Monday, September 30, 2013

Escape From Eden by Elisa Nader

Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. I found it to be very unpleasant subject matter. There is a teen romance, but there is also lots of darkness, ugliness and violence. The kind of ugly things that happen in this book are very close to the kind of awful things that really do happen in the world and I just find it too horrid to lighten it up with a teen romance and try to make it a nice story.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
This book is the poetically translated words of a 13 year old autistic boy telling people how it feels to him to be autistic. It is enlightening and sad. He explains how he feels trapped in his body and how he feels pain which causes his odd movements at times and that he gets caught doing things repetitively and cannot stop. His main message is that he is not doing things that are "wrong" or different on purpose, he wants to be like everyone else but he can't and that people should be patient with people who have autism. He is frustrated by his inability to control his actions and hates disappointing and upsetting other people. The illustrations are lovely and the stories that he tells are touching.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beyond Grace's Rainbow by Carmel Harrington

Beyond Grace's Rainbow by Carmel Harrington

Such a beautiful story. Just wow. Grace, a single mother of a 3 year old boy lives in Ireland. She has a wonderful group of friends whose lives are all intertwined together. When she finds out she has cancer, she realizes that they are not only her friends and support system, they are her family. This is a touching story of love, hope, joy and sorrow. Just beautiful.

Confessions of a Bad Teacher by John Owens

Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. I chose it because I am a teacher and it sounded interesting. I agree that if most people spent a day in public school, they might be shocked. However, I was not too impressed with this book. The author spends a lot of time complaining about the principal he worked for. He really hated her and he quit teaching before he had even completed one school year. I wonder if he really wanted to be a teacher or if he just tried it for a year so he could write a book about it. Many of the things that he complains about are valid complaints and I agree that there are many things about our educational system that are broken. Other things that he complains about though are normal teaching skills. When students run in the hall, we should yell "walk" or "please walk" rather than "don't run" because, according to studies, when kids hear the word "run" and keep on running and when they hear the word "walk", they may just begin walking. I don't think that it is a difficult thing to ask teachers to phrase things positively rather than negatively. It sounds like the school district that John taught in could use a lot of improvement. I understand that. I taught middle school for 13 years, then volunteered in my children's schools some and have been substitute teaching for 4 years. I have been involved in 5 different school districts in all income levels from the inner city school where I taught my first three years to the nice suburban district where I now substitute teach.
I think that people who are not teachers may enjoy John's book and may indeed be shocked by some of the things he shares. I just think that John was a first year teacher in a difficult school and he was unable to manage teaching, student discipline and keeping to the standards that his principal set. That can be difficult to do in any teaching situation and it does sound like John's situation was especially difficult. John could not take it and he quit teaching. I did not find this book interesting enough to finish and I quit reading it. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Infinityglass (Hourglass, #3) by Myra McEntire

Infinityglass by Myra McEntire
This third book in the series brings in a third romance. Hallie, who has regenerative and shape-shifting properties, and Dune, who can control water. Mystery, intrigue, time rips and romance abound in this final book in the Hourglass trilogy. Although some trilogies loose steam and end disappointingly, this one does not. I enjoyed this last book and I think that people who enjoyed the first two books in the series will like this last one as well.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
This is a touching coming of age story about Ezra, once a tennis star and popular guy at his high school, only to have that dream squashed in a car wreck that left him unable to play sports any more. As he begins his senior year of high school, he can't be who he was, and so, he begins to learn who he really is. Cassidy, a beautiful girl who is new to his school that year, befriends him and he learns about the world of the debate team and that it is ok to be smart and with her help, he begins to re-define himself. But things are not ever that simple. I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why We Eat Our Own by Michael Cheshire

Why We Eat Our Own by Michael Cheshire
I really enjoyed about the first 70% of this book. It is humorous and fairly well-written, although it does have some editing errors. The author talks about Christians who quit going to church because they have been treated harshly by other Christians and because they don't see the church as being relevant to their lives. He says that most people who quit attending church for those reasons say they would go back if the church was active in community service, not pushy about attendance, and if the people would be nice.
At various parts in the book, the author rants about how church members mistreat the clergy and expect too much from them for too little and are too judgmental about their pastors' personal lives and that all the pressure leads pastors to quit. I see that as evidence that the clergy-laity system itself is built upon a flawed premise. To be fair, the author does say that all Christians should do the things that they expect their clergy to do, but he does not go so far as to advocate abandoning the clergy-laity system.
Mr. Cheshire (when I see his name I imagine him grinning like the cat in "Alice In Wonderland") also comes across as a bit arrogant as he tells how he has forgiven and befriended Ted Haggard and how he runs several businesses through his church so that he does not have to cater to rich church members who give big contributions, but rather can run his church however he pleases.
I found the book to be thought-provoking and entertaining and I do recommend it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser with Bridget Cook

