Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blackmoore, Julianne Donaldson

Ok, the only way this one will fit into the 2016 Reading Challenge is a "Book from the library". Overdrive to be specific for my kindle :-) I tried to convince myself that it had a blue cover, but it's just not really blue...more sea green.

Anyhow, this was a fun read. Like Edenbrooke, it is a faster paced Victorian era (aka Jane Austin period) piece. Based on a real location, the descriptions are beautiful. I give it 4 stars because I feel the outcome, while hopelessly romantic (and I knew the outcome would be that way), was highly improbable of the time period. At least, to the miniscule knowledge I have of the time period. And it was quite predictable. Although there were some twists and turns that I couldn't have foreseen, the outcome was exactly as I knew it would be from the very first chapters.

But I do like the idea of women being strong and independent and balking at the traditions that were expected of them. The contrast of the women who rose to their station in a way that seemed eloquent and noble (almost theatrically so), embraced their role in society and actively pursued a match that was more in the interest of their station than their heart (even if that meant marrying a man who was as old-or older-than their own father), to the few women who were genuine and wanted nothing to do with the fakeness of high society. I don't want to seem pious, but I have always felt a little on the outskirts of "society" because I find it exhausting and pointless to play the games necessary to be in the "right" social graces of the "right" people. So I don't even want to think about trying. I was a little like Kate in this book, I truly wanted to be educated so I could have educated conversations about things-deep and meaningful conversations-but I later found out that a vast majority of people are not looking for this type of conversation at parties....but I get so disinterested in small talk. Oh well. Anyhow, I definitely identified with Kate, but I also wonder if that makes her too modern for the time period she was written into. I do however, admire her for making the decision that she felt severed her ties for a "happily ever after". Even though it is apparent to the reader that there will be a happy ending, Kate, in the moment does not, and chooses her fate based upon what is right, not what she wants. Which is admirable in any era. Much the same way I admired the character of America Singer in the Selection series.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Number the Stars, Lois Lowry

I know I said on Goodreads I started reading this book a long time ago, but in all honesty, I only read the introduction by the author when my daughter finished Sword of the Summer and that one was due back at the library first so I quickly switched. So I updated that in Goodreads too, started today, finished today.

This book fits into the 2016 Challenge as: read a book you can finish in a day

I'm not sure if I'll read any others in a single day! I LOVED this perspective and historically accurate depiction of how the Danish reacted to the Nazi occupation. Though the characters are fictitious, nearly all of the occurrences are accurate to history. I know that some feel that WWII is overdone and I'll be the first to admit I know a lot more about WWII than I do about WWI, but I also know that part of that is because of have Jewish ancestry. But I like how in this story, it is from the perspective of a 10 year old girl. My older daughter is almost 11 now. She has been reading all about Malala Yousafzai. She got a book about her from a book order and then in the next book order, she got the Youth Edition of her autobiography. I have been steering her towards literature that teaches about bravery and doing the right thing, and how even in the face of danger, doing what's right is ALWAYS the best choice.

In the afterward, Lois Lowry includes this quote from a boy who was part of the Resistence to help the nearly 7,000 Jewish population of Denmark be smuggled across the sea to Sweden. This quote is from a letter he wrote to his family the night before he was executed after being caught. "...and I want you all to remember-that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create and ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with the pleasure feel he is a part of-something he can work and fight for. Surely that gift-the gift of a world of human decency-is the one that all countries hunger for still. I hope that this story of Denmark, and its people, will remind us all that such a world is possible."

5 stars from me

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

I was looking for an audio book on Overdrive and found The Hobbit. Believe it or not, I've never read it. I had a friend in high school who LOVE the Hobbit. He even could write using its language or something like that, and asked me to learn it so we pass letters to each other in it. I tried, but honestly, Morse Code made more sense to me!

I LOVED this audio production! There were several different narrators for different voices and even music in the background during several spots!

The Hobbit is a true fun adventure story. I kept wondering if there was a "point" or why Gandalf had chosen Bilbo when he didn't even want an adventure to begin with.....but maybe it's just the adventures and enjoying the cunning ability of his mind as he helped to outsmart so many. As with nearly everyone else who has read the Hobbit, I really wonder why the movie has to be a trilogy when it's so short, but it's obviously for money sake and not the sake of the story.

