Tuesday, 31 October 2017

La Belle Sauvage



Book 57 is La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman.

Having never read The Golden Compass, I picked up this book because everyone was excited about it. Yes, yes, I didn't ask why they were excited.

This is obviously a very well established and thought through world and that came across in this famous prequel. I didn't feel I was missing anything except maybe nostalgia in picking this up first.

On of my next series will have to be His Dark Materials, for sure.

5 spirit animals out of 5.

Should I read this? This would suit most ages and fiction appetites, so yes.
What did I learn? I need to read the children's classics that I missed.

Caraval



Book 56 is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

I love love loved this book.

Initially put off reading this by the idea of the girls being trapped on an island was wrong. That is a small part of this phantasmagorical story.

When I thought I'd never find another book like Night Circus, I was sad. This is that book and it is a series! Although it isn't released yet, I'm excited to continue in this world.

There is too much to explain and most would give away the mystery.

It is magical. It is mysterious. It is a game. Or is it?

5 twists and turns out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. No matter who you are, yes.
What did I learn? I love magic, beit real or not.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Turtles All The Way Down




Book 55 is Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.

It is rare for me to like a John Green so I can't for the life of me work out why I picked this up.

To clear things up quickly, I didn't like it.

It's the typical pattern or quotes from other people, teenage angst-love-heartbreak and Green summing up the whole point of the story in the last two chapters.

I'd wonder like to ask if he writes the end of his books first and then fills in the justification for them because it all feels too rushed and doesn't always fit.

Even the title of the book is hollow in its use in the story.

These books are for teenagers and having not been one for many years, I can happily say that this book may appeal to other when it did not to me.

2 predictable twists with dead parents out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are under 20 years old, maybe.
What did I learn? I'm over 20 years old.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life



Book 54 is A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.

I go through self-help book phases during the year and the one problem that brings is that you can read something amazing next to something less amazing and falls short.

So, I must ask: Does it fall short because something else read so recently was better?

Not in this case. A lot of this is fairly obvious stuff that you'd see posted on facebook as an image with a background of the Grand Canyon. I see why it would be good for a speech given to youngens starting out in their lives and careers but all I got was validation.

Maybe validation is enough. You're doing it right. Keep doing that good thing.

For me, I'm not reading self-help books to fix anything but more to constantly improve as a human being. To be a better person to myself and to others. This book did not give me more tools and I am sure that is why I didn't rate it. Others may love it.

2 warm hearted quotes out of 5.

Should I read this? No. I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone at all.
What did I learn? There are too many self-help books sprouting nothing helpful. It's as though validating someone's life is enough. That's not helpful to me

Friday, 20 October 2017

Scythe



Book 53 is Scythe which is the 1st book of the Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

Discovered this on GoodReads from a friend who had listened to the audio book. And boy, am I glad that I read it. This is some of the best sci-fi I've read in a looooong time. The series is my new goal.

This reminded me of the Torchwood mini-series where people stop dying. Death is important. There is a sequence to things. There is a pile-on effect to not culling the population. We see it in crocodiles in Australia and insects that thrive and get out of control.

So what happens when your job is to cull humanity?

What a great concept! This was well executed.

5 lives out of 5.

Should I read this? No matter what you enjoy reading, this is good stuff. Yes, read it.
What did I learn? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley



Book 52 is the 4th book of the Agatha Raisin series - Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton.

This is my favourite in-the-middle series at the moment. It satisfies my Agatha Christie cravings in a very modern way.

The last book was lacking and that made me worry about persisting in this saga but this reaffirmed my enjoyment of this genre and author.

I can't tell you anything or I will spoil it. Read it but do read all the bits before.

4 fields of canola out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it's fun.
What did I learn? Some people have far too much spare time.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette



Book 51 is Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Being set in Seattle, this book has been on my list and towards the top since I first heard of it. That was years ago now but I finally made it. It was such a good read that I regret not reading it sooner. The truth is, it may mean more now that I live in Seattle. All the references felt overdone but still so like home.

I understand the plight of Bernadette. I was once her. I would never want to be her again. At least not the pre-where-are-you-? time.

This book meant so much to me on so many different levels. I'm not sure it would to everyone but it did to me.

The writing is good. The reasons are good. The mystery is good. The daughter is amazing. The Microsoft bashing combined with the intersection rants are legendary.

5 way intersections out of 5.

Should I read this? If you have ever wanted to run away from you life then yes.
What did I learn? Some birds are not meant to be caged. Conformity is pain.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone



Book 50 is Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown.

To start, I adore Brene Brown, which makes it sad that I felt so judged by this book. The thing is that being judged always makes me stand back and ask myself why.

I think she touches or sore points and things that once I feel less defensive, I can improve on.

This is one of those times.

I've never fitted in, at least not in a conventional way. That was something that I adjusted too a loooon time ago. Maybe when I realised at 12 years old that I'd never be cool so why bother trying?

I have been contented since then :)

This is the kind of book that I must digest and then take from it what works for me. As always, she has me thinking.

4 screams in an empty room of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe if you are looking for some kind of peace, some kind of silence.
What did I learn? I'm a pretty healthy human in a lot of ways and that has been a long journey. I have less of a way to travel but still a journey awaits me. See you on the road or somewhere in the wilderness.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It



Book 49 is Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant.

I wanted to love his book like I love myself but it felt like a sales pitch.

Kamal did sound sincere and vulnerable but he also sounded like he was selling an inflatable version of self confidence. Not the fake self confidence but truly believing in yourself.

As a disciple of cognitive behavioural therapy, I know you can reset your pathways and think differently. He didn't even touch the science around that. It was more of a "I got dumped and now someone loves me" chant. I wanted to hear that he was OK alone, not that he was OK in a relationship.

Disappointed at every turn, all I can agree with is something I've always told people myself: Give yourself oxygen before you help others.

There are many better books on this subject. Don't waste a couple of hours on this.

2 sales pitches of 5.

Should I read this? Sadly, no. Grab Brene Brown or Trevor Noah. There are many better ways to the same destination.

What did I learn? No one else can complete you. Being able to fall in love and be loved back does not define you. Standing alone is done alone and then others may join. He failed to express this.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America



Book 48 is The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson.

I've seen this book on best seller lists, in bookstores and did want to read it but it took my upcoming trip to Chicago to push me into reading it now and quickly.

This is a thick book so I wasn't confident in finishing it within the week I had before leaving for for my long weekend in that city.

I'm glad I started it. I'm glad I had no idea that it was non-fiction until about halfway through when I googled it and found out it was based in truth... actual truth.

As I head to that city hoping I shan't meet a serial killer, I'm excited to see the city that hosted the 1893 World's Fair. The city with soggy ground, enclaves, a huge mix of different people, high standards in food and a history.

Mostly, that history.

5 dead wives of 5.

Should I read this? One of the best books I have read in a while and absolutely the best historical non-fiction I've read in a decade.
What did I learn? No Air BNBs.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Armada


Book 47 is Armada by Ernest Cline.

This is not a sequel or an equal Ready Player One but it is an enjoyable read.

The first half of this book had me thinking that this is what sedate geek boys who spend hours playing online games wish would happen and it made me laugh. Once I got past that, I enjoyed how it unfolded.

Yes, it was predictable in ways but there were enough parts I did not guess that made it enjoyable.

There are far too many sci-fi books written so they can easily be adopted by Hollywood. Cline is the father of this sad genre.

Despite that, it is an entertaining read.

3 drones on and on out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you are waiting for Ready Player One and can't hold out long enough.
What did I learn? I don't dream of Bejewelled invasions.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Girl Walks Out of a Bar



Book 46 is Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa F. Smith.

This book is the kind of autobiography that makes you sad, angry and shocked.

Sad because she was set up to fail from childhood and through genetics.
Angry because no one else saw it and people actually encouraged it.
Shocked because you'd think someone would die before getting this far.

Maybe addicts are just people who haven't managed to kill themselves yet because their bodies have a high tolerance for abuse. That makes me sad.

4 bottles of wine out of 5.

Should I read this? If you enjoy rubbernecking then yes. I do so it was finished within the same day I started it.
What did I learn? There are high functioning addicts out there and you may never guess it. Disturbing and sad.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener




Book 45 of 2017 is Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener which is book 3 of the Agatha Raisin Mysteries by M.C. Beaton.

Book 3 in the series continues in the same sleepy village with the same neighbours and dramas that Agatha has become part of.

This mystery wasn't too hard to solve but the character growth is fun to read.

So as not to ruin this or any prior books in the series, I won't say too much more.

4 murdered gardens out of 5.

Should I read this? Again, if you like a Ms Marple style murder mystery.
What did I learn? A nice series that breaks up some of the more serious things I read, is a good idea.

What Happened



Book 44 of 2017 is What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It is rare that I read a book right after it is released but having stood in the middle of the storm that was the 2016 US elections as an outsider watching it unfold, I wanted to look behind the curtain.

There are two sides if not twenty to what happened in November 2016 but this was the one I wanted to understand. How did someone so qualified for the job lose to someone who wasn't? It made no sense to me.

On reading this, I have had some major realisations.

I respect Hillary Rodham Clinton for the strong woman she is and the inroads she has made for women all around the world.

Her politics are still too conservative for me but I put that down to her generation and age. She was born in a different time and a more conservative world than most people in America today. I have no doubt that was one reason people could not connect with her.

And lastly, women are losing well before they even start. To be the first at anything or the only woman in the race is harder than anyone can imagine. You are not judged equally because there are no women to compare you to. So instead, you are judged as not being a man. She articulates this much better than me.

The reason I recommend people read this book is because she gives hope where others use fear. She tries to stand back and work out what she owns in this journey but does not take all the blame. She gets angry and punches out and although it's not ladylike, it's awesome to see. Why must women bow out quietly when they weren't treated fairly in the situation.

You should read it.

4 insights out of 5.

Should I read this? If you lived through the election that Trump won and see it as the election that Hillary lost then yes, yes you should read this.
What did I learn? So much American political history from both sides of the fight.