Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

(95)Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is more than just a colony on the moon.  It is a small tourist town, a community. Rudy is the only law enforcement on Artemis. A former Royals Mountie, he takes his job very seriously.  There are others in Artemis that are wealthy and prestigious.  And then there is Jazz, she is a local who has lived in Artemis most of her life.  She works as a Porter, which allows for her side job to be so lucrative.  Jazz is a smuggler. One day one of Artemis's client makes an interesting proposal. It will be a risky venture, but the slugs (currency used in Artemis) will allow Jazz to move out of her coffin-sized home and into a place where she can really be comfortable. She finishes her "mission" and returns to collect her money, only to find the client and his bodyguard have been murdered. On Artemis. Murder doesn't happen on the moon and Jazz is terrified that she will be next. She calls on the skills she has honed over a lifetime of smuggling, as well as the misfit group of people that she considers friends. Will Jazz be able to solve the murder and get things under control before the murderers find her?

Andy Weir is a legend among aspiring authors. The story of how his first novel came to print is the stuff of legends. While Artemis is being published the traditional route, it is going to be as big of a blockbuster as The Martian. Jazz is a unique character - she is a Saudi Arabian by birth, but has lived on Artemis since she was six years old. She doesn't have much of a relationship with her traditional father, but she knows he will have her back when the chips are down. And the chips are very much down when somebody is trying to kill her. I loved Jazz - her character is resourceful and quick and very much a part of her community. Even when she takes things too far and puts the entire city is at risk, she has people who are willing to stand by her side and fight with her. Her "friends" are definitely a misfit group, but that is part of what makes the story so addicting. Artemis is an incredibly fast-paced novel that was definitely written with the big screen in mind. The author paints such a vivid picture of the moon's colony that it is easy to imagine it as a movie.

Bottom Line - Artemis is a well written, highly entertaining novel that just happens to be set on the moon. If you love a good, fast-paced read, then you must give Artemis a shot, you won't regret it, I promise!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

(94)Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Paul Strom is planning the "Best Day Ever" for his wife, Mia.  They are leaving their young sons with a trusted babysitter and heading to their lake house on Lake Erie.  Paul Strom appears to have it all.  An incredibly successful career, a stunning wife who is devoted to both him and their children, a home that is the envy of all their friends.  Mia has been sick lately for reasons unknown to the doctors and Paul thinks that a "Best Day Ever" with Mia will be just what the doctors order.  Or will it be the day that destroys everything?

Best Day Ever is a book to devour in one sitting.  The book is told entirely from Paul's perspective.  He is very much the kind of guy that wants everybody to see the grandness of his life.  The gorgeous wife, perfect job, the perfect life.  As a narrator, his tone of voice is very much "look at my life."  I have been alive long enough to know that things are not always what they seem.  He makes comments that cause my radar to go off, but I am not convinced of anything yet. -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  

There isn't a lot that I can say that won't give away some key parts of the book, but I can say that the ending was pretty kick-ass.  Hearing exclusively from Paul's point of view really causes the reader to evaluate the information he gives you.  You need to decide if he is telling you the whole story and if he is, what are the parts you should be paying special attention to?

Bottom Line - Best Day Ever was a roller coaster of a read.  It was very fast paced and the end was upon you before you knew it.  But, wow, what an ending!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

(93)Unqualified by Anna Faris

Anna Faris is one of those actresses that makes me belly laugh. I watched some of her movies, but it wasn't until her television show, Mom, that I became a devoted fan.   She is a talented actress and her offscreen her little family is adorable.  Like everybody else, I was a little sad to hear that Anna and her husband, Chris Pratt, split up.

In her book, Unqualified, Anna Faris gives the reader the behind the scenes look into her life.  From her childhood in Wahington to her college days and early days in Hollywood.  She talks about her relationships with the men in her life with a frankness that only Ana Faris can exhibit.  Her college boyfriend, her first husband, and Chris Pratt.  She also talks about life in Hollywood in a manner that makes me glad that I will never live in Hollywood.

Finally, Anna Faris talks extensively about her podcast.  From topics covered to running bits to guests.  I am not really a podcast kind of girl (I would rather spend that time listening to audiobooks such as Unqualified), but I could definitely find myself listening to Anna Faris's podcast.  I imagine there will be a lot of laughing!

