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?

June in Review

I read 16 books last month, which beat my old record by 2 books. It does not beat my record for actual reading done in a month, since many of the books last month were fairly short. My daughter gifted me a month of Kindle Unlimited for my birthday, so I’ve been using it to get through the list I’d been collecting of books I can only read on KU (if I don’t want to buy them) as I can in a month. That list is mostly comprised of a couple of series I read back in the late 90s as a teenager and really wanted to revisit, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the trip back in time. I was also sick in the last couple of weeks and spent a few days just laying in bed, which allowed for extra reading time. What’s really impressive is that I managed to keep up with the reviews as well as I did, since for a week or so, between those shorter books and audiobooks, I was finishing a book a day. I’m caught up now (with only one that will get posted later) and have already slowed down on reading, due to work picking back up, even though I still have KU for another couple of weeks. Now my goal is to make sure to at least finish the 2 series I started in KU before the month is up and I have to wait for the next time I decide to buy a month.

Here are the books I read in June:

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden (5 / 5)
Rabbits by Terry Miles (2 / 5)
Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (4 / 5)
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (5 / 5)
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan (3 / 5)
No More Broken Promises by Angela Elwell Hunt (5 / 5)
Welcome to Vietnam by Ellen Emerson White (4 / 5)
A Forever Friend by Angela Elwell Hunt (5 / 5)
Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu by Lee Goldberg (2 / 5)
The Compass by Tyler Scott Hess (2.5 / 5)
A Basket of Roses by Angela Elwell Hunt (4 / 5)
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (3.5 / 5)
Hill 568 by Ellen Emerson White (5 / 5)
Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot (4 / 5)
A Dream to Cherish by Angela Elwell Hunt (review pending)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 6 re-reads. My favorite book from June was Project Hail Mary. I started 3 series, continued 3 series, and finished (or caught up on) 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.

*This includes 2 series that I did not reach the end of but decided not to continue reading, after being 2 books into the series.

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: Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi suspense

When Ryland Grace wakes up and finds himself on a spaceship with 2 dead roommates and no memory of who he is, why he’s there, or how he got there, he certainly never expected to find out he’s on a mission to save the earth. As his memory falteringly returns and he discovers he may not be as alone as he thought, he will tax his abilities—both physical and mental—and his ship to give humanity a fighting chance.

I haven’t been as captivated by a book as I was by this one in a long time. I read it in 2 days, which is at least half the time I’d normally read a book of this length, because I was so enthralled and just kept wanting to come back to it. The story was creative, the characters were engaging, and the math and science were…well, they were math and science. I zoned out a few times when it got a little over my head and scanned the text for the spot where the point would be made. Those moments didn’t bother me, thoughI just nodded and moved on.

The story tends to go back and forth between the present time on the ship and the recent past back on Earth. The past scenes serve to show both us and Grace why he’s way out in space. Even when the reader thinks they know everything necessary from that time (or at least thinks they can infer it), there’s a little more to know. Personally, I liked the past scenes as much as the present. It was interesting to see Weir’s take on what could happen if catastrophe were looming and humanity was forced to work together or be wiped out.

Understandably, there are not a whole lot of characters in this book, especially those that are given much “screen” time. There’s Grace, of course, who may know more than seems reasonable for his past, but I enjoyed the book enough to not be bothered by it. He’s got a cheesy sense of humor and a determination that doesn’t preclude him from having moments of doubt. Fortunately, he has a counterpart through much of the book who spurs him on when he’s ready to give up, and vice versa. Rocky, along with the friendship that develops between Rocky and Grace, is certainly a highlight of the book. There’s not a whole lot more I can say without giving at least minor spoilers (though odds are pretty good if you read other reviews you’ll be spoiled anyway, as many people don’t see the explanation of Rocky as a spoiler…and maybe it’s not, but I’d rather be cautious). There are so many times when the interactions between Grace and Rocky made me laugh out loud. It’s so great! Also, the endingnever saw it coming!

