Category: 50 Book Challenge

Book 50! Book 50! Book 50!–The Toll–Book 50! Book 50! Book 50! (and 51)

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–Book 49

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: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century–Book 48

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.

Furious Hours – Book 44

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 – Books 42 and 43

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

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.

The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors – Books 39 and 40

The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

448 pages / Medieval History / 4 out of 5 unholy holy wars

Medieval history is one of my special interests that I’ve been neglecting for the last few years, so it was refreshing to dive back into with this book. The Templar Knights were founded as a religious order of knights who could protect pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land (Jerusalem). They answered only to the pope and during the crusades, amassed so much land and wealth that many countries began to view them with suspicion. Many people today still like to imagine them as some sort of secret society. This book was a good comprehensive look at their history and fate.


The Story of Egypt: The Civilization that Shaped the World – Books 37 and 38

The Story of Egypt: The Civilization that Shaped the World by Joann Fletcher

496 pages / History / 3 out 5 missing sphinx noses

I’m a big history fan, and I find the histories of ancient civilizations particularly fascinating, but this one didn’t really do it for me. I understand that there was a lot of ground to cover, but this book kind of ended up being a comprehensive list of all known Egyptian rulers with one or two anecdotes for each. It didn’t really do much to deepen or expand my understanding of Egyptian history. I just know that there was some.