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

World Book Day – A “Must-Read” List

It’s World Book Day today, so we just quickly want to give you the book that we each recommend to people the most. 

Natalie: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield 
Every once in a while I read a book that I wish I could experience for the first time over and over again. This book ranks among my favorite mystery novels simply because of the author’s ability to craft beautiful sentences – and the surprising twist at the end.

13

Meg: Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow – This is the book that has it all: history (Revolutionary War era), drama, war, love, spies, a beloved setting (dear Charleston), and a smart and sassy heroine. I’ve yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t love this book.
Note: reading a 1st edition copy makes it even better. 😊img_9373

AB: The Staff and the Sword Series – For fans of the LOTR or The Wheel of Time series, this debut series by Patrick W. Carr (a high school math teacher from Tennessee) is an excellent addition.  I love the deep character development and the intricate plot. These qualities and many more contribute to the epic nature of this series. Start with the first book, called A Cast of Stones.

img_9375-1

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Wingfeather Saga, vol. 1 – by Andrew Peterson

by AB

As a middle school English teacher, I am always looking for quality fantasy fiction for young readers. Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga first came to my attention when it was recommended to me by my 13-year-old nephew. Here’s a tip: if a teenage boy sings the praises of a fiction book, that’s a big deal and worth your attention.ap Continue reading

The Green Ember

By S. D. Smith                             Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Reviewed by Natalie                      4.5/5 stars

51vzxruanl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Heather and Picket, two young rabbits with ordinary lives, are suddenly thrust into a thrilling adventure when evil wolves attack them and their family, leaving Heather and Picket alone and wondering if their parents and baby brother are still alive. In their desperate attempt to escape the wolves, they encounter their uncle and his ward, Smalls, who lead the brother and sister to safety among a rabbit community committed to fighting and defeating the wolves and hawks. Continue reading

Dreamlander

By K.M. Weiland                                   Genre: Fantasy
Reviewed by AB                                            5/5 stars

dreamlanderIf you are venturing into the world of fantasy literature for the first time, K. M. Weiland’s fantasy Dreamlander (which I just re-read) is a great place to begin. Maybe you read The Lord of the Rings when you were in middle school and have found subsequent fantasy reads woefully lacking, or maybe you have never liked the fantasy genre but are curious to discover what all the fuss is about. Dreamlander is the book for you.

Several years ago, my sister-in-law – a lover of fantasy literature herself – recommended this book by well-respected writing guru Weiland, whose major contribution to the world of literature is her writing blog and her books on writing. She has an unmistakable passion for helping fellow and aspiring writers but proves just as adept at writing novels herself. Continue reading