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: The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

I’m so excited to share this review with all of you! I finished reading the Gregor books last summer and it’s now one of my most favorite series! I hope you enjoy my review and give the series a try. 🙂

Synopsis

The Underland Chronicles is a series of five books (Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of Secret and finally, Gregor and the Code of Claw) which tell the story of Gregor, who does not lead your typical twelve-year-old life. His dad went missing a year ago and hasn’t contacted since. It’s summer now and he hardly sees his mother as she is working to provide for their poor little family living in a cramped apartment. Meanwhile, he cares for his two younger sisters as well as his grandma who is slowly losing touch with reality. It’s a big responsibility for someone so young—but it all changes the day Gregor and his two-year-old sister fall down a grate in the laundry room and land in the Underland. In this new world, thousands of feet below New York City, people are pale and have purple eyes; cockroaches, rats and bats are ginormous; and it is always dark. All Gregor wants is to return home, but when he finds out that the Underland has a prophecy—and he’s in it—he realizes his journey home is going to be longer and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

Review:

When I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy a year and a half ago, I wanted more. Whenever I read a book (or series) that I really, really like, I usually look up the author and see what else he/she has written. So, when I had finished Katniss and Peeta’s story, I looked up Suzanne Collins and found she had written the Underland Chronicles before writing the Hunger Games. I checked out the first book from the library and started reading. It was pretty good. Not extraordinary or anything, but there was a cool twist at the end and I enjoyed the concept, so I requested the second book. This book, too, yielded similar results. It was pretty good; nice twist at the end. I supposed I may as well finish the series, but so far, I liked Hunger Games a lot more. Then I read the third book and that’s when it changed.

Check out the full review here!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Final Five Books of 2016

It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.

-Mockingjay

Hooray! And with this, I finally finish my 2016 reading posts. I’m looking forward to telling you about what I read last year because I read some really good ones!

If you didn’t get the chance to read my previous posts, you can find books 1-5 of 2016 here, books 6-10 here, books 11-15 here, books 16-20 here and books 21-25 here!

*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. *

26. * Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – As I mentioned in the previous post, you can find a very detailed review of this trilogy (which I wrote for Literature Approved) here.

27. Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace – This is the fifth book in the Betsy-Tacy series, but the first I happened to read. This series was written in the 1940s (though it actually takes place in the very early 1900s) and so I very much enjoyed the vocabulary and enchanting writing style. Like me, Betsy is a writer, but unlike me, she has a burning desire to be popular. I have a feeling I would have loved watching Betsy and her best friend Tacy grow up in the earlier books, but by the time I jumped in the series, they were starting high school and all Betsy could think about was: boys. Tacy, on the other hand, has no desire to catch a beau and only wants to have a good time with her friends. Unfortunately, though I relate most to Tacy, she is not the main character. Being unable to relate to Betsy’s immature struggles was definitely an obstacle to enjoying this book. While I loved her little family and their traditions and habits, so much of this book centered around Betsy’s desires for a beau, that I soon grew tired of it. (She’s only 14 for crying out loud!)

Continue reading “Final Five Books of 2016”

Posted in Book Reviews

Fifth Five Books of 2016

Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.
-The Hunger Games

After this post, I will only have one more left to conclude the books I read in 2016 and I can move on to the books I read last year in 2017! Unfortunately I only read 14 or 15 books last year, but I’m hoping to beat that goal this year. Considering I’m about to finish reading my 11th book and we’re only halfway through the year, I think this may be doable!

You can find books 1-5 of 2016 here, books 6-10 here, books 11-15 here and books 16-20 here!

*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. *

21. Fairies and the Quest for Neverland by Gail Carson Levine – This is the final book in the Fairy Dust trilogy. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I listened to this trilogy on audio during a few road trips and on my way to and from work. What’s different about this book in comparison to the first two is the addition of Peter Pan and Gwendolyn, one of Wendy’s descendants (I think this book is the reason why Gwendolyn is now one of my favorite names). I’ve always loved anything Peter Pan and I used to wish that he would pick me up from my bedroom one night and take me to Neverland (unfortunately, that never happened, by the way). Gwendolyn is spunky, but also full of compassion. She loved fairies so much–too much–and there is such a thing as too much love. Gail Carson Levine has this excellent way of exploring deeper truths in the context of a children’s story and this trilogy was no exception to that.

22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games is, I’m unashamed to say, one of my favorite series–up there with Dear Americas and the Anne of Green Gables books and The Chronicles of Narnia–as different as it is from all those things. But that just goes to show that we all need is a good writer to tell us a good story, no matter the genre. You can read all my feelings on the Hunger Games trilogy on the Literature Approved website here.

Continue reading “Fifth Five Books of 2016”