Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

How is it Wednesday already? Alternately… how is it ONLY Wednesday?

An Untamed State
Mireille, her husband and son are visiting her family's home in Port au Prince, Haiti. Of the haves and have nots of Haiti, her family is the haves. While heading to the beach, Mireille is kidnapped and held in captivity for over two weeks while her father negotiates (or doesn't) her release. The brutality she goes through is horrific, but it is not the crux of the story. The story mainly focuses on her rebuilding, on learning to live without overwhelming fear and to accept her still beautiful but changed body and mind. This one struck me. I thought of Mireille long after I ended the book. It is not an easy read, but it is a powerful one.

Crooked River: A Novel
This was a good read to follow Untamed State because I could just sink into it and not think too much. Sam and Ollie, following the death of their mother, go to live with their somewhat wild father who lives in a teepee in a meadow surrounded by his beehives. Shortly after they arrive, a woman is found dead in the river and their father becomes the number one suspect. Sam knows he couldn't have done it and sets out to prove it. Ollie knows her father is innocent but for different reasons. Struck mute after the death of her mother, Ollie is followed by spirits who she calls the shimmering ones. The shimmering of the dead woman is trying to send her a message about her killer, but Ollie can't--or won't--speak to tell her sister what she knows. Although the ending was fairly clear at one point, it was more than just the ending. It was a story of growth and recovery following a loss, for so many characters within this book.

The Nightingale
I've been on the wait list for this book forever, so I was super excited when it finally came in. This story focuses on Vianne and her sister Isabelle in 1939 France. Vianne and Isabelle had an uncommon childhood, given away by their father following the death of their mother. Isabelle is young and rebellious, Vianne is trying to keep her head above water with a young child and a husband who is fighting to defend France. After the Nazis invade their town, Vianne is forced to share a roof with a Nazi soldier, while Isabelle is forced to decide just how far she will go and what she will risk to stand up for her ideals. I loved this story. Loved it. It was a period piece done very well, and I was so engaged in the lives of both Isabelle and Vianne, the choices they made and the chances they took. I did not want this to end.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I am basically failing at reading lately for a myriad of reasons and that's sad.

The Word Exchange
This book was tough. I almost put it down several times, but I liked the premise and wasn't sure if my lack of attention was hurting my involvement with the book. In a future society, books are all but meaningless. People read on devices called a Meme, which not only functions as a messaging device but is so much more. The meme also offers something called a word exchange, which will help you think of the meaning of a word or the name of something if you're coming up short. When the word exchange first rolled out, people were using it mostly for multi-syllabic obscure words. After a few years of usage, people were using it to look up words like "rotten," so far removed from complex thought. This book is told from two perspectives: Anana, the daughter of Doug, a staunch supporter of the written word, and Bart, Doug's mentee and editor of the dictionary. As the story evolves, Doug disappears and Anana is unwavering in finding her father. Meanwhile, the world is becoming gripped with word flu--a virus that causes people to replace common words with meaningless words. This virus has severe consequences, deadly for some, rendering others mute. Although I felt this book could've had a better flow, it definitely made me think about humanity and our reliance on technology. When is it too much?

Cold Cold Heart
After Word Exchange, I needed a book where I did not have to think. Dana Nolan, a beautiful TV reporter, is nearly the ninth victim of a serial killer, named Doc Holiday by the media. Through her own strength, Dana survives the ordeal, killing Doc Holiday. Although she survives, her injuries are quite severe. Not only is she disfigured, but she also has a traumatic brain injury. Brought home to heal, Dana is thrust into the world she left behind after high school, a world which involves trying to solve a cold case--the disappearance of her best friend shortly after the two graduated from high school. Paranoid and not sure who to trust, Dana struggles to make sense of what happened to her best friend and why, all the while dealing with memory loss and struggling to cope with her new self. This was a quick, easy read. Some plot holes and things that I found hard to believe, but I breezed through it, which was exactly what I needed.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I didn't read much this week because I haven't felt well. My patience to concentrate on a book has decreased, while my concentration on Friends reruns has greatly increased. Go figure.

Legend of a Suicide: Stories
I am hesitant to recommend this book because it's one of those books that people will either really love or find really stupid. Kind of like a Tim O'Brien book. At any rate, I really loved it. This book is told through a novella and five short stories, all taking a semi-autobiographical stance. The novella takes up a large chunk of the book and involves Roy and his father, a dentist divorced from Roy's mom, in a remote cabin in Alaska. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Roy's father is unprepared for such a trip and also, on the verge of an emotional breakdown. This was a tense, gripping story, one that actually made my jaw drop at a point. Is it a light, easy read? No, but it is one worth reading.

