Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time.” Several books came to mind almost immediately when I saw this topic, so it wasn’t too hard to fill the list. Though apparently it wasn’t too easy, either, since I stopped at 9. Most of the books on the list I wish I could forget because something about the plot, story, characters, or climax was grand, epic, or twisty and made the first reading spectacular in a way that no successive reading can possibly be (at least until I’m old enough to have memory issues…and then I could probably read all of my favorites like it was the first time again). In no particular order, here are 9 books I wish I could completely forget so I could read it for the first time again.

1. The Oath by Frank Peretti
This has long been my absolute favorite book, written by my single favorite author. I’ve read it many times in the last 20ish years, but would love the chance to read it again with fresh eyes. See my review here.

2. Three by Ted Dekker
I first read this book at least 15 years ago. I actually started it, put it down before the end of the first chapter, and took quite some time to get back to it. But when I started it again, I got into it. This is one of those stories with a Big Twist at the end that I, at least, did not see coming. The way the whole thing played together was great! And while it can be fun to read it again and see all of the clues, I wish I could wipe my memory of the ending and be surprised again. See my review here.

3. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I actually read this book based on the recommendation of a fellow TTT participant, and I really wish I could remember who it was so I could thank them profusely. I loved it, and have already read it a second time. It’s another one with a twist, and while I actually saw the twist coming, I just loved how it all worked together. I wish I could read it again without any foreknowledge of it and relive the joy of getting to that ending.  See my review here.

4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The mystery in this book was interesting enough, but the way it was presented and unfolded were unique and pretty amazing. It was such a great ride that might not be quite as exciting the 2nd time around. See my review here.

5. Holes by Louis Sachar
The beauty of this book is the way multiple seemingly unrelated storylines come together by the end of the book. I’ve read the book and seen the movie quite a few times, so I know the story really well, but I think it’d be fun to be able to experience the whole thing for the first time again.  See my review here.

6. 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace by Johan Twiss
I was amazed by this book, a little-known gem that was self-published by the author. There’s no huge twist in the story, but the way it plays out is beautiful and touching. I am already looking forward to re-reading it some time, but it probably won’t be the same as the first time. See my review here.

7. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Oh my gosh, this book…I loved this book so much. It made me laugh, cry, and cheer. I know I will enjoy re-reading it, but nothing will ever compare to that first time the story unfolded before me. My husband recently listened to the audiobook, after strong prompting from me, and seeing it through the eyes of a new reader was the next best thing to reading it again for the first time myself. See my review here.

8. The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson
As the culmination of an epic middle-grade fantasy series, this book had all the feels. Seeing the triumph and tragedy for the first time was amazing, and I know it can never quite be that way again. See my review here.

9. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
This is a divergence from the rest of the books on the list. It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned this in a TTT post, but I did not like the narrator of the audiobook, at least the version I listened to. The story itself wasn’t bad, though, and I can imagine really liking the series. I have plans to give the books another try, but I worry that I won’t be able to forget how this narrator made me dislike the main character. It would certainly be helpful if I could re-do the first reading of this book. See my review here.

10. Outcast by Kristi Drillien
Another divergence from the most common reason I wish I could read a book for the first time again. I’m sure I’m not alone here amongst authors in wishing that I could see my story through the eyes of someone who doesn’t already know the story.

Have you read any of these books? What books do you wish you could read again for the first time?

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?

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?

Book Review: Wingfeather Tales

Wingfeather Tales
by multiple authors (see details below)

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy short stories

For me, last year will forever be known as the year of the Wingfeathers. I read the entire Wingfeather Saga for the 1st time…and the 2nd time, in a way, as the author, Andrew Peterson, read his books live, a few chapters a day, throughout the year. This book is a collection of 7 stories set in that same world, written by 6 different authors. First, let me get some basic info out of the way: Yes, you really should read this only if you’ve read the Wingfeather Saga in its entirety, which I fully recommend that you do either way. No, none of these stories is a continuation of that series in any way. Well, one sort of is, to a very small degree, but more on that in the details below. Let’s just say that it will not answer the burningest questions you’ve most likely been left with after finishing the series. Andrew Peterson has stated on more than one occasion that he would prefer to leave any answers up to the imagination of his readers, which is fair.

