Top Ten Tuesday: 5-Star Predictions

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads”. Now here’s the truth about me: I’m really stingy with 5-star ratings. Last year, with 47 books read, I gave only 3 of them 5 stars, though I did give 7 books 4.5 stars, which is pretty close. I just don’t like to give a book 5 stars unless it truly captivated me, and I can’t think of more than a minor thing that I could see being better. (I’ve already given 2 books from this year 5 stars, by the way.)

So in my list below, I’m listing books that I predict will be 4.5 or 5 star ratings, because both generally leave me with the same great feeling after reading. I’m also listing some books that I’m just really hoping will be a 4.5-5 star read for one reason or another.

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! (See my review for Anne of Green Gables 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! (See my review for On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness 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. (See my review for The Land Beneath Us 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!

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.

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!

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.

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 audio book helped her to push through the LotR books, and while I’m not normally one for audio books, I can see the merit in this case.

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!

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.

What planned reads do you expect to love? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

January in Review

I read 7 books last month. I haven’t checked the actual stats, but I think my overall ratings were higher in January than any previous month since I started reading to review last July. Obviously it was a great month for reading!

Here are the books I read in January:


I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn (5 / 5)
The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock (3.5 / 5)
Stealth Power by Vikki Kestell (4 / 5)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (4.5 / 5)
His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac (3 / 5)
The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin (5 / 5)
Head On by John Scalzi (4 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from January was The Land Beneath Us. I finished 1 series, continued 1 series, and started 2 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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a freebie about book covers. I’m going to keep it simple, since I’m still new to all of this keeping track of books I’ve read and want to read, and I’m definitely not ready to get detailed with a list like this. So I stuck with books that are on my Goodreads shelves and found 10 books with covers I really like for one reason or another. Here they are, in no particular order:

wingfeather

1. The Wingfeather Saga books by Andrew Peterson
If you click on the link above, you won’t see these covers. The series came out between 2009 & 2014, but the covers above are from a re-release. Those shown are the only 2 (of 4) that have new covers yet, but I’m guessing the other 2 eventually will as well. I actually do like the look of the original covers too, but it was these that first drew me to the series.
Shown here: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (read my review of this book) and North! or Be Eaten

2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
I’ve always really liked the macabre cover to this book, which is a play about two minor characters from Hamlet. I remember reading it in high school, and then watching the movie with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth and that tennis court scene. My love of the cover might be as much nostalgia as anything, but it still counts!

3. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I’ll be honest–I might be more in love with the cover of this book than the synopsis (which is interesting, don’t get me wrong), but someday I’ll have to actually read it and find out if I like it.

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I really like the way they made the cover (front and back) with a distressed look, so that it would look like it had been around since the 90s (when the book was set). (Read my review of this book.)

5. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
I had this book for over a year before I read it, and the cover always made me muse about just what was going on in that plot. The synopsis also mentions the neighbors’ house, which “defies the laws of physics.” Both are a good teaser for what’s inside the book. (Read my review of this book.)

6. Lock In by John Scalzi
It may not be the most visually appealing cover, but, like the previous book, I stared at this for a long time before I ever got around to reading it. And like with the previous book, it made me really curious about what was inside. (There’s a reason why when I started back into a heavy reading habit last year, these were some of the first books I read.) Knowing what the book is about, the cover is quite fitting. (Read my review of this book.)

7. The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels
I don’t think I have to explain why this cover appeals to me so much. If you’re viewing this post, you probably love books as much as I do, and a cover like this is just beautiful! From what I’ve read of the synopsis, it sounds like the book will be equally as wonderful for book lovers (I haven’t read it yet).

peregrine

8.  Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I only heard about this series for the first time recently, but I was able to pick up books 1 & 2 for good deals, so I plan to start into it soon. For now, though, I really like the way the author took actual vintage photographs and used them to inspire the stories, and how employing them for the covers turned out.
Shown here: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City

summoner

9. Summoner series books by Taran Matharu
I really enjoy the covers of the all of the books in this series (a trilogy of 3, plus a prequel). The trilogy covers all feature the main character, showing him decked out in whatever gear he acquired in that book, and with some iteration of his summoned demon, who was practically like a character himself. The third book is my favorite cover of the trilogy (shown on the left) for many reasons, some of which are a bit spoilery. And the prequel cover, which features a different character, I chose to also show mostly because it’s so beautifully purple.
Shown here: The Battlemage (read my review of this book) and The Outcast

colors

10. True Colors series books by various authors
Though I’ve been a bit hit-or-miss in my love for the stories themselves, I really love the covers in this series of books. I’ve read 2 of them so far, and have a 3rd coming up on my TBR. They’re all basically stand-alones (maybe a little overlap of characters) about true crime stories in history, and they all have a color in the title. Most of the covers, then, are black & white, with one item of the same color as in the title standing out (as seen in the 2 I shared above).
Shown here: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken (read my review of this book) and The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

What book covers are you crazy about? Link your own TTT post in the comments so I can see what you did with this week’s freebie!

