliche. And unlike Nina, Sara doesn’t really grow as a character. Her situation changes because the backdrop changes…not because she actually makes changes.

I still enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong – a lot, in fact.

 

Book Club Discussion

This was another super short conversation. For the most part, we all agreed. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light, easy read, but not the best example of the books-about-books genre.

July/August Book Club Theme: Firecracker (Dynamic Characters)

July/August Book Club Book: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Book Club: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

thehateugiveAbout The Hate U Give

• Book Club: May 2017 
• Hardcover: 
453 pages
• Published: February 2017 by Balzer & Bray
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Why We Picked It

It’s relevant, it’s timely, it’s YA (our May theme), and it’s one of the most talked about books of the year already. And because our Book Club is in-the-know, you know?

My Thoughts

I’m always hesitant to review culturally relevant books, because unless I give them a 5-star rating, inevitably someone gives me the “how do you not think this is the most amazing book ever” reaction. And I get that, I really do – there are books that are well-regarded and well-loved not because they’re necessarily well-written, but because they deal with a theme that’s important or timely or taboo. And the other side of that is true as well – there are books that are loved because they’re well-written, but deal with robots and love triangles and neon-green puppies. In a way, that’s the beauty of books. Reading is a personal experience, and what speaks to one reader may or may not speak to another. Things that drive me crazy will no doubt seem inconsequential to some of you (and vice versa).

With all that said, I’d had several people recommend The Hate U Give as being an excellent book for our times. If you’ve had your ear even just a little bit to the book world, you’ve no doubt heard of it, and heard how wonderful it is. When one of the Book Club girls suggested it for our YA theme, I was more than happy to read it – not because it was something I was particularly interested in, but because I saw the value in reading it.

The Hate U Give is about Starr, a 16-year-old girl who witnesses her childhood friend Khalil being pulled over and eventually shot by a police officer. The book focuses on Starr’s reaction to the situation, as well as the community’s – both black and white. We follow Starr to school, read about her conflicting emotions as she balances her life at home in Garden Heights with the life she’s created at her mostly-white prep school. We watch her family deal with the ever-growing gang presence, compounded by the fact that Garden Heights simply does not have the opportunities more affluent neighborhoods do. And we watch as both sides come to terms with the issues surrounding the question of race and equality.

And here’s where I have to be honest. I didn’t hate The Hate U Give, but I didn’t love it either. I absolutely understand why it’s gotten so much press, and I’m glad for that. But as a book, taken purely on the content and style and form? It lacks so much.

I questioned Starr’s credibility right from the beginning, because her emotions and reactions and thoughts are so inconsistent. One second she’s afraid to speak, the next, she’s telling all who will listen. She talks about loyalty and family and love, and then denies any relation or connection to that very same family. For the majority of the story, she lets other people make decisions for her, seemingly content to be lost in the background.

Before you point out that she’s 16 years old, yes, she is. And yes, she’s just been involved in a horrible, traumatic event, and yes, the world she lives in is vastly different from mine. The issue isn’t so much that she’s not a strong character – it’s that she’s portrayed as one, and written as another.  I was never able to truly care about her, and with a storyline like this one, it’s critical to care about your character.

It’s also entirely too long. I could have lost about 200 pages and still gotten the gist of the story.

Book Club Discussion

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view), we all had similar reactions to the book. None of us hated it, but all of us felt the author missed out on a golden opportunity to really inspire change. The issues raised in The Hate U Give are incredibly important, but unless someone has absolutely no grasp of recent events, they’re issues most of us are already aware exist. In that regard, the book felt a little like a “rage against the machine” kind of approach, though I don’t mean that to say that it’s full of angst and hate. In fact, quite the opposite, as the themes of family and community are actually quite admirable. Simply, had Thomas been able to include solutions, or even attempts at reconciling the issues – or at the very least, beginning to address them – it could have been incredibly valuable in changing the current dialogue. (I realize that’s easier said than done; however, it’s not always enough to simply highlight an issue.)

