Sunday, December 4, 2016

Charles Dickens for the win!

I think October wins for the amount of books I was reading at the same time. I think at one point I was dabbling in 6 books. I always love when you're on the wait list at the library for a couple of books and they all become available on the same day. For awhile there it felt like finals week. I always used to get an eye twitch during finals week.

And who would have guessed that a Charles Dickens book would swoop in and take the lead as my favorite book read this year? (I've previously always made it a point to avoid Charles Dickens.)  Let's hear it for Charles!


Category: A book written by a female author
The Children of Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren
Goodreads review: 5 stars

Good thing I have kids to help me knock out a huge portion of my reading challenge. Astrid Lindgren is best known for Pippi Longstocking, which is one that we have on CD, and we enjoy listening to it on road trips. The girls and I enjoyed Noisy Village. It's got short and snappy chapters and it comes equipped with pictures, so it held Maren's attention. Our narrator is Lisa, a little girl in a village in Sweden, called Noisy Village. What's ironic is that she doesn't live in a village, nor is it really that noisy. Her house is surrounded by two other homes on either side of hers, and there are six children total, and they're all great friends. It really feels like a little girl is telling the stories. Clara giggled during the part when Karl ties bows in Bill's hair while he's asleep. Our favorite chapter was when Lisa and Anna have to go to the grocery store over and over because they keep forgetting things from their list. I did have to do some quick-on-my-toes censoring—because there's a part that spills the beans about Santa Claus! So keep that in mind. I highly recommend this book for little girls.

Category: A book published this year
Pax, Sara Pennypacker
Goodreads review: 3 stars

The thing that initially caught my attention about this book was the illustrator! We looooove I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. I was disappointed that their weren't more illustrations. The beginning of this story channeled my childhood Fox and the Hound trauma. Cue Goodbye May Seem Forever. Anyway. Pax has been getting a lot of great reviews, but I didn't quite catch on to the magic of it all. The storyline is vague and mysterious. I'm sure it was written that way on purpose, but I didn't really see why. Why not give us more details? SO here's the gist: Peter rescues a baby fox and has kept him as a pet for 6 years (or something), but one day his father has to go to war and Peter has to go live with his grandfather. His fox, Pax, isn't invited. So they drop him off in the woods. The story is actually told both in Peter's perspective, and in Pax's perspective. Later that night, in his grandfather's home, Peter is filled with grief and guilt over deserting his fox, so he leaves right then to go find Pax. Only a day into his journey to find him, Peter trips and breaks his ankle. He's rescued by a lady—I can't remember her name—who lives alone in the woods. She sets his ankle and agrees to help him recover enough so he can get back to finding his fox—as long as he agrees to help her with a few things as well. Meanwhile, Pax is trying to survive in the wild when he's never lived in the wild before. He befriends some other foxes. Anyway, it's well written. I didn't unenjoy it. But the vagueness of the war was confusing to me. What time period was this story supposed to be? And where was it all taking place? I just wanted more details, I guess. And then there was Peter's relationship with his father. I wanted to understand more about that as well. The ending was expected, but a let-down all the same. So that's that.

Category: A book with a number in the title
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Goodreads review: 5 stars

