Cheaper by the Dozen is a charming story about a dad full of personality and how he raises hi...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cheaper by the Dozen is a charming story about a dad full of personality and how he raises his twelve kids. The dad is witty, blunt, sarcastic, slightly over protective, eccentric and a little strict. The father is what really makes this story because it was delightful to read about him. There's some back story about the dad and my favorite story from his childhood was when he was talking to a brick foreman about how to do things more efficiently and no matter how much the foreman threatens and swears at him, he carries on about his ideas without missing a beat.
I admired the way he parented his children. He always had them learning things by turning them into games. He plays jokes on the kids and has a lot of fun with them. He was such a bad driver that the kids voluntarily became look outs. Even though he was a really strict dad and never dreamed of bending the rules, he knew when to show them extra love, too. The story of the roller skates was such a touching story of teaching his kids a lesson but in a loving way.
As much as I enjoyed all of the stories about the family, I thought the father was a little too eccentric and strict until I read the ending. The ending was so beautiful and not at all what I expected. The father is adamant about saving time when doing even the smallest tasks. I think he would have been a huge fan of life hacks. People would ask him "But what do you want to save time FOR?" It was a reminder how precious time is and to spend as much of it with your family as you can.
Overall, it was a charming story about his dad and his eccentric ways of raising a family that had a beautiful message and ending.(less)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a literary bookthat is full of witty, intelligent humor. The voice of the teenage girl, Bee, who narrates this book is d...moreWhere'd You Go, Bernadette is a literary book that is full of witty, intelligent humor. The voice of the teenage girl, Bee, who narrates this book is delightful and sarcastic especially about some of the crappy things that happen to her. I love the humor of the unpopularity of Bee's dad working at Microsoft where they are "acronym-happy (pg. 123)." Bee has a sweet personality, too. She is collecting letters, emails, transcripts, and blog posts in this journal that she is writing about where her mother went. I ADORE the blog post that Bee puts in the book that is 500 words long and literally all the post says is that it's going to rain. Ah to love something that much that you could write 500 words about the smallest detail.
The writing is amazing in this book. I don't think there is a single cliche thing said in the entire book. There's a scene where people freeze as they stare at an argument. But does she just say that they froze? No. She describes them as this:
Nobody had moved. Some hands were frozen in midair, in the middle of doing a fold. It looked like a wax museum diorama of an origami presentation.
- Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette pg 275
I love it. This was an example of the ultimate show not tell with everything from the unique structure of emails, faxes, and letters, to the writing itself. Where'd You Go, Bernadette was very entertaining and full of personality.
The crazy small community that this story is set in was hilarious and it kind of reminded me of the small town charm and quirkiness of Gilmore Girls. This book was full of interesting characters. Literally all of them exaggerate. We get to see different perspectives and how each character tends to bend the story a little in their favor to make themselves the victim.
I learned so much from the character of Bernadette. She showed me that creativity is sometimes found within extreme limits. I admired her ability to use her interpersonal skills to help her thrive in the male dominated professions of architecture. Remember to embrace your talents - even the weird ones - and use them to do something you love that no one else can do. I also loved the theme of Bernadette getting lost literally and figuratively in motherhood which I found very relatable. Even though Bernadette doesn't say this particular quote, I think it describes motherhood perfectly.
I felt so alone in this world, and so loved at the same time.
- Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette pg. 199
Overall, it was a impeccably written and hilarious story full of fascinating characters that taught me a lot about embracing your talents - even the weird ones.
Content warning: some strong language - about a dozen or more f-words.(less)
The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did Las...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did Last Summer." I read this book because there was a lot of hype around it. "Crazy Twist Ending! Must Read!" is what everyone said. I don't normally read contemporary YA books, but I decided this one might be fun because of all the hype around it.
My first impression of We Were Liars was that there was a map at the beginning. I LOVE MAPS. Are there more contemporary books out there with maps? Because if there are, you need to tell me so I can read them all.
The short sentences and broken lines made the writing feel very poetic. It also showed the broken mind of the main character, Cadence. To me, I didn't enjoy the reading experience as much as I could have because it felt like I was impatiently waiting to get to The Twist. The Twist was pretty cool and unexpected but it's not like a twist that has never been done before. Ironically, I read this because of the hype about the ending but because I knew there was a crazy ending I couldn't enjoy it all the way.
The biggest questions I had while reading this were: "What happened to Cadence?" and "Why does she keep giving her things away?" The first question is eventually answered, but I felt like the second question was left up to me as the reader to decide. Cadence's attitude towards things and objects was really interesting.
"...the accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal. Whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Wins what? is what I'd like to know."
- E. Lockhart, We Were Liars pg 46
Overall, it was an interesting read with beautiful writing but the over-hyped ending left me a little disappointed.
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book....moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book. The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool. Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year. The Season Kingdoms and the "Rhythm" Kingdoms don't like each other. That's a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in. The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times. Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out. I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities - Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli. But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche. The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity. The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes. It's fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.
The magic system grew on me. I did not like it at first. From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel). I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, "Duh. That's obviously a stupid idea." Many, many chapters later it's explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it. The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil. It was actually pretty interesting. Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn't been explained yet, I was not impressed.
The writing wasn't the best I've read. It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out. Villain motivation is very important to me. This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason. That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have. I mean, at least have a reason for all this power. Maybe he's always wanted all the things because he never had the things. Please. Something. I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted. They just called him "evil" the whole time.
Meira is a strong, spunky female lead. I liked her character and reading about her. She wants to be a soldier, not a princess. As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron. I thought he was the best character in the book. He was so far from cliche that I don't think Theron and cliche have ever met. Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:
"There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future. The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all."
-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)
Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.
Content warning: some violence that is mildly graphic(less)
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against the...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against them. Our society values people who are outgoing and people who are shy are considered to have some sort of flaw even though that is their natural personality. I had never thought about or even realized how our society values a very "narrow range of personality styles. (pg. 3)" As an introverted person, I didn't think I would have any biases against people who are labeled as shy. Was I wrong. Many shy people are encouraged to be social and change which gives them a feeling that something is wrong with them instead of them just having a different personality.
Introversion— along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness— is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 4)
My favorite thing about this book was how it showed that introverts have strengths just by being who they naturally are. An example she used was Rosa Parks who was "shy and courageous (pg. 2)." Susan Cain points out that the Civil Rights movement wouldn't have gotten started if Rosa Parks had been an outgoing and loud person. It succeeded because she was a quiet, well respected person and the fact that she stood up for herself gained more attention because it was easier for people to realize the huge injustice of it since she was acting against her personality.
