The Tiger's Wife
by Tea Obreht
This one wasn't fun at all. It was quite miserable. In fact, I couldn't even quite tell you what it was about. A girl, who is a doctor had a grandfather that died. He met two interesting people in his life and liked the zoo. The book gives a bizarrely detailed background story to every insignificant character. Within each character introduction, there is a mini story, complete with conflict and resolution. Within the actual story itself? Not so much. I hated it.
Tongues of Serpents
by Naomi Novik
I know it looks bad. It's really not. In fact, it's really quite wonderful. I discussed this series earlier in the year. This one is the latest book in the series. I thought when I started it that it was the last book in the series. Unfortunately not. It is the most recently published in the series, but there is still at least one more. It's not that I'm in a hurry to say goodbye to the characters or anything, but a body can only have so much dreadful luck before you give up on them. The next book doesn't come out until March. I don't have the energy to wonder about them until then.
Detectives in Togas
by Henry Winterfield
This one is another children's book. It was written in the '50's and I thought it would fit in nicely with our unit study on Roman history. I didn't realize it was so old when I bought it or I wouldn't have worried, but I read it to preview before giving to my sons. Yes, it's clean. I started to worry when the characters discussed a magician/seer. In the end, he's a fraud and nothing dark is remotely glorified.
It was a fun read. Completely irrelevant to our lessons. The boys will like that.
by Ted Dekker
Why do I keep trying? Yes, he was incredible. There was always an edge, but it didn't seem to flirt with darkness, only shine light onto darkness instead. Now there is ick after ick after ick. And yet they are still written by a mesmerizing author.
This book flirted with vampires. Jumping on a trend bandwagon?
The Fairy Tale Detectives
by Michael Buckley
Yes, it's a kids' book, but I loved it anyway. It was fun and light. Cleverly done. I even checked out the sequel. We all need a little mind-candy every now and then.
My boys will love this one.
by Arnold Ytreeide
We already knew we loved the author. Ytreeide wrote the Advent stories that we've read for years. This year, we read about Jotham's son, Ammon, for a Lent reading. We all looked forward to it every evening.
There was one scene that left us all shaking our heads though. In the book, Ammon is with Mary at a well when she first hears the news that Jesus has risen from the dead. It seems to have forgotten the garden story. Very strange to us, considering how accurate other scenes have been.
Aside from this oddity, we loved the book.
Lost in the Labyrinth
by Patrice Kindl
I read this in order to preview it for my 11 & 13 year old sons as we wrap up our study of Greek myths. I was intrigued by the idea of a retelling of an old tale, but this is not what I was looking for. In Kindl's version, Theseus is far from a hero. Instead, he is portrayed as an arrogant murderer. King Minos is portrayed as an adulterous weakling while the nation is ruled by a line of queens that make it a habit to get pregnant out of wedlock.
Much of the story felt more like a Judy Bloom book than an adventurous myth. Readers get to hear about the main character's menstrual cycle, crushes, and a description of her pubescent breasts. It might be an interesting read for a 12 year old girl, but not for my guys.
Any adventure that might have existed in the original myths is delivered here with a deadpan tone. The main character is not a heroine and never claims to be one. She is a tool used by others and everything that happens just....happens. Rather than Greek gods, the religion in this book centers around a goddess. This goddess religion plays a central theme in the book. It had a dark, icky feel to it.
Also, the author switches back and forth between present and past tense, which is a little annoying.
by Laura Hillenbrand
Ethan will study WWII in three more years and this book will be required reading. Unbroken tells the incredible story of Louis Zamperini. So many parts to this story are incredible on their own. That all of these stories belong to one man...and that he survived with his spirit intact...is astounding. A brief video clip can be found here. No words I share could possibly do this book or this man any justice. Just believe me when I tell you that you MUST READ THIS BOOK.
Victory of Eagles
by Naomi Novik
I have been on a mind-candy splurge lately. It's been FUN! But I'm feeling a little dumbed-down and probably need to start using my brain cells again soon. In the meantime, this was another excellent book in the Temeraire series. Again, I'm pretty new to the world of science fiction/fantasy, but I am surprised how much I've been enjoying it. Don't knock it till you try it, I guess, huh? Anyway, this is the 6th book in the series that covers the Napoleonic wars with a twist....what if there were dragons?
Book #11 & 12
Sea of Monsters & The Titan's Curse
For review, see below.
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
The boys have been studying the Greeks since Christmas and I thought this might be a fun way to wrap up the unit, but wanted to preview it first. I'm torn. It is an EXCELLENT book. Very well done. Very fun. However, the more books in the series I read, the more spiritual they feel. The characters "pray" to the gods (their parents) and curse with casual phrases such as "oh my gods". I appreciated that in the first book, the one true God was referred to as separate from the mythical gods - existing on a different plane entirely, but in subsequent books, it is more regarded as a man-made concept for those unable to comprehend the mythological god "reality". I would love to recommend the first book, but it is a cliff-hanger, as are the next 2 books. Who wants to start a cliffhanger and not end it. I need resolution. It's an illness.
by joel rosenberg
Excellent book. Rosenberg takes key scriptures from Ezekiel and explains how they fit in with modern geography and politics. It does not mean that we're in the last days, but certainly, we could be. He explains how the scriptures will play out when the day comes. He also describes the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, the amazing conversions taking place worldwide, and practical advice for preparation for fulfillment of the scriptures.
Until We Reach Home
by Lynn Austin
Lynn Austin is one of my favorite authors. Her books fall under the heading of Christian fiction but are a long way from falling under the heading of 'Christian Romance". There is nothing silly here. Heartfelt, yes. Each book makes you think, makes you grow.
This book followed three sisters on a journey from Sweden to America. The run from difficult things only to encounter more difficult things, growing and learning along the way. I loved the book and am hoping that it is part of a series. Each sister parts in the end in such a way that leaves you wanting to know more about their stories.
by Vince Flynn
This was my first Vince Flynn novel and I have to say that I really liked it. It was a bit rough where language is concerned, which I really can't stand. Generally, I shut the book and move on, but this was gripping and (I hate to say it, but) the language fit in with the storyline rather well. We're talking about military men and I imagine the language was probably pretty mild compared to reality.
The book tackles the subject of our policies on torture of terrorists...a touchy subject to say the least. Flynn makes a very strong case for it. Riveting, hilarious, and more than entertaining...I really liked this one.
The Year of the Hare
by Arto Paasilinna
Hmmmm. Not sure how to rate this one. It was fascinating, but wasn't your typical fiction. There was no true plot line, rather the entire piece could almost be called character development. We know little about the main character, Vatanen, except that he was your average middle-aged guy tired of his mediocre life. On a whim, he suddenly decided to walk away from it all and begin travelling with a hare that he nursed back to health.
Not a bit of it was boring and it was almost beautiful to watch Vatanen logically approach each adventure that came his way.
*spoiler alert* The end of the book changed so suddenly that it felt as if the original author must have died and his story finished by someone else. Turning a page, our character has suddenly awoken from a drunken binge (he didn't touch alcohol previously,) lost his bravery, and left to hide in the woods. A bear attack brought back his bravery, but also a bit of craziness. He hunted a bear into a foreign country and was then thrown in prison where he rotted out the rest of his days. The end.
???? Right up until that drunken-binge page turn, I really liked the book.
Empire of Ivory
by Naomi Novik
I know, I know. There's a dragon on it. Before you think it's a weird fantasy book and decide to discount anything I mention reading again, please know that it actually a great series. Yes, series. This is actually the fourth book in the series and it is not the last.
The books feel more like historical novels than fantasy, set in the midst of battles between France and England. Imagine Napoleon leading the French, army battling army and navy battling navy. Only, in this tale, the countries also have aviators. That's right, dragons. Think of it as a fascinating version of the air force. The stories are lively and riveting, but the truly intriguing part of the story is the relationship between the aviators and their dragons...almost like parent and child.
Anyway, yeah, it might be a little weird. Definitely outside what I usually read. But it is not low-brow nonsense. It's high-brow mind candy. Honest. Try it. I dare you.
by Kendra Harrison
Honestly, I don't know the title. My cousin, Kendra, wrote an excellent science fiction novel and sent me a copy as a Word document. I converted it to pdf and transferred it to my Kindle, where the title reads "Part 1". Well, Part 1 is a Christian novel that includes daring adventures with elves, dragons, etc. I don't read much in the science fiction department, but I really enjoyed this. In fact, I read my first sci-fi/fantasy last year, with the Temeraire Series. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the genre, so I may have to try some more. Hopefully, I'll be able to satisfy the urge with a Part 2, since this novel turned out to be a cliffhanger.
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
"Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail"
This is not generally the genre I visit, but it came highly recommended. The book is a memoir of Bryson's hike through the Appalachian Trail. It was hilarious. Bryson has a knack for making about anything funny, yet at the same time, this book was fascinating in its detail and history. For instance, while describing a book he was reading about bear attacks (to prepare for his hike) Bryson wrote:
After noting that just 500 people were attacked and hurt by black bears between 1960 and 1980-twenty-five attacks a year from a resident population of at least half a million bears - Herrero adds "The typical black bear-inflicted injury," he writes blandly, "is minor and usually involves only a few scratches or light bites." Pardon me, but what exactly is a light bite? Are we talking a playful wrestle and gummy nips? I think not. And is 500 certified attacks really such a modest number considering how few people go into the North American woods? And how foolish must one be to be reassured by the information that no bear has killed a human in Vermont or New Hampshire in 200 years? That's not because the bears have signed a treaty, you know. There's nothing to say that they won't start a modest rampage tomorrow.
I learned a lot and could even imagine, for just a brief moment, that I would like to someday hike the Appalachian. It was a very brief moment.
*Note that it does contain some language.
The House of Wolves
by Matt Bronleewe
This one was entertaining, but not a favorite by any means. It had all the possibilities of being a National Treasure or Indiana Jones, but it fell flat.
The action was incredible (okay, too incredible, but that's allowable when it's a great book or movie) but the dialogue was plain silly. It was trite.
But I'm a sucker for secret society, conspiracy theory mysteries so I finished it anyway.
The Moorland Cottage
by Elizabeth Gaskell
I fell in love with Elizabeth Gaskell a few years ago after watching North & South. Next, I fell in love with Wives and Daughters. Cranford was next, and then I KNEW I had read one of these books instead of just watching them. I found The Moorland Cottage for free for my kindle and enjoyed it on our trip last week. It was sweet and simple and beautiful and I loved it.
Sadly, it was never made into a movie, so I can't watch it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Yes, it was overly idyllic and some might call it sappy-sweet, but I found it moving and sweet, no sap.