Book Review: Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred

Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred
The Cooper Kids Adventure Series book #8
by Frank Peretti
read by the author

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian suspense

While enjoying a ride in his Uncle Rex’s small aircraft, a near-miss in the air leads to injury for both Jay Cooper and his uncle. Uncle Rex is knocked unconscious, and a head injury leaves Jay without sight. The plane is still flying, but with no pilot and a dwindling supply of fuel, how long will it stay aloft? And will they be able to land safely?

Like book #4 in the series (Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea), this book involved no archaeology or supernatural elements—this one didn’t even have any kind of mystery—and was simply a race against time to save one of the Cooper kids from catastrophe. This book was also quite suspenseful, as Jay had to learn not to rely on what he felt and instead rely on what he was being told by those who were more knowledgeable than he, and more importantly, had more information. While typing that last sentence, I literally just realized the parallel to our lives in that situation. Sometimes sensations Jay felt made him think the plane was turning a lot more than it was, and he couldn’t see to verify those feelings. Various other people at different times were outside of the aircraft, could see more clearly what it was doing, and relayed that information to Jay. He had to trust them to be correct, in order to help save his own life, rather than rely on instincts and feelings. What a parallel to how we live our lives paying attention to our own instincts and feelings, when we are much better off relying on God, who knows infinitely more than we do and knows what’s best for our lives (and the lives of those around us)! And indeed, the biblical theme of trusting God, even to the point of submitting to Him if He chooses not to save one’s life, is strong in the story.

I really liked how immersive the story is, in regards to those flying the planes, the air traffic controllers, and other related things. In a way, it seems like Jay does very little, other than follow instructions from others, but I think his mental struggle and what he does from inside the plane while unable to see were still a good part of the story. I might have liked something a little more closely related to the overall theme of the series as the final book, but it was a good book on its own. I’m really glad I listened to the audiobooks read by Peretti himself for the 2nd half of the series—he certainly adds drama and excitement in his reading. This book, and the overall series, are good for the age group (pre-teen through teens).

Find out more about Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Want More Like Them

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them.” My time of serious reading is short enough that if I did this topic straight, it’d resemble many past TTT posts, simply restating my favorite books over the last 2 years. So I’m changing it up just a bit. Most of the books on this list are books that I didn’t like, but make me want to try to find other books like them. Maybe the premise was super interesting, but the execution was poor. Or it didn’t turn out to be the type of book I was expecting at all, so now I want to go find something that actually is what I was looking for. I’ve ordered them lower ratings to higher ratings (as rated by me), and the last few actually are books I did like that made me want to read more like them.

10. The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
While I’m not much of a horror fan, the idea of a group of kids investigating local ghost stories and urban legends sounds like it could be fun. Sadly, the urban legends and such are a much smaller part of the book than I expected, and the book seemed more drama than anything to me. See my review here.

9. Rabbits by Terry Miles
Based on the premise, I was expecting something like the movie The Game crossed with Ready Player One, maybe even with escape room elements thrown in. Boy, would I love to read that! This wasn’t it.  See my review here.

8. Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
This is really just a representative of an entire genre that has let me down. I keep trying Christian mystery/suspense books like this one and keep being disappointed (though I have liked a couple). Usually there’s a romance sub-plot that gets in the way, but the mystery is often convoluted and un-suspenseful too. I’d love to find some good ones, but am about ready to give up on the genre instead. See my review here.

7. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
This is one of a few entries that are here specifically because of the audiobook. I listened to 2 books in this series and just couldn’t stand the main character, but I think that has a lot to do with the narrator. The MC is independent, bucks society, and is often haughty…and the narrator takes that to an extreme. I almost hated her by the time the book was over. My sister, who recommended the book in the first place, said there’s another version with a different narrator that is a lot better. I think the story might otherwise be one I’d like, so I plan to give it another try with the different narrator. See my review here.

6. Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson and various authors
This entry may be sort of cheating. I’d love to try to find other books that are more what I would have liked to see from this, but they’ll never exist. This is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Wingfeather Saga, which is a wonderful series of 4 middle-grade fantasy books. Like so very many others, I’d love to see a continuation of that series, even if not directly picking up where the series left off, written by the author himself, but he’s said he’s not going to do that (well, for sure not the direct continuation, at least). While this book had its good moments, most of the stories were written by other people, so it just wasn’t the same. See my review here.

5. Time and Again by Deborah Heal
This was a pretty interesting idea—a dual timeline story where the people in modern day use a mysterious computer program to watch events unfold in the past. The execution was lacking, sadly; though I’m not exactly a history buff, I really like the idea of the pre-teen who hates to learn seeing history literally come to life before her eyes, and that history influencing the viewers. The first book in the series (shown here) was okay, but the 2nd killed my interest. See my review here.

4. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I liked this book, though I didn’t care for the atmosphere and author’s writing style. The mystery itself and the culmination of the story I really liked, though, and I’d love to find more books with this kind of out-of-the-box approach to presenting and solving the mystery. See my review here.

3. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
I don’t know if I’d call myself a Marshmallow, exactly, but that might just be because I’m not much of a follower. Be that as it may, I do love the show Veronica Mars, so as soon as I heard that Kristen Bell narrated the audiobook of the 1st of 2 books written as a follow-up to the movie (which was a follow-up to the show), I knew I had to listen to it. Now that I’ve started to move on to books written as additional stories for other TV shows I love (with varying degrees of success), I would just love for more of those to have audiobooks narrated by their main stars. So far, though, I’ve not found much of that. See my review here.

2. There I Go Again by William Daniels
I’m not much of a non-fiction reader and have never really cared much for biographies. But as soon as I saw that the actor who played Mr. Feeny wrote a book about his time in the spotlight, I didn’t even hesitate to get it into my hands. Since then, I’ve discovered that I actually don’t mind autobiographies or memoirs, but apparently I’m kind of particular about the subject matter (I suppose that’s probably normal, actually), as I’ve since read books by John Cooper (only partially autobiographical) and Cary Elwes and have also acquired autobiographies by Tim Conway and Steven Curtis Chapman. See my review here.

1. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
This entry is also specific to the audiobook. I absolutely loved the narrator for the version I listened to, Nadia May. From my review: “The way she differentiated all of the larger characters was astounding, and I especially loved her voice for Mr. Gibson (Molly’s dad). There were times that I’d get so caught up in it that I’d completely forget this was one person doing all of the voices.” I badly want to listen to other books narrated by her (though sadly I don’t seem to have access to many that interest me, even though I can see she’s narrated several I’d like to read), and hope to come across other narrators as amazing as she (I’ve already discovered a couple I like almost as much).  See my review here.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your list?

Book Review: Rabbits

Rabbits
by Terry Miles

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy, suspense

There’s a game that may not really be a game. Players aren’t supposed to talk about it, at least not in specific terms. They call it Rabbits, and playing involves finding patterns in the world around you, coincidences or even discrepancies. Follow the clues and try to win, because winning means unimaginable rewards that no one knows for sure exist, just like no one knows for sure who the winners of the first 10 iterations of the game were. A man named K has been obsessed with the game for years, so when he’s approached by a man rumored to have won in the past and told that something is wrong with the game, and it’s up to K to fix it before the next iteration begins or the entire world is in danger, of course he has to try to help. But will he be too late?

The synopsis of this book (which is better written than mine above) really intrigued me. I loved the idea of a mysterious game with the entire world—universe, even—as the playing field. Unfortunately, the book was mostly just bizarre and repetitive and lacked the real punch and follow-through I was looking for. I read the book pretty quickly, not because I was excited and caught up in it, but because I was confused and a little frustrated and wanted to push to get to that place where everything is explained and suddenly makes sense. Sadly, that moment never happened.

After the possible former winner approaches K and tells him that he has to fix the game, the story mostly consists of the same format repeated over and over–K (and sometimes his friend Chloe too) researches/digs/looks for clues, hits a dead end and gives up, suddenly has a revelation that generally comes one of two ways—either someone randomly gives him a clue or he just happens to see a random item in the room he’s in that makes him think in a new way—then is off digging again before hitting that next dead end. During this repetitive meat of the book, K is remarkably knowledgeable about almost everything he needs to know to solve these things. He has to look up one or two things, but for the most part, he’s versed in movies, music, & books (foreign and domestic), art, architecture, and constellations. No real reason is given for him having all of this knowledge (he has an eidetic memory, but he’d still have to have been exposed to a lot), and to make it worse, the fellow-sort-of-player that is helping him through all of this, Chloe, never really has the surprising and sudden knowledge at just the right time.