Book Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
The Wingfeather Saga
#1
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

Dark Sea.png

On the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness live the Igiby family–12-year-old Janner and his younger brother Tink, little sister Leeli, and their mom and grandfather, known mostly as Podo. Their land has been conquered by Gnag the Nameless, who hails from Dang, across the sea, and who has sent his Fangs to keep the people in line. Through a series of connected events that all starts with a mischievous dog, the Igibys find themselves on the wrong side of the Fangs of Dang. When the Fangs come to realize that the Igibys have knowledge of the location to the jewels of the late King Wingfeather and the Shining Isle of Anniera, which are said to be the key to restoring Anniera and defating Gnag, the Igibys realize they will always be in danger.

This book was a lot of fun, with characters that are lively and entertaining and a lot of lore and history. The quirky nature of the narrative and even the names of various people and locations had me chuckling more than once. Though it’s children’s fiction, it doesn’t pull any punches, and reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as Roald Dahl, to a degree.

Right off the bat, the explanation for the name of the world these characters inhabit gives you a sense of the author’s style. The first person to exist woke up on the first morning, looked at a rock, and said, “Well, here we are.” Thus, the world’s name came to be known as “Aerwiar.” Though none of the other names for people or places are really explained, and I did actually struggle a little muddling through so many when they came close together, this is a good example of the tone of this book.

Even with the whimsical nature, there is still some real peril. Fortunately, possibly because it’s meant for kids, for the most part, the good guys prevail and the bad guys are defeated, at least in some way. I’m not saying there aren’t some losses, but I won’t say more because of spoilers.

One of my favorite things about the book were the hints that the author dropped throughout the book, giving little nudges about a big secret revealed near the end. Two big secrets, really but they were tied together. While I suspected pretty early on, and then decided I was definitely right still a ways from the reveal, remember that this book is meant for kids. I could imagine kids near my daughter’s age, maybe a bit older, reading this and beginning to catch on, getting excited as they realized the truth.

It was fun and full of adventure, and I cannot wait to continue the series! I recommend this book 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. It may be a bit allegorical, again similar to the Narnia books.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2008, but a new hardcover edition will be released on March 10, 2020, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

See what’s coming up.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Releases

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.” As I’ve just gotten back into reading very heavily and am just getting used to keeping a TBR and learning what modern authors are even out there, not to mention whose writing I enjoy, I’m not really tuned into what is coming out soon. But that doesn’t mean I’m not anticipating reading some new releases, mostly as ARCs. So this list (of 7, not 10) will include mostly ARCs that I’ve been approved for, or some that I have recently requested and am still waiting on approval for, that come out within the next few months. It will also include 1 book that I’m just looking forward to releasing, and 1 special entry at the bottom that comes out this week.

1. The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
This actually came out on January 1, but that’s still the first half of 2020. I’m about 25% into this and enjoying it so far.

2. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
I’m not very proud to admit that this has been on my TBR since fall, and I keep putting it near the top of the list, then pushing it back for others. It releases (technically re-releases) on March 10, so I guess it never felt that urgent before. I really need to get to it, especially since book #2 in the series is going to be re-released soon as well.

3. This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda
This is my third “old” ARC, having been on my list since mid-October. It releases today! I haven’t started it yet, but based on the synopsis and reviews, I’m looking forward to it.

4. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear
This is the first book on the list that I have requested as an ARC recently, but haven’t been approved yet. If I am, it will be the 3rd book in this series I’ll have read (all by different authors). It’s been an interesting series, and I will probably be going back to some of the earlier books at some point in the future (they’re all stand-alones). It releases on March 1.

5. The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin
I just requested this ARC yesterday. I will absolutely read it one way or the other, as it sounds right up my alley in so many way! It releases on February 4.

6. The Truth about Us by Brant Hansen
Brant Hansen is my favorite radio personality. If you’re in the mood for a fun, clean, often random podcast that makes you think, check out the Brant & Sherri Oddcast. He also writes some books that combine faith and humor and make some interesting points. This book isn’t on Netgalley, though his two previous ones were, so I’ll keep checking; I’ll read it either way though. It releases on April 21.

7. Pithea by Kristi Drillien
In case it wasn’t clear from the top and side bar of my blog page, this is my book! It releases this coming Friday, and you’d better believe I’m excited about it! The Kindle version can be pre-ordered here, and on January 10th, a paperback version will also be available.

