Category Archives: Book recommendation

Class suggested reading list

I am an adjunct at a nearby college and I usually teach 60-80 students. Trying to learn everyone’s name is difficult, but something I try to do. I find it works to make a seating chart (since everyone sits in the same seat). To strike up a conversation with everyone, I ask them to recommend a book to me. It serves two purposes – it’s a good conversation starter because nearly everyone can come up with a book, and I get new books for my TBR list. All good.

So, here’s the book recommendations from my fall geography class. All links go to my reviews (if I have one).

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Best and Worst of 2018

I finally finished writing up 2018’s books, so it’s time to look back on the best and worst of the year. I’m going to list all the reviews I tagged as “highly recommended” and put them in a bit of logical order. Apparently I didn’t love any fiction books this year, but I only didn’t finish one book this year so it evens out. Links go back to my original review.

Short fiction:

The Tea Dragon Society is a short graphic novel. The images and the story are both sweet and gentle and I want a tea dragon for myself.

The Smoke Job was a fun short story about a dragon thief and a vampire trying to trap the dragon.

All the Colors You Thought Were Kings is another short story, but this time about space opera and an assassination attempt. It’s available free online, so if you’re into space opera, you should check it out.

Tattoo is a novella whose premise is your life is tattooed on your body. When someone shows up without tattoos, she forms the start of a new religion. A quick read that sticks with you and makes you think what would show up in your tattoos.

Here’s the Deal is another novella. This one is a humorous retelling of Exodus (the book of the Bible), emphasis on the humor. Having grown up in a strongly Christian family and moved away from the faith, I loved the irreverent take on the Bible.

Middle grade or YA:

Thunderhead is the second book in the Arc of a Scythe series. I loved the first book (Scythe), and the second didn’t disappoint. We get some character growth and a major confrontation between the good guys and the bad guys. I can’t wait for the third book in the series to come out!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a fun middle grade romp through books and puzzles

Scifi/fantasy:

Skin Game is currently the last book in the Dresden Files. I love the whole series – the big battles, Dresden’s moral challenges, the side characters. Such a great urban fantasy series.

The Broken Earth trilogy duly deserved the Hugo awards three years in a row. I liked the first two slightly better than the last one, but I read them all in a month, which is high marks for me. It’s all about life in a geologically unstable Earth with some people who can control geological energy.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is my favorite Memoir of Lady Trent book so far. They journey to a Middle Eastern-equivalent country and add a bit of romance and archeology to the ongoing biology of dragons.

Didn’t finish:

The only book I didn’t finish was a book of short stories, Dancing After Hours, recommended by a friend that I just found boring and depressing. I don’t read to be depressed by humanity. There’s enough of that in real life.

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Weird Geography Picture Books

After having a chance to see the Terracotta Warriors in person earlier this year, I was looking for some books about them for the kids to read. Sadly, I couldn’t find too much in our local library system. The best I found for kids was a mention in a book about other oddities on Earth. While they didn’t really have much information about the Terracotta Warriors, the books are fascinating on their own.

First off, there’s the DK book What’s Weird on Earth, subtitled “our strange and wonderful world as you’ve never seen it before”. This book contains about 70 two-page spreads split into nature, supernatural, places, people, history, and fun facts. All but the fun facts section shows a map of the world with interesting locations around the world that fit the page’s theme picked out and described. I can pretty much guarantee there’s a page on here that interests anyone. When Miss Adventure was reading it in the car, I had to limit her to two bits of information per page, or she would have read the entire book to me. Definitely a must read for any map fiend, but not really intended to be read cover to cover in a single sitting.

The other book I’m highlighting today is Curious Constructions: A Peculiar Portfolio of Fifty Fascinating Structures by Michael Hearst. Hearst describes fifty different impressive structures. Most of the are manmade (like the Millau Viaduct or the International Space Station) but also includes a few natural phenomena (like the Great Barrier Reef). For each construction, there’s a page of information, often with some true or false questions or fun facts, and the facing page is an illustration. This book involves more reading than the previous book since there is a page of text on each construction. Even so, there will be many interruptions to share little tidbits of “Did you know…?”

