2017 Reading Challenge, Uncategorized

2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #30

As we get deeper into the challenge, we are finding out that some earlier books may have fit into these later categories a little better. That is one issue with the way we are approaching it by going straight down the list. This one was up to my mom and as her usual she chose a good one.

A book with pictures: Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton moved to New York with a project in mind. He would take 1000 pictures of the people in the city documenting each neighborhood and those that lived there. This turned into a social media storm with his popular Facebook page that he turned into this book.

The book is filled with pictures of people he met on the streets of New York City with small blurbs about each one. They encompass the homeless, the heartbroken, the dreamers, the business men and women, the rich. It is a telling picture book of real life.

I had already been a follower of HONY on Facebook although I had turned off notifications over a year ago due to them clogging my newsfeed. This book is mostly pictures and small blurbs whereas his Facebook page and his second book dive deeper into the lives of each person he photographs and interviews.

One picture really stood out to me. It is of a late middle aged homeless man, a close up of his face as he peers into the camera. The caption is along the lines of (sorry, I don’t have it memorized) I may be homeless and an alcoholic, but I have a dream. I want to go fishing.

I’m not sure why that struck me so hard, but I found myself lingering over the caption and the picture. Maybe it is because the dream is so simple for most but out of reach for this man. Maybe it is because the dream to go fishing is so small compared to his greater needs of shelter, clothes and food and yet it is what he clings to. Maybe it is because it makes you realize that everyone has a story, everyone has a dream, everyone is a person.

The book takes about 10 minutes to go through and is 10 minutes worth spending.


2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #29

The book prompts are getting more broad which is nice as it allows you to pick genres that you enjoy hcowever it also makes the research behind the title more involved. After I finished the last book, my next pick became available and I was excited to get into this one.

A book with an unreliable narrator- The Three by Sarah Lotz

Four planes crash around the world on the same day: North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. As each crash site is being explored, one child is found from each plane in North America, Asia and Europe. Three children survive the horrific tragedies around the world. How? What does it mean?

As information regarding the crashes, the odd behavior of the surviving children, and a cryptic message left by a dying victim of the Japanese crash begins to leak to the public, fanatics begin to gather and a chain of events occurs that seems almost unstoppable.

Were the crashes natural and the children just lucky? Was it terrorism? Did aliens attack? Are the children the harbingers of the Apocalypse?

This book intrigued me from the get go. The entire book is written in the past tense as a collection of manuscripts, interviews, online chat room recordings, articles and news reports that were collected by the author and published after the events played out as she tries to make sense of what happened and find the truth. As such, the reader of The Truth is really reading a book inside of this book which is interesting in and of itself. In addition to that, the chapters bounce between writing styles: one will be an interview by the fictional author, the next a transcript of an internet chat room, and another an article written by another author. This style allowed the story to be told from multiple view points along the way and gives the reader a sense of how the world was feeling and slowly falling apart.

Each child returns to a family member after the crashes a changed child. Strange things begin to happen around them: a grandfather with advanced Alzheimer’s returns to himself again,  an uncle has nightmares and swears the girl is sending them his way, a boy who only speaks through an android. Psychologists diagnose PTSD and tell the family to give them more time. Outsiders call them the riders of the Apocalypse and claim the end of the world is nigh.

In the US, a faction of Doomsdayers gains traction due to a cryptic message a church member in Texas leaves on her cell phone for her pastor as she lay dying in the Japanese forest. As more and more people begin to fear the end of times, the church gains power and eventually gain control of the country creating a uber conservative regime.

Elsewhere, the world falls into disarray as Japan aligns with Korea, Europe falls into a depression and war seems imminent. Overall the question remains: who are these children and why did they survive?

The ending….well…I don’t want to spoil it completely. Thankfully the book does provide an explanation through a series of epilogues after the initial text in a more traditional style of writing. Was I thrilled with the ending? Not right away, but after more thought I really did think it was the best way the author could have ended it.

I do recommend reading it. It is a quick read due to the format and keeps you hanging on to figure the plot out.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #28

This was a little out of order as the next prompt that was mine was on hold, so I went ahead and skipped to my next one as we waited. Turns out my pick was one my mom had already read which was surprising to happen for the first time this late in the challenge. She opted to wait while I read it and pick back up when the next one was available off hold.

A book with the main character of a different ethnicity- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Florentino is a man of love. He happens upon Fermina Daza when he delivers a message to her father and from the moment he lays eyes on her he knows he has seen the only woman he will ever love. From then on, he stalks her waking moments and positions himself in such a way as to be able to “happen” upon her. After many weeks, he finds the courage to speak to her and thus begins a passionate love affair via the written word: the two never again speak in person and instead their entire relationship takes place in letters.