We talked at length about that, and about how we’d wished we had someone who either disagreed with us or had had a different upbringing. As white, middle-class, college-educated young women, it was incredibly difficult to imagine a world like Starr’s.

Bottom line? The Hate U Give is an important – if not entirely engrossing – read that makes for great discussion. It doesn’t shy away from the truth, but doesn’t assault you with it either. My hope is that as people read it, they begin to recognize some of the more deeply rooted issues in our society, and begin thinking of ways to look at the world a little differently.

June’s Book Club Theme: In a Land Far, Far Away…

June’s Book Club Book: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Book Club: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

thestoriedlifeofajfikryAbout The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

• Book Club: April 2017 
• Hardcover: 
260 pages
• Published: April 2014 by Algonquin Books
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionOn the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

Why We Picked It

First of all, sorry for yesterday’s goof about the Jenny Lawson review. That was a very old post from my other blog, and I was actually trying to take it down, not publish it again! I’ve got a lot of old reviews that I’d like to go back and fix, so you’ll see that post again eventually. Thanks for bearing with me while I figure out this whole WordPress thing. Anyway, book club.

Our theme for April was Fun and Fresh. We left that open to interpretation, which meant we had a really hard time choosing a book. We also didn’t want a love story, since one of the girls was in a funk about men. (Totally understandable.) We sort of hemmed and hawed for a while, then finally settled on The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry since it was short and sounded like it would be a fun read.

My Thoughts

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about a man (A.J.) who, having just lost his wife, owns a bookstore on Alice Island. He’s grumpy, and generally unpleasant to be around. His bookstore is barely surviving, and he’s essentially counting down the days until he can be done with it all. Then one evening, someone leaves a baby in his bookstore (that’s the package – I don’t think it’s a spoiler), and life as he knows it changes. He decides to keep the baby, raise her as his daughter. Gradually he begins to love life again.

I hate to say it, but this one fell a little short for me. I wanted to read it for a long time, and I know several people who loved it. I really enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere. Plus, I’ve seen it compared to A Man Called Ove, and we all know how much I adore that book. Maybe my expectations were too high.

I didn’t have any major complaints with the book, but I couldn’t connect with the characters. I liked them all well enough, but I didn’t feel anything for them. The whole book was just sorta “there” for me. I also struggled to create a clear picture of A.J – for example, he’s only 39 in the beginning of the book, but I constantly had him in his mid-sixties in my mind. Zevin didn’t really describe him physically, either, which struck me as strange since every other character was.

I also struggled with some of the story’s continuity. Amelia’s story has a lot of holes. Because she’s such an important part of A.J.’s story, I wanted those holes resolved. And Maya, the bookstore baby, is another central part of A.J.’s life, but seems a shell of a character. I honestly thought some of the tertiary characters, like Lambiase, were better developed.

Overall, it’s a short read that probably falls closer to a 2.5 for me, but I’ll go ahead and give it a 3.

Book Club Discussion

We all enjoyed the book, but the rest of the girls had similar grievances about how undeveloped the characters were. One girl called them one-dimensional – she’s spot on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – again, it’s a quick, light read. We agreed that part of the problem is the marketing for the book. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tends to be heralded as a moving, emotional, heartwarming read, but in our opinion, the characters lack the depth to really deliver on those claims. Perhaps the best thing we hit on in our discussion was that we’d have enjoyed this book more if it’d been written as a Young Adult book, because you expect that kind of flatness in a lot of those novels.

Also, a heads up for anyone considering this one for your own Book Club – the discussion questions are absolutely terrible. My favorite was easily the one that compared ebook buying to online dating. *Grin*

None of us would discourage anyone from reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – just know going into it that you’re getting more of a fluff read. Nothing wrong with that!

May’s Book Club Theme: Young Adult

May’s Book Club Book: The Hate U Give

Book Club: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

About Moloka’i

• Book Club: March 2017 
• Paperback: 
405 pages
• Published: October 2004 by St. Martin’s Griffin
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionThis richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

My Thoughts

We forgot to choose a theme for March, so I came prepared with a couple random recommendations, and everyone “ooohed” at Moloka’i, so that’s what we went with. I can’t even tell you how long I’ve wanted to read this book. Years. Many years. I’m fairly certain I suggested it at least one other time for book club. And now I finally got to read it! (This is one of the books I listed as a “priority” for my 2017 Goodreads reading challenge, so I get to mark one off my list!)

