The First Five Books – a reading challenge update

from  Meg’s Reading Challenge – follow her on Goodreads here.

Here are the first 5 books I’ve gotten through so far this year in my 40 book reading challenge – and whether or not I’d recommend them (note: they are not all 5-star).

The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley

sherwood3-STARS – This one’s been sitting in my kindle for a while, barely started – so let’s start by finishing! Part of my motivation for reading this was that I LOVED the BBC Robin Hood series (circa 2009); and the other part is that I love McKinley’s Beauty – I read it annually. (Also see AB’s take here.) This version takes a unique twist in that Robin is not quite the archer/hero most tales make him – he’s not that great with a bow (Marian is much better – go woman power!), and his leadership is kind of “thrust upon him.” A fun alternative for sure, esp. for those who aren’t born wanting to blaze the trail. But by focusing more on the outlaws as a whole, I felt like the story dragged on a bit, lacked compelling character development, and by the end, was wrapped up much too tidily. It’s not a bad book (boys who love all things Robin Hood may love it)- just definitely not my favorite of hers.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

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Strep, Lies, and Audiobooks

41bsZf4KRFL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_By Natalie

I have been to the Walgreens health clinic four times in the past four weeks. Three times for strep and once for an ear infection. I’m sure each one of you can relate to this season of illness. And during this chaotic and mucus-covered (too gross?) time, I’ve been telling lies. Lies to myself. Lies like, “I am going to lose my mind if someone else sneezes on me,” or, “I am going to fall down dead if anyone else asks for a snack.” My inner voice tends to get overly dramatic during stressful times. Recently, I read The Happy Christian by David Murray. Murray’s premise is that our self-talk about circumstances and situations directly affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Continue reading

Serafina and the Splintered Heart, by Robert Beatty

3 reviewers reflecting on the 3 Serafina books – and how book #3 compared to the others. 

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS OF THIS THIRD BOOK COMPARED TO THE OTHER TWO
(Serafina and the Black Cloak [1] & Serafina and the Twisted Staff [2]): 

Serafina 3AB: I thought Beatty continued to do an excellent job of hooking the reader. Within the first few pages, I found myself asking, “What in the world is going on here?” In that respect, Beatty does not disappoint.”

Natalie: This one didn’t land for me quite like the other two. But I have been reading a lot of fantasy lit lately, and I think maybe I overdid it in the supernatural. It was fun to read it so close to Halloween.

Meg: Once again, I read this in a sitting. It’s gripping and a little darker than the other two, but in a similar fashion still gives you something good to fight for. I did think this one was a little more “mystical”/New-Age-y than the previous two.

SO WHICH BOOK OF THE THREE IS YOUR FAVORITE? 

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Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, by N.D. Wilson

outlaws of timeUpon first glance, Sam Miracle’s name appears to be a misnomer. After all, he is stuck in an orphanage in the middle of the desert, and his arms don’t work. Miracles aren’t exactly likely for this teenager. All he has going for him are his incredibly vivid dreams in which he time-travels to fight the evil El Buitre . . . and in which his arms function properly. Continue reading

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 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. Continue reading