Tom is the one that convinced me to read this. Ever since Great Expectations (which I was assigned in high school and didn't finish), I've steered clear of Dickens, because that guy is just too smart for me. So I put up a decent-sized fight about it, but Tom felt convinced I would like it. And he was SO right! But for reals, the first 25 pages of this book? What on earth was I even reading?? I'm glad I didn't give up though. Because this book is ah-mazing. AMAZING. I never expected to like it as much as I did, considering how difficult it is to read—plus the two main characters (Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay) are pretty flat. It's Sydney Carton who won me over. Why doesn't he try harder to get Lucie? Why does he think so lowly of himself?! Why does he think he'll never be able to change? I loved the scene when Mr. Stryver is informing Sydney of his intentions to marry Lucie. It's hilarious. Throughout the scene Sydney keeps throwing back more alcohol to handle it all: "Sydney Carton drank the punch at a great rate; drank it by bumpers, looking at his friend." His character is so much more complex than Darnay's that you just can't help rooting for him, despite his drinking problem. Oh, and then—subject change—when Darnay decides to head to France without first telling Lucie about it—he writes her a letter to find after he's gone! Oh no, buddy. What in heaven's name are you thinking? Anyway, I recommend this book to anyone who is a romantic at heart. The writing was so dense and poetic at times that I feel certain I was only scratching the surface at understanding it all. After I read it I felt SO enthused, that I nearly vowed to read everything that Charles Dickens has ever written. Someone talk me out of it.

Category: A book written by someone under 30
Red Rising, Pierce Brown
Goodreads review: 3 stars

This book takes place in the future. I was planning on plopping it in the Future category, until I realized I didn't have a book picked out for someone under 30. Props to Pierce Brown for publishing a book before turning 30! That really is an amazing accomplishment. I mean, what had I managed to do before turning 30? I had a couple of kids, so I guess that's something. I guess. I mean—it's no book. So what's this book about? Pfffff. It's about everything. Well, no. But it's got a little bit of everything. Horses on Mars? You betcha! It's over-the-top dramatic with plenty of killing and a weird emphasis on dancing, if that's something you're into. It feels very Hunger Games-esque with a side of Game of Thrones and a dollop of Harry Potter. It just has too much going on. I found the plot slightly hard to follow. And the dialogue too, sometimes. Like, for example, someone would say something like (this is just a Season example, but it'll help if you read it in the movie-guy preview voice): "Does this mean what I think it means?!?" And then the next person would be like, "Yes, it DOES mean what you think it means." And then I'd be over here going, "Uh, guys? What does it mean? I don't know what it means! What's going on in your heads??" And Darrow? (He's the main character.) He's not full of himself, or anything, so THAT'S a relief. Good heavens to Betsy grief. But despite it all—it did hold my attention. Maybe someday if I get bored I'll read the rest in the series! Errrr, well, I mean, I don't know. It's a solid maybe.

Category: A book based on or turned into a TV show
The Cold Dish, Craig Johnson
Goodreads review: 3 stars

Tom and I have gotten into the Longmire Netflix series. It's pretty good, albeit a tad on the dramatic side at times. It's about a sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Tom and I joke that Wyoming is the most dangerous place to live, apparently, because Sheriff Longmire is solving a grisly murder in every episode, not to mention all the drug dealers and kidnappers who gravitate to his town. The series is based on Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series, The Cold Dish being the first in the series. I was interested to see how closely the Netflix series follows the books. Here's one difference you'll find: F words. Boy howdy this book is full of profanity. The book has a lot of police and weapon jargon that went over my head. The book was also a little slower paced than I was expecting, and it ends differently than I was expecting—so that was a fun twist. I enjoyed the dynamics between Walt and Henry, just like the Netflix series portrays it (until the end of the 6th season, 'cause they're fighting, silly boys.) Anyway, I can give a definite recommendation to the Netflix series, but I cannot say I'd recommend the book. It's not really my genre.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Something about September

Well here it is, the middle of November. Thanksgiving is more or less here, and Christmas is more or less here the day after that. And then BAM. 2016 calls it quits.

And I'm going to do it—I'm really going to cross the book-challenge finish line! I've only got four books left—and so help me— I'm totally gonna do it! Next year I'll go for 70. (Nope.)

So tonight I take a jaunt down September's memory lane, where I managed to read 4 books—The Woman in White felt like 10, though.


