Category Archives: Review

Book Reviews

Recommendation: The Greatest Showman

the_greatest_showman_posterI need recommendations! So my boyfriend and I went to see The Greatest Showman on Tuesday last week. We loved it. There were a few things that I would have differently but overall it was great. I honestly forgot what an amazing singer Hugh Jackman is. Zendaya needs some help getting rid of the breathy sound from her voice (sorry music teacher issues).

THE GREATEST SHOWMANOne of the biggest questions we had walking out was how much of it was truth. We know it was a fictionalization of the history of P.T. Barnum and the history of his circus. Then my boyfriend who doesn’t like to read very much said the magic words, “Now I want to read a book about him to find out how much of this is true and to learn more about the real story.”

So now I am coming to my blog readers. I could research this but without reading them all myself, I am not going to be as good a resource as you. Has anyone read a biography about P.T. Barnum or a nonfiction book about the history of the circus that they would recommend?

If you haven’t seen this one, go check it out!

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Review: Drops Like Stars

41ipjyribgl-_sx353_bo1204203200_Book: Drops Like Stars

Author: Rob Bell

Recommend: Did you even make it this far? If so, yes I highly recommend this author and his books.

Okay, before I start – disclaimer – I do not agree with everything this author has to say or believes. I do think this author does a great job of asking some really tough questions that many Christians are afraid of considering. I also believe he is well worth a read and get slightly disgusted when I go to Christian bookstores and his books are nowhere to be found.

This book deals with creativity and suffering and how grief and pain shape who we are and what we believe. How suffering and ache is something we can all relate to and something that we should talk about more often, not shy away from.

I have loved the way Rob Bell’s mind works since I was exposed to him via the NOOMA video series. His thoughts and reflections on God are so different and much more challenging than what is offered most Sunday mornings from most pulpits. He thinks through and expresses concepts in a way that is relevant and engaging. He is someone that cannot be ignored. His books are much the same. I find myself admiring the way that he thinks and his bravery to buck the norms that the Christian world has placed on itself. His books definitely belong in your library and deserve more than one read.

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Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

7bf179b8d2-b990-4b78-8108-0d03e2c95ef57dimg400Book: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne

Recommend: This book is a harrowing tale set in a concentration camp that is worth the heartache.

I have had this recommended to me in both book and movie form many times and just hadn’t gotten to it. I knew that it was going to be a painful read and knew what I was in for or so I thought. I wasn’t expecting the book to come from the point of view of the child of a Nazi officer who was running a concentration camp. I expected to see the story through the eyes of the child in the camp. With a story of friendship that tugs at the heartstrings and an ending that will make you cry, this book is both simple and complex all at the same time.

This book is told from the point of view of a young boy who doesn’t really understand everything that is going on around him so you have to read between the lines to understand what is going on around the main character.

I don’t want to ruin the impact of this book so I don’t want to say too much but this book will make even the toughest person cry and will make everyone think about the perspective of children during the time. It is definitely worth the read.

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Review: The Heart Goes Last

51psgf101pl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Book: The Heart Goes Last

Author: Margaret Atwood

Recommend: Atwood never misses. This woman is one of my favorite authors with good reason. That being said it is a challenging read but all of her books are.

I am a huge fan of the work of Margaret Atwood. She asks tough questions through her fiction about what is right and wrong. She examines social issues through her work in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking. I love that they have started to turn her work into equally gripping TV. I think this book has the potential to be one of those shows honestly.

This tells the story of a couple who like so many have lost everything and are living in their car because they have nowhere else to go until they hear about a miracle town where they will be given and job and house. There is one little catch but in their minds, it will be better than living in their car. Desperate, they sign up and find out that not everything is as it seems at first glance.

This book is gritty and deals with dystopia in a way that only Atwood can. The characters are gripping and you feel their desperation as they try to navigate the world they have chosen, not realizing all the consequences. Just when you think you have things figured out the whole world tilts and spins and you are on a roller coaster that just won’t stop.

I read this one in one sitting and couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I borrowed it from my best friend and I think it is going to have to join my collection.

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Review: Millennium series

millennium-trilogy-coversBooks: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Author: Steig Larson

Recommend: I really enjoyed this series but it definitely had a slow start.

I guess 4th time’s the charm? I have started this series three other times and every time I would give up about fifty pages in. I just couldn’t get into it no matter how hard I tried. Then I watch the movies and decided to give the books one more try. Normally I would read the book before I watched the movie but with these books it allowed me to get into the story.