What new releases are you looking forward to in the next few months? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. This list should take me through most (or all) of the winter. They’re not winter-oriented at all, because I don’t usually think in those terms when it comes to reading (except for the 2.5 Christmas-related books I still want to read over the next week).  The actual order in which I read these will probably change as I go (plus more will probably be added in amongst some of these):

1. The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
This is one of the few remaining Netgalley ARCs I have right now, and even though it’s been on my list for 2 months and I’ve been looking forward to it, I will be pushing it to read it before it releases on Jan 1.

2. Stealth Power by Vikki Kestell
Book #2 in a 4-part series, the first of which was a 4-star read for me. It’s really about time I got on with the series.

3. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
This was on my fall TBR TTT post too, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s an ARC (a re-release due out in March) fantasy kids book that begins a series.

4. His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac
I’m not a fan of the zombie genre as a whole, but I’ve been stretching myself a little in some of my book choices recently, and this is another example of that. The sequel to this book is looming, so I really want to read the first one soon.

5. This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda
The premise of this book about young pen pals on opposite sides of WWII is really intriguing to me. It’s my last current ARC, and I’ve vowed to finish all 3 of these before I request more, because of how stressful it felt to get so backed up on them.

6. Head On by John Scalzi
The sequel to Lock In, which I really enjoyed, is one I’m highly anticipating digging into very soon.

7. Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
I read this book over the course of almost a year after I got it for Christmas 2 years ago. I want to read it in a shorter time period so I can give it a proper review.

8. Sneak by Evan Angler
This is also book #2 in a 4-part series (which, from what I can tell, isn’t necessarily a finished series). Unlike #2 on this list above, though, I gave the first book in this series 3-stars. I’m holding out some hope that the series will pick up.

9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My husband is antsy for me to get through these books faster, because he likes watching the movies with me. Since I’ve never read this series before, I insist on waiting until after each book to watch its respective movie. I’m trying to pick up the pace from here on.

10. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Apparently I’m going to have something of a theme going here, reading book #2 in series of varying lengths. I loved Anne of Green Gables so much that I didn’t want to put off reading the next book like I’ve (unintentionally) done with continuing other series I’ve started this year.

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Title Differently

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week was “Books I’d Give Different Titles To.” For this list, I definitely had to stick with books that I had read or that were on my TBR, because otherwise, I can imagine being sucked into a black hole of book titles and blurbs. I was only able to come up with 7, with 5 that I’ve read and 2 that I plan to read someday. There was an additional suggestion to give alternative titles, but that’s one of my weakest areas in my own writing, so I am going to skip that suggestion. Without further ado:

1. Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell
I get the book’s name–the main character is invisible during half of it. But I think it’s very weak and otherwise makes little sense. The series is titled Nanostealth, and all of the books have the word “Stealth” in their titles. I don’t know about the rest of the series titles yet, but this one I think could have been better. (See my review for this book.)

2. The Inquisition by Taran Matharu
This is the middle book in the Summoner trilogy, and the other two are aptly named. This one, however, is not. The Inquisition it mentions is such a small part of the entire book, we get past it to much more exciting things early on. I would have liked to see the title reflect more of the full story. (See my review for this book.)

3. Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card
To be honest, I have a more difficult time explaining my issue with this title. I think it might be because of the way the main character’s micro power of finding things is so analyzed to death, it’s almost like they talk their way out of the title making sense. (See my review for this book.)

4. Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock
I know this title was meant to at least partially reference one of the main characters’ profession as a smoke jumper. I assume it had a double meaning, referring to the secrets and mystery there to be uncovered. However, since that mystery angle didn’t really fill as much of the book as I expected, the title falls flat for me. (See my review for this book.)

5. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
I haven’t read this yet, though it’s on my short list, so I can only go by the blurb. But no matter what the book is about, the title has a silly redundancy to it. It is a book for a younger audience, but it has enough seriousness to it that the title seems weird. I am open to the possibility that reading the book will shed light on the title though.

6. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
I know that my reasoning for including this book is not fair to it, but the first few times I saw this book, I assumed it was related to Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not, not even remotely, and is actually about a Soviet work camp in the 1940s. As far as I can tell, this book came out a couple months before Fifty Shades, and I wonder how many other people over the years have thought it was related. I’m glad I discovered it wasn’t, and hope to have a chance to read it someday.

7. The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken
The book is part of a series called True Colors, and all of the books (written by different authors) have a color in the title. In the case of this book, though, it was a pretty good stretch to be able to get that color in the title. The book involves a band of grave robbers, and the titular lantern provides light for these nocturnal activities. However, the grave robbing was such a minor (and muddled) aspect of the book, the lantern really had a tiny role, and the title just doesn’t work for me. I actually have the ARC for another book in this series on my list to read soon (The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock), and I’ll be very interested to see if the colorful title holds up for that one.  (See my review for this book.)

Have you read any of these? What would you add to the list?