Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First book of short stories

"There's Something I want You to Do" by Charles Baxter

Hello fellow bibliophiles! Today's review is a first for me! I have never read a collection of short stories before this. I saw this book showcased on one of the multiple book publishing emails i receive daily and was intrigued based upon the short article about the book. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least! I gave the book a 3 out of 5 on my Goodreads page. Here's what I thought:

First off, like I said before, I have never read a collection of short stories and therefore have nothing to compare it to. While the book itself is 10 different stories, and while each story has it's own characters and plot line, some characters who had a smaller role in one story pop up as main characters in another story. Since I have never read other short story collections, I am not sure if this is common the way the characters are shared throughout them but this was one of my favorite aspects of the book. There is at least one story that every reader can relate to in some way. Stories range from love and loss to having a sick child and questioning your beliefs in humanity. Bravery, guilt, and vanity are not only titles for stories but are also common themes throughout the whole collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it has inspired me to read other short story collections! Feel free to share any suggestions! I appreciate any comments, opinions, and recommendations!

Side note: I had previously mentioned that I am reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am still reading this book but it is not as enjoyable as I originally thought and is taking longer to get through. I promise to have it completed at some point but will continue to read others as well. I am one of those readers who has at least two, if not three, books always going at once!

Happy reading fools :)

Monday, February 23, 2015

"The Red Moth" by Sam Eastland

Hello fellow bibliophiles!

Another Monday has (thankfully) come and gone! To start off your work week, here is my newest review. I randomly came across this series while perusing the Mystery and Intrigue shelves at my local library. I'm a big fan of this section and highly encourage you to browse around in it if you enjoy a good spy/mystery book. This is #4 in the Inspector Pekkala series by Sam Eastland. I quickly burned through the first three books only to get stuck trying to check out the next book in the series. It was VERY difficult to acquire. Come to find out, it has not been published in the US but luckily I was able to get it through inter-library loan from a nearby library that somehow managed to have a copy. It took three months. THREE MONTHS for the book to reach my hands. But alas, it arrived. Here's a brief synopsis of the series and my review for the fourth book:

"...Inspector Pekkala - the elusive Finn who was once Tsar Nicholas II's personal detective..." sums up the surface of the main character. After the revolution, Inspector Pekkala was sent to Siberia by Stalin to serve out the rest of his days as a tree marker in a work camp. After nine years, he is brought back to Moscow by Stalin to work for him as his private detective with no limitations, as his eyes and ears outside of the NKVD, Russia's secret police. Each book includes a specific task Pekkala is sent to accomplish or face being sent back to Siberia.

The Red Moth is set at the start of the German invasion into Russian territory during world war two. Pekkala's task is to save the Amber Room at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo from enemy hands. Hitler wished to acquire these panels to be placed in his city-wide museum in Lintz that he was planning to build to hold art gathered throughout Europe during the war. You may have heard of this if you have read (or watched) Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M Edsel. The book starts with  a series of clues and maps that Pekkala and his partner Kirov must race against time to solve in order to stop the removal of the panels before the German's advance any further into the country.

Sam Eastland does a good job at intertwining Russian facts and history into the fictional story, which he always clarifies fact from fiction at the end. As my friends all know, I am a big fan of Russian history, specifically this time period. I really enjoyed the first three books in the series but I did not think this was as good as the others for majority of the book. I rated it a 3 out of 5 on Goodreads. Eastland does well with intrigue, throwing curve balls into the story line which is always appreciated. There's nothing worse in a mystery than being able to figure out the end result halfway through the book. One thing was different about this book compared to the others though. Cliff hanger at the end. The other three books all wrapped up completely at the end. While I may or may not have been originally interested in reading the next book in the series because I felt it was losing its luster, this completely changed my mind. The next book is already checked out and sitting on my coffee table!

Disclaimer: This series is not for everyone. There is a lot of Russian history, names, cities, etc. throughout the book so if you are not interested in this, then it may not be the best series for you. I however thoroughly have enjoyed it thus far. As always, feel free to share you inputs, comments, opinions, suggestions and ask any questions!

Happy reading fools :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwing it back today!

Hello fellow bibliophiles!

Sorry for no review at the beginning of this week! Out of town at a wedding last weekend and crazy busy work schedule this week! I have been squeezing in a little reading but not enough to finish my current book (The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert). So instead of keeping you waiting, I will do my first "Thursday Throwback."

Recently I reread one of my favorite books, The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks. Since I first read A Walk to Remember when I was around 13 or 14, I have been a huge Nicholas Sparks fan. I normally buy newest book the day it comes and finish it in one sitting. This book in particular is my favorite out of all his books. I have read it close to 20 times, if not more. I refer to it as my "comfort book." Whenever I need a little piece of comfort and joy, I grab this book. Broken spine. Ripped book jacket. Perfection.

Now I will give you the most simplistic summary that in no way can give the story away because well, it's a Nicholas Sparks book. We all know how they end. Here's how the story goes. Man and Woman meet after a tragic event where Man comes to the rescue. Man falls for Woman. Woman falls for Man. Man manages to screw things up. Tragedy strikes again. Woman forgives Man. Happily ever after. The end.

It's the perfect little romantic fiction novel. Short and sweet with just the right amount of detail for you to feel the emotions and understand the characters. I love it. To me, it represents Spark's writing before Hollywood monopolized all his stories for the big screen. Fingers crossed that this never happens!

Hopefully I can have the next review up for you in a couple days, at the latest Sunday, as I have a busy work weekend again. As always, feel free to share you recommendations, reviews, and suggestions!

Happy reading fools :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Zone One" - Colson Whitehead

"In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. 

Now the plague is receding, and the Americans are busy rebuilding civilization under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed Forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street - aka Zone One - but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety - the "malfunctioning" straggles, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. 

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitiz's desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world. 

And then things start to go wrong."

Hello fellow bibliophiles,

As I sit here set to write the second review on this blog, I feel such disappointment. With this book, something happened that NEVER happens with me when I am reading. By this I mean I could not finish the book. No matter how terrible a book is, I always push through to the end. I figured I could do the same with this one. I tried, I really did. After multiple attempts and several weeks, I finally quit. I'm a quitter. I have come to a point in my life where I feel it is best said with the following mantra: "Life is too short to read bad books." So here is why I am now a quitter:

This book had potential. It had GREAT potential to fit right in with all the other books in the post-apocalyptic genre. But no matter how much potential the book had, it still fell short. The measly 89 pages that I was able to get through were unbearable. Unbearable mostly due to Whitehead's writing style. One can only take so many adjectives in one sentence. To say the writing was flourished is an understatement. So. Much. Description. Whitehead is could be an exceptional writer; I'll give him that. But exceptional writers give something back to the reader with their writing. We want to feel the writing, the story. Whitehead doesn't do that. His writing is cold. It's boring. And more than I can take.

This is why I am a quitter. I give this book a 1 out of 5. I'm feeling generous. While I would not recommend the book, I will add this: Every reader has their own reading styles just as every writer has their own writing styles. You may enjoy this book. You may LOVE details after details. But I don't. I want to feel like I am there with the characters without being languished in vocabulary.

Fear not, I have already begin my next novel! From here on out my plan each week is to put up a review every Sunday/Monday, another Wednesday/Thursday, and then possibly a "Flashback Friday" featuring a review of a favorite book of mine. As  always, I hope you enjoy the review. Please share your feedback, thoughts, and recommendations!

Happy reading fools :)

Coming Soon: "Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"This Is Where I Leave You" - Jonathon Tropper

Hello my fellow bibliophiles!

This is the first, of what I hope will be many, book reviews to come. This week I recently finished "This Is Where I Leave You" by Jonathon Tropper. Now I need to mention up front that I saw the movie first, unknowingly at the time, that it was a book. Like any respectful book reader, I ALWAYS read the book before watching the movie/TV adaptation. I know, I know. The movies are never as good as the books so why do I waste my time? Because I like movies and I'm a sucker for cinema! But fear not, don't go running yet. This is a book blog and I vow to review only the books!

To start off, I rated this book a 3.5 out of 5 on Goodreads (feel free to look me up on there!). It was witty and comical, sad and heart warming, and can easily be related to anyone with siblings. The story is about a family of four children, all who have went their own ways, brought back to their childhood home to sit Shiva for their father who has passed away. The story focuses mainly from one sibling's point of view but also winds through the different points he and his siblings are all at in their lives. Old disputes, family history, and sibling rivalries intertwined with the emotions of losing a beloved parent added up to a great story. While I have not had to deal with the loss of a parent, I felt I could easily relate to the story itself and feel what the characters were going through. And while the book can be vulgar and crude at times, it's honest and it's real. The comic wit between siblings adds a lighter note to the deeper issue of death that I felt really added a strong dimension to the book. It was an overall light, easy read that I had difficulty putting down. I would recommend this book to all my fellow readers!

As we grow and learn together, please feel free to comment and provide me feedback on my posts! Let me know your thoughts on the books too if you have read them or if they are on your "to-be-read" list. I love hearing other viewpoints! I know this blog is going to start off a little shaky, and I will probably not be posting as often as I would like, but I hope to have a new post up 2-3 times a week so please continue to check back or subscribe to my post for updates! Bare with me as I become more expressive and detailed with my reviews; it may take some time..... Happy reading fools :)

Side note: Since I mentioned earlier that I watched the movie before reading the book, I thought I would add a few comments about it. Cast for the characters was chosen very well. The movie followed along almost to a T as the book, which as many of you know doesn't happen as often as we would all like! I recommend it!