My overall book rating is a reflection of the average of individual ratings for each story. I did not love the stories overall as I might have hoped. However, I did go into this uncertain about how I’d enjoy them. I’m not really huge on short stories in general, but I couldn’t help but give this book a go, considering how much I loved the original series. What follows is a list of each story with its author and illustrator, my rating, and a brief (as much as possible) review for each.

“The Prince of Yorsha Doon” by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5) – This was my favorite short story in the collection, with a ragged, loner street urchin getting the chance to be something more, to do something more. It’s charming and contains a wonderful appearance by one of the bigger characters in the original series. (illustrated by Cory Godbey, Nicholas Kole, & Hein Zaayman)

“The Wooing of Sophelia Stupe” by Jennifer Trafton (3 / 5) – The story of the author of the Creaturepedia books on its own was decent, if open-ended. However, I was slowed down and tripped up by the character’s vocabulary. He had a penchant for using very large, at times ridiculous words, both real and made-up (though a lot more made-up than real, I’m pretty sure). I’m sure it’s meant to be whimsical, and that plenty of people will find the fun in it, but it’s not really my preference. (illustrated by John Hendrix)

“Willow Worlds” by N.D. Wilson (4 / 5) – I really liked seeing young Podo, and perhaps the genesis of what made him who he is in the Wingfeather books. The plot to this story, especially coupled with the story before it, paints such a vastly different fabric for this fantasy world than what was in the original books, leaving me a little surprised and confused. The story is particularly short and abrupt, but I liked the general idea of it and wish there was more on this subject. (illustrated by Joe Sutphin)

“ShadowBlade and the Florid Sword” by Andrew Peterson & Jay Myers (4 / 5) – As alluded to in the first paragraph of my review, this is the one tale in the book that is a continuation of the original series. The title tells it all, and it’s actually in comic-book format. I did like having the chance to see the two together, and wish it had been longer. Though several of the stories in this collection end abruptly and with more that could be told, I think this is the one I most want to see more of.

“From the Deeps of the Dragon King” by A.S. Peterson (2 / 5) – This story was tragic and disturbing, and while it was clearly meant to be so, my rating is not due to the theme or mood. Considering how Podo’s story and character arc went in the original series, especially at the end of North! or Be Eaten, I really think I would have preferred not seeing him at this time of his life. It almost felt like undoing everything related to this that happened in the series. Plenty of others, I’m sure, will be happy to read about Podo’s past, but it just made me sad. (illustrated by Doug TenNapel)

“The Ballad of Lanric and Rube” by Jonathan Rogers (4 / 5) – This story was short and silly, maybe a little predictable to me, but overall just fun. (illustrated by Justin Gerard)

“The Places Beyond the Maps” by Douglas Kaine McKelvey (2 / 5) – This is the kind of story that I wish I could rate higher and feel like a rube rating so low, because I’m sure it’s meant to be beautiful and poignant, but it’s just not for me. It’s the story of a man whose daughter was taken away by the Black Carriage, and all that he goes through as he tries first to get her back, then to get justice, and finally just to find some meaning and purpose after the tragedy. It is long (literally as long as all of the other stories put together, since it started at 50% in the e-book) and moves slowly most of the time. There is a lot of introspection, depression, even self-hatred–all things you might expect in the situation, but I felt like it plodded along most of the time. It didn’t help that the author has a tendency toward long, run-on sentences. Entire paragraphs, long in their own right, can be made up of just one or two sentences. It’s a style choice, I’m sure, but not one I care for.

This story is also one that actually caused squeamish me to wince as injuries and the attempt at mending such were described in fairly vivid detail at least once. The man contemplates killing himself or at least giving up on life multiple times. It’s dark, much darker than even the most serious parts of the original series. There were a few bright points for me, like the inclusion of a wonderful character from the original series and the epilogue that added a little hope after the disturbing (and just plain weird) ending. (illustrated by Aedan Peterson)

Final thoughts: I didn’t mention illustrations in the individual reviews, but I enjoyed every one of them. Andrew Peterson has a way of collecting talented people around him (not to mention his own talented children), and I can imagine the honor of having other authors and artists take part in a project like this for his books. I think, though, that some of this collection lost the charm and feel of the original series, and I especially don’t think I’d say this is as great for the age group that the first series was so well suited for. What’s most telling to me is that my daughter (10 years old), who has read/listened to the Wingfeather Saga in some format probably half a dozen times, only read about a story and a half from this collection and walked away. She’ll go back to it eventually, but clearly it didn’t draw her in like the original books. I do think that fans of the original series should read this collection, or at least some of it. I know I’ll re-read some of these stories again in the future, but I was not quite the right audience for some of them.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2016, but a new hardcover edition is being released tomorrow, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations, and the inclusion of one new tale (the comic one).

