BOOK REVIEW: Parasite by Mira Grant

13641105Title: Parasite

Author: Mira Grant

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 6 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.”

My Review: The main character, Sally Mitchell “Sal” awoke from a coma without any memories of her life before the accident. Her life was saved by the tapeworm living in her intestines. The book starts six years after she woke up. Her relationships are complicated, due to the fact that she was not a very nice person before the accident. Everyone in her life of course remembers this person, but she herself does not. Although Sal is an adult, she is often treated like a child by her parents (Sal’s Dad is the head of USAMRID), and her doctors at SymboGen see her as an anomaly and therefore study her and monitor her every move. In fact, the only person in Sal’s life who treats her with any normalcy is her boyfriend, Nathan (a parasitologist at the hospital).

Despite the coma and memory loss, Sal seems to be living a pretty average life, that is, until things start to get strange. People start developing a “sleeping sickness” and the infection is spreading. It is not known until the end how Sal fits into this sickness, and I won’t spoil it for you.

When I first started to read this book, I had been expecting something a bit more “apocalyptic”– so I was a little bit disappointed when it wasn’t; but, maybe this comes in the next 2 books?

I was also surprised to find out that this wasn’t a Young Adult book, because it certainly read like one. Other than the occasional swear word, the language of this book was super easy. The romantic relationships were PG all the way, and despite the family drama, other relationships in the book were rather uncomplicated and one-dimensional. The characters were interesting, when they were not totally unrealistic.

SPOILER ALERT: One of the characters that I did not like at all was Tansy. Tansy was a human who had been taken over by the tapeworm — so basically, Tansy was a tapeworm wearing a human shell. The only problem with Tansy was that her character was supposed to be crazy, and I guess the only way to illustrate this was to have her act like an unhinged Rambo who sometimes had cringe worthy one-liners? I think that the author could have developed the characters better. I also did not understand why the description of the characters was necessary — did the fact that Tansy have pink streaks in her hair make her seem more “crazy”? Otherwise, it just seems like these descriptions were just fillers without any real motivation.

This book was entertaining; I listened to the audiobook while running / walking. If you are looking to be entertained, you should give it a go. I would just caution to manage expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning up the “Want to Read” Bookshelf Week #6

Current Books on “Want to Read” Bookshelf: 250

In the past week I was unable to read even one of the books from my WTR shelf. In all fairness to myself, however, the past 3 weeks have been really busy. The first week I was in Japan, the second week I was in China, and last week I moved to the Netherlands from Austria (for work).

The oldest 10 books that I have decided to read:

Book #1.

17347389Book Title: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Added to WTR Shelf: December, 2012

Goodreads Summary: “Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…”

Reason for Keeping:  Same comment as above for the Runaway King.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 5

 

Book #2

18170134Book Title: NYPD Red #2

Author: James Patterson

Added to WTR Shelf: September, 2013

Goodreads Summary: “When NYPD Red arrives at a crime scene, everyone takes notice. Known as the protectors of the rich, famous, and connected, NYPD Red is the elite task force called in only for New York City’s most high-profile crimes. And Detective Zach Jordan is the best of the best, a brilliant and relentless pursuer of justice. He puts professionalism above all, ignoring his feelings for his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald, the woman who broke his heart when they first met in the academy.

But even with their top-notch training, Zach and Kylie aren’t prepared for what they see when they’re called to a crime scene in the heart of Central Park. They arrive to find a carousel spinning round and round, its painted horses grinning eerily in the early morning dark. There is only one rider: a brutally slaughtered woman, her body tied up and dressed in a Hazmat suit, on display for the world to see.

The victim, a woman of vast wealth and even greater connections, is the fourth in a string of shocking murders that have hit the city. As the public pressure mounts, and political and personal secrets of the highest order hang in the balance, Zach and Kylie must find out what’s really behind the murderer’s rampage. But Kylie has been acting strange recently–and Zach knows whatever she’s hiding could threaten the biggest case of their careers.”