The question that seems to be on most people’s minds is whether or not this book is too similar to Weir’s first book, The Martian. There are certainly some similarities, but the plot is very different. Whatney’s main conflict is simply survival, then if possible a return to Earth. Grace’s main conflict is to do the science to figure out how to save Earth, and…well, for a while, at least, that’s pretty much it. They’re really only similar in that they’re both one man working alone in space. Some will say that Grace is a copy of Whatney. I have read The Martian once and seen the movie twice, so I don’t think I know it enough to speak to that. They approach problems and science the same way, so I guess there’s that. I also want to mention, for those who are curious, that there is way less language in this book than there was in The Martian. Grace himself only uses “fake” swear words, so the only real language comes from the past scenes, and it’s considerably light. Some might be interested to know, however, that this book takes an evolution-as-fact approach to the universe, evolution being a very heavy topic in the latter half or so of the book. It’s very common for sci-fi to be written with that worldview, but it is pushed pretty heavily. Overall, though, I highly recommend this book to anyone who even remotely enjoys sci-fi books.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Project Hail Mary

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 2019

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. First, a quick explanation about my reader-self. I used to read like crazy as a kid, teenager, and maybe the first few years out of high school. I don’t really know when it dropped off, but for most of my adult life, I’ve finished maybe 15 books total.

In the summer this year, I decided that I wanted, and in many ways needed to get back into reading. So I dove in, started building a TBR list that grew scarily fast, started posting reviews on my blog, and haven’t regretted it for one second. I re-discovered my love for reading almost immediately, and enjoy keeping track of what I’ve read, how I felt about it, and what I plan to read.

The following list starts with my favorite 4-star reads from this year, then some 4.5-stars, and finally the only books I gave 5 stars to this year. I’m not including re-reads and am lumping series into 1 entry (even if I haven’t finished the series yet).

10. The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu
I enjoyed this trilogy pretty early on. The Harry Potter meets Pokemon vibe was just too fun. Even with the heavy race and class politics and the inescapable brutal war that was looming, I enjoyed all 3 books in this trilogy. There’s a prequel that is billed as book #4, and I have plans to read it some time in the first half of 2020. (See my full review for the first book in the trilogy here.)

9. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I’m currently almost halfway through my first reading of this series (finished with #3). Though I can tell I don’t love it as much as the majority of the rest of the world, I have been enjoying it for the most part. It’s possible that what makes it even more fun, though, is following each book with my first viewing of the movie, alongside my husband. It’s interesting to me that only 1 of the 3 I’ve read so far got 4 stars from me–the others were 3.5. And yet, when considering books to add to this list, I did decide that Harry Potter as a whole (so far) was worth putting on the list. (See full reviews for the books I’ve read so far here: book #1, book #2, book #3)

8. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the first of 2 ARCs on this list. This book was exactly what I wanted it to be, and considering that it seems like a majority of the ARCs I read this year were busts, I was happy to be able to give this suspenseful romance a higher rating. (See my full review here.)

7. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
This was another ARC and really surprised me. I loved the idea of reading a book about the advent of Christ from the perspective of the magi that visited Him not long after his birth. This is one that really stuck with me for a while after I read it (probably partly because it was the Christmas season and I saw & heard related things everywhere). (See my full review here.)

6. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I keep recommending this book to people. It was fun and engaging, and I know I will re-read it plenty of times in the future. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important to understand, in order to enjoy the book. Also, it’s billed as horror, but it’s not really scary, which doesn’t bother me personally, but may others. (See my full review here.)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir
I’d seen the movie years ago, and more recently a friend strongly suggested that I read the book too. I was so glad that I did, because for as good as the movie was, the book allowed me to feel even more connected to Whatney. Like my friend, I would really suggest that those who’ve seen the movie read the book too. (See my full review here.)

4. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
Another one where I’ve seen the movie, and didn’t even know it was a book until I happened to see it at a bargain store this summer. With some all-too-real situations and flawed characters, this book is brimming with emotion and depth. I’ll admit that the ending was maybe a bit too easy for the real world, but that’s what fiction is for. (See my full review here.)

3. Lock In by John Scalzi
This was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I remember seeing this book sitting around years ago when my husband was reading it. I thought at the time that I should probably read it, because it was in the same genre as my writing, and even had parallels to my world-building. But being sci-fi, I kinda thought it would be dry and technical (yes, I judged it with a very limited understanding of the literary sci-fi genre). When I finally did read it, I loved it! (See my full review here.)

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I actually knew nothing about this book or series before reading it. I’ve heard about it practically all my life, but mostly just in name, not with any kind of understanding of what it’s about. I fell in love pretty early in the book though, and by the end, I knew I had to read as much of this series as I could get my hands on, which I’ll be continuing with soon. (See my full review here.)

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had a lot to say about this book and author recently and don’t want to start repeating myself. This was definitely my favorite book from this year. It was really nice to get a fresh reminder of why Frank Peretti is my all-time favorite author. I’m already looking forward to the next time I read this book. (See my full review here.)

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

Christmas Book Haul

Because of the holidays, my reading has slowed way down this week. Normally I post a book review every Friday (and sometimes in between if I read more than 1 book in a week), but I don’t have any new reviews to post today. So instead, I thought I’d do a sort of follow-up post to Tuesday’s post of books that I hoped to receive for Christmas. I actually didn’t directly receive anything specifically listed there, but did get a couple of books, and thanks to cash-type gifts, I bought some more myself yesterday.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

My sister strongly recommended this series to me (amongst several other books/series), and I mentioned it to my daughter, who bought a paperback copy for my stocking.
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Though I normally wait to make sure I like the first book in a series before I buy any others in the series, I found a copy of book #2 at Half Price Books for $3, and my sister continued to extol the series (she was at the store too), so I went ahead and got the second one.

Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope
This was a gift from my husband. Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows, and I’ve seen the whole series many times. I’ve already thumbed through the book a little and can tell it’s going to be amazing.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Of the books I read this year, this was one of my favorites. I like owning copies of my favorites, so I was happy to find a paperback copy at Half Price Books for cheap. (See my review here.)

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
I was pretty excited when I spotted a copy of this on the clearance shelf at HPB for a couple bucks. It was written by the founder of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve heard a lot about it from people who use it for NaNoPrep. I’ve done NaNo for 10 years, and I think the book is meant more to help first-timers, or at least early-timers. I’m still glad to have it.

I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
We got an email with a $10 Kindle book credit from Amazon about 2 weeks ago. My husband insisted I wait to use it until after Christmas, and then I could buy something on my wish list that I didn’t get. This book was at the top of that list, and I can’t wait to start reading it!

Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
This was probably my favorite of the books I read this year. My husband and I have all but 2 of Peretti’s adult fiction books, and with this one, we’ll have all but 1. I’ve got a used hardcover copy of this coming from eBay for only a few dollars.  (See my review here.)

Have you read any of these? What books are you excited about recently acquiring?

November in Review

This will be a pretty quick post, since reading took a backseat to NaNoWriMo and other very important writing tasks. I finished 5 books last month and DNF’d one.

Here are the books I read in November:
The Martian by Andy Weir (4.5 / 5)
The Passengers by John Marrs (3 / 5)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (5 / 5)
The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters (2 / 5)
The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal (4.5 / 5)

I did not finish: Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon (mini-review pending)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from August was Anne of Green Gables. I finished 0 series, continued 0 series, and started 1 series. My ever-changing 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, if anyone is interested in that. 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: The Martian

The Martian
by Andy Weir

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi drama, suspense

Martian

Following a dust storm that forced an evacuation from the surface of Mars, astronaut Mark Whatney is left behind, presumed dead. But he’s very much alive, and must now figure out how to survive alone on Mars while back on Earth, they work on how to bring him home.

I watched this movie a few years ago (as research for a mini escape room I helped build), and I really liked it. The book is even better! Whatney is resourceful and determined. The repertoire between him and the rest of his team is fun and touching. The determination of those back on Earth to do whatever they can to help him survive is really interesting too.

The book has a lot of explanation about the different sides of what Whatney needs to survive. Ideas are thrown out and dismissed for better ones. It has such a real feel to it, as if it were any other modern space mission that went wrong. The genre is sci-fi, and it’s obviously a bit in the future, but the science isn’t far out there. It’s just a bit past what we have now.

The format of the book was interesting. Much of the narration comes from journal entries by Whatney, so it basically reads like 1st person. Then there is the 3rd person narration of what happens back on Earth. There are other formats, but explaining that would be a bit spoilery. I enjoyed feeling like Whatney was sharing his experience directly with us.

I watched the movie again a few days after finishing the book. I still think the movie is good, but like with many adaptations, they weren’t able to reach the depth of characterization that the book did. Plus, some harrowing moments and difficulties that Whatney faced were completely written out for the movie. Still, a good movie, and a great book!

Find out more about The Martian

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!