BOOK REVIEW: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

30288282Title: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 30 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Read Start Date: May 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 19, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My Review: Each of the Gold children is given their date of death from the psychic woman. This knowledge changes each of them in turn, and each struggles to live their life in the wake of such an enormous burden. Although everyone has the fundamental knowledge that someday death will come calling, having the foreknowledge of the exact date could potentially catastrophically alter the course of one’s life. This is the reality facing the Gold children.

Each part of the book tells the story of one of the children, going in order from the first to last to die. Through each chapter, we learn not only how each of the children lives with the knowledge of their death date, but how their life has been affected by it. If you knew when you would die, how would this affect your life? Would you still make the same choices if you knew you would die at 30? at 21? at 88?

I liked this book, although the plot was a bit dull at times. Some of the stories moved along very slowly, while others were very interesting. The book was well written, and the characters very well developed. The lives of the first children to die were a bit more interesting, and in the last part, I just felt overwhelmingly sad. I wondered whether people actually chose to live this way? It is hard to really write much of a review without giving away too many of the details that should remain unknown before reading the book.

So, I will conclude by saying, that if you do not mind a heavy subject, this would make a good read.

 

It’s Monday What are you Reading? May 20, 2019

I’m joining the Book Date It’s Monday What Are You Reading?

WHAT I READ LAST WEEK:

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I have not yet written a review about this book.

I was unable to finish any other books last week because I was on a business trip to India and just didn’t have time.

30288282

WHAT I AM CURRENTLY READING:

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King. I’ve been reading this book (paperback) since February 25, 2019, and I am currently on page 364. I originally bought this book for my trip to Japan and China in late February, early March. I guess that I have set this book aside in favor of some other books, but I should get back into it. So far I like it, but I guess it is not as stimulating as I thought, if I still haven’t finished it almost 2 months after starting it. I started reading it again last week in India, but made only about 80 pages of progress since April 22, 2019.

Year One by Nora Roberts. I’ve been reading this book (kindle) since February 10, 2019. I rented this book from the library several times to date, and sometimes the loan expires so I have to renew (and wait on a waiting list). This book is a little slow, so I am not really so enthusiastic about it. I have not picked up this book since my Monday posting on April 22, 2019.

The Iliad by Gareth Hinds. I’ve been reading this graphic novel (PDF) since April 6, 2019. I received this graphic novel as an ARC from Netgalley. I can only read this novel on my computer (it doesn’t look right on my kindle). Since I normally do most of my reading while in bed (or via audiobook), it is taking me a lot longer to finish this novel (even though it is rather short). I also have not picked up this book since April 22, 2019.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. This is the 2nd book in the series, coming after The Raven Boys. This was on my “What’s Coming Up Next” list from my posting of April 22, 2019 and is the audiobook that I am currently reading. I just started today. I have had this book on my TBR list since 2012, so it is about time that I read it.

The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo. I have been reading this ARC book since May 1, 2019. I put it down for the next book I started reading (see below).

I’ll Be Okay, It’s Just a Hole in My Head by Mimi Hayes. I started reading this ARC book on May 8, 2019, and I really like it! I am excited to share the review with you soon. I am about 80% finished with it.

WHAT IS COMING UP NEXT:

Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower IV by Stephen King. This will be the next paperback book that I read after finishing Sleeping Beauties. I saw this book in a used book store in Amsterdam and knew that I had to have it. I have already read the first three books in the series, but the library did not have the audiobook of the 4th book.

Blink of an Eye by John H.K. Fisher. This will be the next kindle book that I will read. I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. This is the 3rd book in the Raven Boys series, coming after The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. It has been on my TBR list since March 22, 2016. This will be my next audiobook.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

8664353.jpgTitle: Unbroken

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 57 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography, War, World War II

Read Start Date: May 2, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 10, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

My Review: The book starts out pretty slow, and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like it. The story quickly picks up the pace when the airmen’s plane crashes, leaving them adrift in the ocean on an inflatable raft for more than one month. Facing starvation on a daily basis, the men are momentarily glad when they finally find land; however, to their dismay, they have drifted more than 2,000 miles into enemy territory. They are quickly captured and interned at a POW camp.