The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser
Ever since the raid on the YFZ ranch in Eldorado, Tx brought the FLDS into the spotlight, I have been interested in and reading books about this group. This book, "The Witness Wore Red" tells Rebecca Musser's story. She was raised in the FLDS and at age 18 was married to Rulon Jeffs, their Prophet, who at the time was 85 years old. After Rulon's death, when his son Warren Jeffs told Becky that he would marry her either to himself or someone else and that he would "break" her, she fled from the group. She tells about her life inside and outside of the FLDS. Her sister Elissa, who was forced to marry at age 14 was part of the first lawsuit against Warren Jeffs and Becky was a key witness in that trial. When the YFZ ranch was raided, she was called in as a liason to help the police understand how to speak to and work with the people there, most of whom were her relatives. She acted as a witness in many trials against various men in the FLDS, testifying over 20 times. She learned and revealed how the FLDS was an organized crime ring hiding behind the name of religion, taking money and property from people, abusing women and children. This book is well written and shows yet another view of the FLDS debacle.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The 228 Legacy by Jennifer J. Chow

The 228 Legacy
This book covers many issues. The little publicized 228 Massacre in Taiwan, the sandwich generation, sexual predators, cancer, and familial relationships. I had a difficult time getting into the book and almost gave up, but I looked at reviews on it and they were good, so I gave it a try. If one wants to read about these issues, then it is a good book for that. I did not find it to be spectacular literature though - just a book written to include those issues. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Amity & Sorrow: A Novel
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. Amyranth has taken her two teenage daughters and left the home where they had been living with her Husband, who thinks he is God and is preparing them for the ever imminent apocalypse, and his other 49 wives and children. She crashes her car and she and her daughters wind up at an old gas station where they stay with the man who owns it. Her younger daughter, Amity, enjoys learning about the outside world. The older daughter, Sorrow, however, wants to go home. The story tells about their past and their struggles to go on in life outside of the cult.
I rate this book two stars out of 5.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston

Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. I almost gave up on it because it is not well written. It has lots of conversations in quotation marks switching from one person to another without anything in between and it is difficult to follow the conversations and tell who is talking. I skimmed quite a bit and got more into the story and it is a good story. Rachel is 13 years old and her brother has returned from serving in WWII with PTSD and another illness as well that is diagnosed later in the book. I enjoyed his undelievered letters to Rachel about the war. Rachel has an imaginary bordering on real - ick - romance with a teacher and trouble with her parents. It is an interesting post WWII coming of age story.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Isra lives in darkness, a princess kept in a tower in a domed city on a magical planet populated by two races - the humans, who live in domed cities and the monstrous - humans with claws and scales who live outside of the domes in the desert. As a princess, Isra has always known that it is her destiny to sacrifice herself for her people. Blinded, she believes that she is ugly and disfigured. When Gem, a monstrous one, is caught within the city, Isra befriends him and while each is trying to use the other, they learn about one another, their races, and their world. Eventually, the truth that has been hidden is revealed and Isra learns that she can indeed save not only her city, but her planet.
This is a captivating tale - a mix of sci-fi and fantasy and folklore.

Freak of Nature (IFICS, #1) by Julia Crane

Freak of Nature by Julia Crane
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. The concept sounds interesting - Kaitlyn, who donated her body to science and died in a tragic accident, was made into a cyborg - part human, part machine, and treated like a robot. They thought she had no emotions left, but they were wrong. Although her memories had been taken, she still was human. She still had feelings. Particularly lust - for the handsome young scientist Lucas, who has controlled most of her programming. The book, however, needs editing and is not as good as it could be. One example is that Kaitlyn's only friend, a teenage girl whose grandfather runs the lab, and who is the only person who treats Kaitlyn like a human being instead of a robot and therefore is the only person whom she can ask questions, is named "Quess". Really? Worst name ever. Either the author thinks her readers are stupid, or she is. While I do enjoy puns and such, I just found the name "Quess" insulting. The book has potential, and I hope the next one is better and that the author hires an editor.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
A hit man, a dreamer, nightmares and lies.
One boy self-destructive
One boy seeks a prize
With the ley line awakened, the magic's gone wild
The seekers imagine a thing, not a child
A kiss of death
from death to life
passion denied, familial strife
Fast cars racing
dreams made real
why should you ask when you can steal?

