Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Reads

I got a lot of reading done this month. The fact that I went on a long car trip at the beginning of the month and that I was sick and not feeling up to much else for another part of the month might have helped a bit.

My first read of the new year was this book that my sister loaned me when we went to visit. Did you know Patrick Henry's wife was insane and they locked her in the basement? True story. Or Give Me Death is historical fiction (recommended for ages 10 and up, 240 pages) which takes place in colonial America and centers around Patrick Henry's family, specifically around his wife's descent into madness and the turmoil it causes the family as told from the perspective of two of his daughters. As with all historical fiction, some of the narrative is fact and some is artistic license taken by the author. It's helpful to read the author's notes to get things straight. It isn't my favorite historical fiction ever, but it was an easy, intriguing and compelling read and overall I really liked it.

The Maze Runner by James Dasher

I read an online review of this book last year some time and have wanted to read it ever since. I bought it for Stretch for his birthday back in November and got around to reading it this month. It is a dystopian young adult novel (recommended for ages 12 and up, 384 pages) kind of reminiscent of The Hunger Games trilogy but different enough for me to not be comparing the two the whole time I was reading. Thomas, the protagonist, wakes up with only patchy memories of his past life in the real world. He finds himself kind of dumped into this society of boys living in the center of a giant maze. Every day is devoted to making the society function and, more importantly, to solving the maze. Meanwhile he is trying to remember his past to make sense of all the stuff he has to deal with. Think Lord of the Flies meets Ender's Game (two books which the author said influenced this story), only not as good as either. The writing is okay--not awesome, but not so bad as to deter me from reading it. There were parts that made it hard for me to suspend my disbelief but overall I was sucked in by the plot and enjoyed the book. Maybe my biggest complaint was that I had a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the book. I realize that the author did this intentionally. It is the first of a series after all, but I guess I was hoping for a little more closure than I got.

The Scorch Trials by James Dasher

The sequel to The Maze Runner (384 pages). Stretch got this one for Christmas (Have you noticed that I like reading the same books as my thirteen year old son? Well, I do.). I didn't really like this one as much as the first one. It was more graphically violent, I didn't like the whole love triangle?quadrangle? (square?) that was thrown into the mix and the author's attempts at introducing more psychological elements into the story seemed kind of contrived. I felt a little frustrated by it and kept mentally asking the author what his point was during certain scenes. The ending was just as bad as the first novel's but of course I feel compelled to keep reading and finish the series. I'm hoping the last book offers more answers and ties up some of the loose ends that are bugging me. If the final installment is good enough, it may redeem this book a little in my eyes.

We love Brandon Mull at our house. He has a lot of wit and I really enjoy his writing style.This is the first book in a fantasy series intended for young adult readers (probably about ages 11 and up, 496 pages). None of the other books have been released yet but I'm looking forward to reading them when they are. Stretch bought this book with his own money and enjoyed it so much that he brought it to me and offered to let me read it. Love that kid.

Jason and Rachel, age 13, are teens sucked into another world (Lyrian) from our world. They go on an epic quest to find a magic word that will defeat an evil, dictatorial wizard named Maldor and find themselves becoming heroes in the process. It's a fun, adventuresome read with great characters, an interesting setting, some fun humorous moments, a good plot and lots of loose ends. I really enjoyed the book though, so I'm trying to just be patient and wait for the next one to come out without being too annoyed by the ending.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I've had this on my list for awhile now, so when it was chosen as the read for February's book club meeting I couldn't wait to jump in. I love C.S. Lewis and this book was no exception. The Great Divorce (160 pages) is an allegorical story of some of the residents of Hell/Purgatory, their field-trip to Heaven, their opportunity to stay (though it is initially a painful place to be) and the choices (and rationalizations for their behaviors) that many of them make which send them back to where they came from. It is full of the characteristic wisdom and doctrinal insight that make Lewis such a respected and loved Christian writer. I'm looking forward to discussing it with the other ladies in a few weeks.

So, it looks like I'm off to a good start to reach my goal of reading 40 books in 2012. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Have you read anything else good lately? Tell me in the comments.


Samuel James Dunn, Esq. said...

