Friday, March 7, 2014

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen. 
ISBN 1594486034
Publishing date: April 3, 2014, Riverhead

In a similar fashion as participating in Kindle first, I am also a reader for a program by Penguin Publishing that allows readers to enter drawings to be one of the first to read/review a new book before it's final publication. This is the first instance in which I have had this opportunity and I am very excited ti share with you what I though. I really hope to have many more opportunities in the future. This is pretty much my favorite thing. Brand new books! I found out on our honeymoon that I had won the drawing for this, and I could barely contain my excitement. It's probably a good thing that I didn't hide my extreme nerd habits from Nick at any point. It might have ended up being a deal breaker. : ) I know it wouldn't have, but that doesn't take away from the fact that I have a problem. Anyway. So I got this book, and I won't lie, I didn't read the instructions to download it. I also didn't pay attention to the fact that it is a PDF and I probably could have directly moved it to my kindle. Either way, I somehow messed up the formatting and wasn't able to read it on my Kindle. Needless to say, that staring at a screen for work all day and then coming home and staring at the computer screen for enjoyment do not make for an easy time on my eyes.

I'm not really in the habit of reading about the book before actually reading the book, and so I went into this completely blind. Maybe if I had been prepared to read a story with a very strong philosophical undertone I would have been greater able to follow from the beginning. The story revolves around two siblings who have been raised with complete freedom by parents Neel and June who had previously run a "free" school in which students followed no actual structure. Fred who is the youngest seems to be troubled from the start. He is slow to do anything and every thing that is expected of him. Ava is an intelligent introvert who protects her brother like he is an extension of herself. As the story progresses the reader finds out that adult Fred is accused of doing something terrible. When Ava finds out she runs to try and rescue him like she has done on so many occasions before. The plot itself discusses the main subjects of sibling relationships, how strong these relationships can be despite time and distance, and how parental control or lack thereof can make or create a person.

The least I can say is the book was strange. The subject matter wasn't strange insomuch as the language and arrangements themselves were strange. I'll tell you that at the start I was a little anxious as to knowing what some of the words even meant that Cohen used. There seemed real intent to use the largest or most complex words possible to state even the most inane things. The dictionary came out a few times to help me through. Not to sound egotistical, but if I have trouble with words like that, then the general public will probably have a deal more trouble. Contextually the words more often than not explain themselves, but it feels pointless and a bit over done. I think the part that I liked the least came all the way at the end of the book. The final section called "The Thing Itself" sees almost as if it is an apology for the entire book. It was completely unnecessary and completely ruined whatever suspension of disbelief I had created for myself. Writing an entire novel and then essentially recanting it at the end is kind of crazy. Even if it is still completely done in character it just didn't work for me. Dumbfounded is a really great word for the feeling finishing the book left me with.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie has been a recent favorite of mine. I've only reviewed one other book of hers, Arranged. The book Hidden is currently on the Kindle First list for March, which means that anyone who has Amazon Prime is able to download it for free before it's publication next month. You can ask Nick, I was pretty darn excited about this being one of the four options to choose from in March.

Since I haven't been reading very much lately I was extremely excited to have a book that I was looking forward to reading. Now, only if my expectations had equaled my reality. There was just something about this book that really didn't sit well with me. The layout was probably the thing I had the greatest problem with. Jumping around from person to person. The first time it switched from Claire to Tish I was completely confused and it took me longer than I think it should have to realize that this part of the story was someone else. Another issue I had was my inability to feel for the characters. Since finishing the book this morning I have been trying to find a reason why a connection wasn't made. While combing my brain for an answer the only thing I could come up with is that the characters just really weren't likable to me.

Claire's character seemed sort of vacant and unresponsive. Even when there was the real tragedy at hand the story didn't make me feel like there was anything really strong and emotionally pulling there. Please remember that I went into this book with a positive and excited attitude towards it. Finding fault was not my aim. When it comes to the character Tish I got some of the same feelings towards her. Just a lack of something that would make her seem real. Maybe I was searching for some kind of hidden strength in each character as I read through, there definitely wasn't anything like that. Strong female characters are something that is taken as a given in women's literature anymore. 

The subject matter of the book could be summed up essentially by saying two women lost something that they know they can never replace. Love and companionship are the two most difficult things to find in this sad world. I can't imagine what I would do, were I in Claire's position. Claire needed to find a reason to think that Jeff got even with her in some way. She needed closure by discovering something hidden that would put him even with her past transgression. Overall I gave the book a 3 out of 5 stars and part of me is thinking that I'm probably just being nice because I enjoyed her other works so much more. 

I am looking forward to many more great works from Catherine McKenzie in the future. And if you aren't part of her reading group on Goodreads, you should be. 52 Weeks, 52 Books I don't participate as often as I'd like, but this is a great group that is always reading something interesting. 

Happy reading.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2) by Melina Marchetta

I'm finding great difficulty in writing this review. It's been started and erased about 5 times by now. So, I have decided that whatever I write this time will just have to be good enough! Recently I've been giving more thought to what I write and how I write it. Nick and I have been playing around with the idea of me taking writing courses and starting to dabble in writing as a side project. The task that comes with such territory is a bit frightening. In some way or another through most of my life I have written and never finished much of anything. Tons of story ideas tossed around, with no real motivation. Writing isn't easy and never will be. Because of all these thoughts, the act of writing has become much more terrifying to me. Haha. Even just writing this blog. 

I don't have a great readership, and I figure that most of my readers are either friends and family, or people who stumble across the blog with no great interest to continue following. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it. Still, it worries me that some may find my writing style to be less than pleasing. With no real feedback on what happens here it's hard for me to judge. One thing I know I need to work on is not second guessing myself. The reviews I wrote of this book and deleted can't have been all that bad. I was going to review this book and Quintana of Charyn together since I read them back to back, but I realized that it's for the best to keep them separated. Giving spoilers is something that I avoid if at all possible. (At least is if I'm trying to get you to read the book too.) However, as I was writing previously I noticed that it would be nearly impossible not to spoil this book if I followed the review by the next in the same blog. If you choose to read both blogs at the same time I can't stop you, and then it won't be my fault! See? Genius. :) 

The first book in the series hooked me, and this one left me begging for more. Cliffhangers at the ends of books are good to make someone want to continue reading, but at the same time I felt like there wasn't enough of a conclusion to make me feel satisfied at the end. Thankfully I already had the next book available to continue. Apologies to the people who read this when it first came out and were left with nothing until the next was released. Another downfall to the Cliffhanger style of writing, you can't pick up a book in the middle of the series and just enjoy it as a story on it's own. Each novel is too intertwined with the others to allow you to understand much of what is going on. The character development was really good. Marchetta allows you to get to know all of the important ones of a very good basis. She makes you understand what they are feeling. 

When I look for fantasy novels this is pretty much the type I aim for. Maybe a little less heroics and a little more romanticism would better fit my mold, but I really can't complain. There are strange gods that are worshiped, gifted people, curses to be broken, and people to be saved. The details were wonderful. Story lines flowed with ease. There is always a little hesitance when starting a fantasy chronicle that was written by someone who got their start in a different genre.  If you read book one, you really need to finish the rest. It only gets better.

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2) 

Lumatere is finally coming back to life. It's been three years since Finnikin and Isaboe broke the curse and brought their people home. This time has been spent rebuilding what was broken and punishing those who were in the city for their crimes during the exile. Now that Lumatere is beginning to breathe again it's decided that now is time to exact their revenge on Charyn for what they did to Lumatere. Froi is the slave boy they found and brought home with them. For the past three years he has been living on a farm with a noble family and training in combat with the palace guard. 

The decision is that the King of Charyn must die. But how are they to do so? A group of landless men and women from Charyn have settled in a valley on the edge of Lumatere, and they may just have the answer. A plan is set into place that will allow Froi to access the palace without suspcion. The journey there leads Froi to a man named Gargarion who is the first step to learning who he really is. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

I'm way behind again. For real. I've read at least five books without posting at all. It's probably because the books that I have been reading have been super good. A lottery of good books have come my way. Goodreads may be my hero. Now if only the Library would get on board with what I want to read so I don't have to buy any books. :) You know something that I find weird? On Amazon the Kindle version of Bitterblue is more than the paperback version. With the cost of shipping the Kindle version would come out to be the more cost effective method, but I have a Prime membership so I wouldn't have to pay the shipping cost. Purchasing Kindle books is something that I rail on about enough, so I won't bore you with another rant.

Since I have another baby I've gone back to the stingy cheap version of myself. Formula, clothes, diapers, and wipes consume nearly all of our extra spending money. Which really means that I haven't been out just buying five or six books at a time. Honestly, it's for the best. Nick probably won't be excited when he has to build another bookshelf for our ever expanding library. The picture that is the background on the blog is of my actual library. Granted, it's a pretty old picture and there are quite a few more books now. Maybe I should consider updating that. The picture really isn't that great anyway. 

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Fantasy novels have recently become the things I devour. Literally, I eat them. Okay... Maybe I don't. However, I do read them really quickly. With Goodreads suggesting things to me it's hard not to stay in the same genre for a while. No complaints here though, I love me some good Fantasy. 

Finnikin is from Lumatere, a land which has been under a curse for the past ten years. Half the population in exile and half stuck within the city walls. Those on the outside have given up all hope of ever reclaiming their rightful cities and have taken to living in small camps throughout the nations. All seems in despair. Until Finnikin is visited by a messenger that tells him to visit a community of novices far from where he is. Once he reaches the desolate community he meets Evanjalin, and everything changes.

As they journey across the lands Finnikin's hope for a future in Lumatere begins to reignite. He begins to understand that they cannot settle for anything other than the homeland. Evanjalin leads Finnikin on a path that he never expected to become reality. Along the way they begin to rebuild a nation that is more broken than they ever imagined. 

While I didn't find the book to be as good as some others I've read, it certainly fulfilled all of my needs. A strong female lead, a bit of mysticism, and a love that almost won't be. There came a point in the novel though, that bothered me a lot. I can't pinpoint what chapter is was right off hand, but the language of the story randomly changes. It only changes for one chapter, which made it even more strange and abrupt. Basically the whole story is told from Finnikin's side. He is present for nearly every step and even when he isn't it still feels like it's his story he's telling. That one chapter with a change goes from feeling Finnikin to being Froi. A glimpse is given into the Lumaterean Orphan's mind. This would make sense if it somehow came at the end of the book to sort of make it look like he had been telling the story throughout. However the chapter comes in between a bunch of other stuff. It really killed the flow. It was bad enough that I had to stop and reevaluate where I was at. Other than that small hiccup the story was well formed and moved you along without too many dead spots. What I find sometimes happens in these types of stories is gaps in the adventure. Thankfully she used the fact that Finnikin was telling the story to move past the dead spaces where they had to stay in one place for days due to illnesses that were central to the story.

 I'm excited to get onto the next book in the series. I've already got it loaded on my Kindle and ready to go! I'm fighting with myself though. I need to post a couple more blogs before I start another book. Probably won't happen though. I'm only going to post about three of the other books I've read. One of them is by Elizabeth Berg. Remember how I was reading as many of her books as I could before I got bored? Well.. I barely made it through three of them, and haven't posted about the last one. I also read these amazing books by Kristin Cashore (which are the books that suggested Finnikin of the Rock to me!)

I'm going to go read now. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta. There will be an attempt to sit back down at the computer and post more later. Getting behind is a real pain the the fingers. :) 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Love Unlisted by Stephanie Haddad

So I gave up on Elizabeth Berg novels and moved on to a book that I randomly found on my Kindle. I'm not surprised that I have so many books that I've never read just lurking around on my Paperwhite. Honestly though, most of them look like they'd be pretty awful. There I go judging books by their covers. Really, you shouldn't do that. Some books surprise me. However, since I gave up on Mrs. Berg I had to find something to read while I was waiting for Graceling to be available for download from the library. I stumbled across Love Unlisted while I was taking a mommy break. I used to scrounge Netflix for something to watch while on a mommy break, but then I always spent more time looking than watching something. I only get so much time without kids awake or laundry needing to be done. Why waste it on movies?

I'll admit that from the first chapter I was hooked on this book. Grace is a compulsive lister. She has lists about pretty much anything you can imagine. Really Grace seems compulsive about most things in her life. Control, cleanliness, not dating people with small nervous ticks, and her career. With a huge promotion on the line she begins to pave her way to what she feels like is her dream job. That is until Colin so rudely comes into her life. As she begins to come to terms with the fact that she can't control everything Grace learns more and more about who she really is. There are so many changes that she must move through and grow with. Will Grace be able to make it past it all, get her dream job, and find happiness with her unlistable love?

It looks like you can download the ebook on Goodreads. You know me; free is the best price!  I'm going to suggest that you read this. If you like girly love stories where you just don't know how it will all come together... Even though you do know... Because how else does one of these books end? 

Now! I'm on to Graceling since my hold became available yesterday. Just had to finish what I was reading first. I also need to blog about that last bit of Elizabeth Berg stuff that I read. I guess I'll do that while Rylosaur and I wait for our pizza to finish cooking. I don't like pizza. Why do little boys like pizza so much? Why must pizza be so easy to make? Better yet, why must I be so lazy as to not make something else for myself... Oh me.. Oh my! Haha. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy

When I first got  a kindle I went crazy buying those 1.99 classics collections. So I have every book by Leo Tolstoy in one large file. It may be excluding a few very unknown stories. I don't really know or care. Basically the point is that I've had the opportunity to read any of his works for quite some time, but haven't had any interest until recently. I watched a film on Netflix which made me want to read this particular book. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding was the film I watched. It's not particularly an inspiring film. But the main character had a copy of Family Happiness that you could tell she had read many times. So I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm not sure what I expected. I can only tell you that I didn't get it.

I loved the book. Being Tolstoy and all I should probably have expected better than I did. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece. Doesn't matter if I hate the characters, it inspires real feelings in me. I also have a great deal of fun trying to pronounce all the Russian names. Often times I make up a pronunciation that is slightly hilarious and just stick with it. Needless to say foreign languages of any kind have never been a strong suit of mine. The book itself only took me a couple of hours to read, but I really started to bond with the characters. 

It's about a girl on the verge of womanhood who become orphaned of a sort right before she is to come into society. She never gets any great life experience before she falls madly, deeply in love with her husband to be. Everything is wonderful, that is, until she meets society for the first time. There is a deep seeded disdain in the book for the frivolity of the upper class social scene. This feel can easily be traced through to other Tolstoy novels I've read. The experiences that this woman has in society puts great strain on the marriage and changes everything. Once she gives up society she lives with hopes that she can repair and regain the marriage that she had before. When she learns that she will never get that back, she also learns what Family Happiness really is. It's being content with where you are, and living your life for those around you instead of yourself. It's settling down into routine and peacefulness. Apparently it is also giving up all feelings of romance as well. 

Nick and I have read many books about marriage and what to expect after that has happened and a few years have gone by. Gary Chapman calls the first two years the honeymoon phase and then after that everything changes. And not always for the better. I can liken the idea that I was given from Chapman with this book. Once the honeymoon phase is over, you'll have to create a different rhythm to live by. I so wanted the story to end differently than it did. Hopeless romanticism. Really though, if it had ended any other way it wouldn't have been true to reality. Maybe I'll come back and read it again in a few years. Only then I may be more willing to accept what it really means? 

A post about many books by Elizabeth Berg

Sometimes when I find an author that I enjoy I will read many of their books in a row. I recently (today) read the first book I've ever seen by Elizabeth Berg. After reading this one I learned that she had many more books to offer. Being as intrigued as I was by the first, I've decided to continue reading is books by her for at least the rest of the week. The best part is how many of her books are available from the library via Kindle delivery. I'm not certain if I've told you of my severe dislike for borrowing books from the library that goodness knows how many other people have handled. So! I super love their emedia and the ability to borrow books without ever leaving the house. Back to the post subject... I've decided to try something where I create this one post and then add the next book to the same post after I've read it. I'm fairly certain that this will make for a very long post, but maybe it will make it easier for anyone who is considering starting to read books by this author. I don't like to give away huge spoilers or anything, so you could really look through and see if there is a good place among what I've read for you to start? We shall see how it works out. 

Dream When You're Feeling Blue

Kitty Heaney is a 20 something year old woman living at home with her parents, two sisters, and three younger brothers. World War II is being fought thousands of miles away. The story details how those left at home were able to get on with their lives even when they were being notified constantly that more and more friends were losing family members to the fight. It has a stirring patriotic feel as Kitty learns that she can be her own woman, and make her own decisions. She goes to work in a "man's" job at a factory to earn higher wages and to "do her part". When the war is over she has to decide to fall back in to her old role, or to continue moving on her new path.

It's a very interesting look into what the young women would have been going through while their men were away. Her two sisters each had their own struggles that they went through as well. If I had to pick a character that I could most relate to it would probably be Tish the youngest sister. She was out to dance with and write to as many of the soldiers as she could to boost their morale. She also seemed a bit on the edge of what was acceptable, even though I think she is the one who ended up following the rules more than the other two sisters.

The read was easy and good. The largest flaw that I can find is the way the story ends. There is no satisfaction for me in this, and I had to reread a chapter or two because I was 100% lost as to how it actually ended. It was weird. I've been trying to write this post for two days now. I didn't seem to remember how time consuming it really is raising an infant. I can read while I rock her because I can turn the pages by tapping the screen and prop my kindle up for ease of reading, but I absolutely cannot use my laptop. So I'm kind of having to sneak this in between. Any time I get while she is asleep is better spent with Ryland or cleaning the house. If these posts seem unorganized, this is probably to blame. :)

Either way, I'll give the story 3 stars out of 5. I'm not in live with it. I had a bit of trouble trying to relate the characters to real life. I liked the story well enough to read more of her books though. I've already finished another one while I was trying to attempt this review. Since I've got the time I shall review that one as well. If I stop bouncing the bouncy seat while Inez sleeps she will wake up and start screaming like a banshee again. Good thing I can multitask.

The Last Time I Saw You

Can you imagine what you would feel like when your 40 year high school reunion is only a few weeks away?  These days we have so many ways of keeping in close contact (or creeper contact) with the people we knew, sort of knew, or didn't  know at all in high school. I can say that I'm friends on social media sites with people I may never have said more than a few words to in the full 3 years I spent at my high school. For some reason though, we feel that we need to be "friends" so we always know whats up. But, think about coming from a different time. A time when the only ways to keep in contact are by phone, visits, and snail mail? It would be pretty easy to lose contact and not know what happened to everyone in your class.

The story shows a glimpse into the lives of many different people who are attending their 40 year reunion. The popular kids, the nerdy kids, the somewhere in between kids. We know all about the cliques that form in high school. It seems as if they never really go away. Did you have a crush on someone? Don't you still, kind of, have that crush? It's interesting the way that Elizabeth Berg portrays the different kinds of people. It's a bit unrealistic how much change everyone goes through in such a short time. Fiction is fiction, right? I really like Mary Alice. I'm fairly certain that I was like her in high school. But I never got bullied or picked on.

The Last Time I Saw You is another one of those easy reads. You don't have to think about much, or surf through to create your own understanding. That's what makes these books good though. Especially when I don't have time or the ability to concentrate on anything for very long. Easy to pick up or put down without missing much. I liked this one less than the last one, I really didn't get much of a feels from it. I always appreciate having some kind of feeling after reading a book. Doesn't really matter if that feeling is awkwardness, happiness, disgust, anger, or anything along those lines. I finished this book and felt pretty much nothing. I'd have to say that's a bad sign. Could be good though, depends how you look at it. Sometimes reading is there just to be something to do. Does it always have to be about an experience? For me it does. Maybe for you it doesn't?

I'm on to the next book I've chosen from Elizabeth Berg. We'll see how it suits me. She really has written a great many books. Picking at random is a serious gamble. Haha. Hopefully I'll be back with you soon. :)

The Art of Mending