What I'm Reading Now:

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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Greater Journey - Americans In Paris

Title: The Greater Journey - Americans In Paris

Author: David McCullough

Pages: 16 discs

Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Grade: B+

Synopsis: During the 19th century not all pioneers went west.  Many American artists, doctors, writers and others made journey eastward across the ocean to study and hone their craft in Paris. Between the 1830's and 1900 hundreds of Americans went to Paris seeking inspiration, education and the chance to mingle with the greatest minds of the day.

My Review: I don't put this on the same pedestal as John Adam, Truman or The Path Between the Seas (my favorites of the 7 David McCullough books that I've read), but this was another interesting, unique and enjoyable book by one of my favorite authors.  I especially enjoyed the book because I read it in the weeks leading up to my own first visit to Paris and many of the same wonders that were present in the city over a hundred years ago are still there today.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Too Far From Home

Title: Too Far From Home

Author: Chris Jones

Pages: 304

Genre: Non-Fiction, Science

Grade: B+

Synopsis: When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated on its return to earth there were three astronauts orbiting the earth in the International Space Station.  Once the disaster struck nobody knew for a long time how or when these men would get home. This book focuses on the lives, careers and time spent in space of the Americans Don Petit and Ken Bowersox and the Russian Nikolai Budarin.  At the time, the International Space Station was fairly new, as was spending long amounts of time in space.  It was supposed to be a routine 14 week mission, which turned out to be much longer.

My Review: It took me a while to really get into this book, and it took me longer than I would have liked to finish it, but I did enjoy it.  It's not really a thriller, but it is centered around events that most of us probably remember.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Title: Silk

Author: Alessandro Baricco

Pages: 132

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Grade: B

Synopsis: Herve Joncour is a Frenchman who deals in silkworms.  After an epidemic decimates the European supply in the late 1800's, Joncour begins to travel further and further to find healthy silkworms to bring back to France.  On his visit to Japan he comes across a woman with whom he never speaks, but who enchants him and becomes an obsession for him.

My Review: This is a short read (I finished in around an hour I think) and is a lovely story.  I believe the book has since been made into a movie, but I have not seen it.

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


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.