Read of the Week 2-1-2016

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“We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

“For their entire lives, even before they met you, your mother and father held their love for you inside their hearts like an acorn holds an oak tree.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

 

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

-Goodreads

 

As you probably know if you’ve been following my Reads of the Week, I only talk about books I like. It boils down to, I supposed, the old adage, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ There has to be something in the book that I love in order for me to spend the time writing about it.

That said, now for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. The story is magical, the writing lyrical and smooth, nary a false step to kick me out of my suspension of disbelief.  The varied stories mesh seamlessly into a whole. I sympathized with the characters, caring enough to marvel at their victories, however small, and cry for their eventual failures. The novel exposes the utter cruelties men inflict upon each other, but also the redeeming light of faith, hope and the ultimate good in the world which is, in the end, the salvation of mankind.

Well worth the read and a story to touch the heart inside us all. I would recommend this book to anybody who believes that good, eventually, overcomes evil, however small the victory might be. The world is saved one step at the time and this book moves us forward by bounds.

 

“I’ve always though Marx’s view on religion was the one thing he got right. Faith is a crutch.” ”

If you step on a land mine,’ Akhmed said, “the crutch becomes the leg.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

“Work isn’t meaningful just because you spend your life doing it.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

 

 

 

Read For The Week 1-15-2016

 

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“Bravery is not the absence of fear but the forging ahead despite being afraid”
Robert Liparulo, House of Dark Shadows

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into–as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there’s something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places–in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

-Goodreads summary


A thoroughly enjoyable book, good enough to read the next in the series but not good enough to keep on my shelf (thought I keep very few books on my shelf after they are read). This is, after all, a Young Adult book probably more suited to the 10 – 13 age group. The story is told by both brothers, David and Xander.  It is well written but, compared to a book like The Raven Boys, it is more simplistic than many of the Young Adult/Teen books I have read. Perhaps I didn’t enjoy it more because I had already read a book built around the concept of a house with doors going into different world and times. I also found the basic plot of the book – to find their Mother after she had been kidnapped – thin at times.

All in all, a fun read but if  you want a more engaging book, I’d suggest something like The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater or even the Morpheus Road Trilogy by D.J. McHale.


“Live to fight another day was an expression that did not take into account the loved one who would die because you didn’t continue fighting today.”
Robert Liparulo, House of Dark Shadows

Read Of The Week – Navajos Wear Nikes- A Reservation Life by Jim Kristofic

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“What I’m saying, Mr. Kristofic, is that I learned that it’s not about being black, white, yellow, or red. It’s not about race. It’s about the human race. And too many of the human race act like a bunch of freakin’ morons who will always find some other group of people with a different skin color to blame for their so-called problems.”

Jim Kristofic, Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life

Just before starting second grade, Jim Kristofic moved from Pittsburgh across the country to Ganado, Arizona, when his mother took a job at a hospital on the Navajo Reservation. “Navajos Wear Nikes” reveals the complexity of modern life on the Navajo Reservation, a world where Anglo and Navajo coexisted in a tenuous truce. After the births of his Navajo half-siblings, Jim and his family moved off the Reservation to an Arizona border town where they struggled to -re-adapt to an Anglo world that no longer felt like home. 
With tales of gangs and skinwalkers, an Indian Boy Scout troop, a fanatical Sunday school teacher, and the author’s own experience of sincere friendships that lead to ‘hozho’ (beautiful harmony), Kristofic’s memoir is an honest portrait of growing up on–and growing to love–the Reservation.

-Goodreads summary


Jim Kristofic’s memoir is about more than a bilagáana (white) boy coming to live on an Indian reservations. It is about discovery and learning to be what he calls a ‘Tough Noodle.’ He writes in an informal tone, more like he is physically telling the story rather than recording words to be read later. His writing is open and honest, both the good and the bad, recalling the reality of growing up on the Navajo reservation. This is a story about what home and family really mean.

I thoroughly enjoyed his story and his method of writing. I felt both sorry for him at the appropriate times and joyous at others; extremely satisfied at the ending. He is the kind of person I would invite into my house for coffee, cake and storytelling.


 

Read For The Week 11-10-2015

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“The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.” ― Lee Child, Make Me

“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal. Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.