During World War II, the Japanese had several labor camps, as well as “punishment camps”. The men were starved, beaten, and often worked to death in forced labor.

This story is not for the faint of heart. Several times I felt physically nauseous while listening to the scenes of torture and degradation. The things that the Japanese did to the POWs was cruel and, I would even go so far to say, evil. When I visited Hiroshima at the end of February, 2019, I remember feeling so ashamed that the US had dropped the atomic bomb and obliterated the city and the lives of the people there in a matter of seconds. In reading this book, I thought, Japan has something to feel ashamed about also.

This book will make you laugh at time, cry at times, and cringe at times. It is well written and engaging, if you can get past the first dry part of the book which describes the characters lives before they ended up stranded.

If you enjoy learning about history, I would definitely recommend this book.

 

TV SHOW REVIEW: Jailbirds, Season 1

MV5BMGEyYjNlYzUtMWU2MC00ZjNkLWJlZTMtM2YxZTZmZjQyM2JiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Title: Jailbirds

Year: 2019

Genre: Reality TV, True Crime

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 11, 2019 to May 12, 2019

Brief Summary of Plot from IMDbAt the Sacramento County Jail, incarcerated women fight the power and one another as they try to make the best of life – and love – on the inside.

Episode Name Episode # Date Watched
Dressed into Orange 1 11-May-19
Ima Be That Phatt B*tch 2 11-May-19
We’re All Criminals 3 12-May-19
Swimmin’ in Sh*t, Bruh! 4 12-May-19
It’s a Crazy Beautiful Kinda Love 5 12-May-19
She Swung at Me, I Swung Back 6 12-May-19

My Review: In the first episode we meet several women incarcerated at the jail. Probably my favorite line of the entire first episode is when Gaylon Beason, a 36 year old woman who is a convicted armed robber with two strikes, arrested for violating her parole, stated that she was excited to be finishing up her 90 days in jail, so that she could use the bathroom without having people around her and it “smelling like booboo”. I mean, I guess I can understand. Who doesn’t want some privacy when they go “booboo”? Ms. Beason later goes on to say that she flirts with the other women in the jail, but she is married so she is going to keep “her spit in her mouth and her hands to herself.” Wow. That’s so nice of her!

I do not know why I am so fascinated with these types of shows, but I am basically addicted. It is interesting, yet somehow also disturbing, to listen to how these criminals think. Most are not remorseful, and talk about their crimes like I would talk about how I went shopping or got my hair cut. They seem thrilled to be on camera telling their stories, and most hold nothing back, even if it could influence their court case.

I am also fascinated by the tattoos that the prisoners have. Most of the time while they are in prison, they get even more. Megan Hawkins (a.k.a. “Monster”), arrested for grand theft auto and transportation of narcotics, used to run a successful tattoo business back in New York, that is before she was arrested for selling drugs. She did three months in jail back in New York, before moving to California to change her life around. Unfortunately for her, she started dating a real winner (not), and they both (!) ended back in jail on domestic abuse charges. She claims to have tattoos over 50% of her body. Her ex was on the show also (he was in jail for the same incident).

I always wonder what possesses a person to get such a tattoo? As much as tattoos are considered art, it is still the harsh reality that people with such noticeable tattoos are kept out of the conventional job market. The most noticeable tattoo is the one on her face, over her left eyebrow, which says “Monster”. Her ex, “A1” also had several tattoos on his face. I just don’t get it.

I am often saddened by how normal these women seem; how they have real life dreams, but then mess it up for themselves by turning to a life of crime. Najla Jones (“Noonie”), a self proclaimed “nice ass real bitch”, thinks of Megan Hawkins, as the “lighter to her cigarette”. Nice imagery, right? She was arrested for pimping and pandering, and has a $1,000,000 bail, which of course she cannot afford. As of the filming, she spent more than one year in jail. Noonie grew up in the foster care system, but has dreams of becoming a social worker when she gets out of jail.  Sadly, this dream is probably out of reach for her now that she has a record.

