Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Reading Wrap-up: 2020 Edition

Hey there! Welcome to a brand new year, and my very first post of 2021. I can’t believe it’s already mid January, time really does fly. Today, I’ll be sharing my completed reading list for 2020. It wasn’t the best of reading years for me, but it wasn’t the worst either. When I compiled my list I realized I’d actually read more than I thought, and even surpassed the previous year’s record, (by the skin of my teeth). I tried to include a wider variety of genres, but of course, fantasy and sci-fi won out for the most reads. I had pretty good luck with the non-fiction reads I chose, but as for fiction, most of the books I read weren’t great. With the exception of a few, it seemed like most of the novels I picked up last year were just average, and didn’t capture my attention. Which led me to feel very uninspired about my TBR. But looking back, it turned out to be a rather decent reading year, despite my lack of enthusiasm.

Now let’s get to the list:

Ratings: 1-5

Favorites in bold

Non-Fiction

  1. The Universe Next Door, by James W. Sire – 4
  2. Beyond Brilliance, by Lucas Miller – 4
  3. Writing Your Story’s Theme, by K.M. Weiland – 5
  4. Reversing Hermon, by Dr. Michael S. Heiser – 5
  5. True Legends, by Steven Quayle – 5
  6. Herbal Home Healthcare, by John R. Christopher – 5

Sci-fi/Fantasy

  1. Fireborn, by Rosaria Munda – 4
  2. Beyond the Deep Woods: The Edge Chronicles 1, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell – 5
  3. The Christ Virus, by Dave Slade – 3
  4. Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson – 4
  5. Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  6. Among the Flames, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  7. A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes – 3
  8. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater – 5
  9. The Malamander, by Thomas Taylor – 2
  10. On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the Wingfeather Saga book 1, by Andrew Peterson – 4
  11. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini – 3
  12. The Dark Hills Divide, The Land of Elyon book 1, by Patrick Carman – 4
  13. The Lost Colony, Artemis Fowl book 5, by Eoin Colfer – 4
  14. Paranormia, by Paul Regnier – 5

Classics

  1. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins – 4
  2. The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff – 4
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy – 5

Contemporary/Historical

  1. The Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Pruess – 5
  2. The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge – 5
  3. Rose Cottage, by A.K. Madison – 4
  4. The Penderwicks book 1, by Jeanne Birdsall – 5
  5. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness – 4

Total : 28

Top 4 Mini-Reviews:

Beyond The Deep Woods, by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

In this story, we follow a misfit boy who was raised by an adoptive family in the Deep Woods; a dark and dangerous place filled with all sorts of strange, and ferocious beasts. He sets out all alone on a journey through the wilds, and has many curious encounters with some very odd characters. This is a Middle-Grade book, but it can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking for an adventure. The storyline was very original, and I was surprised to find out that it was not a modern publication, but was published over twenty years ago.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater

Taking place on the small, windswept, isle of Thisby, we follow Puck Connolly, and Sean Kendrick as they prepare for The Scorpio Races. A yearly event where racers compete for a grand prize—and sometimes to the death—atop the violent, and wild, water horses called, capaill uisce. This book had me staying up late into the night, and reading for hours to reach the end. I actually found this book at a thrift store a few years ago, and left it sitting untouched on my bookshelf for so long! I’m happy that I finally got around to reading it. I loved everything about this book, and I think it’s my favorite book of the entire year.

Paranormia, by Paul Regnier

Chris Loury is young, broke, and kind of a nerd. Struggling to find his way in life, and hoping to land a contract for his original comic, he ends up in a strange accident. After that fateful night, he is swept into a series of wild encounters, and has several run-ins with a lunatic who claims to be an angel. But as events unfold, and Chris finds himself digging deeper into trouble, he starts to believe the lunatic is actually who–or rather what he says he is. I appreciated the way the supernatural elements were handled in this story, and I thought Chris was a very relatable character, especially to all of my fellow twenty-something’s out there, who are trying to make their own way in the world. Overall, a solid read.

The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge

The perfect, cozy British tale to curl up with under a blanket, and a cup of tea. This story centers around Mary, a woman who retires to a small English village, and becomes acquainted with the inhabitants there. Learning to love the quiet of the countryside, Mary also finds herself becoming involved in the many joys, and heartaches with her new neighbors. This was one of the few books I was actually sad to finish. I’ll likely be reading more books, by Miss Goudge in the future.