Category: A book set in high school
Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
Goodreads review: 3 stars

Here's the thing. I didn't get into high school drama even when I was in high school. So I couldn't fully get into this book because in my head I kept saying motherly things like, "Look, Anna, you're 17. You're gonna need to take my word on this: in five years NONE of this will matter." So here's the scoop. (Did I really just say "here's the scoop?) Anna is our main character. She gets dropped off at a fancy high school in Paris because her father, who has recently come into money because he writes awful romance books, thinks it'll be good for her to get some culture. She doesn't want to go, because she likes a boy at home. Anyway, she meets another boy in France—named Etienne St. Clair. He has a girlfriend, but he and Anna really hit it off. Sparks fly. Drama ensues. That's really the best I can come up with. It isn't a horrible book. It has a fun writing style, and the conversations between Anna and St. Clair are enjoyable, except for when they're fighting. Which is every other day. It felt like toward the end the author tries to make her plot a little more meaningful by throwing in introspection and whatnot—but that really flopped for me, because—at the end of the day, none of this will matter in five years.  If high school romance stories are your thing—then you've probably already read this.

Category: A book with a color in the title
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Goodreads review: 5 stars

If you find yourself in the throws of a rigorous reading challenge with the ending coming ever closer, the thing to NOT do is take up a 600-pager with the teeniest font known to mankind. I enjoyed The Woman in White, but boy howdy it felt about 200 pages longer than it needed to be. It's not the type of book you can breeze right through (like the above-mentioned book), and should not be undertaken in one week, like I tried to do. Here's what I enjoyed about this book: the story. It's mysterious and creepy. The villains are so entirely—villainous. Count Fosco and his crazy wife? Perfection on the bad-guy scale. It's hard for me to give a simple outline of this plot because it's crazy complex. Like, whoa. The story is told through quite a few perspectives, and begins with Walter Hartright. Hartright is an artist who has been hired to come to an estate and teach two elite women, Laura Fairlie and her step-sister Marian Halcombe, how to draw. As he's traveling late at night (to reach their estate) he encounters a strange woman along the road, dressed all in white, who asks him for help but won't tell him anything about herself. He helps her because he can see that she is agitated and upset about something. And let's go ahead and end the scene there. The story progresses, and Hartright, while working alongside Laura Fairlie, has fallen in love with her. We all saw that coming, didn't we? Marian informs him to move along because Laura's been betrothed, for like, forever. Plus, she's above his station. And we'll end that scene there. Seriously—how am I supposed to write this without turning it into a book report? It's a hearty story. So I just won't write any more of the plot. Let's talk about what I found lacking in this book. Our heroine, Laura. This book is told through the perspective of probably 10 people (that's just a guess) and not once do we hear from Laura. It's basically her story! Modern day stories would dissolve the characters of Laura and Marian and turn them into one capable human being. Laura can't do anything for herself. She can't even tell Hartright that she's already engaged—Marian has to do it for her because Laura might faint. And after things go really bad for her (and they do), Hartright and Marian treat her like I would treat my 6-year-old, because she can't handle life sometimes. Come on, Laura! It's time to adult! Also, the ending was ever-so-convenient. Everything just wraps itself up in a perfect little bow. After investing all this time to create an overwhelming sense of mystery and all-out dread, at least reward us with a firework ending! But, nope. And here's what I found humorous about The Woman in White. Keeping in mind that it emerged from the 1800s, it's full of laugh-out-loud sexist commentary. I lost count of all the "like a man" comments. All the men in the novel respect Marian because she's smart and can make decisions for herself like a man. Hilarious! Still, I totally recommend it. My favorite part of the book was told through Marian's point of view, because she can tell a story like a man.

Category: A book that came out the year you were born
Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns
Goodreads review: 5 stars

I've read this book before, but it was well worth a second time through. THIS is the book that gave me my start to boy howdy! Full of small-town southern charm and gossip, the book follows a family in Cold Sassy, Georgia (a made up town) during the start of the 20th century. After Will Tweedy's grandmother passes away, his grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee, shocks his family and the entire town by remarrying only three weeks after her death. He remarries Love Simpson, a much younger woman from the north (gasp). I like this book because it's funny at times (like when Camp paints over a cockroach because he's too lazy to move it), but it's also sad at times (there's a few funerals), and it's got lots of simple wisdom from his grandfather (who's a very likable character despite all the scandals). Some have found fault with the book because it's written in southern vernacular, but I think that just adds to the delight of it all. It can make it a little hard to understand what they're saying, I s'pose. I recommend this book.