Here are a few of the strengths that an introverted person naturally has:
Function well without sleep (pg. 3)
Good at negotiating because their mild-mannered disposition allows them to take strong/aggressive positions and be accepted more easily (pg. 8)
Think before they speak or act (pg. 8, 168)
Prepare more for speeches and negotiations (pg. 8)
Asks lots of questions and listens intently to answers that leads to strong negotiation skills (pg. 8)
Work slowly and deliberately (pg. 11)
Ability to focus intently on one task and high abilities of concentration (pg. 11)
Relatively immune to the temptation of wealth or fame (pg. 11)
Able to delay gratification (pg. 163)
Don't give up easily (pg. 168)
Leadership style that wins people over (pg. 197)
Work independently which can lead to innovation (pg. 74)
I loved hearing the definition of an introverted person that wasn't framed in a negative way compared to an extroverted person. An introverted person enjoys less stimulation which is why they tend to like things like reading. They recharge by being alone while extroverted people recharge by socializing. All introverted people are not necessarily shy. I really liked Susan's illustration of how shyness and introversion were two different things.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 12)
There's a quiz in the book to see which end of the spectrum of introversion/extroversion you fall on. She states several times that no one is completely extroverted or introverted. I did get 15/20 on the test which means I fall heavily on the introverted side. So this book felt very relevant to me. But even if you don't feel like an introverted person, this book has so much value because it's pretty much guaranteed that you know or are related to someone introverted and it can help you understand and relate to them.
One epiphany I had about myself was learning that some introverted people are sensitive. There's a study in the book about babies who had personality assessments when they were babies and again when they had grown up. They found the babies who were sensitive, who cried at loud noises and bad smells more easily turned out to be mellow, introverted adults. The babies who were easy going and didn't react much to new things grew up to be more outgoing. It seems like it should be the other way around, but it makes sense. If an introverted baby is overwhelmed by stimulation, they choose to be around less stimulation as they become adults. I immediately called my mom when I read this study because I will never live down the stories of being the baby who was scared of the orange rug every time I sat on it, the lamp from just looking at it, and my aunt's braces when she smiled. And when Susan Cain is talking about sensitivity she is using the psychological term.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 14)
It’s as if, like Eleanor Roosevelt, they can’t help but feel what others feel.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 138)
I wasn't expecting this book to help me think about what I really want to do with my life. Introverts are more likely to ignore their own preferences for career choices. The author talks about her career choice as a lawyer and even though she was good at it, she didn't enjoy or even want to do it. She listed three steps to finding out what you love to do.
First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. (pg. 218)
Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. (pg. 218)
Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. (pg. 218)
When I went through these steps I realized that I love reading and reviewing books. Go figure after studying music and then finance in college that I would eventually come back to reading which I have loved doing since elementary school. Blogging about books has been such a great outlet and way for me to write which I also loved doing. I had to giggle when I came across this quote because my husband can't believe some of the things I post on my blog for the world to see sometimes.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read...
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 63)
If being introverted is so great, why isn't it valued in our society? There's an entire chapter that talks about the shift in American culture to over-emphasize the value of extroverted people that led to a devaluing of introverted people. It was very interesting. It involves industrial change, work force changes, and even parenting changes. She compares other cultures to America's (like China) and shows how their value of extroversion is not as strong or even the opposite and how that affects their culture. The biggest thing that contributed to extroversion being over-valued has to do with the business world. Loud, fast talking people are seen as leaders even if it negatively affects others. Harvard Business School teaches that true leaders have quick and assertive answers which might have led to many of the financial crises since the slow and cautious decision makers were mostly dismissed. There was a study in the book that questioned whether extroverted people are always the best leaders. It turns out they are excellent leaders if their employees are very passive, but in a work environment where the employees are more proactive an introverted leader is actually more efficient at utilizing the knowledge and experience of their employees.
You would think that as an introverted person it would be easy to parent an introverted child. That's not necessarily true and I enjoyed the parenting tips in the book. I need to remember that my child is just sensitive to things that are new in general and not to label him as shy or anti-social.
I feel like I know myself a little better after reading Quiet. I can recognize now when I’m feeling overwhelmed from stimulation and I make it a point to take time to myself to read or spend time on my own. It’s made me a lot happier. I also have been standing up for myself more, but in my own way by asking lots of questions and not being afraid to speak my mind just because I’m not a loud person. It also made me realize the social pressures I had been putting on myself and my kids. I always felt guilty for not having “enough” play dates and social time. And by “enough” I mean daily play dates. I realize now that the pace of a few times a week makes both my and my kids happy. I don’t feel pressure to have them constantly doing something with other kids anymore. Most of all it helped me realize that I am not an anti-social person. Now that I'm aware that going out with lots of friends or to parties will drain me, I make time to wind down afterwards and I no longer turn down social invitations since I understand my personality better. I feel like for me, this book accomplished what Susan Cain wanted it to.
If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 16)
Overall, Quiet shifted my perspective on what it means to be introverted and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I highly recommend this book.
Dad is Fatexpands on Jim Gaffigan's staple humor about kids and the challenges of being a par...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Dad is Fat expands on Jim Gaffigan's staple humor about kids and the challenges of being a parent. I laughed out loud at most of this book. As funny as the book is, I think it helped me look at life more honestly and realize that being a parent IS crazy and hard sometimes. The ability to laugh about it and realize all parents aren't perfect inspires me to do a little better and not let myself get bogged down in the sheer stress of it is sometimes. I can laugh about my stress and let it go.
Failing and laughing at your own shortcomings are the hallmarks of a sane parent.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 25)
I think another point he makes in this book is how funny kids are just from being themselves. One of my favorite things about Jim Gaffigan's humor is that he can take situations that usually stress me out about kids being themselves and show me how funny it is. Like this:
Children have a tendency to behave as poorly as the most poorly behaved kid in the room. The laws of physics dictate that if there is a kid screaming and running in the hallway of a hotel, all the other children will scream and run in the hallway of the hotel.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 15)
The chapter that I laughed at the most was called "Vice President" where he compares dads to real vice presidents (like the enforcer role he sometimes has of Dick Cheney) and how dads different vice president roles function in the family. The whole chapter is great but here's my favorite quote:
As a dad, you are Vice President. You are part of the Executive Branch of the family, but you are the partner with the weaker authority. In your children’s eyes, you mostly fulfill a ceremonial role of attending pageants and ordering pizza. I’m never the first choice. My kids don’t even mask it, which I respect them for. “Let’s see, the crabby guy with the scratchy beard or that warm soft lady that tells us stories for eight hours?” It’s not even close.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 36)
I wish I could share all my favorite quotes with you, but that would be half the book. I listened to the audiobook, but then got the ebook from the library so I could highlight all the quotes that I loved. So here's the last quote that I want to share with you. Jim is talking about how his kids wake up before the sun and how loud they are (which I can relate to) which makes this quote so hilarious to me.
The song goes, “Morning has broken,” and I’m pretty sure my children broke it. Like everything else they break, if they did break it, they’ll never admit it.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (p. 194)
Narrator Review: Five stars
Listening to the audiobook was just as much fun as listening to one of his standup routines. He's honest, sarcastic, funny and so entertaining to listen to. The way he says things really adds to the humor. I highly recommend the audiobook over the ebook.
Overall, it was a hilarious and entertaining read about being a parent and the funny things that kids do.
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of t...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of the south. There's a guy that Nella, the main character, pines for but can't have (who is kind of whiney by the way) and she doesn't fully love the one she has until it's too late. And then she returns to Tara...uh, I mean the farm she grew up on.
