At Least It’s Not as Bad As…: 10 Books That Can Inspire Gratitude in Hard Times

Life has been tough for me lately! I can’t go into detail because my struggles involve someone I love whose struggles run deeper than mine and I don’t have his permission to share, but it’s made it a little hard to keep on schedule with posting. When times are tough, it helps—nay, is necessary—to be thankful for the good things in my life, and I encourage you to do the same. Here are 10 books that can help you with that, all of which I’ve read, recommend, and found deals on…and suggestions for what they might make you grateful for.

Ten Perspective-Giving Books, and Their Deals

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen

Three Muslim girls, with heads wrapped, read a book under the words: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time"Can make you grateful for: access to a good education

Summary, from Amazon:

Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Teacombines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

Deal: $3.46 on BetterWorld.com.

 

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

Can make you grateful for: good health

Summary, from Amazon:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Deal:

The movie is $2.99 on Amazon. You can get the book for $3.79 from Thriftbooks.com.

Austenland, by Shannon Hale

Can make you grateful for: not having the drama of being single

Summary, from Goodreads:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen; or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Deal:

You can get a paperback copy for $3.87 on Thriftworld.com.

 

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, by John Gottman

Can make you grateful for: not having the difficulties of marriage

Summary, from Amazon:

Psychologist John Gottman has spent twenty years studying what makes a marriage last. Now you can use his tested methods to evaluate, strengthen, and maintain your own long-term relationship. This breakthrough book guides you through a series of self-tests designed to help you determine what kind of marriage you have, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and what specific actions you can take to help your marriage.

You’ll also learn that more sex doesn’t necessarily improve a marriage, frequent arguing will not lead to divorce, financial problems do not always spell trouble in a relationship, wives who make sour facial expressions when their husbands talk are likely to be separated within four years and there is a reason husbands withdraw from arguments—and there’s a way around it.

Dr. Gottman teaches you how to recognize attitudes that doom a marriage—contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling—and provides practical exercises, quizzes, tips, and techniques that will help you understand and make the most of your relationship. You can avoid patterns that lead to divorce, and—Why Marriages Succeed or Fail will show you how.

Deal: It’s $3.79 on ThriftBooks.com.

Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Can make you grateful for: sanity

Summary, from Barnes & Noble: More amazing than any work of fiction, yet true in every word, it swept to the top of the bestseller lists and riveted the consciousness of the world. As an Emmy Award-winning film starring Sally Field, it captured the home screens of an entire nation and has endured as the most electrifying TV movie ever made. It’s the story of a survivor of terrifying childhood abuse, victim of sudden and mystifying blackouts, and the first case of multiple personality ever to be psychoanalyzed.

You’re about to meet Sybil-and the sixteen selves to whom she played host, both women and men, each with a different personality, speech pattern, and even personal appearance. You’ll experience the strangeness and fascination of one woman’s rare affliction-and travel with her on her long, ultimately triumphant journey back to wholeness.

Deal: $5.56 at Barnes & Noble.

 

 

 

Sky Jumpers, by Peggy Eddleman

Can make you grateful that: the nations of the world haven’t fumigated the earth with nuclear bombs and left behind only pockets of civilization surviving in craters forever lidded with dense, radioactive clouds.

Summary, from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.
But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help. For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all. 

Deal: It’s $3.46 on Betterworld.com.

 

The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey

Can make you grateful that: aliens haven’t besieged Planet Earth with four waves of pandemics on a scale the globe has never seen before, and are now inflicting the fifth wave, which makes you lose everyone in your family except your little brother, who gets kidnapped by the aliens.

Summary, from Goodreads:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Deal: It’s $1.99 on Amazon.

 

 

Obernewtyn Chronicles, by Isobelle Carmody

Can make you grateful that: you don’t have a powerful mental ability that makes you an outcast

Summary, from Goodreads:

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed. Her only hope for survival to is keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

Deal: The paperback is $2.67 on Amazon.

 

 

 

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Can make you grateful that: you’re not a teenage boy who wakes up amnesic in a maze from which there appears to be no escape.

Summary, from Amazon:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying. Remember. Survive. Run.

Deal: This book and book 2 in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, are $10.44. That’s about $5.20 per book.

 

 

 

 

See…so many things to be thankful for! You’re welcome! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

Book Review: Survival

It’s been an interesting week, with school shopping, some family drama, friends having drastic problems, and a bunch of job interviews. And it seems that the closer we get to the school year starting, the more time speeds up! I’m not quite ready! I mean, I’m excited, but not ready yet! In the meantime, I just finished a novella called Survival by Rachel Watts. It’s a post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-ish kind of book, and a compelling read.

a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

What Is Survival About?

From Goodreads:

The world has suffered economic collapse and multiple environmental crises. In a flooded city, Ava Murasaki is searching for her activist sister Sophia. Meanwhile, Valerie Newlin lives in the secure complex of the Scylla Corporation, the world’s only remaining multinational. There, she finds evidence of something horrifying in the Corporation medical research data. Set in a searingly real near-future, Survival is a story of what people will face for those they love. This is a devastating vision of a post-climate change world in which governments have collapsed and corporations rule with an iron fist.

It takes place in a flooded city where a dam failed five years ago and there wasn’t enough left of the government to clean up the mess. So some people moved to higher ground, but most just built shanties and docks on the water and took over the office towers that had once housed businesses but whose lower floors were now permanently submerged. And in the middle of the squalor sits a giant corporate complex on dry land, walled off and impenetrable, a city unto itself.

Although it’s this dichotomy that should drive the conflict of the book, it’s more about the dynamic between Valerie, a corporate scientist who discovers an awful secret about the corporation and wants to reveal it to everyone, and Ava, a young woman from the outside trying to find her sister. Their paths cross, their goals align somehow, and they have to work together to infiltrate and bring down the corporation.

Who Would Like Survival, And Why?

If you like dystopian books, you might like this book, but it’s not the dystopia of books like Matched by Ally Condie or Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. There is no romance or heavy-handed government. Thankfully, there’s no killing competition either, even though the title would suggest that there is. The characters are older and deal with darker things. There is some death.

If you like books written with style, such as Maggie Steifvater’s Dream Thieves, you’ll definitely like Survival. These lines are very representative of the narrative’s flow and imagery:

Ava stepped out...and walked through the floating suburb, feeling hundreds of invisible eyes on her. They settled on her, carved into her, made her brittle.

Keep in mind that it’s basically a short story, and comes with four other shorter stories by the author, which is part of what you pay for.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version of Survival is just $2.99!

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Profanity (d*, f*, sh*): 6

sex: none

violence: some

negative themes (greed, selfishness): throughout

positive themes (familial love): throughout

 

 

Book Review: Trail of Lightning, A Visceral Read

Because I’m trying to get published, and because I have this wonderful book blog on which I get to talk with you guys about cool books, I follow a lot of publishers, literary agents, and authors on Twitter. A few months ago, an agent I follow tweeted about a new book coming out from one of her clients: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. It’s post-apocalyptic, written by a Native American woman. How cool is that? I tweeted back to Sara that I had to have a copy of this because it sounded so awesome, and she sent me a galley copy! I just finished reading it, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a heart-in-your-throat, visceral read:

What’s Trail of Lightning About?

From Goodreads:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Who Would Like This Book, and Why?

Anyone who likes

will like this book. It’s really intense, told in first-person present-tense from Maggie the Monsterslayer’s perspective. She’s convinced she’s a monster, a supernaturally gifted killer on the outside but on the inside a scared human who’s seen and caused way too much death. In that respect, she reminded me a little of Edward in Twilight. She goes around killing monsters, so there is ALOT of violence. She thought she’d found a redemption of sorts in her one-time mentor Neizghani, but spends most of the book mourning his abandonment of her a year before the book starts. The book’s plot is propelled forward more by the appearance of monsters and those who would either help her fight them or feed her to them than by decisions she and Kai make, as she’s trying to distance herself from her evilness and any reminders of it, the main one being Neizghani. Because of that, Maggie seemed a little hard to follow and even harder to empathize with, but I still dearly wanted her to find happiness…and romance, if possible.

The main reason I liked this book, other than the premise, was the writing. Amazing, techni-color writing.

Nutrition Facts?

Swear words (D*, F*, S*, H*, G*D*): 72

Sex scenes: 0

Violence (some extreme [i.e., references to cannibalism, etc.]): 8

positive messages/relationships (e.g., love + effort, charity, hard work, goals, etc.): 2

negative messages/relationships (e.g., no love, or love +(-effort), meanness, laziness, selfishness): 5

LGBTQ+ relationship(s): 1

Visual?

via GIPHY

Deal?

