WORLD BOOK DAY 2018 – 3 multi-cultural novels that are “out of this world”

INDIA

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You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins – (4/5 stars) I think I found this on a list of “New YA novels worth reading” and was intrigued by the multi-generational plotline involving a mother and daughters from India (Think classic traditional Indian mother with daughters trying to become more “American” –  one wants to be a feminist writer, the other an actress).  I’m assuming Perkins has a similar background/ancestry – she provided enough details to make this culturally enlightening for me while also expressing appreciation for other cultures (including English and American). Overall, it was an enjoyable story of love and family that I think would be perfect for both the adult and teen ages. A great one to check out at your local library. ~ Meg 

“There’s something about putting words on a page in private that makes me feel powerful in public.” — from You Bring the Distant Near

SCOTLAND

scotland44 Scotland Street Series, by Alexander McCall Smith – We’ve featured a few of McCall Smith’s novels before (including 44 Scotland Street), but since I’ve read 3 more in this series since January, I just wanted to put out another plug for what has become one of my favorite authors and series to read. AMS has such a unique way of blending philosophy and humor into his stories about everyday Scottish folk while easily working in all of the little places and traditions that make Scotland what it is. His human themes will resonate with most readers while still providing them a fun snapshot at this fascinating country. ~Natalie 

“The Scots’ language can do that—can effortlessly transform the mundane into the poetic, giving the dignity of profound truth to the most banal of observations, making even a weather report sound dramatic.” — from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by A.M.S.

RUSSIA

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The Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden – We reviewed the first novel in this (soon-to-be) trilogy last year after all reading The Bear and the Nightingale. I was intrigued about Russian culture, particularly the people’s value system and their fairy/folk tales. This is an era and setting I know practically nothing about – a stark but enthralling portrait of 14th century Russia. But Arden’s ability to take a very old folk story and put it to paper in this way was inspiring. I know Meg had some drawbacks about the way the second novel (The Girl in the Tower) developed, so it’ll be interesting to see how Arden concludes this series. ~ AB

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.” — from The Bear and the Nightingale

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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? 

Continue reading

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

by Natalie

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Eleven-year-old Reuben Land shouldn’t be alive. He failed to breathe after he was born, and it was only when his father commanded him to breathe that he did. His father, Jeremiah Land, is a peculiar man, seemingly with the ability to perform miracles. The Lands live a quiet life – until Reuben’s older brother Davy kills two local villains who attempt to harm the family. Davy is arrested and tried but escapes before his sentencing. As the Lands set off in search of Davy, they’re followed by a fed who’s convinced they’ll lead him to Davy’s hideout. Providence brings them to Roxanna, whose stories and home give the family warmth through winter in the Badlands. Continue reading

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

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