Bottom Line - If you have been around a minute you know that I am a sucker for a good celebrity memoir.  Anna Faris is just the next in a long line of celebrities to pick up the pen.  As Anna and I are close in age, I found myself connecting with her on a level that I had not expected.  If you are looking for a fun way to pass the afternoon, than Unqualified by Anna Faris is the way to go!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

(92)Hunger by Roxane Gay

"People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.  They think they know the way of my body.  They do not."

Hunger is the memoir of one woman's body.  Author Roxane Gay is brutally honest in the memoir about her body.  At age 12 she was viciously gang-raped by a boy she thought of as her boyfriend and his friends.  It would be decades before her family found out, but it was almost immediately that she started to hide her body from others in an effort to protect herself.  She went off to boarding school for high school and without a vigilant mother to help her with dietary needs Roxane started to put on weight.

"The freedom of being able to eat, so extravagantly and without limit, offered me the only true pleasure I knew in high school."

The author takes us through her life and her relationship with her body.  From something as banal as smoking to her fluid relationships and her venture into bulimia, holds nothing back.  With a careful eye, Roxane Gay examines what it means to be fat in America.  From weight-loss surgery to shopping, traveling, and even a simple visit to the doctor.  She speaks about the impossible standards that are put on women to conform to societal beauty standards.  She specifically mentions celebrities like Oprah, Jennifer Hudson, and Valerie Bertinelli, all extremely accomplished women who made it seem like their life was still lacking in fulfillment until they lost weight. One of the richest women on the planet and an Oscar winner still did not feel successful until they lost weight.  How messed up is that?  There are judgments and criticism  at every turn for someone, especially celebrities,  who do not meet the criteria what others deem to be "normal."

"I (want to) believe my worth as a human being does not reside in my size or appearance."

The above quote probably spoke to me more than any line that I have read in a very long time.  Not only have I had weight issues, but I was born with a physical disability and there have been many times in my life where I was made to feel "less than" because of my appearance.  My heart and my mind know that it is them, not me that is deficient, but it still stings.    I have lost a lot of weight this year and I have done it for me. Not for anybody else.  My husband has been supportive through it all and has never once made me feel less than for being morbidly obese.  However, many people have commented on it my weight loss, does that mean that I was "less than" before in their eyes?  This is always in the back of my mind,  no matter how much weight I lose I cannot change the fact that I have a physical disability.  If someone believes my worth is tied to my appearance I will never be worthy of them.  And sadly, I know there are people out there who make assumptions based on my disability and there is nothing that I can do to change that.

Bottom Line - Hunger is not one of those motivational books where the author loses all of the weight and is skinny at the end.   Nor is Hunger a cautionary tale of what will happen if you are overweight.  Hunger is a raw and honest memoir of one woman and her body.   And it is one of the best books that I have ever read.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

(91)The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Since 1620 the descendants of Maria Owens have known that falling in love is a family curse that must be avoided at all costs. And since 1620 all of Maria Owen's descendants have been women, until now.  Franny and Jet Owens have a little brother, Vincent.  Even though the Susanna Owens decided to raise their little family in New York City, they couldn't escape the Owens family traits.  So she laid out some rules for her children and was very strict about  The Rules of Magic - no books about magicno wearing black, no wearing red shoes, no black cats for pets, and no falling in love - ever.  Even though the Owens children have abided by their mother's rules it is very clear that the Owens children are different.  Things jump off of shelves when Vincent is in the room. Jet can read the thoughts of others and Franny is so unnaturally beautiful.  The Owens children typically keep to themselves and have avoided love.  Until now.  As young adults, all three Owens children have found themselves in love and unsure of how to handle the situation.  The family curse affects them all in different ways, but make no mistake, they do not escape the curse.  Will the Owens siblings ever be able to find happiness and true love?

With Halloween being right around the corner I was in the mood for a magical kind of novel.  The Rules of Magic is a prequel to the beloved novel (and movie) Practical Magic. Franny and Jet are the eccentric, beloved aunts in Practical Magic.   In The Rules of Magic, we get to hear their story. We get to hear about the sacrifices that they made because of their family heritage. We get to hear about their loves and their losses.   I found myself swept away by their story. I didn't really have a favorite character, but I found Vincent the most interesting. He was the one who ignored the rules more than his sisters.  He dared to do whatever he wanted - the rules be damned.  I think I felt the most empathy for Franny who gave up everything to care for her siblings after their parent's death. She sacrificed the most, I think.  The Rules of Magic spanned decades, but it never felt like the Owens siblings had aged.  In the end, I felt things ended the best way that they could, but it left me wanting to read Practical Magic. --CLICK HERE TO READ SPOILERS

Bottom Line - The Rules of Magic was the perfect read for  Halloween.  The magical nature of the Owens family coupled with the author's ability to write a lyrical novel makes it the perfect read to put you in the mood for All Hallow's Eve.

  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 384
  • Publisher: Simon  & Schuster
  • Publication Date: 10/10/2017
  • Buy it Here!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

(90)Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Like many avid readers there is a part of me that wants to be a writer.  I have probably a dozen half started novels lingering in the bowels of my Google Drive.  I have decided that this year is the year that I participate in NaNoWriMo.  And this is the year that I finish it!  To prepare I have been reading magazines, blog posts, books, and anything else that I can read that will help me reach my goal.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel is one of those books that put me in the mindest for NaNoWriMo.  The author provides some really good strategies for plotting out a novel.   The one piece of advice that really struck a chord with me was the main character.   Lisa Cron really lays out a plan to really develop your main character before even writing one page of your story.  I always had a character sketch, but I had never gone one step further with the character's history.    The other thing that really is going to be useful when I write is a thing called "Scene Cards.".  Each scene needs a Scene Card with these four things - 1. What happens?. 2. What is the effect or consequence? 3.Why does it matter? 4.What is the realization? And what happens next?   I think having the concept of scene cards is going to help me stay organized and keep the book from getting away from me.   The final thing I want to share that I think will be useful was the advice to have the ending planned out before you even write a word.  You don't start a road trip without having a destination in mind, right?  You know where you are going to end up, right?  That is the way it should be when writing a novel.

Bottom line - Story Genius was a really helpful book to read as I get ready to start another NaNoWriMo.  I could have probably have started without reading this book, but I suspect that Story Genius will help me finish NaNoWriMo this year.

  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
  • Publication Date: 8/9/2016
  • Buy it Here! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

(89)Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Aza and Daisy have been best friends since grade school.  Aza isn't your typical teenager, she struggles with severe anxiety that nearly paralyzes her at times. But Daisy has been by her side for years and Daisy deals with Aza's quirkiness because of their friendship. One day Daisy heard on the news about a local billionaire who has gone missing.  There is a $100,000 reward and Daisy thinks that they can find him, especially since the billionaire's son, Davis, is an old friend of Aza's from "sad camp".  The summer camp that they went to after Aza's dad and Davis's mom died way too young.  Sixteen-year-old Aza's best friend has come up with a crazy way for them to make money. It was easier to reconnect to David that Aza expected, but now she has to choose - his friendship or pursuing the $100,000 reward.   The pressure is sending Aza's anxiety through the roof and it all comes to a climactic explosion that could ruin Aza's friendships, and her life, forever.

I don't think that there is an author out there that can depict the tribulations of teens like John Green.   Being a teen in today's world is tough.  Being a teenager with severe anxiety is even more difficult.  Aza's struggles with anxiety are so well documented by Green that I think people of all ages will be able to relate to her.  Her relationship with Daisy was an interesting one. To me, it was Daisy who was "exhausting" with her constant chattering.  And I was FURIOUS on Aza's behalf when she made the discovery that led to the critical moment of the book.  With friends like that who needs enemies? --  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  Ultimately, I really liked the book and I really loved Aza.   The end was satisfactory, but I wish that more was done to illustrate Aza's inner-strength regarding her friendship with Daisy.  I know that Green probably was authentic in the way that it went down but as a forty-two-year-old woman, that would not have been okay.

