I’m almost through! I have 5 books to go before I have completed this challenge. I have 2 of them in my house, so it really just depends on how quickly I can get the last 3. I won’t finish this challenge by the end of the year, but I might be able to finish it by the end of January. I’m so excited!
THE WILLOUGHBY’S by LOIS LOWRY
(suggested by Calista Kern-Lyons, “unknown by a famous author”)
This is the shortest book in my challenge so far… I picked it up from the library at lunch and read it in the space of about 3 hours after work! And it was a surprising delight. Not surprising because of the author, because I absolutely adore The Giver and its sequels, and I remember liking Number the Stars when I read it years ago. I was just a little startled by the callousness of the characters in the opening few chapters, and I had a hard time liking the children. Obviously you’re not supposed to like the parents because they are horrid, but I think Tim bossing the others and being so rude to Jane kept getting on my nerves because he was supposed to be the leader of the protagonists.
But as the story progressed, and the constant parodying of classic orphan stories began and the tongue-in-cheek comedy and over-the-top storyline kept making me giggle, and as Nanny came in and made things a great deal better, I very much enjoyed the charm of this story. I loved every time they brought up a classic kids book that I have read, and I laughed out loud at a few points just from the silliness (the quote below was the first one I remember). The author did a good job of keeping the various plots progressing and connecting in such a short amount of time, and the story was quite satisfactory all the way around. It turned out to be quite fun. Note: Don’t forget to read the Glossary in the back of the book, because she had fun writing that up too.
Tim said, “Perfect. You are camouflaged as a cactus. Place yourself in a corner of the dining room, and when the doorbell rings, announcing the prospective buyer, assume your pose. Choose a place by a sunny window. Cacti prefer sun.”
“What if someone tries to water me or test my prickers?” Barnaby A asked in a muffled voice.
“They won’t,” replied Tim. “I am setting up a notice that says: STAY AWAY. THIS HIGHLY POISONOUS CACTUS EMITS TOXIC FUMES.”
MRS. PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by RANSOM RIGGS
(suggested by Kathy Knapp, “something unusual”)
I watched the movie for this when it first came out in theaters and Kathy recommended this book to me then, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until now. I also didn’t recall too much of the specific details of the plot, so a lot of it was still pretty new to me while reading it.
It’s hard to judge just the first book of a series since I like to read the whole thing before coming to a conclusion, but this was certainly a good start and is making me want to complete the stories. It’s got a fascinating dark feel to it, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the “kind of strange old-fashioned photos in the time when children didn’t smile”, I think it works great as a springboard for a story about peculiarly powered children. I think it gets that atmosphere just right.
I’m a bit torn on this one, because while it does hold my interest and I’m certainly gonna read the rest of the series, it also follows some basic tropes and storylines that I’ve read in a bunch of other books; the misunderstood child, the discovery of another world, realizing that he is more than he seems, the romance, the adult authority figure, monsters trying to destroy everything, etc. I think I haven’t had enough time to really fall in love with any of the characters yet. They’re all quite fine, and I think Peregrine is cool, but I haven’t been compelled emotionally by anyone. But that could just be from inundation of the genre. I like the birds, and I’m intrigued by the world, and I think it could be really interesting to delve more into it. This was just a quick taste. I should probably write another review on here when I complete the series, but my current review will be that it isn’t amazing so far but it has good potential.
UPDATED REVIEW: I have caught up on all 5 of the books that are out. As I read through it, I definitely have enjoyed it and have come to like the characters more, and I think a lot of the things they’ve done have been quite creative. But I have also been disappointed with some of the directions the story has gone. I remember one book ended in a way that I loved, and I got so excited for what it was going to do in the next book, and then they totally just disintegrated that storyline and I was indignant. The books feel a little long and a little complicated, and I don’t know if I think the overall story is particularly cohesive. The biggest thing I want Ransom to fix is the relationship between Jacob and his parents; he kept putting in the struggle that Jacob was having with it and then just kind of tossing it aside, so if he can finish the series and redeem that in the process, that’s the main thing I want to see happen. And I do think he needs to finish the series soon. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it!
“On Tuesday night, most of what I thought I understood about myself had turned out to be wrong. On Sunday morning, my dad and I were supposed to pack our things and go home. I had just a few days to decide what to do. Stay or go—neither option seemed good. How could I possibly stay here and leave behind everything I’d known? But after all I’d learned, how could I go home?…
“Joining the peculiar children would also mean I wouldn’t finish high school or college or do any of the normal growing-up things people do. Then again, I had to keep reminding myself, I wasn’t normal; and as long as hollows were hunting me, any life lived outside the loop would almost certainly be cut short. I’d spend the rest of my days living in fear, looking over my shoulder, tormented by nightmares, waiting for them to finally come back and punch my ticket. That sounded a lot worse than missing college.”
AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING by HANK GREEN
(suggested by Micah Megill, “modern fiction”)
(Very late review so I might be missing stuff.) This book was unique and fascinating! I have to agree that its title is fitting. I was intrigued by the book right off the bat and it kept me going all the way through the story; it was very compelling. I kept trying to guess what genre it was going for and I was, for the most part, quite pleased with how it turned out (although pleased is probably not the right word). Aside from the general creative mystery of the story, it was also an intense look at the whole “instant fame” thing and how that completely changes your life and how your perspective shifts. The main character was well-done but often very frustrating; self-destructive tendencies in characters don’t always gel with me, but she still felt real, which was good. I didn’t realize that there was supposed to be a sequel to this, but it makes me glad that I have that to look forward to. This review felt overly vague, but I didn’t want to spoil anything. Basically I don’t know if I would say this book is one I love, but I think it was amazing!
“This dumb little moment was the first time I heard a stranger hating me in public. I knew then, for real, that thousands of people were having that exact conversation all over the world every moment of every day. Those people were real, and their thoughts were formed by overblown or just straight made-up stories about me that I could never adequately defend myself against.
People all over the world whom I had never met and would never meet hated me. Hated. And what they thought about me was completely out of my control.”
OPEN SEASON by CJ BOX, a JOE PICKET NOVEL
(suggested by Julia Jones, “character story”)
I have this bad habit of doing late reviews of my books, but I will hopefully be able to give an accurate one for this book. I’ve never read any Joe Picket novels, and apparently this is a series that follows him as a character, which I can definitely see. His being a game warden is a slightly different setting than his being a detective or a western sheriff, but it has a similar potential for mystery and character growth. I liked Joe; he’s smart and clever, noble and honest, but he’s also very cautious with what he knows and is one to tread carefully rather than rushing into things, gun blazing. I also kind of liked the opening scene with his embarrassing blunder, because it made him feel more like a real person. And I liked seeing him with his family. Although I don’t remember all the details of the plot now that it’s been a few months, I remember that it was an interesting story and a quick read. It even got a little intense sometimes when his daughter started getting involved. I don’t think it’ll be a series I need to read a lot of, but I would happily pick up another one occasionally and get to know Joe Picket some more.
After they had caught up… Joe asked him if he could send him a sample for an independent analysis.
“Where was it found?”
“And my Wyoming colleagues can’t decide what squeezed it out?”
“There’s some dispute,” Joe hedged. He didn’t want to go into the story of the lost sample. There wasn’t any need to.
“Sounds like you’re challenging me,” Dave said…
“I am,” Joe said, forcing a laugh. Dave agreed to take a look at it, whatever it was, and to keep both the sample and the results in confidence.
Joe sat back in his swivel chair. He thought about what the woman at the lab had told him. He wondered how he could go about finding out who she was and if he even could. He believed she had told him the truth about the missing sample. He wished she hadn’t, because things had suddenly become a lot more complicated.
BONHOEFFER: PASTOR, MARTYR, PROPHET, SPY by ERIC METAXAS
(suggested by Travis Bryant, “non-fiction”)
This book took me 3 months to finish because it was huge, but it was quite good. I knew, like, NOTHING about Bonhoeffer as a person, so this was a complete introduction to him, which was quite in-depth. I’ve not read a lot of biographies, but this was definitely a great person to read about. From his theological stances and sermons, to his early-on observations about where the German cultural attitude was heading and his influence to try and stop it, to his pushing for the church to stand against the anti-Semitism, to his practical wisdom and relationships with the orderlies he discipled, and all the way through his involvement in the conspiracy… it was a great inside look at the German church during the 1930’s-1940’s. I loved learning about how Bonhoeffer was so influential in Germany and in other countries as far as trying to move the church into action and knowledge of all the terror that was going on and what it was leading to. It sounds like he was quite the character, someone who everyone loved and respected and was bold enough to command attention. There was a lot of the politics and the theological arguments that I didn’t understand, but I followed enough that it was quite interesting. The hardest part was understanding how subtle and slow some of that might have been, and how you can see how the church, if not vigilant and discerning, could have passively let things creep by. Hindsight is 20/20 (haha) and after all the atrocities that went on, we can look back and think “how did people in the church stand for all of that?”, and from here you can see that there WERE resisters and influencers, but you also get how factors like patriotism, fear, ignorance, and passivity determine how a normal person chooses to respond in the midst of chaos and confusion.
Anyway, it was very long and quite hefty content, but with my limited understanding of anything in that time, I feel like I understood things pretty well and it was definitely an informative read that I am glad I completed.
“Everyone threw out his arm in the Nazi salute and burst into “Deutschland uber Alles” and then the “Horst Wessel Song”. It was a pandemonium of patriotism, and Bonhoeffer and Bethge were pinned like beetles. At least Bethge was. Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, seemed to be a part of it. Bethge was flabbergasted: along with everyone else, his friend stood up and threw out his arm in the “Heil, Hitler!” salute. As Bethge stood there gawking, Bonhoeffer whispered to him: “Are you crazy? Raise your arm! We’ll have to run risks for many different things, but this silly salute is not one of them!”…
It was then, Bethge realized, that Bonhoeffer crossed a line. He was behaving conspiratorially. He didn’t want to be thought of as an objector. He wanted to blend in. He didn’t want to make an anti-Hitler statement, he had bigger fish to fry. He wanted to be left alone to do the things he knew God was calling him to do, and these things required him to remain unnoticed. … He had crossed from “confession” to “resistance”.”