This series tells the story of Lizbeth Salander, an unconventional tech genius who is contracted to work a case that quickly becomes very complicated. The rabbit hole that she goes down with Mikael Blomkvist uncovers more than they could ever have counted on.

The Swedish version of the movies are very close to the books. They do leave out some of the background, some of the graphic material, and I feel that Lizbeth is less relatable on film than she is on the page but other than that, the movies are a well-done retelling of the books. I feel like the Hollywood version skips too much and leaves out too much in comparison.

Once I got through the first eighty pages or so, I couldn’t put them down. I read all three books in two days. Definitely worth the time and energy. I will say there are some very difficult scenes to read including very graphic rape scenes, so if this is an issue for you, please read with caution or skip this series.

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Review: On Writing

10569Book: On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Recommend: If you are a huge Stephen King fan or are trying to get into writing as a profession, this is a worthwhile read.

I have been meaning to read this for ages but have never really gotten around to it until I hit winter break. I needed to read something that felt was substantial so that I would feel like I had accomplished something over break. I didn’t get what I was expecting from the book but it was a good read. It is a bit biography, a bit writing suggestions and a bit memoir all at the same time.

For this author, it is a short read and when you read it, you get the sense that the author thinks the way that he writes. I wouldn’t be surprised to sit down with him and discover that he talks the way he writes as well because whether writing fiction or non-fiction he comes across the same.

This book is definitely staying on my shelves and will be worth a revisit at some point.

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Review: The Circle

18302455Book: The Circle

Author: David Eggers

Recommend: It’s quite a chilling read especially if you know someone who works for one of the big trendy companies threatening to take over the world.

This book tells the story of a woman named Mae who goes to work for a company simply called The Circle because she had a friend who worked for the company. Mae does well and begins to do well. she is promoted and then invited to take part in an experiment for the company where she is filmed all the time.

This book has a lot of commentary about how corporations are wanting insight into almost every aspect of your life. They use the information they glean to sell more and plan how to market to you specifically. The more they know, the more money they can make.

This book was chilling and the choices Mae makes during the course of this book won’t feel all that different than choices you would make, with one exception. Her relationship choices are a bit sketchy.  Other than that though it is easy to watch how Mae ends up small choice by small choice becoming a virtual slave to the company and being happy doing it even as she becomes estranged from her family and her best friend ends up having a nervous breakdown.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I am curious to see what changes Hollywood makes and if they change or keep the book ending. I am eager to read more of Eggers books and have picked up all the ones I could find after this engaging read.


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Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

80660Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Recommend: This is a chilling read but a well written and powerful one.

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a while. I knew what it dealt with and as  a teacher I have to confront the issue of school shootings a lot. We practice for them and plan for them because they happen far too often in our current culture. My best friend grew up in Colorado and had friends who went to Columbine. When we went there on vacation, she drove me past the school because I was a high school kid when all of this went down and had studied the case backward and forwards. A small part of me wanted to see the school in real life. So when I heard about this book, it made my must-read list.

This book tells the story of a boy named Kevin who killed students at his school. It is written in the form of letters from Eva, Kevin’s mother to her former husband Franklin talking about their son and what happened. It is a series of snapshots that shows all the signs were there but that no one really thought it was going to happen.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was intense and required me to put it down several times because I simply needed a break from the instensity.  However as I got to the end of the book I couldn’t really put it down and sat shell-shocked for a few minutes after I finished it. I honestly can’t decide if this book is staying on my shelves or not. It was a really good read but I don’t know if I could bring myself to read it again. However, it might be interesting now that I know what is going to happen to read again in order to see if there are hints to what happens earlier in the book. Definitely worth the read if you can handle the intense scenarios and situations. I will be doing a book/move comparision when I get the guts to watch the movie.

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Review: Game of Thrones

rhgt5-game-thrones-blood-red-front-1200Book: Game of Thrones

Author: George R.R. Martin

Recommend: I really want to say yes, but I have to say no, unless you are already a fan.

I have been waiting and waiting to read these. I had to have time and motivation. It took me forever to get to this series. I have read all the books that are currently available and the biggest take away was that while the story is great, the writing is honestly painful.

This book tells the epic story of Ned Stark, his family and all of Westeros as people fight over the fate of the kingdom. It is a sprawling, long series (and it’s not done) that uses alternating POV to tell the story of different characters.

