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ARCHIVE 2016 > Sara W's 60 in '16

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message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) 60 Book Challenge

1. The 6th Extinction, 3.5 Stars
2. The Imperfectionists. 4.5 Stars
3. Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now
4. Cloud Atlas, 4 Stars
5. Wit's End, 1 Star, DNF
6. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, 3.5 Stars
7. This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, 4 Stars
8. The Owl Killers, DNF
9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, 5 Stars
10. The Wind Is Not a River, 3 Stars
11. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, 4 Stars
12. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, 5 Stars

Reading Stats


Classics: 0
Historical Fiction: 2
General Fiction: 1
Fantasy: 1
Science Fiction: 0
Mystery/Thriller: 1
Short Stories: 2
Graphic Novels:1
Non-Fiction: 4
Biography/Memoir: 0


Own DTB: 0
Ebook: 3
Audio: 5
Library: 4

Monthly Totals


message 2: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The 6th Extinction
3 Stars

Responding to an urgent distress call from a remote research sstation in Utah, Painter Crowe and the rest Sigma Force are once again on a mission to save the world. This time they are facing a kidnapped scientist who studies extremeophiles and synthetic biology, a rogue environmentalist, and a para-military group who hunts them all the way to Antarctica. Assisting them is intrepid Park Ranger Jenna Beck and her husky, Niko.

As always, this story is utterly improbable, though it is firmly rooted in real science and history, with information for further research provided in the author's note. While I said when I read the eighth book in the Sigma Force that the format was getting a little tired, I enjoyed this one a bit more. The science really intrigued me, and I will definitely be reading more on those topics. A couple of Sigma Force's team members were either entirely absent, or only peripherally involved, with the introduction of a new computer scientist, Jason Carter (who was actually introduced first in Rollins first novel Subterranean, which is not part of the series) taking their place.

I opted to listen to this one on audio, and wish I hadn't for two reasons. The narrator Christian Baskous was not at all enjoyable to listen to. I didnt like his pacing, how he interjectec emotion, or the voices he gave to any of the characters, especially women and the many Brits. Further, it made it painfully obvious to me that while I enjoy these books for what they are, exciting thrillers, Mr. Rollins is not a highly skilled writer. He does a lot of telling not showing, and some of his phrasing and descriptions are truly cringe-worthy. I have never really noticed it before, so I think it was just brought to my attention because I was listening to this book. In the future, I will stick to the printed word.

Rollins recently released the 11th installment in the Sigma Force series, Bone Labirynth, which I look forward to reading soon.

message 3: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The Imperfectionists
4 Stars

A collection of short stories, The Imperfectionists tells the stories of the men and women working for a struggling international English language newspaper in Rome. While the stories themselves are those of the contemporary employes ranging from the Editor in Chief to the obituary writer and accounts payable, the in-between moments are woven through with vignettes depicting the newspaper's history.

I was rather surprised by this collection. The author set out to write a character driven book, and he accomplished it. I appreciate that he did not go out of his way to make these men and women likable. Which is not to say they aren't, it is just very clear that his intent was to give the reader an inside look at real people, their insecurities, flaws, and imperfections. Too often authors fall into the trap of making their characters too black or white, either all good or all bad, resulting in a caricature of human nature. Rachman does not do that, and we instead wind up with a realistic glimpse into the lives of people who are no different than you or me.

While the story does advance to a definite conclusion, this book is not for the reader who needs their books to be plot driven. It is all about the people who reside in its pages. I also don't think it is for anyone who does not enjoy short stories. Once upon a time, I thought that was me. I have since realized that I was wrong. A short story done well can be every bit as enjoyable and complete as a novel. This collection does a fine job at doing exactly that. If you enjoy short stories and character portraits, then I would recommend you give this book a look.

message 4: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now
3 Stars

I picked up this book because I had really enjoyed her previous boo, The Happiness Project. I felt inspired to create my own happiness project though I must admit I never followed through. It was just too much work at a time when I had very young children underfoot all day. Happiness has been a major stumbling block in my life, so now that my kids are older, I thought I might have more time to work on this. But I wanted to prepare myself by reading her follow-up book.

I think I would have been better off skipping this book and just rereading the first. It is a little thin and more than a bit repetitive. It felt like she spent much of the book repeating what she learned the first time, but without the eureka moments. It was more like a reminder. Additionally, she referred to herself throughout as a happiness bully, and that it is certainly true. She is very pushy about what she feels is required to be happy, and despite repeated admonishments that she can only change herself, frequently makes resolutions that require the engagement of others.