We had a great discussion in my book club about this one. It was a book that made you want to have more fun and live life instead of working too much because of Nella's reflections on her life and the choices she made. It also had me ponder about our dreams for the future. I couldn't decide if Nella gave up her dream or if she just got a new one. That was something I can really relate to. I still don't know the answer. Did I give up my dream of music or did I just find a new one that I love?
It was touching to read a story about a family and the support and care they have for each other even when they don't always like each other. I find myself enjoying multi-generational stories like these and how they show the changes of generations and their relationships. My one complaint about the novel was the the plot didn't have much going on it felt kind of slow to me.
Narrator Review: 3 Stars
The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, had a pleasant voice. She read a little slow for my taste but speeding up the narration helped with that. I thought she did a great job pronouncing all the Italian names.
Overall, it was a beautiful story about family and the choices we make with our dreams, our love, our work, and the act of trying to balance it all.
Content warning: a fade-to-black sex scene and there wasn't any language that I could remember.(less)
I've recently gotten hooked on the Freakonomics podcast so I decided to borrow Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's latest book from the library. The full title is SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance which would not fit in my little title box for this post.
My favorite thing about this book, that also shows up every week in the podcast, is how they challenge popular beliefs about current issues by using statistics to come to different conclusions than everyone else. It stretches my brain and I learn some new things at the same time. Like learning about the whaling industry. I didn't know that oil (the fossil kind) replaced the whaling industry. At the time whaling could have been considered too big to fail since whale oil was used to light houses. A theory that really stretched my brain was the after-affects of September 11 in increased policing of terrorism reduced policing in other areas like the financial sector. I had never linked the two before, but it does make a lot of sense.
That's not to say I agree with all the ideas in the book. I thought the hose idea to fix global warming was stupid but I do appreciate the focus on creative, simple, and unconventional solutions to current problems.
Another interesting tidbit I learned from this book was how to get rid of illegal markets. If you go after suppliers of illegal things (like we do right now with drugs) then it creates more demand and the market sticks around. If you go after the demand the market will shrink. It seems pretty straight forward and obvious but there are a few reasons that we don't do that. As a society it's easier to villianize drug dealers than the poor little guy who wanted a fix. But the biggest reason, I think, that we don't go after the demand is because there is so much more of it. The police can barely keep up with getting rid of suppliers.
Narrator Review: Four Stars
Stephen Dubner also narrates the Freakonomics podcast so I was used to hearing his voice. This book felt like a really long podcast and it was enjoyable for me to listen to. Stephen reads at a good pace and does a good job of adding interest to the book. I find his way of narrating conversational and very easy to listen to.
Overall, it's an interesting and different look at current issues that I learned a little from and was entertained by as well.
Content warning: one use of the f-word and a discussion in the first chapter of the "business" of prostitution. It wasn't graphic but it was still a little too much info for me.(less)
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I had...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I hadn't thought about before like how much wheat there really is in a grocery store. It's pretty much on every single isle. When you look at all the over-proccessed and packaged foods, it's easy to see why he says that we've traded cheap food for our health. Ain't that the truth. I also didn't know how high the glycemic index for wheat bread was. It's higher than a Snickers bar. So the next time I went to the store I totally bought a huge bag of Snickers. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point he was trying to make but man - I could have been eating candy this whole time! It was interesting when he went into some science and research about how addictive wheat really is. It causes us to crave food constantly and eat more than we need.
I didn't really agree with the implication that he made that even if you eat healthy and exercise, you don't lose weight if you eat wheat. I do see the value in reducing wheat in our diet after he drives home how much we overeat it. I can also see the value in reducing wheat in your diet if you are diabetic since wheat does have such a high glycemic index. But there are enough healthy people who eat wheat that I just can't see how this would be true all the time.
I learned some cool things about your body and how it works. Your body's ph balance is so important that it will draw calcium from your bones if you have too much acid for your body to neutralize (like from drinking too much soda). The author explained how abdominal fat (which he believes comes mostly from wheat) can cause inflammation becuase it spikes your blood sugar which causes your body to make more insulin and then insulin makes more fat which causes inflammation. It keeps going around in this vicious circle. And when he had a study that said Rheumatoid arthritis was shown to improve with gluten removal I convinced my husband to go on a gluten-free diet to see if it will help his arthritis.
The last chapters got kind of boring to be honest. To sum up - wheat makes you old and gives you heart disease. It was kind of technical and hard to follow a lot more than that. Then he generalized the findings and research he had about wheat and turned it into not eating any starch at all (is this guy serious!!?) to limiting the amount of fruit you eat (say what??). He summarizes his diet in the back of his book to eating unlimited amounts of meats, veggies, and raw nuts, and then limited amounts of non-gluten grains and fruits. I'm really not sold on that. I don't see anything wrong with eating fruit and gluten-free grains as a main part of your diet.
I decided to go on a gluten-free diet after reading this because we eat mostly a gluten-free diet already since my son has celiac.Since I don't like making two dinners and I usually eat leftovers for lunch, I'd say half my diet was already gluten-free. We eat more fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese and meats now. We still eat gluten-free grains. I feel much better (e.g. I have more energy and I'm not starving by 10 am). Even though our food costs more, I find that we are eating less like the book says and my food budget has stayed about the same. Not to mention our diet is healthier with things like fruit and yogurt and cheese sticks for snacks instead of over-processed crackers. So far, I have enjoyed the gluten-free diet that we are on. I find that the food tastes better. We buy this gluten-free cereal that fills me up longer and tastes better than the wheat cereal I was getting even though they have similar amounts of fiber and protein. The wheat cereal actually had more calories than the gluten-free kind.
Narrator Rating: 4 stars
The narrator was easy to understand and made the novel interesting but I had to kind of roll my eyes at how many times during the book he said "healthy whole grains" sarcastically. He really couldn't resist saying it every other page. I looked at the print version - healthy whole grains is not in quotes every time it's mentioned (it is in quotes a few times) so I didn't understand the need for "sarcastic" pronunciation every time it showed up.
Overall, the author convinced me that we eat way too much wheat in our diet but he did not completely convince me to go to the extreme diet that he suggests in the back of the book.(less)
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death e...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death experiences since they seem very personal to me and I have a hard time connecting with them. I wasn't a huge fan of the descriptions of Eben Alexander's near death experience because they felt a little weird to me, but overall I actually liked this book. Proof of Heaven talks about his family life before his experience and the things he personally learned during his experience which was enjoyable to read.
My favorite part of the book was Eben learning about his past. He was adopted and felt loved by his adopted family, but as he grew older and had kids he started to wonder if his biological parents ever loved him. He compares not knowing if he was loved by his biological parents and how it made him unhappy to not knowing if we are loved before we came to this Earth by God can make you depressed and unhappy. Until he went into a coma he didn't believe God loved him. It was beautiful to read about how learning that God loved him brought a lot of joy and happiness into his life.
There were a few life-changing things he learned that really resonated with me. Evil is necessary for free will and free will is so important in our mortal life. He learned that God is human and personal. One of the unique things about Eben's experience was the fact that he was a brain surgeon before this experience and he realized that you don't have to sacrifice science to believe in the spiritual. If we as a society continue to pursue science without also pursuing the spiritual then we will be "relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme... (pg 152)."