I say 4.5 stars, but I'll round up for the audio production being so well done.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Stars Above, Marissa Meyer

This was a great collection of novella's dealing with the Lunar Chronicles.
It fits under the category in the 2016 Reading Challenge as a book published in 2016

I'd give it a solid 4.5 (I think I'll round up for goodreads)

I loved reading the back stories of everyone, especially Michelle Benoit. I always wished I had known more about her. I also appreciated learning more about Cinder's early years in New Beijing, however, I was VERY disappointed in the character of Garan. I had such high expectations of him and the reality (fictional reality...) did not live up to those expectations even in the slightest.

The only story I was confused by was The Little Andriod. It really had absolutely nothing to do with Cinder or her friends. Come to find out on further research, it was a story based on one of the Little Mermaid tales, which makes it make so much more sense, but still, it seemed a little awkward in this collection because it didn't really fit. But then, it wouldn't have really fit ANYWHERE, so then again, why NOT just throw it in the mix?

I still have some unanswered questions about Lunar's and their ability to have a democratic type society. If they can be manipulative still, who's to say they wouldn't be swayed to vote in a particular way? Do they have safeguards in place so that voting can be private enough not to be manipulated? Are speeches all required to be aired over a broadcast where glamours cannot have an effect? I know, I'm probably weird in this and the target audience of teenagers probably would NOT be thinking this way or worrying about those things. *sigh* 

All in all, a fast, fun, clean, delightful collection of more stories about our favorite characters, and who doesn't like that?

The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty

I listened to this as an audio book. I'm not sure I can fit it into any category for the 2016 challenge, but this is the same author as "What Alice Forgot" and I'd heard good things about this one too.

I didn't like this one as much. Too much preoccupation with sex. And quite a bit more swearing than I am happy with. I think when I read the book with my eyes, I can skim over more of that stuff, but when you're listening to it, it's just there-and with expression too!

Aside from that, though, there were many things that make you think, which is what I liked about What Alice Forgot, but this one wasn't quite as compelling. There were 3 different narrators going on and their lives sort of intertwined and sort of didn't. It was slightly predictable in some ways but not in other ways. One question that was raised was, if you do something horribly wrong, but then live the rest of your life as close to being a Saint as you can, does that absolve you of your wrong doing? Are all your good deeds done afterwards invalid because you once did something bad? How do you weigh your good decisions against your bad ones? Can you choose your own penance if you "get away with it"? Or will Karma come to get you in the end? And if you stumble upon someone else's secret, what is your role in keeping it or encouraging the person to confess? What if confession means dissolving everything you know in your life and ruining everything-and you don't feel you deserve that because you didn't know about the secret until you were way too far along with the rest of life? Can people be forgiven? Can people change? What is the price of that? Is harboring ill feelings a benefit in any way? Does it ever end well when you sit and stew on a wrong someone has done you?

She also deals with the concept of love and how we love people based on the knowledge we have of them and how new knowledge, even unpleasant knowledge sometimes doesn't change the fact that we still love them. And the difference between new, exciting love and married for over 10 years love. She explores why we feel this comfortable love is boring and lacking, but how you can change your perception and it becomes something that is different, but not lacking. That just because you've lost that newlywed spark of excitement doesn't mean that you've fallen out of love. And how easy it is to fall in love with someone-but it's the STAYING in love that takes a conscious effort.

Then the epilogue. I don't know if it makes things better or worse! She points out, rightfully so, that we don't know all the parts of the story. We don't know the what if's of life. There are many things, that had we had full disclosure earlier in life, would have completely changed the course of our lives and the way we look at things. I think that is an interesting concept to ponder on its own, but presented as an epilogue with information that only the reader gets, but the characters don't (for the most part), seems rather unfair to those poor fictional characters who have been tormented by their fictional lives.

As for the performance of the narrator, she was absolutely WONDERFUL. Beautiful light Australian accent (I feel I could have picked up a little authenticity for my own future impressions), and she did a delightfully convincing job with the little girl, Esther's, speech impediment.

I think I give this one a solid 3.