For anyone who has ever owned a dog, you obviously have wondered at least once what goes through the head of your little pal. This story answers that question in a very original way as Enzo, the dog, is the narrarator. The story begins with Enzo looking back on his life and recounting how he was taken in by his owner, Denny, a race car driver, and how he observes things in the world. He has learned to understand what his master says after watching TV all day everyday and the book starts off as a funny, cute little story. But then it turns, and what once started off as a light-hearted novel quickly and beautifully becomes an emotionally heartbreaking story as Denny's wife, Eve, becomes pregnant with their daughter and enlists Enzo's help in watching over her. But something isn't quite right. Enzo, with his keen sense of smell, smells something not quite right in Eve's head. Something that will destroy this family forever.
Eve's parents are doubtful that Denny will be a good father because he is away at races so much. The relationship between Denny and his in-laws is severely strained and when the book hits the climax and things start turning, Stein really lets it all show. I can't remember reading a book that made me laugh, cry, and furious at points throughout but it will. Anger will rise up in you because the line between fiction and reality begins to blur due to the captivating writing style of Stein.
I initially picked this book up at the local library and my wife saw it sitting on the coffee table waiting for me to get around to it. She grabbed it and in two days had devoured it. With tears in her eyes she told me, "You have to read this next". I completely agree with her on that statement, "You have to read this book next".
DISCLAIMER: I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I am very passionate about children's literacy and improving the vocabulary, language skills, and reading capabilities of young people. So when I saw this book, I knew it was right up my alley.
Dana Suskind is a cochlear implant surgeon and the book starts off with her stressing the importance for infants to hear correctly. She recounts two surgeries she performed and the difference in the results which perplexed her. After further investigation, she found her answer in the home life of each patient. The book spends a good bit talking about the variation of the quantity and quality of words heard by infants in professional homes, middle-class homes, and welfare homes and the results are unbelievable.
Quantity refers to how many words are spoken to the infant and quality tells if those words are encouraging or discouraging and again these results will blow you away. I don't want to give away the answers but this was definitely my favorite part of the book. But the sad truth is that Dana Suskind starts her book off strong - really strong - but begins to falter as it progresses.
The middle part of the book talks about the three-T's: Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns, as a way to interact with your child better. Instead of praising your child on their innate abilities ("You aced that test because you're so smart!") you should praise them on their effort and process ("You really studied hard and because of it you made a great grade!") Also it speaks on how to really open up your child's vocabulary by giving your child a very detailed play-by-play of what you are doing. The more words, the better! This section is really fascinating but unfortunately the writing begins to suffer here. The text becomes more of boring lecturer that just drones on and on about their topic. However, there is some fascinating information in here that every parent should read.
The book ends talking about America's greatest undeveloped resource, its children. It discusses different programs in place to encourage children to read and gives some examples and testimonies of people who benefited from them. Again, lots of good information that suffers do to poor writing.
Overall the book is a solid read. It reminds me of the time I was in west Arkansas diamond hunting - I had to dig through a lot of dirt to find some good stuff (even though I left that day empty handed, I certainly didn't leave this book that way).
For those of you who know me, you know that I am passionate about children's literacy. Personally, I strongly believe that children are significantly more prepared for school and education when they are read to in infancy and childhood than when they're just given a tablet to watch TV on.
I have attached a link to Amazon and Goodreads' "100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime" for some ideas for you and your child. When's the last time you read to your children?
Spoiler Alert: I am currently reading and reviewing "Thirty Million Words" for Penguin Publishing and the neurological differences between children that are read to and those that aren't will literally blow you away. Stay tuned for the full review soon.
CLICK HERE FOR LINK
Steps to read this book.
Step 1. Grab a box of Kleenex.
Step 2. Prepare yourself for lots of crying. LOTS. OF. CRYING.
Me Before You is an emotionally written, moving story about a man, Will Traynor, who once had everything in life but this freedom was taken away from him after he suffers an accident. Wheelchair bound and essentially given up on most things in life, he is in need of a caretaker. Enter Lou Clark, a homely, mild-mannered girl who still lives at home with her family. Initially, Will is mean, spiteful, and insistent that Lou will be like all of the other caregivers - quitting after a week or two, but Lou is persistent. She tries to get Will out of his mother's house and in the real world to appreciate things that he once did. Persistent in his handicap, Will declines these offers but Lou continues. Will gradually lightens up and Lou begins to fall in love. The story is moving along nicely until Lou overhears a conversation that Will has on the phone and begins to wonder what else is going. What other plans has Will set for himself that could ruin this love she has formed for him? Lou begins to get Will to go to different places and show him that life is beautiful and worth living, leading up to a heart-wrenching trip they take together where all the details come clear of Will's secret motives.
