Category Archives: Books

Book Reviews and Ramblings

I’ve got quite a few book reviews to share.  It’s a busy time but I still found time to read, usually right before bed, and while I wait for my girls at the dance studio.  Lately, I’ve been finding that I’ve spent way too much time researching Korean skin care products.  Not sure how that was brought on but I think I was initially looking at Korean makeup (and I can’t think why I was looking at Korean makeup!)  which then lead to skincare.  I learned that Korean skin care technology is about 2 to 5 years ahead of the U.S.  I was fascinated and continued to read and learn about Korean’s advance products, including sunscreen, which I’m hoping to get my hands on because I am sold on the high SPF, broad spectrum, gel consistency or just less opaque compared to the ones I’ve used in the past, and cost.  Oh, and I might add that my curiosity got the best of me and I YouTube-ed a handful of Korean before and after plastic surgery.  I was saddened by their obsession for the V-shape jawline, big American eyes with thick eyelid folds, and super pale skin.  It made them look all very similar and reminded me of a book I read a couple of times called, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.  Interestingly, there was a time in my teen years in which I had wished everyone looked the same and lived in a socialistic totalitarian society, and I had good reasons for feeling that way, but as I got older I realized how bad that would be.

Anyway, let’s get the book reviews started.

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA

This story is written in the first person through the eyes of a girl named Juliette.  She is gifted with the ability to absorb life from others and in the process kills them but she is aware of this so she tries not to touch anyone in fear that she’ll accidentally kill them.  She also has super human strength that she was unaware of until she broke down a metal door in her haste to escape The Reestablishment.  There is a love triangle going on.  Juliette likes Adam-a soldier of The Reestablishment, and Warner-the leader of The Reestablishment, likes her.  Warner wants her to use her ability to gain power but she doesn’t want to.  She escapes eventually and ends up in a facility with others who also have abilities of their own.

This book was recommended to me by my teenage daughter.  She loved it to death and couldn’t decide if she liked Adam more or Warner.  She compared the post-apocalyptic totalitarian world to the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  Personally, I just found this book to be okay.  Juliette’s ability was exactly like Rogue’s from X-men so I couldn’t get a good description of her in my head because I just kept seeing Rogue.  The relationship between Juliette and Adam was okay.  Nothing new, nothing exciting.  The coddling was overdone and unrealistic.  I liked that Adam had a cute little brother whom he wanted to keep protected and that Juliette finally met up with others who had supernatural abilities as well, although, their abilities again reminded me of X-men.

 

Title: American Sniper
Author: Chris Kyle
Genre: Memoir, biography, war

This books is a memoir by Chris Kylie on how he became a SEAL and then a SEAL sniper and the four tours he fought in during the middle eastern war in the mid 2000’s.  He goes into some pretty good details about the weapons he used and what he did as a sniper.  He also talks about the friends he made and the soldiers, his “brothers”, whom he saved or tried to.  He talks about his family life and wife and their struggles while he was overseas.  There are clips of his wife’s point of view of his deployments which really helped in understanding the stress war and military life can bring on.

Overall, it was a good read.  Chris came across to me somewhat cocky but he is also quite humble.  He’s very proud of his country and would do whatever it took to take down the enemy for it.  I was very heartbroken over the other SEALs, marines, and army men who died.  The language/prose was very simple like someone speaking to you about their life.  This book is not for the faint of heart.

 

Title: Ralph S. Mouse
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction

This book is about a little mouse named, Ralph.  He lives in a hotel and is friends with a boy named Ryan and his mother who also live in the hotel.  He decides that he wants to get away from the hotel and maybe live in the school Ryan goes to.  While at the school Ryan tells him to stay quiet and not peek out of his shirt pocket but curiosity got the best of him and he peeked.  A classmate saw him and suddenly he becomes the center of attention.  He is put through a maze and also makes a new friend.

Read this with my daughter.  We both thought it was okay.

 

Title: Ribsy
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction

This book is about a dog named Ribsy who jumped out of his owner’s car to be with him but accidentally got into someone else’s car.  He escapes, and while trying to find his owner, ends up in meeting strangers who take him in.  Some treating him better than others.  In the end his owner finds him and they return home.