Find out more about Wingfeather Tales

See what I’m reading next.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads from 2020

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl, which I haven’t done in a while now. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. After a full year of reading, this was a little more difficult than it was last year, when I’d only been reading for half the year. Last year I had to include some 4-star books too, but this year, I had plenty of 5-star reads to choose from!

After narrowing it down to 10, these are in no particular order. I did clump similar genres together, though. Also, I did not include any re-reads, and I’m lumping series into 1 entry, even if the entire series wasn’t 5 stars.

1. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
I love all of Brant Hansen’s books, and I did give 5 stars to his newest book this year too. However, this one took the edge over The Truth About Us just a bit. Brant has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. He speaks simply and honestly, makes some really good points, and is funny to boot. (See my full review here.)

2. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
Continuing in a similar vein to the previous book, considering that Brant and Sherri are radio co-hosts, Sherri’s book is a hilarious take on PMS, the difficulties women face, and how they don’t have to be alone in their misery. (See my full review here.)

3. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
This series of books has dominated my year. I read the entire series of 4 books between January and June, and then listened to the first three again as the author read them live online to beat the quarantine blues. He just started reading book #4, The Warden and the Wolf King, 3 nights ago. My 10-year-old daughter read the series upon my suggestion, watched the live readings with me, and has basically become obsessed. And my husband bought me the entire re-released series, with beautiful new covers and new illustrations inside, for my birthday back in May. It’s been a Wingfeather-heavy year. (See my full review for the first book in the series here.)

4. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
My daughter returned the favor of my recommendation on the previous series with this series. I’ve only read the first one so far, though she’s read all but the newest, and it was so much fun! It’s basically an escape room in a 3-story library with Willy Wonka as the game master. I mean, what can be better than that? (See my full review here.)

5. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I love a well-done time travel story, and this is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s written for a younger audience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway (I’ve always been a little childish). (See my full review here.)

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’d never read any Tolkien before this. I have seen all of the movies, though. I love the LoTR movies, though I had only watched the Hobbit movies once (I watched them again after reading the book). I decided to start with The Hobbit, because it’s written for a younger audience, and after enjoying it, I went on to listen to the audiobooks of the LoTR trilogy (on the third one now). It has been very interesting seeing the differences between the books and the movies, and I know I’ll need to read it all again multiple times to really get a decent understanding of the depth. (See my full review here.)

7. The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt
This is the second book in a series of Biblical fiction set during and after the time Jesus was an adult on earth, from the perspectives of people on the peripheral of his ministry. I liked book #2, Daughter of Cana, but I loved this one. The book is character-driven, inspirational, and so engaging. I’m waiting anxiously for the 3rd book in the series to come out! (See my full review here.)

8. The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer
I so loved the combination of characters and their arcs in this book, and how they brought out the themes of looking for blessings during difficulties and using love and kindness to drive away hatred. A plot that seems complicated was very well written by Sawyer, and I’m now looking into her other works. (See my full review here.)

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
My sister highly recommended this book written entirely in epistolary form, and I wasn’t sure how I’d like it. But I loved it, unsurprisingly mostly due to the characters. But I found that the format of the story being told through letters made it a particularly quick and easy read, because there’s not a lot of description. I know that might bother some people, but I really liked it. (See my full review here.)

10. Sunrise at Normandy trilogy by Sarah Sundin
I read all of this trilogy this year, starting with #3, The Land Beneath Us (shown above), because I got it as an ARC. The third one was my favorite of the trilogy, but only by a little bit. The entire trilogy tells the story of three brothers who were separated by a very unfortunate series of events that led to three years of estrangement. During that time, each of the brothers trained in different branches of the military and became part of the invasion of Normandy. I love the way these books tell each of the brothers’ individual stories during WWII, but also tells the complete story of the broken relationship between the brothers and their family. I can’t wait until I read these books again, in order this time, of course. (See my review of the book shown above, which is third, but I read first, here.)