Moloka’i tells the story of Rachel, a young Hawaiian girl diagnosed with leprosy (or Hanssen’s Disease) at age six. At seven, she’s sent to the island of Moloka’i to live in the leper colony at Kalaupapa. She’s one of the lucky ones who has someone already on the island – her uncle Pono – since her parents and siblings aren’t able to join her. Rachel grows up on Moloka’i, and spends the majority of her life there with the people she comes to consider family.

I loved this book. Moloka’i might sound like a depressing story – after all, Rachel is diagnosed with a horrible disease, sent away from her family, and forced to live in exile for most of her life. She loses so much, so many people. And yet – it’s not a depressing story at all. Quite the opposite. It’s uplifting and heartwarming, because you come to see that the people who live on Kalaupapa are their own family. They build a community full of love and support. To the rest of the world they’re castoffs, but in Kalaupapa, they’re just people. There’s no stigma, no hate. It’s an emotional story, to be sure, but one that’s well done.

Book Club Discussion

We all loved Moloka’i. We loved the characters, we loved the writing, and we loved learning about a history we’d never known. We talked about how our education focused on other parts of US History, and how we realized we knew next to nothing about Hawaii. We talked about how sad it was how lepers were treated, about the stigma, and about the toll it took on families. At the same time, we talked about how the people on Kalaupapa led rich, full lives – if not easy ones.

April’s Book Club Theme: Fun and Fresh

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.
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!

June Book Reviews (2015) – Part 1

I promised to read more in June….and I did! So much reading, in fact, that if I’d tried to put it all in one post it would have overwhelmed all of us. I also realized I should have been giving you a synopsis for each book, so you’d know what I was talking about. Fixing that from now on!!

Whole Cat and Caboodle3 starsGoodreads Description: Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis. Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store. But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.

This actually took me a while to read, comparatively speaking. I usually blow through cozies in a day or two, three tops. This one took me almost two weeks. Not because it was bad, just because I couldn’t focus! When I finally got into it though, I devoured it. First of all, Elvis absolutely makes the story. Second, Sarah is one of the few cozy characters who doesn’t set out to become a sleuth from the beginning. In this story, you get a lot more of the secondary and tertiary characters. It was a team effort, and that team was very….unique. I enjoyed it (and now I want to plant teacup gardens…..).

Buy a Whisker3 starsGoodreads Description: Things have been quiet in the coastal town of North Harbor, Maine, since Sarah Grayson and her rescue cat, Elvis, solved their first murder. Sarah is happy running Second Chance, the shop where she sells lovingly refurbished and repurposed items. But then she gets dragged into a controversy over developing the waterfront. Most of the residents—including Sarah—are for it, but there is one holdout—baker Lily Carter. So when Lily is found murdered in her bakery, it looks like somebody wanted to remove the only obstacle to the development. But Sarah soon discovers that nothing is as simple as it seems. Now, with the help of her cat’s uncanny ability to detect a lie, Sarah is narrowing down the suspects. But can she collar the culprit before the ruthless killer pounces again?

I enjoyed the second book just as much as the first. In addition to the great characters, what I like about this series so far is that I honestly never have a clue who the bad guy is. There aren’t a whole lot of red herrings, and to be honest, the mystery part is fairly secondary to the rest of the story about Sarah and Second Chance and all the goings on in North Harbor. In a way, that makes the mystery and solving the mystery a little “neat” in terms of how quickly they corner the killers, but I’m ok with that because I enjoy the rest of it.

