Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Seventh Book Review: “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvani Neuvel

“Sleeping Giants” by Sylvani Neuvel was such a fun read, a big thank you needs to go out to the guy at work who gave me the perfect book to get into the sci-fi genre – “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. Enjoying that book as I did led me to choose “Sleeping Giants” as my book of the month a few times back. The only disappointing part of this book was that it was on the short side and the sequel isn’t due out until April 2017. Cue my sad face. But in the meantime, I am eager to continue my foray into science fiction and convince as many other people as possible to participate in that journey.

“Sleeping Giants” was told not as a narrative, but as a series of discussions much in a Q&A fashion. There is one consistent character, which is never identified, that interrogates all the other characters in this book. I think this was an especially successful way to write this book because it was focused around a monumental discovery. “Sleeping Giants” opens with young Rose sneaking out of the house after her birthday party to take a spin on her new bike. She ends up wiping out and falling into a huge hole. When she is rescued, we learn that she landed in a huge metallic hand. Flash forward seventeen years later where Rose has been recruited to study this one piece in a very large puzzle. The more answers that are found however, the more questions that arise – including if this is a force that should be tampered with. “That also scares me. Am I ready to accept all that may come out of this if it works? It might also have the power to kill millions. Do I want that on my conscience? I wish I knew where this journey will take us, but I don’t. All I know is that this is bigger than me, my self-doubt, or any crisis of conscience. I now truly realize how profoundly insignificant I am compared to all this. Why does that make one feel so much better?” (Sleeping Giants, pg 81)

There were a lot of philosophical questions brought to light in “Sleeping Giants” as you would expect when dealing with scientific discoveries that prove there is something bigger out there in the universe. It was really interesting to see how different characters react to the different developments and obstacles that come up as the story progresses. Although I think the style in which the book was written is intriguing, there are some drawbacks, mainly the fact that you are only privy to the surface level of each character. You don’t get to see into their minds and learn about the characters beyond the dialog that is exchanged.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that there is a wide range of reader that would enjoy “Sleeping Giants”. This is a science fiction novel that is accessible and interesting. I am eager to see where the series goes and cannot wait for the next book to come out.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Sixth Book Review: “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood

What does love look like? In “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood, we follow Wavy as she tries to find her way in the world. Her parents are useless – negligent at the least but ready to shell out abuse whenever they take notice of her. The only family she has left after her parents are thrown in jail are her grandmother and her aunt. When thrust in with her extended family, Wavy refuses to follow any rules. Her mere presence puts a tremendous strain on her aunt and the fact that she refuses to talk, refuses to eat, and will not allow anyone to touch her, especially contribute to make Wavy a challenge.

Wavy comes to realize that the people in her life try to make her fit in one particular space. When she finally meets someone that doesn’t spend his time trying to change her in any way, is there any surprise that they build a relationship? “After Liam and Butch took Kellen away I thought about how he left spaces for me when he talked. If I saw him again, I decided I might put words in those spaces.” (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, pg 28).

There were so many weird parts to this book. On the one hand, Wavy is the main character and throughout the book we are learning more about her and how she is treated and what expectations others put up for her. It isn’t surprising that she does her own thing. So when she starts to fall for Kellen, you can’t help but cheer for them. That is, until an outsider observes them. And you realize that it is weird. That if your niece was in a similar situation that you would fight tooth and nail to protect her. That this relationship is for lack of a better word – icky.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. It was really well written and I liked the different characters. And it was definitely a book that made me think. But it is a little messed up. There are plenty of ugly things that come into play in this book and I was a little uncomfortable at times. So I wouldn’t recommend this book to the public at large. But I am glad that I read it and I would definitely pick up another book by Bryn Greenwood.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Book Review: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an enjoyable read that was clearly geared towards children. That being said, it was a fun introduction into the magical world that J.K. Rowling created and there were several times that I found myself laughing aloud. This happened despite the fact that I had read this series before.

The book starts off with an introduction into the Dursley family. It is quickly established that this family does not like anything out of the ordinary and that they are snobs at best. This family contains some of the worst people. When their nephew is left on their doorstep they very reluctantly take him in where he is raised in an appalling manner. Maybe I’m just naïve, but it seems to me that if your sister and her husband are murdered that you might try to take slightly better care of her newly orphaned son. Just maybe. But instead, Harry is treated like dirt and forced into an almost Cinderella-type servitude in his family’s home. But Harry is special and soon a whole new world is opened to him when he learns he is a wizard on his eleventh birthday.