Category: A nonfiction book
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
Goodreads review: 5 stars

This one gets a round of applause for thoroughness. It talks its head off about rowing—which I knew absolutely nothing about before. And if we're being honest, still don't really know anything about—because I have the brain retention of a vegetable strainer. Trying to remember back on it now, I think there were times that I felt that the pacing was a bit slow, but it's all good because it's a great read. I've mentioned before I that I struggle with nonfiction unless it reads like a story—and this book does just that. It's all about the University of Washington rowing team that went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. But it starts waaaaaay at the beginning, back to the freshman tryouts, and I'm pretty sure this book discusses each and every competition that was held UP to the Olympic games—in great detail. It talks about weather conditions. It talks about the types of wood that was used to create the boats. It talks about what they were allowed to eat. The author mostly focuses on one of the rowers, Joe Rantz—I'm thinking he must have had the most access to his story—but it weaves in bits about the other rowers as well. We learn all about Joe, from his troubled childhood to how he barely made it onto the Olympic team. Reading about the ending race will give you the chills. It's fantastic. It might even evoke happy tears. I recommend-ommend it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A chip off the ol' book challenge block

One sad, lonely book is all I mustered out of August. I must have been partying too hard with my six-, four- and one-year-old as summertime approached its end.


Category: A classic romance
The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer
Goodreads review: 3 stars

First of all, do you know how many classic romances I'd read already by this point in the challenge...that don't really seem like romances? Emma, Sense and Sensibility—each of those feature a romance, but it doesn't really seem like that's the main point of the book. Wuthering Heights—I can't even believe that's considered a romance. Seems more fitting for the the "domestic abuse" category. So I went with a Georgette Heyer. I'd heard lots of good things about Heyer books, but I'd never read one before. And I DO love a little regency romance book that's fun and clean. I kinda figured it'd be like reading Edenbrooke, or Blackmoore, both by Julianne Donaldson and SO great. Anyway, I went in with high expectations, and it didn't deliver for me. I enjoyed this book for the most part, because it's fun and silly. But intertwined with all of that is the overabundance of propriety—you know, like how a woman can't show off her elbows to a male unless he's her affianced. That type of stuff. Well, I made up the elbow part, but honestly I wouldn't be surprised if that was a rule back then. Heyer is acclaimed for really knowing her facts about the regency period, but for me, her tedious attention to all those obnoxious propriety rules bogged down the story. That being said—now that I'm familiar with her particular style, I'd definitely be willing to give it another go with her books. Parts of this book were downright silly. I particularly enjoyed the part with the ducklings near the ending. So random!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I didn't spend time editing this before posting. 'Cause I'm tired.

I only managed two books in the month of June. July was only a teensy bit better with 3 books—or 4 if I wanted to get cute, because Maus is broken up into two books. And boy howdy, I'm making up for it now! With the end of October quickly approaching, I'm working up a sweat trying to complete my last nine books.


Category: A book based on a true story
Outrun the Moon, Stacey Lee
Goodreads review: 5 stars

This book was published in early 2016. In fact, I originally had it in the category "A book published this year." But then I had to move it, and I guess technically, it probably doesn't really fit in "a book based on a true story," but it sort of does. It's historical fiction, my fave. It's about a girl named Mercy Wong living in Chinatown in San Francisco, 1906. Her family is living in poverty, but she has a plan to solve that. She's a girl all about business, and she manages to finagle her way in to a ritzy all-girl school on the other side of town, in San Francisco's wealthiest area, by striking a business deal with the dean of the school. To save the school from embarrassment (over having a Chinese girl as a student) the dean tells the other students and their families that Mercy is a Chinese-royal-heir-foreign-exchange student. Despite her new royal status, a lot of the girls still refuse to accept her, and some of them are cruel to her. This is the part of the story that is not based on a true story, because the author even admits that in 1906, it was completely unlikely that a Chinese girl would be accepted into a wealthy all-girls school—business deal or not. Then, early one April morning, the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake strikes. From then on, the girls are forced to ignore their social statuses and come together to help each other. Most of the girls don't know where their families are. Mercy tries to rush to Chinatown to save her family from the fires. I enjoyed this book immensely and I loved the writing style. The book does have some teen drama, but it's not so much that it becomes obnoxious. The story made me feel the need to go hug my babies, and everyone I care about. I recommend it.

Category: A book of short stories
Stars Above, Marissa Meyer
Goodreads review: 5 stars

Let's be honest. This book is 100% for Lunar Chronicles fans, and really, we could all use a little more of that series in our lives. If you've never read the books in the Lunar Chronicles series, prepare yourself for a description that sounds OH SO STUPID and I always feel oh so embarrassed when I try to explain it, but I promise it's a lot better than the book jacket describes. Also, most of the people I've recommended it to have also liked it. So there. So Cinder, the first book, is like a dystopian twist on the classic Cinderella. It's got cyborgs, a plague, and a prince charming all rolled up into one. Scarlet, the second book, is a dystopian twist on Little Red Riding Hood. It incorporates new main characters that build upon the characters from Cinder. Cress, the third book, and my favorite, is a twist on Rapunzel, and Winter—the fourth book—a twist on Snow White. By the end there are 8 main characters all with their individual stories that are intertwined with the main plot. They don't follow the fairy tales exactly, so you don't need to get all caught up on that. Anyway, the characters are great, it's a cool story line, and it's fun. I read them all the time—when I'm not bogged down with a 50-book reading challenge. So anyway. Now that that's out of the way. Stars Above includes more stories to fill in some of the gaps about the characters. I enjoyed the one about Thorne, of course, because he is the best. And then I enjoyed the retelling of the opening scene in Cinder from Prince Kai's point of view. And then I enjoyed the last one, for obvious reasons. I couldn't have cared less about The Little Android, which is one of the short stories that was getting a lot of hype. It didn't have any of the Lunar Chronicles characters in it except for a short conversation with Cinder, so why would I care about it?


Category: A book more than 100 years old
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Goodreads review: 3 stars

I read this book back when I was 16, or some young impressionable age. In recent years, I couldn't remember a single thing about it, but I remembered that I had loved it as a teenager. So for that reason I've always just held on to the idea that Wuthering Heights was one of my favorite books. Does anyone else do that? You loved something as a kid and then 15 years later you remain blindingly loyal to it? Well anyway, I felt like it was high-time I re-read it, and GOOD GRIEF. This book is insane! This book isn't a romance! These people are nuts! Did I even understand what I was reading when I was 16? It's not likely. And this is another one of those classics where the story is told by someone not pertinent to to the story—like I was ranting about in a few posts back. Shoot—I want to hear the story from Heathcliff's point of view. That guy is the Sociopath Next Door. Anyway, of course it's worth reading, but I certainly have let go of my childhood ideals that this is one of my favorites. Puh-lease.

Category: A graphic novel
Maus I & II, Art Spiegelman
Goodreads review: 5 stars

This was my first graphic novel(s) that I've read. It comes in two books, part I and part II. If there ever was a graphic novel that you should read, this would be it. Art Spiegelman shares his father Vladek's story of surviving the Holocaust inside a Jewish ghetto and later at a Nazi death camp. His mother also survived the Holocaust, but she later committed suicide, and the book addresses that as well. In the graphic novel, the Jewish people are drawn as mice, and the Germans are as cats. There are other animals too, each portraying a certain group of people. It is an extremely sobering and difficult book to read. I enjoyed the breaks it took from the Holocaust story to give a glimpse into Vladek's life while Art is interviewing him for the story. Vladek is much older, he's stingy, obnoxious, and so endearing. It's obvious through the dialogue, that no matter how exasperating Vladek is about his money and what not, Art really cares for him. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Category: A book with bad reviews
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Roald Dahl
Goodreads review: 2 stars

Okay. Of all the far-fetched category synchronizations or stretches I've come up with to fit books somewhere, this is the worst. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator does not have bad reviews. But! It is one of Dahl's lower-rated children's books, plus, I gave it a bad review—so that should count for something. This is one of many Roald Dahl books that I've read with my girls this year, and this along with James and the Giant Peach are the only ones that I could find a home for in my list of never-ending categories. We read The BFGFantastic Mr. Fox, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory along with Great Glass Elevator and Peach. So that means by the time I'm done with this blasted reading challenge, I'll have read MORE than 50 books this year. Anyway, I enjoyed all of the others, but Glass Elevator didn't have the magic. The plot was all over the place. First they're in space. Then they're being chased by Vernicious Knids. Then the grandparents are turning into babies. And the grandparents! They were the wooooooorst! I was bored and annoyed. It has some funny and clever parts, but it doesn't hold up to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. THAT book is the best.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Three and a half books

As the summer approached my reading rate started losing it's momentum. Throughout most of the summer months I was lucky enough to have a freelance project to work on, and devoted a lot of my time in the evenings to that instead.

I did manage to whip out four books in May. Wait, scratch that. Three, because one of them I didn't finish 'cause it was dumbo.


Category: A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet.
First Boy, Gary Schmidt
Goodreads review: 2 stars

I've read three other books by Gary Schmidt and LOVED them all. Wednesday Wars, Okay For Now, and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. I loved the writing style in each and wished that they wouldn't end. But unfortunately First Boy didn't hold up as well for me. The book is about a teenage boy named Cooper. As the plot opens he's living with his grandfather on a dairy farm in New Hampshire. The country is currently in the throws of a presidential election, although theirs wasn't, um, as hilarious (?) as ours is right now, because they didn't have the privilege of watching Bad Lip Readings after presidential debates. Oh, and one other important thing, his grandfather isn't his biological grandfather—because Cooper doesn't know anything about his true parents and lineage. It's just one of those classic show-up-on-the-doorstep-as-a-baby type things. Anyway, his grandfather passes away and Cooper is left alone with the dairy farm, which is not in good shape financially. But Cooper soon learns, as the title hints, that he's no ordinary orphan, and all these crazy things start happening. One of the presidential hopefuls shows up at his school and invites Cooper to campaign with him. Cooper turns him down. Someone else official looking driving a black sedan shows up at his farm and asks him to come with him to see someone. He turns that guy down too. Someone burns his barn down. Someone breaks into his home and steals some important documents. Then he's kidnapped. Has a special meeting with the president. The usual. In theory it's all very thrilling, but the problem is that none of it is at all believable and even if it were believable, there are way too many unanswered questions. Plus the ending was slightly appalling. Is it too dramatic to use the word appalling? Possibly. I feel like maybe I could have enjoyed this as a 12-year-old, because then perhaps I wouldn't have noticed the gaping plot holes throughout the book. Granted, Gary Schmidt books are marketed towards adolescent readers, but his other books are far more enjoyable even to an adult audience. So unless you're 12, I wholeheartedly recommend Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now (in that order!) instead. I own them and you should borrow them right away.