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Book Review: The Warden and the Wolf King

The Warden and the Wolf King
The Wingfeather Saga
#4
by Andrew Peterson
read by the author

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

wing 4

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series, which starts with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

War has come to the Green Hollows and surrounding lands. King Kalmar knows that fighting the overwhelming forces of Fangs won’t be enough, though, and is determined to confront Gnag the Nameless himself. The Wingfeathers hope for a better future and a return to their homeland, but what will it cost to get there?

Again I find myself wishing I could say more, but not wanting to have to post behind a spoiler tag. The conclusion to the saga was at least as amazing, if not more so, as the run to get here. For a series that started a bit slow (not boring, but slow), the ensuing adventure, peril, emotion, and character development was worth every bit of the build up.

The character development throughout the series, and especially this last book, was realistic and even made me examine my own heart more closely. Though I have to admit that I don’t think Leeli had much development overall. The ending was incredible, and I never saw it coming. It left me in shock, and with the biggest book hangover I’ve ever experienced. I am already looking forward to when I re-read this series (which will probably be in September when the second half of the re-released books come out, which my husband already pre-ordered for me).

Keeping in mind that that this series is middle grade fiction, I’m going to share a bit of a story:

I read the first 2 books earlier this year, as ARCs for the re-release that will include all new illustrations and footnotes (the books originally came out 10 years ago). I remember thinking that my then 9-year-old daughter might enjoy them, but she likes reading in theory more than in practice, tending to start books and not finish them.

When Andrew Peterson started reading the first book live online during the quarantine back in March, she started listening with me part way through (she was usually outside playing when he read, and she didn’t have enough interest initially to stay inside to listen). By the time he finished reading book 2, she was hooked. She sped on ahead of me and listened to the audio books for 3 & 4. She loved them so much, she was desperate for me to read the rest so she could talk about them with me. She then proceeded to go back and read the first 2 books and re-listen to the last 2 books a few times. All in the space of a few months, by a girl who only halfheartedly read before this.

So to sum up, while the series itself is incredible–inventive, adventurous, emotional, even beautiful–the best thing about these books is that it gave my daughter and me something to enjoy together and discuss. Though we have to do it in whispers, because our enjoyment has gotten my husband’s interest piqued, and we don’t want to spoil anything for him.

Though I’ve been saying all through the reviews for this that the book is not overtly Christian–and it’s not–there was a message in this book that I really appreciated. And I just have to say that I think it’s okay to be jealous about someone else being allowed to literally directly encounter God, and you’re not invited. I can’t recommend this book enough to readers of all ages, and particularly suggest that reading it along with your kids, or even out loud to your kids, might just provide hours, days, weeks of great bonding time.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2014, but a new hardcover edition will be released Sept 15, 2020, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about The Warden and the Wolf King

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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!

Book Review: The Monster in the Hollows

The Monster in the Hollows
The Wingfeather Saga
#3
by Andrew Peterson
read by the author

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

monster

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness & North! or Be Eaten.

The joyful ending of the previous book only carries so far into the Green Hollows, where the residents are wary, to say the least, about having a Grey Fang in their midst. Even as his family defends him, Janner can’t seem to help but be afraid of his brother as well. The Igibys begin to try to make their home in the Green Hollows, but there is more danger nearby than just the little Grey Fang.

Though there were some slower parts for me in this book, as I wasn’t as interested in the school system in the Green Hollows, it was not nearly enough to detract from the rest of the book as an exciting, heart-filled addition to this series.

Looking back on it, most of what I’d want to expand on would be a spoiler, so I don’t feel like I can say much in this review. However, as the danger ramps up, the heroes learn more and more who they are and who they should be. And though there were some dark and gut-wrenching moments, I have so much anticipation for the finale of this great series. More importantly, my 10-year-old daughter has gotten into this series since I started it, and she LOVES it! In fact, she’s kind of obsessed with it. She’s not an avid reader, so I’d say that’s a huge endorsement.

I highly recommend this book, and the series so far, for folks of all ages who enjoy clean, fun fantasy adventures. And to restate from my previous reviews–you might see it labeled as Christian, and there are some references to a deity that many of the people believe in, but it is not overtly Christian.

On a technical note, I initially listened to this as an audiobook, which isn’t normally my thing. It’s narrated by the author, though, and he does such great voices and really makes the characters come alive. When I got a copy of the ARC, I flipped through to find all of the illustrations and extras that the re-release will have, and they are great too! Definitely worth having the physical copy when it comes out someday.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2011, but a new hardcover edition will be released Sept 15, 2020, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about The Monster in the Hollows

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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!

Book Review: Adorning the Dark

Adorning the Dark
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir, Christian living

AtD

Singer, songwriter, and author Andrew Peterson shares his insight on creating in this book. He uses personal experience as well as wisdom from other songwriters and authors to discuss the process of writing songs, the ups and downs of the business, and using one’s creative abilities to tell a story.

I’ll start my review by saying that I was not the main target audience for this book. While Peterson does do his best to expand beyond songwriting into fiction-writing and other kinds of art, the heavy focus is on the musical realm (and poetry to a lesser degree). I’m a fiction writer, but have no experience with or even much of an understanding of writing songs. Plus, he referred to songs and books by various songwriters and authors a lot and talked about them as if the reader should know them as well as he did. I’m not nearly as well read as him, and I am definitely not as immersed in music culture, nor do I listen to as wide a range of music as he. As such, I do think that quite a bit of the book was lost on me.

Another way this book did not resonate with me is that I came to realize by maybe halfway through the book that my personality, and the way I see the world around me, is vastly different from his. He sees beauty in everything, but I’ve never been all that sentimental. So that was another chunk of the book that fell flat for me.

However, that does not mean that I did not find plenty of gems in the book, things that work for any kind of creating. For example: “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write a thing.” Or: “The songs won’t write themselves, and neither will the books, the recipes, the blueprints, or the gardens.” Even with the difference that Peterson describes between songwriting (which can also apply to poetry to a degree) and writing fiction, the clear point is that you have to get through the bad to find the good.

He also addresses the different between “Christian art” and art from a Christian perspective, which I really appreciated. As an author, I’ve struggled in the past with thinking that I should only be using the gift God gave me to write specifically Christian fiction. However, I no longer think that’s true. Instead, I can write stories with a Christian worldview, which will most likely be acceptable to most Christians, and will even be acceptable to many non-Christians who just want something good to read. And in approaching the art that way, perhaps it would allow the artist to actually reach more for Christ.

There were a few things about which I disagreed with the author, but even in those I think it mostly comes down to a difference in mindset or preference. I did agree with the idea that calling some people “creatives” excludes many people who really are more creative than they think. Just because “art” isn’t the end result, pretty much everyone creates in their own way–that can come out as critical thinking or problem solving, or so many other things that don’t seem as creative. In the end, I’m very glad I read this book, as it gave me some interesting insight into a singer whose music goes back as far as my marriage, and plenty of solid advice on writing, some of which I needed to hear even today. I recommend this book for Christians who are interesting in creating, no matter the form it takes.

Thank you to Netgalley and B&H Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Adorning the Dark

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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 to Escape Into

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is listed as “Genre Freebie,” which means we give our own spin to the list, with the broad theme of “genre.” I haven’t been reading seriously for long enough to be able to make 1 entire list with only 1 genre present, so I decided to let the current state of affairs inspire my list.

With dominoes continuing to fall as schools, businesses, and entire states close down in the US, it seems like a great time to escape into books. So my list today contains my recommendations for the best books (or series) to escape into. Simply put, I chose my single-favorite book from 10 different genres, so maybe there will be something for everyone, except for those who don’t read any of these 10 genres.

Some of these books can fit into more than 1 genre, of course, so I’ll mention that as well. I’m not going to say much about each book, though, because just the fact that they’re on this list says that I loved (or at least really liked) them, and I don’t want to go on at length today.

Sci-fi: Lock In by John Scalzi
Also a mystery, kind of a police-procedural. There is also a sequel, Head On, which I still liked, but not quite as much. See my review for the first book here.

wingfeather

Fantasy: The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
I have only read the first 2 of this 4-book series so far, but I highly recommend it.
See my review for book #1 here and my review for book #2 here.
The author, Andrew Peterson, has been reading the series on Facebook Live for the last 4 nights, and will continue to do so, I’m guessing at least through the first book, as a way to help people combat listlessness and to raise spirits during all of this virus business. He does voices and laughs at his own funny parts. It’s so much fun to listen to! If you want to check it out, the first day’s reading is still on his site, but due to licensing reasons, he said he can’t keep it up much longer.