In the end, I did not find myself at all inspired by this book, and while it wasn't bad, it also wasn't good. It reminded me of eating a rather bland chicken sandwich. I was really looking forward to her next book, Better Than Before, but I am feeling much less inspired to read it now.

message 5: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler
1 Star

This book is really awful. I refuse to force myself to finish it. I guess I should have paid more attention to the reviews.

message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Cloud Atlas
4 stars

Like a set of matroyshka dolls, Mitchell has crafted a series of linked stories nested inside each, creating a novel unlike any other I have read. He starts with an American notary aboard a ship returning from Australlia in the 1800s. This tale ended abruptly, mid-sentence, and begin anew with the story of a disinherited English musician. This format is continued three more times before we finally get a complete story set in the distant future of a post-apocalyptic world. Following the conclusion of this story we are treated, in reverse, to the end of the other five stories, so that the structure of the novel looks something like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

I admit that this format comes across as pretentious. If it had been done by a writer with less skill, it never could have worked. However, Mitchell handled it adeptly, deftly moving from historical fiction, epistolary, thriller, humor, dystopia, and post-apocolyptic with both malle and female narrators. I was genuinely interested in each story, and found that despite not being an avid reader of humor or thrillers, those were the two stories I liked best, with the exception of the post-apocolyptic. Mitchell hid little Easter Eggs in each story that referenced back to the previous story. A mention of the American's journal, or a search for copies of the musician's compositions. It connected the stories in such a fashion that they didn't feel entirely like a random experiment in genre and form.

That said there were flaws. I felt that the reincarnation theme that ran throughout was gimicky and really didn't work. Especially the bit about the comet shaped birthmark they all seemed to have, including the genetically engineered clone Sonmi. Its biggest flaw however was in its treatment of women. While you could see a clear progression in the treatment of the races, from the first story where the New Zealand natives were clearly third class members of the populace to the sixth in which the most advanced members of society were dark-skinned while the whites had devolved to war-like tribes, his treatment of women was problematic. Women start their lives as chattel, and even in the most futuristic version of the world, women are still good for not much more than cooking a meal and sex. This really bothered me. If he can tackle racism so adroitly, there is no reason that sexism could not receive equal treatment

I listened to it on audio, and the audio recording was one of the best I have listened to. Each story was provided a seperate narrator, which helped me follow along with the abrupt changes. This may have been more difficult to read in print for that reason, but I imagine there are also advantages. If I were to reread, which is unlikely even though I think that this book would benefit from one, I would do so in print.

Despite its flaws, I thought this was a very good novel. It is not one I would recommend to everyone though. You have to enjoy experimental literature and short stories to get anything from this book. I am definitely looking forward to reading more by Mitchell in the future.

message 7: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
3.5 Stars

This novel takes up where the first left off, Marji's departure from Iran for Austria when she was only 14, sent by her parents to pursue both an education and a freedom which she would be forbidden if she remained. Unfortunately, life in Austria didn't go as planned. After only a couple weeks at the home of a family friend she is sent to a Catholic boarding school. She struggles to fit in here, as elsewhere, trying to forget who she is. Eventually she accepts all that she has left behind and upon graduation returns to an Iran greatly changed. For the next 6 years she rebels in the little ways that she is able, marries, divorces, and eventually leaves again, this time for good.

I liked this sequel better than the original. The first was written from the viewpoint of a child, so there was a lot that Marji did not understand. In the second book she is an adolescent growing into adulthood. The conversations and thought processes were more mature and exhibited greater understanding of exactly what was occuring in Iran. As a result I was not only better able to relate, but it answered many of the questions which I had been left with after reading the first. Reading these two books closer together would have likely enhanced my enjoyment of the first greatly.

As after completing the first book, I am left feeling like I have a woefully inadequete knowledge of Iran, and the desire to read more. I really wish that the author had included an author's notes with suggestions for further reading. Overall I would consider it a good introduction to the Iranian Revolution for middle grade to young adult readers.

message 8: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women
4 Stars

Based on the NPR program of the same name, this collection features 80 essays written by people both famous and not detailing the core beliefs that define them. Some of these essays were light, funny, and whimsical, while others were deeply spiritual, philiosophical, and politically charged; one even brought me and the co-worker who was listening with me to tears. However, there was not a single one that failed. Each told a unique story about the individual who wrote it.

I had the pleasure of listening to an audio recording of this collection. Each essay was presented by the original author with an introduction by Jay Allison or Edward Murrow who hosted the original 1950s series. Hearing each essay in its authors own voice lent a special quality to this book, so that the listener heard the essay as the writer intended. There was no questioning the meaning and intent behind their words.

