Monday, February 19, 2018

The Dogist Puppies - Elias Weiss Friedman

Summary: The Dogist Puppies, the follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Dogist, is a beautiful, funny, and endearing look at puppies. And with their sweet faces, soft bellies, and oversized paws, the puppies in The Dogist Puppies make this book even more irresistible than Friedman’s first one! Presented documentary-style, every portrait tells a story and explores each puppy’s distinct character and spirit. The book presents a gallery of puppy portraits arranged into themes including Ears, Big Paws, Cones of Shame, Learning to Walk, and Fancy Outfits, giving every dog lover something to pore over. With the author’s 2.4 million and growing Instagram followers, The Dogist Puppies is poised to reach a large audience of puppy lovers looking for the perfect gift book this holiday season. (Picture and summary from goodreads.com)


My Review: Elias Friedman makes his living taking photos of dogs.

I know.  Right?

Sign me up for that job.

I first discovered Friedman from his instagram account @thedogist, where he frequently posts photos of dogs he's met, along with a little tidbit about them from their owner.  He's met and photographed so many dogs that he's gathered and put a bunch of them into books.  This one focuses on the puppies.

Cute, adorable puppies.

This book if filled to the brim with gorgeous photography of many differing breeds.  Friedman has a stellar way of capturing the perfect pictures of dogs (involving tennis balls and lots of dog treats), and he explains in this book that it's more difficult to catch the perfect shot of a puppy because, well, they're puppies--they do not sit still or focus.  But his patience pays off as you flip through photo after photo of delightful puppies.   

Throughout, he intersperses paragraphs about various breeds, and about the responsibilities that come with getting and owning a puppy.  It's informative as well as entertaining, especially seeing all those cute little puppy faces.  So cute.  Who's a good boy?  Who's a good booooyyy?

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Ninth Hour - Alice McDermott

Summary: A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers—a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.

On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove—to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife—“that the hours of his life belong to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an aging nun, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.


We begin deep inside Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century. Decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence. Yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades—testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.


The characters we meet, from Sally, the unborn baby at the beginning of the novel, who becomes the center of the story, to the nuns whose personalities we come to know and love, to the neighborhood families with whose lives they are entwined, are all rendered with extraordinary sympathy and McDermott’s trademark lucidity and intelligence.


Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement by one of the premiere writers at work in America today. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review:  I’ve been sitting here trying to decide what to say about this book. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It’s not like I’m trying to formulate a tactful way to say how horrible it was. No. It was a great book, actually. The story itself isn’t super complex either, so it’s not like I’m trying to decide how to formulate a response to a book that just can’t handle a response. No. I think the reason I’ve had such a hard time deciding what to say about this book is because I want to give it the right amount of gravitas without making it sound like it’s the Bible or something.

This novel is quite short actually, but it took me awhile to read because it’s one of those situations where you can tell the book actually means something, and when you read it, it feels heavy. Not I-just-ate-16-pounds-of-turkey-myself-and-I-want-to-die heavy, but more like the kind of thing where you don’t just read it flippantly while also stirring your chicken noodle soup just to get it done. No, the book commanded more respect than that. I can think of a few reasons why this is.
1.      The writing is beautiful. It’s lyrical and measured. McDermott is a talented, experienced author. This is not her first rodeo, and it shows. The writing flows beautifully in a way that isn’t just not-getting-in-the-way, but in a way that makes it feel purposeful. This kind of writing always makes me take pause. I read very fast, but this type of writing forces me to read more carefully as I know the author is choosing to write what she does for a reason, and I don’t want to miss that reason.
2.      The content was heavy. Nuns who devote their lives to take care of the sick and afflicted are no laughing matter. They see situations most of us would never choose to see, and step in when those in need have been abandoned. There was a certain level of respect that the content itself commands. It was sometimes hard to read about these unfortunate situations, and it made me grateful for these women who so willingly gave their lives. It also made me feel a little sheepish when I complain about the minor things I have to deal with as being a mom of five busy (read: completely bonkers) children.
3.      The story came from almost nowhere, and it floated along so gently I almost missed it. I mean, it was a big deal, don’t get me wrong, but the story is gentle as much as it is heavy. In fact, it quite mirrored the nuns whose lives it followed, which is another sign of that talent of McDermott.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot, actually, and I think that it is one of those books that is quiet enough and cerebral enough in some aspects (but not cerebral in a confusing sort of way) that it may be overlooked by the casual reader. You, dear blog readers, are probably not that. By the very virtue that you read a book blog I think you probably read more than the average person. So go ahead and give this one a try—it’s beautiful, it’s quiet, but also quite eventful and poignant. It is simple and yet complex in a way that only a few authors can pull off.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some minor language and some alluding to an affair but it is clean.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

May you be snuggled up tonight with your special someone...
...or a good book
...or both.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

Summary:  After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bed chamber of a woman in Regency England.  Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? 

Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer.  But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience.  This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however.  There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be the familiar species of philanderer after all.  But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues.  Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?  (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Hi. My name is Mindy and I am an avid Jane Austen fan.  I loved reading Pride & Prejudice and have seen nearly all of the movie adaptations for her various novels.  I especially adore Lost in Austen, a delightfully cheesy, slightly saucy TV mini-series that came out a while back about a girl who travels through her bathroom wall and gets sucked into shenanigans of the Bennets of Longbourne.  In fact, it was that particular story that led me to snap up Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict when I browsed my way into it at our local used bookstore.  What Austen fan hasn’t imagined what life was really like back then?  