Most Disappointing:

Unpopular opinion here: I was actually very disappointed in, A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes. I’d read so many great reviews of this book, (and I enjoyed her other books,) but after reading, A Time to Die I don’t really get the hype. For starters, it felt sort of like two books squashed into one, with so much going on. I never connected with the main character, Parvin, and I thought it a little unrealistic how much trauma she went through, and still survived. (Though that was kind of the point of the story.) In general, there were many aspects of the story that I found very unrealistic, and slightly annoying. I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t, and as of right now I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini

Firstly, I loved the cover, and this title is exactly what I like to see from sci-fi novels. I was a big fan of the Inheritance Cycle, by Paolini, but unfortunately I didn’t love this book. This is not a YA book, nor does it pretend to be, but I felt like I went into it a little blind. Especially for younger Paolini fans, I’d warn them about the amount of profanity, and adult themes throughout. It was an interesting story, and read like any space epic, but, I didn’t find it out of this world fantastic. Die-hard sci-fi fans would probably enjoy this book, but I’m not adding it to my favorites list. Also, it’s nearly 900 hundred pages, so beware.

Thus concludes my list, and a few reviews, for all the books I cracked open during the year 2020. I may have forgotten a few, since I didn’t keep track very well. There were also a few DNF’s (Did Not Finish), throughout the year which I didn’t list here, but that’s for the best. This year I’m hoping to read more, since I feel like I’m finally in a good reading mood, but then again I say that every year, and things don’t always pan out. I would like to continue to expand genres, and read more non-fiction. And in general, just read outside of my comfort zone, because I feel a bit like I’ve read those genres dry, and I know I’ll find some new, unexpected favorites, if I’d only look to new avenues.

What about you? How many books did you read in 2020? What was your favorite read of the year? Leave me a comment, and let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

5 Classics I Did Not Enjoy

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I love classics. Many of my favorite stories were written a hundred, or more years ago. There is something special about the books written long ago, that can never be replicated in modern ones. You might read a dozen books written in modern times, and dislike more than half, whereas, if you read a dozen classic books, chances are, you will love nearly all of them.
That said, just because a book is labelled a ‘classic’ is not a guarantee that it will be as wonderful as you might expect. Below, I’ve made a list of just such books. I’m not going to say that I “disliked” them, but rather, I just “didn’t enjoy”.

1.The Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde
I read The Picture of Dorian Gray, quite a while back, so I’m not sure, if I re-read it today if my opinion would be any different. But, from what I recall, this book was a strange read. The main theme of the story, in a nutshell, portrays the evils of greed, and vanity and how they can ensnare you; and that was definitely achieved. I read this book quickly, and was never bored while reading, but I must say that it was a relief when I finished it. This book really gives off a dark, disturbing, feeling of immorality, and evil; and I suppose, it being a classic, in gothic literature, that was to be expected. Nevertheless, reading through the events that transpired, left me feeling greatly uncomfortable. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this story, but I might give them fair warning beforehand. The feelings and emotions that it evoked in me, is what keeps me from regarding it as a favorite, though it was well written, and thought provoking.

2. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly
Frankenstein. There have been so many fascinating spinoffs, and legends inspired by this book, so I was very excited to read it. But, my excitement was not met within the story. Mostly, I was “disappointed” while reading this book, rather than “disliking” it. I felt a bit let down, that it wasn’t the scary and mysterious book I thought it would be. I felt bored many times, and the lengthly dialog and endless recounting of events, outweighed the more interesting parts.
Perhaps some of the issue was the frame of mind I was in, at the time I read it, I was traveling, and that may have had much to do with my lack of enjoyment.

3. Emma, by Jane Austen
Now, before the Jane Austen Police Force comes after me, here is your friendly warning: you may prefer to skip this section.
Like all of Austen’s works, it follows the life and adventures of a young woman, trying to figure out her future. I felt that the story was “spoiled” for me, by Emma, herself, who also, happens to be very “spoiled”. In nearly everything she did, she tragically, ruined the situation for someone else. And though her intentions may have been good, it doesn’t change the fact that she left a path of destruction behind her. In the end, she finally, recognizes some of her past mistakes, but that wasn’t quite enough to improve my view of her, or the book.
(I did like Mr. Knightley, though. The only character who had any sense!)

4. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
It saddens me terribly, to add this book to the list. But, I simply, can’t pretend that this was the best book I’ve ever read. Of course, the overarching story was still very enjoyable, but there were a few things that made the reading experience feel very tedious for me.
One of those few things was the very large number of songs in the book.
That may not sound like a big deal, but when there are three to four pages of one song appearing quite frequently…well, it’s just not fun. I suppose, one could simply skip the songs entirely but, to me, that felt like cheating, so I read through them all.  Even though I could barely keep my eyes open a few verses in.

