What I'm Reading Now:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Killing Lincoln


Title: Killing Lincoln - The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Author: Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

Pages: 324

Genre: Non-Fiction

Grade: A

Synopsis: We all know how this book ends, but the stories and history surrounding the assassination of the 16th president are a little less well-known. This book covers the last days of the civil war, to the celebration of the end of the war in Washington DC to the death of Lincoln and the manhunt for his killer.

My Review: I listened to the audiobook version of this book and it was read by Bill O'Reilly, whose buttery voice was soothing and calming. Aside from Bill's voice, my opinion of him is not the strongest, so I have hesitated to read these books written by him, mostly because I was not sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the easy readability of the books and by how much I enjoyed it. I have great respect for any author that can produce an enjoyable work of non-fiction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From Heart to Heart

Title: From Heart to Heart

Author: Russell M. Nelson

Pages: 481

Genre: Autobiography

Grade: A

Synopsis: This is the autobiography of Russell M. Nelson, written at the urging of President Spencer W. Kimball. It covers Nelson's life up until the late 1970's, which was before his calling to the Quorum of the Twelve.  The book covers Nelson's early life in Salt Lake City, college and medical school at the University of Utah, his work on the first heart-lung machine, his professional life, church responsibilities and callings and his family.  He was a world-renowned heart surgeon who was able to balance a very demanding occupation with demanding callings as a Stake President and General Sunday School President, among many others.

My Review: This book was absolutely fantastic.  If you can get your hands on a copy (you can find it in the Church History Library), then it is well worth your time.  It was written for his family, but is an inspiring read for anybody.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Into the Gauntlet (The 39 Clues #10)


Title: Into the Gauntlet (The 39 Clues, Book #10)

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Pages: 6 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: A-

Synopsis: Dan and Amy are nearing the completion of the clue hunt.  The hunt has led to the secret ancestral island of the Cahill family, but they need everybody's help to unlock the island's secrets.

My Review: Good news readers, this is the last book in this series so you will not have to suffer through any more of these reviews. This book was a fitting ending to the series.  Ada loved the series, I enjoyed it as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Allegiant (Divergent #3)


Title: Allegiant (Divergent #3)

Author: Veronica Roth

Pages: 9 discs?

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Grade: B+

Synopsis: The ruined city of Chicago is still in shambles.  The factions have been replaced with the factionless, but there is a push by many to fight to restore the factions.  This group elects to send a selected group outside the city, including Tris and Four.

My Review: I wasn't sure where this series could go besides more of the same types of conflicts that had been covered in the first could of books.  However, by sending a group outside of the city the story expands and I felt that it became more interesting.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Storm Warning (The 39 Clues #9)


Title: Storm Warning (The 39 Clues Book #9)

Author: Linda Sue Park

Pages: 4 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Dan and Amy continue on the clue hunt, but this book contains shocking information about the Madrigals and what their real intent is.

My Review: This book really starts to tie everything together and completely changes the direction of the clue hunt.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Insurgent (Divergent #2)


Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Pages: 10 discs?

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Grade: A-

Synopsis: After the Dauntless attack while under simulation serum took place in the last book, Tris and the others are not hiding out with the Amity. While there Erudite and Dauntless traitors attack in an effort to find any Divergent who may be hiding out.

My Review: I actually read this book back in the spring, but failed to put a review together.  I don't remember a ton about the book (beyond the main plot), but I do recall enjoying the book but not as much as the first.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues #8)


Title: The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues #8)

Author: Gordon Korman

Pages: 4 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Dan and Amy get into a big argument, Dan runs away and is kidnapped on Tienanmen Square in China by the Kabras.  He ends up in Jonah Wizard's candy factory, where Jonah finds him and hides him from Amy and their au pair Nellie.

My Review: The books are rushing towards the final clues and the end of the clue hunt.  Many more unbelievable occurrences and experiences, but another easy and enjoyable read.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Me Talk Pretty One Day


Title: Me Talk Pretty One Day

Author: David Sedaris

Pages: 6 discs?

Genre: Humor

Grade: B+

Synopsis: This book is a collection of humorous essays written about Sedaris' life, most of them focused on the time period around his move from New York City to Paris.

My Review: I listened to the audiobook version, which the author reads himself, and some of the essays were recorded in front of live audiences.  I enjoy listening to Sedaris. He has a bit of a nasally voice, but his reading and intonation definitely play a role in the humor of the book.

Disclaimer: There is a bit of language, but I don't recall it being too terrible.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Viper's Nest (The 39 Clues #7)


Title: The Viper's Nest (The 39 Clues #7)

Author: Peter Lerangis

Pages: 4 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Amy and Dan's search for the 39 clues continues.  They've just survived a house fire in Indonesia, that was meant to kill them, but actually killed one of the Lucians (who Amy and Dan never would have guessed was on their side).  The hunt takes them to South Africa and Madagascar, where they continue searching for clues.

My Review: Honestly, I hardly remember this book as they're all starting to run together now.  I think I liked it about as much as all of the other books.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Executioner's Song


Title: The Executioner's Song

Author: Norman Mailer

Pages: 1056

Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize

Grade: A

Synopsis: Gary Gilmore lived in Utah County in 1976 when he robbed two men on separate occasions and then shot them both at point blank.  This is Gilmore's story, from his release from prison, to the murders, then his fight FOR death on death row.  Gilmore was the first person executed in more than 10 years, after the Supreme Court had declared the death penalty constitutional. The lengths to which the Attorney General's office of the State of Utah went to finally execute Gilmore are fascinating, while it seems that everybody else wanted to fight for Gary's life, even though he himself was fighting for his sentence to be served.

My Review: This book was a pretty epic undertaking.  At over 1,000 pages it covers Gilmore's life after being paroled in extreme detail from extensive interviews (both with Gilmore while alive and with his acquaintances after his death), and explores his obsession with his girlfriend Nicole, which in a way led to his killing of two innocent and random victims.

Disclaimer: This book does not hold any punches, nor does it sugar-coat or censor any of Gilmore's letters or interviews.  His letters and conversations with Nicole are often vulgar and the language overall is quite strong.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


Title: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Author: Amy Chua

Pages: 242

Genre: Non-Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: Everybody knows that Chinese parents in America expect their children to be the best.  What people don't usually see is what goes on behind the scenes.  This book is a look how Amy Chua raised her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, to be the best (at least in everything except gym and athletics). To do this, she and her daughters made tremendous sacrifices, such as having friends outside of school (or having playdates), practice the violin or piano for 6 hours/day, participate in any after-school extra-curricular activities, etc.

My Review: I really enjoyed this book.  It seems to be a very honest account of the things that Amy did right, as well as including the things that she may have done wrong, but she generally leaves the interpretation of her parenting decisions up the reader. From verbal abuse, to forcing her children to practice their instruments in hotel rooms, or wherever they could locate a piano while traveling, this was no holds barred parenting. While I don't subscribe to all of her methods, I was impressed with her dedication to helping her children be the best.  That is something that I can certainly improve upon.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Michael Vey - The Prisoner of Cell 25


Title: Michael Vey - The Prisoner of Cell 25

Author: Richard Paul Evans

Pages: 326

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Michael Vey is an ordinary 14 year old living in Idaho. Except that he has Tourette's Syndrome, and except that he has the ability to more or less control electricity and shock people. He's not popular in school and when the hottest cheerleader in the school takes an interest in him, little does he know the danger this will bring.

My Review: The book was a little formulaic (except for the part where Michel Vey absorbs and releases electricity), but I still found it enjoyable. I read it just after Ada, and she really liked it. It's a great book for 4th grade and up, and one that adults can enjoy as well.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Pyramid


Title: the pyramid - and four other kurt wallander mysteries

Author: Henning Mankell

Pages: 10 discs

Genre: Mystery

Grade: B

Synopsis: The book contains 5 stories from the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander.  The stories range from the a murder case during the beginning of his career, to a complicated double homicide case that is eventually linked to a nearby plane that has crashed.

My Review:  I haven't read any other Kurt Wallander mysteries, but I still found these stories to be very enjoyable and easy to follow.  All could have been read as stand-alone mysteries.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Author: L. Frank Baum

Pages: 5 discs?

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Everybody is familiar with the story, originally written in 1900, about Dorothy Gale from Kansas who befriends a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion while making her way to the Emerald City after her house fell on the wicked witch and killed her. Phew. That was a long one-sentence synopsis.

My Review:  The author wanted to write a book similar to the fairy tales of old, and I think he pretty well succeeded, especially considering the big-screen success of the classic 1939 film.  The movie follows the book pretty closely, except for a few scenes in the book that didn't make the final cut in the movie.  For kids, it was excellent. For me, it was pretty good.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

In Too Deep (The 39 Clues #6)


Title: In Too Deep (The 39 Clues #6)

Author: Jude Watson

Pages: 4 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: The clue hunt takes Amy, Dan and their au pair Nellie to Sydney Australia where they meet up with Shep who is an old friend of their parents.  He flies them across Australia and then to Indonesia as they continue to try and follow the path for clues and the journey their parents took many years before. Through it all Dan and Amy continue to outsmart all of the other teams in the clue hunt.

My Review: I always enjoy the clue hunt books that take place either somewhere that I've been or somewhere that I'm going.  Ada and I continue to enjoy each step of the journey.