Courtney Stone doesn’t know how or why, but she’s woken up in Regency England in a body and a time that is not her own.  Now, people keep calling her ‘Jane’, her memories keep getting mixed up, Jane’s mother wants her to marry someone she’s pretty sure is a scoundrel, and she seems to have been dropped smack in the middle of an upstairs/downstairs relationship with a complete stranger.  Quickly smitten by the dignified manners, elegant ballrooms, and dashing gentlemen, she is equally appalled by the medieval medical practices, bacteria-laden bathing pools, and restrictions placed upon women.  Courtney needs to figure out how she got here – and how to get back! 

This book starts out with an entertaining premise and has some delightful little moments.  There are plenty of Austen references to entertain (including a cameo by the infamous author herself), and I enjoyed some of Courtney’s more modern observations about the Regency era.  However, there were a few things that bugged me about this novel:
  • Courtney has none of her new body’s memories, but all of its skills.  She has all of its skills, but can't seem to understand why her outlandish (for the times) behavior might have lasting repercussions.  
  • Courtney and her main romantic interest registered ZERO on the chemistry-o-meter.  Oh, there were professions of chemistry...the words were there…I just didn’t buy them.  Also the relationship I was rooting for went absolutely nowhere.  It just evaporated.  
  • The question of how Courtney got in this particular ‘sitch’ and how she was going to get back were not answered to my satisfaction.  It’s hard to imagine that they will be answered to anyone’s satisfaction.  That’s all I’ll say about that. 

Unfortunately, the entire story didn’t feel consistent.  It bounced around some times, dragged here, raced there, had some weird moments, and then sort of imploded.  I really wanted to like it, but the ending left so many questions unanswered (and in such an unsatisfactory way) that I can’t in good conscious recommend this book to anyone.  At least, not on its own

Now, bear with me.

When I picked up this book at the used bookstore, I also picked up its sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  (What can I say?  I had credit and they both had the word “Austen” in the title!)  Now, it turns out that the second book tells the reverse story – of a Jane Mansfield who wakes up in Courtney’s apartment in modern day LA.   So, is it possible that Courtney’s story isn’t quite over?  Maybe the end of the first book was more of a transition to the rest of the story?  I’ll have to let you know.  I’m going against my own better judgement here (kinda like Darcy, eh?), reading a sequel when I didn't really like the original, but I want to make sure I’ve given the series a fair shake and I'm mildly interested in the idea of a Regency-era woman trapped in LA.  I will keep you updated and if I finish the sequel, I’ll review it and link it here (<-----i 2="" coming="" it.="" nbsp="" o:p="" read="" review="" ve="">

My Rating; 2.25 Stars  (Translation: Mehhh.)

For the sensitive reader:  Some profanity and suggestive situations.  The main character is a “modern woman” in every sense of the word and far too carefree with her affections than is sensible or acceptable in Regency England.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vincent and Theo - Deborah Heiligman

Summary: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers. (Summary and picture from goodreads.com)

My Review: Everyone knows who Vincent Van Gogh is, but I'll admit my interest in the man was piqued several years ago by the episode of Doctor Who where he featured as a main character.  It was a touching episode that let you into the life of this troubled man and how he saw the world, the art all around.

I'm not one to voluntarily pick up a non-fiction or biography book, I'll normally shy away from them unless they have lots of pictures or are in comic form.  However, I heard about this book at a conference I attend every year where they spotlight new books for young readers that have come out, picking the best to share with us, so I put it on my Goodreads to try out later.  

Recently, I saw a trailer for a hand painted, animated film called 'Loving Vincent,' and my interest in the man was sparked yet again, and I remembered this book.

First off, I found this book reads like a painting.  That may sound strange, but the way the author crafts her words and scenes feels like you've stepped into one of Vincent's pieces.  It's vibrant and loose and real.  The author has broken the book into different galleries, so that it's almost as if you're walking through an art gallery of the Van Gogh brothers' lives.  It also read so well.  Even though it clocks in at over 400 pages, it didn't feel long.

It was so fascinating to deeply learn about Vincent, and even more so, learn about his beloved brother, Theo.  I never knew he had a brother before I heard about this book, and as you read it, you start to realize that without Theo, there really would have been no Vincent Van Gogh as we know him today.  Most people know the basics about Vincent, that he cut his ear, that he painted pictures, that he killed himself.  What I love is how in depth this story goes, how much research the author did, and from primary resources too, the letters Theo and Vincent wrote to each other over the years, letting us see into their very souls and what beautiful, troubled souls they were.

The author doesn't shy away from the pain and heartaches, the struggles and the triumphs.  It really makes you feel for both Vincent and Theo, and in Vincent's case (and even Theo's to an extent), it's interesting to see how mental illness was viewed in that time period.  Scholars suspect now that Vincent suffered from many illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, manic depression, anxiety, and even seizures.  But in this time, nobody knew what was wrong or how to help or treat it, so most people were simply committed to mental asylums.  Some of Vincent's last words were "The sadness will last forever."  It's interesting to read Vincent's words to his brother, to see into his troubled mind and how he eventually uses art to try and survive his pain.