Category: A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Goodreads review: 4 stars

A distinction I've noticed among "the classics," and a reason they can be harder to read, at least for me, is because of the point of view they're written in. No one writes a story in first person! The stories always have to be told through someone else's recounting of it. I've come across it in several of the classics I've read this year—the plot is told by Rick, the neighbor, or Rhonda, the housemade, or Trixie, the grocer. People that lit-er-ally have nothing to do with the story, but they're placed in it to tell the tale—because heaven forbid we actually hear the story from the person actually involved in the story. In Frankenstein, the story is told through a series of letters that some explorer writes to his sister. While he's out searching the icy arctic he finds Victor Frankenstein, and Victor tells him his whole ordeal and that's how we hear it: through the perspective of somebody who has nothing to do the story. Apparently a first person point of view wasn't something accepted or explored back then. It's one thing I believe modern books have over dated books—we've come a long way in story telling. That being said, Frankenstein is a very interesting, albeit disturbing read. It takes a good 30 pages to really get into it. Maybe more. Most of us are familiar with the story. Victor Frankenstein becomes consumed with this idea of creating life through his knowledge of chemistry and other sciences, but after he succeeds in creating it, things DO NOT GO WELL. First off, his new dude is disgusting, and although I don't remember it specifically mentioning it, he probably stunk to high heaven. Plus he's horrifying, and gross, and huge, and a monster, to name a few. Secondly, the monster gets super ticked off and starts killing off people that Victor is close to. But the poor guy just wanted a friend! I wondered: would it have been so bad if Victor had just created him a friend to spend his life with, like he'd asked? Probably. It probably would have been SO bad. Throughout the whole story—concerning how Victor was dealing with everything—I kept thinking: There has GOT to be a better way of handling all of this. Victor's unwillingness to tell anyone about what he had done—because he accurately assumed no one would believe him—and the consequent deaths that resulted from his silence drove me crazy. Who cares if you don't think anyone's going to believe you? Tell someone anyway! Quit trying to solve the whole problem yourself, bub. So that was the only reason I gave it four stars instead of five, because Victor bugged. I would absolutely recommend this book. It'd really get a book group blazing! It has such great insight on the ideas of how far is too far, or just because you can doesn't mean you should, and things and such. And fun fact: Mary Shelley was only 18 when she wrote the book. That might explain some of Victor's oversight in dealing with mistakes...

Category: A book written by an author with your same initials
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Goodreads review: 1 star (did not finish)

I got so downright excited when I found this book, because as it turns out, it's difficult finding an author with my initials. And then I thought: Plus they made a movie about it, so it MUST be good! This book wasn't for me. I didn't like it and I didn't finish it. This is especially noteworthy, because up until very recently, I always had the opinion that I HAD TO ALWAYS FINISH a book. But upon making it halfway through, I said to myself, "Self? You don't care about these characters. You're not interested in this circus story. Nor do you even care how it ends." And so I haughtily slammed it shut and flung it back to the library. I'm exaggerating. But really. I didn't like it. It's sexually explicit and the characters are flat. I thought it was dumb right off the bat that Jacob gives up on his veterinary degree and hops on a train to do....what exactly? And his infatuation with the circus performer? What do we know about her? That she looks pretty doing her circus routine all bedecked in sequins? Yes, that's about all we know. (I've always wanted an excuse to use the word bedecked.) Flat, flat, flat. I will not be reading any more books by this author with my same initials.

Category: A book your mom loves
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
Goodreads review: 5 stars

I don't actually know if this is one of my mom's favorite books. I mean, we didn't really discuss it. BUT. I remember reading this with my mom when I was a little girl and I remember really liking it, so it brings up warm memories in the mom department. Plus, I needed to fit it in somewhere. So mom, if anyone asks, you love this book. Got it? Anyway. I read this with my two oldest and they really enjoyed it. It held their attention—even Maren's. The centipede is really a hoot, with his shoes for all of his feet and all. The story is one of a kind—with a horrific beginning! The girls thought it was funny when the peach rolled through the town with the chocolate factory—since we had recently finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you haven't read this with your kids (or even by yourself!) I highly recommend it.

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