Both of these books would make a fun addition to a child’s library if they’re into construction, maps, or nonfiction books.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Best and Worst of 2017

One last post to look back on 2017 and I’ll be ready to post new book reviews. Let’s start with my favorite books of the year. I’ll group them by genre to give them a bit of focus and link to my original review:

Fiction:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a book club choice and a reread for me. I loved it just as much the second time as I did the first. Beware the epistolary nature of the book.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’m a sucker for books about bookstores, and this book didn’t disappoint.

Science fiction/fantasy:

The Three-Body Problem was some hard science fiction set in China that dealt with first contact with aliens. That reminds me – I want to finish that series this year as well.

Norse Mythology was a beautiful retelling of the Norse myths just begging to be read aloud or consumed via audiobook.

Station Eleven was a lovely addition to the post-apocalyptic oeuvre. Almost everyone has died of a virus, but we still need entertainment. We follow a traveling theater group around on their wanderings.

YA:

Scythe was set in a world where death had been conquered, but people still needed to die. A job was created to kill a portion of humanity on a regular basis, and what happens when you give people that kind of power? The next book in the series is coming out this year, and I need to pick that one up as well, for me and Mr. Curiosity.

I devoured Carry On and then made Mr. Curiosity read it. Miss Adventure has even read it several times. A slightly more mature version of Harry Potter that I didn’t get annoyed at the adults as much when reading.

Middle grade:

Tuesdays at the Castle was a fun read about a young girl that had to save her royal family, with the help of a half-sentient castle.

Wonder was just as good as I’ve heard, and made me cry while I was reading it to my kids. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Stella by Starlight was a beautiful description of how racism can affect black families, while still being hopeful so it’s perfect for tweens.

The Hammer of Thor was the second book in the Magnus Chase series that focuses on Norse mythology. The third book came out at the end of the year without me realizing it, so I’ll be finishing that series this year as well.

Graphic novel:

Ghosts was a story about not being afraid, while adding diversity to graphic novels with a character with a chronic disease (cystic fibrosis) and a celebration of the Day of the Dead. Perhaps something to read after watching Coco.

March: Book One, Two and Three. This is a bit of a cop-out since I read the first book the previous year, but I love the whole series. If you want to read about the Civil Rights movement and are too old for Stella by Starlight, read this graphic novel series.

And now for the worst books of the year. Again, I did pretty well and only had three books I didn’t finish:

A Light Between Oceans was a book club choice and I just couldn’t get into it. I even read 150 pages (when I usually only give 50) and I just didn’t care to finish. I’m not even sure why I didn’t like the book because on the surface, it seemed right up my alley.

Sleipnir was boring military fiction, which I didn’t think was possible to write. The author probably tried to be too realistic for the soldiering since it was a lot of standing around doing nothing.

Bridget Jones’ Diary was a bit too much in the lines of a woman’s magazine, focusing on losing weight and getting a man. Not my cup of tea at all.

Overall, not a bad reading year. I’m hoping I can find more good stuff to read this year!

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What I Will Be Reading #35: Diversity for the Kids

I’ve got a variety of middle grade and YA books to add to my kids’ reading lists. Quite a few are specifically diverse voices for something a little different.

I’ll start off with a big collection of graphic novels provided by CommonSense Media. We’ve read most of the books up through about the 9+ age group, and this list recommends all the way to 16+, so there’s plenty of books for us to grow into, like Foiled or Boxers & Saints.

For some diversity and more words than graphic novels, I’ve got a few options for the kids. Who am I kidding – I want to read most of these as well. They may end up being read alouds, so we can all read the book at the same time.

The first book came from a GeekDad post on cultural diversity is The Gauntlet by Karuna Riaza. It’s a newly published book (March, 2017) that was described as steampunk Jumanji. Sounds like a fun read to me.

My mother-in-law brought my attention to the next book – Refugee by Alan Gratz. Interestingly, The Hub ran a post on immigrants and refugees the next week that recommended this book. This is the story of three refugees, one from Nazi Germany, one from Castro’s Cuba, and one from modern-day Syria. It’s written for a slightly younger audience than most of the YA literature about refugees, so it should still be appropriate for Miss Adventure.

The Hub also brought my attention to Kwame Alexander’s new book – Solo. It is his typical book in verse, although the main character is a bit older than we saw in Booked or The Crossover. Apparently, it makes a great audiobook that Alexander reads himself. I’ve read the other books to the kids. Maybe, we all need to listen to the author read it.