I really wanted to like this. I really did. I have seen the show and was hoping that the books would give me so much more than the show did. I have never been so wrong. Yes, there is more information, yes the story is slightly different in certain parts but it has one HUGE problem. In my opinion, Martin simply cannot write well. It is flat, dull and missing the energy of so many other fantasy series. I think the only reason this series is so popular because of the plot. I felt like the series was such a long trudge to get through. The only reason I continued was that I wanted to understand what was different between the show and the movie.

Unless you are a fan of short, uninspired sentences missing much of the color and flavor of an epic fantasy, I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time on this one. If you are old enough, simply watch the show. This is one of the rare cases where TV does a better job than the books.

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Review: After Alice

51iydk4elll-_sx330_bo1204203200_Book: After Alice

Author: Gregory Maguire

Recommend: This was an okay read but nothing to get excited over. I want to like Maguire but he always falls short for me.

I am a big fairy tale fan. I love them. I grew up reading them and comparing the originals to Disney as soon as I could read them for myself. For years now I have read the works of Maguire, hoping somehow that he will improve but he never really does. For some reason, he takes something that should be full of life and energy and completely zaps it from the page.

This book tells the story of everyone to surround Alice from the famous books by Louis Carroll. Shifting between Lydia and a girl named Ada, we are chasing after Alice, never quite catching her.

I feel like Maguire is chasing after a great idea and never quite makes it work. This one is going to the used bookstore but will I buy the next book by this author when it comes out? Probably. I keep hoping somehow he is simply going to nail it at some point.

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Review: Afterworlds

18367581Book: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Recommend: Very different than what I was expecting but it was a nice, light fluffy YA read.

From the blurbs on this book, I was expecting one thing. When you say that one character writes the words and the other lives them, I was expecting something like Stranger than Fiction. What I got was a book about a girl publishing her first book and her fictional first book told in alternating chapters. It was okay but honestly was a letdown for this author. It felt like something a new teen writer would put out, not someone as seasoned at Westerfeld.

I found the setting of the fictional book in the book to be interesting but I wanted more of that. I also found the story of the girl trying to get through the publishing of her first book to be interesting but I wanted more. Together, there just simply wasn’t enough of either one to feel completely fleshed out. It was like he had two shorter ideas and smashed them together to create the length of a normal YA novel.

Despite its’ shortcomings, it definitely was engaging, kept me reading until the end, and made me annoyed when I got interrupted. So it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. The most compelling thing in this book was the pacing and some of the publishing pieces but the sparks were few and far between.

I am honestly not sure if this one is going to get a permanent spot on my very full bookshelves. I needed to get rid of a few after my latest reorganization anyway. This one has the strong possibility of being one of those headed to the used bookstore.

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Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

41bz6jumwil-_sx323_bo1204203200_Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Recommend: This is quite a read. If you are looking to gain some insight into how people with autism think, this is quite a read.

This book tells the story of a young boy name Christopher who happens to be autistic. Christopher’s world is turned upside down when he discovers his neighbor’s dog has been killed. As he tries to figure out who might have killed the dog, he unravels more than he had bargained for, creating a crisis for the young man that changes his life.

The author attempts to write the book in the way that an Autistic person would process and see the world. As a teacher, I work with students from every walk of life and every ability level. For some reason, I work fairly well with students who are on the Autism spectrum. I understand their need for black and white, rules, routine, and that they need certain things to always be a certain way. For this reason, I do things like keep these students in the same seat year after year (I teach music, so I have students all the way through their elementary education), give them a heads up when we are going to do something different and try to accommodate for sound when I can (which can be a challenge in the music room). I have a fairly decent understanding of how the autistic mind works (well at least for someone who isn’t autistic) and found this to be the best attempt to try to communicate what is going on in their head I have ever read.

This book did an amazing job of communicating how overwhelming the world can be for someone with the processing issues that come with autism. How little things can actually be huge things and a reminder that people really don’t understand what they are dealing with when it comes to people who are different from them.

I think the thing that struck me the most with this book is that while teachers, social workers, and many other people have an understanding of how to work with people who are autistic, the general public often doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. The policemen especially in this book have no clue. I know that there have been training and attempts made but I know that even so, too many police officers don’t understand that someone who is autistic is not trying to be difficult, but has unique needs that should be accommodated whenever possible.

