Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Book #21

This will be a super short review. The next prompt was back to the mother and followed on the tail of two really good reads.

A book from a non human perspective: White Bone by Barbara Gowdy

I’ll be upfront: I only made it through the first 50 or so pages. Then I gave up, so I really can’t give a full synopsis. Here is what I gathered:

Mud was born under extreme circumstances to the M elephant herd. Her mother was bit by a poisonous snake during labor and fell on top of Mud in her death. The other elephants in the herd attempted to free Mud from under her mother’s body, but were unable to do so and abandoned her to her fate. She managed to not only survive, but escape as well and was adopted by another herd, the S herd.

Her early years were marked by the worst drought to hit Africa in 65 years along with the presence of humans intent on slaughter. Rumors begin to fly of a safe place where humans aide the animal instead of hunt them.

That is the farthest I got, but my mom actually finished it and informed my that the book only goes downhill from there.

The book is told from the elephant’s perspective and as such is an interesting concept. As a general rule, I avoid all animal books since they historically all end poorly and from what I gathered, this one is no exception.

What was so wrong with it?

In my opinion, any book written in a way that not only requires a 3 page glossary of made up terms to start, but also at least one very lengthy footnote per page to explain made up concepts, is just written poorly. I get the creativity in the book, but the author made up so much stuff that it was impossible to keep up. Having to take a pause to read a paragraph long foot note to explain the concept of the Great She Elephant and their theory on the afterlife is cumbersome and detracts from fully engrossing yourself into the narrative and this occurred on every single page for the first 50 I made it through. By the end of that, I was so tired of reading things that made no sense that I cashed it all in and stopped.

I’m not sure what her full intent of the novel was. I’d guess it was about the cruelty of humans and the ivory trade, but due to the overly intricate invented elephant society, that was completely lost. In fact, she made the characters so unlikable in personality and the narrative a constant onslaught of misery that I found myself not really caring if they managed to survive or not.

0/5 from me for this book.



Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book# 20

This next prompt was for a genre I had never even heard of. I happened to be at the library dropping off my last book and decided to ask the librarian what it was and for a good recommendation. As it turned it, this genre was the young lady’s favorite and she gave me a good suggestion for my first foray into it.

A steampunk novel: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Ezekiel Wilkes is a 15 year old boy with questions. Questions his mother, Briar Wilkes, refuses to answer. They live in the Outskirts, a muddy and poverty stricken shamble of houses bordering a two mile high, seamless wall that was built to contain a toxic yellow gas that rots everything it touches including human flesh. Zeke believes that inside that wall are his answers and one morning he slips through a sewer drain and enters what was once the bustling and wealthy city of Seattle, Washington in search of his mother’s old house.

When his mother finds him missing, she needs to find a way into the city to get him back and will stop at nothing to do so.

What follows next is an adventure involving zombies, desperate souls trying to hold onto their crumbling past, power hungry men taking advantage where they can, and the struggles of a mother trying to save her son from a past she is trying to hide.

Going into this prompt, I was a bit worried. The description I was told of the genre, victorian era sci fi, wasn’t all that appealing, however, once the book got going I found myself deeply interested and not wanting to put it back down.

The time period is the mid 1800s and I found it really interesting that the author explains herself in the back of the book because she veered from accurate history to make her plot make sense. In this version, Seattle is bustling due to the influx of Klondike gold and many future buildings and streets are already in place. I found this odd since the entire book relies on the suspension of reality: the premise is based on a toxic gas leaking from the earth that turns people into zombies. Not being familiar with the genre, I am uncertain as to if it in general follows as closely to the real world as a rule.

While the book at first glance is about fighting zombies and opportunistic, power hungry men, at closer inspection the themes that run through it are much deeper.

 When the wall went up some people decided to stay behind and turned the rotting city back into their home. They built tunnels to avoid the zombies, found a way to make beer out of the toxic gas and learned how to both filter the air and make sealed off clean rooms. The life they lead is far from perfect, but as they put it it is a life of freedom. It brings to light the ideas of home and what makes a good life. 

The other major theme is that of protection. Briar has strived to protect her son from their mutual past, but in doing so she sent him off in search of answers in the one place she didn’t want to him go. In begs the reader to ask how far one should go to shield others from a past you couldn’t control. 

The characters themselves are likable and realistic and the more you learn the more you want to know about each one. The ending is left open which is my least favorite, but I suppose it leaves room for interpretation. 

It was a really good book and makes me want to add this genre to my list of favorites. 



Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #19

My turn again and I was not excited about the prompt, but that is what this challenge is all about: going outside the comfort zone.

A book with career advice: It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now by Barbara Sher

Apparently life is supposed to come to a screeching halt at 40. Surprised? So was I. I hope she is wrong. I am 35 now and feel like the world is still endless and full of potential. According to the author, I won’t feel that way in 5 years.

The author breaks the book into two sections: how you got to the point of this mid life crisis and what to do now.

I will fully admit that while I started the book reading it thoroughly by mid point it turned into skimming. It was boring, it didn’t align at all with my own experiences and I found it hard to relate to.

Basically the author feels that it is perfectly acceptable to feel that way when you turn 40 and not only is it acceptable, but it is necessary. After 40  you become a brand new person with new goals, new beliefs and new perspective. That person is much more like the person you were when you were a kid and you can once again return to your true self.

Maybe my opinion will be different once I am 40, but my mother, who is 57, felt the same as me and didn’t connect with the book either.


Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book #18

I think I am a little scarred by this one. This was my mom’s last pick of her two to get caught up and it was…mind blowing I think is the best description. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the implications of the novel and I doubt I’ll ever fully grasp it all. Specially since the prompt was so innocent.

A book about food: Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

Eddie, Darlene, Scotty. Three main characters in a book so profound that your head will be left reeling upon completion.

The book begins with Eddie, a young man in his teens, driving as fast as he can in a stolen car, without hands. How he came to be missing both his hands is not revealed at this point and who he is running from is equally well obscured. All the reader knows in the beginning is that Eddie is running towards St. Cloud, MN and his estranged Aunt who he hopes will be his salvation.

The book then jumps back in time to introduce Eddie’s mother, Darlene, who enters the novel making one bad decision after another. She meets her husband when she steals him from a sorority sister, gets run off the college campus and follows him on his idealistic and naive dreams of being a small town African American activist in the racist south.

When her husband is brutally murdered for his speaking out against the white politicians in his small town, Scotty enters the picture and remains the voice of Darlene throughout the remainder of the novel. Scotty is Darlene’s method of escaping the brutality of her recent past and she loses her mind and body to it: crack cocaine.

Bad decisions begin to pile up and eventually lead Darlene to being fooled into entering a minibus and signing a contract to work on a farm: Delicious Foods. Once she arrives she finds out that the contract is really her enslavement, that those who run the farm are vicious and cruel and that there is no escaping. However, being paid with cocaine isn’t so bad after all and Darlene begins to wonder if she really wants to leave.

From the very first pages, this novel is haunting and difficult to read yet also difficult to put down. It is an expose on destructive behaviors, how the hopeless manage to survive and modern day slavery and exploitation. I was never able to fully glean what era the book was set in: post Vietnam War, but pre-modern age. Somewhere in the 70s and early 80s, I believe.

Darlene as a character is hard to sympathize with. The loss of her husband turns her from her son and onto the streets as a prostitute looking for any way to earn enough money to get more cocaine. Her treatment of her son borders abusive, but is more neglectful than anything. Some deep part of her knows that her actions, her addiction, is wrong and that she has gone far astray of the path both she and her beloved husband wanted for her, however she is unable to turn back onto it.

Eddie is only 6 years old in the early part of the book and has to grow up fast. He never fully understands what the death of his father means and he has no good adult in his life to teach him. His mother is lost to cocaine, his aunt turns her back on them both as punishment to Darlene, and even his neighbors find him more trouble than they care to deal with. When he finds his way to Delicious Foods, he finds his own form of salvation although it comes at a great cost.

This book will remain with you once you have finished it. I will warn you that there is foul language, violence and sex throughout. If it had a rating, it would be R. The text can be hard to follow when written from the cocaine’s voice and made the flow hesitant and hard to grasp although this was likely intentional and showed the fragmented brain of those under the spell of the drug.


Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book #17

I’m not so sure this would have been my pick and I’m still unclear why it was my mom’s but it was, so I read it. It was a quick read for sure.

A Book You’ve Read Before That Always Makes You Smile:  There’s a Wocket in my Pocket by Dr. Seuss. 

So….not sure how to really write anything up about this. I’m pretty sure everyone has read Dr. Suess. This is not my favorite one of his. I’m, quite partial to the Foot Book and Oh! The Places You ‘ll Go.

A little kid, presumably by the drawings, is introducing the reader to the house he lives in and all the creatures he finds everywhere he looks and there are plenty.

At the end, spoiler alert I suppose, he mentions that nobody else may see them, but he does and chooses to believe it. Dr. Seuss, always one to expand your imagination.

