Thursday, February 04, 2016

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

Fiction

When Ava finds out she's HIV positive, and her hair styling business starts to dry up because those in Atlanta are scared of her, she decides she needs a change of scenery. Ava returns to small town Michigan, where her widowed sister still lives. Joyce is happy to have Ava back, and puts her to work helping with her woman's group, the Sewing Circus. Joyce is trying to educate the women of the small town on how they should be treated, safe sex, child care, and other essential life skills. Of course, not everyone in the town agrees with these teachings and try to throw a wrench in Joyce and Ava's plans.

This book is an Oprah book club book, which I haven't had much luck with recently. This one, thankfully, was different! It was very easy to connect with the characters. Joyce just wants to help the women in her town and is passionate about doing so. Her passion is infectious and makes me hope that there are many Joyces in the world. Ava is a little more reserved, because of her disease. She is insecure and on the brink of love, not knowing whether one trumps the other. Her emotions are so real and the conflict in her head is completely believable.

While some could take this away as a romance novel, I found the human struggle the more interesting story, and how we gain strength from those closest to us. Oprah got it right with this one!

First Line: "I'm sitting at the bar in the airport, minding my own business, trying to get psyched up for my flight, and I make the mistake of listening to one of those TV talk shows."

Rating:
(4/5)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline

Science Fiction

Zack Lightman is a video game geek. He's spent countless hours honing his craft and has become one of the top ten ranked players of Armada. Then, one day, he sees one of the enemy's fighter planes outside of his school's window. Zack decides he's losing it, just like his father did before he died.

What if it is real though? What if Zack hasn't just seen things? Zack goes home and finds his dad's old notebooks, explaining how he thinks that video games, books, and movies have been priming the world for an impending alien invasion. Is one about to start?

I picked this book up because I loved Ready Player One. Not surprisingly, this book suffers from similar problems that book suffered from. In Ready Player One, there was overuse of 80s references. In this book, it's overuse of video game and scifi movie references. I'm not a huge video game player, but one of the quotes I did recognize, from Duke Nukem, wasn't even correct.

Learning to ignore this, like I did in Ready Player One, I still found this book a bit underwhelming. The tension leading up to the end fell a bit flat and the final twist wasn't explored that well. I would have liked to see a few additional pages to better explain where Cline wanted to go with the ending.

Despite it's similarities to Ender's Game, I still enjoyed the book.

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, January 29, 2016

World Without End by Ken Follett

Historical Fiction

In this epic sequel of Pillars of the Earth, we're taken back to Kingsbridge. The church has been standing now for a while, John the builder is long gone, but similar problems with the town still exist. There's a guild who doesn't treat people fairly, the priory only cares about power, and the sprinkling of good people seems to be less than those out for themselves. We're introduced to Merthin, a talented builder that descends from John, Caris, a very independent young lady who wants to learn how to help heal people, Gwenda, who comes from a poor family and doesn't want to stay that way, and Ralph, Merthin's brother who is mean spirited and wants to become a knight.

This book is just as captivating as the first. You're pulled in to the lives of these characters and get to follow them through many years. Thankfully, there is a lot of happiness, although a lot of heartache required to get there. I'd like to say that everyone gets what they deserve, but they don't. Some characters got off rather easy, but that's what help makes this book real.

I enjoyed Merthin's descriptions of how to build a bridge and what to look for to ensure that water doesn't destroy the bridge again. It's amazing that people had this all figured out back in the 1300s.

As much as I enjoyed this book, and its predecessor Pillars of the Earth, I'm not sure I'd want to read another book in this format. Having one follow up book similar to Pillars of the Earth is great, two may be too much.

First Line: "Gwenda was eight years old, but she was not afraid of the dark."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Thriller

Rachel takes the train every day. Each day, the train stops at the same part and she can see in to the back yard of a couple whom she has given her own stories too. This house is only a couple homes down from her ex-husband, his new wife, and their baby. This is a farce though, Rachel hasn't been employed for weeks and has no where to go. Instead, she drinks until she blacks out. One of the nights she blacks out, the woman in the house that Rachel spies on goes missing. Rachel thinks she may have been involved but she can't remember.

