Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - March

Three months in and I've officially hit my goal of reading 24 books in 2018! I was looking at my "to read" list on Goodreads and was slightly intimidated by its 200+ listings, so I've decided to up my goal to 52 books for this year!

(Reminder: descriptions come from Amazon.com but all reviews are my own.  You can find previous book reviews here.)

15. Unreal by Riley Moreno (4/5 ★)

"Julie and Kim knew better. They went  anyways! When an innocent road trip takes a dark turn, two young women will end up fighting for their lives.

To celebrate her college graduation, Julie Edwards and her best friend, Kim, take off on a road trip across the country. But a simple pit stop becomes the end of the road when the two young women get tangled up into something they never saw coming... in their wildest dreams!"

I am going to start this review out with a trigger warning. If you are sensitive to events involving sexual assault then this book is not for you.  The craziness of this story picks up early in the book, so it doesn’t take long to be captivated by the plot line. There were multiple twists in the story that keep you guessing until the very end. It wasn’t the most suspenseful thriller I have ever read, but I really enjoyed it! Plus, if you follow the link in the title, you can get the kindle version of the book for free!

16. Bossypants by Tina Fey (4/5 ★) 

"Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy."

I listened to this book on audiobook, and was really unsure of it in the beginning.  Tina Fey is a performer, but I wasn't crazy about her "reading" voice.  I wonder if its because I expect it to be like watching her on TV or in a movie. Anyway, I did enjoy this one once I got into it (which didn't take very long).  I especially liked that I could relate some of the things she talked about in her young life to the most quoted movie of all time, Mean Girls. (Don't fight me on that last part; I will win).  She even told about the person IRL that inspired her to write the character Damian from Mean Girls.  

17. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (4/5 ★)

"Does losing her dog mean losing everything? Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She's thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose's rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose's father shouldn't have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose's point of view."

This book is definitely geared toward upper elementary/early middle school aged kids, but I really  enjoyed the last non-Baby Sitters' Club book that I read by her last year, so I wanted to give this newer one a shot.  I loved the message in this book and I highly, highly recommend this as a classroom read aloud! It gives kids the insight to a girl with Asperger's Syndrome which I love because it is likely they will come across a classmate like her in their school years and learning about differences through books and stories is so beneficial!  I gave it 4 stars only because it is so kid-oriented. It's not one of those books that I LOVED as an adult, but it is one that should belong in every elementary aged classroom.

18. The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon (4/5 ★)

"In 1991, fourteen-year-old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match. He suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body and spent the next year recovering in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that year of physical recovery, Runyon began to question what he’d done, undertaking the complicated journey from near-death back to high school, and from suicide back to the emotional mainstream of life."

I really enjoyed this non-fiction story because it gives the insight into someone's life who attempted suicide but failed.  I thought it was interesting to hear how his life changed after his suicide attempt.  Also, since it was such an unordinary means that he tried to use, it was interesting to see how burn victims cope and heal after their tragedies.  THe only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that since the book was written ten years after the events actually took place, it is hard to know what is real and what is falsely remembered (because as much truth as this story holds, I would imagine it is likely that memories changed too).

19. House Rules by Jodi Picoult (4/5 ★)

"Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?"

For many years I have heard people rave about how much they love Jodi Picoult's books.  I read my first one in high school and struggled hard to get through it. I read another by her two years ago, and though I liked it better, it still took me longer than it usually takes me to get through a book.  I had been recommended this book by a friend, but since I haven't been crazy about her books in the past, I decided to try this one on audiobook to see if it would be easier to get through.  I love that her stories have multiple perspectives, and what made the audiobook even more enjoyable was that each perspective was read my a different narrator.  This made it easy to follow along with and I didn't have to glance at the display monitor to see who each chapter was about as I was driving. Verdict was that I definitely enjoyed this book more than the others.  I'm not sure if it was the topic and plotline that I enjoyed more, or if the audiobook format made it more exciting for me. The only downside was that I predicted the outcome pretty early into the story which made the rest of the book lose some of the suspense.

20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

For the first time, J.K. Rowling's beloved Harry Potter books will be presented in lavishly illustrated full-color editions. Kate Greenaway-award-winning artist Jim Kay has created over 100 stunning illustrations, making this deluxe format a perfect gift as much for a child being introduced to the series, as for the dedicated fan.
 Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley -- a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry -- and anyone who reads about him -- will find unforgettable.

21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

Award-winning artist Jim Kay illustrates year two of Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts, in a stunning, gift-ready format.

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike. And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny. But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone -- or something -- starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects... Harry Potter himself?

22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts . . . he's at Hogwarts."  Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

I am LOVING the illustrated versions of these books! Obviously all Harry Potter books will be 5-stars, but I'm including the reviews anyway.  If you love HP I highly recommend getting the illustrated copies!  As of 2017, only books 1-3 have been released in illustrated form, and the fourth book will be coming out in 2019.  I began reading the HP stories in elementary school, when only the first few were published.  Books 5-7 I read as soon as they were released, but since I have only read each book once, I figured it was time to give them another go-round this year.  Since I've had a dozen or six Harry Potter movie marathons (shout out to you, ABC Family), I know the movies like the back of my hand, so it has been fun to see what happens in the books that is different that the movies.

23. Resistance by Anita Shreve (2/5 ★)

Claire Daussois, the wife of a Belgian resistance worker, shelters a wounded American bomber pilot in a secret attic hideaway. As she nurses him back to health, Claire is drawn into an affair that seems strong enough to conquer all--until the brutal realities of war intrude, shattering every idea she ever had about love, trust, and betrayal.

I had a coupon for a free book at my local used book store, and since I'm a sucker for WWII historical fiction, I thought this would be the perfect pick. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  I really struggled to get through this one. Also this so-called affair doesn't even begin until over half way through the book, and there really isn't anything interesting leading up to it. 

24. Cut by Patricia McCormick (4/5 ★)

Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long...

This book has been on my to-read list since high school and I only just now checked it out from the library.  I was reading it on a mini road trip and apparently I got into it enough that when my boyfriend asked me a question, it took me a minute to answer because I felt like I wasn't supposed to talk (like the main character in the book). Anyway, it is definitely geared toward more upper middle school readers than 26-year olds, but I still enjoyed it enough.

New Goal: 24/52 books read in 2018

Stay tuned for April's reads, coming to the blog on May 1st!


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