What I'm Reading Now:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See


Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doer

Pages: 530

Genre: Historical Fiction, Pulitzer Prize

Grade: A-

Synopsis: Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who lives with her father in Paris. Her father works at the Museum of Natural History and builds elaborate models of the neighborhoods where they live to allow Marie-Laure to feel her neighborhood with her hands in order to learn her way around. Once Paris is occupied during WWII, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint Malo, near the coast in France to live with Marie-Laure's great uncle.

Werner is an orphan in Germany and is brilliant with electronics and radios.  He is recruited at a young age into the Nazi Army where he is put to work on their electronics.

This is the story of how their lives collide.

My Review: This is a book that I would say was beautiful.  It was on the artsy side as far as the writing is concerned, and it took me a little work to get into it, but once I did I really enjoyed everything about it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Born to Run


Title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Author: Christopher McDougall

Pages: 287

Genre: Non-Fiction

Grade: A-

Synopsis: This book explores whether or not humans are built to run, and what our anatomy, history and genetics may have to do with it.  Intermingled in this research are stories of great runners in history, including the Tarahumara Tribe that lives secluded in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, but who are known to be able to run 100 miles or more at the drop of a hat.

My Review: I don't run, I don't particularly enjoy running, but I really enjoyed this book.  The science and research is very well interwoven with the stories about great runners and a race that the author participates in with the Tarahumara Tribe and other invited long-distance runners. If you're a runner, you'd probably love this book, but I'd recommend it to anybody with legs.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Holes


Title: Holes

Author: Louis Sachar

Pages: 233

Genre: Children's Fiction, Newbery Medal

Grade: B+

Synopsis: Stanley Yelnats and his father and his grandfather have always been cursed with very bad luck, which was mainly due to Stanley's no-good dirty rotten pig stealing great great grandfather. However, Stanley and his dad have always felt like their luck was on the brink of changing. That is until Stanley is sent to a juvenile detention center on an old lakebed, where everyday the campers are forced to dig holes.  One hole per person, 5 feet in diameter, 5 feet deep.

My Review: I'm surprised that I've never reviewed this book on here before.  I've like it for years.  It's not earth-shattering or anything, but it's quite enjoyable and the story has always seemed to be pretty clever.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit


Title: Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Pages: 404

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade: C-

Synopsis: This book is a spin on the tale of King Arthur.  Gwenhwyfar lives at a time when gods walked among their pagan worshippers and a woman was expected to live her life doing a woman's work.  However, some women did learn to fight and became great warriors, which was the path Gwenhwyfar chose.

My Review: In full disclosure, I didn't actually finish this book.  I made it about 30% of the way through and just found that I had absolutely no interest in the book.  I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to spend time on books that are not interesting for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter


Title: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Author: Seth Grahame-Smith

Pages: 336

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: Abraham Lincoln has gone down in history as an excellent President and a strong leader. He guided the country through the emancipation of the slaves and the civil war. What is less well-known about his history is his personal reasons for fighting slavery so boldly.  Abraham's mother was killed by a vampire in his youth (although he didn't find out the truth until he was much older). Once he did, he dedicated his life to the eradication of vampires, many of whom would prey on slaves.

My Review: This book is not for everybody.  Written in a similar style as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book intricately weaves Abraham's fight against vampires into his biography.  I really enjoyed it and found myself often thinking, what if...?  All the while learning about our 16th President.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

Pages: 326

Genre: Fiction

Grade: A-

Synopsis: Oskar Schell is nine-years old and lives in Manhattan with his widowed mother after his father is killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.  Oskar (who carries his own business cards) identifies himself as an inventor, explorer, jeweller, vegan, pacifist, percussionist and many other things.  One day after his father's death he finds a key in his father's closet and he is convinced that it was left for him. Now the only thing left for him to do is to track down the lock that this key fits.