The story is fun, but what really makes “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” stand out is the characters that we meet. Dumbledore is a quirky, wise headmaster and one of the greatest characters that I’ve seen in a long time. “The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” (HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone, pg 298) This is just one tidbit of wisdom that Dumbledore shared with Harry in what promises to be a noteworthy relationship.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – anyone looking to get lost in a book for a little while would enjoy “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling. It is written with a younger audience in mind, which makes it a quick read. At the same time, there are a lot of adult topics that are touched upon. We barely skim the surface of what is to come and it is a great way to whet the pallet in preparation for the rest of the series.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Fourth Book Review: “The Runaway Princess” by Hester Browne

“The Runaway Princess” by Hester Browne was a really fun read that kept a smile on my face for most of the book. Sometimes a lighthearted read is just what the doctor ordered after reading too many edge of your seat thrillers. My other reading experience with Hester Browne was The Little Lady Agency series. Books that I highly enjoyed, but overall felt a little frustrated with, not to mention slightly disgusted at the behavior of the main character’s family. I was hoping that “The Runaway Princess” would stand alone as a separate book and not follow a formula that so many authors seem to fall into these days. I was pleased that this book did not go in the direction I was expecting and that the main character’s parents were good people.

Amy Wilde was a fun main character that I felt myself relating to quite a bit. More of an introvert than her roommate, Amy is way outside her comfort zone at the heaven/hell party Jo throws at their London flat. After promising to not spend the whole party hiding in the kitchen, Amy reluctantly finds herself in the midst of the festivity being chatted up by a mysterious stranger. “I guessed this was how a rabbit felt, shortly before being swallowed whole by a boa constrictor, scared but oddly flattered at the same time.” (The Runaway Princess, pg 27) I liked this quote because it made me laugh and it gives a good sense of who Amy is; she’s the kind of girl that doesn’t expect to be the focus of a sexy stranger’s attention. This sexy stranger turns out to be Rolf – a prince that has sort of dated Jo. What Amy doesn’t realize at the time is that the guy who talked Rolf down and got him to behave (sort of) was Rolf’s brother, Leo who is also a prince. And thus, we move into the love story.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a fun read. It isn’t one that is going to really stimulate your intellect, but it is nice to sometimes allow yourself to get lost in a junk food read and that is exactly what “The Runaway Princess” delivered. I’m glad that Hester Browne’s stand alone novel was a fun read and I will definitely continue to read her books!

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Third Book Review: “Nothing to Lose” by Lee Child

“Nothing to Lose” by Lee Child is the twelfth book in the Jack Reacher series. Reading through the series, I have come to know and love the character Jack Reacher. He lives life by his own code and he doesn’t get caught up in unimportant matters such as possessions or, from his perspective, relationships. He just is enjoying living a solitary life outside the military. Reacher is the kind of guy that stands up where he sees injustice. He will fight for the little guy. He’s always ready to help out a damsel in distress. And almost always, I find myself cheering him on for his behavior and his honest outlook on life. In “Nothing to Lose” I found myself in unknown territory. Instead of cheering for Reacher, I found myself judging him harshly. He wasn’t getting involved because of some grave injustice where someone smaller was unable to stand up for themselves – this time Reacher was causing trouble because he felt personally insulted. He didn’t like getting kicked out of a town. “He liked to press on, dead ahead, whatever. Everyone’s life needed an organizing principle, and relentless forward motion was Reacher’s.” (Nothing to Lose, pg 7). This was a situation where Reacher’s own stubbornness was the cause of his troubles. And boy, does Reacher like to get into trouble.

Despite my personal frustrations with Reacher and his behavior in “Nothing to Lose” I really liked the fact that Lee Child wrote this book. It was a different twist to have Reacher appear as the guy making trouble from the start. Causing problems in a town that never did anything to him except ask him to leave. On his quest for personal justice, he does stumble upon his standard heroic default – but that was unclear to the reader for the majority of the book. And that was a nice change.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing this book series is and I really enjoyed that Lee Child wrote “Nothing to Lose” where Reacher was painted in a different light. It is amazing that twelve books into a series, the author continues to surprise and capture readers. I am eager to read the next book and see what Reacher will be up to next.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Second Book Review: “The Verdict” by Nick Stone

“The Verdict” by Nick Stone was the kind of book that completely sucked you in from the very start. I haven’t really read any legal thrillers, but when I saw the book tagged that way I thought why not? I am glad that I took a chance and have since stocked my to-be-read list with other legal thrillers. A whole new sub-genre has been opened up to me thanks to Nick Stone’s writing.

At the beginning of “The Verdict” we meet Vernon James. He is a self-made millionaire accepting an “ethical person of the year” award right before he tries to pick up a tall blonde woman to take up to his hotel room after he tells her has an open marriage. One thing leads to another and the night ends up not going as Vernon had planned. The next thing we know, Vernon has been arrested for murder. Then we meet Terry, a struggling legal clerk that seemingly has just been given his big break with the chance to be a part of the team defending Vernon James. That is until we learn that Terry and Vernon have a very colorful history. “Of course it was a shock to anyone who found out a close friend or good neighbour or amiable work colleague was really a serial killer or rapist or some other kind of monster? All we know of other people is what we see reflected of ourselves. Beyond that they’re strangers.” (The Verdict, pg 27). I really liked this quote because it is a good point – we don’t know what goes on in the mind of those around us. There were several times when reading “The Verdict” where Stone’s writing made me pause because I liked the way that he spelled out something.

I liked that the main character Terry wasn’t a clean-cut ‘good guy’. He had demons that he constantly had to curb. I thought Nick Stone did a great job portraying the balancing act that someone would have to go through when the person that knows their darkest secrets is suddenly on trial for murder and working directly with their bosses. His moral compass was also slightly askew, but that just made Terry all the more interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, it was such an entertaining read. Nick Stone’s writing was excellent – he successfully pulled me into the drama surrounding Vernon and Terry. I thought his characters were well developed and I liked how there were little twists and turns throughout the novel. I think anyone with a mild interest in thrillers would love this book. If you’re the kind of reader that loves an edge-of-your-seat read, then you need to pick up “The Verdict” by Nick Stone.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-First Book Review: “Shrill” by Lindy West

“Shrill” by Lindy West was such an experience to read. I laughed out loud, I felt shame, I felt angry, I felt embarrassed, I felt inspired, I wanted to scream – it was one of the most interesting and upsetting books I have ever read. Lindy West really made me think. She made me laugh. She made me want to be a better person. She was bold and impressive. She put things in perspective. I was enthralled.

There were so many parts of this book that made me pause and think. Think about what it really means to be a part of this world. There are many aspects of life that I don’t ever give a moment’s reflection to because it has become such an engrained part of my life that it never occurred to me to mind. The huge offenses that women face every single day – that I have faced and never spoke up. That is one part of what Lindy West does in this book. She is speaking up – not just for herself, but for all women, for anyone that has ever been uncomfortable in their own skin – she powerfully steps up and exclaims that we don’t have to shrink down and stay quiet. This is just one of her powerful passages: “Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every women to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time – that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.” (Shrill, pg 19). Just wow.

Would I recommend this book? Yes – I think this is a book that everyone should read. It appeals to women, certainly – but “Shrill” is something that I think is not only accessible but entertaining and those who would normally move away from a book written by an overweight female might slow down long enough to hear her message. To take pause and see that there is something very wrong with the world we live in today. And that the only way things will ever get better is for people as a collective to refuse to accept the world as it is and work towards positive change. Plus this book had me giggling non-stop and reading passages aloud to my husband. It was a very good read and I hope that Lindy West continues to write.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventieth Book Review: “Hold It ‘Til It Hurts” by T. Geronimo Johnson

“Hold It ‘Til It Hurts” by T. Geronimo Johnson is not a book that I would have ever picked up on my own, but when the Wall Street Journal Book Club picked this as the next book, I thought why not? I did not realize what I was getting myself into and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this book.

In “Hold It ‘Til It Hurts” we follow Achilles Conroy who has just returned from Afghanistan to find his father has died. His white mother gives Achilles and his brother Troy envelops containing information about their birth parents. Achilles has never wanted this information and convinces himself that Troy feels the same way until he wakes up one morning and realizes that Troy took his envelop and left. His mother asks him to go find Troy and so Achilles leaves home and embarks on a journey to find his brother and ultimately, find his own place in the world after returning home from war.

“Running through his list, Achilles doubted he would ever be happy because he couldn’t stop holding his breath. Even that was cynicism. He couldn’t stop thinking about what he was thinking about without being cynical about it. The army taught him to hope for the best but expect the worst.” (Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, pg 114). Going to war changed him and coming back was almost worse. Trying to live a normal life after having spent so much time being shot at, shooting at others, and watching his friends be killed seemed impossible at times. His attempts to reintegrate into society were challenging. Friendships that worked abroad didn’t quite work at home. He meets Ines and falls hard for her and at the same time, doesn’t seem to have the ability to tell her the truth about himself. He spends so much time hiding everything about his past. He tries to cover for this by saying he doesn’t want to live in the past, but the truth is that he is having trouble facing his demons. Rather than getting help and coping with his issues, he buries it deep within himself.

There were significant examinations of race in this novel. It was a different experience for Achilles having been raised by white parents and going out into the world where a lot of black people judge him harsher by the way that he talks and holds himself. His parents always pushed that race didn’t matter, but as they were protecting him and his brother, they also were shielding them from the hatred in the world that they would experience as soon as they left their hometown. The thing that I really liked about this book was how Johnson really made me stop and think. It was the kind of book that you don’t soon forget.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. There are some parts of this book that I wish I had never read. There was a specific incident at a drug dealer’s house that was disturbing and made me almost stop reading the book altogether. But at the same time, reading about Katrina and the aftermath was eye opening. The hurricane hit when I was just graduating high school. I couldn’t comprehend what it really meant or how bad it was. But in “Hold It ‘Til It Hurts” Achilles is deep in the aftermath trying to keep up with his amazingly good-hearted girlfriend. There were a lot of things that happened in this book that just blew me away. This is certainly not for everyone, but I did take a lot away from it. Sometimes it is worth going outside your comfort zone.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Ninth Book Review: “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett

“Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett is the first book in the Century Trilogy and an amazing read. I’m not even sure the best way to convey how much I enjoyed this book without rambling on for pages and pages. In an effort to minimize my gushing, I’m going to try to keep this short.

Ken Follett begins “Fall of Giants” shortly before World War I breaks out. It was interesting to see how different parts of the world actually relished the idea of war. “Thinking it over as he smoked his after-breakfast cigar, Fitz realized that the thought of war did not horrify him. He had spoken of it as a tragedy, in an automatic way, but it would not be entirely a bad thing. War would unite the nation against a common enemy, and dampen the fires of unrest. There would be no more strikes, and talk of republicanism would be seen as unpatriotic. Women might even stop demanding the vote.” (Fall of Giants, pg 69). Fitz was one of the more frustrating characters in this book. At first glance he seemed like a good guy, but the more I got to know him, the more I came to dislike him. There were many characters that I had similar feelings for and then there were others that I loved who kept making such stupid decisions that I just wanted to scream at them! Following five different families as they navigate the unpredictable world at war made for such a good read.

I think a large part of what makes this book so successful is the steady progression through different countries before, during, and after World War I. Following the different families allowed for various perspectives during the same time period. There were so many moving parts to this novel that there was never a dull moment. Being able to pull off an exciting read with almost a thousand pages in your novel is admirable. Well done sir.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – Ken Follett is one of those writers that always tangles me up in his world. His writing is so good that I always give my husband a fair warning before I start a new one of his books. With his intricately detailed but exciting writing, Ken Follett is hands down my favorite way to read about history. I think “Fall of Giants” would appeal to a wide range of readers. Even if you don’t think that you can read a book that big, once you pick I up you won’t be able to put it down. I highly recommend this book and I cannot wait to start the next book in the Century Trilogy.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Book Review: “Bad Luck and Trouble” by Lee Child

What would you do if an old friend put out a call for help? For Jack Reacher in “Bad Luck and Trouble” by Lee Child, there was no question. He saw the coded call for backup and made his way to one of the members of his old unit. When he reaches her, she informes Reacher that she has not been able to get a response from the rest of the team. Then a body turns up and just like that Reacher and his team go into full investigative mode. “Together they had handled two years’ worth of crimes, some of them gruesome, some of them merely venal, some of them cruel, some of them appalling, and they had joked their way through like cops everywhere. Black humor. The universal refuge… No one was laughing now. It was different when it was your own.” (Bad Luck and Trouble, pg 153).

In the previous Jack Reacher novels, whatever injustice that he finds himself in the middle of, more often than not, he is fighting for someone else. The helpless woman, the friend of a friend, his dead brother’s girlfriend – rarely does Reacher find himself in the position to dish out justice on his own behalf. That was exactly what we got in “Bad Luck and Trouble”. This is the eleventh book in the Jack Reacher series and his cold determination and passion for vengeance is intimidating.

Would I recommend this book? Hell yes, the Jack Reacher series all together is amazing thus far, but the depth of Jack Reacher as a character continues to grow the further into the series that we get. Reading about Reacher when things get personal – that was intense and made for an edge-of-your-seat read. I cannot wait to pick up the next book and learn where Lee Child is going to take Reacher next. If you’re not reading this series, you should be.