To Die Fur3 starsGoodreads Description: Deirdre has her hands full, as usual. Working as as a Jill-of-all-trades for a zany billionaire like Zelda Zoransky means the daily grind is closer to a juggling act, and this week is no exception—especially when her side job is directing spiritual traffic in Zelda’s pet cemetery. With ZZ hosting a party for some of the world’s wealthiest animal collectors and a rare albino liger named Augustus in residence at the private zoo, Foxtrot is ready for trouble to take a big bite out of her schedule. She doesn’t have to wait long. The half-ton big cat is dead, and there’s a houseful of colorful suspects, each one wackier than the next. But if they were all bidding to buy him, who would want Augustus dead? With the help of Tango’s feline telepathy and Whiskey the canine shapeshifter, Foxtrot learns that there’s much more to Augustus than meets the eye. Now they just have to sniff out a killer before any more fur flies…

I loved the first one in this series, and was super excited to read the second. Sadly, while it was cute, it just wasn’t as great as the first. I didn’t really enjoy the mystery, and I wanted more Augustus time! I also had hoped to revisit some of the characters from the first book a little more than I did. I realize it’s not always easy to include every minor character, but I felt their loss! That said, this is still a fun series and one I’m definitely looking forward to continuing.

men expain things2 starsGoodreads Description: In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters. She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!” This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.

This was our June Book Club book. We had a shorter gap between meetings, so thought it would be an easyish read, plus there’d be stuff to talk about. Boy, did we miss the mark.

To be fair, the description in NO WAY matches the actual book. It’s not funny. It’s not terribly enlightening, though there were a few points that made me stop and think. The Virginia Woolf essay makes no sense, has nothing to do with any of the other essays, and put me to sleep.

To sum it up….I think this was the longest 130 page book I’ve ever read.

room3 starsGoodreads Description: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Oh, Room. I’ve had this book on my to-read list since I first heard about it in 2010, shortly after it came out. It’s got a fairly high rating (3.96) and has been on tons of must-read lists. I just couldn’t seem to get around to it, so I finally suggested it for Book Club. We ended up picking Men Explain Things, but listed Room as one of two backup books. To be honest, I wasn’t really planning on reading the backup books, but then I ended up getting super sick, and had tons of reading time. So Room it was.

This book is so freakin’ fucked up. Not just the story/subject, but ….ugh. I hated the characters. All of them. I actually liked Jack better when he was in the room than out, though I did think the portrayal was fairly realistic. I hated Ma (whatever her name was), and I wanted to punch her for the way she acted after they escaped. I think the character I most appreciated was Steppa, and he gets very little mention.

And can we just…Just when I thought I’d never have to read about Jack breastfeeding again, therefore finally getting away from the cringe-worthy stuff, he starts sucking on his mother’s rotted tooth. GIVE ME A BREAK.

I didn’t hate Room, but I didn’t love it either. I had a problem with some of it being unrealistic (the whole rescue scene), and I had a problem with the inconsistencies in Jack’s vocabulary and speech patterns. Particular issue was the use of do and did….half the time he got it right and half the time he didn’t. Maybe that’s how 5 year olds are, but I couldn’t help thinking he either knew it or he didn’t.

I wouldn’t put this on a must-read list, but I am glad I read it…if only so I can mark it down as one I never need to read again.

adulting2 starsGoodreads Description: If you graduated from college but still feel like a student . . . if you wear a business suit to job interviews but pajamas to the grocery store . . . if you have your own apartment but no idea how to cook or clean . . . it’s OK. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act like one. And it all begins with this funny, wise, and useful book. Based on Kelly Williams Brown’s popular blog, ADULTING makes the scary, confusing “real world” approachable, manageable-and even conquerable.  

I think my issue with this book is more that I’m not the target audience anymore than the book itself. There were a couple interesting points, but most of it is stuff I’ve figured out by now. This would be a good gift for a high school graduate, or maybe even a college graduate, but anyone past that is going to be bored.

Still Alice5 starsGoodreads Description: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life–and her relationship with her family and the world–forever.

This book. OMG this book.

I didn’t have any desire to read it. AT ALL. I thought it sounded mopey and boring and utterly depressing. But it was our second backup book, and I was deathly ill, so it seemed appropriate.

Guys, this book is right up there with The Fault in Our Stars on the tearjerker scale. Talk about total sobfest.

