Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thank you Anne from My Head is Full of Books for tagging me to complete The Longest Book Tag! This tag was created by Ditsha @ Betwitchingly Paranoid.  I haven't read many super long books, but I like the idea of this so here goes....

The Rules:
1. Make a list of five of the longest books you’ve read.
2. Select two of the longest books on your TBR.
3. Discuss
4. Tag others

1. Five of the longest books that I've read. I'm probably forgetting some, but these are the ones I could remember.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. 936 pages. This one felt like a really long to read to me. 

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. 435 pages. Not all that long, but quite longish and boy was it good.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. 814 pages. A friend recommended this one to me and at first I wasn't sure sure, but I really enjoyed it by the end.

Molokai by Alan Brennert. 402 pages. Again, not super long, but it was definitely a good one.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. 896 pages. I could have listed most of the Harry Potter books, but I figured one would do. 

The longest books in my TBR pile aren't super long, but here they are....

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. 487 pages
And the Mountains Echoes by Khaled Hosseini. 402 pages

Tag You're It

Lori at Pure Imagination
Ti at Book Chatter
Maphead at Maphead's Book Blog
Deb at Readerbuzz

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: President's Day by Seth Margolis

Title: President's Day
Author: Seth Margolis
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult fiction (political thriller)
Pages: 417
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA and Kamalia (fake African nation)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In this twisting, ferocious novel of suspense, the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top. Each man has a locked closet of secrets. And one man holds every key.

Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk/high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and mad an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition--to select the next President of the United States--and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond.

It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is part of th epolitical process, where anyone's life is up for sale, and where one man--that bad penny of an enemy--could bring the whole kingdom toppling.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Seth

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Review: Another good TLC Tour read. Those ladies really know the type of book I enjoy, which is great.

I do enjoy political movies/TV shows/books so this one was a good read for me. And the timing of this novel couldn't have been more perfect--billionaires owning and controlling the US political scene? How timely. When the author started the book, Trump wasn't doing his thing, but now that it's published, it seems to fit the times well.

What's scary about this story is the lengths to which Julian Mellow was willing to go to get what he wanted: email hacking; hiring thugs; murder; blackmail; and political manipulation. There was even a coup in an African nation, for goodness sakes. All of that makes the book interesting, but I wasn't totally buying into Julian's reasons for doing it.

I really liked the character of Zach, he's the guy who is chasing down Julian throughout the book, trying to prove what Julian is doing, gathering evidence, etc. He seems to be the one "good" character in all of this, has good investigative journalist/detective skills, and I so badly wanted him to be successful and expose all the awfulness that was taking place.

If you like political intrigue with some murder and mayhem mixed in, Seth Margolis is an author you should check out.

Challenges for which this counts:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

Title: Max
Author: Sarah Cohen-Scali
Year Published: 2012

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 417
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): Germany

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Nazi Germany. "I should have been born yesterday, but that's not what I wanted. The date didn't suit me. So I've stayed put. Motionless. Rigid. Of course that means a lot of pain for my mother, but she's a brave woman, and she's putting up with the delay without complaint. I'm sure she approves of my tactic.

 My wish, the first of my future life, is to come into the world on April 20. Because that's the F├╝hrer's birthday. If I'm born on April 20, I will be blessed by the Germanic gods and seen as the firstborn of the master race. The Aryan race will henceforth rule the world."

In the Lebensborn program, carefully selected German women are recruited by the Nazis to give birth to new members of the Aryan race. Inside one of these women is Max, literally counting the minutes until he is born and can fulfill his destiny as the perfect Aryan specimen.

Max is taken away from his birth mother soon after he enters the world. Raised under the ideology and direction of the Nazi Party, he grows up without any family, without affection or tenderness, and quickly becomes the mascot of the program. That is, until he meets Lukas, a young Jewish boy whom he knows he is meant to despise. Instead, the friendship that blossoms changes Max's world forever.

Review: I started writing this review about half way through the book and I don't want to lose my initial thoughts. So, here are my original thoughts followed by what I thought by the end.

My friend Sherri recommended this one to me knowing how interested I am in World War II YA novels. I didn't realize that it was originally written in French until just before I began reading it, but the translation was done well and didn't detract. However, I had a difficult time with the voice of the narrator. Max begins as a baby in the womb, a day away from birth, and he talks as if he is all-knowing. He knows things adults maybe know and he hasn't even entered the world yet. This continues as he is an infant, toddler, and young boy. 

The concept and storyline are good, however, and show an aspect of Nazi Germany that I didn't know much about: lebensborn. I knew that mothers were revered and rewarded for producing Aryan children, but I didn't know about the baby-making factories (women whose sole purpose it was to give birth), the stealing of Polish children who looked Aryan, or the efforts that they went to in order to create the master race.

Once Max is in the children's school and is the "model" student whose job it is to help the Polish children become good German citizens, he meets a Jewish child and befriends him. This relationship helps Max slowly change. His voice becomes much more tempered and therefore, easier to read and enjoy. As the war winds down Max and Lukas (his friend) experience Berlin through bombing raids, the arrival of the Russians, and, eventually, connecting with the Americans. This second half of the book is so much better than the first in my opinion. 

I also liked the Author's Note at the end where she reveals the history to back up the story, some of her sources, and especially that she references the film Europa! Europa!, which has always been one of my favorites that I did think about while reading the second half of this novel. So, I recommend this one with the caveat that you will need to get beyond Max's voice for the first half.

Challenges for which this counts:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Salon: August 6, 2017

My life in books:
Reading over the past couple of weeks has been good even though I was on holiday and now am grading for a course I'm teaching.
Challenge updates:
  • Read Your Own Damn Books--My goal was to read 25 books from my TBR shelves this year. So far I've read 31, adding one in the past two weeks. I've been reading a bunch of books borrowed from the library so this challenge hasn't gone very far recently.
  • Travel the World in Books--The idea is to read books set in as many countries as possible. In the past two weeks I added no new countries.
  • Literary Escapes--Similar to the previous challenge, this one tracks the US states. In the past two weeks I added 2 new states: Missouri and Ohio.
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--complete
My life outside books:
Luckily I am 90% on vacation now (I can never seem to stop myself from checking work email). I've had a couple meetings in the last couple of weeks, but mostly I am living my non-work life. That will end in about a week.

Well, there is a new driver on the road; my daughter passed her driver's test and for those of you who have had your own children do that, it really does mean a whole new level of independence. It's so great not to have to drive her all over town when she wants to see friends! Of course, I worry when she is out driving, but she has a good head on her shoulders and so far (2 weeks in) she is not using the radio when she drives and she texts me when she arrives somewhere and when she is leaving. That was our deal for the first month. Clever me... after the first month she goes back to boarding school where she has no car :-)

We also spent a few hours volunteering at Direct Relief International, a fantastic organization that gets supplies and medicines to disaster areas in the US and around the world. We packed hygiene kits.

Thursday night my daughter and I decided to go to San Francisco for the weekend! We booked flights using our miles, got a hotel on Union Square and we were supposed to fly out on Friday morning. AT 11:00pm I got a text from United saying our flight was delayed by 4 hours. 4 hours really cuts into a 2-day trip. Last time I got a text like this, the flight was cancelled. I sat on hold with United from 11:30pm to 12:30am and got no response. In the morning the delay was even longer so we rebooked ourselves on an afternoon flight, which worked perfectly. As we started to board, we saw that our original flight was also just boarding, but the new flight took off first!

We love SF and did museums, window shopping, visited UC Berkeley (since she wants to apply for next year), and walked. It was really fun and spontaneous.


I found a series to watch: Criminial Minds. It's a little gruesome since it's about FBI agents tracking down serial killers, but for the most part, we don't have to see the actual killings, which makes it very watchable.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

Title: The Outliers
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 336
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (ME)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn't heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn't matter. Cassie's in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it's different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn't feel right, but Wylie has no choice: she has to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn't Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

Review: When my friend Sherri suggested this book as one of my summer reads, I didn't really pay attention to it; I just took it home as one of the YA books to read this summer. But when I picked it up and saw the author's name and previous book it sounded familiar--I've read Reconstructing Amelia and liked it. 

Unfortunately, I liked the first half of the book and not the second half. The first half is intriguing with Wylie and Jasper rushing to help their friend Cassie who is in trouble (again). There is a sense of urgency, teenage craziness, and hope that although Cassie is spiraling, perhaps Wylie and Jasper can put aside their mutual dislike and help her get her act together.

Then they find Cassie and the book falls apart. What is actually happening is complicated and not explained very well and I didn't care once I knew. How is that possible? I guess it felt like 2 books, kind of. And the ending is definitely a set up for a sequel. Which I won't read. Bummer, since I liked this author's first book.

Challenges for which this counts: