Turtles All the Way Down

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Turtles All the Way Down

By: John Green
Published:  2017
# of pages: 
298
Challenges: 
A to Z
Quote:  “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”  -Aza

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

My review:  I was amazed to discover that there’s a book about someone like me.  I not only suffer from depression, but also an anxiety disorder.  I also have undiagnosed OCD symptoms, but I know a large part of that is due to the anxiety.  My symptoms and thoughts are like a less exaggerated version of Aza’s, but I was stunned that there’s actually a book out there, written by a popular author, with a main character who struggles with severe anxiety.

This book is about Aza, who suffers from extreme anxiety on a daily basis.  Not only is she navigating high school, friendship, and her relationship with her mom, she’s also dealing with memories of her dad’s death, managing medications, and going to doctor’s appointments.  On top of all that, she is suddenly reintroduced to an old friend of hers, Davis, whose father is missing.  At first she wants to solve the disappearance to split the reward money with her best friend Daisy, but she quickly comes to care for Davis.

The story goes on from there.  I’m biased, but I felt entirely sympathetic for Aza.  The story also tells of her best friend Daisy’s feelings about Aza’s anxiety and shows how her mom feels.  I understand it’s hard living with someone who has anxiety and other mental issues, but nothing compares to living it yourself.

“Felt myself slipping, but even that’s a metaphor. Descending, but that is, too. Can’t describe the feeling itself except to say that I’m not me. Forged in the smithy of someone else’s soul. Please just let me out. Whoever is authoring me, let me up out of this. Anything to be out of this.”

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, unique characters and story, interesting mystery, good representation of mental illness.

 

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The Book of Blood and Shadow

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The Book of Blood and Shadow

By:  Robin Wasserman
Published: 
2012
# of pages:  450
Challenge: 
Full House (plot twist)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

My opinion:  Man, I wrote most of this review and then saved it for later…except that it didn’t save properly so most of my review was erased.

This book sounded very intriguing and half of it was great and the other half not so much.  The story follows high school senior Nora just as she finds a place as an intern for a nearby college professor along with her best friends Chris and Adriane.  Everything is going great, especially after Max joins their group and finds a place in her heart.

But their lives suddenly change and they realize that the project they’ve been working on over the past few months may be of interest to people other than the quirky college professor.  Nora embarks on a quest to save Max and maybe even the entire world.

Like I said, this book had a lot of potential, but I feel like it kind of went off the rails in the last third.  It wasn’t bad or anything, there were just things that didn’t quite add up and the teenage angst mixed in with a world-changing adventure seemed forced at times.

Also, I’m a little tired of these modern titles.  This would have been better if it was simply The Book of Blood or, even better, a more original title entirely.  End rant.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Cool concept, okay characters, somewhat disappointing story line.

Top Ten RED books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic is 10 books that feature your favorite color.  My favorite color has been red for years and years.  Lately I’ve also been loving teal, but red holds a special place in my heart so here we go.  10 books that have red covers in no particular order.  In choosing from my favorites list, I noticed that most of these books are sci-fi and that isn’t my most read genre.  Just an interesting observation.

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Wool  by: Hugh Howey  (Silo #1)

This is an interesting and unique sci-fi read.  It was my introduction to Howey’s books, most of which I very much enjoy.

 

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Inkheart  by: Cornelia Funke  (Inkworld #1)

A great children’s fantasy that was made into an okay movie.

 

 

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Life of Pi  by: Yann Martel

An incredibly unique fantasy/magical realism.  It didn’t sound like something I’d usually enjoy, but I loved it.  I still haven’t seen the movie.

 

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The Martian  by: Andy Weir

Am I veering into orange?  This is a popular sci-fi for a reason.  Who would have thought that I’d enjoy it so much with all of the scientific jargon?  It was also a good movie.

 

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Ready Player One  by: Ernest Cline

Once again, a sci-fi that takes place in the future and includes an extensive virtual reality aspect.  It’s an awesome book and I’m hoping the movie will be good too, but I haven’t seen it yet.

 

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Doctor Sleep  by: Stephen King  (The Shining #2

This is the sequel to The Shining.  Read my review because I really connected with this book and thought it was a great sequel.  I was nervous about reading it, but it didn’t disappoint even though it was very different from The Shining.

 

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Dark Matter  by: Blake Crouch

Once again, I didn’t think I’d enjoy a sci-fi book that relies heavily on the theory of quantum mechanics, but this was an interesting, action-packed book.  Yes, I did read a few articles about quantum mechanics and yes, it’s still hard to wrap my head around.  My brain just doesn’t think that way.

 

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Illuminae  by: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff  (Illuminae Files #1)

The first in a very unique sci-fi series that isn’t complete yet.  So far only the first two books have been published and they were both great.

 

 

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky  by: Mark Sullivan

An historical fiction about the Italian resistance during WWII.  It was so well written and I was glad to read about a part of the war I wasn’t familiar with.

 

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11/22/63  by: Stephen King

I know I’m stretching with the red here, but the red really pops on this cover and it’s a great book.  Once again, it’s a sci-fi that deals with time travel back to 1963 and the assassination of JFK.

 

 

Top Ten Fiction Titles With the Word “Girl”

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic is a word that is frequently used in the genre of your choice.  I’m going with the broad genre of fiction and have picked the word “girl” because seriously, so many books use that word in the title whether they are about girls or women.  Just so you know, referring to women as girls is one of my pet peeves.  These are all books that I’ve read at some point.

 

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane  by: Lisa See

 

 

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The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall  by: Katie Alender

 

 

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The Icarus Girl  
by: Helen Oyeyemi

 

 

 

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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk  by: Kelli Estes

 

 

 

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The Girl on the Train  by: Paula Hawkins
(This is about a grown woman, by the way.)

 

 

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Gone Girl  by: Gillian Flynn
(This is also about a woman.)

 

 

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The Drowning Girl  by: Caitlin R. Kiernan

 

 

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The Ice Cream Girls  by: Dorothy Koomson

 

 

 
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Girls in White Dresses  by: Jennifer Close

 
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo  by: Stieg Larson

 

 
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue  by: Susan Vreeland

The Flight Attendant

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The Flight Attendant

By:  Chris Bohjalian
Published:  2018
# of pages:  368
Challenge:  A to Z

3Stars

Goodreads description:

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

My opinion:  I was pretty excited to read this after seeing the description.  Bohjalian’s novels are hit or miss with me.  A couple I’ve really enjoyed (Midwives and The Sleepwalker) and others I haven’t liked.

Unfortunately I didn’t love this, but it wasn’t bad either.  The story is about Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up next to a murdered man.  The problem is that she was so drunk the night before that she blacked out and has no memory of what happened.

She returns home and navigates through the fact that she lied to investigators and suspects someone is following her.  She admits she’s a liar who drinks too much, but still makes the same mistakes over and over.  Cassie is a very introspective character who underestimates her ability to change.

The odd thing about the story is that all of the action seems to pause until she travels to Rome with the airline she works for and is far from everyone she knows.  Suddenly, everything floods her at once.  It didn’t really make sense to me why the timeline worked the way it did.  I can’t say too much without spoiling, but my theory of what was going to happen did happen…I just didn’t think it made complete sense with the timing.

Overall, it was a fun and easy read and I recommend it as a good book to read while traveling or during a reading slump because it’s really engaging and easy.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Not the most likable characters, weird timing, convenient turns of events, not terribly original, but also easy to read and fast paced.

Unwind

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Unwind

By:  Neal Shusterman
Published:  2009
# of pages:  353
Series:  Unwind (#1)
Challenges:  A to Z

Quote:  “Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no, that’s not it at all. What he’s really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it’s so easy to forget that’s what they are. She knows—she sees—how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.”

Goodreads description: 

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.
Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My opinion:  I don’t even know where to begin with this book review.  Let me start by saying bear with me and also, while your opinion is probably fine to leave in comments, no arguments or rudeness will be allowed.

