Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Title: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 398
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine (Random House)
Pub. Date: October 14, 2014

I have read almost all of Jodi Picoult's books but hadn't read any in the past few years. I picked up Leaving Time because it was chosen for book club in June. Plus, with it being about elephants, I thought it sounded really interesting.

Unfortunately, I have to say this was one of my least favorites of her books. Learning about elephants was interesting, but I found it to be a little heavy on the information sometimes and less focused on the story. I have noticed this before with her books in that she shares so much of her research; I think sometimes it's distracting and sometimes it's not, but in this case it sort of was. I also found some of it to be very repetitive. Yes, elephants grieve and have emotions, and, yes, I realize elephant mothers are the best ever and are super bonded to their babies. I felt like I was hearing these things over and over.

The story itself was good in places but weird, too. Basically, a 13-year-old girl (maybe 12?), Jenna, is looking for her mother. Back when she was little, her mother was trampled by an elephant and taken to the hospital where she left and hasn't been heard from since. Jenna manages to get a psychic and private detective to help her search for her mom. I actually didn't care that much for this mystery. I also thought I could see any "twist" that was happening and didn't care for it... Turned out I was wrong... But, I'm of two minds about the ending. On the one hand I was surprised and intrigued, but on the other hand I thought it was sort of... well... I really can't say unless you read it! But it was sort of a cheat in some ways and it wasn't my favorite.

If you love all her books I would go ahead and read this one too, but otherwise I would start with some of her others.

Mini-Reviews #4

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I decided to go back and do a bunch of mini reviews for all the books I read but failed to review over the past two years. This will make me feel sort of caught up and refreshed and maybe will help me be motivated to keep up with reviewing what I've read this year! Some of these will be very mini since I can't remember them that well. This is batch #4. 

Title: Bad Feminist
Author: Roxane Gay
Pages: 318
Genre: Non-Fiction; Essays
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: August 5, 2014

I wish I would have reviewed this one right away because I feel like I would have had some more substantial things to say. Basically, I had mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand, I think Roxane Gay and I would be great friends and have some great conversations. I agree with her thought processes... generally. Some of the earlier essays had me laughing out loud. I think the funniest one was the one where she participated in the scrabble competition. The dynamics of that and the other people there was hilarious.. I hadn't even realized that was a thing! But when it became more serious, especially on the essays related to race, I found myself a little frustrated. It seemed like there were lots of complaints about things either without any type of solution offered (which I don't always find necessary) or where I didn't quite understand. We all have things we can learn about other people, and being of two ethnicities, I consider myself knowledgeable on this topic to a certain degree. But what I found, for example, was that Gay would complain about movies portraying black people as maids, etc. (which I get), or slaves which she is over seeing movies about, stating there are enough (okay, I sort of get), or prosecutors, etc. and I didn't quite understand why that last bit, in particular, was a bad thing (pardon my ignorance). And she didn't explain. It seemed like that one section went on a rant about every type of movie that has black people in it being a bad representation, but the array of movies was so diverse, in my mind, that I felt confused. Ultimately, I felt that the heavier essays were very heavy while the earlier essays were comedic, so overall it felt unbalanced.

Title: Normally, This Would Be Cause For Concern
Subtitle: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness
Pages: 281
Genre: Non-fiction; memoir
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014

Memoir written by Danielle Fishel, Topanga from Boy Meets World, about her life and acting. I would only recommend this book if you were a fan of hers/the show. It was pretty cheesy in content and writing. But, of course, cute if you were a fan of hers. I enjoyed this okay, but I think most people would not, unfortunately. :(

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Pages: 292
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date: October 1, 2013

This was another book club read. I would not have picked it up if not for that, even though my husband had previously read and enjoyed it. Turned out I really liked this one! The main character has asperger's (which sometimes I feel I relate a little too much to!) and his antics in trying to find a wife were funny. I would highly recommend this for a lighter read (though it wasn't as light as I thought it would be). Despite that, I do not have a desire to read the sequel which is strange. I guess I like this story just as is. For the book club, our hostess made the meal that the main character makes in the book, and it was delicious!!

Title: Cartwheel
Author: Jennifer Dubois
Pages: 363
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House Trade (Penguin Random House)
Pub. Date: September 24, 2013

This book was very highly based off the Amanda Knox story. A girl is studying abroad in Argentina when her roommate is murdered. The girl is charged with the murder. We read the back story about the relationship she had with her roommate and what led up to the murder, as well as her reaction afterwards (doing a cartwheel in the police station, all casual) and her family's response. I honestly don't even remember how this ended (LOL) but I enjoyed reading this. The character drove me batty because she was so immature and annoying, but other than that it was an interesting story, and if I remember correctly we were left with just our own opinions as to whether or not she did murder the roommate. It wasn't so much about the crime but about the character herself.

Atlas Shrugged Read-a-Long

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ti over at Book Chatter is hosting an Atlas Shrugged read-a-long, so I thought I would join and give this one a try. I am notoriously bad at read-a-longs, and this one is a long book. But I've also had it on my list for a while and would like to try and participate. Technically this started on July 1st and I have yet to start this. So I'm already behind! Ack! But we'll see how it goes!