Romance: The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin
Also historical fiction (WWII time period) & Christian fiction. It’s the third in a series, but they’re disconnected enough that you don’t have to have read the first 2 before you read this one. Though if you’re in the position to binge read, you might as well read them all in order. See my review here.

Historical: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
WWII time period, a stand-alone story. It’s been made into a Netflix movie, though I’m afraid to watch it. See my review here.

Mystery: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Also could be classified as a thriller, and has a touch of fantasy. See my review for this book here.

Classic: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
It may be written for kids, but adults will love it too. This is a series of 9 books. See my review for this book here.

Non-fiction: Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
I couldn’t decide between this and I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn. Both are funny and insightful. I only chose the one I did because, even though I firmly believe men should read Sherri Lynn’s book too, Brant’s book is a little less exclusive. See my review for this book here.

Thriller: The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
Also could fit the mystery genre and is labeled as horror, though I didn’t find it all that frightening. See my review for this book here.

Christian: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
Could also be classified as a mystery or thriller with a touch of fantasy/sci-fi. See my review for this book here.

Comic: West of Bathurst and It Never Rains by Kari Maaren
This one will take a bit more of an explanation. West of Bathurst is a book only in the technical sense. It’s actually a webcomic, and when the 7-year-long storyline and comic came to an end, Kari compiled it into a book. A big, heavy book. I do own this book, but I’m sure she does not have any more to sell (it was crowdsourced and not an easy endeavor for her). But the comic in its entirety can be read online, and it’s good for many hours of binge-reading. Though it’s a web comic, and some of what happens in it is specific to the setting (a residence hall at University of Toronto), even someone like me who is completely lost in that setting can get caught up in the story and find the jokes along the way funny.

It Never Rains is Kari’s currently on-going comic, with 6 years of story. This one has more of an actual story feel, and it’s really gotten good recently.

The links in the bold above for both of these lead to the first comic in each series.

What are your favorite books to escape into? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s freebie!

Book Review: North! or Be Eaten

North! or Be Eaten
The Wingfeather Saga
#2
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

North

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

The danger is real as the Igibys escape the clutches of the Fangs of Dang and head north toward the Ice Prairies. The Lost Jewels of Anniera begin to realize their full potential along the way, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Surviving Fangs, the Stranders, and even the wilds of Skree itself, the Igiby family gets separated, and that’s when things really get bad for young Janner, the Throne Warden of Anneira. Worse yet is when he loses his little brother, the High King of Anneira, whom he is meant to protect. Surprises await around every corner in this action-packed, heart-filled fantasy!

I don’t know if I can adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. The imagination that went into the characters, the creatures, and the plot itself is vast and enviable. I was swept up in the horrors, the betrayal, and the victories right along with the characters. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and plunged back in with voracity every chance I got.

As in the first book, the main character really is Janner, the oldest of the Igiby children, and in this book it was even more clear why that was the best choice. He grew up so much in this book, even though only a short time passed (I don’t know how much for sure…months, maybe?). Leeli really blossomed in this book as well, even though we didn’t get to see her as much. She’s courageous and has a beautiful spirit, and I love her! Tink, who is know more and more as Kalmar, has a rough time of it in this book, but boy was that ending incredible.

At times, I felt like the action didn’t slow down enough for me to catch my own breath, but looking back at it, I don’t think it was a bad thing. There were some pretty dark moments, so I wonder about the age range it’s meant for, considering that my daughter falls into the middle grade range. I don’t think it would scare her, necessarily, but I wonder if she would still be bothered by some of it, though she is on the low end of that range.

I highly recommend this book, and the series so far, for folks of all ages who enjoy clean, fun fantasy adventures. Also, you might see it labeled as Christian, and there are some references to a deity that many of the people believe in, but it is not overtly Christian. I have a feeling I’m going to love the rest of this series and want to re-read many times. There’s no way I’m waiting for the new versions of the last 2 books to come out before I read them.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2009, but a new hardcover edition will be released tomorrow, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about North! or Be Eaten

See what I’m reading next.

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