I’ve watched quite a few videos on Youtube where Booktubers go to the Dollar Tree and buy a bunch of books. A Dollar Tree book haul is pretty common. But I wanted to take it to a different level by buying 9 Dollar Tree books over 3 months and 3 different stores and then read them to see if it’s really worth it to buy books at the Dollar Tree. I released about a 44 minute video on Youtube earlier this week if you want to see my thoughts as I went through this process, which took me about 2 weeks.
In this post I’m going to briefly introduce each of the nine books I got and read from the Dollar Tree, and then in the end I’m going to give my thoughts on this experiment. Now let’s get into the books (keep in mind, I got all of these for $9 total)!
The first book I read was American Girls by Alison Umminger. I started with one because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like as much. This book tells the story of Anna, an unhappy teen who runs away from her mother and stepmother and goes to LA, California to live with her sister, who is an actress. There, she ends up researching the Charles Manson girls and learning about the ugly parts of glamorous Hollywood.
I really enjoyed this book, and gave it 4 stars. It was a good start to this challenge, especially since I had so little expectations entering this book. Half coming-of-age, half mystery, it follows Anna as she witnesses the bad parts of Hollywood while researching girls who also didn’t fit in and ended up involved in Charles Manson’s famous murder cult. I won’t say the characters were all that likeable (Anna was spoiled, and her sister was a complete narcissist), but they were all really interesting.
The second book was the apocalyptic thriller Plague Land by Alex Scarrow. It follows London teen Leon as a horrible infection travels from Nigeria up to England where he and his family reside and they must all strive to survive.
I loved how the infection itself worked. I gave full spoilers for this book in my video, so watch that if your curious (there are timestamps for each book). But in the beginning the infection travels as spores in the air, as well as touch contact between an uninfected and infected individual. Then the infection literally melts the entire body in a matter of minutes, breaking down bone and muscle. But as the story continues, it begins to morph into something different.
Saying that, the characters were pretty generic. Leon was interesting enough, but everyone else was developed inside a box and never expanded further. Also, in the second half of the book they find a group to survive with. One of my pet peeves in apocalypse novels is the focus on stupid conflict inside groups, and this book played on that in the second half. Because of all these variables, I ended up giving it 3 stars.
The third book I read was Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by multiple authors. It is basically a nonfiction (even if the parts do feel like they dabble in fiction) which follows Henry VIII’s six wives from the time they meet Henry to when they either die or become divorced from Henry.
I didn’t really like this book. I liked the idea of understanding these women more, but the book framed their lives entirely around Henry VIII. They didn’t feel like real, complex women with their own goals and motivations and instead merely victims of Henry VIII (I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was pretty horrible, and executed my favorite writer Thomas More, but he’s presented as a cookie-cutter villain in this book instead of a complex but cruel human). I didn’t understand anything about these women’s backgrounds and world understanding by the end of the book. It didn’t help that all of their voices felt similar, despite the book being told in first perspective of each of the queens, which could have lended to a deeper understanding the queens. Basically, I wasn’t a fan and I gave this book 2 stars.
The fourth book I was probably the most curious to read and that is Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle (art by Elsa Charretier). It is a graphic novel adaptation of Martin and Tuttle’s fantasy book from the 70s. It follows Maris, who dreams of being a flier in a world where flying wings are passed down in families and landmen like her cannot hope to get them. But she breaks down convention to have wings’ ownership based on merit, not parentage.
Like the last book, I had really mixed feeling about this book. The art was absolutely beautiful! However, the world felt very condensed (I can understand writing a 200 page graphic novel based on a 400 page novel would present certain problems). There is a lot of political drama (which honestly feels like it is brought right out of real history, which is common for Martin. But the book also lacks focus. It follows Maris’s life, from when she is young to when she dies, and examines different small problems she faces. However, it never has an overarching, focused plot. I do want to read the original novel. I ended up giving this 2 stars as well.
The fifth book I read (or at least, tried to read) was Vanguard by Jack Campbell. It’s a sci-fi novel about a group trying to colonize a new planet while trying to protect it from space pirates.
At least, that’s what I assume it’s about, because I ended up DNFing the book 50 pages in. This isn’t a bad book, which is why it won’t show up on my Goodreads and I won’t be giving it a rating. However, it’s not my type of book. Sci-fi as a genre is pretty mixed for me. If it is more character driven, I’ll enjoy it. But this one focuses mostly of military tactics, fighting, and the world isn’t that complex. I just found it not interesting enough to keep reading.
The sixth book I read was Silver Stars by Michael Grant. It follows a group of three young women as they fight on the front lines of WWII, mostly in Northern Africa.
This is the one book I really disliked. I rarely give a book 1 star, but this one gets it from me. It does one thing I can’t stand in historical fiction and that is making its characters feel modern. The three main girls feel as if their are modern women with modern understanding, plopped into the action of WWII. It doesn’t help that every male character is either useless or obnoxious. I lost track of how many times a male character said something like “Hey, babe,” or “watcha doing, doll,” or something like that. Don’t get me wrong, if this book wanted to examine sexism and racism during WWII in a nuanced way, I would probably have loved it, but it felt so cliched and stereotypical. Didn’t like it, moving on.
After reading that last disaster, I turned to a seventh book in hopes of something more positive, and The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s a Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford definitely delivered. It inspired a movie of the same name that my mother loves, so I was looking forward to picking up this book.
And I gave it 4 stars and really enjoyed it. Unlike the movie, it takes a much more strictly nonfiction approach to the true story of Charles Dickins. It focuses on several topics, from how Christmas was celebrated in England, Dickins’s early family and career, and the culture of early 19th century. I found it fascinating, especially being such a massive fan of Dickins’s books. If you enjoy his writing, I highly recommend this book!
The eighth book I read was Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson. It’s a nonfiction documenting certain individuals who came from occupied countries like France and Holland to help Britain defeat Germany.
I ended up giving it 3 stars. It’s a dense book, focusing in detail on certain topics while skimming over others. Because of that, I often found it difficult to enjoy the writing, especially as I am not an avid fan or scholar of WWII (even if I enjoy learning about it). I won’t say this is one of my top WWII nonfiction, but I did learn of some interesting contributions to the war effort by people I had never heard of before.
The ninth and final book I read was The Tunnel by Carl-Johan Vallgren. This is a Swedish thriller about a recovering drug addict who seeks to find out who murdered his friend and find his friend’s missing girlfriend.
I ended up giving this book 3 stars. I really enjoyed the mystery aspects of the book, especially the twist near the end of what the tunnel really is. The quick pacing left me always interested in what was going to happen. Saying that, there is a lot of swearing and sexual innuendo that I just did not care for. This is a complete preference thing, and I understand why people living in unsafe places of a city would be exposed to this. I just didn’t like it that much myself.
So, what did I think of this challenge? The Dollar Tree always has a very random selection of books at any time, so it’s always hard to know exactly what kind of book you’ll get. Saying that, even if I only liked one of these books, that would mean that I paid $9 for a really good book, which isn’t bad at all. The Dollar Tree is a place to find cheap books and authors you’ve never heard of before. But you do have to swim through not so great books.
Have you shopped at the Dollar Tree for books? Have you found some good gems? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,