Bottom-Line - Even though I struggled with parts of this book, Turtles All the Way Down is a great book and is going to be under the tree for the teen girl in my life.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

(88)Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

For the first time in years the Birch family will be under the same roof for Christmas.  They will be convening for a week of festivities at their country estate, Weyfield Hall, and they will be under quarantine.  Olvia, the oldest daughter of Emma and Andrew Birch will be just arriving home from a humanitarian mission treating patients with a highly contagious plague.  She will be required to be quarantined for seven days once she returns to England.  Emma is thrilled to have her family all under the same roof, her younger daughter, Phoebe is newly engaged and she is looking forward to some wedding planning during the quarantine to keep her mind off of her own troubles, but Phoebe receives some news that will ruin their whole holiday.  Andrew, Emma's husband, is also glad to have his daughters home, but he has been distracted and distant because of his past coming back to haunt him.  What will his family say if they were to find out his secret?  While the whole Birch family may be under the same roof their secrets are keeping them apart.

Yes, I did it.  I read the first Christmas book of the season and I am not sorry one little bit.  I love Christmas and am really looking forward to this year's holiday season.  The Birch family holiday reminded me a lot of the last Christmas I spent with my whole family for Christmas.  We weren't quarantined, but we were stuck due to an old-fashioned Iowa blizzard.  And we were not in a large English manor, but a small four bedroom home.   Collectively I liked the Birch family, but individually they all got on my nerves a bit.   Think Family Stone meets Downton Abbey. Phoebe was whiny and self-centered.  Olivia was judgemental and arrogant.  Their parents were so disconnected from each other it was hard to feel empathy.   By the end of the book a lot of the issues in this family had been resolved, but not in a "cheesy Christmas story" kind of way.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS   I really found myself loving the Birch family by the end of the book and this is one that I can see being picked up for a big screen movie.

Bottom Line - Seven Days of Us was a great way to kick off the holiday season.  Not only are the characters all unique and engaging, the setting of Weyfield Hall is something right out of Downton Abbey.  Definitely worth the read if you are already humming Christmas carols under your breath!

  • Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: 10/17/2017
  • Buy it Here! 

Friday, October 20, 2017

(87)My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston's whole world revolves around her father, Martin.   They live in the woods of Northern California and Martin only lets her go to school so they won't be bothered by officials, as far as Martin is concerned Turtle's education is provided by him. And him alone.  He has taught her how to hunt, how to shoot, how to dress game, and how to survive in the wilderness. That is not all he has taught her - what else he has taught her are "skills" no fourteen-year-old should know.  When summer comes Martin tries to save them both and takes off and leaves Turtle alone to fend for herself.  Turtle does just fine on her own, she even meets a couple of friends, Jacob and Brett.  Jacob leaves Turtle longing for a "normal" life with a "normal" family.   After months of being gone, Martin returns and he is not alone.  He has a little girl with him.  At first, Turtle isn't sure what to think of Cayenne but then she soon realizes that things are going to come to an explosive end and they may not make it out alive.

My Absolute Darling has to be one of the most brutal novels that I have ever read.  Martin Alveston has to be one of the most tortured, evil characters that I have ever seen in print.  His control over Turtle was total and complete.  His misogynistic beliefs were so ingrained into Turtle that she couldn't even see how their relationship was so screwed up. She couldn't understand that her self-hatred was a direct result of his systematic abuse.  Make no mistake, My Absolute Darling deals with very dark themes like sexual and physical abuse. In explicit and graphic detail, the author takes us into the pit of Turtle's despair.  It is horrifically brutal to read, so much so that there were sections of this book that I could only read a few pages - a few paragraphs at a time before I had to set it aside to find cute cat videos or something.  I questioned myself for sticking with it, but then I realized that while horrific, there are Turtles all over this world who never get their stories told.  I wanted to finish this book for them. I can't imagine what it was like for the author to be in the head of Martin Alveston. His writing was so unique, his way with words was so beautiful.  Even though the subject matter was incredibly ugly, his writing was exceptional.  While the end was the kind of heroic end that all books deserve, yet seldom receive,  it was a very much heartbreaking conclusion.  Nobody gets over that kind of systematic abuse in one short chapter.  But above all else, Turtle is a survivor.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Despite the brutal subject matter of  My Absolute Darling, I gave it a "Best of 2017" label.  I give books the "Best of" label that evoke an intense emotional response in me, and My Absolute Darling did just that on nearly every page.  I cannot warn you enough about the graphic nature of this book, but Turtle's story is one that should not be missed.

  • My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
  • I could not find the author on social media
  • Pages: 432
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: 8/29/2017
  • Buy it Here!

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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