I loved loved loved this book. And I loved it even more because I didn’t expect to. It shook me to the core, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It’s the most real, honest, tragic, and beautiful depiction of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I can’t say enough about it – it’s one of those books that doesn’t really need words. Just read it.

To be continued…….

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!

May Book Reviews (2015)


I didn’t get a whole lot read in May. Work was nuts, and to be honest I was a bit brain dead most of the month. I’ll remedy that in June!

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!!!

A Taste Fur Murder
4 starsI read this on the flight to Montana. To be honest, I was a little embarrassed…I mean, that’s kind of a silly cover, and an even sillier title.

OMG WHO CARES.

This book is adorable. It’s hands down one of my favorite cozy mysteries. If you like animals, cozies, graveyards, and just fun stories, pick up this book. It’s got magic. It’s got a cat on life #7. It’s got a ghost/ectoplasmic dog. It’s FUN. Seriously, pick it up.  I’ve got the second one already, so expect to see the review in June.

Murder She Barked3 stars

I was really excited about this one, and it took me forever to find. It was cute, and I’ll definitely read the next in the series (have it already too), but it paled in comparison to A Taste Fur Murder. Had I not just read that, I might have enjoyed this more. The premise here is the main character’s grandmother owns a very pet-friendly inn. Cute, but nothing special. I’ll keep reading though…..

Landline2 starsI know several people who loved this book. Sadly, I’m not one of them.

I mean….it wasn’t totally terrible. But the characters…..ugh the characters. Not one of them was likeable. Wait. I take that back. Heather was fun. The best scene in the entire book involved Heather, Pizza Guy, and the pugs.

I thought the whole “magic phone” concept wasn’t done well – it felt like an afterthought and not actually part of the story. I didn’t care whether Georgie and what’s his face got their marriage straightened out. I really didn’t. Linda said this book was realistic and maybe she’s right….which means I don’t enjoy realistic character dramas. Shrug.

Girl on the Train2 starsThis was our book club book. Or well, our primary book club book (more on that below). I was skeptical, because I HATED Gone Girl, and this book is constantly compared to it.

In some ways, I see the comparison. The characters are pretty horrible. Seriously, I wanted to drown Rachel. The rest I didn’t care about one way or the other. And the story was a little messed up. Ok, a bit messed up. Not like Gone Girl messed up, just dark and depressing.

Where it differed though, was the mystery. I guessed Gone Girl about a hundred pages in. Two thirds of the way through Girl on the Train, I still wasn’t sure. Yeah, I eventually guessed it, but much later in the story than usual. For that, I have to give the book (and the author) props. I read a ton, so if a book keeps me guessing that’s a huge plus.

Do I think this is the rave book of the year? Not hardly. Would I recommend it? Maybe? Like Gone Girl though, I am glad I read it, if nothing else to see what all the hype was about.

Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans2 starsOur book club started doing a primary book and a backup book a couple of months ago. When we read Montaigne, none of us could get through it. We realized we needed and wanted a second option so if that happened again, we’d still have something to talk about. We weren’t sure how it’d go, having two books, but we decided to give it a try.

May was our second month of backup books, and Blue Jeans was the choice. We thought it’d be a light beach read. Turns out, it’s neither light nor beachy….though it is set at the beach, so I suppose that’s something.

I struggled with the rating on this. It wasn’t a hard book, and it wasn’t bad. There were times I really enjoyed it. But, the story felt cliched, and the characters felt flat. The dialogue was caustic, and I just didn’t connect with any of them. It wasn’t like other books where I hated them….I just, didn’t feel anything.

That said, there were some really beautifully written passages, and the setting was incredibly vivid. If I gave half stars, this would easily be a 2.5.

Sky12 starsNormally, this would get it’s own review. I found this book on Tomoson, and was lucky enough to snag a free copy for review. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get through it, and I feel like it fits better as part of a monthly review for that very reason.

Here’s the synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, Nick Burke has been allotted 389 square feet of living space by the government. Disease spreads quickly when people are packed together so tightly. Quarantines have been imposed in an effort to contain the spread of infection. When a quarantine is imposed on Nick’s Ground, he and his family are trapped. The only way out is to break laws that carry a penalty of death. Fearing for his life and the safety of his family, Nick joins forces with a local group to move to another Ground. But can he trust his new friends?