This book had a lot of hype, as a top seller of 2015 and voted as a GoodReads Choice Winner. I'm a big fan of the thriller genre so I expected a lot from this book and unfortunately it just didn't live up to the hype for me. If I knew nothing about this book going in, I'd say it was an average thriller.

All of the characters in this book are horrible people. You can't root for any of them, even though I think the author wants you to feel sympathy for Rachel. There just really wasn't anything redeeming about her. Add this to the fact that the ending fell rather flat for me. I expected to be blown away and instead it was just a fizzle.

I bought this book as a Christmas present for some folks and now I feel kind of bad about it!

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Big Dig by Linda Barnes

Mystery

Carlotta Carlyle is an ex-cop, current private investigator. Needing some extra cash, she decides to help out a friend and is put undercover as a secretary for the big dig, a huge over budget in Boston to put roads underground. Carlotta is searching for fraud on the worksite, and ends up working in the same trailer as those running the entire project. She's also taken on a missing persons case, hired by her landlord. Carlyle has her hands full working on both these cases.

I do most of my reading on the train and find that a good measure of how interesting a book is is how often I find myself snoozing off on the train. If I'm very interested in the book, I'll rarely fall asleep. For this book, every time I was on the train reading it, I was falling asleep. Needless to say, I didn't find this book the most exciting.

My main problem with this book is how boring Carlotta was!! You'd think as an ex-cop she'd say and do interesting things but that's not the case at all. I couldn't even really get behind her as an older sister because that part of the story is never really flushed out.

Unfortunately, I couldn't finish this one.

First Line: "I used to work with Happy Eddie Conklin when I was a cop."

Rating:
(2/5)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Memoir

Daniel Tammet is a high functioning autistic savant. Similar to the main character from Rainmain, he can calculate huge sums in his head, tell you what day of the week you were born, and recite pi to 22,000 and something digits. Daniel wasn't diagnosed as autistic until late in life, which had him and his parents questioning some of his behaviour as a child. Daniel takes us through his life, how he sees words and numbers, how he functions in the world, and what has happened to him since people became aware of his condition and he was featured in a tv show.

Daniel himself says that he has trouble expressing his emotions and at times this comes across in the book. While describing his adult life, things are rather cold and it's hard to connect with what Daniel is saying. He goes on for pages and pages about language and how words are formed in different languages but it has absolutely nothing to do with him or his story. It's just him describing something, and is completely out of place in the book. These parts I found difficult to get through.

The most interesting part of the book was him describing his years as a child. He goes through all the troubles he had with social settings but also how much his parents loved and helped him.

Daniel seems like a pretty interesting guy. I found a TED talk of him and listened to most of it though it seemed like similar material from the book.

First Line: "I was born on January 31, 1979 - a Wednesday."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

Non-Fiction

From the blogger of 1000awesomethings.com, comes this book that talks, ad nauseam, of things that are AWESOME! This book can be fun when you digest it in small chunks. As gross as this is going to sound, it would actually make a good bathroom book. Do your business, read a few awesome things, and go on your merry way. This isn't the way I read it though, and about half way through just skipped the descriptions of items I wasn't that interested in.

Some of these items have way more description than necessary. For example, 'When there's leftover cake in the office kitchen' has a three page description! What is there to describe about cake being left in the kitchen. Grab a fork and chow down, that's all you need!

There were some awesome things that you smile and agree with. Popping bubble wrap, a long hug when you really need it, and snow days. I'm surprised that finding a parking spot at the front of the mall isn't one... especially during Christmas that's always a favourite of mine!

If you do pick up this book, take your time with it.

First Line: "So what's this all about?"

Rating:
(3/5)