Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I am a sucker for books about space. Even though after watching "Gravity," I have decided I have no interest in going to space myself until it looks like "Star Trek."  After hearing Hadfield speak on NPR and other news outlets, I was really excited to read this book.

In his book, Hadfield talks about the long road he took to become an astronaut and all the hard work and sacrifices that the endeavor entailed.  He details the focus he had to have, the breadth of knowledge, the ongoing (and neverending) education and training, the tedium, the teamwork and all of the many other aspects of an astronaut's life.  He includes many interesting anecdotes about his time in space including a spacewalk that didn't go as planned.  The reader also sees the effects that such a career can have on an astronaut's family and friends. It is a massive undertaking and one that is not undertaken lightly.  Hadfield mixes in a self-help angle into this memoir by talking about character traits that make a person not only successful as an astronaut but successful in life in general.  He deftly translates how the character traits that made him a good astronaut help him to succeed on Earth as well. I think this is what would make this book such a good young adult read. Almost all of us see the life of an astronaut as glamorous and I think most teenagers would be impressed with Hadfield's anecdotes. However, they would also see exactly the kind of work and character traits required to succeed in such a job. 

Bottom Line:  RECOMMENDED. A great read that is part astronaut-memoir and part self-help book. It gave me a greater appreciation for just how hard astronauts work and the teamwork involved in every space mission. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I am a big fan of historical fiction because it always makes me want to go out and learn more about the subject represented in the book.  This particular book was a tough one as it dealt with Jonestown.  The story focuses on a mother and daughter who are part of Jones' commune.  Joyce joined the commune in the hope of a better life for herself and her daughter but, after witnessing some of the preacher's unstable behavior and practices, she is having doubts.  Her 10-yr-old daughter, Trina, has become one of the preacher's favorites and he uses her in her sermons while forcing her to participate in often dangerous demonstrations.  Tying them all together is the gorilla held captive at the commune.  Adam is a witness to everything that happens in the commune and he has a special affinity for the children in general and Trina in particular.  Following the months and days leading up to the tragedy, CHILDREN OF PARADISE offers readers a glimpse into a crumbling earthbound paradise and the people who inhabit it.

It took me awhile to get into the book but I found it captivating once I was about halfway through it. Knowing what happened at Jonestown made me want to discover the fate of Joyce and Trina even more. And it made the story that much more tragic.  I thought Adam was an interesting character to add into the mix as he serves not only as an observer but also a key player in most of the profound moments in the book. My one complaint is that D'Aguiar anthropomorphizes Adam a bit too much. It is meant to come off as magical realism but it doesn't.  It just comes off as unbelievable and over the top.  Especially at the end of the book.  Overall, it was an interesting and sad story and I would love for someone else to read it so we can discuss the very ending.  I'm still not sure what happens!

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. An interesting look into the last tragic days at Jonestown.  The characters are fascinating even though the narrative can be frustrating at times. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

My reviews aren't done but I wanted to share with you my favorite reads of 2013. My goal is always to read 52 books per year.  In 2013, I read 65. I think it is only because I was sick so much!

Here they are in no particular order:

1. THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt
2. THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW by Matthew Quick
4. LOST LAKE by Sarah Addison Allen
5. THE OTHER ROOM by Kim Triedman
6. GRAVITY OF BIRDS by Tracy Guzeman
8. THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison
9. SEA CREATURES by Susanne Daniel
10. AMY FALLS DOWN by Jincy Willett
11. THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker

Honorable Mention goes to BELLMAN AND BLACK by Diane Setterfield.  I love Setterfield's writing style but this one was a bit frustrating in terms of the narrative.

Can't wait to see what reading THIS year brings!