A Spool of Blue Thread: A novel
I always know that Anne Tyler stories are going to make me feel equal parts happy and sad. This one was no exception. A multi-generational story, this book begins with the story of Abby telling how she fell in love with Red. The Whitshanks are like any other family--there is nothing remarkable about them, yet they all have their own familial idiosyncrasies at which they find remarkable. From Abby, the story moves on to her parents-in-law and aspects that were previously unrevealed, then ends with Abby's own children. The time jumps were fairly seamless and made sense. I liked this story. It seemed real, genuine and relatable.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Humans: A Novel
Becky recommended this book, and I loved it. An alien visits Earth and takes over the body of Professor Andrew Martin, a math professor who had just solved a thought to be unsolvable math theory. The alien is originally disgusted by humans. By the way they eat, talk, wear clothes and have pets. But as time goes on, he starts to love wine, peanut butter sandwiches, dogs and, well, being a human. He makes connections with friends and family, much to the dismay of his otherworldly hosts who can't fathom that he'd trade immortality for humanity.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Vera has one friend, Charlie. Or had, because Vera is reeling after Charlie's tragic death. She knows more about his death than anyone, but after he betrayed her shortly before his death, she is reluctant to share. This story has a brilliant, engaging voice, told mainly from Vera but occasionally from Charlie and Vera's dad, as well. Vera sets out to explore her own life in the process of coming to terms with Charlie's death, and it is both touching and humorous.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Scorch (Croak)
Rogue (Croak Series Book 3)
These are the last two books in the Croak series. I really enjoyed them. In these books, it continues the development of the first book. Lex discovers that her powers go beyond simply releasing a soul from the body, and she begins to learn why she has these powers. Additionally, it is discovered that the Grimsphere is being harmed and there is a potential that the souls in Afterlife will cease to exist if nothing is done about it. These books left me pretty attached the characters, particularly the sometimes insightful, always morose soul of Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed the author's take on the Afterlife, in which all souls go to the same place, regardless of their life--picture an afterlife where Abraham Lincoln is taunting John Wilkes Booth over a game of Checkers.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel
I was really anticipating this one, based on everyone's reviews. However, like my take on Gone Girl, it fell flat. The story is narrated by three woman: Rachel, Megan and Anna. Rachel is an unemployed alcoholic, reeling after her husband left her for another woman. Due to her drinking and other issues, Rachel is unreliable--not just as a narrator, but as a human being. Megan is a girl who lives near Rachel's ex-husband and who Rachel watches from the train. Megan narrates the events of the story up to her murder. Anna is married to Rachel's ex-husband and picks up the narration post-murder. I enjoyed the story and the set up of the events, but the characters fell flat. They were all one-dimensional to me, and the eventual ending was laid out so easily that I guessed it with about 60 pages left in the book. It definitely didn't wow me like I'd hoped, though I still enjoyed the story.

My Notorious Life: A Novel
Inspired by the story of a real life 19th century midwife, this book chronicles that life of Axie Muldoon, who begins as an unwanted orphan on an orphan train. Leaving behind her brother and sister, Axie returns on the train to New York, where she is reunited briefly with her mother, until her mother dies in childbirth. Lexie is then taken in by the doctor and midwife who helped her mother, and she is trained in the art of midwifery. Following the death of the woman with whom she apprenticed, Axie and her husband quickly become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams by marketing Lunar Tablets for the problem of "female obstruction." However, Axie quickly finds herself in the crosshairs of religious crusaders and is threatened by the thought of losing everything she holds dear.
I loved this story. I don't know how closely it is based on actual history, but from what I've gleaned, the actual story part of her career and eventual disbarring of her rights is pretty accurate. This was an absolutely fascinating story.

Before I Wake
Ahh, here was the psychological thrilled I hoped for with The Girl on the Train. Susan's daughter is in a coma after stepping in front of a bus. Susan's husband, Brian, swears it was an accident, but Susan has a hunch it was more, especially after reading her daughter's diary and learning she had a secret. Susan spends the rest of the novel desperately trying to unravel her daughter's secret, but in layers from Susan's own diary, the reader learns that Susan was once in a very abusive relationship. And Susan… has some mental issues as a result. Is she unreliable and crazy? Or does no one believe her because she was once teetering on the brink mentally? In the midst of trying to discover the reason for her daughter's suicide attempt, Susan fears that her abusive ex-boyfriend James has returned and is out to get her, but is he? Or is he as much a figment of her imagination as her daughter's supposed secret? Although this book was somewhat formulaic and didn't have a huge surprise ending, it was still one that kept me wondering.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Croak
This is by the same author of Hellhole (read it!). Lex (short for Lexington) is out of control. Not knowing what to do with her wild behavior, her parents ship her off to spend the summer with her uncle Mort. Lex is, of course, opposed to this, until she arrives and Mort explains about the town of Croak in which he lives. See, it's a town populated by Grim Repears and Lex's behavior means that she's fit to be a Reaper, too. I loved this book, the characters and Lex's journey, along with a side plot, of course. This is part one of a series and I can't wait to read the rest.