Read this with my daughter.  She didn’t like it so much but I thought it was cute.

 

Title: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical fiction, war, children

This book is about a boy named Bruno, who’s father got promoted to Commandant, and they moved from Berlin to Auschwitz.  Bruno became very lonely and wanted someone to play with.  He saw people working in the distance from his bedroom window and found his way to where the people were to see if there was someone he could play with.  He becomes friends with a little boy his own age named, Schmuel, on the other side of the fence.  He doesn’t know why there is a fence separating them but he is determined to become good friends with Schmuel.  At one point Schmuel ends up at his house and he’s excited but when he learns that Schmuel was only there to clean the wine glasses for a big gathering he becomes confused.  He realizes that Schmuel is hungry so he gives some food to his friend to eat.  The soldier that had brought Schmuel in to do the work saw the food in Schmuel’s hand and berated him.  Schmuel told the soldier that his friend, Bruno, gave him the food.  The soldier asked Bruno if that was true and Bruno, scared of the soldier, said he didn’t know who the boy was nor did he give him any food.  Later on when Bruno went to the fence to meet Schmuel, he saw the bruise on Schmuel’s face and felt terribly bad.  Schmuel forgave him and they continued to be friends.  Bruno would sometimes bring food and pass it under the fence where a small opening existed.  Bruno’s mother, who didn’t like their new living arrangements in Auschwitz, decided that she was going to return to Berlin with him and his sister.  Bruno didn’t want to move back to Berlin because he now made a new friend that he really liked.  Just before they were to leave, Bruno and Schmuel arranged for Bruno to cross over the fence to help Schmuel find his father who mysteriously disappeared.  Life on the other side of the fence was not what Bruno had thought and he wanted to go home.  The soldiers were loud and vicious.  They made Bruno and Schmuel and a bunch of other people wearing the same clothing, the striped pajamas, get into a line and had them enter a large metal room.  The soldiers told them it was time for a shower.  The two little boys had no idea what was going to happen.

This was a very very very heartbreaking book.  This book was recommended to me by my teenager who read it in her language arts class and whom also saw the movie.  She loved it so much she had myself and her dad watch it with her her second time.  I totally loved the movie, more than the book, but both were very good.

 

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Genre: Fiction, children

This book is about the Tuck family, a mother, father, and two sons, who drank from a spring in the Treegap woods that stopped them from aging and dying.  Over a hundred years had passed and the Tuck’s felt it was safe to return to their old home since everyone they knew had either died or were too young to remember them.  Jesse, the younger Tuck son who is about 17, stopped by the spring in Treegap to drink from the spring and a 10-year-old girl named, Winnie Foster, saw him and wanted to drink from the spring too.  He wouldn’t let her and told her she couldn’t.  They got into a little disagreement but luckily Jesse’s mother, Mae, and older brother, Miles, caught up to him and they were both surprised to see the girl.  The girl told them that because the wood belonged her her family she would drink from it when they left so in fear they kidnapped her.  They took her to their home and explained to her why she couldn’t drink from the spring and that for her to never tell anyone about the spring.  They didn’t know but there was a man who followed them who had heard rumors about the Tuck’s.  He stole their horse who had also drank from the spring and returned to town to tell Winnie’s parents that she was kidnapped and he knew who did it.  He told them that he would return Winnie to them in a trade for their woods.  He also reported the kidnapping to the constable.  Winnie was at first scared she was kidnapped but she learned to trust the Tuck’s and soon called them her friends.  Jesse really liked her and asked her to drink from the spring when she turned 17 so they could marry.  The man returned the next morning to the Tuck’s home and was going to take Winnie with him but Mae shot him.  The constable was on his way to the Tuck’s and saw the scene and took Mae in to be hanged for her crime.  The day before Mae was to be hanged she escaped.  Years rolled by and Mae and her husband returned to Treegap to find that the woods were no longer there.

Read this with my daughter.  She cried.  I cried.  Such a wonderful book.  I’ve read this book probably about 4 or 5 times and every time I always get so teary-eyed.

Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
Genre: Memoir, biography, war, history, political

This book is biographically written following six North Koreans in their lives and escape from North Korea to South Korea from the mid to late 80’s up to about 2005.  I enjoyed the read and all the research gone into it.  The escape process was similar to the book, In Order to Live, by Yeonmi Park, whom is actually mentioned in a paragraph or so in this book.  It is really strange how I too have wondered about a free and united Korea.  I’ve wondered when that would happen, if it will be something similar to the coming down of the Berlin Wall in a nationally televised way, or if it would happen subtly, and if it will happen in my lifetime.

Book Reviews: Charlotte’s Web and In Order to Live

Title: Charlotte’s Web
Author: E. B. White
Genre: Children, Fiction, Classic

CharlottesWebThis classic is about a pig who’s life gets saved by a spider.

I’ve read this book to my oldest when she was younger and now have also read with my youngest.  After we read the book we watched the movie.  I also watched the movie with my oldest when we finished the book.  At the time, when I watched it with my oldest, my youngest was too young to enjoy the movie so when the camera zoomed in on the spider’s face, she got scared and couldn’t watch it.  This time of course she was fascinated by the spider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Author: Yeonmi Park
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction

IOTLThis is a memoir about the author’s life in North Korea and her escape across China, Mongolia, and eventually to South Korea, and then to the United States.

This memoir was an eye-opener about North Korea. I enjoyed it, although I found the usage of, “we Koreans….” this and that, annoying. I’m glad that the author found her way to freedom. The world we live in is strange. Some of us have freedom and some of us don’t even know and will never know what freedom feels like.

Book Reviews

I finished 5 books within the last half of the month:

Title: Drop Dead Gorgeous
Author: Elizabeth Lenhard
Genre: Children, fantasy, paranormal

DropDeadGorgeousThis book is about a girl, Rachel, who becomes friends with a girl who just moved into her town.  The girl who moved in is a zombie.  Rachel learns to accept the zombie girl as they go through trials and tribulations.

Read this with my 8-year-old.  I found the story line a bit boring.  My daughter wasn’t too into it as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Zeroes
Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Sci-fi, suspense, thriller, paranormal

ZeroesThis book is about the government kidnapping some hackers to eventually overtake a computer-human liquid robot who tried to overtake them.

It started out promising but then went all over the place about halfway.  Too many characters were thrown in in the beginning.  Each with their semi-detailed specialty.  I didn’t mind that so much because I liked how a chapter was given to a character.  Eventually though it just became a big mess of people.  I believe there was supposed to be a transition from computer hackers to paranormal computer activity but it didn’t happen the right way.  I was set on believing that it had something to do with hackers hacking some huge powerful database, and that if they didn’t hack into it, the data would fall into the hands of someone who would use it to destroy the world or something.  But it turned out that whatever they were supposed to hack into was obsolete and that some lady (she entered the story about halfway in) who was a very intelligent person decided to hook herself up to some strange machine that allowed her to upload data and become this liquid human machine thingy.  Her reason for it was because she had heart problems and the only way to keep her going completely dead was to hook up to a machine.  Aside from not wanting to be dead, it was quite unclear what her motives were.  Yeah, very confusing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction

TheNightingaleThis book is about two sisters who survived the Nazi invasion of France during WWII.  The sisters are a decade apart in age and very different in personality.  This is a story about war and everything that war creates.

This was a well written story.  It was a truly amazing experience reading this.  I had no idea that the Nazi’s invaded France and that the French leader surrendered.  And, it made me wonder if there were really good and kind Nazi soldiers who only did their job because they had no choice or that they didn’t realize what they were doing until it was too late.  The ending got me good.  There was a twist that I had no idea was coming.  I guess if I paid closer attention I would have caught it.

This is a story everyone should read.  It really pulls at your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Zombie Dog
Author: Clare Hutton
Genre: Children, fantasy, paranormal

ZombieDogThis book is about a family who moved next door to a vacant home.  The family’s daughter learns that there is a zombie dog living in the vacant home and sets out to figure out why.  In the process she learns the story of the family who lived in the home and finds a way to send the zombie away.

This was a cute story I read with my 8-year-old daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Sci-fi, Post-apocalyptic, paranormal

DoAndroidsThe movie, “Blade Runner,” was based on this book.  I haven’t seen the movie yet but I will soon.

This book is about a bounty hunter who’s job is to track down and destroy human-like androids.  For each android he kills he gets a good sum of money.  For three androids he’d get enough money to buy a real animal.  In that post-apocalyptic time, it is rare to see a real animal, or own one.  To own one is a status symbol.  The androids are supposed to only live on Mars with their human owner and work for them but some find their way back to earth.  They are hunted down because they are harmful to humans.  There is really no way to differentiate a human from an android except for an empathy test because androids apparently have no empathy.

This was a very intriguing story.  I’m amazed that this book was written in 1966 about the far future…aka, January 3, 2021.  A lot of things were outdated but overall I got the feel for that bleak and dusty radioactive world they lived in.  There were parts of the story that didn’t make a lot of sense to me like the godly-like man, Mercer, Mercerism if you believe in him.  Or the double world in which the bounty hunter found himself in.  Overall though, I enjoyed it.

Blood Memory Book Review

Title: Blood Memory
Author: Perrin Briar
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, paranormal

BloodMemoryEP1This book is about a group of people out at sea who’ve survived a zombie apocalypse but realize that they are running out of food and need a new alternator for their boat.  They see a ferry in the distance and decide to see if they can take the alternator from it knowing that there could still be living zombies on that ferry.

This was an okay story.  It was easy to read and had some enjoyable action scenes.  World building wasn’t so bad.  It was basically around the sea and the boat but I got a good feel for it.  What it lacked was pacing and character development.  The story moved from one thing to another pretty fast and moved in steps which was unrealistic and predictable.  Character development was minimal.  Right up front we learn their names and age and a sentence or two of their characteristics but aside from that there was hardly any personality or depth.  Dialogue was a bit cheesy and didn’t really add to the characters.

Overall, I’d say read this book if you want a taste of zombie apocalypse.  It’s a short read and as mentioned earlier moves along at a pretty fast pace.

Note: This book was given to me to read and review by the author’s publicist.

Neverhome Book Review

Title: Neverhome
Author: Laird Hunt
Genre: Historical Fiction

NeverhomeThe book is about a wife who leaves behind her husband to be a soldier for the Union army during the Civil War.  It is written in the first person through her eyes.  She gets captured and jailed by the Confederates but she outsmarts them and escapes.  Then she gets betrayed and thrown into an asylum by the Union where she’s tortured.  So much happens to her that she doesn’t know whom to trust anymore.  There is humor and sarcasm and great details of war.  The prose is wonderfully done.  The author did amazing research work creating true to life characters and atmosphere.

At first I was hesitant to read this story because when I read the synopsis, and it mentioned the Civil War, I just wasn’t ready to read into that part of history again, even if it was a fiction story.  But, what intrigued me was the fact that women went into the war secretly in disguise.  I wanted to know how they were able to do it and so the journey with this book began.

I find it odd that I never learned about this part of American history throughout my schooling.  I was very touched by it all that I felt compelled to do additional researching.  Not only were the women brave in making this choice but so many young boys (not even men yet!) fought for the emancipation of slaves in the South.  Over 620,000 lives were taken.  I think there could have been another way.  Not war.  Not all those lives.  It tears at my heart.

Overall, this was a wonderful read.  I cried and laughed and I came out with a whole new respect for the women who fought in the Civil War.  The only downside to this book was that it was too short.  I would have loved an additional 300 to 400 pages.

A quote from the book:

You stand in a line in your bright blues with your filthy face and your lice and all the dead you now know and get shot at regular, your thinking takes a change.  You get to where you can do things you couldn’t have dreamed up the outline of before.”

The Infinite Sea Book Review

Title: The Infinite Sea (2nd book in The 5th Wave Trilogy)
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Sci-fi, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA

theinfinitesea[Side note] Today is the opening of the movie, The 5th Wave, and I wish I could go see it today but I’ve got a busy schedule.  I hope to get my chance sometime next week.