From the synopsis, this had a lot of potential. It’s also the first in a series of at least 5 books. I enjoy apocalyptic fiction, so was really looking forward to it. I’ve read many reviews that said you have to give it a while before it grabs you…that may very well be true. I wasn’t able to make it that far. I made it about four chapters in before I completely lost interest. Not just “meh, whatever, I guess I can read this,” but more like, “I’d actually rather go floss my teeth than read this book” lost interest. I don’t abandon books often, but this one made the list.

Because of that, I’m not able to give a fair review, so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. This book has a 4.61 rating on Goodreads, which is insanely high. Yes, there are only a handful of reviews, so keep that in mind also. It may be a great story, but unfortunately, there just wasn’t anything there to grab me.

Book of the Month

This was kind of tough, because none of these were really “wow” books…but I’ve got to go with…

A Taste Fur Murder

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

April Book Reviews (2015)

April was kind of a slow month for reading. I read a couple longer books – that were great – and I finally picked up Storm of Swords again (the 3rd Game of Thrones book). I’m about 65% through it, so don’t expect it to show up anytime soon! Work has also been a bit nuts, with lots of traveling, so reading is sort of taking a back seat. May will probably be similar, but then it’ll be summer and reading time!!

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!!!

Murder on the Eightfold Path (Mantra for Murder, #3)3 starsBook 3 in the Mantra for Murder series. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first two – mostly because A.J. was kinda wishy washy in it. She kept saying that she wasn’t going to get involved in “sleuthing” and yet there she went. I don’t know, I just didn’t need her to keep pointing out that Jake the detective was going to be upset about it. And, after Book 2, I wanted more Andy!! But, at least things are shaking up a bit with the Sacred Balance Studio!

Death in a Difficult Position (Mantra for Murder, #4)3 starsI am so sad that this is the last book in the series….or at least, the last book out. I think there might be a 5th book, but I haven’t found anything definite. The mystery in this one was a little silly, but I just adore the characters and the world and the yoga theme.

It's Kind of a Funny Story3 stars

This was our April Book Club Book. We wanted something lighter, having slogged through Montaigne and All the Light. This wasn’t lighter, exactly, but it was easier.

Basically, Craig is your average 15 year old, except he suffers from depression. After getting so low he’s ready to kill himself, he ends up in the psychiatric unit at the hospital. While there (a mere 5 days) he learns to love life again and becomes a happy person.

I don’t mean to be flippant, but in a nutshell, that’s the story.

I have kind of mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I thought it was super depressing. On the other, I thought it was a great way to bring the topic of suicide and depression and mental illness into the cultural vernacular. This has been made into a movie, which I’d actually like to see. Other than that, I don’t really have a lot to say one way or the other. I think it’s one of those books that everyone will find something different in.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)4 starsI debated about whether to read this right away or wait, but in the end I had to know what happened next for Celaena! This one follows Celaena as she’s serving as the King’s Champion. It’s a bit darker than Throne of Glass, and definitely more complex. There were times I got a little lost in the details, to be honest. While it’s different, I enjoyed Crown of Midnight as much as Throne of Glass, and definitely recommend the series to fans of this style of writing. The way the story ends is nice too, because she’s about to set off on a journey. It’s sort of a cliffhanger, but mostly not. It’s a nice stopping point. Book 4 is coming out in September, so I’m definitely waiting to read book 3 – I don’t want to forget what happens!

At the Water's Edge4 starsI read Water for Elephants probably 8 years ago. I remember nothing about the book except there was an elephant, a circus, someone died (maybe?) and that I really loved it. The memory of that book was enough to make me excited about Sara Gruen’s newest book, but then I read the description. The Loch Ness Monster AND Scotland? Come on, the only things missing were Atlantis and the Titanic, and it’d have been the ultimate book. (Sara, couldn’t you have worked those in there somehow?)

