April Reads – 2018

Friends, audiobooks have changed my reading life. I didn’t realize how much time I spent driving until I started listening to audiobooks in the car. And now I don’t have to choose between cleaning my house and reading – I can do both at once!

 

  1. North! Or be Eaten (book 2) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I love Peter Sandon’s voice as he narrates this audiobook. It fits the tale perfectly. This second book in the Wingfeather Saga took a bit of a darker turn as the Igiby family flees from their home and tries to find safety in a world of enemies, monsters, and traitors. It seems unlikely that a family could survive so many near-death experiences, but Peterson won me over in the end and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

 

2. Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes

This historical book about the 1936 Olympics was not quite what I expected. I thought it would focus more on the actual Olympic events and the athletes, but instead it was more about the atmosphere in Berlin and the lives of the people who were there at the time. I felt very confused for the first part of the book as character after character was thrown at me. Just when I had figured out who someone was, they would vanish from the story and a new person would be introduced. After getting passed my initial misconceptions, it was interesting to learn about what it was like in Germany leading up to WWII. It is amazing how much was already set in motion in 1936 and how the Nazis managed to hide so much as tourists streamed into Berlin for the Olympics.

 

3. These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy Turner (audiobook)

I loved how the voice of Sarah changed and developed throughout this book. This story follows Sarah’s life from 1881-1901 as she faces great loss and love.

 

4. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (audiobook)

A short and sweet story about Esperanza, a Latina girl, living in Chicago. The story is told in poetically written snapshots, and I enjoyed catching glimpses of what growing up in Esperanza’s culture would be like.

5. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

I heard this book compared to binge watching a British TV drama, and I think that description holds true. Set in WWII, In Farleigh Field is a historical novel about life in Britain with the impending horror of being invaded by Germany. It focuses on the lives of several young adults who find themselves caught up in a world of mystery, spies, and code breaking.

 

6. The Monster in the Hollows (book 3) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

7. The Warden and the Wolf King (book 4) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I wasn’t sold on the Wingfeather Saga until I read these last two books in the series. I feel like book 1 & 2 were just setting the stage for all the events in these two books. Peterson’s stories are full of creativity, lots of adventure, an amazing cast of characters, and beautiful allegories that make these books worth reading for all ages. I was struck several times by how relatable these characters in a fantasy world could be. I was somewhat disappointed that Andrew Peterson narrated these two books instead of Peter Sandon, but these still made great audiobooks to keep me awake on my drives to and from work.

 

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March Reads – 2018

I felt like I had reading ADD this month. I usually prefer to devote all my attention to one book at a time, but this month there were several times when I realized I had 2-3 books going at once. I would start one book, and then get distracted and start reading another. Here are the four I actually finished reading:

1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I’m continuing with my youth fiction/fantasy mania. This series (The Wingfeather Saga) was recommended to me by a couple people during my Harry Potter hangover. I listened to the audiobook and really liked it. I’m interested to see where the series goes.

2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I only gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads, but not for the reason most people did. Most of the 1 and 2 star reviews say they could not get past the way this novel was written. I actually loved the premise of this book and Saunders’ experimental organization and format. Saunders writes this story as a series of quotes from the characters. I felt like the ghostly characters were talking directly to me, and the story wasn’t bogged down by “he said…she said…then he said…”

This book takes place when Willie Lincoln died and was buried. Willie wakes up in the graveyard surrounded by a host of strange and, quite frankly, horrific characters who do not realize they have died. Everything changes for these characters as they interact with this sweet young boy and witness an unusual visit from his father, President Lincoln.

So why did I give this book only 2 stars? I did not like some of the content that frequently entered the story. There were multiple sexual references and language used by some of the characters that I did not appreciate. I found myself skimming or skipping over some pages. It was just too much for my taste.

3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Why wasn’t this book on my radar sooner? I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. Set in the 1960s, this book tells the story of Lily Owens. Lily is a young teenage girl who finds herself growing up without her mother, running away from her father, and finding a home among a group of African American women on a bee farm. I fell in love with this unique, beautifully flawed cast of characters.