This book doesn’t come out until June 26th. It’s priced at $7.99 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for their respective ebook editions. If you preorder the ebook or paperback version from Barnes & Noble, using the code SUMMERFUN at checkout, you’ll get 15% off, which means the ebook would be $6.79 (USD) and the paperback would be $11.03, both of which are very good deals for a not-yet-released book.

Book Review: Genesis is an Extremely Intense Read

I think I set a record even for myself recently: I read a 500-page book in two days. On Monday of this week, we drove from Salt Lake City, Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona, a 7.5-hour drive, and on Tuesday, we drove from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, another two. I read almost the entire time. It’s not every book that could’ve commanded that much of my attention. What’s the book, you ask? Genesis by Brendan Reichs. I picked it up at Costco, having read its prequel Nemesis. I liked the first book, except for the massive cliffhanger at its end. It was so massive that I almost didn’t buy it, but I did, so I guess I fell for that. I’m glad I did, though. Genesis was one of the most taut, intense, dark books I’ve ever read.

What Genesis Is About

It’s dark because of the premise, which is that, in the face of a cataclysmic event that has killed all life on Earth, 64-members of a small-town high school’s sophomore class have been preserved as digital versions of themselves inside a super computer. Every detail of their lives within the little valley of Fire Lake, Idaho has been preserved, but they’ve been told that the super computer doesn’t have the capacity to preserve all of them digitally forever. Thus, they need to fight things out until they get down to the right amount of kids. There are no rules, because if one of them dies or gets killed, they just “reset,” kind of like in a video game. There are no parents, no other people, and a limited supply of food and other resources. Some students hide, most fight, and those that fight discover that each kill they make imbues them with more strength. So, picture Hunger Games combined with…The Andy Griffith Show? Min, one of the two main characters, doesn’t want to kill anyone, and she hates Noah, the other main character, because she’d started to fall in love with him at the end of the first book, and then he shot her in the back. She tries to hide at first, but is drawn out by some of her classmates because she’s a “beta.” Noah’s determined to figure out the program they’re inside of, and feels like it’s finally given him a purpose, a chance to lead that he’d never had in real life.

If I had known how violent this book would’ve been before I bought it, I wouldn’t have bought it. It’s very violent. As it was, I shouldn’t have read it all the way through. But I did, and I didn’t get nightmares, which I’m prone to.

So the thing that drives the plot forward at breakneck speed is the discoveries Min makes about why they need to limit their numbers, and the continual formation and dissolution of various alliances the kids make to protect themselves against those students who become bloodthirsty tyrants, all against the backdrop of “hey, why is Greg Kozowitz, who I used to sit with at lunch, shooting Floyd Hornberry?” or “why is skinny Jacob Allred, the school chess club champion, hoarding all the barbed wire?” It’s kind of crazy, and at some points, all-out insane, especially toward the end, when discoveries–really big ones–pile up on every page. It’s so insane that I very much wish that Reichs would’ve provided a map of Fire Lake, and a roster of the kids,  similar to the one provided of the enemies in GeminaIn fact, I think that Reichs could’ve easily made this into a YA graphic novel like the ground-breaking Gemina and its prequel Illuminae by providing those things, as well as things like code from the binders they discover, Tack’s map, maybe a short summary or timeline of what happened in Nemesis, etc.

So it’s dark, and has a plot that moves at break-neck speed, but more than that, it also has a certain intensity that comes from its characters and style. Reich has a gift for showing things so vividly they’re almost blinding, in a way that simultaneously develops characters. Noah and Min, for example, are very different characters, so they notice vastly different things, and describe them very differently. It’s wonderful to read a book that doesn’t sacrifice beauty for the sake of action.

And, best of all, it didn’t end with a cliffhanger. It ended with a very big question, but resolved this story’s question—that of whether the kids could maintain their humanity so that they’d be worth saving—very nicely.

Who Would Like Genesis?

If you liked any of these books, or like anything post-apocalyptic, I can almost guarantee you’ll love this one:

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Nutrition facts label? A fair amount of swearing. No sex or nudity. Lots of violence, as mentioned.

 

If all books came with nutrition facts labels showing the essential “ingredients,” what would you like to see listed?