Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Shorts

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
published 2013
320 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

My thoughts -

I'm struggling with a rating on this one because I LOVE LOVE LOVED this book until the last 20 or so pages, when the horrible circumstances of Natty's conception suddenly became.....not that horrible? Maybe ok? Perhaps not such a bad thing after all? I always enjoy Jackson's work because she is able to create such rich and full characters, and this novel is no different. But the ending. I don't want to give spoilers, and in general I try not to judge books based on my own moral compass, but there are some things that are just not okay, and I am having a hard time with the author's choice on this one. Reader beware - this one might be a rough one.




Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion by Derek Hough
published 2014
188 pages

Synopsis:

For eleven seasons, millions of people have tuned in to Dancing with the Stars to watch Derek Hough, the talented, consummate competitor whose skill and commitment have made him the show’s all-time champion. Whether he’s dancing with an Olympic gold medalist, an internationally renowned recording star, or a celebrated actress, Derek instills in each of his celebrity partners a deep passion, respect for hard work, and an irrepressible joie de vie spirit.
Now, for the first time ever, Derek opens up about his life and the lessons he’s learned on and off the dance floor, revealing how he went from bullied boy to ballroom boss. He details how his experiences have taught him to embrace a positive outlook, and shares the insights he’s gained working with celebrity partners, along with never-before-told, behind-the-scenes stories from the show.
My thoughts:
I honestly just picked this up to annoy my friend Nikki, who is not the world's biggest Derek Hough fan, and then somehow found myself reading the whole darn thing. There is nothing bad about the book per se - it's just not particularly good, either. It's just the working definition of bland. I don't fault Hough for the lack of depth - I just don't get the sense that he has fully internalized many of the "life lessons" he tries to impart to his readers. Probably only a good choice for die-hard Derek Hough or Dancing With the Stars fans.


Finished - 8/28/14

Source -South Side library

MPAA rating - G

My rating - 2/5


Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
549 pages
published 4/2014

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

My thoughts:

Ok, this was a lot of fun. I mean, a convent of assassin nuns? Admit it, you want to know how THAT turns out. What made me the happiest about this novel, though, was that it was so much more than just that initial eye-catching idea. The author explores identity, and the difficulty of finding your place, and loyalty and trust, and (naturally) throws in a little romance, as well. Ismae is a strong and fearless heroine, and she doesn't just follow the path that ANYONE sets out for her - she listens to her heart and her instinct, and then makes her own way. It's a well-written, entertaining first novel in what I hope will be a great series.

Finished - 8/28/14
Source - South Side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence and some adult situations
My rating - 4/5

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A More Diverse Universe 2014



If I am being completely honest, one of the reasons I am creeping back into the blogging world is because I knew I REAAAALLLY wanted to participate in A More Diverse Universe 2014 this year. So it's time to sign up!

What is this, you ask?

For those who have not heard about #Diversiverse before, it's a very simple challenge.  For those of you who have participated in the past, it's even easier this year.  The criteria are as follows:
  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th - 27th) 


 Yep, that's it! ONE book. That's it. You might ask, why in the world is one book written by a person of color that important? Here's what Aarti, the originator of the challenge, has to say:



"I know your TBR list is huge.  I know your commitments are many.  I know that there are so many things on which you must take a stand, and it can be exhausting to make reading a political activity.  But this is so important to me, and I really think it should be important to you, too.  None of us lives in a monochromatic world, and yet the fact that terrifying hate crimes still occur makes it clear that we do not fully understand or trust each other.  And maybe part of the reason is because the media we consume does not accurately reflect the diversity of our society.  And books are such a massive part of the media we consume that we should demand and fight for those that do represent minorities and those that do present the world from a different perspective than the one we are used to.  So please - participate.  You may just discover a character or an author or a setting or a story that will completely change your life."



And she's right. The beauty of reading is that is can open up worlds for us that we would never have experienced - introduce us to perspectives that we would never know on our own. I think this is important, and I'm so excited to participate this year.

What am I going to read? Here are a few authors I'm considering -

N.K. Jemisin - The Hundred Thousand Kingoms
Nnedi Okorafor - Who Fears Death
Heidi Durrow - The Girl Who Fell From The Sky
Abraham Verghese - Cutting for Stone
Neil DeGrasse Tyson - Space Chronicles


Am I going to get through all of these in two weeks? Nope. But they are a great place to start. Join me! You can sign up here. Let's diversify our reading lists together!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Thoughts - The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
published 1989
282 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.


My thoughts -

There is something about Barbara Kingsolver's work that just appeals to my reading sensibilities. Her novels always just feel like they are right in my reading groove. I seem to be reading her backwards - starting with her more recent work, and making my way back to this, her first novel. It's interesting to see how she has progressed as a novelist, and also recognize the common elements in her work. This novel certainly has her signature strong female protagonists, as well as her commentary on some aspect of social justice. This book is very much about the need for finding a community, and the importance of family - your own, or the one you choose. I'm excited to find out that Kingsolver has written more books about the Greer family - I look forward to reading them.


Finished - 8/13/14
MPAA Rating - PG-13 for some discussion of adult situations
My rating - 4/5