I didn’t know this book was going to be so thought provoking.  The story follows three teenagers as they runaway from their homes, family, and friends in order to stay alive.  Connor’s parents decided to unwind (his body taken apart and given to people in need of a donor part without dying) him because of the problems and embarrassment he causes them.  The decision was made to unwind Risa because the government doesn’t have enough money to help all of the orphans in state care.  Lev’s parents made the choice to unwind him before they even conceived him because their religion smiles upon “tithing.”

At first I was incredulous about a system like this ever being a reality.  But the more I read the more I saw a connection between unwinding and abortion.  And maybe there was a time people would have been horrified to think of abortion clinics and the fact that abortion has become something fairly commonplace, not just something done in extreme situations.

My political leanings are fairly liberal when it comes to abortion, but it’s never a choice I’d personally make after having been pregnant.  I don’t feel overly strong about the issue, but honestly I don’t think about it too much.  This book made me think of it though.  And I just wonder……… the kids in the book were so adamant that their bodies belonged to themselves and that they deserved to live.  Their parents shouldn’t make that choice for them, the government shouldn’t make that choice, religion shouldn’t make that choice.  And while of course in our present time we can say that women should have a choice with their bodies and their lives….. but there are lives inside them that would eventually be walking, talking, thinking humans…..  Do they (the living matter/cells/embryo/baby inside the women) have the right to live and be who they can be no matter what other people do or think or say?

I’m not tying the situation in the book with abortion solely on my own.  The backstory of the book discusses a war that took place that revolved around abortion.  Unwinding takes the place of abortion and is justified because it technically isn’t killing the person’s body, they stay alive even while being dismembered.  However, they don’t feel pain, so once again, it’s justified.

Which also made me think a lot about war.  Before reading this book, I was thinking about the traditional patriarchal societies throughout history and how perhaps that’s why we’ve had as much war as we’ve experience throughout history.  I wondered how a matriarchal society would have handled conflict throughout the ages.  And I wondered if having more compromising leaders would have changed conflicts and perhaps led to other outcomes other than physical violence.  But this book explores the idea that there was a compromise that ended a war, but perhaps it was still just as violent.  I just thought it was interesting to read about a nationwide conflict resolution after thinking so much about it.

Overall, the book was an interesting read with unique characters and situations.  It was a little disturbing at times as you can imagine, but it’s not terribly graphic.  I’d recommend this to older teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction/sci-fi.  There’s more books in the series, but I think I’m happy with leaving it off with the first book.  It was a satisfying ending and I don’t feel overly curious to know what happens next.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Good pacing, interesting characters, unique story, a little disturbing at times, skipped over some development later in the novel.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon

By: Kelly Barnhill
Published: 2016
# of pages:  400
Challenges:  A to Z, Full House

Goodreads description:

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

My opinion:  This was such a great, fun book to read!  It’s a children’s book that I think would be great starting around 4th or 5th grade.  It’s a great fantasy/fairy tale with good characters, evil characters, fantastic creatures such as a dragon and swamp monster, and an intriguing setting of a sorrowful town, large cities, and a dense forest with a bog and restless volcano.

The story follows Xan, a gentle witch who lives in the forest and rescues the children the sorrowful town abandons.  One year Xan rescues a baby and starts to fall in love with her on the journey to the cities.  She ends up feeding the baby moonlight instead of starlight, which fills the baby with magic.  So Xan decides to keep the baby and names her Luna.

Luna grows up surrounded by love in her forest cabin, but unfortunately the town she leaves behind isn’t so lucky.  Years pass as the reader sees what happens to Xan and Luna and also the slow changes that take place in the town.  Everything builds up and Luna needs to take action before it all explodes.

I appreciated the way the author wrote this book to be entertaining but also thought provoking.  It would be easy for kids to read, but it doesn’t “talk down” to them.  It’s beautifully written and children and adults alike can appreciate the descriptions.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Beautifully written story with a great message.  Appeals to both children and adults.  Realistic characters.  A little too wordy at times for my personal tastes.