Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Humans: A Novel
Becky recommended this book, and I loved it. An alien visits Earth and takes over the body of Professor Andrew Martin, a math professor who had just solved a thought to be unsolvable math theory. The alien is originally disgusted by humans. By the way they eat, talk, wear clothes and have pets. But as time goes on, he starts to love wine, peanut butter sandwiches, dogs and, well, being a human. He makes connections with friends and family, much to the dismay of his otherworldly hosts who can't fathom that he'd trade immortality for humanity.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Vera has one friend, Charlie. Or had, because Vera is reeling after Charlie's tragic death. She knows more about his death than anyone, but after he betrayed her shortly before his death, she is reluctant to share. This story has a brilliant, engaging voice, told mainly from Vera but occasionally from Charlie and Vera's dad, as well. Vera sets out to explore her own life in the process of coming to terms with Charlie's death, and it is both touching and humorous.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Scorch (Croak)
Rogue (Croak Series Book 3)
These are the last two books in the Croak series. I really enjoyed them. In these books, it continues the development of the first book. Lex discovers that her powers go beyond simply releasing a soul from the body, and she begins to learn why she has these powers. Additionally, it is discovered that the Grimsphere is being harmed and there is a potential that the souls in Afterlife will cease to exist if nothing is done about it. These books left me pretty attached the characters, particularly the sometimes insightful, always morose soul of Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed the author's take on the Afterlife, in which all souls go to the same place, regardless of their life--picture an afterlife where Abraham Lincoln is taunting John Wilkes Booth over a game of Checkers.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel
I was really anticipating this one, based on everyone's reviews. However, like my take on Gone Girl, it fell flat. The story is narrated by three woman: Rachel, Megan and Anna. Rachel is an unemployed alcoholic, reeling after her husband left her for another woman. Due to her drinking and other issues, Rachel is unreliable--not just as a narrator, but as a human being. Megan is a girl who lives near Rachel's ex-husband and who Rachel watches from the train. Megan narrates the events of the story up to her murder. Anna is married to Rachel's ex-husband and picks up the narration post-murder. I enjoyed the story and the set up of the events, but the characters fell flat. They were all one-dimensional to me, and the eventual ending was laid out so easily that I guessed it with about 60 pages left in the book. It definitely didn't wow me like I'd hoped, though I still enjoyed the story.

My Notorious Life: A Novel
Inspired by the story of a real life 19th century midwife, this book chronicles that life of Axie Muldoon, who begins as an unwanted orphan on an orphan train. Leaving behind her brother and sister, Axie returns on the train to New York, where she is reunited briefly with her mother, until her mother dies in childbirth. Lexie is then taken in by the doctor and midwife who helped her mother, and she is trained in the art of midwifery. Following the death of the woman with whom she apprenticed, Axie and her husband quickly become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams by marketing Lunar Tablets for the problem of "female obstruction." However, Axie quickly finds herself in the crosshairs of religious crusaders and is threatened by the thought of losing everything she holds dear.
I loved this story. I don't know how closely it is based on actual history, but from what I've gleaned, the actual story part of her career and eventual disbarring of her rights is pretty accurate. This was an absolutely fascinating story.

Before I Wake
Ahh, here was the psychological thrilled I hoped for with The Girl on the Train. Susan's daughter is in a coma after stepping in front of a bus. Susan's husband, Brian, swears it was an accident, but Susan has a hunch it was more, especially after reading her daughter's diary and learning she had a secret. Susan spends the rest of the novel desperately trying to unravel her daughter's secret, but in layers from Susan's own diary, the reader learns that Susan was once in a very abusive relationship. And Susan… has some mental issues as a result. Is she unreliable and crazy? Or does no one believe her because she was once teetering on the brink mentally? In the midst of trying to discover the reason for her daughter's suicide attempt, Susan fears that her abusive ex-boyfriend James has returned and is out to get her, but is he? Or is he as much a figment of her imagination as her daughter's supposed secret? Although this book was somewhat formulaic and didn't have a huge surprise ending, it was still one that kept me wondering.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Croak
This is by the same author of Hellhole (read it!). Lex (short for Lexington) is out of control. Not knowing what to do with her wild behavior, her parents ship her off to spend the summer with her uncle Mort. Lex is, of course, opposed to this, until she arrives and Mort explains about the town of Croak in which he lives. See, it's a town populated by Grim Repears and Lex's behavior means that she's fit to be a Reaper, too. I loved this book, the characters and Lex's journey, along with a side plot, of course. This is part one of a series and I can't wait to read the rest.

My Sunshine Away
Set in Baton Rouge, this book explores the story of a boy in love with his neighbor, Lindy. In the summer that they're 15, Lindy is raped. The perpetrator is never found, but the narrator spends his time trying to play detective and make things okay with Lindy. This is a powerful novel. You never know if the narrator is reliable or not and the story twists you back and forth. It is not just a crime novel, but a heavy story in which everyone is trying to find redemption.

The Lifeboat: A Novel
This is the story of the Empress Alexandra and the shipwreck that followed on day five of the voyage. Being a lover of historical fiction, I googled it, only to find there really isn't much information and I am not sure if this was an actual ship that sank in 1914 or if other ships in this line sank at varied times. Regardless, this tells the story of Grace, recently married to Henry, who is placed on a lifeboat with 39 strangers following the sinking of the ship. In the midst unfolds a story of deep sea survival and the lengths people will go to ensure their own survival. The story fluctuates between the immediate aftermath of the shipwreck and the future, where Grace is on trial for possible murder. Although not the best written book, it was riveting and I found myself thinking it would be an engaging movie, which is not something I ever think. At any rate, it was an enjoyable read, even if many questions were left unanswered.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel
On a flight home from London, Ted meets an attractive woman named Lily. Over the course of the flight, the book shifting back and forth between characters, Ted reveals to Lily that his wife is cheating on him. Lily suggests that Ted kills his wife and offers her assistance. What follows is a story full of plot twists and character reveals.
I'll be honest. This book is pretty poorly written. I caught three instances of the usage of the wrong name, instances that shouldn't have made it past an editor. The characters aren't fully developed and are all truly pretty awful. But yet, I enjoyed this book. I didn't have to think. It had a satisfying ending. It kept me reading. This book is proof that they don't all have to be literary masterpieces to be enjoyable.

The Darkest Part of the Forest
I love Holly Black, so I was very excited to see this one was out. It did not disappoint.
In the town of Fairfold, humans and magical creatures (Folk) live side-by-side. There are rules, of course. Usually followed, sometimes broken. In the forest, lies a horned boy in a sealed coffin where he has slept for entire generations. The horned boy is the fascination of the children in the town, least of all Hazel and her brother Ben. One day, Hazel awakens to find glass shards under her fingernails, mud on her feet and the news that the glass coffin has been smashed and no one knows where the horned boy is. What follows is an unnerving descent in the magical world of Fairfold and the humans and Folk that live within. I loved this book, like I've loved all of her books. Despite the elements of magic within this book, it was still a real and relatable story.

Hellhole
Max Kilgore has a cool name, but not so much a cool life. A teenager with a chronically ill mom, Max enjoys crossword puzzles and dinosaurs. When Max can't sleep, he digs, searching for dinosaur fossils in a hill outside town. One night, he accidentally digs deep and unearths a devil. As unrealistic as this premise may be, I loved this book. Berg, Max's devil, was such a perfect mix of an absolute jerk and a clown that it was hard to hate him (although I did because, obviously, he's a devil). Berg moves in to Max's basement where he proceeds to wreck Max's life by playing video games, wandering around without pants and insisting that Max steal him junk food. Max enlists the help of a classmate named Lore, rumored to have one been a devil worshipper, to help him rid himself of Berg. But, as he was cautioned by Berg himself, a deal with the devil is never as simple as it seems.

All the Bright Places
This was described as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor&Park. While I didn't think it was quite that--mainly because those were two unique books--I did enjoy it. There were parts of it that were a little too John Greene, but it was still a good book. The book alternates between the perspective of Violet and Finch. Violet is a popular girl, while Finch is the school screw up. While standing on the ledge of the belltower contemplating what it would be like to jump, Finch looks over and sees an equally contemplative Violet down the ledge. What spirals from this moment is a series of events where Finch pushes himself into Violet's life, until she finally accepts him… and then he begins to pull away. There are a lot of layers in this book. Sexuality. Teenage depression. Suicide. Bullying. Child abuse. It was a heavy book. Not one that I would like to read again, but I am glad I read it.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Due to snow and the library being closed Monday, I am bereft of books this week but have a whole bunch waiting for me at the library now. Yay!

The First Bad Man: A Novel
Cheryl is the most unreliable narrator I've ever met. I say this because is she crazy? Is she lying? If she is lying, is she lying to herself or the reader? Trying to determine this made for a fascinating read. Cheryl is a middle aged woman with a permanent lump in her throat that gets worse with stress. She's tried to have surgery for it, but it's psychosomatic, so she seeks out healing therapy instead. Cheryl has many obsessions. A man who she works with, who she thinks she has been in love with through all the ages. A little boy she once babysat, who she believes is reincarnated in babies everywhere, searching to be with her again. Then, her boss's daughter, Clee, moves in with Cheryl. Clee is loud and young and disrespectful but in her living beneath her roof, she forces Cheryl to face some iota of reality.
I will admit that very few, if any, of the characters in this book are likable. It was hard to follow along with Cheryl because you never knew what was true and what wasn't, but I still loved it. Cheryl was a complex, confusing character and this was a unique read.