5. Villette, by Charlotte Brontë
Now, for this particular book, I actually really did enjoy it, but I had one major issue with it. That issue was the French dialog. The story takes place in France, so as you might expect, there is quite a lot of French, spoken throughout. But, what you might not expect is the utter lack of translation. This wouldn’t be a problem if I spoke French, but unfortunately I do not, and I’m sure many others don’t either. If this only happened once or twice, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but there were times that I would miss out on entire conversations, and have very little clue as to what was being discussed. Many times I was left feeling confused and annoyed over missing out on some important piece of the story. So if you want to read Villette, it might be handy to have a French-English dictionary nearby. Or like me, you could just try to decipher the meanings of any words that might look slightly similar to something in English.

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There you have it. I’d like to think I’m not alone in my feelings toward [some] of these books.
Tell me what classics you’ve read that you have found to be somewhat, disappointing.
Or share below, how wrong you think I am for thinking such horrid thoughts about such grand works of fiction.

Thank you for reading, Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews

Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne

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Professor Otto Liedenbrock is an eccentric, and esteemed boffin, (person engaged in scientific research), of Hamburg, Germany. One day, he discovers a slip of paper, fallen from an old manuscript, written in an ancient runic code. Sure, that it will lead to an incredible discovery,  he stops at nothing until he cracks the code. When the message is revealed, Liedenbrock prepares to depart immediately to the destination mentioned.
Together with his unwilling, yet ambitious nephew, Axel, and indomitable guide, they make their way to Iceland, where the true journey will begin. Their travels will result in one of the most remarkable discoveries of the nineteenth century.

5/5 stars

This was the first Jules Verne book that I actually enjoyed AND finished. 
Written from Axel’s point of view, I was pleasantly surprised by his humorous, reluctant, and dramatic personality. The exchanges between uncle and nephew, were very silly and entertaining. There were many times that I found myself laughing out loud, or smiling, while reading.
Their relationship was reminiscent of the one between Sherlock, and Watson, from the BBC show Sherlock.
Professor Liedenbrock, with his strange ways, and wildly excited attention was much like that of Sherlock.
Counterbalanced by Axel, who is quick to point out the dangers, and risks, (though he is unfortunately ignored).  Yet he too, eventually finds himself as interested and invested in their schemes, as his uncle.  The pace did slow a bit in the second half of the book, but being that it was such a short read, it didn’t bother me.

If you haven’t read many classics, or are perhaps intimidated  by them, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is a fun, and easy read.  A true classic filled with adventure, and discovery; you should definitely give it a try.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

The Mermaid’s Sister, by Carrie Anne Noble

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One, of them was delivered by a stork, another was delivered in a seashell, and a third, was found beneath an apple tree. Such is the story of the three orphans, that Auntie shares with Clara, Maren, and their best friend, O’Neill.
Clara, and her sister Maren, lead quiet lives in their cozy cottage on the secluded Llanfair Mountain. They spend their days frolicking in the woods, gathering herbs for Auntie’s potions, and awaiting the day that O’Neill returns from his travels.
But, when Clara, discovers shimmering scales growing beneath her sister’s skin, she soon realizes the terrible truth: Maren, is becoming a mermaid!
Not only that, if Maren doesn’t get to the ocean soon, she’ll die.

For the first time ever, Clara leaves home, with O’Neill, to take their mermaid girl to the sea.
Their travel is not without it’s struggles; along the way they have an encounter that threatens their very lives, and that of Maren’s, who grows weaker everyday.
Ensnared by nefarious traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill, must plan an escape, before it is too late.

4/5 stars

This was a very different story; simple, yet completely captivating. The first half was on the slower side, but I didn’t mind. I was drawn into the little cottage, in the quiet woods, and became acquainted with Clara, Maren, and Auntie.
But, before long, things took a dark turn, and with each chapter, the stakes began to rise.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the novel. The author achieved an awesome story; not in a big, flashy, over the top way, but in a subtle, and profound way.
It portrayed the love, and sacrifices one makes for their family, despite the costs, (which is something many of us can relate to.)
If you are in the mood for something truly different or just feel like reading a good story, you might try, The Mermaid’s Sister.

Posted in Book Reviews

Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel

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Kate is an ordinary college freshman. The biggest concern in her life is passing her med-school exam…until the day she meets Nathan, who reveals to her the existence of the Guardians.
He tells her she has been chosen by God, and has been given a supernatural ability that she must use for the good of mankind.
Disbelief, and shock race through her. Yet, there is the permanent flame shaped mark etched onto her wrist; proving that she was indeed Chosen.
Kate now struggles with the challenge of living her normal life at home, and embracing the call of the Guardians.