This book is a perfect as a book can be but do not read this if you don't want to cry. Seriously. There is a reason this book is always listed in the top 10 saddest books ever written. I won't give away the ending here but brace yourself. However, if you do brave this book know that you are in for a treat - a well-written love story that truly stays with you for years to come.
DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC in exhange for an honest review.
Oftentimes its hard to review a collection of short stories, some stick out in your memory and others fade in with the rest. This is the case with Sea Lovers. The book is divided into three sections: animals, artists, and metamorphoses. Personally, I believe the book starts off strong, really strong, but fades as it goes forward.
The "animals" section is the strongest even though it is a collection of four short stories that all involve animals dying. The writing is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. There is no question that Martin is a talented writer and it shows in this section. The story that stands out in my mind has to be the first one: "Spats", a tragic story that involves a woman whose husband leaves her but leaves behind his dog, an animal she is not quite fond of. To exact revenge, she has the dog euthanized.
The second section, "artists" has some great moments but then begins to drag on. The highlight here has to be "His Blue Period", the story of an arrogant artist in a relationship with a woman who is being mistreated, Maria. The protagonist of the story is a struggling artist who is in love with the same woman but decides he has waited long enough and begins to date someone else. Suddenly, Maria dies leaving behind a multitude of questions, most importantly, who is responsible. The low point of this section, in my opinion, is "The Open Door", a story of two women dating that have disdain towards one another's occupation as an artist and dancer respectively.
The last section is where things start to go downhill. Of the four stories, "Sea Lovers" (the story that inspired the name of the book) has to be the bright spot. This is the story of a man who finds a mermaid and begin to interact with one another but notice that he cannot live in water and she cannot live on land. Nothing else really stands out in this section, in fact, I struggled to get through "The Incident at Villedeau".
Overall, if you're a big fan of the short story, pick this up as there are some real gems in here. Having read the book, and looking backwards, I am glad I read it. I like how Martin takes the reader to the end of the story but then ends it, leaving a sort of cliffhanger. It isn't to the point that drives the reader mad but it allows the reader to wonder what happens next.
Solid read but don't expect a book that'll change your literary life.
Without a doubt, this has to be the most underrated book of 2014. People often times ask me for book recommendations and this one usually tops the list.
The story begins with a string of home burglaries in suburb of Chicago, all focused on one street. The neighbors and community had been working hard at redeveloping the area and had begun to take pride in what once was an often avoided and dangerous place. The most shocking thing they note is that these burglaries occur during broad daylight while everyone is at work or school. Everyone except Mary McPherson who decides to skip school that day. Mary's mother, Susan, is actually a real estate agent who is trying to persuade young, middle to upper class families, that their suburb is safe and a great place to live.
Everyone begins to get suspicious of the single Cambodian family that lives on the street, mainly because they're house was relatively spared and because their children and cousins spend most of their time sitting on their house steps loitering all day. Interspersed between chapters are community blog posts from all the members declaring suspicion and hypotheses as to what has happened. The Cambodian family claims innocence but its tough to prove when everyone is out to get you.
There's also the story of the French chef who owns his own restaurant. He claims innocence by stating he was out of town but after further investigation, this was a lie. And the story of the husband and wife who struggles with mental illness and is coddled by her parents. And the story of Arthur, an aging man who is losing his sight and independence, and his relationship with Mary.
The story shifts viewpoints from chapter to chapter, eventually weaving together everyone's story and perspective as it all ties together nicely in the end. It makes us all question our own prejudices and how quick we would be to judge and point the finger. Even though we claim we aren't racist and we view all humans equal, how long does that hold in your life when crisis strikes?
When one neighbor is asked what the burglars took, he responds "What we've lost is nothing" - a statement and theme that comes up repeatedly in the book.
DON'T MISS THIS ONE.
Martin Banks has stumbled across a secret website where he can manipulate code to allow these changes to occur in real life. For example, if he wants to be taller, he changes the height code of himself on the website and he is instantly taller. He calls this "magic" and changes his location and time to be that of medieval England. He enters a town thinking he is an actual wizard but is startled, and embarrassed, when he discovers he's not alone. There are others who can do "magic" as well, much better than him. Throw in a love interest, a super geeky code genius bent on domination and complete control and this book is finished.
Fun read, fairly quick read, and definitely worth checking out if you're into computers, medieval times, wizardry, and just a good story. Only negative thing I have to say is that it drags a little bit in the middle but then picks up steam heading into the end. The character Martin is a likeable guy and very easy to cheer for. There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments and I would say this is a great summer read.The book also had a very neat retro feel - the same type evident in Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One" (review coming soon) but to a lesser degree.
I haven't had a chance to read the two sequels that follow but I can only hope they're as good as this one. Overall, a very fun read not to be missed.
DISCLAIMER: I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Let me start this review off by saying I have a feeling this book is going to receive a lot more positive reviews than the one you're about to read. The story centers around Elsa, a precocious seven year old who has no friends except her grandmother. They have created a fantasy world by the name of Miamas. In this world, there are many stories, characters, and fairy tales that grandmother has passed down to Elsa. Unfortunately, Elsa has to deal with the passing away of her grandmother due to cancer. But before she dies, she asks Elsa to perform a quest for Miamas, to deliver letters to various individuals that she has written. The letters are apologies from the grandmother but Elsa does not know why.
As Elsa delivers the letters to each person, she learns about his/her back story and their relationship with her grandmother. Turns out, some of these people are "famous" characters in Miasma that Elsa recalls being taught about. She begins to learn about her grandmother's past and some of the ways she helped and hurt others. One of the main story lines is the relationship between Elsa's mum and her mum, Elsa's grandmother. Elsa suspects they do not get along but cannot figure out why. The deeper the book goes, the more the reader gets to learn.
Personally, I had to drag myself through the last half of this book. The fantasy world of Miasma plays a pivotal role in the book but it was just very distracting to me. I am sure there is a deeper metaphorical message behind having a mythological world, but after learning about it for a few chapters, I began to groan when it would come up again. The writing is very prose-like which starts off okay but after reading 4 pages with no dialogue, it got old. This book overstayed its welcome, in my opinion. A heartfelt, emotional story was cluttered with fantasy worlds, and watered down by the obnoxious nature of Elsa at times.
Overall, it wasn't a terrible book, and I believe the average reader will like it more than me. I would have gotten rid of the fantasy world (because I believe the story could've worked out perfectly without it) and made Elsa a little sweeter, because at times she got on my nerves.
The first in a new series and a new universe, The Devil's Nebula is a great opening act. It follows Ed Carew and his crew of smugglers as they run away from the governing body, the Expansion. However, they do quite the poor job and are caught. Rather than kill the crew, they are offered immunity if they agree to work for the Expansion, which they reluctantly do. Their mission is to travel through enemy space into a region called the Devil's Nebula. They arrive on a planet to investigate a new threat called the Weird that is initially quite hospitable. Not all is as it seems though as the more they investigate, the more they discover the Weird have ulterior motives in their initial generosity that may threaten all life in the universe.
The series is known as Weird Space and is just that. I loved this book as it was completely original but bordered on the line of gross. I won't give you any specifics as they play a key part in the story, but there were moments while I was reading that I cringed. However, I couldn't stop reading.
If you're a fan of sci-fi and new-world creation books, pick this up. The sequel, Satan's Reach, is also a can't miss but definitely start here. The two books are loosely related but there are some important backstory details you'll need to pick up here before you move further into the darkness that is Weird Space.
(Side note, the publisher has chosen me to receive the third book in this series a month early so I'll try to get that review up soon.)
In the future, people are wired with essentially the internet hooked up to their brain and vision. Advertising and consumerism, however, is king. You are judged on the possessions you have. For Titus, his entire world changed once he met Violet.
The book starts out with Titus and his friends partying during spring break on the Moon. Once a hacker breaks into the "system" and causes everyone's "feeds" to disrupt, they all end up in the hospital. But during this night, Titus meets Violet, a rebel who doesn't have a feed and doesn't believe in consumerism. As their relationship grows, Titus begins to see the beauty in this way of life after learning more about Violet and her condition.
What starts off as well-written young adult, sci-fi novel morphs into a heartbreaking story about what it means to live - people or possessions. I don't really want to give away too much here but needless to say this book shouldn't be missed.
I love to read and to discuss books. My preferred genre is sci-fi but I like to read mostly anything.