Be sure to catch these gripping tales

Young woman reading in grass


Oh, do I have a few books to share with you today! Lately, I've been on a reading frenzy, trying to keep up with my Goodreads challenge for the year.  For the most part, I've kept a steady stride averaging about 10 books a month. Unlike last year, though, I don't think I'll manage to read the 130 books I challenged myself to. 

But with these most recent, I've been lucky that they've turned out to be not only engaging but really good. There are times I'll read a succession of ho-hummers that end up taking the joy out of my usually favorite pasttime. So why would I even finish them? It's just the way I'm wired. It's rare for me to toss a book onto my Did Not Finish pile. It's gotta be pretty bad.

Every one of these three books were page-turners.

First up is one of my infrequent non-fiction reads, In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides. In 1879, a really rich man funds a polar voyage in search of a Northwest Passage. (To the unfamiliar the Northwest Passage was a popular theory of an open sea flowing above the arctic ice, where ships could sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific instead of navigating around the tip of South America. Today, that's laughable, but seamen in the 19th century were absolutely obsessed with finding this fabled water route.)

In the Kingdom of Ice The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
The voyage of the USS Jeannette was not the first to venture into the ice searching for a Northwest Passage but it was probably the last, putting to rest this impossible theory. Previous voyages were mainly British, heading north past Greenland, one of the most famous being the lost Franklin expedition in the mid 1880s. Lieutenant George W. De Long, an American, commands the Jeannette up through the Bering Strait, believing to catch a warm current up there from Japan (on the advice of a map "expert" of the time.) And just like many ships before it, it gets trapped in the ice. For. two. years.

It's a desperate race for survival at this point because inevitably they have to leave the ship and trek across the ice. Remarkably, many of the ship's records are saved. Unfortunately, most of its crew are not.

This real-life account is made more interesting with in-depth backgrounds of crew members, letters, pictures, and maps. It's not a dry recitation of facts; instead it reads like a story with people you like and root for and want to know more of. I probably would have finished the book sooner had I not been sidelined researching on the internet one fascinating tidbit or another.

It's a true story of effective leadership and courage that makes one grateful to be born with the conveniences of our modern world. In the Kingdom of Ice is packed with detail, so it can feel a little long, still I had a hard time putting it down. It's a thrilling adventure at 4.5 stars.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Next up, Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is an excellent story for kids on a tough subject: sexual abuse. It delves into bullying at school, the foster care system, psychotherapy, and coping when adults fail you. Best of all, it's a story about survival, strength, and hope for the future. 

Ten-year old Della and her 16-year-old sister Suki are regular kids shuttled into foster care after running from their abuser. Even before that, they had to deal with a mostly absent mother, leaving the older child to raise the younger. Kids will relate to Della (full name Delicious, so yeah, she prefers to go by a nickname) and Suki, to their fear, their questions, their shame, and eventually, their fighting spirit. 

I don't often read YA or junior titles but I usually really like the ones I do come across. This one caught my eye because it's Bradley's personal story. She's been there and to anyone who's been there too will see she's handled an ugly subject with sensitivity and insight. Especially charming is how Della uses any version of "snow" in place of bad words. Well done! Recommended for both kids and adults. 5 stars.


My final choice, a post-apocalyptic thriller, is Malorie by Josh Malerman, the long-awaited sequel to the best-seller Bird Box. (You might have seen the Netflix movie starring Sandra Bullock.) Malorie picks up two years later for the space of one hair-raising opening chapter then jumps forward 10 years where more frightening events await.

Malorie by Josh Malerman
Oh, I really enjoyed this! It always goes back to the fear of the unknown and that whole business of living your life blindfolded (or by the fold as they call it), dodging creatures so that you don't go mad and embarking on a killing spree. It's creepy stuff. The only difference from Bird Box is that Malorie's children, Tom and Olympia, have grown into teenagers and Tom is quite rebellious, so the reader sees all the potential of what could go wrong (and does go wrong). But there's a message here too about parenting and the balance of a parent's wisdom and a child's need to pursue their own dreams and when to act on them. As a parent myself, I could relate.

At first, I was quite annoyed by Tom's resentment (omg, what are you doing, Tom?), but by the end, the reader can see that events had to happen the way they did. But all the scary stuff is there. Olympia has life-changing secrets of her own, too. 

I do urge you to read Bird Box first if you haven't already because the first book paints the immediate transition from normal life to after-creature survival. Malorie takes place in the latter. I still enjoyed Bird Box more because it was just so different, however, Malorie is a damn good sequel. 4 stars.

What's on my nightstand now? Supernatural thrillers. Just my cup of tea for the Halloween season.


4 comments

  1. Oh my goodness. These selections sound fantastic. I especially love the sound of Fighting Words. We are most fortunate to live in a world where books are within an arm's reach, and there's audio too. Regina, you are the most enthusiastic reader I know.
    Bravo, and may all your readings be worthy of your time.

    Cheers.

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    1. They were fantastic! We learn so much from books. Fighting Words is a particular favorite and made my Top Reads list for 2020. I'm reading one right now that's taking a ghostly turn...

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  2. By the way, I love this photo and your site is filled with lots to read. Congratulations on creating a well-balanced site.
    Good for you!

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    1. How kind of you to say so! Thanks :D

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