Before I had even completed my listen I bought the ebook, as I knew that I would want to go back to reread and reference both the essays and the notes at the end on how to write my own essay. There is something for everyone in this book, and there is not a single person to whom I wouldn't recommend it. In fact the only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because the studio where I work can get noisy and I couldn't clearly hear all of them. There is a strong possibility that as I go back and reread the essays I missed that I will wish I had rated it higher.

message 9: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The Owl Killers

I have decided to put this one down for now. The plot is interesting, but it is hard to follow. There are several main characters and each of them are told in first person. It is just too confusing and I have been at it too long.

message 10: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
5 Stars

Despite being quite the fan of the Olympics and books set during World War II, this is a book I read based purely on the reviews and recommendations of friends whose literary opinions I trust implicitly. Without that push, I doubt I would have ever picked this book up. That is due to the subject matter being rowing. I have never had even the vaguest interest in this sport, so I never would have expected to be so intensly absorbed in the story of of Joe Rantz and the rest of the University of Washington crew team.

Brown met Rantz when the Olympian was in his 90s, invited to meet the old man by his daughter Judy. It is from this first interview that Brown conceived the idea to write this book. It would be a difficult undertaking, as Brown did not have much at his disposal; the memories of a dying man, a few diaries - particularly those of coach Al Ulbrickson -, the biography of master boat builder George Pocock, along with Olympic records, and the Nazi propoganda film Olympia.

I greatly enjoy non-fiction told in the narrative style of Laura Hildebrand and Hampton Sides, so I was not at all disappointed in this book. Brown focused on Rantz's story in particular, beginning with the death of his mother and the frequent abandonment of his father, forcing the young man to learn that the only person he could rely on was himself, all while trying to survive the Great Depression. This struggle to not trust anyone in counterpoint to the need to rely completely upon his crew mates is the core of this book, as each of the boys had to learn how to subsume the individual ego into their identity as a team.

I found myself cheering for these boys with each successive race, fretted on how these rough and tumble boys would come up with the money to continue their education, or fund their trips to race across the country, and eventually Germany, and exahalted when they finally stood atop the podium with gold medals around their necks despite knowing from page one how everything would turn out.

This is not a book just for fans of crew, or the Olympics, or history. It is for anyone who loves a good story about the ability to succeed no matter the odds. I loved this book from beginning to end, and while it had some flaws, it deserved all five stars for its ability to make me care so much about something so unexpected and outside my realm of interest.

message 11: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The Wind Is Not a River
3 Stars

I love when an author can shed light on a little known corner of history. That is exactly what Brian Payton has done here. Following the death of his younger brother over the North Sea, John Easely is determined to make a difference. Few know about the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian islands, it is certainly not discussed in any of the history books I have read. As a reporter for National Geographic, Easely was there when it happened. The government is determined to keep the occupation quiet, but Easley sneaks back to the islands, with a plan to tell the American people the truth. He leaves behind his young wife, Helen. Scared and desperate to bring her husband back home, she conceives her own plan to sneak into the Alaskan territory, in an effort to find him.

This book was both a moving story about the lengths we will go for those we love, and a tale of survival in a war torn land. Told in alternating chapters, we are shown Easley's bid for life, hiding in a cave on a island occupied by Japanese soldiers, and Helen's hopeless search for a man that no one knows is missing. I personally found Easley's story to more interesting, but Helen's search provided a nice counterpoint to the darkness and emptiness. I did find myself wishing for more detailed information on the Japanese invasion and what happened to the Aluets, but given how little is known about this part of the war, I am not surprised that it felt lacking. The love story, however was fully fleshed out, and if that is your thing, you are sure to love this book.

message 12: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
4 Stars

The fourth book of the Fairyland series, takes us out of Fairyland and away from September. This time we are following a young Troll, spirited out of Fairyland by the Red Wind, to take the place of a young boy as a Changeling. Tom struggles to fit in, to be Normal , the boy his father wishes he could be. But he can't. He is as sure of the existence of magic, and that everything; the chandalier, the ballerina painting in the hall, his scrap yarn wombat, are all alive. When he is twelve, he discovers he is not wrong, and he is not alone. Accompanied by another Chengeling, a baseball, a gramophone, and a stuffed Wombat, he steps through a painted forest and into Fairyland, for the greatest adventure of his life.

I love this series, I love the book, and I love Fairyland. These books never fail to make me feel like a child again. Like Alice in Wonderland, Fairyland is populated by strange and magical creatures, where around every corner lurks adventure and whimsy. Valente has created a world in which the young and young at heart can believe that Fairies and Trolls, Redcaps and Fetches, truly do exist.

Each book has renewed my sense of childlike wonder, but in addition to that, I am blown away at Valente's ability to weave words together to create a magical tale. She is a truly gifted writer, and I am more than bit jealous at how skilled a storyteller she is. Passages like the following never fail to bring a smile to my face and a thrill to my heart.

The Red Wind gently pulled a strand of Hawthorn's mossy hair free of his nightclothes. "A choice is like a jigsaw puzzle, darling troll. Your wories are the corner pieces, and your hopes are the edge pieces, and you, Hawthorn, dearest of boys, are the middle pieced, all funny-shaped and stubborn. But the picture, the picture was there all along, just waiting for you to get on with it."

