Reading Challenge March Roundup

Happy April! Here are the spoiler-free reviews for the books I read during March. It was a mixed bag of good and not-so-good books. What are you reading right now?

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A Book by a Female Author: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

This memoir skillfully intertwines Corrigan’s youthful summer as a nanny in a motherless household in Australia with her growing acceptance and appreciation for her own mother. I loved this book. I couldn’t relate to the prickly relationship Corrigan had with her mom, but I could certainly relate to appreciating mothers. And this book was worth the read if for no other reason than I now know that grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a delicious thing that exist. That recipe was definitely my take-away message.

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A Book Originally in another Language: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

The short stories in this book were mostly bittersweet and bleak. There were a couple upbeat stories that I enjoyed, but for the most part I was left feeling very empty. Murakami has beautiful descriptions and is a master at capturing moments on the page. His stories read like films in my mind and the bleak landscape of feeling won’t soon leave me. Despite his skill, however, I often found myself not enjoying the stories simply because I didn’t want to be feeling the emotions he portrays. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book.

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A Book with More than 500 Pages: Runemarks by Joanne Harris

I was really excited to read this book because it delves into Norse mythology, but I ended up being disappointed in its execution. The plot deals with the aftermath of Ragnarok and follows 14-year-old Maddy in the subsequent world that arises. The world-building was confusing and despite the lengthy explanations at the beginning, I still felt lost throughout most of the book. I found myself skimming most of the book because I wanted to know the ending but didn’t want to invest much time in it. Overall, not a successful book for me.

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A Book Written by an Author with your Initials: In Secret Service by Mitch Silver

This was a fun thriller about a woman who finds a lost manuscript that puts her in danger as people hunt her to get it back. For me, it needed some suspension of disbelief after one of the bad guys is revealed, but I really enjoyed the book! Great storytelling, interesting frame to the story, and a main character I connected with. I recommend this one!

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A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read Before: Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted

This middle grade novel follows Cody Saron, the son of a CIA operative, as he begins attending school for the first time in his life. Cody knows how to pick locks and fight, but the skills needed to navigate the halls of junior high often elude him. This story was really fun! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Cody’s travails and triumphs as he learns to be a kid again. The climax flew by too quickly for my liking and was a bit contrived, but that doesn’t take away from the charm of this novel. Highly recommend for a quick, entertaining read!

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Book Challenge–January Roundup 2

Here are some more spoiler-free reviews of the books I’m reading for the 2015 Book Challenge! What books are you reading right now?

warm bodiesA book turned into a movie: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
A zombie love story? Yes, please. This novel follows a zombie named R as he falls in love with a human named Julie and they change the world. Marion somehow manages to make his debut novel gruesome and romantic at the same time. I loved this quirky romance with its exploration of what makes us human. Awesome read.

gone girlA thriller: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This novel follows the story of a man whose wife goes missing and the hell he endures as he’s accused of her murder. I never connected with any of the characters but I finished the book because I needed to know what happened. The ending was anticlimactic and I was left feeling very creeped out and unsatisfied. I appreciate the skill that went into weaving this story, but overall I didn’t like the book.

hellblazerA book based on or turned into a tv show: Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano and John Ridgeway (Illustrator)
I read this compilation of Hellblazer comics because I love the new show ‘Constantine.’ The comic follows John Constantine, a demon hunter and magician, as he finds himself in the middle of supernatural events and tries to restore the balance between heaven and hell. Although the characterization of John Constantine is significantly different between the comics and the show (and I prefer the more altruistic version of him in the show), I appreciate both incarnations. I’ll definitely be reading more of the comic book compilations and am looking forward to seeing more of the show! Highly recommend.

HVZAA graphic novel: Hudson Valley Zombie Apocalypse by Linda Zimmermann, Don E Smith (Editor), Nick Mockoviak (Illustrator)
I got this out of the library thinking it would be a novel. To my surprise, it turned out to be the companion comic to the novel (which I will be reading as soon as I track down a copy!) I liked this comic book, but felt a bit lost sometimes. The comics offer short vignettes about minor characters in the book as they deal with the zombie apocalypse overtaking the Hudson Valley (and beyond). There were a couple story lines that were incredibly poignant and I enjoyed those the most. I thought they were a beautiful departure from the usual gore in zombie stories.

2015 Reading Challenge Reviews–January Roundup 1

I’ve been reading a lot more than I expected to, so this month I’ll be breaking up my reviews into several posts. If you want to participate in the challenge, you can find my original post here!

9781455527076_p0_v1_s260x420A Memoir: Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I found this memoir to be incredibly powerful. As someone who thinks a lot about the future of organized religion in our country, I loved reading about Nadia’s story. She’s a heavily tattooed, foul-mouthed Lutheran minister who founded a holy space, the Church for All Sinners and Saints where everyone can feel accepted for who they are. This is a must-read for anyone questioning whether religion is for them or are simply struggling to find God’s meaning in our world.

9780486112886_p0_v2_s260x420A play: Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen

I couldn’t get past the blatant sexism rampant in the play to even begin to determine its merits. It just made me really angry with the remarks about tainted women and the men interrupting the women because men’s thoughts are more important. And the self-righteousness of the priest who, in my opinion is wrong in his beliefs. Terrible play. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

9780802734310_p0_v3_s260x420A book with one word in the title: Fracture by Megan Miranda

This started out as a usual accident/recovery story when Delaney Maxwell falls through the ice covering a lake in her neighborhood. She should have died, but instead she wakes up with a fully functioning brain and the ability to sense when people are going to die. Instead of the heart-rending recovering story I thought this was going to be, it becomes a thriller when Delaney meets a boy with the same ability she has, but he’s not as innocent as he seems. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book in one sitting. Amazing writing, wonderfully real characters, and a plot that leaves you guessing all the way to the end. I recommend this without reservation.

2940045956437_p0_v2_s260x420A book with non-human characters: Xoe by Sara C. Roethle

Step aside, Bella Swan, there’s a new player in town. Set in the small town of Shelby, Oregon, this short book follows the story of Xoe Meyers as her best friend is turned into a werewolf, her new boyfriend turns out to be a vampire, and she discovers the secret to her own ancestry. Although similarities to Twilight are evident, they don’t detract from Roethle’s originality and skill. There are some typos, grammatical errors, and some stylistic decisions that I didn’t enjoy, but Roethle’s skill at weaving an engaging story overshadowed all of that. The characters are believable and unique, the relationships between them are healthy, and the plot is interesting. I even bought the sequel immediately after finishing the first book because I couldn’t bear to not know what happened next! I enjoyed this book and fans of Twilight and other supernatural stories should check it out!

9780547844169_p0_v1_s260x420A Non-fiction Book: The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev

I don’t usually read historical non-fiction books, but my friend told me about Caterina Sforza and recommended her biography to me. I love my friend, so I persevered through a book I normally wouldn’t have picked up. Elizabeth Lev’s ability to bring historical events to life is evident on each page as she skillfully weaves Caterina’s colorful life history together with the backdrop of intrigue that plagued 15th century Italy and affected her life. The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the book was that the names of the numerous historical players were difficult to follow at times. Although this kind of book is not my go-to genre, I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the oft-forgotten medieval history of women.

What books have you read this January? I would love any and all suggestions you’d like to leave in the comments!