Reason for Keeping: I’ve read other books in the NYPD Red series and they are always entertaining.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 4

 

Book #3

6178648Book Title: Nothing to Envy

Author: Barbara Demick

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2013

Goodreads Summary: “Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.

Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.

Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.”

Reason for Keeping: The description of this book is really intriguing, which is probably why I put it on the WTR shelf in the first place. Even though the library doesn’t have a copy, I think that it is worth the $12 investment anyway.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #4

12285072Book Title: Mudwoman

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Added to WTR Shelf: January, 2014

Goodreads Summary: “Mudgirl is a child abandoned by her mother in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate—or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values, seemingly sealing it off forever. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.

Meredith “M.R.” Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming. Involved with a secret lover whose feelings for her are teasingly undefined, and concerned with the intensifying crisis of the American political climate as the United States edges toward war with Iraq, M.R. is confronted with challenges to her leadership that test her in ways she could not have anticipated. The fierce idealism and intelligence that delivered her from a more conventional life in her upstate New York hometown now threaten to undo her.

A reckless trip upstate thrusts M.R. Neukirchen into an unexpected psychic collision with Mudgirl and the life M.R. believes she has left behind. A powerful exploration of the enduring claims of the past, Mudwoman is at once a psychic ghost story and an intimate portrait of a woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost, which explores the tension between childhood and adulthood, the real and the imagined, and the “public” and “private” in the life of a highly complex contemporary woman.”

Reason for Keeping: The description of the book sounds really good, and I can get the book free from the library.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #5

50398

Book Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Added to WTR Shelf: September, 2014

Goodreads Summary: “Jane Austen’s first novel—published posthumously in 1818—tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen’s fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical novel pokes fun at the gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.”

Reason for Keeping: I have read other Jane Austen books and I always like them, so why not give this one a try also?

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #6

375802

Book Title: Ender’s Game

Author: Orson Scott Card

Added to WTR Shelf: May, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military’s purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine’s abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.”

Reason for Keeping: I am a big fan of Orson Scott Card and I have been meaning to read this book for a very long time.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #7

127515

Book Title: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Author: Jack Finney

Added to WTR Shelf: July, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved—the world as he knew it. First published in 1955, this classic thriller of the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy inspired three major motion pictures.”

Reason for Keeping: This is a classic sci-fi book, and one that I have been meaning to read for a very long time.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #8

26827675

Book Title: Troublemaker

Author: Leah Remini

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “The outspoken actress, talk show host, and reality television star offers up a no-holds-barred memoir, including an eye-opening insider account of her tumultuous and heart-wrenching thirty-year-plus association with the Church of Scientology. Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.”

Reason for Keeping: I originally added this book to the WTR shelf because I was intrigued by the inner workings of scientology. I am still intrigued and feel that this book might be similar to Educated by Tara Westover, which I really liked.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #9

22609485

Book Title: The Soul of an Octopus

Author: Sy Montgomery

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopusreveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.”

Reason for Keeping: I purchased this book back in 2015 because I was going to write a book with a main character as an octopus. I read about half of it before I got into other books, and didn’t have time anymore. I never picked it up again. However, since I own this book, and because the book was good, I will finish reading it.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #10

24817626

Book Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Added to WTR Shelf: December, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her.

Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.”

Reason for Keeping: To Kill a Mockingbird is such a classic, must-read book. I really want to read this 2nd book as well. I have been meaning to read this for a few years now, but always get distracted by other books.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 1

BOOK REVIEW: Origin by Dan Brown

32283133Title: Origin

Author: Dan Brown

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 10 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery,

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.”

My Review: This is the 5th book in the Robert Langdon series. Dan Brown has his formula down pat for his books: male and female protagonists, with a twist at the end. This book fit right into the mold. The book was fast paced and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out what the big secret was. I was entertained throughout. I am only giving it a 3 out of 5 stars, however, due to the below aspects:

1. Eye Rolling Repetition of Phrases

I found myself rolling my eyes at several points and cringing at the repetition of some phrases. For example, if the phrase “where did we come from and where are we going” was stated once in the book, it was stated 100 times. It was the theme of the book — but one I guess that needed to be bashed over my head. Also, how many times did we need to hear that Ambra Vidal was the “future queen of Spain”? We get it Dan Brown. Thanks.