Like all the books in the Jack Reacher series, Make Me takes the reader on a roller coaster ride from cover to cover as Reacher once again finds himself drawn into trouble not of his own making. And, as always, he takes his brand of trouble right back to the troublemakers. I enjoyed Make Me. The characters are well fleshed in reality, the plot satisfying with enough twists and turns even I was surprised at what was actually going on. I did not see the ending coming, not only in regards to the plot but also an unusual change in Reacher himself. I honestly don’t know if I misread something, but I will be reading the next book to find out.

A fast, fun, read for anybody who like lone heroes taking on the world.

 

 

 

Read of the Week – Morpheus Road – The Light by D.J. McHale

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“I stood on the street, staring up at the most normal-looking house in the world. My house. I’d lived there my entire life. It was home. It was safe.
It was haunted.
The only other explanation was that I was demented. I couldn’t say which I was rooting for.”
D.J. MacHale, The Light

Marshall Seaver is being haunted. It begins with mysterious sounds, a fleeting face outside a window, a rogue breeze – all things that can be explained away. That is, until he comes face-to-face with a character who only exists on the pages of a sketchbook – a character Marshall himself created.

Marshall has no idea why he is being tormented by this forbidding creature, but he is quickly convinced it has something to do with his best friend, Cooper, who has gone missing. Together with Cooper’s beautiful but aloof sister, Sydney, Marshall searches for the truth about his friend while ultimately uncovering a nightmare that is bigger and more frightening than he could ever have imagined.


From the author of the Pendragon books, D.J. McHale brings us another series fraught with scary ghosts, suspense, humor and likable characters with whom readers can easily relate.  The plot had enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as it moves ahead at a swift clip. The narrator is Marshall and, while he comes off as a nerdy wimp in the beginning, he gradually starts to change as events build around him. The author portrays Marshall’s confusion and fears realistically, keeping the reader engaged in the story and eager to find out what happens next.

I enjoyed this book.  It is well-written; even with all the ‘paranormal’ events going on, I never lost track of the who and where and what of the story.  While this is a Young Adult novel, I would recommend it for anybody looking for a suspenseful (yet not terrifying) read.


 

Read For The Week 8-13-2015

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From the front lines of modern medicine, Tell Me Where It Hurts is a fascinating insider portrait of a veterinarian, his furry patients, and the blend of old-fashioned instincts and cutting-edge technology that defines pet care in the twenty-first century. For anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at your veterinarian’s office, Tell Me Where It Hurts offers a vicarious journey through twenty-four intimate, eye-opening, heartrending hours at the premier Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

Part ER, part Dog Whisperer, and part House, this heartfelt and candid book shows that while the technology has changed since James Herriot’s day, the humanity and compassion remains unchanged. If you’ve ever had a pet or special place in your heart for furry friends, Dr. Trout’s irresistible book is for you.

Goodreads


Tell Me Where it Hurts by Doctor Trout is heartwarming story of a man whose life revolves around the care and healing of animals. I grew up reading All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful, books which instilled in me the desire to become a veterinarian.  I never did become a vet (as my son said, ‘Math kicked my butt’), but I have enjoyed reading about the men and women who care for the creatures that are such an important part of our lives. This book is compelling, joyous, crying sad, compassionate, inspirational, funny and a hundred other things. I loved the warmth and caring of Dr. Trout and his easy way of putting that love to paper.  I have already ordered another book about his practice of veterinarian medicine and also the first book of a fictional series he has written.

5 Stars!


“Pets are our seat belts on the emotional roller coaster of life–they can be trusted, they keep us safe, and they sure do smooth out the ride.”
Nick Trout, Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon

Read of the Week – Splintered by A.G. Howard

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Splintered (Splintered, #1) by A.G. Howard


“Tearing down the rest of the world won’t make you happy. Look inside yourself. Because finding who you were meant to be? What you were put into this world to do? That’s what fills the emptiness. It’s the only things that can.”

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Goodreads

What a great book!  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series.  I have always enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland books so this story was right up my alley. The writing was crisp and clean, moving the story along easily without getting lost in unneeded side plots. The characters were well-defined and so real I could almost hear them breathe.

I did feel frustrated with Alyssa’s teen-age angst, but since this is a YA book, I took that into consideration. Her changes over the course of this book and series, however, fit seamlessly into the twists and turns of the plot.  At the end, I walked away satisfied with a good read.


“Photographs tell a story,” Alison mutters. “But people forget to read between the lines.”
A.G. Howard, Splintered
“Because he believes in me. He lets me take chances and learn from them. That’s something a friend does.”
A.G. Howard, Splintered