It really also gives you a lot of sympathy for Theo, for how much he supported his brother, not only financially, but emotionally too.  I like how the author kept referring to a promise the brothers made at a windmill one day, to always be there for each other, that their bond was stronger above all else.  Even though they went through their dark times where they didn't communicate and were severely frustrated, they always returned to each other, more than brothers, souls tied together in their heartache and love.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: As a book for young readers, it manages to discuss delicate situations well, but it doesn't shy away from the time period and the bohemian lifestyle. The brothers often visit brothels and prostitutes, and contract diseases spread there.  There is also some very minor swearing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Summary: The brilliant new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Everything I Never Told You.
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)
My Review:  If you are an awards winner reader (or even an award-winning reader!), this book should definitely be on your radar. It won the Best Fiction for the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2017 and was one of the winners for Best Fictional Families in 2017 for the Kirkus Reviews best books. So it’s out there. Chances are you’ve seen it.

Where to start? Hmmm…this is a very complicated book. It’s not complicated to read, actually. The writing is very relatable and accessible. It even has a vibe that’s sometimes ironic­, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes friendly, sometimes menacing. The story itself is complicated and nuanced and has so many different layers to it it’s like many different books in one. For a shortish and simple book of fiction, it is really anything but. I can’t believe all of the things that Ng crammed into the story and the pages. It didn’t seem to be too much, though, because Ng is a masterful storyteller who was able to cram in all the complexities and secrets of a whole town of people into a novel that is really pretty impressive.

I’ve been asking myself for days now if I enjoyed this book. Liked? Yes. Appreciated? Certainly. Enjoyed? I don’t know. And here’s why—this book is the most aptly named book I’ve encountered in a long time. On the surface “little fires everywhere”  could just be talking about the little fires that were set on each of the beds in the home that is burned. At the next level, “little fires everywhere” could mean the proverbial stirring of the pot that is going on by different characters in the book, whether the pot stirring is intended or not. But mostly, “little fires everywhere” just means that Ng takes all things that are normally socially accepted or social norms and drops them on their head and then lights the fire on each little issue and walks away, leaving the reader with their feelings and thoughts hanging out and having to deal with things on their own. See what I mean? I liked it. I appreciated it. Enjoyed? I don’t know. It’s not like I disagreed with the author, either, on all of the issues she’s discussing. There were many of the issues where I could see both sides and understand where each was coming from. This book is obviously emotionally charged in a lot of ways and Ng boldly goes in with a take-no-prisoners attitude and just stomps on everything with nary a care. It was kind of awesome. Uncomfortable, too. I’m not sure if I would want to discuss this in a book club. Or maybe I would? I don’t know. It’s so intense and so complicated that the discussion would either be about nothing really, just the story on the surface, or All The Things and maybe some people would leave with their feathers a little ruffled at the least.

This is not a book that you should take to the beach for some relaxing and care free reading. Don’t expect to be loving the nurturing character of each person. Do be prepared to be challenged both intellectually and emotionally, and be prepared to be thinking about this book way longer than the normal fiction fare. Little fires? You betcha. More like an inferno. Read it and be prepared to be impressed, entertained, heartbroken, and challenged.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There are many sensitive issues in this book including sex and teen pregnancy, and there is also language. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Little French Bistro - Nina George

Summary:  Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage.  After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action.  Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast.  She finds herself in Brittany, the northwestern part of France – also known as “the end of the world.”
There, Marianne is swept up by a new life at Ar Mor (the Sea) restaurant.  She meets Yann, the handsome painter; Genevieve, the fiery restaurant owner; Jean-Remy, the heartbroken chef; and many others.  Among food, music, and laughter, Marianne finds a forgotten version of herself – passionate, carefree, and powerful.  This is, until her past comes calling.  And when it does, Marianne is left with a choice; to return to the known or cast it aside for the future.  (Summary from book - Image from goodreads.com)

My Review: I have this thing I do when I’m not sure what book I want to read next.  I gather up about five or six prospects and then sit down and read the first page or so of each to see if anything grabs me.  

The Little French Bistro was second in my pile, and I never did make it to any of the others.  It started out well, both beautifully-written and thoroughly atmospheric.  I’ve never been to Paris outside of the written word (I reviewed this one book this one time), but the author’s descriptions of French life, whether in the city, countryside, or at the seaside, made me long to travel to the coast of Brittany, gobble French delicacies, enjoy the impeccable views, and primal scream at the ocean (you’d have to read it…).  

The protagonist, Marianne, is a sixty-year old woman in search of herself and longing to escape from her life-sucking marriage.  A series of events leads her to an idyllic town on the coast of Brittany where she begins working at a restaurant and there meets a startlingly vast array of local characters.  I felt each character, regardless of their part in the book, was well-developed and could have had their own spin-off book, but for the first half of the book, it was incredibly hard to keep them all straight.  At one point, I actually looked to see if there were some kind of glossary (no luck).  Eventually, I got them all worked out in my mind but it took some effort.  

The antagonist, Lothar, is Marianne’s husband and while he doesn’t feature much in the book, his presence certainly looms over it.  Basically, he’s an inconsiderate, misogynistic jerk.  There were also a few secondary story lines threaded their way through the book – a love sick cook, a mysterious feud between business rivals, an elderly couple battling Parkinson’s and dementia.  There was also a mystical component to story that lent a certain je ne sais quoi to the book, but unfortunately never felt fully developed.  It was these stories that kept me around when, about halfway through the book, my interest in Marianne’s self-discovery began to wane.   Also, I knew Lothar wouldn’t stay gone.  Bad guys never do, right?  

Eventually, Marianne learns to see herself and the world around her through new eyes, and finds what she needs to live life to its fullest.   The Little French Bistro might make a nice one-time read for a Francophile or someone with a penchant for books chocked-full of complex characters, but it had some language and sexual situations that would make it impossible for me to recommend this book to anyone who is a sensitive reader.  There are also some potential triggers for those who have either dealt with or contemplated suicide.  Ultimately, I closed it with an appreciation for the author’s skill, and a renewed desire to visit France, but ready to move on to different, potentially greener, cleaner pastures.  
While

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader: An attempted suicide (or two), some swearing, sex, and a nontraditional relationship.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free - Hector Tobar

Summary: When the San Jose mine collapsed outside of Copiapo, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. Across the globe, we sat riveted to television and computer screens as journalists flocked to the Atacama desert. While we saw what transpired above ground during the grueling and protracted rescue, the story of the miners' experiences below the earth's surface and the lives that led them there hasn't been heard until now. In this master work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Hector Tobar, gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories. The result is a miraculous and emotionally textured account of the thirty-three men who came to think of the San José mine as a kind of coffin, as a cave inflicting constant and thundering aural torment, and as a church where they sought redemption through prayer while the world watched from above. It offers an understanding of the families and personal histories that brought los 33 to the mine, and the mystical and spiritual elements that surrounded working in such a dangerous place. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: This is another one of my book club reads. Don’t you feel like you’re right there with us? Too bad you missed out on the yummy artichoke dip with pita chips and the pumpkin roll (January weight loss resolutions? Forgettaboutit!)


As with many of my book club reads, this isn’t a book I would normally have picked up. I do enjoy nonfiction, but nonfiction about mining isn’t necessarily something that would have been on my radar. I do vaguely remember when this happened, although I was not a huge news watcher in 2010 and so would have heard about it somewhere other than there. So with all this being said, I don’t really remember it all that clearly. I have since watched YouTube videos of the rescue, and of course I’m well-versed now that I’ve read the book, but to suffice it to say, I didn’t know what happened when I started reading this book.

I have quite a few thoughts about this book. First of all, it is really well written. Hector Tobar, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is legit. I never felt bogged down by facts or confused. As most of the miners were Chilean (there was one Bolivian), most of the names were in Spanish, and there were 33 of them, so it was easy to get confused (which would be easy to do in any language, really, when there are so many people involved). Tobar does a superb job of bringing each man to life, and then he continually gives little reminders when speaking about them again, so that the reader is easily able to remember who is who. I found this to be invaluable as I have no idea how I would have kept track save for a few of the miners who were featured prominently. Another thing I appreciated about Tobar’s descriptions was how he really created a rich time and place of when the incident happened. I’ve never been to Chile, but I felt like I was transported there, and also was able to understand what the mine would have been like. Tobar’s writing was accessible, descriptive, and had just the right amount of details. Too many details and you’re bombarded and it gets so technical it’s confusing. Too few details and you don’t feel like you understand the topic. Tobar was able to strike that careful balance between just enough details with just enough description to make it interesting and accessible. We have a wide variety of readers in our book club and although we all like to read (hence the book club) there are varying degrees of commitment to nonfiction literature. The general consensus was that everybody really enjoyed this book, which is a pretty tall order from my book club. They will all participate, they will be fun and lovely as always, but they may not always love the book. I think everyone really liked this book, and that is high praise from a diverse group of women.

This book was inspiring and heartwarming. The miners themselves came from small and seemingly insignificant places, but the world pulled together to save them. It was an affirming and inspiring story about normal people and how ultimately we all have to care for each other. I loved reading about the strength of some of the miners, but also of their families, and although many of them did not end up having the happy ever after that one would hope after such an experience, there was something to be learned from each of them and what they took away from the experience. One of our favorite things we discussed in book club was about what each person is to do with the different experiences they are given in life. I think this book did a great job of not only bringing out this question but also of offering many different examples of how an individual may act and what the consequences will be. The book was a good book club book in that there was a lot of discussion both of the actual event (we definitely watched some of the YouTube footage) as well as the overarching issues of men who were put in this very strange and unprecedented situation.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There was some language and some mild suggestive discussion, but it was a clean book and I was comfortable reading it in my church book club.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Out of the Blue - Alison Jay

Summary:  A sea story in pictures.  A boy and his dog, a lighthouse and a beach, a storm at sea and an extraordinary creature left behind by the waves… Alison Jay’s pictures weave a dramatic story for you to tell in your own words. (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  There are some books with illustrations so captivating, they don’t need words; Out of the Blue is one of those books.  Each page tells an exciting story through whimsical coastal and seascapes that jump start the imagination.  I found this book on our local library’s “for sale” shelf and for the life of me I can’t figure out why it was there.  It's beyond cute!

If you need the basic gist, this is it:  A little boy and his dog live in lighthouse.  One day he and a young girl decide to go beach combing.  They and their fellow beach goers are enjoying their day at the beach until a storm comes up and everyone is forced inside.  The next morning something startling has washed up on shore, and soon the entire beach community shows up to help. 

That’s the short of it, but really this book has so much more going on.  Take the time to look, and you’ll discover that even the background characters and animals have their own amusing stories.  One of my favorite illustrations happens towards the end of the book, where you get a glimpse of what’s going on beneath the sand and waves.  I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s simply delightful.  Besides that, here are a few of the other illustrations that I liked: 



I was excited to see my littlest daughter’s reaction to this book and so I handed it to her as we buckled in for the ride home from preschool.  I told her it was a picture book and that I needed her to tell me what was happening and what the people were doing in the story.  It’s about a twenty-minute drive home and she jabbered away the whole time, telling me what each person was up to and giggling here and there.  When we got home, I sat down and ‘read’ it to her.  She was enthralled.  I’d recommend this book to anyone, but especially the younger crowd.  It widens the mind and tickles the imagination.

NOTE: The book does have an end note (with words, of course) that touches on the subjects of coastal biomes, tides, rock pools, and includes interesting facts about some of the creatures featured in the book.  After pages of pictures, it was something that old beginning reader wasn’t too keen on reading until I started in on some of the wacky facts – then she engaged.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  No worries.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider - Jean Fritz

Summary:  Jean Fritz, best known for her award-winning biographies of historic American figures, now writes the intriguing story of an influential and fascinating Founding Father and his untimely death in a duel with Aaron Burr with all the excitement of an adventure story.  (Summary from book - Image from Amazon.com)

My Review: First off, I should probably disclaim that my first real exposure to Alexander Hamilton came not in my AP US History class (for shame!), but when I was introduced to Hamilton: An American Musical, a brilliant, if somewhat altered, rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s life, set to contemporary music.  I adore it, but still have to turn down the volume sometimes a lot*.  My kids love it too, though their album is remarkably shorter than mine. 

My love for the musical has prompted me to check out the now wildly popular Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow from my local library an embarrassing amount of times.  It goes a little something like this: I take it home and set it hopefully on my end table, glance at it longingly as the weeks go by, until back to the library it goes, still unread.  It’s just.  Long.  One of these days it’s going to happen.  Or so I keep telling myself. 

Thankfully, not long ago my daughter brought home a book that she purchased at the Scholastic book fair -- Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider.**  It’s a well-written, easy to understand, summary of Hamilton’s life, that reads more like a story than a stodgy biography.  Fritz divides the book into four sections (Beginnings, Soldier, Statesman, and Endings), that help guide the reader’s understanding of Hamilton’s humble beginnings as an orphan of illegitimate birth and meager circumstances, the good fortune of his education and his rise through the ranks as a soldier, his pivotal role in the founding of the United States, his often-troubled personal life, and how it all came to an early end. 

The format is very reader friendly, with a few illustrations scattered here and there to help enhance the story and make the book more palatable to the younger reader.  I didn’t really need them to keep my attention, but they were interesting nonetheless.  At 132-pages, it didn’t take me long to finish and I closed the book with a better grasp of the story not told by the musical and an even greater appreciation for the man himself. 

As might be expected, there were some marked differences (and some slightly less noticeable) between the story told on Broadway and real-life history.  I enjoyed uncovering the differences in both incidents and chronology, but found that they weren’t so marked as to take away from my enjoyment of either telling.  Occasionally the author took a little creative license with the story, drawing conclusions with terms like “perhaps”, “he must have”, or indulging rumor with “so the story goes”.   I didn’t really mind the author’s conclusions as they definitely lent to the story, but did feel that it mixed a smidgen of potential fiction in with the established historical facts.  

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn a little more about one of America’s lesser-known Founding Father, without taking a giant chunk out of their day.  It was a great jaunt into history.

My Review: 4 Stars


For the sensitive reader:  All clear.  Even the seedier aspects of Hamilton’s life are written with a G-rated hand.

*For those of you who might decide to listen to Hamilton: An American Musical based solely off my recommendation, it should be noted that I purchased the ‘clean’ version (available on iTunes) which has a few less swear words than the original version.  Even 'clean,' it still contains profanity of the A, Ba, D, H, JC, and OMG variety and two or three crude suggestions.  I usually just turn down the volume when these come around, but there is at least one song that I leave off my playlist entirely (Say No to This).  You can infer what happens without listening to it.  Basically, Hamilton makes some poor life choices.

**Yes, I’ve finally gotten to the part where I review the book I’m supposed to review.  Gosh, you guys are so impatient.   

Friday, January 26, 2018

Confessions of a Domestic Failure - Bunmi Laditan

Summary:  There are good moms and bad moms -- and then there are hot-mess moms.  Introducing Ashley Keller, a career girl turned stay-at-home mom who's trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic, and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.

When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she's always wanted to be.  But will she fly high or flop?

With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Bunmi Laditan creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother.  At its heart, Ashley's story reminds moms that there's no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great.  (Summary from back of book - Image from Amazon.com)

And for good measure:  Here is a little of what's pinned to the top of her Facebook page.

If you can wash and dry laundry but know that putting it away is for losers, this book is for you.

If being around small children 24/7 has left you with the social skills of a serial killer, this book is for you.
If your car contains all four food groups, diapers in four sizes, enough rations to survive the apocalypse, Target bags you're waiting to smuggle into your home once your husband is distracted (I know you needed those tank tops/candles/ankle booties, trust me), $80 in small change, a blended family of possums, and 6lbs of Goldfish crumbs, this book is for you....
If you wear leggings so you don't have to face what size you are in regular pants now, this book is for you....
If your living room looks like a crack den sponsored by Toys R Us and Leap Frog, this book is for you.
If you Febreeze your entry way, pour bleach down the kitchen sink, and rearrange the dirty dishes 10 minutes before the love of your life gets home to make it smell like you accomplished things that day, this book is for you....
If you pin designer kid clothes but your children live in $4 Walmart shirts, this book is for you.
If you can't get your act together to save your life and motherhood has ruined your mind, body, sex life, and hair, your uniform is pajamas, and you live for bedtime but you'd run through white hot fire for your kids, this book is for you.

My Review:  I stumbled upon Bunmi Laditan's particular brand of hilarity and snark when it came across my news feed on Facebook back in 2016.  She'd written a tongue-in-cheek post about her kid's chicken nuggets and darn if I didn't fall just a little bit in love with her soul right then.  Without saying so out right, she implied that maybe the "standards" society has set for moms are a bit ridiculous.  Perhaps, you don't have to be perfect Holly Homemaker to be a good mom!  You can read it here, if you'd like.  It was just what I needed to hear and I've been following her ever since.  You can imagine my delight when I found out she'd written a book.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure is not the non-fiction novel I had hoped for, but is rather a fiction novel written in Bunmi Laditan's characteristic style - a combination of self-deprecating wit and her deliciously unfiltered perspective.  Although it's main character is a young mom named Ashley, who can't seem to get the hang of motherhood, I couldn't help but assume that it was at least in some ways autobiographical, with the author putting a little of herself and her own experiences into the character.  Whatever the source, this book was clearly written for me and every other well-meaning, exhausted, hot-mess of a mom who ever found herself questioning her sanity or her ability to parent even so much as a houseplant.  We've all had those days.  I love my children more than life itself, but the daily rigmarole of motherhood has been known to leave me figuratively curled up in a dusty corner of my brain, counting down the seconds till everyone in the house is finally asleep.  I hadn't made it two pages in before I was snorting in sisterly solidarity, reading excerpts aloud, and admiring her decidedly unique turn of phrase.  I was identifying all over the place.

Ashley's character does come off as a bit naive about the ways of the world and occasionally her hi-jinks sauntered in to the unbelievable, but the biggest problem I had was that her fictional problems started to stress me out.  I kid you not, if there is a PTSD for parenting little ones, this book should come with a trigger warning.  Though I've been out for a while, Ashley's experiences hurtled me back to the days of diaper explosions, projectile vomiting, acute loneliness, and the sleepless nights of days long past.  I still loved the author's comedic writing style, but I was actually kind of glad when Ashley's experience shifted into more foreign territory so that I identified a little less.

My overall takeaways:
1)  You don't HAVE to hand stitch all your kids cloth diapers out of home grown organic hemp, ethically sourced unicorn hair, and the discarded down of an free-range swan.  Your kids will survive  without them.  I promiseThis same rule applies to a lot of other things, so apply it liberally.
2) Social media presents an idealized reality.  No one has got it as together as it seems.  No one.  So stop comparing your actual reality to someone else's carefully crafted fantasy.

In case you're in a fragile emotional state and wondering, Ashley's story ends well, if not entirely as expected.  I'll leave it at that.  I probably won't read this book again, but I would recommend it as a good one time read to those who are looking to lighten up a bit, have a good laugh, and stop comparing themselves to other moms. 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Might contain triggers for stressed out moms.   Also might make you snort milk out your nose.  It's a risk you'll have to take.  I can't remember any instances of language but I've got mom-brain.  So proceed with caution.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Young Jane Young - Gabrielle Zevin

Summary: Young Jane Young's heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: I picked this book up for a few reasons. First of all, I loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and you can read my review of that here. I really enjoyed it. Also, Young Jane Young was on “The Best Books of 2017” by Kirkus Reviews. Some awards I agree with, some I don’t, but I at least like to have read as many of the books from the different prize winning lists as I can. I wouldn’t want to miss my next favorite, right?!

I love Zevin’s characters. I really loved the characters in A.J. Fikry and I really loved the characters in this book as well. I think they’re funny, relatable, and very real. Fiascos happen but she doesn’t necessarily save them from themselves (or each other) which is nice. That’s how reality is, you know? So many times humans make stupid mistakes and they’re forced to deal with those mistakes. It isn’t always pretty, but it is what it is. I think that Zevin has a firm understanding of this, especially in this book which is based around one epic mistake.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book was that I understood the background of the story. I worked for a senator when I was in college. Unlike Jane Young, I basically saw the senator once at a dinner and that was pretty much it. I don’t think I actually even spoke to him in person. He lived in D.C. and so he wasn’t even in the same part of the country for most of my internship. There is a certain amount of adrenaline that goes with such a job, however, and I certainly encountered my fair share of people who were willing to do whatever it took to make this experience all that they could. I didn’t intern long enough to experience any personal betrayals, but I did see people clawing their way to wherever they wanted to go. Maybe it’s the type of person who interns for a politician? I dunno. But I enjoyed reading this book because it was somewhat nostalgic in that way.

I loved how the book was divided up into different characters’ stories. I didn’t enjoy each character telling equally, but I still really enjoyed being a part of their lives. I very much appreciate the approachable and accessible manner in which Zevin writes. It makes it so easy to read. Her stories are compulsively readable, the writing is flawless in the way that it just facilitates the mood and the story, and I felt like I was reading a guilty pleasure because I read it so quickly and so attentively.

Although there is obviously a huge political agenda in this, I found myself completely agreeing with it (which doesn’t usually happen, by the way). Why do women have to pay for sexual mistakes in a way that no man should? How come Jane Young had to take the fall for an older predator politician? This book goes right along with all of the sexual misconduct reckoning that’s going on today, and it does it in a way that tells a story that doesn’t make the intern completely innocent, but makes it completely obvious that she shouldn’t have had to pay the way she did for a mistake that was made by both parties.

I loved the feisty women in this book—ones from each generation and ones who dealt with different things in their own way. I wouldn’t say men were favored highly in this book, but it was a really engaging, fast read that I enjoyed a lot.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and quite a bit of discussion of sex, as you might imagine from reading the summary. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (A Novella) - Fredrik Backman

Summary:  Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the sweet scent of the hyacinths that grandma loved to grow in her garden.  As they wait together, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife. She's as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won't remember her.    This peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time is where they will learn to say good-bye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to hear.  Fredrik Backman has rendered an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man's struggle to hold onto his most precious memories and his family's efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.  This little book with a big message is sure to be treasured for generations to come.  (Summary from book flap)

My Review:  I'd like to start my review with an excerpt from the author's letter to the reader, that I think makes this novella a little easier to understand:

"This is a story about memories and about letting go.  It's a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy. 

I never meant for you to read it, to be quite honest.  I wrote it just because I was trying to sort out my own thoughts...but it turned into a small tale of how I'm slowly losing the greatest minds I know, about missing someone who is still there..."

This novella is a 76-page story about the passage of time, fighting the loss of memories, and caring for someone who is slowly losing track of the world and their place in it.  It's primarily composed of conversations between an elderly man (Grandpa) and his wife, son (Ted), and grandson (Noah).  The conversations didn't always transition in an obvious way or take place chronologically or even in the real world, so I would occasionally lose my bearings while reading.  The resulting disorientation and frustration felt intentional -- a narrative technique on the part of the author, that helped me to identifywith the characters and their emotions.  However, the more I read the more the story started to fall into place, the characters came into focus, and moments made sense.  At the end I was left with a bittersweet sense of loss -- like a life well lived, but only half remembered.

Honestly, I don't know if I recommend this book or not.  It definitely elicited all sorts of feels, but it might be kind of a hard read for someone who has ever cared for a loved one with Alzheimer's or Dementia.  It also might be cathartic.  Whatever it is -- it's 76 pages of food for thought:  What do you want to hold on to?

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Might be a trigger for those who have cared for a loved one with progressive or chronic memory loss.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Marrow Thieves - Cherie Dimaline

Summary: In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing "factories." (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:This book is the 2017 winner of the Kirkus Prize for fiction teen books so I had to read it and see what all the hype is about. I would say that overall I liked it—it’s certainly got that dystopian element that is so popular in teen fic these days. I have read quite a few dystopian novels over the past few years (as I’m sure you have) and I can’t help but wonder if teens are really binging on this as much as the adults are? Do they ever get paranoid or scared by it as we adults do, or do they just let it be a simple distraction and fun for their life? You know, as much as dystopia is fun. Which mostly it is not. Interesting, sure. Inventive? Hopefully. Uplifting? Doubtful.


So I have to start by saying that like many books in the dystopian genre, the details of this one are confusing. I get the basic premise—the world has been destroyed by global warming and people have stopped being able to dream (whether this is sleep dreaming or going-for-your-dreams type-dreaming is unclear) but they have found that Native populations have the key to being able to dream in their DNA, so they extract it from their bone marrow. This results in all sorts of hunting down people and capturing and torture and such, as you might image. And that’s the crux of the book, actually, which I will get into later. The actual taking of bone marrow or how it works and why it works and why it is just native populations (and what is native, really, in this dystopian world? I mean, there are people native to each area in the world, and everybody is native to somewhere, but is it just native meaning people who are not white? Because the term “native” seems to vary broadly in that there are native populations from Canada, America, and even some of the islands. Was it just the American continent? What about the indigenous people in other areas? This was also confusing). Also, the indigenous people who are the main characters are able to find what they think might be a solution to all of this madness, but I’m not sure why the solution was what it was which is too bad because it could have been really cool. I’m being intentionally vague about all of this because I don’t want to ruin the book, but also because it was genuinely confusing. I wanted it to make sense. I really did. However, I think Dimaline had created a dystopian world so rich in her mind that she didn’t understand what the rest of us didn’t understand. The world was so real to her and so obvious that the few crumbs that she thought were all we needed were not enough to actually make it very cohesive.

The fact about all of this is, though, that many dystopian books are this way. The how and why and the details of All the Badness are often vague so that the book can focus on the characters, so this is pretty standard fare for dystopian books.

What this book did have going for it was the actual dripping from the page dread, fear, and confusion that the characters were feeling. Dimaline did an excellent job of creating characters who were relatable and easy to understand. The story itself had a hopeless quality that I’m assuming would be very real and prevailing in an actual dystopian world. I really enjoyed the indigenous cultural infusions that Dimaline used, and my own regret is that there weren’t more of them. I LOVE culture and I love how it plays into people’s lives. Culture was a huge part of this novel because of the nature of the characters being hunted for their indigenous bone marrow. There was a very interesting juxtaposition of elders who had traditional culture and language and stories (which was super fascinating) and then the modern young teen characters who were trying to live in a world where they hadn’t had much exposure to their traditional culture and yet it now meant everything—the key to saving themselves both physically and emotionally as well. I really Really REALLY wish there had been more exploration into the indigenous cultures in this book. I think it would have made it so much richer, and also filled out the story more. It really was confusing in so many ways. That being said, I understand that YA fic can only be so long with only so much depth or it ceases to capture its audience. In Marrow Thieves there is just enough culture and depth to really make the story and leave the reader wanting a lot more.

Because I felt like there was much confusion surrounding the actual premise of the book—the marrow and how it is connected to dreams—and because I wanted a lot more culture discussion in this book to flesh it out, I’m giving this book 3.5 stars. I so wanted to be immersed in this culture and in the end I felt like there was so much of that lacking. That being said, if you are into dystopian fiction, you should definitely check it out.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some minor descriptions of minor teen sexual play (no sex). I would say it is on par with others in its genre, maybe even on the lighter side.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Finding Beauty in the Beast - Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee

Summary: Princess Rose's fiery temper has kept every potential suitor away...until now. After being spurned and humiliated for the last time, the princes forces every eligible man to present a gift to her under pain of death. The man who brings her the best gift will be chosen as her husband.

When Corbin presents his gift, he hopes that his simple offering will keep him safely overlooked. All he wants is to return to his quiet life as a blacksmith away from forbidding castles and beastly princesses. But love works in mysterious ways, and it all starts with a rose...
 (Summary and image from goodreads.com. I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: I don't know anyone who didn't love Disney's Beauty and the Beast growing up. The story is so wonderful and timeless, the music is awesome, the heroine is strong and resilient, there's just a touch of angst ... it's just wonderful. Definitely one of my favorite Disney Classics. But, what if the Beauty and the Beast were one and the same?

Jeassilyn Peaslee is taking us back to the world she's created in Ella in order to follow Corbin the blacksmith and his journey. Upon realizing that his intended is more in love with the idea of marrying a prince than with him, he flees to a new town to create a new life for himself. With all the hubbub of the move and the realization that he's moved into the kingdom of "the Beast" (who Ella), he is abruptly informed that he has a few minutes to choose a gift for the Princess, as she has decided she'll marry a commoner to snub the Prince who cut off their engagement for one.

The story is fairly predictable. The Princess is horrible to everyone and everything, she takes little to no interest in the state of her kingdom, she refuses to get to know Corbin, because she's never been taught to grow or move forward from a childhood tragedy. Corbin is sullen, withdrawn, and grumpy as he tries to find a new identity as husband to the Princess and the future King. There are a few other side stories, but nothing earth-shatteringly out of left field. 

Despite the predictability of the story, I really loved this book. It was so sweet. The characters were real to me -- they had flaws and failures, they grew and they had purpose. The story, while definitely light reading, was exactly what my brain needed during the stress of starting a new and scary job. Additionally, the lighter fare of the storyline allowed me to develop a better connection with the characters, because I wasn't so consumed with trying to figure out a convoluted storyline. 

I really enjoy this series, and hope this isn't the last one in it. I want to visit these characters again. I want to see their growth, get to know their children, and see how they stay connected.  Again, if you're looking for a good series to direct a teenage girl to, this is a good one. These are the qualities I'd like my daughter to grow into.

Rating:  Four stars


Monday, January 15, 2018

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place.  The only time teenage Wade Watt really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS.  Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines -- puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture icons of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.  But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize.  The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win -- and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I went into this book with sky high hopes.  One of my friends, a fellow bibliophile, recommended it alongside A Man Called Ove (which I gushed over here) as her top books of 2017.  She's an avid reader, and former bookseller, and so her glowing recommendation usually means I'm likely to strike literary gold.  Having unreasonably high expectations can often lead to disappointment, and, unfortunately, that is what happened to me.

Ready Player One is imaginative, complex, and likely to dazzle a lot of people at the box office when the movie comes out in March 2018.   The entire concept of the book intrigued me and I appreciated that it delved into a variety of contemporary themes and sub-themes (e.g. our society's increasing dependence on technology, the idealized nature of the online world, the evils of greed, addiction, and corrupt corporations, and so on). One of my favorite quotes spoke to the depressing reality of Wade's Wall-E-like existence:

...over the past few months, I'd come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn't exist.  Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.  Standing there under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth.  In real life, I was nothing but an anti-social hermit.  A recluse.  A pale-skinned, pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact.  I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul wasting his life on a glorified video game.

I liked the buttons the author was trying to push with his work, but I just didn't feel invested in the story. Part of the problem was that even though I enjoyed the basic plot, a lot of the subject matter was outside my wheelhouse. I am a geek at heart, but not really a gamer geek.  I caught the references to iconic movies like Monty Python or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the nods to TV shows like Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Firefly, but  I've when it comes to gaming, well, I have never so much as played Minecraft.  We didn't have video games growing up, and I couldn't even pass the original Mario at my neighbor's house.  I'm that bad.  First-person shooters make me motion sick and the closest I've ever been to RPG's is the day I sent my boyfriend off to sword fight in the quad (not a proud moment, I assure you).  I only caught about 10% of the steady stream of pop culture references hurled my way, leaving the other 90% to sail right over my head.  Oh, I still knew what was going on in the book, but I believe that the story would have been enhanced if I had caught a bit more.

The best way I can explain the whole experience was that it was like watching my college boyfriend (yes, the same one) play a really amazing video game -- cool up to a point, but not something I want to do for hours on end.  It took me an inordinately long time to feel that wrenching gut-hook that yanked me into the story, which came roughly 360 pages into a 579 page book.  It wasn't until Wade ran into some truly harsh realities outside the virtual world that I started to feel that hoped for pull, but once I did, I finished it in a flat second and can see why it's being made into a movie.  While I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, I'd be far more likely to recommend it to someone with an extensive gaming/RPG background, as I think they'd probably enjoy it more than myself. 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Plenty of swearing, some anti-Christian themes, some frank discussion of sexual matters.

Friday, January 12, 2018

GOODREADS Best Books of 2017

I know we haven't really had a DTR, but we're not exclusive.  
We hope you enjoy our book blog and tons of others. 
If you haven't had a chance to visit Goodreads, you really should.  


We recommend starting with the Best Books of 2017  

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