2. Bad Ending

The ending was also not what I was expecting, and left me frankly disappointed. The book did not make any new revelations about “where did we come from” — evolution. And as for “where we are going”, well, SPOILER ALERT (do not read on if you want to read the book), humans will become integrated with science / technology. This will be the next evolution of the species. I was like really, that’s the big reveal? I thought it was a bit unoriginal.

3. What about Inferno?

At the end of Dan Brown’s last book, Inferno, the entire population was infected with some pathogen that made 1/3 of the planet infertile. Why wasn’t this mentioned at all in this book? Did Kirsch take this into account when he made the model / prediction for the future?

4. Romantic Interest, Or?

I was also really confused about the relationship between Vidal and Langdon. Did they have feelings for each other or not? Although there was no chemistry at all during the entire book, the ending made it sound like they were beginning to fall for each other, and that they would each miss each other in the romantic sense. I found this strange given the lack of intimacy or flirting between them during the story.

Despite the above 4 negative aspects, I would still recommend this book to anyone who liked the other Langdon books. I would just caution that one should manage expectations because Origin is definitely not the best one of the 5.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – March 12 2019: Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

via Top Ten Tuesday – The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

As per That Artsy Reader Girl’s Blog, “Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

How it works:

I assign each Tuesday a topic and then post my top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join me and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

March 12: Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

If I go to my shelf of my top (5 star) rated books, most of my all time favorite books already have sequels, like:

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolken

4. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

6. Sookie Stackhouse (Trueblood) Series by Charlaine Harris

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

8. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Those that are standalone:

9. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly was a great book; however, I think that the book was pretty much completed by the end, so there isn’t really so much room for a sequel. I could of course always be wrong. I do not know so much about the history of NASA or of its human “computers”.

10. The Mist by Stephen King. Okay, so maybe a sequel to this book could be interesting. At the end of the book, the reader is left with a cliff hanger as to what will happen to the Earth and to humanity. At the same time, however, part of the charm of this book is that you are left without the answers. Therefore, a sequel might in fact be a terrible thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning up the “Want to Read” Bookshelf Week #5

I took a few weeks off from blogging due to a business trip. So this is the 5th week (although not consecutive).

Current Books on “Want to Read” Bookshelf: 246

I am following several book bloggers. Sometimes the books sound so good that I have to add them to my “Want to Read” shelf. This seems to be a recurring problem, so this week I will take a look at the oldest 10 books. If I delete one of the books, I will take a look at the next one until I have 10 that I will read.

Sadly, I was only able to read one book (see below), so my want to read shelf remains largely unchanged.

Books I’ve read off the WTR Shelf:

17667561

Book Title: The Shadow Throne

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Added to WTR Shelf: June, 2013

Finished Reading February 22, 2019

Goodreads Summary: “War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?”

The link to my review is here.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

The oldest 10 books that I have decided to read:

Book #1.

17347389Book Title: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Added to WTR Shelf: December, 2012

Goodreads Summary: “Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…”

Reason for Keeping:  Same comment as above for the Runaway King.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 4

 

Book #2

18170134Book Title: NYPD Red #2

Author: James Patterson

Added to WTR Shelf: September, 2013

Goodreads Summary: “When NYPD Red arrives at a crime scene, everyone takes notice. Known as the protectors of the rich, famous, and connected, NYPD Red is the elite task force called in only for New York City’s most high-profile crimes. And Detective Zach Jordan is the best of the best, a brilliant and relentless pursuer of justice. He puts professionalism above all, ignoring his feelings for his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald, the woman who broke his heart when they first met in the academy.