One last book, and this one from Modern Mrs. Darcy. She had a post on diverse books/own voices as a category in her reading challenge for the year. I just glanced through the list, since I’m not looking for anything specific to read. However, I happened to see the description to Out of My Mind by Susan Draper. What caught my eye was the fact that her kids pushed her to read the book, and it was perfect for people who loved Wonder. That is a perfect recommendation for us!

And those are the books I’m adding to my kids’ reading lists. Anything strike your fancy? Anything else to recommend?

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Recommended Science books

I like to read science nonfiction books – they feed my inner scientist. Sometimes it’s hard to pick out the really interesting books from the “you’ll only love it if you’re already a fan of the topic.” Today, I thought I’d put together a post of some of my favorite science books. All these books fall into the “fascinating” category. Be careful  – you’ll want to share random bits of information with your nearest friends and relatives.

If you click on the title, you’ll be taken to my original review. If you click on the cover photo, you’ll be taken to an Amazon page where you can buy the book yourself (and thanks for supporting my blog!).

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

Here’s your first book full of tidbits. In this case, it’s all about the periodic table of the elements. You get everything from how the periodic table was put together to the discovery of elements, both natural and synthetic. My favorite part was discussing the origin of element names.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

I like pretty much every book Mary Roach has written. In this case, she’s writing about long-term stays in space. This is even more appropriate now since there are several organizations working on sending people to Mars. A trip to Mars will involve a new series of issues, and Roach discusses many of those issues in this book. She’s not afraid to discuss any bodily function, either, so don’t be surprised by the topics covered!

A Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

Let’s bring the books back to Earth, but still stay timely. This is the oldest book in the list, and it was inspired by the anthrax attacks in 2001. The book is all about smallpox. While smallpox has been eradicated from the wild, it still exists in at least a couple of labs and could be used to create a biological weapon if the wrong group gets a hold of it.

Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson

This is my submission for the single topic science book. You know what you’re going to get when you pick up the book – it’s all about feathers. However, the author does a great job of alternating between how birds and humans use feathers. There’s also a bit on the evolution of feathers, that probably needs an update by now, but is still interesting.

Anything sound good to you? Anything you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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What I Will Be Reading #29: Kid’s Edition

This edition of What I Will Be Reading would be more accurately described as What My Kids Will Be Reading. I’ve seen a bunch of posts of books that look like something my kids would enjoy, so I’m putting together a list for them, instead of me. Might as well get them their own “To Read” lists, right!

Let’s start with Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fedler. This a true survival story about a kid who got lost in the woods in Maine in the 1930s and how he survived his ordeal. I wasn’t aware of this book until I saw a post by The Scraped Up Kid (incidentally, a great blog about getting outside and enjoying yourself at any age, focusing on Maine trails). This book is right up our alley, and I plan to read it aloud to the kids. The story is told by Donn Fedler, who was the kid who got lost, right after his experience. If you’d prefer, there’s a graphic novel version of the story that looks awesome, but isn’t available from our library, Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness, also by Donn Fedler.

Next up is Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust by Jennifer Roy. This book was brought to my attention by A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page (which daily provides women and girls who have done impressive things and books featuring strong female characters). Again, I had never heard about Irena Sendlar and her actions during WWII, so I decided to investigate. Jars of Hope is a picture book (but with a fair amount of text on each page) that A Mighty Girl recommends for ages 7-11. If you have an older child, or want more details after reading the Jars of Hope, try Irena’s Children: Young Readers Edition; A True Story of Courage by Mary Cronk Farrell that is recommended for ages 13+.

And finally, I’m going to recommend a fiction book, Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. This is the first book in a new series. The plot of the book is based around the Book Scavenger game. There are books hidden in various cities, and you get puzzles and clues to try to find the books first. It sounded to me like a book version of 39 Clues for a slightly older audience (since the book is almost 400 pages). Mr. Curiosity read the book and enjoyed the puzzles.

Finally, if you’re looking for more suggestions for kids, I recommend you listen to this week’s episodes of What Should I Read Next by The Modern Mrs. Darcy. Miss Adventure got about seven new books for her reading list by listening to the end of Episode 49: How to help kids fall in love with reading (with Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival). That podcast does dangerous things to my reading list in general.

And those are the books I’m recommending my kids should read. Anything else I should add to the list?

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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