My Review: Oskar Schell always seems to have about a million things going through his mind and this book seems to capture everything perfectly.  He's a bit of an unusual nine-year old kid, but one that becomes endearing after you get used to his quirks and manias. I really liked this book.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Black Circle (The 39 Clues #5)


Title: The Black Circle (The 39 Clues #5)

Author: Patrick Carman

Pages: 4 discs

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: Dan and Amy Cahill have followed the clues to Russia where they are being helped by an anonymous individual who signs all messages with the initials NRR. Dan and Amy aren't sure if this is somebody who they can trust, but they feel like they don't have any other options.  The tasks they're given require them to join up with another team as they have a very limited time to criss cross Russia searching for clues.

My Review: Another [unbelievably] amazing adventure for Dan and Amy Cahill.  I especially enjoyed this one because it took place throughout Russia. Ada gives it two thumbs up as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Candy Shop War


Title: The Candy Shop War

Author: Brandon Mull

Pages: 8 discs?

Genre: Children's Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: A new Candy Shop opens on Main Street and Nate, Summer, Trevor and Pigeon are especially excited after they meet the sweet shop owner, Mrs. White, who recruits them to help her out with a few things.  As payment the children are given candies that allow them to do all sorts of things, such as defy gravity, change their appearance or become unbreakable.

My Review: Ada and I listened to this book on our short, ill-fated visit to Las Vegas (where we watched the Utes get creamed by Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament).  It was perfect for such a trip and Ada just loved it.  I think that she ended up listening to most of the book a couple more times before I had to return the discs to the library.  I like Brandon Mull's Fablehaven Series better than this book, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Following the Light of Christ into His Presence


Title: Following the Light of Christ into His Presence

Author: John Pontius

Pages: 255

Genre: LDS, Religion

Grade: B

Synopsis: Just as the title describes, this book is about following the Light of Christ through personal revelation.  Holding onto the iron rod and recognizing and acting upon the promptings of the Spirit are all keys for doing this.

My Review: The content in the book is decent (although it felt like about 1/3 of the book was just quotes from Bruce R. McConkie), but something about the material presentation just felt a bit off-putting and often came across in a holier than thou style (Not to mention that it took me almost 3 months to slog through).  However, as is usually the case, there was still plenty to think about and ideas and impressions of behaviors to implement in my own life.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Boy in the Suitcase


Title: The Boy in the Suitcase

Author: Lene Kaaberbøl

Pages: 10 discs?

Genre: Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Nina Borg is a nurse for the Red Cross who is contacted by her friend Karin with a key to a public locker in a train station.  When Nina gets to the locker she finds a heavy suitcase and upon opening the suitcase she is shocked to find a young boy inside.  The boy speaks no English (or Danish as in the original), so Nina embarks on a quest to find out more about this boy in the suitcase.  When her friend Karin is brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life is in danger as well.

My Review:  It was tough for me to get into this book as it jumped around quite a bit and things were hard to follow in the audio version as I wasn't always sure when a new section started and it was sometimes difficult to catch the different place-names.  Once I had that down, then I started enjoying the book more.  Apparently it was quite popular in Denmark, but it just ended up being ok for me.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nineteen Minutes


Title: Nineteen Minutes

Author: Jodi Picoult

Pages: 18 discs

Genre: Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: The book takes place in a small town in New England.  An unhappy high school student brings an arsenal of guns to school looking for the jocks and popular kids killing 10 and wounding many others.  The best witness for the defense is the judge's own daughter, but she claims to not be able to remember anything about the whole ordeal.

My Review: I initially started listening to this book without knowing anything about it and when I realized that it was about a school shooting then I was going to skip it and move onto a different book (I didn't have a whole lot of interest in getting into the details of a school shooting).  However, after reading some reviews of the book online I decided to stick with it and I was glad I did because the book wasn't that bad and it makes a good case that there are always two sides (or more) to every story.  The shooter isn't excused from the damage or killing that was done, but you certainly feel for him as well as the victims.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again


Title: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Author: David Foster Wallace

Pages: 378

Genre: Essays

Grade: D

Synopsis: The book is a collection of essays on topics from a Cruise Ship in the Carribbean to the Illinois State Fair and from tennis in the hot and humid Midwestern summers to a long analysis of the films of David Lynch.

My Review: The first essay wasn't too bad, and neither was his essay about the Illinois State Fair (although it was quite long), but I could barely make it through the other essays in the book before giving up entirely.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Still Life with Woodpecker


Title: Still Life with Woodpecker

Author: Tom Robbins

Pages: 288

Genre: Fiction, Humor

Grade: B+

Synopsis: Princess Leigh-Cheri, a red-headed, vegetarian lives with her exiled royal parents in Seattle.  The liberal Leigh-Cheri travels to Hawaii with Gulietta, her family's last loyal servant, to go to the CareFest gathering where her idol Ralph Nader will be speaking.  While there she meets Bernard Mickey Wrangle, who is an outlaw bomber that has been running from the law for decades.  After Bernard (also known as the woodpecker) sets off a bomb at the CareFest, Leigh-Cheri places him under a citizen's arrest, before falling in love with him.

My Review: This is without a doubt one of the strangest books that I have ever read, but I really enjoyed it. I think Alison was sick of me reading it because I often broke out into laughter while reading.  Aside from the theme that redheads are from another planet, I'm not sure I can do this book any justice by attempting to describe it any further.

Disclaimer: There is some love-making and other descriptions of an adult nature.

From the Book: "(Pg. 8) Once, Princess Leigh-Cheri used a papal candlestick for the purpose of self-gratification. She had hoped that at the appropriate moment she might be visited by either the Lamb or the Beast, be, as usual, only Ralph Nader attended her."

"(Pg. 52) To Gulietta, indoor plumbing was the devil's device. Of all the follies of the modern world, that one struck her as the most unnecessary. There was something unnatural, foolish, and a little filthy about going indoors. Ont he European estates where she was reared, it was common practice for servant girls to lift their skirts outside. Gulietta had seen no reason to alter her habits in Seattle. Despite the difficulty there of doing one's natural duty without being rained upon or receiving from a blackberry bramble a bite as sharp as hemorrhoids, she felt comfortable--happy, even--when she could squat in fresh air. Besides, it was an opportune way to spy frogs."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Blind Descent


Title: Blind Descent

Author: Nevada Barr

Pages: 11 discs

Genre: Mystery

Grade: B

Synopsis: A woman on an expedition to map yet unvisited areas of Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park is injured deep inside the cave and must be transported out through the treacherous cave.  Her only request is for her friend, Mesa Verde park ranger Anna Pigeon to come down with the rescue team.

My Review: I've had Blind Descent on my list of books to read for ages.  However, I don't think that this is the book that I was thinking when I originally put it on the list (there is a small handful ok books with the same name...).  I didn't love this book when I first started it, but after a few CDs, I was enjoying it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Disappearing Spoon


Title: The Disappearing Spoon - And other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the Periodic Table of the Elements

Author: Sam Kean

Pages: 11 discs

Genre: Non-Fiction

Grade: A-

Synopsis: This book explores the origins of the periodic table of the elements and specifically many of the stories behind the creation of the periodic table and of the elements themselves.  The periodic table of the elements is one of mankind's crowning achievement, and has unlocked many mysteries of the Universe and will potentially give us something consistent to communicate with once we have made contact or been visited by aliens...  A few tidbits from the book: Gandhi hates iodine, gallium melts at 84 degrees (thus creating the perfect disappearing teaspoon), Lewis and Clark can be tracked across the continent by the mercury in their waste and Marie Curie's was a regular magician with her glowing radioactive elements.

My Review: This book had a perfect mix of chemistry, physics and stories to keep the book interesting and to ensure that there is something intriguing for everybody.  I've always had a fascination with the elements and I really enjoyed this look at the elements on an individual level and how they fit in the table and relate to their neighboring elements.