This show also introduces us to male inmates (not just female ones). During the first season the male and female inmates form relationships with each other (often developing messy love triangles), by talking and sending long love letters to each other through the toilet. Yes, you have read correctly. They use the toilets like telephones and the postal service. See, the jail is 8 stories high, and the plumbing is all connected. The inmates can “bail” out their toilets (remove all the water) and then talk into the toilet. I mean, they put their whole face inside that nasty bowl and confess their love through the drains. Gross. To send messages they make lines out of t-shirts, which gets snagged together when they simultaneously flush the toilets. Then one prisoner pulls the line and out comes a plastic baggie with the letter inside. If the prisoners put as much effort into staying out of trouble as they do thinking about how to talk through toilets, there would be no more crime!

I don’t mean to trivialize the plight of these inmates, because let’s face it, jail is no joke, but sometime I can’t help but to think, “whaaaat?” I don’t want to spoil any of these crazy moments, so I will just say, that if you are like me and like true crime and reality TV, then this show is for you and you should totally watch it! Since there are only 6 episodes it’s easy to binge watch it in a weekend, or even in one day.

Happy Watching!

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better by Hilary Campbell

31944977Title: Breaking Up is Hard to Do…But You Could’ve Done Better

Author: Hilary Campbell

Book Length: 150 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Comic, Graphic Novel

Read Start Date: May 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 6, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Anonymous break up stories from men and women, old and young, serious and silly and the cartoons that inspired them. Author and artist Hilary Campbell turns the painful into the hilarious, validating emotions from forgotten middle school tragedies to relationships that ended only hours ago.

My Review: I have mixed feelings about this graphic novel — but maybe that is the point! Some stories were funny. Other stories were just okay…but I found myself thinking in both cases, OMG did that really happen to you / did you really do that!?

If you are looking for a short, fast, cute, and funny read, I would suggest this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Croquette & Empanada: The Book Romeo Would Have Given Juliet by Ana Oncina

42202751Title: Croquette & Empanada

Author: Ana Oncina

Book Length: 132 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Comic, Graphic Novel, Humor

Read Start Date: May 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 5, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A classic love story: doughy appetizer boy meets doughy appetizer girl. Together they exist in a world cohabited by humans.

Croquette is looking for love—his sweet, silly other half.  Empanada hopes she can find someone who accepts her for who she is. It’s a match made in tasty, tasty heaven. Internationally bestselling author Ana Oncina’s Croquette & Empanada explores modern love and domesticity with charming comics. Enjoy the antics of this adorable, culinary couple as they navigate romance and cohabitation, from deciding to move in together to purchasing their first pet.

My Review: This comic was funny, sweet, and relatable. I really liked the cute artwork and the stories are ones that every compatible couple can relate to. He may be a Croquette, and she an Empanada, he likes dogs, and she likes cats, but together they make a sweet and loving couple who find themselves in endearing and humorous situations. I mean, who hasn’t insisted to watch a movie that the other doesn’t want to, only to fall asleep immediately after it starts? Who hasn’t signed up for the gym, been motivated for about ten seconds, and then promptly lose interest?

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fast, fun, and adorable read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing me with a free ARC!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers

42202745Title: Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers

Author: Tom Fonder

Book Length: 144 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Humor, Comic, Graphic Novel

Read Start Date: May 3, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: After clawing his way to the top of the corporate world, Business Cat’s professional standing is secure — or is it? Following a surprise audit from the IRS and some nefarious scheming by his executive rival, a business dog named Howard, things go downhill fast. Business Cat’s exile from the C-suite isn’t always pretty — he winds up in temp jobs, alleys, foster homes, and the kennel — but it is always entertaining. Author Tom Fonder’s story of Business Cat’s remarkable journey provides a thrilling conclusion to the series, and one office workers, cat lovers, and comics fans will cheer on to the finish.

My Review: This comic is freakin hilarious! I was literally laughing at every comic strip. If my cat was a “business cat” she would undoubtedly do the same things. Every cat lover should read this comic, and the rest of humanity should too. I love the artwork, I love the story line. The only thing that I didn’t like is that I had to stop reading (because the comic came to an end).