This is the second book to The 5th Wave trilogy.  This book delves deeper into Ringer.  She was not a main character in the first book and we only got to see a little piece of her at the military camp.  She came across as someone who added depth to another character. She was portrayed as mysterious, tough, and excellent with weapons, but otherwise there wasn’t much to her.  In The Infinite Sea, we get to see her weakness.  We get to be inside her brain and understand who she really is.

The story begins with the cast: Cassie, Ben Parish and his buddies from the camp including Ringer.  Ringer leaves their hideout and gets captured and returned to the camp where she is inserted with a head device and gets alien data downloaded into her brain.  Part of the download included some superpowers which allowed her to see in the dark and heal quickly from injuries.  In essence she becomes a carrier of alien knowledge, alien control, and super strength.  This “upgrade” to Ringer was Commander Vosch’s plan to use her to track down Evan Walker.  Evan is the guy Vosch wants.  This becomes an alien vs. alien thing.

There is a lot of action and suspense throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book but there were a few things that I felt could have been explained better/deeper such as:

  1. Ringer’s character.  Even though we got to read from her first person, I didn’t feel that I could relate or even understand her.  There was back story to her past but it just didn’t feel very strong.  It didn’t feel believable.
  2. The upgrade to Ringer could have been explained better. I guess I wanted to know more about how she felt.  She had fevers and physical pain but it lacked emotional pain.  She had this “so what” attitude as if she accepted whatever was happening to her.  I felt that she could have fought it more.  Cried more.  Screamed more.  I thought she should have shone more anger toward these aliens and what they were doing and what they’ve done to humans.
  3. The soldier that aided and assisted Ringer was intriguing but there were things about him that I didn’t understand like when he stared blankly at Ringer when they had escaped. How was he controlled in that way?  Why weren’t some of the other humans controlled the same way?  When he came out of his control, he and Ringer just continued with their conversations as if it was normal.  He continued to take care of her as per directives and she just went along with it.  That was hard to believe.

Overall, this was a great read.  The humor was still great.  The weapons descriptions and actions/fight scenes were superb.  There was a bit of Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, writing style in the book.  I’ve grown to like the no quotations conversations and was excited to see it in this book.  I cannot wait for the 3rd book!

Throne of Glass Book Review

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, YA

This story is about an assassin who was captured and made into a slave whom was rescued by the prince and his captain of the guard.  They took her to win the champion fighting for the prince’s father.  Turns out the prince and the captain of the guard both fall in love with her.  She falls for the prince first but then eventually falls for the captain.

This book wasn’t so bad.  It was enjoyable.  The writing was good.  Easy to read and paced well.  Character development was okay.  There was a bit of childhood back story to the protagonist, Celanea, which was helpful.  The storyline was a bit silly, cliche, and unbelievable though.  Celaena couldn’t see that the captain liked her but it was very obvious.  Same with the prince.  Every night he came to her room to listen to her read and she never put two and two together.  It got annoying.  But then again, I totally get it because the author said she wrote the story when she was in high school and college so I can see how she chose not to reveal Celaena’s feelings for the boys.  I think that’s how most teenagers and young adult deal with how they feel for someone, they pretend they don’t know.  The ending was good.  I enjoyed the fight scenes and how much the captain tried to keep Celaena going.  You can totally see that he cares deeply for her.  I wasn’t a big fan of Celaena but what I did like about her was that she wasn’t perfect.  She’s not good with poisons and that’s the one thing that could have led to her demise.

I won’t be reading the trilogy or series.  Although I enjoyed this book there were things that didn’t make any sense that made me almost give up on it.  For instance, Celaena’s an assassin but she did not come across like an assassin at all.  There was no where in the story that talked about what her duties were as an assassin.  No back story to her training and how she trained and what led her to being captured.  There was no oath or creed to hold her accountable. Her characteristics did not have any assassin-ness to it.  She was portrayed more like a princess in despair.  Weak.  Clueless.  Locked up until the competition.  She practiced her fighting with the captain but I would assume an assassin already knows how to sword fight and fight with other weapons as well.  I would also assume an assassin is much better at fighting then a captain of the guard.  So, I was disappointed by this.  If you enjoy a YA fantasy about an “assassin,” in a fairytale like story then this book is for you.