For her part, Fermina believes in her love of Florentino. She is a girl of sharp wit, a quick temper and a hatred of her father’s plans for her life. While Florentino writes prose full of poetry and flamboyant love, her responses are short and to the point. When he proposes marriage, she takes her time before accepting. Their love affair is secret from Fermina’s father and only her Aunt knows of them. When her father does find out, he is enraged. He sends the Aunt away and takes Fermina on a trip to her ancestral home to meet up with her cousins. Along the way, they devise a way to stay in touch.

Once she returns home however she meets up with Florentino face to face for the first time since their initial meeting and all her feelings flee. She abruptly ends the relationship, requests all her letters and trinkets returned and refuses to speak with him again.

Florentino is devastated. He continues to swear his love for her and only her and as their lives diverge, Fermina marries another and Florentino stays “true” to his one and only. As old age draws near, he hopes to rekindle a fire that he believes still exists between them.

The book takes place in a fictional Carribean port at the turn of the 19th century and spans 50 years.  It is written in a mix of past and present tense by an unknown narrator that is neither of the main characters and is never fully revealed.

The main theme is of love, both returned and unrequited and the lengths one will go to to hold onto the past.

Fermina at once puts Florentino out of her mind once she turns him away  and moves on to marry a local doctor allowing her to move up in class. She lives her life without a second though to the boy who once proposed marriage to her although she sees him out in town quite frequently. Once her husband passes, she is confronted with Florentino once again and quickly sends him away out of hand but soon realizes that perhaps she is as wrong now as she was before.

Florentino never forgets Fermina and begins to build his life in every way to serve his greater purpose of winning her back. He understands that her husband must die before he can make his move and waits patiently for over 50 years to do so. Lest one should think him a martyr, over those 50+ years he has nearly 700 sexual encounters and affairs which ends with an affair with his 14 year old goddaughter.

The book was riveting in content building the story in both the past and present. It takes care to spend time looking at those years from both Florentino’s and Fermina’s point of view which casts an interesting look at our lives and how we effect those we interact with. Each character is well rounded although I did find myself liking Fermina more and Florentino less as their stories unfolded over the course of their lives.

There are times when the book bogs down especially as it goes over the many sordid affairs Florentino aligns himself with. It got redundant and I found myself thinking “yeah, I got it the man likes to sleep around” multiple times throughout and wishing for another Fermina chapter to come along. The ending leaves a little to be desired, but I suppose there wasn’t any better way to do it.

I do recommend the book. My copy was nearly 900 pages long of close type, single spaced lines so it took a while to get through. 4/5

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar reading Challenge Book #27

With such a broad prompt, nearly any genre could fit the bill. I was pretty excited about the possibilities with this one and waited to see what mom chose.

A book set during wart time –  Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford. 

The world is on the cusp of World War I and those working in office in England at the start only have a hint of what is to come. Christopher Teitjen is one of the last Torries and has a station within the statistics department and a wife he hates and who has recently left him for a brief period on vacation with another man.

I’d like to tell you all more about the plot, but the truth is I got 100 pages in and hated it so much I stopped reading. My mom made it about 50 pages. Maybe less.

The book is lengthy to the point of being drudgery.  The descriptors are overly indulgent and the characters are mere facades. Apparently there is an entire series on TV following the book and I can only hope it is more interesting than the book.


2017 Reading Challenge, Uncategorized

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #26

Halfway done and nearly on track to finish the entire challenge by year’s end. This one was on me and I knew I wanted to grab a biography. Which one was not as clear, but I found one that seemed to fit the bill. My mom was not so enthusiastic at first, but ended up really enjoying it.

A book with a character’s name in the title: American Legend: The real life adventures of David Crockett by Buddy Levy

David Crockett grew into a legend, but first he was a man.  A man who loved the wide open spaces that the newly formed America had to offer. A man who lived for hunting, travel and the odd military battle. His life was not without its misfortunes, however much of his life was due to this own errors in judgement and inability to manage his own accounts. He lived a life in constant debt even after spending multiple terms in Congress and becoming a well known author.

His need for constant motion, his hunt for fortune and land, and his need to pay off debt eventually led him to Texas and the Alamo. Many people only remember the legends that surrounded the best known frontiersman, but he led a life that brought him out of the woods and into celebrity.

As a biography goes, this one was both informative and very entertaining. I didn’t know a whole lot about the frontiersman prior to reading this book and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The author presents David Crockett in the raw, without glossing over the negative nor dwelling on it. By the end of the biography, I felt like I had a sense of the man as a whole with all his positive and negative attributes presented for inspection.