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a freak and will read anything even remotely connected to Atlantis or Titanic, and frankly, Nessie is pretty high on that list too. Oh, and anything with a map on the inside cover. But that’s cause I’m bizarre.
So anyway, I was super excited about At the Water’s Edge. Even seeing several lackluster reviews weren’t going to stop me.
Sadly, this book had very little about Nessie. That said, I went into it with an open mind, and was not disappointed. Gruen has written another character story…..and if you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a huge fan of well-done character novels. To me, a good book is something that resonates with me….whether that’s the world, the plot devices, or the characters, I want to connect to the story somehow.
Maddie and her husband Ellis, and their good friend Hank, venture to Scotland towards the end of WWII so Ellis can essentially redeem his family honor by proving that Nessie exists. (For the record, the book never uses the nickname – I’m just lazy and don’t feel like typing Loch Ness out every time. Gruen uses the bland, though appropriate, “monster” for most of the book.) The story is really more about Maddie, her relationships with everyone around her, and her own personal growth.
A full disclaimer – Maddie is a little hard to love at first. She’s spoiled, bratty, and pretty pathetic. What Gruen does well is take a fairly unsympathetic character and make you give her a chance. Ellis, on the other hand, is positively insufferable, and gets worse every single time you see him. That’s intentional, and though you want to punch him in the face, it’s what makes the story – and Maddie – all the more interesting.
The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)3 starsI just barely squeaked this one in April….and actually, I think I may have technically finished it May 1st. Shhh.
I came across this series in the book store and was instantly hooked by the cover. The story is about a group of kids called “Unwanteds” – basically, their society deems them useless and sends them to be eliminated. Turns out, there’s a super awesome dude named Mr. Today who sort of doesn’t eliminate them. Instead, he takes them to his magical world where they get to learn how to be creative and happy and all that stuff. Basically, everything they did that made them Unwanted. Eventually, the other world finds out, and they go to war, and you can kinda guess the rest.
This series has been compared to Harry Potter….and I see that in some ways, but mostly I think it’s just because there’s magic. I like this series, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll keep reading it….but it’s nowhere near the quality that Harry Potter has. The characters aren’t really that meaningful. Case in point…I was most interested in what happened to Simber, the flying stone cheetah statue (that’s him on the cover).
This is written for middle-grade, so keep that in mind…but honestly? Spirit Animals is way better written.

Book of the MonthPretty much a no-brainer. The title this month goes to….

At The Water’s Edge

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

March Book Reviews (2015)

March was not epic books month. March was……let me read brainless stuff month. *Grin*

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!!!

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)4 starsThis one had been on my list for a while, and after slogging through Montaigne I needed something brainless. Well, something brainless and action-filled that wasn’t a cozy. I wasn’t quite ready to keep reading Spirit Animals, so Throne of Glass it was.

First of all, I think it’s awesome that the girl on the cover looks a lot like the author.

Sarah J. MaasRight? Anyway. Throne of Glass is about a girl named Celaena who’s an assassin. She’s in jail, and gets chosen by the crown prince to compete in a contest to be the king’s champion. It’s slightly reminiscent of the Hunger Games, only a little less dark and twisted.

Celaena is arrogant, and drove me a little nuts for the first half of the book. In between wanting to choke her and the author for putting in two potential love interests, I really enjoyed this. I won’t tell you much more because it’ll ruin the story for you….but this book surprised me in a really good way. I ended up loving ALL the characters, even the bad guys. Because this is the first book in a series, I kind of knew what the end result would be, but I didn’t expect anything that led up to it. And that’s rare, for a book to keep me guessing.

Bowled Over (A Vintage Kitchen Mystery, #2)3 stars

I debated for a long time on whether to give this a 2 or a 3. I eventually settled on a 3, just because I really didn’t have any trouble getting through it, and the story was interesting enough. This is the second in the Vintage Kitchen cozy mystery series. I enjoyed the first one, and had high hopes for the second. Honestly, though, the main character drove me nuts. She was so….ugh. She simpered. That’s honestly the best description I have for her. She was so.damn.annoying. And none of the rest of the characters did anything for me, like they did in book 1. And I got so tired of reading the same paragraphs over and over and over. I mean, come on….how many times is it necessary to say that the main character was sad she never made up with her friend? Or that she just didn’t understand what had happened? No joke, the same phrases and paragraphs were repeated at least 6 or 7 times. I wanted to scream. These books have been a bit hard to find in my bookstore, so I’ll probably pass on the rest of the series.