Or this one:

It was Spring that day, one of the very first warm days, when the sun seems to be trying on Summer for size, turning this wsy and that, blushing and hemming and hawing and opening its top button, just to be daring. The grass shown with dew and damp. The trees all round had just let a few green buds out to survey the situation before any real leaves risked their necks. It was fine, and Thomas felt fine, his bones remembering heat and life and the fun of moving, all those things they had found too depressing to think about while the snow was throwing its weight around and feeling big in the chest.

But my favorite of all of course had to describe books:

As his irises opened up to let all that dusky softness in, Thomas saw that Tamburlaine's house was a house of books

It was not the house of someone who liked books. It did not have a well-stocked library. It was not even stuffed with books. Thomas could not see any part of the house that was not mostly book. Books rose from the floor to the ceiling in unruly, tottering towers. Books held up tables and chairs-- and sat in the chairs, at the tables, as though quite ready for supper to be served, so long as supper was more books. They sprawled over the dining room table like a feast of many colors. Books climbed the stairs, ran up and down the hallways, curled up before the fireplace, were wedged into the cabinets beside cups and saucers, held open doors and locked them shut. They left no room on the sofa to sit, nor in the kitchen to stand, nor on the floor to lie down. Books had already taken every territory and occupied it. Where the books were content to rest on shelves, like other, less ambitious of their cousins, they had been squashed in so tight their spines bulged, and then bowed under the weightof the books stacked on top of their sagging rows. Brick and wood only peeked through in a few places, and where they did, they looked positively embarrassed, apologetic. It's only that someone is borrowing The Picture of Dorian Gray at the moment, you see. The Thousand and One Nights has had an accident involving grape juice and gone on a little trip to the binder's; please don't think anyone left this space empty on purpose, goodness no!

Passages like these always leave me saying that I need to read more by Valente, books written for adults, but you see I am quite unable to leave Fairyland behind. The final book in the series is due out in March, and I have done something quite unusual for me and pre-ordered it. I will be sad to read the final chapter in the book, but I will do so knowing that I get to start it all over again, by reading all of the books aloud with my two younger boys, who I know will be as filled with the wonder of Fairyland as I am. And maybe then, I will finally be able to crack the spine of another Valente novel.

message 13: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
5 Stars

Every person I know who has read this book has said that it is a must read, the most important book they have read, and that everyone should read this book. I agree whole-heartedly. A practicing general surgeon, author Dr. Atul Gawande, has seen and treated a lot of people living with terminal illness. He has used this book to question if any of those people are truly living and if all these medical solutions designed to prolong their lives are truly benefitting them. His conclusions clearly indicate that medical intervention is not always the right answer.

Using experiences from those he has treated, family, and those he met in the process of researching this book Dr. Gawande paints a moving picture of the medical industry which has little focus on quality of life versus length of life. From assisted living and nursing homes to the hospital room and hospice car, he examines the medical industry with a critical eye. The stories of the real people in this book , personalize it, and invite the reader to draw on their own experiences. I couldn't help but think of my sister who could have been kept "alive" with the benefit of machines while in a coma, grandparents living out their last few months or years in nursing facilities or in the car of a relative, and my own experience volunteering in a hospice facility.

I already have plans in place for myself should anything happen to me, but this book reminded me that I need to have this legally documented. And while I also know and hve my parents wishes documented, I live much closer to my in-laws and have no idea what their plans are or if they are documented. I have tried to open up a line of conversation, but they have resisted. As my husband is an only child, whatever needs they may eventually require will fall to us. Upon completing this book, I know that I need to keep pushing for answers, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation. Andso should everyone else. Put down that book and go do it. It might be uncomfortable in the short term, but in the long term you won't regret it. Just as you won't regret reading this incredibly important book.

message 14: by Cheri (new)

Cheri (jovali2) Sara wrote: "The Imperfectionists
4 Stars

A collection of short stories, The Imperfectionists tells the stories of the men and women working for a struggling international English language newsp..."

I read this a few years ago and also thought it was really good. I liked it so much I got his next book, (The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, as soon as it came out, but was disappointed in it.

message 15: by Emily (new)

Emily (emilyesears) | 512 comments The Imperfectionists sounds like a book I would really enjoy, so I added it to my TBR. Your review was great!

message 16: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) Emily wrote: "The Imperfectionists sounds like a book I would really enjoy, so I added it to my TBR. Your review was great!"

Thanks. I hope you enjoy it.

Cheri wrote: "I read this a few years ago and also thought it was really good. I liked it so much I got his next book, (The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, as soon as it came out, but was disappointed in it."

That isn't what I wanted to hear as that one is on my tbr too.

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