I really enjoy a biography that includes letters or other form of personal correspondence from the person as I feel it gives you a real sense of the person and this one did not disappoint in that regard either. There are several passages from letters or speeches that David Crockett gave and many more quotes from his peers of the time.

The novel reads quickly as well without too much time spent belaboring any one point in his life which ranges from his early childhood to his death at the Alamo. The author also tries to give motivation behind Crockett’s decisions, which while it is mostly conjecture, flows well with the narrative of his life.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #25

The broader prompts have been much more interesting during this challenge and this one was no exception. I really need to ask my mom what her selection process is as I believe it is very different than mine.

A book written by an author from a country you have never visited – The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Oscar de Leon is a Dominican American living in New York with his mother and sister. His father had run out years before never to return and his mother is an ever present dictator in the family. Oscar himself is an outcast: obese, nerdy before it was hip, and longing for love and sex. He spends his time worrying that he will die a virgin and casts detailed love fantasies on every girl he chances to meet when he is not feverishly writing fantasy and sci-fi novels in his room. When his heart gets broken time and again he falls into a deep depression.

The novel follows the life of Oscar from childhood to early adulthood as he seeks to find his place in the world and to find love. Along the way, the reader is introduced to his family history, one that is filled with bad choices and violence. Will Oscar be able to break the family curse or will he succumb to it himself?

The novel takes place spanning a time from the early 1970s through the mid 1990s and introduces the reader to the de Leon family both in their origins in the Dominican Republic as well as in the US. The family believes in an old curse which they have named Fuku and which began with his grandfather in the times of the Trujillo dictatorship. 

While the novel is about Oscar, it is mostly written from a hidden narrator’s point of view except for a chapter from his sister, Lola. It is revealed half way through that the narrator is his sister’s boyfriend, Yunior who is writing the novel to make amends to the family for the wrongs he feels he has committed in his friendship with Oscar. 

The book is compelling although difficult to read with the randomly thrown in words and phrases in Spanish. In addition, the author uses multiple modern science fiction/pop culture references to move the story along. He frequently quotes Lord of the Rings, The Matrix and various superheroes as well as some more obscure characters that I was unfamiliar with. 

The characters themselves are well defined and rounded with full glimpses into their personalities and motivations. The chapters that go back into the family past help to enlighten the reader on how each character became who they were. 

I’m not well schooled on Dominican customs and traditions, so I can only go on what the author has served up in regards to the behaviors of those in the novel. Part of me felt a little betrayed by the author. As if he was leading me to believe unfavorable stereotypes and generalizations as truth. My own background offers nothing to counter what he writes, but it would be interesting to speak with someone of that cultural background to get their take on how the culture is being portrayed. 

The overall theme is about past curses and what we can do to break them. Oscar suffers depression and has no family help to solve his issues and break out of his cycles of self harm. In the end, Oscar is his own worst enemy and causes his downfall which mimics, a little too closely, part of his mother’s past. 

In the end, while I do not know how Oscar’s life could be called wondrous, the book is captivating and well worth the read. 



2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #24

The order got a little messed up I think. We were supposed to read the red spine before the wilderness, but that one became available first. It really doesn’t matter in the end, but it did give me two picks in a row. 

A book that you loved as a child: The Giver

The world is black and white and sheltered.  Boys and girls line up at a pivotal age to be assigned their future: custodian, breeder, teacher. It has been this way as far back as nearly anyone can remember. Everyone is safe. Everyone is happy. 

The group of children currently awaiting their assignments seem no different than any previous group. Each one is called up, given their assignment and go to hug their family. Except one child is skipped over. The crowd tries to ignore it, but it is impossible. What went wrong?

At the very end of the ceremony the boy is called up on stage. He has a very special assignment. He has been chosen to become the next keeper of memories. He will work along side the current one as he slowly has the memories of the old world transferred to him. 

What he doesn’t realize is that there was once color in the world. And laughter. And cold snow. There were once wars and fires and sickness. As he becomes more and more burdened with the memories of his society he begins to wonder what it would be like to release them all. 

I first read this book in 5th grade around the time it was published. I was immediately intrigued. A world without color? Without hope and fear? What would that be like? How could one person shoulder the burden of all those memories?

Re reading the book was like a walk down memory lane. I could still picture the first time I read it. Did it stand the test of time? I believe so. The boom is t too clear of why they live that way or why there are people out there living a perfectly normal life. Is this is only group like this? Why did they decide to hide? How did they do it?

The ending is also extremely open ended. It almost seemed like a sequel would come, but it never did. I believe the book is slated to be a movie or already has. I don’t keep up with that so I am not sure. Either way you should read it. It won’t take long to get through it.