West of Sunset
I love the Fitzgeralds. Poor crazy Zelda who may or may not have contributed more to The Great Gatsby than we realized. Troubled F. Scott dealing with his mentally ill wife and struggling to find literary success, not knowing his book would transcend him. This historical fiction tells the last few years of F. Scott's life through his perspective. I enjoyed it because I enjoy this history, but in some ways, I felt the characterization was flat. It was still a read that held my interest, but not the best book I've read about either F. Scott or Zelda.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
I feel like I've been reading the Odd Thomas series for my whole life, but it turns out the first was released in 2008. Still, a long time. Odd Thomas is a man who has many supernatural powers, such as the ability to sense when deaths will take place. He uses his powers to try and interfere, but he is often times too late. Saint Odd was the last book of the series and came from full circle from the beginning. What I enjoy about this series is that although it's a continuation and builds, each novel can kind of stand alone and has enough filler information that I didn't feel like I was totally lost.

A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention
This book was fascinating. It interweaves the story of the first texting and driving manslaughter case alongside scientific studies and personal stories. It makes a case that technology splits our brain so much that we're unable to fully focus. Even if you aren't texting and driving, your brain might be wandering still from sending a text at a stop light. Or maybe you hear your phone and your attention is now split wondering what the text you received was, and it takes a full 10-15 seconds to fully return your attention to the road. It also brings up just how much time kids are spending with technology, an interesting and somewhat frightening number, considering how many kids are now using one-on-one devices in schools. For a non-fiction book, this was anything but dry and I would recommend everyone read it.

See How Small: A Novel
This is a book that people will either love or hate because it's written in a unique prose and that can be dividing. One evening after closing up the ice cream shop at which they work, three girls are attacked by two men and mercilessly abused at gunpoint, after which the shop is lit on fire and the girls die. This story is told from the survivors and from the three girls, often hovering just at the edge of their loved ones' vision. The whole truth behind their murders is left untold, but what is told is haunting.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
After the death of his brother, 14 year old Kevin and his mom go to live with his grandpa in coal country. This novel encompasses a lot: coming of age, environmental issues, human rights issues and the complexity of life after tragedy. At times, it seemed a reach in a few areas, but it was overall an absolutely engaging read. I loved most of the characters and I liked that it maintained a realistic tone of life through the end.

Black River
Wes returns to Black River with two things: an urn of his wife's ashes and a letter from the parole board, stating that the inmate who trapped and tortured Wes for almost two days is up for parole. He arrives to a town that is both changed and unchanged and to a stepson with whom he still cannot relate. Throughout the pages, he feels out his role in his stepson's life and tries to make amends but can't quite let go of the past. He struggles with the belief that people are born a certain way or made a certain way and cannot change, despite what they say. This is one of those reads that leaves you equally sad and happy all at once. Wes' story is powerful and dark but not without hope.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Golden Tote January Mystery Tote

I said I wasn't going to buy a Golden Tote in January because post-Christmas budget and all that, but then Golden Tote announced that they were doing a special mystery tote that was only $60. I had a few referral credits (thank you!) that pretty much paid for the tote, so how was I to resist?

The mystery tote was a little different than the norm. For $60, you received four items, one of which was a special Priddy item made just for the mystery totes and one of which would be a previous chosen item from 2014. The catch was that, unlike usual months, your comments and style profile would not be read and you just had to choose one size (in the past, they've followed my comments to size up on skirts--this would not happen this month). It was a true mystery grab bag of clothing, but with the Facebook trading community, I figured it was a pretty safe gamble.

Fortunately, I loved everything in my tote, so I didn't even have to try to trade or sell.
As always, everything came packed in a tote and tied with an elastic ribbon.
My eyes went to the pop of color first, and I was in love as soon as I pulled it out of the tote. Unfortunately, I live in the Midwest, so you won't see me wearing this until May (if we're lucky), but it's a gorgeous halter tie maxi with POCKETS. I love pockets in dresses. Although I have a lot of maxi dresses, I don't have any with this neckline or with pockets, so this is a win.
Next was the Flying Tomato cardigan. I do not wear dolman sleeves as a general rule, but since this is a cardigan, I felt like it worked a little better. It's a perfect layering piece for my [very cold] workplace and super soft.
Next was a very flowy tank top. Again, you won't see me wearing this without layers until the summer, but it ended up being very easy to dress up and make work appropriate. I love clothes that I can carry throughout the seasons.
And finally, the Priddy top. Everyone received a variation of this in either solid or stripes. It is very soft and forgiving, but I was disappointed that it wasn't long enough on me to wear as a tunic. Most people in the Facebook community modeled it as a tunic, but alas… I have too long of a torso. Still, it's very basic and again, nice to wear to work. 
There are still mystery Golden Totes left in XS and S, but the February sale launches next week. As always, you can buy a $49 tote with one chosen item and one to two surprises or you can purchase a $149 tote with two chosen items and four to six surprises. After recently window shopping at Anthropologie and seeing many of the same brands I get via Golden Tote in the store, I realized what a good deal I'm getting on these brands. One of the dresses I have was almost the same cost as a whole tote! I'm definitely enjoying my closet more lately.