2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tina has read 1 book toward her goal of 40 books.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review for The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

TITLE:          The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

AUTHOR:     Helene Hanff

GENRE:         Memoir


I loved 84 Charing Cross Road, which is how I discovered Helene Hanff.  

About 10 years ago, I went through a phase and read all of her books, including this one.  I decided to re-read 84 as well as this one, since it actually has been released on Kindle.

I have a few thoughts going through my mind this time around and one of them is how I didn't like it as much this time around.  

The book is in diary form, something I enjoy very much.  This is also a very easy read, as it is actually a small book and reads very quickly.  I also do like Helene's sarcastic ways, which comes through very well in this story, except that it also, at times, made her sound more like a whiny baby than a woman of 55.  At one point, some acquaintances basically spend the day driving her around and I do mean the entire day and when she doesn't get to see the sights she wants to see, she screams out "when am I going to see what I want to see" talk about being ungrateful, not to mention a whiny baby.  I never picked up on how ungrateful she was the first time I read the book.

The second thing I noticed more this time around was just how much of a mooch she was.  Yes, she was a celebrity of sorts and was always available to her fans, but it was because there was something in it for herself - free meals and being driven around everywhere and again, at no point does she appear particularly grateful.

I do like how Hanff was not a snob, despite having book signings - in fact, you get a strong feel that these are rather the means to an end for her - what got her to London and the rest is kind of background noise.

I love how she describes what she sees in London and how shopping is irrelevant to her - the history and the sights are what counts and she does a marvelous job of making us feel as though we are seeing there with her.

Finally, I was very disappointed with the diary entries and the connection to Marks & Co and the Doels.  She barely makes the connections for us and apart from one tiny mention of Doel when she "visits" the now empty bookshop, its like he never existed.  IN fact, that whole description of when she visits the bookshop is so inconsequential that she sounds as though she is visiting the local Barnes & Nobles.  In fact, the entries are very devoid of emotion - I think I would have more emotion visiting Marx & Co. than she had!  

I am not sure if Hanff is self centered and nothing gets to her or if she simply kept those emotions for herself, either way, it makes this book a 3 star read.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

REVIEW for Cross Kill (An Alex Cross book)

TITLE:              Cross Kill (An Alex Cross book)

AUTHOR;         James Patterson

GENRE:            Thrillers


I love Alex Cross - the only James Patterson character (books) I enjoy.

I am not sure how I feel about these "bookshots" - kind of a teaser in between books. Part of me feels as though it is a bit of a sleazy way to make even more $$$ as if Patterson needs it! Regardless, the book and story itself are great.

Cross is back and this time he comes face to face with an old enemy (or maybe not?) - lots happens in this story and Sampson features prominently (which is something that hasn't happened in a the last few books).

In 166 pages, its hard to tell a detailed story - and Patterson is not known for his detailed chapters (thank god!). The book ends on a cliffhanger - letting us salivate for the "actual" book in November 2016.

This story is good, it features Alex Cross (instead of the whole clan, which is what happened with the last book) and is about police work. Its very short and won't give much in the way of information, but it is a good read.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

REVIEW for Chancers

TITLE:              Chancers

AUTHOR:          and 

GENRE:            Memoir


This book is so hard to review - parts of it I loved and other parts - not so much.

I have always said that people who write memoirs are brave, putting it all out there must be so scary.

I was engrossed, for most of the story. Susan's point of view was the one I felt drawn to. Well told, excellent writing and at times, difficult to read because it shows just how smart women can be dumb when it comes to love!

As for Graham - all I kept wanting to say to him (and continue to want to say) is: grow up AND grow a pair. They say that when you are addict, you stop maturing at the age you first used - I..e. if you started at 12 - you are still emotionally 12, even if you are an adult and Graham is the clear definition of this.

I am not sure that helping with EVERY DAMN LITTLE THING - was actually helping him at all. What a baby and he did find someone (Susan) who was right there to help him with everything. This part of the story made me mad - she defines it as "standing by your man" and "being kind" - perhaps, but I am not so sure - this story certainly gave me lots to think about.

Nonetheless this is a 4 star read because it is interesting and honest.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

REVIEW for How It Ends by Catherine Lo

TITLE:                   How It Ends

AUTHOR:              Catherine Lo

GENRE:                 YA


I had really been wanting to read this, especially since the author is Canadian - I always try to encourage our Canadian authors.

It only took me three days to read this one and I had a hard time putting it down (but life interferes with my reading time). 

In short, the beginning of this book is the strongest part. It felt to me as though the middle floundered a little and the ending was.....predictable.

The subject matter is difficult and I am totally fine with that because these "social issues" need to be put out there so people and YA in particular feel as though they are not going through difficult times in a vacuum. 

But it felt as though the author did not really go far enough into the situation - to explore emotions, fears and basically the reality of it all.

I think this is where the book failed for me - the beginning was strong because the friendship between Jessie and Annie was well developed and explored, but when other people are brought into the fray and then problems arise, the author did not seem to be able to balance it all out. We lose the connection to the characters - the emotions they feel, the thoughts they have.

The ending was predictable. 

I needed to see this book as more gritty, considering the subject matter.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

REVIEW for Crush by Eve Ainsworth

TITLE:           Crush

AUTHOR:     Eve Ainsworth

GENRE:         YA


This story is scary - because it felt all too real. While it is a work of fiction, the author created a dark, scary story of a young girl who is naive and unhappy in her family life who somehow is drawn to a young boy who is majorly screwed up.

As the story develops and we see the dynamics between Anna and Will, as well as the backstories of both of these characters, we start to get a better picture of why/how Anna and Will became the people they are, as well as why they are attracted to each other and it is SCARY.

The book does a good job of showing us how we are a product of our environments - basically from every experience we have lived from day 1.

I did struggle with some of the English terms in this story as it is British - some references were beyond me, but overall, this story was engrossing and all too real.

I could not believe how quickly I finished this book.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review for Bye Bye Baby

TITLE:                 Bye Bye Baby

AUTHOR:           Caroline Sullivan

GENRE:               Memoir


I read this book when it first came out, but I could not really remember much of it - except that this person was, like I was, a fan of the Bay City Rollers (yes, I can admit it!).

Its weird because she mentions a lot of events related to the Rollers around the time that I actually saw them in Toronto in 1977. She even alludes to having had an intimate encounter with one of them around the 24th of August - which would have been two days after I saw them! Of course it feels odd because I was NOWHERE near considering any type of intimate encounter with them since I was not even 15 yet! she was older at 19....but still, had my young and innocent 14 year old self knew what the guys were doing, my view of them might have changed LOL.

Still, this book was compelling, although wow! what a brat she was - didn't want to go to school, didn't want a job and everyone has to support her. But the stories of basically tracking, harassing and otherwise running after the Rollers is so much fun to read. I found myself thinking "wow, she is really committed to this".

Knowing now, what the members (some of them) of the group have shared, a lot of what she cryptically refers to seems logical. Although, once again, this book is a great example of someone who wants to "share" their memoir, but any interesting or juicy details are redacted or intentionally vague, leaving us feeling cheated. This seems to happen in so many memoirs, it makes me wonder why they want to write this type of book, only to chicken out.

Nonetheless, this is a good story, for all lovers of BCR. Of course, I cannot imagine how it would/must be today to try to get close to your favorite groups. Her story shows how innocent and in many ways, easy it was to get the "scoop" on their whereabouts from hotel clerks, airline employees - can you imagine THAT happening today? I miss the good old days in in some ways, I miss BCR!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

REVIEW for 100 Days of Cake

A huge thank you goes out to the people at Atheneum Books for Young Readers for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                        100 Days of Cake

AUTHOR:                   Shari Goldhagen

GENRE:                      YA

RATING:                     4 Stars

I pretty much read this book in a few sittings.  

Reviewing this book is going to be difficult for me because I literally am of two minds.

Firstly, I admit that I HATED the main character Molly. She is selfish, self involved, bossy and completely out of tune with EVERYONE and EVERYBODY except the TV show Golden Girls.  

While the book's central character can, arguably be said to be about depression, I found it hard to care about Molly's depression.  The author does a good job of describing the "inner" feelings, thoughts and turmoil depression can elicit, but Molly was just so annoying that it really took away from the story for me.

Also, I question how everyone else interacted with her - specifically her mother who basically seemed to be constantly afraid for her daughter, yet, did very little to involve herself in her life, in fact, she did very little to involve herself in both her daughter's lives......the baby sister, at 15 having a steady boyfriend and dressing like she was auditioning for a Burlesque show!!!  Fortunately, the mother figure is actually portrayed as nice in this story, which is a nice change of pace in YA.

Also, wow! the therapist.....that went off the rails completely and I worry that there seems to be no consequences from that.....

I would also question the whole title of this book - I actually did enjoy the incorporation and idea of baking a cake a day in order to (obviously) help the mother deal with her daughter's depression, but I would have liked to have more focus on the mother and how soothing and helpful the actual baking was to her - considering the title of the book, I would have liked more focus on the cakes, although towards the end of the book, we do get a better idea of WHY the mother is baking cakes.

What worked for me was the friendship between Elle and Molly.  In fact, Elle was a stronger character in this book for me - she propelled things along better and was, in many ways, a stronger core.  Alex was okay, but we could have used more fleshing out of the character, apart from him being in a band, we don't know much about him.

Having said all of this - I felt compelled to read this book and was interested right to the last word.  For me, the story was highly engaging and the writing was spot on - with a pace that was perfect!

Let's face it, writing a book with a depressed character is tough and I give the author lots of points for this - its always a balancing act of reality and compassion vs entertaintment and since I found myself struggling to put this book down - I obviously loved many aspects of it - which is why I am STILL giving it 4 stars, despite hating Molly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

BLOG TOUR for WEDDING GIRL by Stacey Ballis

Thank you to the publishers Berkley for sending me an electronic copy of this book and inviting me to join their book tour.


AUTHOR:    Stacey Ballis

GENRE:       Contemporary fiction


This book was an interesting contrast of good/bad.  The first half (ish) of the book is about losing something, someone as well as your dream or what you thought your dream would be.  The second part is about picking yourself up and moving forward.

So, from this point of view this book is well written and I enjoyed reading about Sophie's "can do" attitude.  Its actually fun to watch someone else's life become something completely different - kind of reflects reality.

On the other hand, this book was a little too "perfect" at times, which does NOT, in my opinion reflect reality.  Having said that, however, the writing is crisp and the main character is a strong one, which is always a huge plus for me.  I also love that she ends up with her grandmother, which is something dear and close to my heart.

I felt I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit, but otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Kind of gives us hope that better things than what we can imagine are coming our way.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

REVIEW for Where You'll Find Me

TITLE:           Where You'll Find Me

AUTHOR:       Natasha Friend

GENRE:           YA


I enjoy Natasha Friend's books. She writes smart books on tough subjects that, IMO, are must reads for YA.

Where You'll Find Me is the newest entry. Actually this book is middle grade oriented with a main character who is 13 years old. Maybe this is part of the issue for me. As an adult, who enjoys reading YA with social issues as the main theme, I like a storyline that is usually a lot more raw. 

Friend depicts mental illness with tact and in a realistic way, but it is everything else surrounding this novel that annoyed me. NONE of the adults in this book seem to realize just how damaged Anna is, after she walked in on her mother's suicide attempt. Really????? I could, maybe buy this, if this book was written in 1960, but wow! this 2016 and somebody should have done something for this poor child.

Anna frustrated me at times. She literally DOES NOT speak up for herself AT ALL EVER! In fact, when she does, she mumbles something that nobody even bothers to ask her to repeat. I realize that Anna is going through so many things in this story, but at times, I wanted to scream at her to OPEN HER MOUTH and say something to help herself.

On the plus side, the relationships here are actually somewhat healthy. Marnie is not the evil stepmother (thankfully - it feels as though that has been done to death) so the relationship between Anna and Marie worked for me.

I also liked the relationship between Anna and her school friends - sweet and endearing to read.

Anna's parents really dropped the ball in this story - and the father was a useless character for me. I much preferred Anna and Marnie together than any kind of relationship she had with her own father.

The book is well written and obviously aimed at a middle grade audience. Overall, I liked this book.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

REVIEW FOR The Vanishing Velazquez

Thank you to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book.

TITLE:           The Vanishing Velazquez

AUTHOR:      Laura Cumming

GENRE:         Non fiction

RATING:        4 Stars

I loved, loved this book.

I am a lover of first edition books, so I can absolutely see how Snare could become obsessed with this Velazquez and needed to get to the "bottom" of the discovery of this masterpiece.

Somehow, history, the good and the bad, has a way of grabbing us and not letting go and this highly well researched and detailed book shows us just how consumed we can be with the past, at the mercy of our present.

In the process, I learned so much from this book and from that time period, as well as a lot on the art form - all things that I had not really considered in the past.

The writing can be a little confusing at times, which made me sit down and truly concentrate on what I was reading and I do admit that at times, there was just TOO much information, but overall, this book was "the word that comes to mind is" LYRICAL in many ways, scary in some ways and highly entertaining in all ways.
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