5/5 stars

I first heard about, Into The Fire, after reading a review/interview with the author, Kim Vandel, (shoutout to Kingdom Pen), and I thought it sounded interesting.  I stashed it away mentally in my future “to be read” pile.
When the kindle version went on sale, I snatched it up and started reading right away!

It’s been a long time since a book kept me up late into the night like this one did; it grabbed me right from the start.
The characters were my favorite part of this story. Each one had a distinct, and unique personality, which made them feel real, and relatable; and really set them apart from a lot of other books I’ve read.

I found it refreshing that Kate did not fall into the “typical teenager” category. And while she’s not perfect, she didn’t infuriate me when she made mistakes.
I loved watching her become stronger, both mentally and physically; and how her friendships with everyone (especially Hassan) grew.
When Hassan was first introduced, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He comes off as sulky, and sometimes rude. But learning about his past explained a lot of that, and developed his character arc.

Another character I enjoyed was Ty.
In many YA books, the main character’s sibling(s) are brushed off to the side, and don’t play much of a role in the story. Often they are cardboard-cutout characters. But Ty wasn’t like that.
I liked that he and Kate would hang out, and enjoy being in each others company, even though they also irritated one another. Which in truth, is how siblings usually feel.
Also speaking of Ty… that ending! Gah!

My only critique was the role God, played…..which was’t a big one.
The Guardians were chosen by God, yet He wasn’t mentioned much.
It seemed like in Kate’s circumstances, she should have been turning to God, for reassurance and strength, especially, when facing tough situations. That didn’t really happen, and I felt it was lacking.
(Perhaps, that’s how it was meant to be, leaving room to grow in the next book(s)?)

It can sometimes be hard to find Christian YA fiction, that’s not boring, has a good story, AND awesome characters. But Into The Fire had it all!
I very thoroughly, enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it.
It was a breath of fresh air in the YA genre, and it’s definitely one of the best books I read in 2016. The series could become one of my favorites once it’s finished.
I can’t wait to read, Among the Flames, next!

 

Posted in Book Reviews

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) by Traci Chee

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Synopsis:

Sefia has spent her entire life in secrecy; trusting no one, always moving and watching over her shoulder, (just like her parents taught her).
After her father was brutally murdered, Sefia is orphaned, and left with her one surviving relative, aunt Nin. For a time, they live hidden in the forest; hunting, and stealing what they can, to survive. But when aunt Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is left to fend for herself. She is alone, in a wild and ruthless world.
She has only one possession still valuable and dear to her; a strange square object, which she carries with her everywhere.
Setting off on a solo mission to rescue Nin, Sefia finds an unexpected ally, and together they journey through the vicious world, followed by unseen foes, and encountering a group of rugged, swashbuckling pirates.

In this wild and ruthless world where reading and writing, do not exist, Sefia realizes that there’s more to the object than she first thought. Slowly, she begins to uncover some of the mystery shrouding it, but most importantly, she learns to read.

[*Spoiler alert*, the ‘object’ is a book. (Don’t worry, it’s not really a spoiler)]

Thoughts:

I rate this 4/5 stars

The unique-ness of this story was something I had never really experienced before. It had so many different aspects, and twists throughout.  Not to mention, that the actual pages themselves were my favorite part. Ink splotches, and markings really brought the book to life, and made the reading experience fun.                                                                                           I find it a bit hard to describe; as my initial idea about the setting, ended up being quite different from what it was at the end.
It’s an adventure, pirate novel, with some fantasy thrown into the mix.

The way the book was written, was somewhat confusing at first. Every now and then the perspective would switch between characters, to an alternate story, or time period, leaving me unsure of who, or when the chapter was written.
But, by keeping mental notes, the pieces eventually began to fit together.

I had only a couple of issues with the book; one of them being how easily Sefia learned to read.  She’d never really seen words, or actual books, yet by looking at it long enough it all just came to her… and then she could read and write!  (Just like ‘that’ *snaps fingers*.) I found that unrealistic, and hard to believe, but I played along to keep the story moving; trying hard not to dwell on those “minor” details.
The other thing isn’t so much a problem, as it is a critique. Sefia is a great character, yet we didn’t get to see enough of her. I’m sure that was in part, due to the fact that this is the first book in a series. Therefore, a lot of world building, and setting up of events went into this book and there wasn’t a lot of room for character development.
In all, this was a solid starter, and I’m optimistic about the next book, The Speaker.

P.S. As a tip, I would suggest keeping paper and pencil nearby while reading, for any notes or messages that you may find along the way.

And remember, look closer, and then closer. Continue reading “The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) by Traci Chee”