Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

I finally remembered it's a Wednesday before the Wednesday is over! Summer vacation/busy day problems.

The Widow
Jean Taylor loves her husband Glen, even if he is a little controlling and a little by the book. Although Jean loves Glen, she also doesn't seem too sad at the beginning of the book when he's run over by a bus right in front of her. As the story unfolds, the reader learns that Glen was accused of having involvement in the case of a missing pre-schooler, named Bella. It seems, also, that Glen was found in possession of child pornography, despite his best attempts to convince Jean that it was a computer virus.
After Glen's death, Jean consents to give an interview--in the sense that she's too overwhelmed and polite to tell a reporter no. As the reporter fishes further in Jean and Glen's relationship and Bella's disappearance, it becomes evident that Jean may know more than she initially let on. Although this book was compared to The Girl on the Train, I didn't really see that connection--instead it was more of an in-depth look as to how far someone will go to maintain roles of normalcy and what happens when the breaking point appears.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
It took me awhile to get into this book. Where Mikey lives, odd things happen. Zombies and vampires and, recently, mysterious blue lights in the woods that appear before indie kids die. Mikey's mom is running for a government position, causing him to live on edge and again become overwhelmed by his obsessive compulsive disorder. Meanwhile, his sister is praying to not have a resurgence of her eating disorder that plagued her during her mom's last campaign. Mikey is also in love with Henna, who seems content to friend zone him. There are secondary characters who play a part in this novel, as well, but I'll be honest, I struggled to find any attachment to them. I felt like this book tried to be a fantasy novel and a coming of age novel all at once and it seemed like it mostly missed the mark for me.

Girls on Fire: A Novel
So I enjoyed this novel for pure entertainment value. I didn't think it was the best book, but it had me engaged. My quibble with it was that I felt like the author was trying too hard for an unreliable narrator, but it felt like they were all unreliable and not in an engaging way. Following the suicide of a high school basketball star, quiet Hannah Dexter is befriended by the Kurt Cobain, grunge loving Lacey. Lacey claims that Hannah is a boring name and instead dubs her Dex. Although initially happy to see "Dex" making friends, Dex's parents eventually begin to question the type of power Lacey holds over her. After Lacey is sent to a Christian reform camp, Dex is befriended by Nikki, the popular queen bee of their school. Nikki has a past with Lacey that Dex is unaware of and as the story reaches its climax, it all comes to light. Few of the characters have any redeeming quality, particularly Dex who is content to become what others want her to be--regardless of the cost.

By Lisa Williamson The Art of Being Normal [Hardcover]
David is pretty sure his parents think he's gay, but David isn't gay. Rather, David feels that he is a girl trapped in a boy's body. With every inch taller he grows, David feels he's losing his grip on the only thing he's ever wanted. When David is being bullied in the cafeteria (a regular occurrence), new kid Leo comes to his defense. The two form an unlikely friendship and David finds the courage to tell Leo why he feels different, with unexpected results. Although David is the main character, Leo's story and motivations are equally as interesting. I love that a book like this exists and I hope it will reach its intended audience.

The Fireman: A Novel
With homage to Ray Bradbury, the author creates a novel that settles into a normal world that quickly becomes post-apocalyptic with the spread of a disease called Dragonscale or simply Scale. The infected are marked by a beautiful but eerie black pattern on their body. The eventual cause of death comes when they catch on fire and burn to death. Harper is a nurse who answers the call to treat infected patients, remaining clean herself until she too catches the Scale. In the midst of this, she discovers she is pregnant and vows to stay alive for the baby, but her husband Jakob becomes quickly unhinged and sees that the only answer is to kill Harper and possibly himself. Rescued by a mysterious man known only as The Fireman, Harper learns that their may be a way to live with the Dragonscale after all, but it won't be easy.
Loved this book so much. The storyline stuck with me for days afterward and I loved the resounding message found in many post-apocalyptic novels--as always, the real threat is not the disease or the monsters but the other humans.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things
This book had me so on edge that I ended up staying up late just to finish it in one reading. Jake and his girlfriend, never named, are going to meet Jake's parents. The entire time his girlfriend is thinking of ending things, but she isn't quite sure why. After an odd meeting with his parents, she is even more certain that she should end things. It's hard to discuss this book without giving anything away, but there are minute details that become more important as the book starts to reveal the true twist. I don't think this book will be for everyone, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers that leave you second guessing until the very end, I would recommend this one.