But even with their top-notch training, Zach and Kylie aren’t prepared for what they see when they’re called to a crime scene in the heart of Central Park. They arrive to find a carousel spinning round and round, its painted horses grinning eerily in the early morning dark. There is only one rider: a brutally slaughtered woman, her body tied up and dressed in a Hazmat suit, on display for the world to see.

The victim, a woman of vast wealth and even greater connections, is the fourth in a string of shocking murders that have hit the city. As the public pressure mounts, and political and personal secrets of the highest order hang in the balance, Zach and Kylie must find out what’s really behind the murderer’s rampage. But Kylie has been acting strange recently–and Zach knows whatever she’s hiding could threaten the biggest case of their careers.”

Reason for Keeping: I’ve read other books in the NYPD Red series and they are always entertaining.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 3

 

Book #3

6178648Book Title: Nothing to Envy

Author: Barbara Demick

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2013

Goodreads Summary: “Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.

Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.

Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.”

Reason for Keeping: The description of this book is really intriguing, which is probably why I put it on the WTR shelf in the first place. Even though the library doesn’t have a copy, I think that it is worth the $12 investment anyway.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #4

12285072Book Title: Mudwoman

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Added to WTR Shelf: January, 2014

Goodreads Summary: “Mudgirl is a child abandoned by her mother in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate—or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values, seemingly sealing it off forever. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.

Meredith “M.R.” Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming. Involved with a secret lover whose feelings for her are teasingly undefined, and concerned with the intensifying crisis of the American political climate as the United States edges toward war with Iraq, M.R. is confronted with challenges to her leadership that test her in ways she could not have anticipated. The fierce idealism and intelligence that delivered her from a more conventional life in her upstate New York hometown now threaten to undo her.

A reckless trip upstate thrusts M.R. Neukirchen into an unexpected psychic collision with Mudgirl and the life M.R. believes she has left behind. A powerful exploration of the enduring claims of the past, Mudwoman is at once a psychic ghost story and an intimate portrait of a woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost, which explores the tension between childhood and adulthood, the real and the imagined, and the “public” and “private” in the life of a highly complex contemporary woman.”

Reason for Keeping: The description of the book sounds really good, and I can get the book free from the library.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #5

50398

Book Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Added to WTR Shelf: September, 2014

Goodreads Summary: “Jane Austen’s first novel—published posthumously in 1818—tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen’s fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical novel pokes fun at the gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.”

Reason for Keeping: I have read other Jane Austen books and I always like them, so why not give this one a try also?

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #6

375802

Book Title: Ender’s Game

Author: Orson Scott Card

Added to WTR Shelf: May, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military’s purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine’s abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.”

Reason for Keeping: I am a big fan of Orson Scott Card and I have been meaning to read this book for a very long time.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #7

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Book Title: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Author: Jack Finney

Added to WTR Shelf: July, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved—the world as he knew it. First published in 1955, this classic thriller of the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy inspired three major motion pictures.”

Reason for Keeping: This is a classic sci-fi book, and one that I have been meaning to read for a very long time.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #8

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Book Title: Troublemaker

Author: Leah Remini

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “The outspoken actress, talk show host, and reality television star offers up a no-holds-barred memoir, including an eye-opening insider account of her tumultuous and heart-wrenching thirty-year-plus association with the Church of Scientology. Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.”

Reason for Keeping: I originally added this book to the WTR shelf because I was intrigued by the inner workings of scientology. I am still intrigued and feel that this book might be similar to Educated by Tara Westover, which I really liked.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 2

 

Book #9

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Book Title: The Soul of an Octopus

Author: Sy Montgomery

Added to WTR Shelf: November, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopusreveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.”

Reason for Keeping: I purchased this book back in 2015 because I was going to write a book with a main character as an octopus. I read about half of it before I got into other books, and didn’t have time anymore. I never picked it up again. However, since I own this book, and because the book was good, I will finish reading it.

Weeks on the Clean Up List: 1

 

Book #10

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Book Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Added to WTR Shelf: December, 2015

Goodreads Summary: “From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her.

Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.”

Reason for Keeping: To Kill a Mockingbird is such a classic, must-read book. I really want to read this 2nd book as well. I have been meaning to read this for a few years now, but always get distracted by other books.

BOOK REVIEW: The Outsider by Stephen King

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Title: The Outsider

Author: Stephen King

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 49 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Link: Goodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”

My Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, and I have really struggled with this review. On the one hand I liked it, but on the other hand I was not that impressed. I have some spoilers in this review, but i cannot give my full opinion without giving away some of the story. The beginning of the book starts out like any other murder mystery / crime novel. As with all of his books, King’s writing is impeccable, and the characters are well-developed.

The issue I have is with the supernatural monster, who turned out to be the real killer. In a nutshell, this monster was a shape shifter that was capable of becoming other people, even down to the DNA level. This is how he would perpetrate the crimes, and the humans from whom the monster had stolen the DNA (like Terry Maitland) would get the blame. The monster fed on children and thrived on the grief the killings caused the family members. It had white blood filled with worms, and it would use the worms to infect humans so that it could control them to do its bidding.

After Detective Anderson (and his team) figure out that the real killer is some sort of monster, they track it down to a cave system and ultimately destroy it.

Elements of this story heavily reminded me of It (also by Stephen King) and the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro — which is why, for me, the story did not really feel all that original. It reminded me of It because the monster went after children, hibernated after feedings, and lived underground in an abandoned mine. It reminded me of The Strain series because of the worms and the white blood (in The Strain, the vampires made new vampires by infecting humans with worms, and said vampires had white blood).

I was on a business trip in Japan while reading this book, and was severely jet lagged for most of the week. Since this book received very high reviews in general, maybe the jet lag prevented me from really appreciating the story, as every time I read the book, I was very tired. In any event, since Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, I would still recommend to read this book.

 

Reading Challenge Progress: February, 2019

I’m participating in two reading challenges in 2019. First, I have dedicated myself to reading 100 books this year on Goodreads. Last year I only made it to 70, so I am hoping that this year I can make it all the way to 100. See my current progress here.

Since 100 books is quite a lot, I have challenged myself to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks, in accordance with the following categories. This will challenge me to step outside my normal comfort zone and explore books that I otherwise would not read. See my current progress below. If you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them!

Category

Book Chosen

Date

1. Book published in 2019
2. Author you’ve never heard of The Moor by Sam Haysom. See my review here. Jan. 26 2019
3. A book you’ve read before The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. See my review here. Feb. 13 2019
4. Book with a strong female lead 17th Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. See my review here. Feb. 4 2019
5. A play
6. A book set in Southern USA
7. A memoir on someone you admire Becoming by Michelle Obama. See my review here. Jan. 27 2019
8. Set in the Victorian Era
9. Character with career you wish you had
10. A plant on the cover
11. Published the year you graduated school
12. A graphic novel The Daughter’s of Salem by Thomas Gilbert. See my review here. Feb. 3 2019
13. Featuring music
14. An ugly cover

Category

Book Chosen

Date

15. A teen as the main character The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen. See my review here. Feb. 17 2019
16. The re-telling of a well-known story
17. Set during a holiday
18. Book picked out by someone else
19. Gothic Fiction novel
20. A book about time-travel
21. A title starting with the letter “J”
22. Fantasy novel The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. See my review here. Feb. 22 2019
23. True crime novel
24. A self-published book
25. The name of a color in the title Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. See my review here. Jan. 31 2019
26. A one word title
27. A book that makes you mad
28. A book that discusses mental health
29. A book published by HarperCollins Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. See my review here. Jan. 23 2019

