Thursday, April 04, 2019

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT

Author:  Gretchen Rubin
Genre:  Non-Fiction, The Happiness Project #1
Published:  2009
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Gretchen Rubin
Yearly Count:  13


From Goodreads:
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.


I just happened to see this on the shelf at my library and, on a whim, decided to bring it home.  I can't believe it's been 10 years since it was published!  The speed of time is scary!

My biggest complaint is that she states throughout the book that she needed to just "Be Gretchen."  However, the entire book is about CHANGING Gretchen.  Whether it be about choice and/or for the good, it's still based on changing Gretchen and that bothered me throughout.  The book on a whole is incredibly overwhelming!!!  Every itty-bitty, minute component/detail of one's existence is in one way or another probed and prodded.  It is examined to the point of exhaustion.  The research behind her ideas were interesting, although I don't recall anything being new or revolutionary.  I enjoyed her as her own narrator.

Anyone know . . .  Is she happier today?

Thoughts of Joy

Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Reads






Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks:  3 - 8

Books:  0 - 2

eBooks:  1 - 2

New-to-Me Authors:  3 - 9

Short Story Collection: 0 - 0

DNF: 0 - 0

Monday, March 25, 2019

IF I RUN

Author:  Terri Blackstock
Genre:  Christian Thriller, If I Run #1
Published:  2016
Personal Rating:  2/5 (not enjoyable)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Nan Gurley
Yearly Count:  12


From NetGalley:
Casey didn't kill her friend Brent. She discovered his body, but she'd never try to hurt him. He's the only person she's ever trusted enough to tell the truth about what happened to her father . . . and there's no doubt in her mind that Brent was killed trying to help her prove it. She has to run before they get to her too.

Dylan Roberts was hired to find Casey and bring her back so that justice can be served. As a former Criminal Investigator for the Army, he can't imagine that tracking down one girl will be that difficult.

But the more elusive Casey turns out to be, the more Dylan digs into her past to try to determine what she might be thinking. What he finds there doesn't fit the profile of a killer at all. She's unlike any other fugitive he's ever seen.

The police refuse to discuss any other possibilities. There's something more going on here. Something more to this fugitive who has captured his attention. Now he just has to figure out what it is . . . and Casey just has to stay one step ahead of everyone who's after her.


How many ways can you roll your eyes?  The narrator had no character voice change, it was very unrealistic and dare I say a bit saccharine (could have been the narrator).  And, you are left with an open ending.  This, of course, is because it's #1 of 3.  Yikes!  I will not be reading anymore in this trilogy, because it simply wasn't for me.

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing me with the eGalley.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

THE WOMAN INSIDE

Author:  E. G. Scott
Genre:  Thriller, Standalone
Published:  2019
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format:  ebook  
Yearly Count:  11


From NetGalley:
Rebecca didn’t know love was possible until she met Paul, a successful, charismatic, married man with a past as dark as her own. Their pain drew them together with an irresistible magnetism; they sensed that they were each other’s ideal (and perhaps only) match.

But twenty years later, Paul and Rebecca are drowning as the damage and secrets that ignited their love begin to consume their marriage. Paul is cheating on Rebecca, and his affair gets messy fast. His mistress is stalking them with growing audacity when Rebecca discovers Paul’s elaborate plan to build a new life without her. And though Rebecca is spiraling into an opiate addiction, it doesn’t stop her from coming up with a devious plot of her own, and this one could end absolutely everything.


Another book that had an interesting beginning, which definitely built my curiosity--until it didn't anymore.  Early on I figured out what was going to happen and just slowly watched it unfold.  Of course I couldn't predict all the details, but even those additions didn't thrill me.

Thoughts of Joy
   
My thanks go to Penguin Group and NetGalley for providing me with this eGalley.

Monday, March 18, 2019

BORN A CRIME

Author:  Trevor Noah
Genre:  Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2016
Personal Rating:  4.5/5
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Trevor Noah
Yearly Count:  10


From Goodreads:
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
This was educational, entertaining, and I experienced a whole range of emotions, as well.  The stories weren't told succinctly, but they were engaging nonetheless. That may have been a little more noticeable due to this being an audiobook (no physical break in pages). The foul language wasn't pleasant either, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Thoughts of Joy

Thursday, March 07, 2019

BRING ME BACK

Author:  B. A. Paris
Genre:  Mystery, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  2.5/5 (eh)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/
McCarron & Hely
Yearly Count:  9


From NetGalley:
She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained—until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him...even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

Oh goodness. I was interested, even though it was a slow process and had too many possibilities. The ending was ridiculous.  

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with the eGalley.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Reads




Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks: 3 - 5

Books: 2 - 2

eBooks: 1 - 1

New-to-Me Authors: 2 - 6

Short Story Collection: 0 - 0

DNF: 0 - 0

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A THOUSAND NAKED STRANGERS

Author:  Kevin Hazzard
Genre:  Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2016
Personal Rating:  3.75/5
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/George Newbern
Yearly Count:  8


From Goodreads:
A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.

I thought I'd step into the life of an EMT/paramedic.  Unfortunately, I think I have been permanently scarred!  I will NEVER look at an ambulance or the paramedics inside the same way.  😟  My emotions ran the gamut, but centralized on how perplexed I was regarding the attitude of the author.  He wasn't a horrible person or anything like that, BUT he definitely didn't have the same nature as I do.  What he said was more disturbing than funny.  I do believe I giggled once, though.  HOWEVER, it does take a special kind of person to deal with and perform the duties emergencies require that arise in the medical field.  What's gross or appalling for some is intriguing and compelling to others.  I get that.  And thank goodness for them.  I'm just looking at them with a little skepticism these days.

Thoughts of Joy
  

Friday, February 22, 2019

EDUCATED

Author:  Tara Westover
Genre:  Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Julia Whelan
Yearly Count:  7


From:  Goodreads:

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

While this was reminiscent of The Glass Castle (Walls), it didn't have the same impact on me, and I'm not exactly sure why.  Both women persevere and work through the life they were born into that was wrought with several forms of abuse.  I suspect there's more to the stories Tara told that she wasn't/isn't aware of, because some were beyond my comprehension.  I just can't see how some of it could slip by others; however, I'm aware that it does.  It's just mind-boggling!  

Thoughts of Joy

Thursday, February 14, 2019

HOW IT HAPPENED

Author:  Michael Koryta
Genre:  Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  3.5/5
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Robert Petkoff
Yearly Count:  6


From NetGalley:

"And that is how it happened. Can we stop now?"

Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.

Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He's been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he's known anything, that Kimberly's story-a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood-is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian's bodies?

After Barrett stakes his name and reputation on the truth of Kimberly's confession, only to have the bodies turn up 200 miles from where she said they'd be, shot in the back and covered in a different suspect's DNA, the case is quickly closed and Barrett forcibly reassigned. But for Howard Pelletier, the tragedy of his daughter's murder cannot be so tidily swept away. And for Barrett, whose career may already be over, the chance to help a grieving father may be the only one he has left.


I was very engaged with the storyline for most of the book.  The desire to know "how it happened" was strong.  The climax went a bit beyond by the end, and the finale lost its appeal.  If there had been a shocking twist at the very end, I probably would have thought the book was well worth the read.  However, it didn't, and I was disappointed.   It did keep my interest and entertained me, so I'm happy for that.

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Little, Brown & Company and NetGalley for providing me with the eGalley.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Reads










Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks:  2 - 2

Books:  2 - 2

eBooks:  1 - 1

New-to-Me Authors:  4 - 4

Short Story Collection:   0 - 0

DNF:   0 - 0

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

INK IN WATER

Author:  Davis & Kettner
Genre:  Graphic Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  5


From Goodreads:
Blending bold humor, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, vulnerability, literary storytelling, and dynamic and provocative artwork by illustrator Jim Kettner, Ink in Water is an unflinching, brutally honest look into the author’s mind: how she learned to take control of her damaging thoughts, redirect her perfectionism from self-destructive behaviors into writing and art, and how she committed herself to a life of health, strength, and nourishment.

Davis's story was told very well.  It was succinct, and I wanted to keep turning the pages.  Also, her brutal honesty was appreciated.  The illustrations were spot on, but Davis is a real person, so I think I would have preferred a little less cartoonish.

Thoughts of Joy

Monday, January 28, 2019

KINGDOM OF THE BLIND

Author:  Louise Penny
Genre:  Mystery, Three Pines Series #3
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Robert Bathurst
Yearly Count: 4


From Goodreads:
When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will.

Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional - until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem far more menacing.

But it isn't the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into the events that led to his suspension has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions. As he does, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots - and the terrible things hiding there.

 Another successful read by Louise Penny.  Even though I haven't loved (definitely liked, though) every single addition to this series, I am always excited at a new release and know that it's going to be another nice visit with the people of Three Pines.  This one had two big storylines and both were very good.  I was fully on to one of them, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment.

Thoughts of Joy
    

Saturday, January 26, 2019

HER ONE MISTAKE

Author:  Heidi Perks
Genre:  Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2019
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format:  eBook
Yearly Count:  3



From NetGalley:
It all started at the school fair…

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.

Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter....

I enjoyed reading this, but knew from the start what a major twist would be, and I was right.  However, there were other little turns I didn't see coming.  I didn't connect with either of the main characters, but didn't need to.  My interest was piqued from the start and wanted to keep reading.  I'm definitely interested in more books by Perks.

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with this eGalley.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

THE LOST BOY

Author:  Greg Ruth
Genre:  Sci-Fi YA Graphic Novel, Standalone
Published:  2013
Personal Rating:  1/5 (Don't Bother)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  2


From Goodreads:
Some mysteries are too dangerous to ignore. . .

After Nate moves into his new house, he discovers an old tape recorder in his bedroom and is suddenly thrust into a dark mystery about a boy who went missing many years ago. Now, as strange creatures begin to track Nate, he must partner with Tabitha, a local sleuth, to find out what they want with him. But time is running out, because a powerful force is gathering strength in the woods at the edge of town, and before long Nate and Tabitha will be forced to confront a terrifying foe and uncover the truth about the Lost Boy.

This is not the genre for me! I'm sure there are many, many people who thoroughly would love this graphic novel. The artistry was terrific, but again -- just not for me.

Thoughts of Joy

Thursday, January 10, 2019

THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP

Author:  Marie Kondo
Genre:  Non-Fiction, Magic Cleaning #1
Published:  2014
Personal Rating:  4.25/5 (very good +)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Emily Woo Zeller
Yearly Count:  1


From Goodreads:

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international best seller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home - and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.


DON'T BE FOOLED BY MY RATING, and I didn't audioread this book to jumpstart a New Year's Resolution!!!  (Also, the new show didn't have anything to do with it either.)  

I audioread this book, because it was short.  Period.  I was trying to reach my 52 books for the year; therefore, I had a collection of shorter books and audiobooks.  This happened to be one of them.  I didn't need it for 2018, so it became my first of 2019.  

My rating is purely based on two facts:  it kept me entertained and engaged (crazy talk, I say, crazy talk), and it left me with positivity, encouragement and inspiration.  I think that's worthy of a very good rating.

The nitty-gritty of the text was absurd.  Marie is the ULTIMATE PERSONIFIER.  I dislike personification immensely.  It's just not my thing.  I'm surprised I didn't topple over with dizziness while listening due to the amount of eye-rolling I did.  HOWEVER, for someone that is prone to clutter or just doesn't have the wherewithal to clean up after themselves, this method may be useful. 

Most importantly for me, I finished the book truly feeling revitalized.  Maybe just listening to someone else sort and throw out stuff does that for me . . . who knows?!  LOL  I do have a closet to clean out (tentatively scheduled for winter break).  Will I use the KonMari method?  NOPE!  Unless my clothing and/or other closet items start talking to me, then I may have to reconsider.

Thoughts of Joy
  

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Reads of 2018



Reading 52 books was quite the task for me this year.  I even had to read several graphic novels in the last few weeks of the year to make it!  Did I have to read 52 books?  Of course not; however, I did enjoy reading.  I'm usually doing something else these days and being "forced" to read was a pleasure.  What I didn't like was the pressure.  I have removed the pressure by only pledging to read 26 books in 2019 with the hope that I read more.

2018 brought me 21 books that I rated a 4/5 (very good) or above.  My favorites are below:



1.  Every Note Played (Genova) ~ Realistic Fiction
4.25/5 (very good +)

  




2.  Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind (Jensen) ~ Non-Fiction
4.25/5 (very good +)






3.  Escape From Camp 14 (Harden) ~ Memoir
4.25/5 (very good +)


December Reads






YEAR END STATS

Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks:  5 - 27

Books:  5 - 14

eBooks:  2 - 11  

New-to-Me Authors:  7 - 27  

Short Story Collection:  0 - 2

DNF:  0 - 0


TOTAL BOOKS READ:  52

AWKWARD

Author:  Svetlana Chmakova
Genre:  YA Graphic Novel, Awkward #3
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  3.5/5 (good)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  52


From Goodreads:
Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don't get noticed by the mean kids.

Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.

On her first day at her new school, Penelope--Peppi--Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she's already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the "nerder girlfriend." How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!

Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can't help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he's a member of her own club's archrivals--the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!

This first in the trilogy (read them backwards) is not my favorite, but still worthy of a good rating.  The hardcopy of this book had terrific drawings like the others, but it had less color - making it different from the other two.  Not sure what happened there.  Like the others, lessons to be learned in a fun way.

I'm not sure if they all have them in it or not, but raccoons abound!  :)

Thoughts of Joy

BRAVE

Author:  Svetlana Chmakova
Genre:  YA Graphic Novel, Awkward #2
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  3.5/5 (good)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  51


From Goodreads:
In his daydreams, Jensen is the biggest hero that ever was, saving the world and his friends on a daily basis. But his middle school reality is VERY different - math is hard, getting along with friends is hard...Even finding a partner for the class project is a big problem when you always get picked last. And the pressure's on even more once the school newspaper's dynamic duo, Jenny and Akilah, draw Jensen into the whirlwind of school news, social experiment projects, and behind-the-scenes club drama. Jensen's always played the middle school game one level at a time, but suddenly, someone's cranked up the difficulty setting. Will those daring daydreams of his finally work in his favor, or will he have to find real solutions to his real life problems?

I've been reading this series backwards, but no matter. They can all be read independently. This is a good story for middle grades - maybe teach them a thing or two. The art work is terrific - loved it.

Thoughts of Joy

Sunday, December 30, 2018

THIS ONE SUMMER

Author:  Mariko & Jillian Tamaki
Genre:  Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2014
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  50


From Goodreads:
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Not much to say about this graphic novel. Some of it felt realistic and some not, but whatever. I continued to read, so that says something.

Thoughts of Joy

THE TWENTY-THREE

Author:  Linwood Barclay
Genre:  Mystery, Promise Falls #3
Published:  2016
Personal Rating:  3.5/5 (good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Poe & O'Neill
Yearly Count:  49


From NetGalley:
Everything has been leading to this.

It’s the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd, and the small town of Promise Falls, New York, has found itself in the midst of a full-blown catastrophe. Hundreds of people are going to the hospital with similar flu-like symptoms—and dozens have died. Investigators quickly zero in on the water supply. But the question for many, including private investigator Cal Weaver, remains: Who would benefit from a mass poisoning of this town?

Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is faced with another problem. A college student has been murdered, and he’s seen the killer’s handiwork before—in the unsolved homicides of two other women in town. Suddenly, all the strange things that have happened in the last month start to add up…

Bloody mannequins found in car “23” of an abandoned Ferris wheel…a fiery, out-of-control bus with “23” on the back, that same number on the hoodie of a man accused of assault…

The motive for harming the people of Promise Falls points to the number 23—and working out why will bring Duckworth closer to death than he’s ever been before…

This was a bit of a manic start, then it just took forever to move forward.  I'm glad there will be no more Promise Falls (end of trilogy).  It wasn't my favorite Barclay work - easy listening, though.  I do, however, look forward to more standalones.  He's a comfort read/listen for me.  Hooray for that!

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with the eGalley.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

QUIET GIRL IN A NOISY WORLD

Author:  Debbie Tung
Genre:  Graphic Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  48


From Goodreads:
This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung's experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie's life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.
This was a great way to understand an introvert.  Debbie describes her feelings very well, and I enjoyed the read.

Thoughts of Joy

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

ESCAPE FROM CAMP 14

Author:  Blaine Harden
Genre:  Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2012
Personal Rating:  4.25/5 (very good +)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Blaine Harden
Yearly Count:  47


From Goodreads:
North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival.

Whoa.  This was another eye-opener, even though I knew about North Korea's reputation.  Some of the story is beyond comprehension.  And, even though Shin is not very personable (understandably so), my heart still broke for him and all the other prisoners in that country.  

Thoughts of Joy
  

Sunday, December 16, 2018

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

Author:  David Grann
Genre:  Non-Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  3.75/5 (good +)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/
Patton, Lee & Campbell
Yearly Count:  46


From Goodreads:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

Oh my goodness!  I feel a bit naive, but I'll just chalk it up to nobody told me!  While this was quite a tragic part of history, I think it could have been told in a better fashion.  Maybe audio wasn't the way to go with this one, because I do recommend it.

Thoughts of Joy

Saturday, December 08, 2018

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL

Author:  Simon Schwartz
Genre:  Graphic Memoir, Standalone
Published:  2015
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  45


From Goodreads:
Simon Schwartz was born in 1982 in East Germany, at a time when the repressive Socialist Unity Party of Germany controlled the area. Shortly before Simon's birth, his parents decided to leave their home in search of greater freedoms on the other side of the Berlin Wall. But East German authorities did not allow the Schwartzes to leave for almost three years. In the meantime, Simon's parents struggled with the costs of their decision: the loss of work, the attention of the East German secret police, and the fragmentation of their family.

I learned a little from this read, but didn't find it as detailed or riveting as it could have been. It's told in a simplistic manner, which is always a good thing for young readers, though.  I would have liked a little more of something. 

Thoughts of Joy

SAY WHAT YOU WILL

Author:  Cammie McGovern
Genre:  YA Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2014
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/
Rebecca Lowman
Yearly Count:  44


From Goodreads:
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

This was just okay for me.   I've discovered that this type of storyline just isn't my cup of tea.  Or at least it doesn't rank up there as a good read. 

 Thoughts of Joy

Friday, December 07, 2018

UPGRADE SOUL

Author:  Ezra Claytan Daniels
Genre:  Sci-Fi Graphic Novel, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  2/5 (eh)
Format:  eBook
Yearly Count:  43


From NetGalley:
For their 45th anniversary, Hank and Molly Nonnar decide to undergo an experimental rejuvenation procedure, but their hopes for youth are dashed when the couple is faced with the results: severely disfigured yet intellectually and physically superior duplicates of themselves. Can the original Hank and Molly coexist in the same world as their clones? In Upgrade Soul, McDuffie Award-winning creator Ezra Claytan Daniels asks probing questions about what shapes our identity-Is it the capability of our minds or the physicality of our bodies? Is a newer, better version of yourself still you? This page-turning graphic novel follows the lives of Hank and Molly as they discover the harsh truth that only one version of themselves is fated to survive.

This one started out interesting, but then it just got to be too much for me.  I didn't care for the characters' look, and it sorta turned me off reading it.  I stopped for a bit.  When I went back to finish it, the eBook had disappeared (expired on NetGalley).  I did check it out from the library to finish it, but wasn't happy about the whole experience.

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Lion Forge and NetGalley for providing me with this eGalley.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE

Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
Genre:  Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2006
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/?
Yearly Count:  42


From Goodreads:
For five years Pearl has managed to keep the past from catching up to her and her bright, frail five-year-old son. Life has given her every reason to mistrust people, but circumstances force her to trust her neighbor Mitch with watching Leonard while she goes off to work. Then one day Pearl drops her son off…and never returns.

They are an unlikely pair: Mitch is a young, unattached business owner, and Leonard is a precocious, five-year-old boy. But together they must find a way to move forward in the wake of Pearl’s unexplained disappearance. Their bond as parent and child shifts and endures, even as Mitch must eventually surrender Leonard to a two-parent home.

Is it possible to love the people who can’t always be there for us? The answers will surprise and move you. As their lives unfold, profound questions emerge about the nature of love and family. Ultimately, this novel’s richest reward is watching Mitch and Leonard grow up together, through the power and the magic of the human heart.

In general, I really enjoyed this one.  I didn't care for a few things - one being the back and forth in time.  I'm not sure how many books I've read by Hyde, but her books are a departure from my norm.  I may just add a few more into the mix as enjoyable breaks.

Thoughts of Joy

Saturday, December 01, 2018

NOTHING STAYS BURIED

Author:  P. J. Tracy
Genre:  Mystery, Monkeywrench #8
Published:  2017
Personal Rating:  3/5 (just okay)
Format:  eBook
Yearly Count:  41


From NetGalley:
When Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called to a crime scene in a heavily wooded city park, everything about the setting is all too familiar. And when they discover a playing card on the victim's body, their worst fears are confirmed—there’s a serial killer operating in the city for the first time in years.

Across town, Grace MacBride and her unconventional partners at Monkeewrench Software find themselves at both personal and career crossroads. Weary of the darker side of their computer work for law enforcement, they agree to take on a private missing-persons case in a small farming community in southwestern Minnesota.

As the violence accelerates in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Gino soon realize their killer is planning to complete the deck, and they enlist Monkeewrench to help stop the rampage. As a baffling tangle of evidence accumulates, the cops and Monkeewrench make the unlikely connections among a farmer’s missing daughter, a serial killer, and a decades-old stabbing that brings them face-to-face with pure evil.

I found this installment of the Monkeywrench crew to be just okay. Nothing particularly grabbed me or even interested me. That's a bit disappointing, but I'll keep reading the series.  I enjoy the characters, and there's an addition coming soon.

Thoughts of Joy

My thanks go to Penguin Group and NetGalley for providing me with the eGalley.

Friday, November 30, 2018

November Reads





Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks:  3 - 22

Books:  1 - 9

eBooks:  0 - 9 

New-to-Me Authors:  2 - 20  

Short Story Collection:  1 - 2

DNF:  0 - 0

Sunday, November 25, 2018

TENTH OF DECEMBER

Author:  George Saunders
Genre:  Short Story Collection, Standalone
Published:  2013
Personal Rating:  3.5/5 (good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/
George Saunders
Yearly Count:  40


From Goodreads:
Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.

Another short story collection with a 3.5/5 rating.  While, most landed in the okay - good realm, I did really like some of the stories. Overall, it was a good collection.

Thoughts of Joy

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE

Author:  Tayari Jones
Genre:  Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/Crisden & Davis
Yearly Count:  39


From Goodreads:
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.

This was not what I was expecting, but felt that it was very thought-provoking.  I would like to explore more books by Jones.

Thoughts of Joy

Monday, November 12, 2018

A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS

Author:  Linwood Barclay
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Standalone
Published:  2018
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format/Narrator:  Audiobook/
George Newbern
Yearly Count:  38


From Goodreads:
College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s "normal" existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can. . .
I enjoyed the easy listen and was kept intrigued along the way.  Loved the narrator.

Thoughts of Joy

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

THE KITE RUNNER

Author:  Khaled Hosseini
Genre:  Graphic Novel, Standalone
Published:  2011
Personal Rating:  4/5 (very good)
Format:  Book
Yearly Count:  37


From Goodreads:
Since its publication in 2003, nearly 7 million readers have discovered The Kite Runner. Through Khaled Hosseini's brilliant writing, a previously unknown part of the world was brought to vivid life for readers. Now, in this beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation, Hosseini brings his compelling story to a new generation of readers.

This graphic novel version of The Kite Runner was very good.  I had forgotten much of the story, so this was a great refresher.

Thoughts of Joy

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October Reads




34.  Last Lie (Kubica) ~ 3.5/5

35.  Crush (Chmakova) ~ 3.5/5




Monthly - Yearly

Audiobooks:  3 - 19

Books:  0 - 8 

eBooks:  1 - 9 

New-to-Me Authors:  1 - 18  

Short Story Collection:  0 - 1

DNF:  0 - 0