The Toll by Neal Shusterman
625 pages / Speculative fiction / 4 out of 5 stars
This series, The Arc of the Scythe, was super interesting. The series is about a future society that has conquered death. No one gets old, no one gets sick, no one dies. They have also created an artificially intelligent being called the Thunderhead (imagine “the cloud” with the ability to think and act) that controls almost everything. In order to bring balance to this world without death, a select few become Scythes, once regular people given the responsibility of choosing who gets to live and die. This series was interesting in that it deals with a lot of big questions about our own society and the future of our philosophies and technological creations. The ideas are creative and interesting. I was not crazy about the writing style, but overall, the creativity of the series kept me interested. I would recommend this series, starting with the book Scythe, for anyone looking for something fun and engaging to read while you are all bored out of your minds being stuck at home and wanting to do something more productive than finding out what’s on the other side of your Nether portal.
By the way, I FINISHED THE 50 BOOK CHALLENGE!!! Last year I only got to 42, so it’s a pretty big deal.
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
393 pages / Fantasy / 4 out of 5 stars
This book is by the same author as the How to Train Your Dragon series. I listened to it while driving around Nowhere, Utah with my two oldest daughters looking for the graves of my ancestors. That’s how we spent our Spring Break, and it was actually pretty great. The book was great, too. The audio book was read by David Tennant. For all you nerds, he was the first “cool” (none of them are cool, by the way) Doctor Who. And if Doctor Who is cool to you, I didn’t need to waste my time telling you that. His reading is FANTASTIC and the story is creative, fun, and engaging.
The Third Horseman by William Rosen
320 pages / Medieval History / 4 out of 5 horsemen of the apocalypse
I chose to read this book at an interesting time. The book is about how everything was going swimmingly on the British Isles, at least for the English. The British Isles were experiencing an unusually warm and temperate prolonged period of weather patterns. During this time, Edward I got out and subjected Wales to English control and famously had a go at subjugating Scotland as well. But then the weather patterns abruptly took a turn for the worse. The air became cooler across the British Isles, which led to prolonged periods of rain which ruined harvests and brought famine and disease, followed soon after by the Black Death–the Bubonic Plague.
I was familiar with a lot of the history in this book, but looking at all of these events through the lens of climate change was new to me. It was interesting to look at what we know about the weather patterns of the time and to see how they affected critical turning points of history. It was also interesting to be reading a book about the spread of disease and catastrophic societal change in the middle of schools being shut down due to COVID-19.
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
504 pages / Speculative Fiction / 3 out of 5 stars
Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Poore
304 pages / Children’s Fiction / 3 out of 5 stars
Furious Hours by Casey Cep
336 pages / True Crime and Biography / 4 out of 5 stars
I found this book on Overdrive and listened to the audio book version. If you wish you could read but can’t quite peel yourself away from the house you’ve been building on Minecraft, I would recommend checking out an audio book from Overdrive and listening while you harvest your wheat. It’s not quite as good for you as reading, but listening to an audio book has been shown to increase reading fluency and inflection among listeners. Don’t let it be the only type of reading you do, but why not do it too?
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
435 pages / Speculative Fiction / 3 out of 5 stars
This book was pretty cool. If you’re looking for a cool book to read while you’re stuck inside resisting the urge to only play minecraft all day, this is the first book in a 3 book series that would make the time go by a little faster. Here is the synopsis of the book from Goodreads.com.
Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
296 pages / History / 4 out of 5 stars
I really admire Atticus for his ability to keep cool when things around him are getting intense. This is a trait I wish I shared, but I tend to get impatient when, for example, I have a room full of around 30 young people with underdeveloped frontal lobes shouting asinine things at me all at the same time while I’m trying to help one kid with a computer problem, another kid wants to go to the bathroom, an office aide is standing over me with a homework request, and Sue is shouting at me over the intercom to send a student to the office. That’s about the point where I lose it and shout “EVERYONE SHUT UP!!!” Which is not what Atticus would do.
I don’t know if it has anything to do with courage or integrity (probably) or if, and this is much more likely, it’s because I’m just a stubborn person who hates the sun, but as soon as someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it. Honestly, I think this is part of why I became a teacher. It’s no secret that teachers don’t make a ton of money, and there are a lot of things about teaching that make it a difficult, stressful, and sometimes thankless job. But aside from the fact that I thought it would be fun, I like working with kids, and that I thought I would be good at it, I think all the negativity surrounding teaching kind of drew me to it instead of pushing me away from it. I like the challenge of being part of an embattled profession, and even though the odds are pretty steep, I like to think that I can do something within the teaching field to help make it a better and more respectable place to work.