Amazingly creepy, bizarre and magical this book is a fantastic trip into the surreal.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'm (No Longer) a Mormon: Christian Edition by Regina Samuelson

I'm (No Longer) a Mormon by Regina Samuelson
This is the author's "Christian Edition" of her memoir about why she is leaving the Mormon religion. I find it interesting that she feels the need to have a Christian version - vs the what - non-Christian one?
She states that in this version she left out foul language and she gives instructions at the end for Christians about how to speak to Mormons. I also find it rather interesting that although she no longer believes the Mormon religious teachings, she still is willing to believe the Christian ones.
Regina's parents converted to the LDS church before she was born and as converts, her parents were a bit more open minded than many Mormons so her upbringing allowed her a bit more freedom than other Mormons. However, her teen years and her college years at BYU were adversely affected by the LDS religion. She includes some rather damning stories about BYU and the programs that Mormon teen girls and Mormon women are required to participate in.
She explains how the Mormon religion controls every aspect of their lives, much more than I realized, and to me that ultra control is what tips the religion into the "cult" category the most - that along with the secrecy involved. Regina explains how self-righteous the religion makes people and how when she questioned some teachings that did not make sense, she was told that she should not THINK so much, which leads to cognitive dissonance, which is the way that people in fundamental religions have to disregard what makes sense and just believe the religious nonsense by "faith".
She also explains how the Mormon religion gives all the power to the men and none to the women relegating them to the position of being less important and in general just less than men. Regina, honey, it is not just Mormons who do that - you will find that in fundamental Christianity, Muslim and Orthodox and Hassidic Judaism as well. If you want equality as a woman, don't join a fundamental religion.
Regina shares her struggles with the religion she was raised in and how difficult it is to leave it. At the time she wrote this book, while she no longer believed the nonsense that the Mormon religion teaches - including things like God living on a planet named Kolob and the native Americans being descendants of the Israelis (disproven by DNA testing), she was still meeting with the Mormon church and raising her children in it. I hope that she gets her children out of there before they suffer the same psychological damage that she has.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Outcast: a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Jolina Petersheim

The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim
Fraught with symbolism, this story is a Biblically influenced retelling of The Scarlet Letter. Rachel and Leah are twins and of course, following the Biblical example, Rachel is the one who is desired and Leah is not. Following the same tale, Leah is married to Tobias, the Bishop of their old order Mennonite community after his first wife dies leaving him with children who need a mother.
Like The Scarlet Letter, when Rachel becomes pregnant outside of marriage, she is shunned or very nearly so and does not reveal who the father is, but even so, it is considered her fault since she must have been a harlot to seduce a man when she was not married. Tobias's brother Judah is a bit of a Christ figure, forgiving everyone. The children suffer from the sins of the parents, and play a big part in the story. Part of the story is told by Amos, the deceased father of Tobias and Judah and that was my least favorite aspect of the whole story. All in all though, it is a well told story and I enjoyed it very much. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

I got this book free to review from Netgalley.
The Netgalley description does not include that this is just a novella - a prelude to another book I think.  I have not read the other book.  I found this book to be rather short.  It is well written and edited, but is just a little blurb in the life of the main character.  We are never told what the problem in her marriage is, why her family lives all in the same area or much of anything else.  It is a nice story, but does not really seem to stand on it's own.  It is rather lacking in depth.  I am glad that I got it for free - I would have felt cheated if I had paid for it.  I did notice that on Amazon it is clearly listed as a prelude to the other novel, which is good. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

An intricate multitude of stories are told in this touching book.
The story of Sage Singer, and atheistic Jew who, after driving in the car wreck that killed her mother and left her scarred, hides her scars and herself from the world, baking breads all night and sleeping by day. Her grandmother, Minka, and her life as a youth and then in the concentration camps. Ania, a character in a story that Minka wrote about a monster who is a man. Joseph, who confesses to Sage that he was a Nazi begging her to forgive him and help him to die. And Leo, whose job it is to bring former Nazis to justice.
The story is touching and sad. How can one forgive someone for something so heinous?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

There is no Messiah and your're it : The stunning transformation of Judaism's most provocative idea by Rabbi Robert N. Levine, D.D.

There Is No Messiah...and You're It by Robert N. Levine

This book examines the Jewish concept of the messiah in detail. If you are interested in that, this book covers it all. The word messiah literally means an "anointed one". There have been many men throughout Jewish history who were given that title by others. The author documents the concept of messiah throughout history and how it has been used in great detail. The author posits that the concept that the messiah will be a person who will appear and fix the broken world is, in itself a broken concept because in reality, it is up to us to be the repair persons. His message is to stop sitting around waiting for someone else to make things better and to start making things better by giving to charity and helping others ourselves.

We Got the Water Tracing My Family's Path through Auschwitz by Jill Gabrielle Klein

The author interviews her father and aunts and uses historic documents to tell the story of their lives before and during the Holocaust. I think that this book may be a good resource for someone researching or doing a paper about life in that time period and place. I can see that the author tried to make it interesting and wanted it to read more like a novel than a history text book. The diagrams do not show up well on my kindle paperwhite and some of the text and footnotes are grey rather than black for some reason, which makes it more difficult to read those parts. I think it is a neat thing for their family to have their story written down this way and it can be used as a resource for those studying the Holocaust.

Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento

Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento
I got this book free to review from Netgalley.
It kept my interest, which is more than some of the free books that I have received to review have done.
Twigs, just beginning her first year at a community college is a rightfully angry girl and has a lot of bad stuff happen in her life - and it seems to explode all in about a one week time period. 
Her brother, a soldier in Iraq, disappears; her father, who ran off years ago, reappears, but won't see her; her boyfriend, in college in another town, has discovered booze and another girl; her job sucks, a crazy woman throws hair dye at her, someone slashes her tires, her mom is creepy and that is only part of it. However, she also made some new friends, learned a lot about life and the book has a happyish ending.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. It sounds like it could be good from the description. And it has elements that are/could be really good. But, it is too stereotypical and has too much overt lust and sex. I guessed who Trent was early on in my reading and for a messed up person, Kacey was too self-aware of her poor coping skills. It was just all too much. Often novels don't have enough description - this one had too much in many areas. It is too predictable and needs editing. I did not like all the foul language and just found the book to be disappointing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Alcatraz versus The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson
More evil librarians, teddy bear grenades - some that only destroy non-living matter thus leaving people naked, Alcatraz becomes king while trying to save Mokia and strange Smedry talents abound in this silly tale. Very funny book with oddly numbered chapters.
Personally though, I think that librarians should wield weapons of mass instruction. But that probably would not fit into this series.
Lots of laughs and just extremely silly and enjoyable book.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gone by Lisa McMann

Gone by Lisa McMann
Did not like the ending. At all. I saw what was missing in the first two books and I really thought that the author would get to it in this one and she chose to ignore it. Really. In this last book the author gives Janie only two choices about how to go on in her life - either become a recluse or use her dream catching skills and become blind and crippled. Um. What about seeing a doctor about it? And shouldn't the police officer who knew about it have suggested that? This last book was just depressing.

Created (Watched #3) by Cindy Hogan

Created by Cindy M. Hogan
It's spy kids! And spy vs. spy. Christy, now under the alias Ari, and the other kids who were involved in the DC episode are all sent to a spy school for kids in Europe while the FBI finishes routing out the terrorists. With her photographic memory and amazing spy skills, Christy/Ari is able to read through all of the years of spy school lessons in about a week, ace her spy missions and beat bad guys. She meets up with Rick again, having realized that Adam is just bad news and Rick still loves her as well. Action, intrigue and drama ensue in this third and final book in the Watched series. I found the series a bit far-fetched, but really fun to read!

Fade by Lisa McMann

Fade by Lisa McMann
In this second book in the Wake series, Janie learns that Cabel is a narc and she is also put into the program to investigate and find the sexual predators at her high school. She is given files from Miss Stubin, a former patient of hers at the nursing home who was also a dream catcher who had worked for the police. She experiences worsening symptoms the more dreams that she is sucked into. Cabel worries about her health and the danger that she is in while trying to catch the sexual predators. I found this second book to be dark, dangerous, action packed and frightening. I look forward to reading the third book.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wake by Lisa McMann

Wake by Lisa McMann
So, I started this book this morning when the battery on my kindle was low and I could not read the other book that I am currently reading - and I have now finished reading "Wake" in just a few hours since I woke up this morning. :)  Über cool book. Janie is 17 because apparently all teenage girls in teen ya paranormal books must be 17 years old - and she gets sucked into other people's dreams. Not cool, and annoying until she gets involved with Cabel (odd spelling - even for a name) and begins to learn how to control other people's dreams. This is the first book in a trilogy and I look forward to reading the next two!