Tuesday, July 14, 2015

June Book Reviews

Rating System
5- Loved it! All the feels and flails. New favorite
4- Really liked it
3- Decent
2- Would not recommend. Ehh
1- Did not like.  Didn't finish. Gave book away.

Junky by William S Burroughs
Rating: 3/5
"In his debut novel, Junky, Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others."

Even though this book is set in the 50's, it's not hard to see the similarities between then and now. Heroin addiction is still a problem and verging on becoming an epidemic in a lot of areas of the country.  You may have seen the Rolling Stones cover? Several people I've known and went to school with have overdosed in the last couple years and it is just so incredibly sad. As someone who has witnessed various addictions but never personally suffered from one, it is hard to understand that frame of mind.  This book was a glimpse into that world.

How It Ends by Laura Weiss
Rating: 4.5/5
"Seventeen-year-old Hanna has been in love with Seth for as long as she can remember, but now that she and Seth are in an actual relationship, love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seth is controlling and all they seem to do anymore is fight. If that’s what love is, Hanna doesn’t want any part of it. Besides, she has something else on her mind: graduation. But she’s been ignoring the school’s community service requirement, and now she needs to rack up some hours in a hurry.
Hanna volunteers as a caretaker for her neighbor Mrs. Schoenmaker—an elderly woman with advanced Parkinson’s whose husband can’t always be there to watch over her. While caring for Mrs. S., Hanna becomes mesmerized by an audiobook that the older woman is listening to, a love story of passion, sacrifice, and complete devotion. She’s fascinated by the idea that love like that really exists, and slowly, the story begins to change her."

This book. Sigh. I read this in a day because the story just sucked me in. The ending was beautifully tragic. Mrs. Schoenmaker's story was sad and dark at times but also hopeful.  That even in the darkest of times, there is light. The book made you think about your opinions on assisted suicide and cast light on the topic of the forced sterilizations of the 1930's. Loved, loved.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult 
Rating: 4/5
"For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts."

I didn't have any expectations going into this book because the last couple Picoult books have not been winners for me but man, has she redeemed herself.  I was utterly engrossed with this book.  It helped that I'm a huge fan of elephants so the book pretty much had me at hello. I absolutely loved the elephant aspects of this story.  And we all know that Picoult doesn't write a book that hasn't been thoroughly researched. And that ending? The twist was unexpected and I never saw it coming.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo 
Rating: 5/5
"Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life--a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling."
You can read my fangirl review of this series here. Long story short, go read it now! 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler 
Rating: 3/5
"Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence."

In some ways, I identified with Rosemary, who is the narrator of this book.  She has felt like an outsider for much of her life, especially her childhood.  Kids have this sixth sense for anyone that's different.  She has a hard time making friends and was picked on for much of her school years. 
I liked the psychological parts of this book especially in relation to humans vs. chimps. I've always been interested in psychology and the way we work so parts of this book were very interesting to me. But unfortunately, this book didn't blow me away. I prefer if a book is going to be centered around a specific animal character, for you to get some sort of insight into that animal.  Fern was the focus of the book but Fern herself is such a small part.  I think I needed to hear more from her to be able to connect with the story.

Skin by Ted Dekker
Rating: 2/3
Literary Ladies Book  
"A freak storm has spawned three tornadoes that are bearing down on the town of Summerville.
Yet under the cover of the storm looms a much more ominous threat: A vindictive killer known as Red who's left a string of victims in his wake and is now bent on exacting his final revenge on the unsuspecting town."

Man, what a disappointment this book was.  This was my first Dekker book and I still have his Circle Series on my bookshelf to read.  After I finished this book, I read the reviews and there seemed to be some consensus that this was not one of his best books.  So I will give him another shot.
I thought the writing was atrocious and the characters were very one dimensional.  I did find the premise of the story interesting and thought provoking regarding mind alternation and alternate realities. And truthfully, these theories might not be based that far in fiction.  I just could not get past the bad writing and lack of character development to even semi enjoy the plot.

Scattershot: My Bipolar Family by David Lovelace
Rating: 3/5
Literary Ladies Book 
"Scattershot is David Lovelace's poignant, humorous, and vivid account of bipolar disorders effects on his family, and his gripping exploits as he spent his life running from and finally learning to embrace the madness imprinted on his genes. Four out of five people in David Lovelace's immediate family have experienced bipolar disorder including David himself. In 1986, his father, his brother, and David himself were all committed in quick succession. Only his sister has escaped the disease."

I thought this was a pretty decent account of someone living with and dealing with others having bipolar disorder. I liked that it wasn't overly preachy on the such and such changed my life and now I've learned and changed my ways line that a lot memoirs like to take. I will say that it was a little too religious centric for my liking.  The family was very religious and Lovelace's parent's disorder was around manifested in religious hallucinations. His father was a preacher/studied religion so even when he wasn't having a manic episode, there was a lot of religious talk.  For that reason alone, I disconnected from the book and couldn't rate it higher.

Me Since You by Laura Weiss
Rating: 3.5/5  
Literary Ladies Book
"Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived."

I think if I hadn't of read How It Ends earlier in June, I wouldn't have been so critical of this book. This book was good on it's own but it was no where near How It Ends. The choice the dad in this book made was really hard not to be angry with so that partly clouds my judgement.  I think it was a decent YA novel. 
Must Reads: The Grisha Trilogy, Leaving Time & How It Ends
Skip: Skin 

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  1. I've added The Grisha Trilogy to my to read list, it's not usually my genre but I'm always up for a good story in any genre.

  2. You got a lot read this month! Longer days in the summer are the best :)

  3. I've never heard of any of these except Me Since You and that's only because it is or is becoming a movie.

  4. I really loved the elephant aspect of Leaving Time too. I know it annoyed some people. I thought it was pretty beautiful.

  5. jodi picoult's books always depress me! they're well written but so dark at times.

  6. Junky sounds like a great book and I'm totally adding it to my list.

    Leaving Time, I enjoyed. The ending was a surprising twist, which was nice, and sort of made up for the constant preaching about the elephants.

  7. I really want to read "How It Ends"!! Even more so now after your blurb on it.

  8. I'm interested in How It Ends since I love a good tragic story.

  9. So many new books to add to the reading list! I'm not a big Picoult fan, maybe I need to give her another chance.

  10. Added How it ends to my list - leaving time has been on my list for ages, I keep hearing conflicting things, need to just get over it and read it lol. Adding the Grisha series to my list - I have heard lots and lots of good things.

  11. I was one of those who didn't like the elephant aspect of Leaving Time :/
    But I liked the story a lot!

  12. I added Junky. I've read several stories about drug addiction. Although, I personally have never been addicted to drugs, I think I relate to the flawed characters or individuals. I think our flaws and weaknesses sometimes form into self-destructive patterns...although the patterns may take different forms.

    Also added How it Ends...sounds interesting.

  13. How It Ends sounds good, adding it to my list!

  14. I am definitely going to check out How it Ends- looks so good!

  15. I know I commented about Me Since You before, but I still think I may check it out. I'll probably read it before checking out How It Ends, though, to avoid similar disappointment. YA isn't usually my thing, but lately I've seen a lot of recommendations for books in this genre that sound really awesome.

    Leaving Time has been on my "To Read" list for a while. Although I've only just recently read my first Jodi Picoult novel, I really appreciate that she puts a lot of effort into researching her subject matter.

  16. I loved Leaving Time and I'm adding How It Ends to my list - I hadn't heard of that one!

  17. I haven't read a Piccoult book in years, but Leaving Time sounds really, really good!