The Memory of Light
This was a sweet, albeit somewhat unbelievable book. Vicky Cruz wakes up at Lakeview hospital, disappointed to be alive after her nanny discovered that she tried to end her life. Through Dr. Desai and group therapy, Vicki meets and becomes intertwined with Mona, E.M. and Gabriel. I felt like the exploration of the loss and depression in the lives of these teens was realistic; however, the constant violation of HIPAA and disregard to patient safety was unrealistic. I wish the author would've stuck close to fact on those parts, but I still felt the characters and attitude toward depression and other mental illnesses was well done.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

My library book requests keep pouring in and I want to cry because so many books. Not enough time.

Zero K
I always want to read Don DeLillo novels. Then I remember that I find his writing style hard to get into, but at the point that I remember, I'm too far in to quit. Ross and his wife, Artis, are millionaires. Ross' son Jeff is summoned to say goodbye to Artis, who is about to be cryogenically frozen until the time that there are enough medical advancements to keep her whole and healthy. Much of this book takes place in the compound where Artis is to "die," a strange and cold place where Jeff meets people who both comfort and frighten. It was an odd book, but raises an interesting question... should we be allowed to die when we want, in the hopes of living for a better future?

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Oh, this book. It had me in tears so many times. Mary North, a wealthy beautiful girl, leaves school and signs up to be part of the war relief. It is London 1939 and the job they give her is to teach children who have been sent from the city to the country. After she becomes too attached to a black child, she is sent back to London, where she applies to teach again. It is here that she meets and falls in love with Tom, eventually becoming acquainted with Tom's best friend, Alistair, who spends his time fighting Italians on the island of Malta. While the book started out slow, it picked up steam during the London blitz and had me hooked on all the stories from that point forward. It isn't happy, not by a longshot, but there is some happiness in the midst of the war.

Asking For It
In the wake of so many stories of young girls getting raped and then blamed for it, this is poignant and timely. Emma is a beautiful Irish girl who has it all. Until a night at a party when she mixes drugs and alcohol an, for reasons outside of her memory, ends up a crumpled sunburnt heap on her front porch the next day. As time goes on, the pictures of what happened that night are leaked to social media and although the pictures make it clear that Emma was not a willing participant, her peers and the media are all too happy to chronicle the many ways in which she was asking for it. This was definitely not an easy read. It raises some interesting societal views without really answering what we can do about them, but I am glad I read this book.

There Will Be Lies
After being hit by a car, Shelby's life changes entirely. She and her mom are on the run, for reasons Shelby doesn't quite understand. Shely is suspicious and doesn't know who to trust, but in the midst of this, she finds herself going to another realm in her sleep. One where she becomes friends with Mark, who is also a coyote, and where she is tasked with killing the Chrone to save the Child. Shelby is unsure who she can trust in either world as the truth about who she is and who she was is slowly revealed. I loved how the author so seemlessly wove fantasy and reality together.

The Ghosts of Heaven
This book was not my favorite, though I did like some of it. The author weaves together four stories, which he says you can read the conventional way or in the order that feels best to you. I chose the conventional way. The first story is of a young girl, drawing spirals in a cave and hoping to be chosen for the hunt. The next is Anna, a girl dealing with the loss of her mother in the midst of being accused of witchcraft. The third is a doctor in an asylum, missing his wife and trying to peice together the mystery of the spiral design, while the fourth is a man on a spacecraft hurtling toward an uncertain world. I really didn't connect to this, not in the way I've connected to other overlapping stories. It was just a book with four stories that could maybe fit together but weren't even that strong to stand alone.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

LaRose: A Novel
I was pretty excited about this book because I loved The Round House by the same author, but I struggled to get into this one. Landreaux Iron is out deer hunting when he aims at a buck and instead shoots and kills his neighbor's son, Dusty. In exchange for Dusty, Landreaux and his wife decide to follow the old customs and give their son, La Rose, to the neighbors in exchange for the life Landreaux took. While this storyline itself was solid and I felt could have carried the book, the author shot off in so many different directions that I struggled. You have Romeo, the town drunk, who grew up with Landreaux and his son, Hollis. You have an addicted mother and her daughter, trying to survive on the streets, as well as many other tertiary characters. I struggled to follow along and care, though I was interested in the storylines of the two main families.

Lies We Tell Ourselves (Harlequin Teen)
Sarah Dunbar is integrating an all-white school in the 50s. Following the integration of Little Rock Central High and other schools, she has no idea how difficult her journey will be. Compounding this journey is Sarah's own confusion about her sexuality, especially as she falls in love with the daughter of a very vocal anti-integration activist. I really enjoyed this book, especially having taught about school integration this year. I thought the sexuality struggle added an extra layer to Sarah's voice and made it more interesting.

The Square Root of Summer
I would call this book good, but not great. Following the death of her beloved grandfather, Gottie discovers wormholes and begins reliving days she has already lived. While this concept overall interested me, I didn't feel it was that well executed and ended up confused half the time as to what was really happening vs. what had already happened. Gottie's voice was strong and her struggle over her grandfather's passing, as well as her struggle reuniting with an old childhood friend and crush were believable and carried the novel, but the plot overall didn't engage me.

Katie struggles to fit in, but she does have one goood friend: Esme. Until Esme asks Katie what her biggest fantasy is and Katie responds by kissing her, causing Esme and her other friends to ostracize Katie. In the midst of this, a grandmother Katie never knew she had shows up and moves in with Katie, her bitter single mother, and her 14 year old mildly mentally disabled brother, Charlie. The book bounces back and forth between Katie, her mom Caroline and her grandmother, Mary. As the book progresses, you understand what motivates all the characters and why they are the way they are. I really enjoyed this book and felt the author did a fabulous job developing all of her characters.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

I only read one book this week. Partly because I'm so busy with baseball and school responsibilities that all crop up in May, but also because I'm still binge watching American Horror Story (2/3 of the way through Coven!).

A friend suggested this book and alluded to how dark it was. Although I am no stranger to reading the dark or the macabre, this book was very twisted. Michael Morrow lives in a cabin in the Appalachian woods with his family. So far removed from the rest of the world, no one hears the screams of the girls that echo through the woods, nor does anyone go looking when these girls turn up missing. Michael's parents, Claudia and Wade, have twisted tastes, as does Michael's brother Ray. Michael has no choice but to participate, but he doesn't enjoy it as the rest of the family does. As the book goes on, you learn more about Michael and why he doesn't quite fit in with the family. The ending was a bit abrupt and I wish the author would've told us more about Claudia and Wade, but overall, this one hooked me. Fair warning, though it is not supernatural, it does reveal to us that the real and worst monsters are human.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

I have 12 library holds right now, which of course means that while nothing is coming in at the moment, they will all arrive at once. I'm sure you all know that struggle!

There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, for the drama and seediness of Judith's world. There were also parts that I questioned, where the main character's switch from Judith an office worker to Lauren a paid entertainer of men to, well, a twisted antihero out for revenge seemed a little too fluid for the major changes. Overall, though, this was a pretty darkly entertaining novel. It is a trilogy, though I honestly felt it could have been wrapped up in one book... but maybe the author has other plans to make the character shifts more realistic. Ultimately, I enjoyed it.

Somewhere Out There: A Novel
At the age of ten, Natalie found out she was adopted but was given no information about her birth parents. When her daughter has to complete a family tree, Natalie is again driven to find out about her biological mother--even if it means upsetting her adopted mother. In the process, Natalie discovers her sister, Brooke, a sister she never knew she had. Unlike Natalie, Brooke knew she had a sister and also unlike Natalie, Brooke was never adopted and grew up in the system. The two girls forge a sometimes strained, sometimes strong relationship and together set out to find their mother. This book is told from three perspectives: Natalie, Brooke and Jennifer, their mom. Although this dragged on a little bit for me, the author did an excellent job of fleshing out all three characters--their motivations, their joys and sorrows. Definitely a good summer or beach read.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

Um... nothing. How embarrassing is this? Not one single book in a week. In my defense, I had a lull in library holds coming in, plus baseball season started so I'm busy and tired.

But also, I finally started watching American Horror Story and binge watched the first season and started the second this weekend.

So, tell me what you're reading!

ps, did you see the trailer for Me Before You? I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

Almost didn't make it, but I desperately wanted to finish a book before posting.

Tell Me Three Things
There's something about cutesy, quirky YA romance books that get me every dang time. They're so predictable, and yet, so enjoyable. Jessie is new to her rigorous prep school in LA. Jessie is new to LA, even, having moved from Chicago to California following her dad's remarriage after the death of her mom. As she realizes that she'll never fit in there, she receives an email from an anonymous boy calling himself Somebody/Nobody. SN offers to be her anonymous guardian angel and tell her all the ropes at school, but he won't reveal who he is. Although she eventually starts to fit in, Jessie still relies on SN and desperately wants to know who he is. Although it was fairly obvious to me who SN was, it was still an enjoyable read.

The Great American Whatever
After the loss of Quinn's sister, he gives up on pretty much everything he loves--movie making, script writing, spending time with his friends. When summer rolls around, Quinn's best friend Geoff decides that enough is enough and drags Quinn out of bed, out of the house and back to reality--though a new reality for both. The details of Annabeth's death are put forth slowly by Quinn, intermixed with his own torment over how to tell his mom he's gay and his feelings for the cute new college guy who he meets through Geoff.
I really liked this book. The characters were all likable and the storylines were real, if a bit stretched at times.

Dodgers: A Novel
East, his brother, and two other gang members are sent by East's uncle to Wisconsin to kill a judge who is going to testify in a trial. East has never left the projects of LA, let alone ventured into the Midwest, so it's an adjustment, as well as dealing with his temperamental younger brother. This was a pretty amazing book, to be honest. It was a coming-of-age story in a way, but with a slightly different twist. Most of the storyline involves the journey to kill the judge, then it takes on a life of its own. I definitely found myself rooting for East who, in spite of the world he grew up in, seemed desperately to want to rise above.

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
Have girls? Work with young girls? Know a girl? Read this book. Read it. The world teen girls are navigating now is a different world than the one in which most adult women grew up. Sexting, hook ups, nude selfies, blow jobs being the new good night kiss. It's scary, but also so important that we teach girls to advocate and ask for respect, to only do something if they want to do something--not because they're expected to--and that sex should be a two-way street. Also, of course, to teach our boys that being too drunk to really understand consent means it isn't consent and that girls aren't in existence to be pleasure givers. I had an incident at work recently where two boys came to speak to me because a female friend had her butt grabbed in the cafeteria. She urged them not to say anything, saying it wasn't a big deal, but they felt it was a big deal and they wanted to report it. I was--and still am--so proud of them, but also so very troubled by the easy acceptance of girls to things like this and that passivity is really covered in depth in this book.

The Two-Family House: A Novel
1947, Brooklyn. Two babies are born at home in the midst of a blizzard, born by the wives of two brothers who lives in the same two-family house. It is an unusual night, made even more unusual by circumstances that aren't immediately revealed. As the years progress, Teddy and Natalie--the two babies--grow to be the best of friends, while their mothers' relationship becomes strained and angry at times. This book is told from varying perspectives, from Helen and Rose, to their husbands and their children, as well. The characters, though there are many, are all well fleshed out and the story captivating. I had to put this one down at work today after silent reading time, and it was so not easy!

What are you reading?