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.

 

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.

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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.

BOOK REVIEW: I’ve Never Met a Dead Person I Didn’t Like by Sherri Dillard

42789300Title: I’ve Never Met a Dead Person I Didn’t Like

Author: Sherri Dillard

Book Length: 200 pages

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Religion, Spirituality

Read Start Date: April 9, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 28, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The extraordinary travels of a young, alone and broke psychic. The heart-warming and adventurous true story of a young woman on her own at age seventeen, broke and surrounded by talkative spirits that don’t want to go away. Living in-between the physical world and the spirit realm, yet feeling a stranger in both, Sherrie Dillard criss-crossed the country by bus, train and hitchhiking in a search for answers. Along the way she was led to help the poor and homeless on skid row, install water systems in Mayan Indian villages, live alone in a tent in the mountains and make art with juvenile offenders. It was in these diverse environments that she came face to face with saints, angels and dark spirits and learned to trust her psychic ability. From her early secret encounters with spirits who guided and ultimately saved her life, Sherrie Dillard finally accepted that what made her different and odd, was also her greatest gift. I’ve Never Met A Dead Person I Didn’t Like, is a powerful story for anyone who listens to – or doubts their own intuition and the presence of their loved ones on the other side. Even in our darkest hour, in the depths of loneliness and overwhelming challenges, divine guidance and miracles are always present.

My Review: The Goodreads plot description actually makes the book sound much better than it is. I had high expectations and was disappointed. I received this book from a publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I think that I received the book because I had written a good review of Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest. My review of that book is here.

I did not know that this book was a religious book, otherwise I never would have read it. I was totally open to believe that the author saw ghosts, until that is, she said that she sees the spirit of “Mary”, angels and saints. I was immediately turned off and became a disbeliever in her “psychic” ability. I also found her Mayan spirit “Tetchuwatchu” to also be unbelievable. I googled the name and literally nothing came up. Is it even possible that google doesn’t know something? The author claims that the name means “teach you watch you”, but I mean come on. Are we really supposed to believe that the ancient Mayans had names that sound like the English meaning of their Mayan name? “Techtu” in Mayan means “teach you” in English? Highly doubtful.

Do I believe that the author has stronger intuition and instincts than most people? Sure, it’s possible. Who doesn’t get bad feelings sometimes when danger is present. I could even believe that the author believes she sees these spirits, but it just didn’t seem realistic to me.

I am going to have to give this book 2.5 stars. I am really on the fence as to whether to give it 2 or 3 stars. In the end I really just struggled to finish this book. I definitely would have given her book 3 stars had it not been for the religious aspect. Overall the book was, for my taste, too spiritual and not paranormal enough. However, if I were open to religion or spiritual topics, then maybe I would have liked this book better. That is to say, please don’t totally discount this book based solely upon this review.

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: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

18693763Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 57 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: April 18, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 25, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My Review: This is the second book that I have read by Celeste Ng (although this is the first book she wrote). The other book I read was Little Fires Everywhere. You can find my review here.

This book was fantastic. The characters were extremely well developed and really pulled me into the story. The opening lines really draw you into the story: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the plot, but it is hard to review the book without mentioning some aspects. I do not think that the below gives too much away.

Lydia is the eldest daughter to Marilyn and James. Lydia struggled under the weight of her parents expectations. Marilyn, having had to give up her dreams of becoming a doctor (when she became a mother), tried to live vicariously through her daughter. James, who never fit in as a child (because he was Asian), tried to live vicariously through his daughter’s popularity. The problem was, that Lydia was neither popular, nor interested in becoming a doctor.

Nath, the oldest child and only son to Marilyn and James, lives in the shadow of his younger sister Lydia. His achievements are all but ignored.

Hannah, the unwanted third child, is basically invisible to her parents, as all their attention go to the favored child Lydia. There is a great quote from the book describing Hannah: “Hannah, as if she understood her place in the cosmos, grew from quiet infant to watchful child: a child fond of nooks and corners, who curled up in closets, behind sofas, under dangling tablecloths, staying out of sight as well as out of mind, to ensure the terrain of the family did not change.”

In the aftermath of Lydia’s death, the family and their relationship to each other is thrown into turmoil.

The story alternates between the past and the present to give a full picture of the Lee’s life together, and how they became who they are.

My younger brother died almost five years ago (a few days before his 29th birthday) in an accident (he was hit by a driver high on drugs who ran the red light). Some of the descriptions Ng gave of the family dealing with a child’s death really resonated with me. For example, Ng describes a scene where James is looking at his surviving children and he sees bits of Lydia in each of them. I often too experience this. I have the same teeth as my brother, and sometimes I think of him when I see myself in the mirror. Reading this book made me wonder whether when my parents look at me, do they also see my brother in my face? Do they see my brother’s eyes in the eyes of my sister, or his features in those of her son?

Ng’s descriptive language is so powerful and really makes you imagine what you are reading. For an example, James says something nasty to his son after Lydia’s death. Ng says something like, James’ words were like moths in the air that he wanted to catch and pull back, but he was too late because they were already crawling inside his son’s ears. I couldn’t find the exact quote again sadly.

Anyway, in conclusion, I highly recommend this book. Ng’s powerful storytelling with stay with you for quite some time.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling)

41899Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling) 

Book Length (Audiobook): 1 hour 54 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: April 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail … Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. This is an essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, and includes a new foreword from J.K. Rowling (writing as Newt Scamander) and six new beasts!

My Review: This book is short and fun! If you have ever seen the movie of the same title, you know that Newt Scamander is a wizard who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Beast Division. During the movie, he was writing the above mentioned book. J.K. Rowling writes as Newt Scamander, and the book lists in detail the magical beasts, their attributes, personalities, etc.

If you liked the Harry Potter series, this is a must read!

The Audiobook Recording: The audiobook recording was really funny. It had the sounds of the animals as Newt described them.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

35901186Title: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 9 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, History, Science, Mystery

Read Start Date: April 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 11, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins–some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them–and escaped into the darkness.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

My Review: When I first starting reading this book, I had no idea that it was actually nonfiction, and based upon real events. I had never heard of using bird feathers for fishing lures, nor had I ever heard of a “fly tier” enthusiast stealing exotic bird feathers from a museum — in some cases, the very same birds collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, and other naturalists of the same era (around the time of Darwin’s expeditions).

The writing of Kirk Wallace Johnson was so good, that I was convinced for the first portion of the book that it was a fiction story. After I got into it a bit further, and looked the book up online, I realized that this story is actually true! It seems to be a little known fact, which makes for an awesome and refreshing novel. The story is very engaging, and even though it is nonfiction, there is the distinct smell of a fiction thriller — a daring heist of rare, expensive bird skins leads an amateur detective into the bowels of the fly tier underground, where the secretive fly tier community not only trades in black market and sometimes illegal feathers, but closes ranks when threatened.

Did Edwin Rist work alone, or was there perhaps more at play?

I love that this book unwittingly educated me, not only in the not so known world of fly tying, but also the feather trade in general.

The book alternates between telling the story of the feather heist, and telling the story of the author trying to track down the thief. The author also explains about the history of feathers and fashion, and how during the Victorian age several species were almost hunted into extinction all in the name of women’s vanity and social stature.

This book gets a rare 5 out of 5 stars from me. Everyone should read about this strange little piece of history. Even if you don’t generally like nonfiction books, this book will not disappoint.