This is definitely worth the read, especially if you haven’t really been exposed to individuals with Autism. I believe it will create a sense of compassion and understanding.

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Series Review: Silo Trilogy

Books: Wool, Shift, Dust

Author: Hugh Howey


Recommend: Definitely worth the read! These books are one of the best dystopian series I have read since The Hunger Games.

I have had the first book in this series, Wool, sitting on my shelf for quite a while. I had heard great things and was always meaning to get to it but I really enjoy reading a series all in one go when possible, so I was waiting. I got a gift card to Half Price Books for Christmas and used it as an excuse to pick up books 2 and 3 in the series. I had just finished a reread of one of my favorites but was still in a science fiction dystopia place when I decided to pick these up.

The book centers around Jules, a young woman who is thrust into power when she does not want it, unknowingly causing a chain of events that will change everything in their world.

First of all, I was expecting something totally different than what I got. I had heard many things about this book regarding it’s popularity in hipster circles and it made me wonder if it was a good read or simply a popular one with a certain section of the popultion. My fears were unfounded. Howey has created wonderfully rich and complex characters who are dealing with living a life in an underground silo. The balance of action and character devleopment is superb and definitely makes it worth the read. The story is compelling and the more I found out about the world the more disgusted and fascinated I was.

The only slight critism I might have with this book is the fact that the second book takes us away from the main storyline so much. It is necessary but I wish that the author had given us more in the first book from the secondary cast and less in the second because it would have felt a lot more balanced. By the time he gets to the third book though, he finds his stride and I am eagerly awaiting more books from this author.

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Book Review: The Castle in the Forest

220px-castleintheforestcoverTitle: The Castle in the Forest

Author: Norman Mailer

Recommend: Well, if you enjoy this sort of thing but for the most part I would say no.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year. I picked it up because it is a look at the life of Hitler and his past which I find morbidly fascinating in the way a trainwreck is fascinating. I was not expecting a couple of things when I picked this book up. First of all, I pulled the dust cover off and found a copy of the writer’s obituary tucked underneath. It was not a kind statement about the man. It basically referred to him as a misogynistic stuck up literary snob who happened to be a good writer that helped establish The Village Voice. A few pages into the book I could see exactly what the obit. writer had been talking about.

While he had some interesting insights into the history of one of the evilest men to walk to face of the planet, his Freud worship was well on display and his obsession with the base and carnal made it a less than palatable read. Not that I would expect a book about Hitler to be sunshine and rainbows but the obsessions with sex, insect, and bodily functions was more than a bit much.

This definitely ticked off a checkbox for me because I have finally read a book by this author but honestly I would not recommend it. This one is going in my bag for the used bookstore and will no longer take up valuable space on my very full bookshelves.

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Book Review: The First Confessor

41coet9oqhl-_sx304_bo1204203200_Book: The First Confessor

Author: Terry Goodkind

Recommend: I was a bit nervous but by the end a resounding yes!

So, I downloaded this ages ago and after reading The Omen Machine, I was just a bit too nervous to pick it up.  When The Third Kingdom showed up on my shelf, I knew I had to do something and so I decided to skip this one due to the fact that it was only published as an ebook. Well, I got to page 166 of The Third Kingdom and then realized that I had no choice but to read it because everything from The First Confessor shows up in the next book and without it, the book I was in the middle of was going to make less sense. (by the way – I think it was the perfect place to stop and read because Richard was reading about Magda at that point and while it was a bit of an obvious plug for the ebook, it was very effective to someone who is a huge fan of the series).

After the disappointment that was The Omen Machine in comparison to the rest of the novels, this book was a breath of fresh air. First of all, we meet Magda much in the same way that we meet Richard. The novel pacing is so much better than Omen and the characters are very well fleshed out. While there are definitely parallels between Kahlan and Magda, they are more a product of who and what they are than feeling too much like the same character.

I would love to hear more from these characters and see where Goodkind envisions her world going next. To learn more about things that we’ve only seen glimpses of in the Sword series is great. I would love to see this continue as a separate series.

My only issue with this book is the lack of availability in print. Unless I want to pay $300, it won’t be joining my shelf full of Goodkind novels anytime soon. While I love ebooks and have quite a few of them, I still have a larger collection of the real thing and this is a book I would like to own a physical copy of. So while I would like to see the series continued, I also want to see it in actual print.

Note- after this review was written, the book was published and is available in paperback.

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Book Review: Austenland

austenland_28shannon_hale_novel29Book: Austenland
Author: Shanon Hale
Recommend: Definitely 🙂

I was introduced to this author quite a while ago through some of her amazing middle grade and YA books starting with Ella Enchanted. I have been wanting to get my hands on a copy of this one for a while after having heard they were going to make a movie out of it. I was thrilled to finally find one at the library this week and devoured it in one sitting.

This whole story only makes sense really if you know enough about the basics of the work of Jane Austen to understand when the characters are referring to others in the book by relating them to Austen’s well know characters. While I am not an Austen fanatic, I do have a soft spot for a couple of her books. The story centers around a young woman who has been extremely unlucky in love and who ends up at an Austen retreat where everyone acts like they are straight out of Austen’s world.

While the whole thing was a tad predictable, it was a comfortable familiar read with good writing and enough excitement to keep me interested. I’m excited to pick up the second book.


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Book Review: Fortune’s Fool



The cover art for this series never does the books justice. Book: Fortune’s Fool


Author: Mercedes Lackey

Recommend: This was another fun read with one slight reservation.

Third book in the series and it is still going strong. This one centers around the daughter of a Sea King and Prince. There are Jinn, shape shifters, Baba Yaga, plus tons more that I couldn’t begin to list. I love the diversity of characters available in these books. They seem to take things from every set of fairy tales and myths. I loved the very oriental themed section near the beginning of the book because it gave a tste of yet another side of fairy tales.

The only complaint I have about this one is that there are a couple of scenes that are not suited to anyone under the age of eighteen. This is the first sign of this I have come across in these books but honestly the readers really do get the idea. They don’t need all the details.

Other than that, it was a lot of fun to read – so much so that I stayed up most of the night to finish it.


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Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Book: Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Author: Karen Russell

Recommend:  Definitely! This quirky collection of short stories is a must read..

I picked this one up on a recommendation but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Her most well known novel, Swamplandia, just didn’t appeal to me but I found the buzz around the author to be intriguing. So when I heard about this collection of short stories and what the title was, I knew I had to give it a try. The author definitely lived up to her buzz. Such an original voice with a unique point of view.

While I could go through and spend a ton of time going through each of the stories and talk about how wonderful and diverse they are with still a common thread and voice unique to the author. I think it is better to experience this one without a whole lot of preamble. This is one author I will be following closely and someone who I will be adding to my library as soon as I can manage it.


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Book Review: After Dead

Book: After Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Recommend: Not unless you want to be annoyed..

Okay, so basically the idea behind this short book is to roughly and unceremoniously conclude the lives of all the major and a ton of the minor characters in the series after the huge amount of annoyance that came with the ending of the last book. Yes. She concluded the story. Did she succeed in quenching the anger of her readers, probably not. Honestly, I was annoyed by the whole end of the series and only picked this up to see how flawed it could become. Not much else to say except that the author really needs to do her research. You don’t just throw a random disease out there without researching it. She did and wow what an epic fail. Ms. Harris decided to have Sarah Newlin contract lupus. Lupus is a genetic auto-immune disorder that she made look like an STD you can catch in prison. I rushed my way through it and can’t wait for this one to go back to the library. I’m glad I didn’t spend a dime on it. It definitely wasn’t worth buying.


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Book Review: The Archived

the-archivedBook: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
Recommend: Yes! Finally something new and completely different in the land of YA sameness…

Okay, I read the synopsis on this one, excitedly threw it into my library bag and it stayed there for months on end. This week I finally pulled it back out again, since I was running out of renewals and decided to finally read it, recalling how excited I had been about the unique plot line that it boasted. I was not disappointed.

This one was based on the idea of after images stored of people who have died in a huge library that houses echoes of people instead of books. However, these echoes don’t always want to stay where they are put and then Keepers are called in to return them to the Archive. At sixteen, Mackenzie is a keeper who moves into an old building where strange things begin to happen. Suddenly there are more and more trying to escape the archives and Mackenzie is stuck right in the middle, trying to figure it all out before it is too late.

I loved the creativity and originality of this story and the world it is based out of. The whole book is a great balance of action and character development. It actually takes it’s time to unfold in a more relaxed pacing which is essential to it’s storyline. This is one that I can’t wait to see continued and have added to my list of books that I will eagerly anticipating the sequel to.


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