Category

Book Chosen

Date

30. An author who uses initials
31. A book that everyone’s talking about
32. A western
33. A book about a cult
34. Nominated for (but didn’t win) the 2018 Goodreads choice awards
35. A sports related book
36. A humorous novel Calypso by David Sedaris. See my review here. Feb. 2 2019
37. Set in South America
38. An allegorical book
39. Military Related: fiction or non-fiction
40. A character that is an immigrant
41. A book suggested by someone else in the challenge
42. A family member’s favourite book
43. A children’s book When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. See my review here. Feb. 3 2019
44. An author who uses a pseudonym

Category

Book Chosen

Date

45. A “beach read”
46. The first book you see in a bookstore / library Talking with Pyschopaths and Savages by Christopher Berry-Dee. See my review here. Feb. 14 2019
47. Set in a country you’ve visited
48. Set in a post-apocalyptic world
49. A speed read
50. A fairy tale
51. A book about organized crime / the mob
52. An audiobook Educated by Tara Westover. See my review here. Jan. 14 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

17667561Title: The Shadow Throne

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 53 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The Shadow Throne is the last book in the Ascendance Trilogy following The Runaway King (see my review here) and The False Prince (see my review here). The book starts off about three weeks after the ending of The Runaway King, and war has come to Carthya. Imogen is captured by the King of Avenia, and Jaron sets out to save her. Tobias and the Princess are sent to the Princess’s country to get aid, and Roden is sent away to the border to stop an invasion. While Jaron is on his quest to save his love, war is erupting all around him.

My Review: SPOILER ALERT. I liked this book a lot less than the other two books. Although it was entertaining, and was a fast paced story, Jaron’s “wit” was getting super annoying. I mean, how cool is it when everything coming out of someone’s mouth is a quip or a one-liner? Talk about eye roll inducing. This book could have been full of action, but instead of following the battle scenes, most of the book followed the story of Jaron who was captured several times, tortured / beat up several times. It just got a little tedious. And to be honest, I didn’t really understand the whole point of having this war — except for maybe to get three books out of the storyline. I do not see how Jaron even won at the end, since everyone surrounding him was against him. It was a bit unrealistic. But of course, everything had to end so neatly with a happily ever after.

I have to say that I was kind of disappointed in the ending, but maybe Game of Thrones has made me expect too much from these medieval kingdom type books.

The Audiobook Recording: SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the recording, there is a special scene involving Bevin Connor and the King of Avenia. Connor is betraying Jaron in exchange for becoming King of Carthya after Jaron is dead. During this scene, Connor began to regret his traitorous ways and vows to help Jaron win the war. This seemed unlikely that after everything Connor had done he would for some unknown reason turn coat (again) and be loyal to Jaron…but okay. I guess it was needed to help the plot. Jaron of course had to win the war in the end (aforementioned happy ending) and there really were insurmountable odds without Connor’s help.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Feb 19 2019: Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

via Top Ten Tuesday – The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

As per That Artsy Reader Girl’s Blog, “Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

How it works:

I assign each Tuesday a topic and then post my top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join me and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

February 19: Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads.

So I guess I apparently only LOVE main stream books, because I literally did not have ANY books that I rated 5 stars with less than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads.

The following are 10 books which I rated 4 stars and which have less than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

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Title: Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Author: Stephen Hawking

Book Length (Audiobook): 4 hours 54 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Science, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Physics

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: (link to Goodreads above) “Stephen Hawking was the most renowned scientist since Einstein, known both for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and for his mischievous sense of humor. He educated millions of readers about the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes, and inspired millions more by defying a terrifying early prognosis of ALS, which originally gave him only two years to live. In later life he could communicate only by using a few facial muscles, but he continued to advance his field and serve as a revered voice on social and humanitarian issues.

Hawking not only unraveled some of the universe’s greatest mysteries but also believed science plays a critical role in fixing problems here on Earth. Now, as we face immense challenges on our planet—including climate change, the threat of nuclear war, and the development of artificial intelligence—he turns his attention to the most urgent issues facing us. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? These are just a few of the questions Hawking addresses in this wide-ranging, passionately argued final book from one of the greatest minds in history.

Featuring a foreword by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking, an introduction by Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, and an afterword from Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a brilliant last message to the world.”

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking”