Tuesday, October 28, 2014

List #13 - Books

I hosted a book challenge from July 1st through October 31st. (Yes, I know it is not October 31st yet, but why must you be so precise?)  I wrote another post about it here.  I thought I'd recap what I read during my challenge.  One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing books others selected...just gave me more books to add to my "to read" list.  I created a whole bonus round in order to read books from others' lists.

Warning, warning: if you're not a reader, this blog post will probably be incredibly boring for you.  Alright, you've been warned.

  • The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim - I wanted to love this book. I wanted this book to be great, but it was just okay to me. I didn't connect to the story or the characters as much as I'd like. I enjoy historical fiction. I enjoy stories that span decades. I enjoy books set in a place I've never visited.  Something was just missing in this one to truly grab me, so I'd give it 2.5 stars.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettI took a class at A&M about Children's Literature. I remember re-reading the book then and enjoying it. Unfortunately, I was too hungover most lecture days that I don't remember much else about the class. I'm glad I re-read it again. It's even more delightful of a story the third time. I'm a sucker for a transformation story, and the combined transformations of characters and the garden is a winner. 5 stars!
  • Joyland by Stephen KingA little bit murder mystery, part ghost story, mixed with a coming of age main character - I enjoyed it and would recommend it. Plus, "suck-assy" is actually used in the book. How can you not like a book that has carneys and slang terms like suck-assy? 4/5
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper KermanI haven't seen the TV show (we don't have Netflix, and we often get series a season or two later than they're shown in the US). Based on what I've read about the TV show, I wanted to read the book assuming I'd really enjoy it. I didn't. I could write at length about what disappointed me, but I don't want to ruin it for any other readers. Having worked at a juvenile justice center in Texas and seen firsthand incarcerated youth, I already have some strong opinions and interest in criminal justice and rehabilitation. Maybe those views tainted my reading. All that being said, I could see how "characters" could be exaggerated to make for good television, and I'd still probably watch the show. 2/5
  • One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper - About 40 pages before the end of the book, I was torn - I wanted to know what happens to the characters, but I didn't want the book to end. I love this book. The characters are well-developed, and I enjoy the writing style of the author. Cast well, it would make a great movie. The combination of mortality, relationships, and introspection packaged in a has-been musician worked well for me. 5/5

  • City of Lost Girls by Declan HughesThis is the 5th book in a series that features Ed Loy, a private investigator based in Dublin. I've read all the books, and this was possibly the best of all of them. This book follows a current case, added with reoccurring characters from the Dublin organized crime world, plus a love interest and a touch of Hollywood. 4.5/5
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - My friend, Marcy, recommended this, and I appreciate her for it. The story is set in rural England in the 1600s about a small village struck by the Plague. During the plight, issues are faced involving loss, suffering, abuse, sex, drunkenness, murder, religion, friendship, and more. The writing is very descriptive; so much so I got queasy at times reading about the details of those that suffered awfully from the disease. The ending felt a little rushed, so it wasn't a perfect book...but almost. 4.5/5
  • Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America by Jennifer StormThe author discusses openly and honestly her battles with self-esteem, sexual assault, family relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual identity, suicide attempts, and recovery. Although I could relate to some of her tales, I never really connected with her. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.
  •  Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - Typically, I do not like books that make me get all sweet, soft, and schmaltzy (is that a word?), but this book worked for me. I adored the lead female characters. I liked that different relationships are viewed - from friendships to love interests to parents & children to siblings. One of the relationships hit so close to home for me a particular chapter was almost difficult to read. If you like chick lit, this is a great read. 4.5/5
  •  Divergent by Veronica Roth - This book is WAY out of my normal reading choices. Every now and then, when a book or a series gains somewhat of a fanatical popularity, I am curious why, and even though it may not be the typical book I would read, I give it a try. That's why I chose this book. Easy to read with a lot of action mixed with a interesting story and character development, I can see why it is popular. I'm glad I read it, and I read it in 3 days, so it definitely kept my interest. But it's still not my thang. I took a sneak peek at imdb to take a look at the casting. I think I'll just watch all the movies instead.
  • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch - I found this book in the YA staff recommendations at my local library.  If you like YA, I recommend it.  The lead teen girl is one I felt for emotionally and wanted to wrap my arms around her and give her a big hug.  A book that attacks topics such as neglect, abandonment, and abuse coupled with acceptance, sibling bonds, and self-discovery.  5/5
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman - After so many people selected this book in the challenge, I decided to take a look. I read this over one weekend and glad that I did. Nothing groundbreaking, but I enjoyed the exploration of emotions and relationships. I predict it made a decent film that I'll get around to watching. 4/5 stars
  • Cop Town by Karin Slaughter - This book was a little disappointing to me. Karin Slaughter is one of my favorite thriller writers. Her characters are usually so complex, and the plots are usually filled with twists and turns. This one fell a little short for me. The characters are all filled with emotional baggage, but I don't think they're as complex and developed as I'd like. The plot was slightly predictable. The sexism, racism, discrimination, and homophobia were difficult to read, but that's a true reflection of 1970s Deep South, so I think that was an accurate depiction. 3/5
  • The Red Tent by Anita DiamantA fictional story told from Dinah's perspective (a woman who receives a small mention in the Bible), this follows her life as a daughter, sister, lover, mother, servant, midwife, woman, friend, and wife. 4/5
  •  Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I don't know how to judge or rate this book. I love Rainbow Rowell's style of writing. I genuinely liked the development of all the characters, leads and support. I found myself laughing out loud at one scene, and I cared about the plots and subplots. So, I should love this book, right? Well...there's one major part of the storyline that just didn't work for me at all: the magic phone. That's all I'll say. I still love Rainbow Rowell, and I suspect I'll read anything she writes. 3/5
  • Silesian Station by David Downing - From pages 168-169: "...thinking back over his day. Two embassy appointments to discuss espionage work, an angry private detective and a rather remarkable woman, a sweet pair of resisters and a dumb young pair of SD (Nazi) goons. All topped off with the love of his life lying naked beside him." There's so much going on in this book, I'd get confused and forget character names and country allegiances at times. Overall, a good spy book set in Germany on the brink of WWII. 3.5/5
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed - I have mixed feelings about this book. At times, the author is brutally raw and painfully honest which I commend. Other times, I felt completely disconnected. I think there's some good stuff to take from her journey and experiences. I certainly have felt at times that taking a few months off and removing myself from the rest of the world would do myself some good. I commend the author for doing it for herself. 3/5
  •  I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb - This book is an emotional journey. There are truly some gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, cringe-causing moments. After such a journey, the ending felt a little rushed for me, but that's my only critique. Overall, a great read. 4.5/5
  • Where She Went by Gayle FormanI read this in two days. I enjoyed the first book from Mia's perspective, and this one even more from Adam's point of view. Being a music lover, the storyline is an added bonus with music laced throughout the story. 4/5
  • The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker - A lovely bond between two young people who persevere together while inflicted with personal disabilities and loneliness are the heart of this story. I can see why some would love this story, yet others would be critical. I enjoyed it, and there were a few enchanting moments, but overall I wasn't wowed. I did love this quote: "(H)e did not merely read books but traveled with them", and this one too: "There must be in life something like a catastrophic turning point, when the world as we know it ceases to exist." 3.5/5
  •  Breath by Tim Winton - I read this while waiting for another library book I had on reserve. Tim Winton is a critically-acclaimed Australian author. This is the first book of his I've read, and I will be reading more. The book details the lives of a teenage boy and his mate who cross paths with a older married couple. Strange, complex, and dangerous relationships develop. Overall, the writing was very descriptive. I've never been on a surfboard, but the surfing scenes were so well written, I could envision the excitement and danger involved. My only disappointment was the final portion of the story. It seemed to wrap up too quickly, even lacking depth and description. 3.5/5
  •  Lost and Found by Brooke Davis - Parts of this book are charming, and parts are ridiculous. Parts are super cute, and parts are terribly sad. Parts are honest, and parts are extremely unlikely.  Part of this book, I loved; part of it annoyed me. 3/5
  •  No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - After 100 pages, I asked myself "how have I not read this author before?". Mass murder, drugs, a Texas sheriff, what's not to love?  I'm not sure I liked the last 10-15 pages, but the first 290 or so was a great story. 4/5
  • Wonder by R.J. PalacioGoodness gracious, this book made my heart feel full and was a great reminder to choose kindness.  It's written in pretty simple prose, but I like that it was narrated by different characters.  A story that reminded me of such important lessons deserves a good rating.  4.5/5
 I will be hosting another challenge early next year.  If you're interested in participating, let me know.  Some people in the challenge read A LOT; some read one book.  Some people joined the group, didn't participate in the challenge itself, but enjoyed seeing what other people read that's okay too.  So, if you want to join...let me know.

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