Eben had such an interesting view on the brain and how it relates to consciousness. I had never thought about it like that before, but it made sense to me.
The brain itself does not produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.
- Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven pg 81
Narrator Rating: 4 Stars
This was a great audiobook. It was read by the author which always seems to help clarify what exactly they meant when they wrote it just based on how they read it. He had a mellow, southern voice and read at a nice pace. There's also an afterword in the audiobook that was not in the print version. He blended the ideas of East and West religions and clarified why he chose the words he did in the book which was interesting to listen to.
Overall, even if you are skeptical of near death experience memoirs I think you should still give this one a try since I found his scientific perspective unique and enjoyed the spiritual learning that he did.
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book i...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book in less than 4 hours. I did! I win :) I loved the themes in this one about looking on the inside instead of the outside. The characters either focused on the external appearances of things or the internal value of things.
This story is told in duel perspectives that alternate each chapter. The boy, Bryce, had a charming but sarcastic voice with not much dialogue while the girl had a sweet, funny, and endearing voice with a Hermione-type personality. After reading a while I noticed that the girl, Juli, focused on dialogue and detail. The voices were distinct and I enjoyed reading each of their stories. But I think I might have liked Bryce's voice just a little more because his slightly negative attitude and sarcasm were just so much fun.
Finally I break free and do the only manly thing available when you're seven years old - I dive behind my mother.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 3 (Bryce)
Yes, each chapter tells the same plot from the previous chapter but just from a different point of view. While the plot being retold did make the book feel a little long and slightly draggy, it was definitely not boring because the author, Wendelin Van Draanen, did a awesome job messing with your perspective and challenging your biases. For example, there's one scene where Bryce insists that he didn't say anything mean and just summarizes what he said and is baffled by Juli's anger. Since you are reading that scene from his point of view, you agree with him. When you read Juli's chapter, you see the actual dialogue of what he said and your perspective flips and you see that he was being kind of a jerk.
That's not to say I chose a side. I could see why each character did what they did and it was so interesting to read two different views of the same events or conversations. Since you know what motivates each of them, you don't really judge them as one being better than the other. I also liked seeing how Bryce would do something out of self interest and Juli would see it as kind. It was cute to see how they interpreted each others actions. They both almost always got the other's motivations wrong.
I thought that this was such a beautiful novel about how important it is to look at things and people for what they are on the inside instead of how they appear on the outside. And when you do this your perspective can totally flip.
It was on a day like that when my father's notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts moved from my head to my heart. The view from my sycamore was more than rooftops and clouds and wind and colors combined.
It was magic.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 37 (Juli)
Overall, it was a cute love story about seeing people for who they really are.(less)
Is it cheesy to say The Power of Habit changed my life? Well it has. I finished this book yesterday and today I decided to change one of my bad habits...moreIs it cheesy to say The Power of Habit changed my life? Well it has. I finished this book yesterday and today I decided to change one of my bad habits that I've had my whole life. Using the steps in the book I quickly found out that my bad habit was a distraction for me from my stress and within three hours I learned that I had no clue how to deal with my stress. It was funny because I discovered something about myself that I hadn't realized before. I'm better at dealing with large, life changing stress than I am about dealing with the small everyday stresses of life like a cluttered house and dirty dishes.
I used my bad habit to distract myself all day long and suppress my stress and anxiety so I didn't have to think about the things that were bothering me. I completely broke down within four hours and called my husband in tears telling him I just didn't know what to do. How DO people deal with stress? I talked it out instead. Some of the stresses we came up with plans to change and some seemed to go away just from talking about them. My husband was a little shocked and saddened when he realized how often I must be stressed (because I do my bad habit all day long). Yeah, I can't believe how much I am stressed out either and I've been running from it too which I'm sure just adds to my stress.
After I talked things out I blogged for an hour which helped me relax and the temptation for my bad habit was gone for the time being. It came back in full force later that day when my son's bus was late. I couldn't find a distraction big enough to stop thinking about all the many, many things that could have gone wrong (my imagination uses it's power for evil sometimes), so I did some serious praying to calm my racing heart. His bus got there 5 minutes later and I survived, though honestly I was a little shaky and it felt like my heart was racing. I've got a lot of work ahead of me to learn good stress management and I'll probably need another book for that. :) I've tried and failed many times to change my bad habit over my life time feeling like I'm worthless or that I'm a bad person or that there was something wrong with me, but I don't feel like that anymore.
It is critical to understand that self-control doesn't fail because the person cannot muster the needed resources. Instead it fails because the effort seems too great for the payoff.
-Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit (Footnote 5.6)
I can tell you for a fact that my habit is going to be just as hard to change as it's always been but I have faith now that I can do it. And that faith is something I've never had before. Also, if you have any stress management books I would be very much interested in them. :)
I flew right through this book. It is truly fascinating how our brain works. Our brain is literally designed to make everything it can a habit to save energy and resources. Once you figure out how it works you can "program" your brain to do anything without even thinking about it. I highlighted the heck out of this book.
Here are some of my favorite things I highlighted while reading:
Habits never disappear. You can replace the bad habits but without faith in God or the belief that you can in fact change, old habits can come back.
If you want to change a habit, use the same cue, provide the same reward but get a new routine.
It's interesting how new habits form. Toothbrushing was from an ad campaign.
Pick a reward you crave. That's the key to lasting habits.
While I am still working on changing my bad habit, I did successfully create a new habit. Exercising. I hate exercising. I always have. To be honest I STILL hate exercising but I do it regularly now. Why? I used the tools in this book. My cue is my son going to preschool. It's at the recreation center so I wear my workout clothes when I drop him off and just walk around the indoor track the whole time he is in school and pick him up when I'm done. I can get two miles in about an hour. There's an old guy that teases me when he passes me. Whatever. My 28 minute mile is an awesome pace. My reward is what keeps me doing this. I listen to audiobooks which I look forward to. Exercise is boring to me but audiobooks make the time fly by. I crave my alone time and listening to good books. I would be sad now if I didn't exercise.
I had a friend ask me (after I told her about how much I loved this book) what the basic steps were for changing a habit, so here they are:
Identify the routine
Experiment with rewards (try different routines that give different rewards)
Isolate the cue (Location, Time, Emotional State, Other People, Immediately Preceding Action)
Have a plan
In handy infographic form if you'd like :)
Overall, this was a self help book that truly changed my life and I think everyone should read it.
Content warning: two uses of strong language (n word and f word).(less)
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the b...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is. The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters. Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation - his cocky genius. I couldn't hate this guy if I tried. I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series.
The first half of this book was a fascinating mystery. I was glued to the story, turning pages, dying to know what happens next. Then we get to Part 2. The second half of the book was the longest, most drawn out and boring flashback I have ever read. We find out the solution to the mystery at the end of Part 1. Part 2 goes into why he did it. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn't believe in recapping what happened. We get to live it. If we're going to live through it, at least make it interesting. It was not at all interesting because almost nothing happens for most of Part 2. I skimmed a lot of it. It also felt very disjointed to go from a mystery in London to the American West. It felt like I was reading two different stories that had nothing to do with each other. Part 2 is only tied in to Part 1 by the very end.
Portrayal of Mormons
I have to say as a Mormon, reading Part 2 of this story was a little difficult for me since Mormons are not painted in a good light for this part of the story. But let's start with this hilarious quote first.
In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert...
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet p. 63
Repulsive! Arid! My home this is! Yoda and I are highly offended. Okay not really. But he kept describing the whole state of Utah like it was entirely covered in the Salt Flats where everything was covered in "alkali dust" and used words like "barren", "misery", "despair," and my personal favorite "gloomy." The whole thing just made me laugh. While it is true that the west side of the Great Salt Lake is all those things, the pioneers settled on the EAST side of the lake which was your more run-of-the-mill desert with snakes and cacti and stuff. And regular desert dirt that almost nothing can grow in thank you very much. I mean if you're going to insult my state at least get it right. :)
The thing I struggled with the most was the portrayal of Mormonism as a cult. And when I say cult I mean a group forcing people to do things by threats or brain-washing. Mormons believe the point in life is to make choices. There is a point in the story where Mormon pioneers find a starving, wandering man and his daughter and say they can join them only if they become Mormon. Brigham Young (or any Mormon) would NEVER force anyone to be Mormon. Not cool Mr. Conan Doyle. I did some research and in Mr. Doyle's defense, he believed these things to be true at the time. Still - forcing people to do things is against our religion and always has been.
The murderer's motive was based on their hatred of the practice of plural marriage (or polygamy). While Mormons did practice it, it was portrayed in the book that if you didn't get married to more than one person you were kicked out (and then hunted down by a secret band of murderers. Say what?? That most definitely didn't happen). Not everyone practiced plural marriage. Many early Mormons were monogamous and were in fine standing with the church. I won't go into tons of detail in this review, but if you're interested the official Mormon (also known as Latter-Day Saints or LDS) website has more information on plural marriage and Mormonism. It's an interesting article that talks about the trials the people who lived it faced, how long it was practiced and more. And just to be thorough Mormons don't practice polygamy today and haven't since 1890.
Overall, I adored the first half of the novel and meeting the most iconic characters in literature, but I found the second half to be boring and the anti-Mormonism made me uncomfortable. I would give the first half of the novel 4 stars and the second half like 1/2 a star.(less)
My biggest thought about the House of Ivy & Sorrow is that it could have been more. The v...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
My biggest thought about the House of Ivy & Sorrow is that it could have been more. The voice was there, but it didn't come out as much as it could have. The conflict definitely needed more to it. Even with a twist, the conflict came with an explanation already just based on how the world works and it made it hard for me to stay connected to the story. I almost didn't finish this one because about a third of the way through I didn't feel like I would learn anything new about the conflict. To be honest, I didn't learn anything new about the conflict at the end. It came out like I thought it would. But the way it was resolved was interesting. I liked that the resolution came from the girls and their friendship. Girl power!
I liked the magic and the characters in this book. The idea of magic coming from places was creative. The character Nana was one of my favorites. She had the strongest personality in the book and I enjoyed reading about her. The love interest seemed a little boring at first, but he came with an interesting twist of his own. The romance was a little cheesy for my taste, but it was still cute for the most part.
I didn't enjoy the writing. There were a few cliche moments, but luckily it didn't go to the extreme or I would have definitely chucked this book across the room. The dialogue was interesting, but I found that the main character said "No" a lot, in big long strings, when things didn't go her way. Maybe it's a little much to expect someone to realistically be eloquent in moments of stress. I don't know.
I was disappointed, to say the least, when I found out the villain's motivation. I think this goes along with the weak conflict. The villain and conflict just needed to be turned up a notch and it would have been awesome! And then the villain had to go and be all tacky. He was cheesy enough to make me cringe a little. If only he had a mustache to twirl....
Overall, the magic and characters were good but without a strong conflict or interesting villain motivation this book just didn't keep my interest.
Content warning: a few brief kissing scenes and pain used for magic that is mildly disturbing (e.g. pulling out fingernails and teeth etc.)(less)
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of the...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of the first book in a series. I liked that it took the time to set up the world and characters, but I don't like it when the first book in a series doesn't resolve anything at all. I didn't see any story arc that was just for this book. I read this on my kindle and I was expecting to turn the page and see "Part 2" or something like that. I was shocked that it was over in the "That's it?" kind of way. There is a plot twist at the end but I kind of saw it coming. Part of my disappointment of the abrupt ending was that I felt like things had just gotten started and suddenly the book was over.
The world in this novel is very interesting, especially the virtual reality element. It was easy to imagine the "Elusion" or the virtual reality world. It was vivid, interesting, and almost magical. I liked the blending or illusion and reality and the crazy, unexpected things that happened because of it. Virtual reality was presented in a way that I haven't read before. It discussed having technology connected directly to your brain and brought up the themes of addiction. What if technology is physically addicting? At what point does technology start making our life worse rather than better?
The characters were confusing to me. Regan is the main character and she has two "friends" name Josh and Patrick (I say "friends" because they are guys and this is a YA novel so....yeah. I think you know what happens as well as I do). On the one hand, I liked how distinct Josh and Patrick's personalities were. But on the other hand I didn't like that both of them did some majorly untrustworthy things for kind of lame or even unexplained reasons. I liked Regan. She was a sweet, sad, and likable girl though I don't understand how she saw either of the boys as remotely trustworthy.
Overall, it was a fun adventure set in a interesting and magical virtual world but I felt like it was more of an introduction to a longer story than a novel.
Content warning: mild swearing and a few make out scenes(less)
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through this...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through this whole book so fast that I hardly took any notes. Being that immersed in a story is a lot of fun but it makes for crappy reviews. I'm going to try to think of more to say than "asdjfkl it's so awesome go read it."
Vane is such a great character and I love his sense of humor. He's cracking jokes about Legolas that no one gets and I love it. He has this sarcasm and blunt honesty that make him so much fun to read about. Vane feels like a realistic teen. He's got this immature streak that I find so funny.
So there are "relationship issues" like there are in many second novels that have romance. But I thought it was very well done because it was more about each of them working out their own things and not just trying to tear apart the relationship that was just made for the sake of conflict. I hope that makes sense without spoiling it.
The power of the winds coming from their songs that only sylphs can sing is one of my favorite things about the world building in this series. It's just beautiful and simple.
One of the things I did not like about the first book was the lack of an interesting villain motivation. This book shed some more light on the villain. The villain just got upgraded from "I want to take over the world for no reason" to "Mad Scientist" and I found it very interesting.
Overall, this book has great romance, funny and realistic characters, and a beautifully simple world.
Content warning: kissing scenes and a few immature jokes about things like farts and boobs.(less)
Cold Sassy Tree was a great book for book club. It brought up a lot of things to discuss abou...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cold Sassy Tree was a great book for book club. It brought up a lot of things to discuss about religion, women, and gossip set in early 1900s South. It's always interesting to me to read historical fiction like this and see how women were treated. Women were often blamed for the things that men did. Like Rucker marrying Love even though his wife only died a few weeks ago. You would think that the gossip would be about the insensitive man but it wasn't. It was all about Love and what an awful person she was. Society also largely viewed woman as free or cheap labor. You can clearly see how quickly their society would fall apart without women (Rucker can't even feed himself or wash his clothes) and yet they are treated as second class citizens. That didn't mean women didn't have any power. Love would march for women's right to vote and she was very clever about getting Rucker to do things she wanted by making it seem like it was his idea.
My favorite part of this novel was the discussions about religion that Rucker has with his grandson, Will. They discuss prayer and what you should really be praying for. Rucker believes that God doesn't interfere with whether people live or die. God gave us brains and he expects us to use them. And sometimes bad things happen to good people and what we should really pray for is the strength to get through hard things. I really liked this and the other discussions that Will and Rucker had.
Another thing that was fun to read about was the modern changes coming to this small, southern town. Cars appear for the first time. Some people have phones and some don't. Some people have plumbing and some don't. It was like redneck Downton Abbey.
Cold Sassy Tree shed a fascinating look on gossip. Gossip is focused on the outward appearance of things and disregards the more important internal thoughts and feelings of people. Will points out that there is a difference between "being in mourning" like wearing black etc. and actually mourning. You can see the tragic effects throughout the story when people focus on the outward things people are doing and forget to see them as people.
Narrator Rating: 5 Stars
Even though this is my very first audiobook, I thought the narrator did an excellent job with reading this novel. He had a southern accent that really added to the atmosphere of the book. Also, it was easier to understand the accent when I heard it. The southern accent in the book was spelled phonetically and I found it hard to read. But it was delightful to listen too. I would recommend the audiobook over the book for this novel. I got me here a southern accent before I wus done with this here aud-ee-o-book. Yes um.
Overall, I really liked this look at southern life and the ideas it had about religion.
Content warning: rape scene. It's not very graphic but it was disturbing. There may have been some language but I can't remember.(less)
The first thing that The Secret Diamond Sisters reminded me of was the song Royals by Lorde. The idea of criticizing the insanely rich but wanting to live that life at the same time was really present in The Secret Diamond Sisters. My favorite of the three sisters was Courtney who was ambitious, hard working, and really wanted to go to an Ivy League school. When she finds out that her dad is a billionaire, she resents it a little and feels like all her hard work at coffee shops was worthless. I thought it was a wonderful and honest reaction. Although I think it's easy to imagine that having lots of money suddenly would be fabulous (and one of her other sisters does feel this way), Courtney's reaction really stuck with me.
There wasn't really an overall conflict in the story. It goes from one drama to the next and focuses more on the characters and their relationships with people than a strong plot. Not that that's a bad thing, but I do wish there had been a little more driving the story. It's implied that there are secrets the sisters need to find out and even though we do find out a few, I was honestly expecting a little more about their past and some mystery to find out more to move the story forward. The things that happen to the sisters are interesting and I did find it entertaining, but the story just kind of ends with no real resolution.
I thought all of the characters, especially the sisters, were very well-rounded and interesting. My only complaint was that they seemed to act too adult for teenagers. They drank a lot like it wasn't illegal or like it didn't even really have consequences, they went to night clubs etc. Maybe that's how it really is in Las Vegas with everything focused on being an adult, but I still found it kind of weird.
Overall, if you like a story with lots of scandal and drama with interesting characters then this one is for you. Content warning: a lot of teen drinking, language, and a make-out scene that turns inappropriate.(less)
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge o...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Billy and Amber would get out of this mess. The reaction of the orphans when they see that Amber and Billy are missing was really poignant to me.
I loved getting to know more of Amber's backstory in this one. And there's such a cute moment between Billy and Amber when Billy is just in awe of something she has done. I like how their relationship is developing. They have such great chemistry together and yet they argue about things that girls and boys often do. I just find them endearing.
Billy, an Aboriginal Australian boy, is very non-judgmental even when he has culture shock and just can't understand something. I was touched by how unselfish Billy is. When Billy is faced with death, all he thinks about is his clan and how they won't be able to pass on their traditions. Billy is a joy to read about and so easy to like.
Overall, I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and seeing their relationship grow. I can't wait to see where the story goes next!
Content warning: graphic descriptions of survival skills and a discussion among the boys about circumcision.(less)
If Dr. Seuss had ever written a chapter book, it would have come out like Fortunately, the Mi...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
If Dr. Seuss had ever written a chapter book, it would have come out like Fortunately, the Milk. The illustrations were fun, detailed, and slightly strange. The story was quirky and imaginative. It made my kids giggle a few times. There were aliens and dinosaurs and a lot of other crazy characters in between. It was a fun, short story to read out loud to my 7 and 5 year old every night. If you’re looking for something different to read to your kids, go pick this one up. It’s a book adults can enjoy too. I looked forward to reading this as much as my kids did.(less)
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fant...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantasy series. The romance made my heart melt. There was a Star Wars joke about using a Tauntaun to keep warm which I loved. There was more of the blunt, honest humor that I laugh out loud at. Behold my favorite joke ever.
Razgut paused as though he were thinking up a reply, and then he farted. Squinching up his face, he did so with effort. The reward was slight in resonance but grand in aroma, and the emperor was not amused.
- Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 367
I'm certainly amused by Razgut. Speaking of Razgut, I kind of wondered when he was going to say "my preeeciousssssss" because he totally reminded me of Gollum. He was pitiful, ugly, scheming and for reasons I don't understand I kind of liked him and felt sorry for him.
The book before this one, Days of Blood & Starlight, was very dark. Dreams of Gods & Monsters did a good job showing that no matter how dark things get, love and mercy matter.
But all he could think, in answer to that, was what Karou had said earlier, about the darkness we do in the name of the dead, and whether it’s what they would want for us.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 264
The writing is beautiful and just sucks you right into the story.
She’d spoken of their happiness as though it were an undeniable fact, no matter what happened— apart from everything else and not subject to it. It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won— some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it— but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies. Food, weapons, happiness.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 413
As much as I loved this book, I wish it had ended 100 pages sooner than it did. Not because I thought the book was too long but because I felt like the final subplot that took up those last pages was unnecessary. The final subplot goes into the epic territory of Where This World Came From. Honestly, I don't like knowing that much detail because I feel part of the beauty of an amazing fantasy is leaving a little left unanswered especially about the origins of a fantasy world. For example, J.K. Rowling describes a hidden world of witches and wizards but she never attempts in the narrative to explain where the first witch and wizard came from. I think if she had, it would lose a lot of it's magic. Laini Taylor literally answers all the questions and to be fair she did foreshadow this plot in the previous books so it is nice that she didn't just abandon it. But I felt like the story would have worked much better without that final subplot because I felt like the plot really dragged through those last 100 pages.
Overall, it was a very satisfying conclusion to my favorite series but I was not a fan of that final subplot about the origins of the world because I felt it was unnecessary.
Content warning: a few suggestive scenes and some language.(less)
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I espec...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especially loved the Monty Python references. While Daughter of Smoke & Bone was more of a love story, this sequel was more a story about war. The author does an excellent job of showing how pointless war is.
Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.
- Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight pg 205
I thought I would lose interest in this book since the romance wasn't as prominent, but I care so much about the unique and interesting characters that I couldn't put this one down. This is one of those books where I did nothing all day but read and my house was a complete mess by the time I was done.
The only way I can think of to describe the writing is "intelligent." There are witty references and Laini Taylor can play with my expectations like a violin. And like I said - the writing is just so funny.
Well, Karou wanted to retort, with all the gravity and maturity she could muster. Duh.
-Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight, pg 45
Karou, the main character, grows so much in this book. You can see the small steps of her becoming an adult. Karou learns about forgivness to herself and others, seeing the big picture, and not blaming herself for everything. The huge amount of character growth like this is one of the reasons I love to read Young Adult. Laini brings up a lot of interesting questions about Akiva, too. The book brings up his past, his people, and hints at what role they might play in the next book.
Overall, I loved this beautiful and intelligent sequel as much as the first book in this series. It's a great look at how pointless war really is.
Content warning: an attempted rape scene, frequent language, violence that was sometimes kind of graphic.(less)
I think the best way to describe The Forgotten Locket was melodramatic. Meaning that it felt...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I think the best way to describe The Forgotten Locket was melodramatic. Meaning that it felt so dramatic that I was disconnected from it. It was more entertaining when I read it in my head with a super dramatic voice.
I was honestly kind of bored while reading this. Abby is rescued from her problems too quickly so they didn't seem that dire to me. It was also painfully obvious how things would resolve since the really big threats were taken away too fast. There seemed to be no rules and if there were rules they quickly found ways to "break" them to do the "impossible." So everything seemed possible and it made it feel like there were no problems because there will always be a magical solution. Not only that but EVERY problem was completely solved with a very nice bow on top.
I hated that most of the world building was unexplained. "Impossible" things happen (though since the rules are extremely loose a better word than impossible would be "new"). And the explanation for events was mostly "who knows just cuz." That was the answer more often than I allow for a story to be interesting. This world kind of feels like it was made up as it went along. And I could have driven a DeLorean through all those plot holes in the way time travel worked.
I felt like I didn't have to think or imagine for this whole book. This whole series.
And oh the romance. It was nice I guess to read about a guy who always stood by his girl and did the right thing but it was highly unrealistic. They never fought. Ever. Except maybe about who loved the other person more. Gag.
I know one star is a harsh rating and I usually only give it for books that I didn't finish, but I really should have put this one down and walked away. I knew exactly what was going to happen so the only reason I finished is because of my need not to quit on books. I know a lot of people liked this series but it was really not for me.
Overall, poor world building and an extremely predictable ending really dragged this story down.
Wow that conclusion had plot holes so big I could drive my delorean through it. (Get it? From back to the future?)(less)
Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, Rumplestiltsk...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, Rumplestiltskin. The writing was charming. The characters were funny and interesting. Here's a little demonstration of both the delightful writing and the great main character, Rump, who wrote this poem.
Home is a place to get out of the rain
It cradles the hurt and mends the pain
And no one cares about your name
Or the height of your head
Or the size of your brain
- Liesl Shurtliff, Rump, pg 8
This book was written before Once Upon a Time came out, but I can't help comparing the two since they are both intelligent retellings. There's a scene in this book where Red is talking about the consequences of magic and I couldn't help but hear my favorite character, Rumplestitlskin from Once Upon a Time, say "All magic comes with a price!" Another similarity to Once Upon a Time is the ability of this story to get us to empathize with the "villain." I was really impressed that Liesl Shurtliff was able to keep the plot so close to the traditional fairy tale but give us back story and motivations in a way that made me see the story in a new light and not see Rump as the bad guy. It also kind of felt like a prequel because of the back story about his parents that the author went into.
Rump has a beautiful message about the importance of names and labels and our destiny. It's a story about not only learning from your own mistakes but the mistakes of others.
My one and only (and very small) complaint is that it felt like it ended very quickly.
Overall, it was a charming fairy tell retelling about finding your destiny that will appeal to everyone - especially if you are a Once Upon a Time fan.(less)
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix of...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix of Greek Mythology. The story opens on a very stiff and formal life for the main character Nyx like a dark version of Downton Abbey. Then we get a nice, long lecture on How This World Works that I found hard to get through.
I was entertained by the story but I really didn't like the cop-out device of Nyx having "no choice" to create these dramatic situations. Nyx is engaged to a demon since birth because her father made a bargain and now she has no choice but to marry him. This bothers me for two reason. 1. It takes away the self-sacrifice element of Beauty and the Beast that I love but, more importantly, think was the main point of the fairy tale. 2. Her dad is an idiot. And 3 -- okay apparently there are more than reasons why this bothers me -- she doesn't "have" to do anything. It made the main character seem very passive about her life. She was very negative and spiteful all the time. I didn't like her all that much, which is fine, but if she's going to be unlikable then at least make me understand why she did things. I never understood why she did things.
I did like the quest of trying to find the demon's name which was one of the few elements remaining from the original fairy tale. The castle was a wonderful adventure full of strange rooms like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
I won't spoil the ending, but I didn't like it. I felt like the ending did not have anything to do with what they had been doing for almost the whole novel. I felt like we spent the whole novel doing one thing and she suddenly decides to change course and last minute do something very drastic. And as the books comes to a close, I felt like the characters were so completely different that they weren't even the same characters anymore. They felt like strangers and I didn't care all that much what happened to them.
Overall, it was too dark of a fairy tale retelling with poor world building and unlikable characters that just wasn't for me even though I did like the Greek Mythology element of the story. Content warning: quite a bit of dark innuendo (that is thankfully not very graphic) about a girl trying to seduce a demon which I found mildly disturbing.(less)
Spoiler free even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
Elisa has been growing and changing throughout the series and The Bitter Kingdom was no exception. She starts to define herself by trying new things and seeing what she likes instead of focusing on comparing herself to others, especially her sister, and coming up short. In fact, she purposefully learns and pursues the things that were hidden from her or that scare her and it made her a fascinating character to read about.
I liked the friendship that developed between Elisa and Storm. He seems to be a very loyal friend but the culture that he grew up in makes him not completely trustworthy. His culture also gives him a very literal personality that I found endearing. One of my favorite quotes from the novel came from Storm when he's explaining the Joyan culture to someone and how it's different from his own.
"Joyans consider it rude to express one's true opinion unless it is unequivocally flattering."
- Rae Carson, The Bitter Kingdom, pg 235
There has been romance throughout the series, but it starts to rival The Princess Bride with the devotion and the kissing scenes that have lots of spark that I know the kid from the Princess Bride movie would definitely want to skip.
The writing had a few cliche moments. I liked the writing from the first two books better. Each book has a journey, but for some reason this one felt a tad bit long. However, the plot was such a fun adventure that reminded me of entering the mines of Moria that it kept my interest very well. There was also a very brief reference to "machine magic" that isn't really expanded on, but it does support my theory that I discussed in my Crown of Embers review that perhaps the Joyan race came from our world.
Overall, it was a fun adventure with epic romance and a main character who is constantly growing and changing into someone I would want to be.
Content warning: mildly graphic violence and a suggestive scene.(less)
What kind of evil person gives a book about charity one star? Me apparently. I think Giving w...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
What kind of evil person gives a book about charity one star? Me apparently. I think Giving was supposed to be a book but it was really one long, tedious list of all the charities Bill Clinton could think of. He would just skip from one story to the next so they all kind of ran together into a mesh of helping rural Chicago with micro loans in Bangladesh and someone won a peace prize. The writing was pretty awful. This whole book was just a list of lists. If the comma could talk it would say this book has over-worked the poor comma more than any other book. The comma now refuses to be in any more books by Bill. "We're on strike! No more lists!"
That being said, this book gives an overall feeling that there are a lot of good people out there and it's easy to help. Bill Clinton even admits at the beginning of the book that his goal was to expose people to the many charities out there. And he definitely does. There are even a few very inspirational stories strewn throughout the book but I really wish there had been more of them. I feel like a really good google search for charities around the world could accomplish the same thing as this 6 hour audiobook.
To assuage my guilt about hating on a book written to inspire people to give to charity, here are some of the things I did like. The book talks briefly about the value of money. When you reach a certain point money stops having value and it's better to give it to those in need. Warren Buffet is quoted in the book about how he didn't need $30 billion dollars so he gave it away. Bill Clinton portrays his wife as the most charitable person he knows and someone he looks up to when it comes to giving. Bill, you are one lucky dude that's all I can say.
Narrator Review: 2 stars
I didn't know this audiobook was read by Bill Clinton. It made me almost want to return it. His accent didn't end up being as bad as I thought it would be but he did read it rather fast. But honestly - I’ve never listened to such a boring audiobook. Ok this was only my second audiobook but I can promise you – I doubt I will ever listen to one that is more boring than this one. I sped the narration up at the end because I was ready to be done and curious to see if the book got better towards the end. It didn't.
Overall, this felt like one long, never-ending list that lasted for six hours about as many charities as he could think of. There just wasn't enough of the great inspirational stories to keep my attention.(less)
The One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not...moreThe One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not put it down. The whole story felt like a work of art about a gorilla who makes art. The voice was such a cute, appealing, and engaging one. The format it's told in is kind of a journal that makes you see the world the way Ivan, the gorilla, does. You really get to know him and how sweet he is which makes it all the more tear jerking when you learn some of the horrible things that happened to him.
The One and Only Ivan is a book I could see kids liking. Ivan, the gorilla, loves to draw simple things and eat his crayons...and sometimes his art. But the writing was so poetic and beautiful I enjoyed it immensely as an adult.
"He goes back to work. His mop moves across the empty food court like a giant brush, painting a picture no one will ever see."
Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 233
It was the ultimate showing not telling and it sucked me right in. And the art inside was just as beautiful as the writing. It looked stunning even on my kindle and it looks even better in the print version.
The animal characters are all full of personality. I found each of them wonderful and very caring - even the sarcastic homeless dog. I really liked Stella, the elephant, and she had my favorite quote from the book:
"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."
- Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 66
The impossible task that Ivan tries to achieve reminded me of Finding Nemo and how impossible it sounded for a fish to escape a fish tank and go back to the ocean. I was rooting for Ivan hard and hoping with everything I had that he would overcome.
Just when I was teary eyed enough, I read the Author's Note about how The One and Only Ivan was inspired by a true story. She embellished of course, but definitely not as much as you'd think. Very much of this story is similar to what happened to a real gorilla. Someone get me some tissues. Was I really having a stressful week? I've forgotten what it was.
Overall, this was a work of art about hope and the sad reality of animal cruelty that was brought up in a beautiful way that children could relate to and understand.
Journey to the Center of the Earth was incredibly slow. It took 100 pages for them to get to...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Journey to the Center of the Earth was incredibly slow. It took 100 pages for them to get to the volcano, walk around, and run out of water. That is half of this 200 page novel. I struggled through this book because all I could think for the first half of the novel was "Nothing....is...happening."
Another thing I struggled with was the science. I understand that this is (a) science fiction and (b) written over 100 years ago, but it got to the point where the only way I was able to enjoy the story was to pretend I knew nothing after 8th grade science. Then! When we get to the really cool part of the story that really is awesome science fiction, it's barely talked about. (view spoiler)[They find prehistoric animals and even a person and then don't even explore it at all! And I just couldn't get on board with finding a "sun," ocean, wind, and plants underground. I still don't know what to make of that. My notes say "????" and that's still pretty much how I feel about it. And the worst was the ending! Coming up the volcano on a wooden raft on a lava eruption?? (hide spoiler)] Seriously, what is going on with this story.
The small amount of dry British humor was amusing. One of the most amusing things was that the nephew argued with the uncle and the nephew was defending the scientific views that we accept today while the uncle defended scientific views I have never heard of. It made me laugh but I'm not entirely sure that it was supposed to be funny. The way the story went made it seem like it was defending the uncle's view of science.
There were a few gems in the writing. Here's my favorite quote from the book.
Our principle is, that books, instead of growing mouldy behind an iron grating, should be worn out under the eyes of many readers.
-Jules Verne, A Journey to the Center of the Earth Chapter 10
Overall, I regret to say that I found this science fiction classic to be boring and the science part of the science fiction to be a little too outdated to full enjoy the story.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I really liked the writing in The Invisible Man, but I thought the storytelling was awful. H....moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I really liked the writing in The Invisible Man, but I thought the storytelling was awful. H. G. Wells has a way with words and I really enjoyed his turn of phrase. Phrases like "the inhuman bludgeoning of all tentative advances of curiosity (p. 19),"violently firing out its humanity (p. 33)" and "The Anglo-Saxon genius for parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of talk and no decisive action (p. 28)." And he uses the word "hobbledehoy" which had the Downton Abbey fangirl in me grinning. But the story itself moved at a snail pace. It took me a week to read 30 pages. I thought it was told from the least interesting perspective possible --from the outside observers instead of the invisible man's view and what he was struggling with. These outsiders noticed something was not quite right ("Look how much time he spends alone!") but not to the point that I found it very interesting. When the plot finally picked up, instead of some much needed action the cool stuff was recapped in a conversation where he just describes all the action in the most dull way imaginable. I had to make myself finish this book and keep pencils far, far away from my eyes.
The science behind the invisibility was pretty interesting. It was based on the idea that our world is an illusion of light. I thought that was a fascinating way to look at the world. (See I didn't hate everything about it).
I found the main character interesting if not likable. He's an anti-hero. I'm pretty sure his antagonist was all the stupid people in the whole world. He was kind of arrogant. Obviously he learns the bad things about invisibility. I was surprised about the little things that he struggles with, though. I could tell a lot of thought went into what it would really be like. For example, the fact that he can't sleep because his eyelids are invisible. The crappy thing about being invisible is that it's easy to get things, but hard to enjoy them. And you get kind of lonely. H. G. Wells did have a good point that the only really good use for invisibility is murder.
I'm not sure if I was supposed to get something out of this book. At the end I felt like the moral was "Mean people suck but it's better than being alone."
Overall, I found it tedious but the writing was good. I enjoyed War of the Worlds so much more.(less)