Taking one giant leap outside my comfort zone, I just finished The Martian ($5.99 Audiobook $2.99) by Andy Wier.
Unlucky Mark Watney: His crew left him for dead on Mars when forced to leave during a dust storm.
Lucky Mark Watney: He wasn’t dead.
Unlucky Mark Watney: He has no way to communicate with Earth and too few supplies to survive until the next crew arrives.
Lucky Mark Watney: He’s a resourceful guy.
Unlucky Mark Watney: Mars is an unforgiving planet.
Lucky Mark Watney: His dogged determination is up to the job of overcoming the adversity.
Entertaining and surprisingly light-hearted, Weir has made a sci-fi novel everyone can enjoy. At times the techy explanations were boring, but I pretended it was 7th-grade science class and tuned it out until it was over.
One negative was occasional strong curse words. Apparently being stranded on Mars is frustrating and these words happen.
I recommend The Martian for teen and adults, especially if you want to step outside your usual picks.
Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as “The Wolf,” his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance.
Boldly she challenges his will…until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. And suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering web…a seductive, dangerous trap of pride, passion, loyalty, and overwhelming love.
In this beloved classic by Judith McNaught, two defiant hearts clash in a furious battle of wills — in a glorious age of chivalry. Buy this romance today for $3.99.
Click here to purchase A Kingdom of Dreams
Fisher of Men ($9.99) and Casting the Net ($9.99) Published by Lion Fiction of England, these first two books in the Dunbridge Chronicles by Pam Rhodes are the continuing story of Neil Fisher, a seminary graduate beginning his ministry in the church at Dunbridge. Far from heavenly sunshine and showers of blessings, the novels portray the humanness of serving God in a diverse congregation while becoming a part of the community.
When the price drops on the third book in the series, If You Follow Me ($9.99), I’ll buy it.
Lisa Wingate has penned a wonderful starting-over tale in Larkspur Cove ($4.99). Told in two voices, the novel features crises of faith, heart-pounding suspense and a budding romance. It’s my favorite book in the Moses Lake series. The audiobook is a great listen, too.
Set in West Virginia in the 1950’s, Miracle in a Dry Season ($9.99) by Sarah Loudin Thomas follows the town of Wise during a drought. God works miracles by providing for the community and through His works of forgiveness. It’s a rocky road along the way for all the characters. Ms. Thomas debut novel is a great read.
A novelization of the popular movie, October Baby ($7.99) by Eric Wilson is a compelling story of a young woman seeking answers when her world is turned wrong-side-out by the news that she is an abortion survivor. An excellent read for teens and adults.
All books were purchased by me when priced less than $5 each.
Losers Like Us ($6.15) My favorite non-fiction book of the year – fresh, honest and funny. Daniel Hochhalter shares openly about his own life, in particular the moment when he failed at his life-long pursuit for a PhD. That humiliation drove him to the scriptures. In Losers Like Us, Hochhalter takes a chapter-by-chapter look at each of the 12 disciples. With entertaining writing rich with both detail and humor, he examines each man’s particular traits and how we can relate to them.
I enjoyed this book first of all for how I was able to learn about the 12 disciples as individuals and identify with them as never before. Most of all, I appreciated Hochhalter’s transparency and found inspiration.
The Insanity of God ($2.99) An incredibly powerful look at how God is at work around the world, told through a very personal lens of a missionary who has walked through the darkest parts of the earth. Nik Ripken (not his real name) shares about trying to serve in Somalia, then the second half of the book covers persecuted Christians. This book changed the way I listen to the news and perceive my own struggles. It’s just $2.99.
Victim of Grace ($7.99) Perspective changes everything. Popular author Robin Jones Gunn shares insights from the Bible and her own testimony in this light, uplifting book that shows circumstances are not always what they seem.
Believing God ($11.99) I’ve completed several Beth Moore Bible studies, but had never read one of her books straight through until this one. Believing God examines the life of Joshua and with Moore’s wit and thorough research is a practical, inspiring book.
Personally, reading is usually more of a pleasure than a challenge, but it seems there are some people who only enjoy something if they can make it work. And some of these people have created a reading challenge for 2015.
This list challenges readers to tackle 50 different types of books this year.