My Sunshine Away
Set in Baton Rouge, this book explores the story of a boy in love with his neighbor, Lindy. In the summer that they're 15, Lindy is raped. The perpetrator is never found, but the narrator spends his time trying to play detective and make things okay with Lindy. This is a powerful novel. You never know if the narrator is reliable or not and the story twists you back and forth. It is not just a crime novel, but a heavy story in which everyone is trying to find redemption.

The Lifeboat: A Novel
This is the story of the Empress Alexandra and the shipwreck that followed on day five of the voyage. Being a lover of historical fiction, I googled it, only to find there really isn't much information and I am not sure if this was an actual ship that sank in 1914 or if other ships in this line sank at varied times. Regardless, this tells the story of Grace, recently married to Henry, who is placed on a lifeboat with 39 strangers following the sinking of the ship. In the midst unfolds a story of deep sea survival and the lengths people will go to ensure their own survival. The story fluctuates between the immediate aftermath of the shipwreck and the future, where Grace is on trial for possible murder. Although not the best written book, it was riveting and I found myself thinking it would be an engaging movie, which is not something I ever think. At any rate, it was an enjoyable read, even if many questions were left unanswered.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel
On a flight home from London, Ted meets an attractive woman named Lily. Over the course of the flight, the book shifting back and forth between characters, Ted reveals to Lily that his wife is cheating on him. Lily suggests that Ted kills his wife and offers her assistance. What follows is a story full of plot twists and character reveals.
I'll be honest. This book is pretty poorly written. I caught three instances of the usage of the wrong name, instances that shouldn't have made it past an editor. The characters aren't fully developed and are all truly pretty awful. But yet, I enjoyed this book. I didn't have to think. It had a satisfying ending. It kept me reading. This book is proof that they don't all have to be literary masterpieces to be enjoyable.

The Darkest Part of the Forest
I love Holly Black, so I was very excited to see this one was out. It did not disappoint.
In the town of Fairfold, humans and magical creatures (Folk) live side-by-side. There are rules, of course. Usually followed, sometimes broken. In the forest, lies a horned boy in a sealed coffin where he has slept for entire generations. The horned boy is the fascination of the children in the town, least of all Hazel and her brother Ben. One day, Hazel awakens to find glass shards under her fingernails, mud on her feet and the news that the glass coffin has been smashed and no one knows where the horned boy is. What follows is an unnerving descent in the magical world of Fairfold and the humans and Folk that live within. I loved this book, like I've loved all of her books. Despite the elements of magic within this book, it was still a real and relatable story.

Hellhole
Max Kilgore has a cool name, but not so much a cool life. A teenager with a chronically ill mom, Max enjoys crossword puzzles and dinosaurs. When Max can't sleep, he digs, searching for dinosaur fossils in a hill outside town. One night, he accidentally digs deep and unearths a devil. As unrealistic as this premise may be, I loved this book. Berg, Max's devil, was such a perfect mix of an absolute jerk and a clown that it was hard to hate him (although I did because, obviously, he's a devil). Berg moves in to Max's basement where he proceeds to wreck Max's life by playing video games, wandering around without pants and insisting that Max steal him junk food. Max enlists the help of a classmate named Lore, rumored to have one been a devil worshipper, to help him rid himself of Berg. But, as he was cautioned by Berg himself, a deal with the devil is never as simple as it seems.

All the Bright Places
This was described as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor&Park. While I didn't think it was quite that--mainly because those were two unique books--I did enjoy it. There were parts of it that were a little too John Greene, but it was still a good book. The book alternates between the perspective of Violet and Finch. Violet is a popular girl, while Finch is the school screw up. While standing on the ledge of the belltower contemplating what it would be like to jump, Finch looks over and sees an equally contemplative Violet down the ledge. What spirals from this moment is a series of events where Finch pushes himself into Violet's life, until she finally accepts him… and then he begins to pull away. There are a lot of layers in this book. Sexuality. Teenage depression. Suicide. Bullying. Child abuse. It was a heavy book. Not one that I would like to read again, but I am glad I read it.

What are you reading?