Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#gretchensbooks2017 - December

Concluding the count of 2017's books, here are the Amazon.com descriptions and my own personal reviews for December's reads, books 31- 37 of #gretchensbooks2017.

For those of you who have already asked to borrow books from my last post- just a heads up that I finally got a library card, so instead of continuing to buy books that I have no room for, I'm utilizing the great free service known as the Public Library! I will however still link the books to Amazon so you can purchase them for your own (or a friend's) over-flowing bookshelves.

31. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (1/5 ★)

"Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller In the Garden of Beasts—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction."

This book was so painfully dull and boring...First off, it should have been called The Devil AND the White City because it seemed more like a story about the construction of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago (the White City) with a tiny bit of sprinkling detail about Dr. Henry H. Holmes's killings (The Devil). I had heard so many good things about this book that I used my monthly Audible credit to get the audiobook. It took me a couple times to finally listen to it long enough to follow the story-line, but it never got interesting. I tried to tell myself to quit listening to it but I hate not finishing things (no matter how dull they are) and I had no new podcast episodes to listen to. I can tell that Erik Larson put a lot of research into this book, because that is literally what this book was- a bunch of research written in a failed attempt to form an engaging story-line. Unless you are abnormally into learning about Chicago as it prepared for this event, do yourself a favor and stay far, far away from this book.

32. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin (5/5 ★)

"The summer Hattie turns 12, her predictable small town life is turned on end when her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in over ten years. Hattie has never met him, never known about him. He's been institutionalized; his condition involves schizophrenia and autism. 

Hattie, a shy girl who prefers the company of adults, takes immediately to her excitable uncle, even when the rest of the family -- her parents and grandparents -- have trouble dealing with his intense way of seeing the world. And Adam, too, sees that Hattie is special, that her quiet, shy ways are not a disability,"

This book has unofficially been on my "to read" list for years. Ann M. Martin was one of my favorite authors growing up as I was a big fan of the both the Baby-Sitters Club and Baby-Sitters Little Sister series. This book is categorized as young adult, so I breezed through it in a day. I love how Hattie is a totally relatable character to a young reader, even though she lives in the 60s. I would definitely recommend this book to any early middle school/late elementary school aged kid! 

33. Maybe by Brent Runyon (2/5 )

"Maybe everything will be different here. Maybe I should drive away and never come back. Maybe my brother didn't mean to. Maybe my brother was right. Maybe I can get someone to have sex with me. Maybe no one will ever love me. Maybe I should be an actor. Maybe I shouldn't pretend to be deaf. Maybe if I mouth the words no one will know I'm not singing. But maybe someone, somehow, will hear me anyway. 

Brent Runyon offers a raw, wrenching novel of a boy on the edge. It's a powerful story about love and loss and death and anger and the near impossibility for a sixteen-year-old boy to both understand how he feels and to make himself heard."

It was an easy read, but honestly this book wasn't that great. I had been looking for a different title by the same author at the library when I came across this book. It's about a boy navigating the roads of a new high school after he loses his older brother. I'm confused however because the book starts out with him moving after his brother passes and going into his new high school to sign up for classes, but then later in the story he talks about going to his brother's bedroom which shouldn't exist if they just moved. Another problem I have with the story is that his brother is mentioned off and on, but infrequently enough that I kept forgetting he even had a brother. The story ends with his sharing what happened to his brother, but it seems odd that that is so important to the conclusion of the story when he wasn't mentioned frequently or in any sort of depth throughout the story.  Lastly, the book is super stream-of-consciousness-y, so much so that I just wanted to yell at the kid to get on with it already. The topics of sex and drugs make it not-so middle school friendly, but I think it's a book that I would have been more interested in when I was in the 8th/9th grade.

34. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (4/5 )

"By the author of the #1 New York Timesbestseller The Book Thief, this is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love. 

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. That's when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?"

Finally having a library card means I can check out new audiobooks whenever I want which is great since I canceled my audible membership! I had read The Book Thief a couple years back, so I have been wanting to read this book for awhile too since it's by the same author. I expected the topic to be a little heavier like the Book Thief, so I was surprised when I found this was a completely fictional story with no historic roots. There is a bit of a love story taking place throughout the book, but quite frankly I think it would have been better without it. I enjoy this as an audiobook, but I think I would have enjoyed it more in print.

35. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (5/5 ★)

"Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under."

This book gave me ALL the feels, y'all. The description is correct in saying that it will have you remembering your own first love and how hard it pulled you under. The ending of this book was so beautiful I literally cried, and I don't think that has ever happened before! Best book I read this month hands down!

36. Stained by Cheryl Rainfield (2/5 ★)

"Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer."

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it seemed so drawn out.  Like it just kept going back and forth between the main character being locked up in an old shack and her friend Nick helping her parents put up "Missing" posters.  I gave it two stars because I wasn't bored out of my mind forcing myself to read it, but even the minimal plot lines that existed in the story were fairly predictable. It is definitely directed towards middle school aged kids, but deals with topics like rape which I wouldn't recommend to early middle schoolers.

37. The Company of Demons by Michael Jordan (3/5★)

"The brutal murder of a friend leaves lawyer John Coleman stunned and sends shockwaves through the city of Cleveland. The technique of the killing recalls memories of the Torso Murderer, who dismembered at least twelve people decades ago and then vanished—eluding even legendary crime fighter Eliot Ness. Jennifer, the victim's beautiful daughter, hires John to handle her father's estate, and romantic feelings for her soon complicate his already troubled marriage. When John finds himself entangled with a cold-blooded biker gang, an ex-cop with a fuzzy past, and the drug-addicted son of the dead man, he struggles to make sense of it all."

I won an advanced reader copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway that I had entered after reading the description. I'm a big fan of crime novels so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed the storyline for the most part and it contained a lot of suspense, but the main character was not very likeable...like at all. Also, although the end of the story ties up all the loose ends, it happens so quickly in the span of a few pages and is fairly anti-climactic because of that.

Stay tuned for January's reads, coming to the blog on February 6th!

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