The Room
3 stars

This is a Blogging for Books post. Read the review here!

Atlantia2 stars

This book. I wanted to love it. I have a thing for anything even remotely like Atlantis. Granted, this book isn’t, but the title hooked me. Bay and Rio are twin sisters living in Atlantia on the Ocean Floor. (Seriously, Bay and Rio?? Wtf.) Anyway, when they reach a certain age they get to choose whether to stay below or go above. Rio has always wanted to go above, but promises Bay she’ll stay below with her. Well, then Bay decides to go above. Because of the rules, Rio has to stay without Bay. Blargh.

This book is roughly 300 pages long, and the first 200 pages all Rio does is complain about her life and how her sole purpose is now figuring out how to get above because it should have been her but she loves her sister and blah blah blah. I couldn’t stand her. Then, around page….220 or so….she finally GOES ABOVE and the whining stops. For a bit. Sorry, I suppose I should have said spoiler alert.

I initially gave this a 3-star rating. Why on Earth? Because as much as I hated Rio, I wanted to find out how it ended. The world wasn’t spectacularly imagined. The characters weren’t particularly memorable (or likable). The conflict wasn’t very conflicting. In short, it had nothing whatsoever to make me recommend it to anyone. Now, writing this review and thinking about it, I’ve revised that rating to 2-stars, which I still sorta think is generous.

Ally Condie’s Matched series has been on my list for a while, but if the writing is anything like this, I think I’ll pass.

Talon (The Windwalker Archive, #1)

3 starsThis was a Tomoson book. Read the review here!

Paw and Order (K9, #2)3 starsThis is such a fun series. I wouldn’t call it a cozy mystery, though it’s not strictly a detective story either. Maybe somewhere in the middle? Sorta like the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series, whatever you consider that. Megan Luz is a cop, and Brigit is her furry partner. This is book 2, and every bit as enjoyable as book 1. There’s not a whole lot to say about them, other than if you like dogs and you like detective stories, you’ll like this. There’s even a bit of romance thrown in. My favorite thing about this series is you get to read Megan’s perspective, but you also get to hear from Brigit and from the bad guy. It’s a neat way to write, and it works. There isn’t as much trying to figure it out, because you already know who the bad guy is, but it’s fun to watch Megan and Brigit go about it.

The Lost Recipe for Happiness

3 stars

This is about a chef who gets a chance to run her own kitchen. I enjoyed learning a little more about the restaurant business, but the story itself wasn’t that gripping. In fact, two weeks after reading this I have very little to say about it. It was good, but nothing memorable. A quick read, and there was a dog, I remember that much.

 Corpse Pose (Mantra for Murder Mystery #1)Dial Om for Murder (Mantra for Murder, #2)

3 stars

I’m reviewing these two together because they’re part of the same series, and because my thoughts on them are pretty much the same. By now, I’ve read (and reviewed) probably 20 cozy mysteries on this blog….and most of them get a 3-star rating. These are no exception, but the more I think about it the more I think I need to revise my rating to a 4-star. I LOVE these books. First of all, the yoga theme is a nice change. It’s not a huge part of the story, really, but I’m really intrigued by the fate of the Sacred Balance studio. And the characters are so much fun. At first, A.J.’s mother drove me nuts (she’s a melodramatic movie star), but about halfway through the first book I realized she was kind of hilarious. A.J. is your average cozy character, and of course there’s the hot detective love interest, but I also really enjoy Andy’s storyline. The supporting characters are just as interesting as the main characters. Lastly, in both of these I was surprised by the killer….and that’s not usually the case. Definitely pick these up if you’re a cozy fan!

Book of the MonthAnd the title this month goes to….

Throne of Glass

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

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?