Posted in Book Reviews

Second Five Books of 2017

“Lantern-shine, dim but kind—
No starkness in darkness—
Even I please the eye.
Outside, wind and rain,
Weather’s fitful wax and wane.
Tomorrow’s sun will reveal
What night conceals.
All we lack, regret, know,
Forgotten in lamp-oil glow.”
-The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

6. * Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I feel about the Underland Chronicles as a whole (hint: it’s pretty positive!).

7. * The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – I will admit that I’m biased because Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite authors EVER, but this is one of her best books. A retelling of Rapunzel and prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre (my favorite book of hers after Ella Enchanted), the first half of this book was just perfect. I could not put it down and I don’t say that often. I loved the tension between Perry and her adopted parents and blood-related sister, her sweet and tender relationship with Willem and her desire to conquer her kingdom’s prejudice. She is probably one of Levine’s best main characters. That said, the book took a turn about halfway through and the tone of the novel changed. While the new plotline was fascinating and interesting, it just didn’t feel like the same book anymore. Overall, I liked the climax and resolution and I appreciated the angle Levine took on prejudice and its affects. But I finished it slightly dissatisfied. However, now that some time has passed, I find myself remembering bits and pieces of the story and feeling warmth at the memories. I think it has a special place in my heart and now that my expectations are properly set, I have a feeling I would enjoy it much more on a re-read. The reason I now think it’s one of her best books is because of the clear message it sends about prejudice and the steps needed to overcome it. In that sense, it’s very powerful and relatable.

8. Stolen Magic by Gail Carson Levine – Sadly, my praise is not as high for this novel as it was for The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre. A sequel to A Tale of Two Castles (which I loved!), it’s overall: underwhelming. There is a mystery, but it’s not nearly as compelling as the mystery in A Tale of Two Castles. And in the sequel, Elodie has little to no internal conflict, therefore, no room for character development. The most character development happened in minor characters whose perspectives we were in occasionally, but not nearly enough. By the time the book ended, the story and characters themselves hadn’t really progressed, which never happens in a Levine novel. Her character developments are usually some of my favorites! I have read in her blog, though, that she really struggled with this story and even she wasn’t satisfied with it, so I like to give her grace considering she’s written several of my favorite books. We can’t win them all.

9. * Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I felt about this series as a whole (hint: this is when the series takes a turn and I read the last two books so quickly to find out what happens next. I couldn’t read fast enough!).

10. * Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I felt about this series as a whole (hint: ugh, it gets better and better!).

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

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Posted in Book Reviews

First Five Books of 2017

“You see, I tired of constant fear, so I made a decision. Every day when I wake I tell myself that it will be my last. If you are not trying to hold on to time, you are not so afraid of losing it.”

-Gregor the Overlander

Happy New Year, my fellow book lovers! It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted one of these and now that it’s 2019, I felt like it was time to review the books I read in 2017. 😉 Hoping to post these reviews this month in preparation for posting about the books I read in 2018 throughout the rest of this year.

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

  1. Don’t You Know There’s a War On? by Avi – I’ve read a few books of Avi’s in the past (my favorite being Sophia’s War) and he’s an excellent storyteller. As for this one, I listened to on audiobook on the way to and from work. It’s about a young boy who believes his principal is a Nazi spy trying to get rid of Howie’s favorite schoolteacher, Miss Gossim. While Howie was immediately likable and I loved the constant reminder adults gave him throughout the book (“Howie, don’t you know there’s a war on?”), honestly, this book was a little odd. Granted, I think Avi’s books always hold an aspect of strangeness, but this one in particular didn’t work for me. If I recall correctly, it turns out Miss Gossim is pregnant and I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s fired. Her fiancé of sorts is off fighting in the war, but he either dies or Miss Gossim doesn’t believe he’s coming back. So despite Howie’s efforts to make her stay, she ends up moving away. The reason this all seemed off to me was, of course, that strange sort of admiration/love 5th grade Howie has for his teacher as well as the fact that she ended up confiding in him things that really shouldn’t be discussed with children. And then we never find out what exactly happened to her. So by the time the book ended, I was confused as the point of the story.
  2. The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson – This is a sappy retelling of Sleeping Beauty set in 14th century Germany. While I loved the interesting setting, vocabulary and clothing, the actual plot was slow, the romance was unrealistic and cheesy and the ending was slightly underwhelming. I read it because Melanie Dickerson wrote all these fairy tale retellings as part of a series that end up intertwining, which sounds so awesome, but so far haven’t found it worth it to try the other books in the series.
  3. * Making Sense of Your World by W. Gary Phillips, William E. Brown and John Stonestreet – I read this book for a class called Comparative Worldviews. It basically goes over the major worldviews out there and how each lines up with Christianity. It really helped me not only define each worldview, but discover what it is about each one that shows its lack of truth.
  4. * Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I feel about the Underland Chronicles as a whole. (hint: it’s very positive!)
  5. * 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – After listening to Don’t You Know There’s War On?, I listened to this audiobook in the car on my way to and from work. Smith wrote the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which I’ve read a few of, and his characters are just so charming, you can’t help but wish you lived in Botswana, too. 44 Scotland Street is much different as it takes place in Scotland and the main characters are, in my opinion, not half as charming. And it’s not to say it isn’t well written. I just think the setting of Scotland Street, while enjoyable, just can’t hold that same unique charm as the setting of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. While I enjoyed listening to the story (it was really different as it was originally written as a serial), there were a few characters I just didn’t care for and I feel like we spent too much time in their worlds. Needless to say, I really want to read the next book and see what happens to the characters I do like.

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine

And the 12 Days of Christmas Books tour continues! We are halfway through this fun Literature Approved event and I’m so, so excited to share my second (and last) review for the tour. The Christmas book I chose to review this time is When Christmas Comes Again, one of my favorite books from one of my favorite middle grade series–Dear America.

I love this book for many reasons…but before I start ranting and get ahead of myself, you can find out for yourself below!

This book is part of the Dear America series, a middle grade historical fiction series near and dear to my heart. I hope to review many Dear Americas in the future, but I’m excited that my first one happens to be one of my all-time favorites!

When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine is one of the few (if not the only) Dear America about a seventeen-year-old girl. Most of the Dear America heroines are between twelve and fourteen years old, so you can imagine my excitement when I was finally the exact same age as the main character. Therefore, Simone’s questions about her future and her meaning in life are very relatable as I asked myself similar questions at that age. Also, Simone’s family is French and as I am French-Canadian, I loved the bits of French language and references throughout the diary.

Click here to finish reading my review! And when you’re finished, check out the other Christmas books Rayleigh has reviewed this week of various genres. These posts are a fun ride you want to be on!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: Heaven Shining Through by Joe Siccardi

Another review is up on Literature Approved! This was a biographical-style novella I read in one sitting a couple weeks ago. Here’s what I thought about it:

I read this novella in one sitting. It’s a short 64 pages long and easy to read.

Overall, it was a pleasant story, though it did include some mature elements. The characters were enjoyable and there was some humor. However, I didn’t really get it. The story starts with Samantha visiting her mother after her father has passed away and we get the idea that they’re in an estranged relationship and have been for a long time. As Samantha washes her mom’s dishes, she thinks back on her life. But after a brief description of her childhood, the story quickly centers around Samantha and her relationship with Chad than her relationship with her mom. The novella gives a detailed account of how Samantha and Chad start dating, get engaged, their adventurous married life, raising their children together, etc. While I enjoyed it, I forgot all about Samantha’s mom until we returned to the present toward the end of the story. Samantha realizes her mom is dying and they have a sudden reconciliation before the book’s ending.

So was Heaven Shining Through about Samantha and Chad’s sweet and romantic relationship or her tense relationship with her mom? I don’t know.

Click here to read the rest of the review!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in For Fellow Writers, Words Upon Words

The Book Tag

I read Ashley’s post of this really cool Book Tag on Inklings Press a while ago and I just had to do it myself!

Rules
You must be honest.
You must answer all the questions.
You must tag at least 4 people.

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?

Either the Little House on the Prairie series or the American Girl Samantha books. Both of which Mom read to me when I was young. Very fond memories of listening to each!

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

Current read: Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren. Second in the River of Time series. It’s a very easy read–I read the first half in about two days (which is fast for me 😉 ). I enjoy her descriptions of Italy and the concept of two modern-day girls transported to the 1300s and accidentally falling in love is really fun. But, even though Gabi’s thoughts are hilarious, the main characters are overall pretty flat. It has potential to be more than just a teenage-angst-romance…but it isn’t, really. That said, I’ll probably finish the series as I’m intrigued to see how Gabi and Marcello can stay together seeing as they belong in, you know, two different time periods and everything. 😉

Last read: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes. I was intrigued to read a novel by the writer and creator of Downton Abbey (one of my favorite TV shows) and I was not disappointed! Told in the style and vocabulary of Jane Austen, but with Fellowes’ own unique characters and plot twists. Although there were perhaps a few too many POVS, I loved how deeply we dived into the characters’ flaws and attributes. In Downton Abbey and Belgravia, Fellowes reminds us that past or present, people are motivated by the same emotions: “ambition, envy, rage, greed, kindness, selflessness and, above all, love”.

Next read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. I’m more than halfway through reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. It’s very different than I always thought it was, but overall, I’m enjoying it so far!

Continue reading “The Book Tag”