K has a lot of strange things happen to him throughout the course of this book, and Chloe often asks him if he’s okay. Even after he’s admitted to her some of the mind-bending things that he’s seen, he still inevitably lies to her when she checks on him and tells her he’s okay. Literally every time, it’s, “I’m fine,” with almost no variation. And then there’s the heavy language throughout the book. Even when I was in high school, I knew that people who liked to drop the f-word into every other sentence didn’t have much in the way of a vocabulary. Apparently that is the case with every single character in this book, without even the allowance for the possibility that anyone they meet along the way may not talk the same way that everyone else does. I don’t read a lot of books with heavy language like this, but never before have I gotten to the point where it felt like the author was an 11-year-old who was out of hearing of his parents and cussing just because he can. That’s what this made me feel like.

(Warning, this paragraph contains some minor spoilers.) Even with everything I’ve said above, I probably would have given the book a little higher of a rating if it weren’t for the utter lack of a payoff in the end. There’s this science presented in the 2nd half of the book that was pretty baffling to me, but I was hanging in there, doing my best to understand just enough to see how the plot paid off. I’m not sure how much of what didn’t make sense to me was due to my lack of understanding of this kind of thing and how much was due to the author sort of hand-waving some of it, but I was hanging in there. Then we get to the end and…all of that, all of the science and urgency, is just…brushed off. We’re presented with 2 new theories about what’s been happening, and then the book ends with no real answers and with everything I was doing my best to understand is just thrown out the window. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a book wasted the time it took me to read it more than this one did, and the only reason it’s 2 stars is because I really do think the idea is good, the beginning was good, and I’m sure a lot of work was put into writing and editing this book.

As for whether or not you might like it…if you’re a major gamer, into fringe culture, or know anything at all about the darknet, you really might like this book. It reminded me of Ready Player One, in that there were quite a few references to movies, music, and games, a lot of it vintage. And like RPO, a lot of it was completely unnecessary. A major setting in the book is an arcade, and when a character just happens to be leaning on a game cabinet, I don’t need to know what the name of the game is unless it’s going to matter to the story. On the other hand, my husband would probably love to know because he spent a lot of time in arcades as a kid (he also liked all of the references in RPO more than I did). So definitely make the decision for yourself, if this book sounds interesting. You can also check out other reviews at the link below.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this book to review.
Publication date: June 8, 2021

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Book Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden
Read by the author

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Memoir

Twenty-five years after the release of The Princess Bride, a movie that was not much of a success in its time but later became a cult classic, Cary Elwes, who played the iconic Westley in the movie, writes about his time working on the set. With additions by many of Elwes’s co-stars, along with the director, the producer, and the screenplay writer (who also wrote the book the movie is based on), Elwes gives us a peek at the making of a movie in general, and this family favorite in particular.

As soon as I knew this book existed, I knew I’d be reading it, and I knew I’d enjoy it. I’ve seen the movie several times, but even more importantly, it is my husband’s all-time favorite movie. So I suggested we both listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Elwes himself, an actor we have both really liked for a long time, which is exactly what we did. And we both loved it! We also loved that the bits added by other people who worked on the movie were mostly read by those people as well. I think the fact that they were willing to take the time to first write, and then narrate their own thoughts on the making of this movie illustrates exactly what Elwes says throughout the book, that this cast and crew became a lot like a family. Others who read this book seem to be looking for the seedy underbelly, assuming that Elwes left out anything negative in his rush to extol the virtues of his co-workers. And I can’t say that’s not the case, of course, but perhaps the reason this memoir is so friendly and upbeat is because that’s how it really was. It’s not like poor Wallace Shawn was brow-beaten into saying his time working on the movie was all sunshine and rainbows (he had some issues, but I won’t say more than that).

I loved hearing some of the accounts of things that happened throughout the months working on this film, and even in the time after. Some of them were described by multiple people, which added a nice depth to them. I had re-watched the movie in anticipation of reading this book, but still felt compelled to look up certain scenes to see something Elwes described, whether a specific way he moved during the scene due to an injury or a line that was improvised. For fans of The Princess Bride, this book may make you see the movie in a whole new light and, hopefully, a good one. If you’ve never seen the movie, I recommend it.

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May in Review

I read 12 books last month, which is about a book higher than my average has been this year. And my overall page count was higher than it’s been for the last several months, which I guess means I didn’t read as high a ratio of short books this time.

Here are the books I read in May:

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham (4 / 5)
The Legend of Annie Murphy by Frank E. Peretti (3.5 / 5)
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (5 / 5)
Refugees on the Run by Chris Brack & Sheila Seifert (5 / 5)
Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii by Lee Goldberg (3.5 / 5)
Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz (4 / 5)
Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers by Tessa Arlen (4 / 5)
The Cat Who Played Brahms by Lilian Jackson Braun (5 / 5)
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (3.5 / 5)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (4.5 / 5)
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (5 / 5)
Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith (3 / 5)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from May was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I finished (or caught up on) 2 series, continued 3 series, and started 3 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Redeeming Grace

Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story
by Jill Eileen Smith

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Biblical fiction

I’m going to skip the synopsis in my own words this time, because if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of the story of Ruth from the Bible, you probably won’t be paying much attention to this review anyway. Overall, I didn’t like this book nearly as much as I’d hoped. Some of that I’m sure is personal preference, since Ruth is my favorite book in the Bible and the account of Ruth and Boaz has long held a kind of romance for me. Even outside of that, though, I think there were some issues with how the author handled this retelling.

The author spent so much time on some things and not enough time on others, in my opinion. For example, not to be too flippant about it, but the story doesn’t really get going until Naomi’s husband and sons have all died. This is covered in 5 verses of the 4 total chapters of Ruth in the Bible, but by 130 of the 350 pages of the book. Some of that time was spent introducing Ruth’s character, but a lot of her personality and loyalty can easily be seen in her actions later in the story. Some of those pages were given to Boaz, too, during which he had a wife of more than 10 years. If you’re like me and would have thrown the book across the room if this account had made Ruth a 2nd wife to Boaz (while the 1st wife was alive, a common practice in those days), don’t worry. I still don’t care for how it all worked out, romance-wise, but at least it wasn’t that.

What I wish the author had spent more time on was showing and explaining some of the customs that might seem strange to us modern folks, like why Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet on the threshing floor. And this leads to my other main issue with the story, the blending of the fictional with what is directly out of the Bible. Though Smith does do a decent job of making the dialog seem like something from back then most of the time, when the characters say words that are taken directly from Scripture, the difference is a bit jolting to me. And I believe that Boaz’s first marriage in this story is likely a way of explaining why he is an older man, yet unmarried, but Boaz in the Bible speaks about God as if he fully trusts in Him and believes in His goodness. Yet here we have a Boaz who is broken and questioning God, even for a while feeling a bit numb to Him, yet still speaks those same trustful words to Ruth at the necessary time from the biblical account…it just doesn’t mesh.

What I did love, however, is Ruth herself and how she’s portrayed in this book. I think the author did right by the biblical account in that respect, and I really liked Ruth’s conversion and how she always wanted to know more about Naomi’s God and the Israelite customs. I also appreciated the completely fictional side-story of Hamul, Elimelech’s brother’s son, both in its own respect and in how it showed Boaz following not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of it.

I do wonder if I should cease attempts to find a fictionalized version of this account, because it may be impossible to find one to my liking. I think, though, that what bothers me most is when the author feels the need to come up with modern-mindset reasons for things from the historical account, even though we all know how different cultures were back then. Also, this is another Christian book where a newly married couple’s first night together is described a bit further than I would prefer. Not graphic by any means, but enough to make me start to feel uncomfortable before we moved on. If you’re interested in reading this book, however, don’t let me dissuade you. Many other people thought it was great, and you can check out their reviews at the link below.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Stars or Not?

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a completely open freebie. Back in February of 2020, there was a TTT topic that I participated in titled “Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads.” Every single one of the books on my list that Tuesday I have since read, save one. For today’s post, I thought it would be fun to see how my predictions and hopes turned out. With each entry, I’ve included my original thoughts on the book back in February 2020, before I’d read it, and then the update.

1. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a few months ago and loved it. It was one of the 5-star reads I mentioned above. I plan to read the 2nd book in the series this month, and while some of what made me love the first book will likely be downplayed in the 2nd one (because Anne isn’t a kid anymore), I still anticipate loving it!

Sadly, this did not turn out as great as I’d hoped. I gave it 3.5 stars, and that’s largely due to the loss of Anne as a child. See my review here.

2. North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

This is also book #2 in a series, and I loved book #1 (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness). The first book was mostly the story of how this family went from a normal family in an oppressed land to finding out that they were so much more than normal. The 2nd book will build on that and start the real saga, and I’m looking forward to it!

This was an accurate prediction! I loved the 2nd book in the series, and went on to love the rest just as much. This book series has become a huge deal in my family! See my review here.

3. The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

I read the 3rd book in this series recently and loved it so much that I knew I needed to read the rest of the series. Normally I don’t like to read out of order, but when I requested the 3rd book on NetGalley, I thought the series was basically stand-alones. However, I realized while reading it that the three books in the series are all about 3 brothers. Though I’ve read a few spoilers of the first 2 books now, it’s not much more than what I would know just from the fact that they’re in the romance genre.

I wasn’t too far off on this one. I gave this book 4 stars, and the 2nd book in the series, the final one for me to read, 5 stars like the 1st one I read (which was 3rd in the series). Overall, it was a great series that I look forward to re-reading someday (in order). See my review here.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I have watched the BBC mini-series several times. I love it so much. I’ve heard from others who felt that Mr. Thornton (the male lead) has a lot more depth in the book, and I already really like his character. So I’m looking forward to reading it!

Another accurate prediction! Technically, I gave it 4.5 stars, but that’s close enough for me. See my review here.

5. Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

I was invited to be part of a blog tour for this book, which comes out in June. This is a first for me, and I’m really hoping to be able to give it a good review as part of the blog tour.

Here’s where my predictions turned into hopes–less certainty that I’d like it, and more the hope I would for one reason or another, like being part of a blog tour for this book. Unfortunately, this one didn’t turn out so well. I gave it 3.5 stars. See my review here.

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

My sister extolled the virtues of this book all through the holidays. She actually recommended several books to me during that time, but she seemed the most sure that I’d like this one. I really hope I love it!

I am happy to report that I did love this book! It earned all of its 5 stars, and I was quite relieved that I so enjoyed a book my sister highly recommended. See my review here.

7.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is another book that my sister recommended, but it’s actually on this list because of the fact that, based on her recommendation, I picked up a copy for cheap at Half-Price Books. And even more than that, I later bought book #2 in the series also at a bargain price. It would be particularly disappointing to not like the first book.

I only read this book earlier this month, and was really caught up in it! I gave it 4.5 stars and am so happy that I already bought the follow-up book at a bargain price. See my review here.

8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve never read any Tolkien, and it never used to bother me. But after the LotR movies came out, I found myself wishing I was a fan. I have good reason to believe that I would have a difficult time getting through those books, though, and I don’t really want to deal with that. But with this book being for a younger audience, I thought it might be a good way to start. If I still struggle with it, my sister mentioned that listening to the audiobook helped her to push through the LotR books, and while I’m not normally one for audiobooks, I can see the merit in this case.

I did read this book, rather than listening to the audiobook, and gave it 5 stars in the end. I did, however, listen to the LoTR books and have gotten into audiobooks more in general since February of last year. See my review here.

9. Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith

I don’t know if other people have a favorite book in the Bible, but mine is Ruth. I have always found the romance in the story of Ruth and Boaz. I watched a movie based on the book once, but it was pretty bad (even though I like the guy that played Boaz as a musician, his performance was terribly stilted). So when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it. And if it doesn’t live up to my idea of the story…maybe I should just write my own version!

I literally just finished this book last night, which was perfect, since it was the only book on the list I hadn’t either read or passed on (see #10). And though I haven’t written the review yet or settled 100% on a rating, it will likely be either 3 or 3.5, sadly. Part of that is because of my own ridiculously high standards regarding this story, but I think there were some other issues too.

10. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

This entry is quite different from the others. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been at least 15 years. I remember loving it, and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads when I first signed up in 2015. I want to re-read this soon and see if it lives up to my memory of it.

I started reading this several months ago, then stopped. I only got a few pages into the story before remembering how long and drama-filled it is, and realizing that I just don’t want to put the time into it. Then I considered listening to the audiobook, but was disappointed when I didn’t have easy access to the version read by the author (I love hearing him read his own work). I may still come back to it for a re-read of a book I read many times in my younger days, but I have a feeling now that it won’t turn out to be 5 stars.

Have you read any of these books? Were any 5-star reads for you?