Its a quick read as is all Dr. Seuss and a easy escape from reality.


Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book # 16

It has been a while since I did a book review. I thought I would get a lot more read on my trip, but most of the time was spent exploring or at the conference and I couldn’t read while the kiddo slept as I usually do because we shared a hotel room and the light bothered him.

My mom had no interest in choosing a book for this prompt as it was extremely outside her comfort zone. I chose it so I would have something for the trip and then she got the next two.

Since this is also a genre I don’t typically read, I ended up just gong to the library and browsing. While they shelve their books like a typical library, alphabetical per author, they also add stickers to the spines to show the genre. I looked at the books with a UFO on the spine and picked one at random that sounded interesting.

A Book Involving a Mythical Creature: The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan Howard

Horst Cabal thought he was quite dead, and dead for good, until he was risen by a diabolical team of power hungry politicians. He was a little disappointed to find that he was no longer dead. For their part, those who brought him back were also disappointed when they soon figured out they had chosen the wrong Vampire. This one had a conscience and had no interest in being their Lord of The Dead.

Horst soon finds himself in the midst of a plot to create a state of monsters: werebeings, vampires, zombies and the like. In order to help stop this plan he brings his brother, Johannes Cabal, back from Hell, where evidently Horst had previously sent him. Johannes is a necromancer and apparently a good one at that, no longer amused by bringing brainless zombies to animation, he is looking to bring people back from the dead with body, mind and soul intact.

Together they create a team that is hopefully, for the humans on the planet anyway, capable of stopping the evil plot at hand.

First, this is apparently the second book in a series. It did stand alone enough to make the experience enjoyable, but there were several instances where I wished I had picked up the first one instead. So, please read the first one first.

I really enjoyed this book. While it was not my typical genre, it was extremely well written with a big heaping dose of satire and humor thrown in. The satire part put me in mind of my favorite series, The Disc World by Terry Pratchett, and helped the otherwise heavy text flow.

The author was obviously writing for those who were very familiar with this type of book and even mentioned in an early on footnote that reading Lovecraft would probably be a good intro to his books as well. I’m not a fan of Lovecraft, but I was still able to follow the plot and understand most of the intricacies presented.

The novel is long: over 300 pages in hard copy with closely set text and single line print. It took a while to get through. At the end though, I found myself adding the first book to my list of books to read once this challenge is over.

If you are into this type of novel or are looking to test the waters into it, I highly suggest reading the series, though again, please start at the beginning since I believe it would make a lot more sense.


Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #15

This one was harder than I though it would be. I ended up just going to my local library website and performing a search with the keyword THE thinking it would bring int he most hits and restricting the search to those published this year. Then I looked through the results for something that sounded interesting and with multiple copies available.

A book published in 2017: The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

Lives merge, expand and contract when a young girl shows up in a small sea side New England town with an infant in her arms watching the man who brought her drive away to never return. Her own past is littered with heart break and enduring and has left her standing by the side of the road fearful of her present.

Mabel, who owns the rental cottages where she is dropped at, takes her in and gives her a home until they close down for the winter season. Mabel is grieving the loss of her husband by staunchly refusing to let go of his memory and effects and not letting anyone new in. Once the cottages are closed, she transfer the girl and her baby to her friend Iris, a hermit who enclosed herself into a secret garden at the passing of her own husband, although this was done out of hate and not love.

Their lives intersect with others as June and Luke settle into their new life helping Iris as best they can to take care of the grounds and then herself as she ages quicker than expected with a medical condition she won’t admit to having.

The book is a slice of life style novel that follows groups of people who are brought together and learn to heal from past scars through the arrival of June. Each chapter focuses on a different character although it is written in the third person throughout. This gives the reader a unique perspective of the same events through the lens of each character.

The writing style is easy to follow and modern day although quite a few run on sentences continued for an entire paragraph. The characters were what I consider ultra realistic: meaning they could exist and had all facets of real people but their stories were inflated and the arc of their eventual emotion recovery too swift and all inclusive.

I found the themes of trust and love to be intriguing and how the author showed the response to loss in such extremes as Mabel wearing her husband’s shoes every night to feel the imprint of his feet versus Iris who shut herself in and disowned the world. Both women locked themselves in their grief, not allowing life to move on but each did it in their own way. Each found freedom in the end, but this also differed for each.

Overall the themes are sad: loss, loneliness, abandonment, unrequited love. The story arc is beautifully written though and I found myself wishing for more pages at the end with so many open ended questions that I will never find an answer to.