Thank you to Netgalley for the free ARC!!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

MOVIE REVIEW: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

389637-extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Year: 2019

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 50 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 4, 2019

Recognized Actors: Zac Efron plays the infamous Ted Bundy. Efron’s performance in this movie is fantastic and I was very impressed. I have only ever seen Efron play the dumb jock, or other unserious roles. In this movie Efron breaks from his former characters and really shows that he has true potential as a versatile actor.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdTHE STORY BEHIND AMERICA’S MOST NOTORIOUS SERIAL KILLER. A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother reluctantly tips the attention of a widespread manhunt toward her longtime boyfriend, Ted Bundy.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: All around really good start to the movie! The scenes where Kloepfer meets and falls in love with Bundy were so well done that I forgot for just a moment that Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in recent times. The interplay of the scenes where Bundy is acting as a family man and the news reports of his heinous crimes is artfully done and spine chilling. At the end of the 15 minutes, the story begins to dive into the beginning of Bundy’s downfall; arrested for the kidnapping of a woman in Utah, Bundy arrives back in Seattle spinning a tall tale that he is being set up; and Kloepfer buys it…for the moment.

I am giving this movie 5 stars because it was just so well done. I watch a lot of true crime shows / movies, and this one is on par with Monster, the movie about America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos  (played by Charlize Theron). The thing that I like about this movie, is that it really portrayed Bundy in the way most people thought of him at the time. I could feel myself feeling sorry for him at some points…and then I remembered what he did. I really have to congratulate Zac Efron on a really good job. I have seen Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix, and I think Efron portrayed Bundy down to the letter.

If you like true crime, and want to never trust a stranger again, you must watch this movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Whistler by John Grisham

29354916Title: The Whistler

Author: John Grisham

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 10 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Read Start Date: April 25, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

My Review: I am a big fan of John Grisham. I have read a few other books of his recently; you can find a review of one of them, The Rooster Bar, here. I have read a few other reviews where the feedback of this book was a bit negative, but I disagree. While I agree that the story does progress rather slowly, I think that it gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters and to develop the plot in a way where the reader can see the evolution of the case against the Judge. There are a lot of moving pieces in this book, and it takes time to spell it out effectively, and in a way that doesn’t create confusion in the reader. Had this book been shorter or less complicated, I think that it would have taken away from the overall story.

I am only giving it a 3 instead of a 4 because the book didn’t compare to some other books that I have recently and given 4 stars i.e., When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons (review is here).  I liked it well enough, but I won’t give a second thought to it tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I also didn’t really give a second thought to When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons either, but that book was more fun to read. Now that I mention it, I guess I would consider this book to be a little dry — but that sometimes happens when the subject matter is predominantly about the law.

In any event, this book is for when you are looking to be entertained for 13 hours (audiobook) and don’t want to read anything thought provoking, and don’t mind that the book is about a legal topic. I mostly listened to it on the way to work in the car, while out walking, around the house while doing chores, etc.

MOVIE REVIEW: Slender Man

371792-slender-man-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Slender Man

Year: 2018

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 33 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: The only actor I recognized was Jaz Sinclair. I recognized her from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which is a really good show that I would recommend).

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdCAN YOU SEE HIM? In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, his latest victim.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: So far the movie seems to be very similar to the plot of The Ring, i.e., watch a video and within seven days something terrible happens to you. All that is missing is the phone call with Samara’s creepy voice whispering “Seven days”. I have failed to jump or be scared in anyway so far, although there is some tension beginning to build.

As the movie progressed, the “attempted” scares were obvious, and you knew that they were coming. Music would build up and then there was a music explosion at the point where you are supposed to be scared, etc. This style of scare tactic plagues most modern horror movies, and in my opinion detracts from the scare affect. Most of the time it was hard to see the Slender Man himself or the scenes of the movie that took place in the dark, but this might have had something to do with watching it on the ipad during the daytime.

Will this movie win any awards? Of course not, but it’s not supposed to. The goal of this movie is to entertain, and it certainly entertained me.

Despite the fact that the ending was totally lame “ya know?”, I still give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars.