Reading Challenge Update with a little bit of everything (by Meg)

I know. I haven’t posted an update in a while, but I promise I’ve been reading and keeping up with this challenge. In a way. I’m on track with my book count – but I do keep switching out books. I know, this is kind of cheating, but I mean, all of you people keep recommending more good stuff that I have to read. So anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading since the last updateScreen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.42.43 PM

First off, I ended up reading a bunch of AB and Natalie’s recommendations, like …

  • Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey – Loved this. The perspective into someone struggling with dimentia coupled with a whodunnit was brilliant, IMHO.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin – With the exception of the ending** this was a powerful retelling of the Prodigal Son. I was on a bus full of teenagers on their way to camp … trying not to cry my eyes out (and hide this fact from said teens). The part where Cooper finds the map from his father is worth the entire novel.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstoreby Robin Sloan –  The perfect vacation read, esp. for millenials in love with their technology … while also bringing in the love of real books.

I also finished a few that I’d mentioned in previous posts but hadn’t reviewed: Continue reading

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Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

GUEST REVIEW BY DAVID WYNN  – 2-stars**

Ready Player One is 61d6DhRCBSL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_set in a not too distant, mildly dystopian future (seriously, you can still order pizza).  Following the same, tired tropes as the last few decades of science fiction, Ernest Cline assumes a world where man-made climate change has created bizarre weather patterns, most of the world’s oil has been consumed, and economic depression has transformed suburbia into wasteland.  The year is 2044, and the internet has been replaced by a free-to-access, virtual reality world called the OASIS.

Enter Wade Watts, the story’s hero.  Wade is a nerdy high school student who lives in a stack (a vertical trailer park) with his abusive aunt and her boyfriend-of-the-month.  His only escape is consuming 80s pop culture inside the OASIS, while otherwise he has all but given up on life, ranting about the human condition.  (Cline uses this opportunity to go out on a limb and agree with most of the non-religious world comparing God to the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.)  Wade unintentionally illustrates the futility of such a world view, complaining of “epic loneliness” and that it “[makes him] feel like jumping off a bridge.”

And then comes the announcement of James Halliday’s death. Continue reading

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

reviewed by Natalie

51pV4lY0MtL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgPart fairy tale, part history, and part mystery with a dash of romance, The Forgotten Garden is a story about three abandoned children, an English cottage, and a walled garden.

On her 21st birthday, Nell’s father reveals that she was found abandoned on a dock in Australia with no clue as to her origins other than a white suitcase and fairy tale book. This earth-shattering revelation leads Nell to search for her biological parents. Her search is cut short upon her death, but she leaves her granddaughter, Cassandra, a cryptic message and, in her will, a cottage in England. Continue reading

The Top-Rated Book of 2017: a 1×3 discussion of The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

Usually the most-read or “top-rated” books of the year during the year tend to be the thrillers and romance adventure; rarely are they the really good books that we’re always searching for. But Natalie decided to try out an intriguing title, and since she claimed it was her “favorite book of this decade, maybe century,” the rest of us joined the club. What follows is a slightly condensed 1×3 version (1 book, 3 reviewers) of our online discussion regarding Katherine Arden’s debut novel The Bear and the Nightingale.

Bear_Nightingale_CoverRECAP: Set in medieval times, the story centers around Vasilisa (or “Vasya”) Petrovna and her family in their village in the frozen tundra of Russia. What most of us didn’t know is that this story is a retelling of an old Russian folktale about a girl and the Frost King. So much of the story involves these fairytale-like household spirits; and Vasya spends much of the story discovering and trying to understand the unique gifts and powers she somehow has – and how to best protect the ones she loves with them.

What was your star rating (out of 5) for this book?

Natalie: 5 stars. Arden sets the scene well. I even felt the temperature changes as I read – the brutality of winter and the warmth of the fires.

AB: Also 5 stars. I was engaged the entire time, and I cared about the characters.

Meg: I’m going with 4.5 stars – I loved the writing style, characters, character development (mostly), creativity of storyline, and vivid locale depictions – but didn’t care for the somewhat stereotypical “fundamental religious evil guy” and the “Vasya as strong-woman feminist hero” by the end. Just so Hunger Games/Divergent to me.

[Natalie and AB roll eyes]  Continue reading

**CLOSED** Summer Giveaway – The Good Dream, by Donna Vanliere

the-good-dream**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**

In honor of summer a favorite book of the Club’s, we’re going to be giving away a gently used library-bound copy of The Good Dream, by Donna Vanliere.As posted earlier, this is Meg’s favorite Love Story (although it has nothing to do w/ the typical “romance” but delves deeper into the ties of motherhood-by-adoption). And AB has now become a fan too! We recently found a used copy of this book that we want to share with one of our readers – and we’re focusing this giveaway on our “follow-by-email” button. (But hear us out before you run away in fear of more spam email!) Continue reading

To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey

Review by AB

I’d like to think that it’s not a coincidence that as I sat down in my front porch rocking chair to write this review, I was fortunate to spot two especially large birds settling in the tall pines at the edge of our property. If you read To the Bright Edge of the World, you will understand the significance of such a moment. The love of birds and the mystery surrounding their nature plays an important role in the novel, but this story is not just for bird lovers.

Eowyn Ivey’s frame story (a story within a story) is a tale of love and adventure set in the 41qpsissbfL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_late 19th century. It follows Colonel Allen Forrester as he leads a treacherous expedition to find the source of Alaska’s Wolverine River, leaving behind his young wife and budding ornithologist Sophie at a military outpost. Continue reading

Summer Reads 2017

Here’s just a list of fun and/or interesting-but-not-tedious reads for long vacation drives and warm summer days. We’ve categorized them (somewhat) for a quick perusal based on reader interest. We hope you’ll find some you enjoy! 

Editor’s Pick*

TMGTruly, Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty (Genre: Fiction)
Three couples gather for an afternoon barbecue and find their lives permanently altered. So what in the world happened at the barbecue? I (Natalie) couldn’t put down Truly, Madly Guilty until the author answered this question. Moriarty teases out the details in a somewhat maddening, but incredibly suspenseful way. That’s why this is my summer read choice. You won’t be bored reading it by the pool or on the beach. Continue reading