Here is the info from Ti's post:

  • Runs from July 1-Aug 15, 2015
  • Use #AtlasRAL to talk about it on Twitter.
  • I hope to write an update post on my blog after each part (I, II, III) just to see how we are doing.
Suggested Read By Dates:
Part I by July 15 (approx 300 pages)
Part II by July 31 (approx 320 pages)
Part III by August 15 (approx 450 pages)

My goal is to be caught up by July 15th!

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Riverhead Books (Penguin Publishing Group)
Pub. Date: January 13, 2015

I'm of two thoughts about this book. In The Girl on the Train, Rachel rides the train every day past a group of houses where she often has observed a couple whom she has become invested in. She imagines who they are and their stories. So when she sees something strange one day, and then news about this couple becomes public, she can't quell her curiosity, poking her nose in where she shouldn't, and becomes overly involved. What follows is a thriller as we try to figure out what's really going on and who is telling the truth.

I rated this one 3 out of 5 stars. On the one hand, it was a thriller that kept me hooked and that I essentially finished in a weekend. As other bloggers have said, it is definitely a fun read. I would imagine most people will like it and will get caught up in all the unknowns in the story.

On the other hand, none of the characters were at all likeable and the main character is always drunk so she (and, thus, we) never really know what's going on!  That was annoying. In terms of the literary factors of the mystery, it sort of felt like the whole main character always blacking out thing was sort of a cheat, although I guess that was just part of the story. There were some twists as the story went on. This is NOT the next Gone Girl or even a good comparison. Overall, it was a a fun read but I am surprised at quite the amount of hype it has received.

Mini-mini Reviews #3

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I decided to go back and do a bunch of mini reviews for all the books I read but failed to review over the past two years. This will make me feel sort of caught up and refreshed and maybe will help me be motivated to keep up with reviewing what I've read this year! Some of these will be very mini since I can't remember them that well. This is batch #3.

Title: Jaws
Author: Peter Benchley
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday (Random House)
Pub. Date: February 1, 1974
Audio Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Audio Time: 9 hours, 37 minutes
Audio Narrator: Erik Steele

I had this on my list ever since Ti read it a couple (few?) summers ago, so I finally got around to it this past summer. I listened to this on audio. Overall I enjoyed this book, but I did not find it scary, necessarily. It was comical to me how the city was run... the sheriff was in charge of dealing with the shark, etc. Not sure if that is a 1970's thing or just how this fictional (I'm assuming) town was written. Although I enjoyed the story, there was one part that I thought was so completely out of place that it sort of turned me off of this book (in the way that that one scene in Stephen King's It... those who read It probably know what I mean). In this one, two of the characters are sort of flirting with each other and they have this entire exchange where the one asks the other about her sexual fantasies and they go back and forth etc. and the issue I had was not with the content but with the fact that it added nothing, whatsoever, to the story and felt so completely out of place. I couldn't help but think the author was inserting his own fantasy for no reason at all. But otherwise good and I did follow this read up with a re-watch of the movie (which was not as great as I remembered, LOL).

Title: A Game of Thrones
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Author: George R. R. Martin
Pages: 807
Genre: Fantasy; Historical
Publisher: Bantam Books (Random House)
Pub. Date: August 28, 1996

My husband has read this one many times and has read many others in the series. I decided to give it a go before we started watching the show. It was outside my genre but I found it interesting and scandalous and surprisingly easy to read. I have chosen not to read the rest of the series because there is just too much and they're too long and I'd rather just watch the show, but if the show hadn't come out I would have considered more. (This opinion is not typical, but I think this is because it is so far out of my typical genre).

Title: Into the Abyss
Subtitle: An Extraordinary True Story
Author: Carol Shaben
Pages: 287
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Pub. Date: May 21, 2013

I asked for this non-fiction one for Christmas 2013. The story wasn't as crazy interesting as I thought it would be which I feel bad saying because these guys did survive a plane crash and were stranded for hours in the freezing cold before rescue. But that part of the book was fairly short and much of it focused on the lives of all the men. There was a lot I learned about planes and piloting and the dark side of the private airline industry (scary!) And the whole story regarding the prisoner's life was really sad. I found this book to be okay but did think it was a great way for the author to tell her father's story.

Title: Everybody's Got Something
Author: Robin Roberts with Veronica Chambers
Pages: 272
Genre: Non-fiction; Memoir
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Audio Publisher: Hachette Audio
Audio Time: 7 hours, 18 minutes
Audio Narrator: Robin Roberts

I am a huge GMA fan (Good Morning America) and, therefore, also a big fan of Robin Roberts. (I even saw her and the GMA cast in person back in 2010 when we were in NYC. I was part of a small group that watched her interview with Steve Harvey which is funny because I recently was in the audience at his show. But anyway...) Fans of Robin Roberts have followed her journey as she first battled breast cancer and then later myelodysplastic syndrome which was a complication of her treatment from cancer and was also a life threatening illness. I listened to this one on audio, read by Robin herself, and easily got into her story. I do think that people who don't know her would enjoy this book as well, but fans of hers will definitely enjoy this. I always like hearing about the interactions of the GMA staff and how family like they really are, which she talked a lot about. And I was surprised how much she talked about her relationship with her partner as well and a nice glimpse into her life.