Some of the challenges are a little strange – such as “a book with antonyms in the title.” Other suggestions are a fun way to add a little variety to your reading diet – a book written by someone under 30, a book of short stories.
Here are some other challenges and some cheap reads to help you meet them:
Book originally written in a foreign language: Don Quixote – $1.99
A book more than 100 years old – Sense and Sensibility – 99 cents
A popular author’s first book – John Grisham’s A Time to Kill – $2.99
Speaking of meeting a challenge, I (Susan) achieved my Goodreads goal for 2014 by finishing 65 books. Technicallly, I was an overachiever because I read 66. I also counted a collection of three novellas as three separate books. Is that legal? I’m never quite sure how to do that.
One of the books I really enjoyed while in the crunch was My Heart Remembers, selling now for $3.99.
Description: Orphaned in a tenement fire, three Irish-immigrant children are sent to Missouri to be adopted. Despite eight-year-old Maelle’s desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. Yet Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for her brother and sister…and that they will be together one day in the future.
Seventeen years later, Maelle is still searching. But the years have washed away her hope… and her memories. What are Mattie and Molly doing now? Where has life taken them? Will she ever see her brother and sister again? Inspirational fiction.
Cheap Reads – Contemporary women’s fiction for only 99 cents each
NOTE: HarperCollins lowered prices yesterday and raised most back overnight. These prices may not hold for long.
Bed Rest (99 cents) The story of a busy career woman who finds her pregnancy a breeze — until she’s ordered off her feet for complete and total bed rest.
This Is How It Happened (99 cents) He lied, he cheated. He destroyed her life. How difficult could killing him be?
Alphabet Weekends (99 cents) Natalie and Tom have been best friends forever, but Tom wants them to be much more.
Susan’s Non-Fiction Picks of 2014
This year, I set a new goal: To read one non-fiction book every month. So far, I’ve completed 15 non-fiction titles, so I’m calling it a success, even though technically I didn’t finish a non-fiction book in June. For the other months of this year, it has been a worthwhile experiment with some great finds along the way.
Here are my top non-fiction picks from this year.
The Secret Life of Pronouns ($9.99) Fascinating! A social psychologist and language expert shows how analysis has found that the most important words we use are the smallest ones. It’s interesting material, told in an entertaining way that changed the way I (the most common word in the English language, BTW) look at and listen to words.
Lincoln’s Battle With God ($9.48) A thoroughly researched look at Abraham Lincoln’s journey from growing up in a strict religious household, to rejecting all religion as a young intellectual, then coming to grips with tragic loss and seeking God’s direction for the nation. Fresh, honest insight on a subject that never seems to get old.
In Broad Daylight This true crime classic tells about a small Missouri town being terrorized by a bully, the townspeople desperate action and the silence that has persisted for now 30 years. It’s just $3.99.
Lost in Shangri-La ($8.76) This non-fiction tale of a World War II rescue fell into my path because I thought it was a novel when I started out. Truth, as usual, turned out to be much more interesting than fiction. I was on the edge of my seat through this well-told story. Truly amazing.
No Easy Day ($7.99) I’m a little late to the party with this 2012 first-hand account of the Navy Seals capture of Bin Laden. Time has made the story no less intense and it is a gripping story.
Reading Goal Poll
Setting goals of what books or genre to read in the year is a fun way to expand your reading experience, maybe even try a category you don’t normally read. Susan set a goal of one non-fiction book a month. I set a goal of listening to six classics on audiobook. Take the goal poll below about your reading goal for 2014:
Cheap Reads – A bundle of romantic suspense novels for $2.99
Get all three romantic suspense novels in Lena Diaz’s Deadly Games Thrillers series in one e-book, including: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, Simon Says Die, and Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead. This bundle is selling for $2.99 today.
He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not—Four years ago, Amanda Stockton was forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game of chance. Since then, she has retreated from the world. But when another woman is found dead, clutching a long-stemmed red rose, Amanda knows she can hide no longer.
Simon Says Die—Madison McKinley knows someone is stalking her. The police tell her she’s imagining things, and they’re too busy trying to find the “Simon Says” killer to investigate. Not even the return of FBI Special Agent Pierce Buchanan into her life can calm her fears.
Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead—One by one the letters arrive at the FBI office in Savannah, Georgia. Inside, each bears a name—a victim of a twisted crime—and the singsong phrase Ashes, ashes, they all fall dead. Special Agent Tessa James becomes obsessed with finding the killer whose victims are crying out to her for justice.
Click here to purchase Deadly Games Thrillers
If you’re looking for a devotional for Advent season, The Experience of Christmas is an excellent choice.
The devotions are based on Scripture and interspersed with accounts from history and contemporary stories to give fresh perspective. I especially like how it explains how the traditions of Christmas point to Christ. Children need this lesson for the first time and I certainly need some refreshers in this busy season.
The readings for each day are easy enough for kids to understand, while also giving Christmas carols to sing, discussion questions they can comprehend, and activities that relate to each message.
It is available for $4.99 on Kindle.
Click here to purchase The Experience of Christmas
The Life List is a charming novel recommended to me by a friend.
With a little bit of chick lit tone, but sincere and lovable characters, it broke out of the mold with a fresh story.
Brett appears to be the young career woman who has it all. The book opens with her grieving her mother’s death. She expects to be named CEO of her mother’s cosmetic corporation. But the will has an unusual
stipulation. Brett’s mother had saved her seventh grade list of dreams – the life list – and instructs Brett to complete all the unfinished tasks.
The adolescent dreams – like owning a horse – seem ridiculous to Brett. And others, like having a good relationship with her late father, seem impossible. As she achieves each one, her mom’s lawyer reads a note that her mother had written before her death. In the process, Brett discovers not only that her mom knew her better than she knew herself, but that her seventh-grade self also had some wonderful dreams.
The Life List had terrific character development and the plot unfolded nice and slowly, but with enough unpredictable developments to keep me guessing.
The book was on sale this summer and is now back up to full price at $9.02. Audiobook: $3.99.
Click here to purchase The Life List
DragonKin ($2.99) , the sequel to Dragons of Wendal ($2.99) by Maria E. Schneider, a light fantasy with some romantic elements. Think, cozy mystery with dragons and you’ll be closer to the mark. This is the story of Drissa who happens to be in hiding and has the bad luck to stumble upon some nefarious goings-on while she is trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
So, Drissa is on the run and hiding but finds someone who needs her help to help someone else…and against her will she gets snared into someone else’s struggle and, well, I can’t give you more or I’ll spoil it. Just know that the story keeps on moving and is full of fun and interesting characters (many of which I’d definitely like to read more about-hint, hint) and has a fast-moving plot that keeps you turning those pages until it the very end.
If you liked Dragons of Wendal you will definitely like this. If you haven’t tried the first book, what the heck are you waiting for? This one is on my five star reads list for 2014.
April is an avid reader. In an alternate reality she is a young dragon just learning to fly. You can find her on Goodreads here.
It has to be a dog. No offense to cat lovers, but if a pet is going to tell Denny Swift’s story, only a dog could do it. The Art of Racing in the Rain ($5.99 Audiobook $6.99) by Garth Stein is a novel told in the dog’s voice.
Enzo starts the story with “Gestures are all I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature.” Throughout the book I visualized his expressions and actions as he tells us about the interloper Eve, Baby Zoe, watching television, the Evil Twins and the ride of his life in the Aston Martin DB5.
Enzo became my personal friend with all the latest on the Swift family. He told their story, not as a gossip, but with his own unique insight. He loved them for who they were, not for what they should have been.
At the beginning Enzo explains that he is old and ready to go on. Much of the story was predictable. I knew what was going to happen to Eve and the situation with Annika was telegraphed from the get-go. But that didn’t diminish the book for me as I wanted to know how Enzo would tell it.
Mr. Stien’s style drew me into the story, almost making me feel as a member of the extended family. I knew enough to form attachments and to dislike the evil people. It was well-paced but there were parts I didn’t understand, such as the zebra incident. Enzo’s explanation late in the story was helpful, but it was still odd.
If you have a dog who is considered a member of the family, this book may scare you if you give much thought to the story your dog could write. My husband and I are pet-free and feel safe – unless the walls start talking.
What are your overall thoughts about the book? Did the dog telling the story work for you? Was the book depressing? Did you like the car racing theme running throughout the book?
In a week or two, we’ll spend time discussing Enzo’s philosophies of life.