Also, I am thrilled with my colorful, cute copy of this book from the Penguin Drop Caps series.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audiobook)

Another book I only gave 2 stars! I would have given it 2.5 if that was an option. I heard this book mentioned several times, especially now that the movie is out, and downloaded the audiobook out of curiosity. I almost gave up on this one several times during the first half. I strongly dislike dystopian literature. I also didn’t grow up in the 1980s and don’t play video games. Since those three elements are the basis of this book, I had a hard time getting into it. However, I was intrigued by the overall plot, especially in the second half of the book. I listened to the last 5 hours in only 2 days, but I can’t say I would recommend it.

 

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February Reads – 2018

I had a nice mix of media in my reading life in February. Here is the audiobook, ebook, and paperback I enjoyed:

1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

In the past, I have only listened to audiobooks on long road trips, but since I have been spending a lot of time commuting in my car this year, I’m trying to give audiobooks a try. I loved this audiobook for “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.” The narrator’s voices made the characters come to life.

The people of the Protectorate live in fear – fear that the child they sacrifice each year will not be enough to appease the witch that lives in the woods. Very few people in this town fully recognize the horror of what is happening, and even fewer are willing to stand up for what is right. This book follows the story of the townspeople living in the shadow of a dark tower, a baby girl who is left to the mercy of the witch only to find herself enmagicked by the moon, a bog monster, a tiny singing dragon who thinks he’s monstrous, and the witch. I loved how the characters and plot are developed; I never knew what to expect next. Although it’s categorized as middle grade fiction, this is definitely a tale for all ages.

 

2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In this nonfiction book, Stevenson tells about his experiences as a lawyer and how he founded the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked to learn about the injustices and prejudices that have penetrated the criminal justice system. I felt very naive when I realized how common racial discrimination still is in the south. Stevenson tells the stories of men, women, and children who have found themselves convicted, sometimes unjustly, to life in prison or to death row. I now have a greater appreciation for the work lawyers do and compassion for those accused of crimes.

 

3. The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson

This book is the first installment in Wilson’s “Outlaws of Time” series. I will read anything by Wilson, so I was excited to finally pick up this one. Although I did not fall in love with this story as much as his “100 Cupboards” books, I still enjoyed it. Wilson creates a twisting tale of time travel about Sam Miracle and his friends as they chase a villain through history. Sam Miracle is an unusual hero and legend because he needs help from his friend Glory, two snakes, a priest, and a host of other characters to protect him and remind him of his past and purpose in life.

Time travel is such a complicated concept to embed in a story, and there were multiple times in this book where I found myself rereading a page and asking, “Wait, what just happened?” I’m not sure if this could be attributed to the writing, my exhaustion the week I read this book, or the fact that I’m not as quick to catch on as the target audience of 8-12 year-olds. I will also say that I felt this book had more violence than Wilson’s previous youth fiction. Regardless of all of that, I have already ordered book #2 and am eagerly awaiting the release of #3.

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January Reads – 2018

Winter break was especially cold this year, so I enjoyed several days curled up at home with my books and some tea. Here are the four books I read in January:

1-2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I do not like “fandoms” and try to avoid them at all costs.

With limited success.

The past 6 months, I have fully embraced the Harry Potter books (and the movies) and loved them. Why did I avoid them for so long? Granted there were several plot points that I found implausible, and don’t get me started on how much I hated the epilogue, but overall I was amazed at the detailed, magical world J.K. Rowling created. These books kept me up late reading on numerous weeknights, and they took priority over my to-do list multiple weekends. There is also something to be said for reading this series in the fall/winter months. Somehow it made the adventure even more real.

As a side note, I think my favorite character is Severus Snape. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but I was rooting for him from the beginning.

I may have also thrown a Harry Potter party when I was ready to watch the last movie. Butterbeer – I’m not a fan. Pumpkin juice and pumpkin pasties – delicious. I will definitely be making them again.

3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

This book intrigued me. After hearing about it on a podcast, I decided to give it a try. I loved how the plot was character driven as the story follows the day-to-day life of an old man called Ove as he interacts with his annoying neighbors and a stray cat. The reader also gets glimpses into Ove’s past and learns how he became the man he is today. Although this book didn’t make it onto my favorites list, it was still an enjoyable read.

4. The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

I love picking up an Agatha Christie novel as a quick, engaging mystery. My brain was spinning until the end trying to figure out who the murderer was.

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