I read the first Fablehaven book over Thanksgiving and was thoroughly taken in. I haven't yet read anything else by Brandon Mull, but your recommendation here makes me want to go read more of his stuff. Now if only I had the time to do so.

Kylie said...

Mike and I read the Great Divorce together when we were dating. I thoroughly enjoyed the insight and introspection it gave me. CS Lewis is one of Mike's favorite authors so - should you need any more Lewis books we have quite the collection.
And should you need more YA fiction... well that's my genre of choice :D If you have not read Brandon Sanderson's books yet I fully recommend them! He's another LDS author who writes YA and Adult fantasy. His goal was to write fantasy appropriate for Junior High/ High School age and I think he did a fantastic job. His Alcatraz series is whimsical and is for a slightly younger audience while his NYT Bestseller Mistborn books are for a slightly older crowd. I have them all and love to lend!

Danielle Nolan said...

Can't wait to hear what you think of the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy -- I was disappointed. :/ Apparently trilogies are the "new thing," because I'm in the middle of yet another one -- Matched/Crossed/Book 3 to be released this fall by Ally Condie. I have a bookshelf of books waiting to be read, but I only get the chance for a bit in the afternoon if Sam and Ethan nap at the same time, and I've been trying to use that time for some real scripture study, not just the couple of verses I've been passing off as "study" in the past. :) I've been wanting to check out Brandon Mull on your recommendation for awhile, so I guess he'll move to the top of my list! :)

Predilections said...

I'm currently reading an Ally Condie book myself (Freshman for President). I've heard good things about Matched and Crossed so I may have to see if someone has those so that I can borrow them.

Predilections said...

I've heard of Brandon Sanderson but couldn't place where at first since I'm not familiar with any of the books you mentioned. I started wondering if he was in some of my writing classes at BYU (he might have been) but when I googled him, it came back to me--Wheel of Time (he took over after Robert Jordan died). My husband has been a fan of those books but they have seemed like such a huge undertaking that I've never wanted to even try any of them. I think I may have to put the ones you mentioned on my to-read list though. I'll give you a shout when I'm ready to borrow them. ;)

Predilections said...

I know grad students don't get much time off but maybe you can squeeze in some leisure reading during your next school break. President's Day? If not, the books will still be waiting for you when you are all finished with school in a bajillion years. ;)

Samuel James Dunn, Esq. said...

He also teaches Creative Writing at BYU. You might know him from that, too.

Samuel James Dunn, Esq. said...

I certainly hope I don't have to wait that long. :]

Misty said...

I can't wait to read the Great Divorce!!! I felt the same about the Maze Runner/Scorch Trials. Haven't read the third yet either. Reading Hotel on the corner of Bitter and Sweet for BC this month.

Misty said...

READ THEM :) I really like the world she creates although Crossed leaves you hanging like maybe wait until the third is closer to release.

Kylie said...

Yes - the Wheel of Time is quite the undertaking. I've been reading them since there were only 5 books. I gave up on the series and sold all 10 that I had back in 2006. Then they announced that Brandon Sanderson was finishing it and I was sucked back in. Happily Mike was also a Wheel of Time fan and he had all the books that I had sold. I would say - only start them if you are an epic fantasy fan (books 6-10 are SLOW going so you really have to be a fan to get through them :D) and wait until the final book is out before even thinking about them. Again... should you (or your husband) need to borrow any - we have that whole series too... :D

mctrovato said...

Just put Or Give Me Death on hold at the library - thank you so much for the recommendation. We are history fanatics - have you seen the John Adams miniseries? Incredible. And the devotional Battlefields and Blessings - Revolutionary War is amazing as well.

I'm currently reading the classic "My Antonia" by Willa Cather - not that far into but am swooning over it so far. So many great reads... so little time!

Thanks again for fantastic recommendations.

Predilections said...

Hooray! I'd love to hear what you think of "Or Give Me Death" after you read it.
I got the John Adams miniseries from my library a couple of months ago and loved it. Excellent!
I'll have to try "My Antonia" again. It was an assignment in college during a semester when I was reading TONS already and it just got a very quick skimming. I honestly don't remember much about it. Thank YOU for the reminder/recommendation! :)

Predilections said...

I was in a book club that read "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" a couple of months ago but I wasn't able to read the book or attend. How are you liking it? Is it worth putting on my to-read list?