Book Review: The Book Of Speculation By Erika Swyler

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I had never heard of this book until my sister grabbed it off the shelf at Target. She finished the book in less than a month, which with her busy schedule means she really liked it.

I was glad when she finished it and passed it along saying she wanted me to give it a go so we could discuss it. I dragged my feet for a day or two rereading some old favorites as I usually do when transitioning on to the next book on my TBR, but she kept nagging me, so I decided to dive right in (pardon the pun…if you’ve read this already, you’ll get the pun).

Right off I was surprised when I realized this wasn’t a YA book. The characters are closer to my age (I’m 35) and the subject matter isn’t childish either, what surprised me was that I had read it was about a circus and mermaids and old books. All the makings of something for Young Adults.

Let’s begin where it feels most fitting to begin…the beginning (sort of…)

On Long Island Sound, Simon Watson, a librarian receives a book in the mail. It’s old. It’s full of sketches and appears to be a diary/log of sorts that followed around a carnival type operation in around the 1700’s.  He is unsure why someone he doesn’t know would send him such an odd book, but he soon finds out.

His mother once worked the carnival circuit as a “mermaid” and had drowned herself on July 24th, which is only a week away. Turns out this may not have been an isolated suicide. There is a history in the book, Simons history, his families history and he won’t stop piecing it together till it all makes sense.

Simon begins to become overwhelmingly worried about his sister who left to join the circus some years earlier. Hoping she won’t find the same fate as the other unfortunate women in their family lineage. The old book brings to light secrets and curses. Love and symbolism. Family and betrayal. Birth and death.

The story is told in a dual narrative. Each chapter switches between Simon in 2013 and an array of characters working in a traveling act in the 1700’s. I enjoyed this so much. The story actually unfolds from two points of view and each one is as exciting as the other.

What stuck out most for me, was the character development. I came to love them all, but also to understand them without the author having to spell out every aspect of their lives. She was vague when she needed to be and specific without cramming backstory down my throat.

I seriously could not put this book down. I finished it just before bed and spent quite a few hours thinking about the world I had just left. To me, that’s the ultimate in good books. I wanted to know more, what happened next, yet I am confident that I know all I needed to know by the books end. I hope that makes sense….

Highly, highly recommend. When I posted a picture of this book on Instagram, I had quite a few people asking me what it was all about and I hope it got some of them interested to read it themselves. I hope this gets you interested if you haven’t read this already.

If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear what others thought of this as it has quickly become one of my favorite books.

 

Book Review: Ender’s Game By Orson Scott Card

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I haven’t read many sci-fi books, though I am a large fan of  all other things sci-fi. Not for any specific reason, just that I haven’t picked any up. Recently, I decided the time was now. Perhaps because I was having trouble with the book I was reading and wanted to step off in a completely different direction.

I found this book at the Goodwill a while back after hearing a bunch of BookTubers talking about it a year or so ago. Wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it or if I would ever even pick it up…but I have a book buying problem so…

Anywho, onto the review. As usual, I don’t want to spoil this, so I’m keeping that in mind when I talk about this. Lot’s of opinions and a little synopsis.

Ender’s game starts on an Earth quite a bit different from ours. Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins is a six-year-old boy when we first meet him and immediately, the reader can tell he’s not your typical kid. He has a monitor in his head for one, also, the way he thinks when we hear his thoughts (one of the most amazing things about books in my opinion) is far from what I was thinking as a six-year-old and I thinks I can safely say most people at that age.

It’s not long before we, the reader realizes that at some point aliens have attacked the Earth and almost wiped out humanity…and so the humans are pretty adamant on not letting these aliens win the next time they decided to attack. Also, that the government is breeding some little militarily geniuses to train for battle.

Ender is a genius. One above all the rest and so we follow this young boy as he is geared up by the government and military to either save the planet or fail on an epic scale.

The story isn’t as cut and dry as that or even as linear as the synopsis on the back of the book. That’s what I liked best about this story. There is so much that seems so wrong and unfair to this little boy and he is just a little boy, genius or not. Then there is so much that felt to me as sadly realistic to an adult life and made me turn to very cynical thoughts.

I felt so sad for Ender. All the way to the end. So sad at how everything went for him personally, for the state of humanity, for the decisions that nations have to make and then scared at how fragile governments can be and how the influence of media can have profound effects on the lives of people. What scared me the most out of this whole journey was the cunning of the truly evil.

Some of this may not make much sense unless you’ve already read the book. That’s ok. If you haven’t, I hope this sparked your interest in reading it.

I loved this book. All of it. The good, the bad and the hopeless. There was no character I could dislike because each was so nicely developed that it felt like I had known them forever by the end. That’s not to say I didn’t hate some of them for who they were. The writing was such that it carried me along and delivered me to the end, yet left me with plenty of room to do my own thinking.

I fully recommend this book and hope you will love it as much as I do.

Giving Up On Books? Bookish Musings

 

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Photo via the internet

 

This is a topic I don’t encounter often, but when I do…

Seems like the decision to continue or simply give up on a book, for me, is like choosing to live or die. Dramatic? Yes, but never the less, I hate coming across those to read or not to read situations.

First of all, I feel I owe it to every author to give their book a fair chance to the end and if I genuinely hated it, at least it was an informed decision. After all, I hope others give me a fair shake when reading my writing. Not that I have written anything of substance since Mrs. March’s Writing For College class back in ’98, but even this here blog.

But what to do when the book is so…not working for me that I keep finding excuses to do and read anything except said book?

That’s where I am currently. I started a Peter Straub book called Floating Dragon and if you follow my blog on Facebook or Instagram, you know my love/hate relationship with Straub. I find it difficult that someone who my beloved Stephen King chooses to write with wouldn’t appeal to me. He doesn’t always disappoint,  just sometimes there is so much backstory and…I digress.

Since starting this book a week or two ago I have read Animal Farm by George Orwell, reread Blockade Billy by Stephen King, found a new sci-fi love in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and also started to reread Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne. Do you see my desperate attempt to not pick up Floating Dragon? Thing is, the book isn’t even horrible. Just so…very…slow……………soooo…………sloooooooooow.

So the question still stands. Do I give up or stick it out? Maybe put the book away for a later date when perhaps I can give it a better chance?

To date, I have only ever stopped a book in the first two chapters and actually threw it in the trash one time (normally out of character for me). I don’t remember the name of that book, but it sucked the big one so badly I just couldn’t…

What do you do in this situation? Let me know.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children By Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children seems to be extremely popular these days. Some of that may be due to the fact that Tim Burton’s movie adaptation is hitting theaters soon. I found it on my sisters’ book shelf and she told me it would be a quick read for me, so I jumped right in.

Let’s talk about this story…

I will admit that I was expecting another Asylum when I saw the photo pages and that it was YA. I was wrong on that front.

Jacob, our main character, is ordinary. That is what we start out with. He is ordinary with a crazy grandfather and though quite privileged, seems to be headed nowhere fast in life. Not too much of his life is talked about besides his lack of social life and that he is headed for a boring career in his family owned chain of  drug stores. That’s all we really need to know to know how boring his existence is.

His grandfather, on the other hand, is anything but boring. He has colorful stories of growing up at a children’s home during World War 2. Not just any regular childrens home for refugee children who have become victims of war, but one full of all sorts of peculiar kids and situations.

Naturally, nobody believes the old man since the world likes to thrive on the mundane and Jacob stops believing due to not fitting in at school with other kids due to gramps quirkiness.

As is customary of young people, everyone assumes that Grampa Abe has totally gone berzerk as his older years pass and nobody believes the unbelievable stories he’s telling now. Not to mention they won’t give the supposedly crazy old bat the key to his gun safe.

Then we start to wonder if young Jacob is so ordinary after all…

Here is where I will stop with the details. I think everyone knows a bit more of this story than I have mentioned to this point, but I didn’t and I feel I had a better relationship with this story because of such. Sometimes it’s worth a lot to not read the back of the book.

So, on to my opinions and thoughts…

This book was fantastic. I didn’t want to put it down and when I absolutely had to, I was contemplating what may come next. The characters were so well thought out and the story having such an attachment to historical events really brought it to life for me. The subject matter was far from teenybopperish. At times I had to wonder how old I would want my own kids (though I don’t actually have any of my own) to be to approach some of the deeper matters contained within. Saying that, they were all realistic matters, no matter if they are in a fantastic situation.

Family, love, relationships, war, mortality, loss. All these topics covered in a book made for young adults and done in a way so that anybody can embrace the world and people in it is amazing to me. Had I read this when I was Jacobs age (sixteen), I could have read it again at twenty and then again at thirty and taken away more and something different with each reading.

Books that I want to keep around to reread again and again over time are some of the best books in the world in my opinion. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys great characters and a well thought out backstory that comes across as neither hokey or unbelievable. It simply feels unbelievably believable…if that makes sense. Probably not. Just go read it.

If you have read it, let me know what you liked or disliked about this.

Goodwill Book Haul: Birthday Edition

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This past weekend was mostly a stress filled, money sucking mess. Car problems. Who doesn’t cringe at the mention of those words? Needless to say, $1400 later, I needed something uplifting. Especially since September 3rd is my birthday (it’s my sisters, too! We’re twins). Broke on your birthday is zero fun.

If you follow me on Instagram (if you don’t, I post pictures of books) you already know  that  certain something uplifting came on Saturday when my sister asked if I wanted to ride along for a shopping trip with her and my niece. I knew it would be the regular groceries and Walmart, so nothing huge, but she suggested we stop at the Goodwill. My mind went to books and I got a little sad that I wouldn’t even be able to afford something for $1.00 but figured I could at least look around.

Sister surprised me though and told me to throw all the books I wanted into the basket my niece was dragging around behind her (it was too cute for words). At first, I only picked a few, then she made me get more! It was still under ten dollars, all said and done, yet to me, it was a perfect gift.

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The first book I chose was a Perry Mason. Me and my old books! It’s tiny and I love those books to just fly through in an afternoon. Plus, the smell of this little guy who came out in 1964 is divine…yes, I just paused after that sentence to pick it up and sniff it again!

Next, was Doctor Who. I couldn’t pass this up. I love Doctor Who too much, plus I have a friend who I know has a birthday coming up the week after mine sooo…spoilers (any Doctor Who fans, see what I did there? Wink, wink)!

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry was a thrill to find. I love westerns and I loved this movie and as we all know, the book is always better, enough said. It’s 945 pages. That should keep me busy.

My sissy found me two lovelies that I didn’t even notice. One is Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I watched the TV show on Netflix back when my niece was still but a wee babe (she’s now the devil in a 2 1/2-year-old toddler suit). The other she found me was The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. I love this book. I read all The Lord Of The Rings books pre-movies. I liked all the movies except for the last one and I grew up on the Hobbit cartoon movie. I just loved the name Bilbo Baggins, it cracked me up as a kid! I have read this before, but after the atrocious recent movie bastardization of this book, I need to  clean that cinematic poo off my brain.Thank you, sissy, for noticing these.

The last two I chose were Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have a thing with buying books that were part of the Oprah’s Book Club. I am never horribly let down by them. I know nothing of this book, so I should be good and surprised. The other is a Toni Morrison called Paradise (also an Oprah pick). I have never read any of Toni Morrisons books that I can recall, but I read the first line on the back of the book drew me in immediately.

The last few books my sister picked for herself but told me to put them in my haul as she knows I will steal and read them eventually anyway. The early 90’s Nancy Drew was a given since we both turn 35 this year. Why the hell not go back to our youth for a few pages?!

Next is Number The Stars by Lois Lowry, which both sis and I read in fifth grade, but didn’t fully understand the heaviness of the books subject matter at the time. World War 2 to my eleven-year-old brain seemed too unreal to be real. I know the cruelty of humanity these days, however, and look forward to revisiting this book as an adult.

Finally, Green River Running Red by Ann Rule. She is one of my sisters favorite authors and this particular book was the first true crime sissy ever read. So, this the book that started her love for true crime!

Special thanks to my sister and my niece (the carrier of the basket of dreams). This inexpensive birthday present was more than I could have asked for!

 

 

Book Review: Asylum By Madeleine Roux

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I asked my sister for a book of her choice after finishing The Fault In Our Stars and she gave me one she had finished and enjoyed. My sister is a working mom so getting reading time is hard to come by, so if she made it to the end of any book it’s worth a read.

She chose Asylum by Madelein Roux for me. The cover intrigued me quite a bit and I jumped right in.

The story centers around a boy named Dan who, though he is high school age, is attending a summer academic program at a college in New Hampshire, the dormitories of which were once a mental hospital. Many of the residents of the hospital were criminally insane.

Dan is somewhat of a nerd who is pretty socially inept.Still, he meets some people when he gets to the college. There is his roommate Felix , who Dan seems to think of as a boring, pretentious scholarly type. He also meets a girl named Abbey and a boy named Jordan. Good for Dan.

There’s a room in the dorms that the students are discouraged from entering, but when Dan hears about this room from his roommate, in the first conversation they ever have, he must go.

I won’t give anything away and though this was not a terrible read for me, it felt a bit predictable. There were times when I wanted to walk into the pages and bitch slap the three friends as they would argue and offend each other in EVERY dialogue scene they share. I wanted to say, “Either shit or get off the I-wanna-be-your-friend pot”. Dan’s jealousy and need to get with Abbey at times feels a bit Bella/Edward in the way that he will make things worse at the chance to get her attention and affection. His relationship with Jordan is even more cringeworthy. They are called best friends, but they seem to, underneath the facade of best friends seems to be zero actual love for each other.

The story itself is your basic let’s go on a terrifying treasure hunt in an old insane asylum type thing. It neither wowed me or bored me.

As for the authors writing style, I had one major gripe. Whenever Dan is mentioned, he is rarely referred to as he or him…even if he is the only character in the scene. The number of times I read the name Dan on one page made me want to scream at times.

I do know that I may have missed some points in the fact that I’m pretty removed from my youth and perhaps I’m a bit judgemental towards the younger generation putting ‘getting him/her to like me’ mentality before all else. I do remember sacrificing a lot in my teens to get a crushes attention…maybe not creep around a hospital for the criminally insane…then again, I wasn’t presented with said insane asylum.

I’m interested in what others thought of this. My sis loved it and we have been known to have differing opinions on books before. Let me know your thoughts.