Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: Mr. Perfect by Shelagh McEachern

Synopsis: Verrick Grant accidentally sets off the alarm in her brand new apartment, upsetting her new neighbor, Lionel Parford. Lionel appears at her door impeccably groomed, confident, and obviously irritated, prompting Verrick to dub her neighbor, "Mr. Perfect." Verrick watches enviously as Lionel's perfection reaches dizzying heights. The man succeeds at everything, is always neat and tidy, has the extended family that Verrick can only dream of, and yet manages to only catch her when she's in some state of disarray or alarm. She detests him, but as he lives next door, she finds it impossible to avoid him. As time passes, Verrick finally finds the chinks in his armor and begins to warm up to him. And as he sees more and more of Verrick, Lionel begins to realize that she is much more that a dizzy neighbor; in fact, she just might be the woman he's been waiting for. (from the online description)

Review: This is a pleasing, yet, mediocre, romantic story. It's not good, but it's not bad. It's just...meh. The characters are not shallow, but not really deep and the story is a bit lacking. The conflict is trite and the resolution too fairy tale. I never really "felt" the characters. Thing just seemed too easy. But, this is the author's first novel, perhaps she will grow with the next one.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8034-9644-3
Date Finished: 1-29-2015
Pages: 182

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Disney's Beauty and the Beast adapted by A.L. Singer

Synopsis: This is a children's book taken from the blockbuster Disney movie. It uses much of the dialogue and the art from the movie.

Review: The movie is marvelous and a personal favorite. This is a weaker, sadder version. It leaves out some of the best dialogue. Good for a child obsessed with the movie, but not worth reading when there are many other marvelous retellings of the tale.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-56282-049-4
Date Finished: 12-24-2015
Pages: 96

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Chinese Fairy Tales retold by Shirley Goulden

Synopsis: A collection of Chinese fairy tales, told in simple clear prose.

Review: As far as collections of fairy tales go, this is a lame, westernized version. The stories have a "bleach" feel, as if the author removed all the Asian bit she could. This isn't surprising since it was written in 1958. But, as an example of Chinese folktales, even one for kids, this isn't the book. Some of the art is good, but again, it's over stylized and somewhat demeaning toward the culture. Not really a book I'd recommend.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1958
Date Finished: 1-20-2015
Pages: 58

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Piggy's Pancake Parlor by David McPhail

Synopsis: Meet Piggy-the sunny, naive pig rescued by Mr. and Mrs. Farmer Todd. Piggy shows such promise in the kitchen that Mrs. Todd teaches him her pancake recipe, including the secret ingredients that make them so special. When Piggy meets hungry, wandering Fox, he gets a wonderful idea for a pancake parlor. Together Piggy and Fox face their share of adventures and disasters, but their friendship (and a colorful cast of characters) always sees them through. (from the online description)

Review: This is a cute, if predictable, story. I enjoyed the both the prose and the pictures. This is fine book for any child to read - particularly over a plate of pancakes.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-525-45930-8
Date Finished: 1-20-2015
Pages: 48

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: The White Cliffs by Alice Duer Miller

Synopsis: A story, told in verse, about a young American girl travels to England and falls in love with a British noble. When World War I, the conflict tests their relationship and their future.

Review: I picked this up at bargain store ($1 for a bag of books) because it looked like a quick, light, read. I actually didn't realize it was fiction, and thought it was a memoir in verse. It was more powerful than I expect. Told in a variety of poetic styles (some poems are short, some long, some choppy, so fluid), the story goes through a lot of emotions in a few words. It's a powerful romance. I recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1940
Date Finished: 1-19-2015
Pages: 70

Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson

Synopsis: The Herdman kids are the outlaws of Woodrow Wilson Elementary. They smoke cigars, lie, and set fire to things - and that's only when they bother to come to school. If anything goes wrong, you can be sure there's a Herdman behind it. Then a school project forces the students to think of compliments for their classmates - all of them. It is possible that behind their outrageous pranks there might be something good about this crazy clan after all? (from the back of the book)

Review: As with her Christmas novel, Robinson's story made me laugh so hard I had to set the book down to catch my breath. And yet, for all the laughs, at the end, there is something deeper, something more. It's an uncanny ability to write characters that are more complex than you might find children's works. As with all her work, I highly recommend this book.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-545-29723-3
Date Finished: 1-18-2015
Pages: 155

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: 1215: The Year of Magna Carta by Danny Danziger & John Gillingham

Synopsis: Surveying a broad landscape through a narrow lens, 1215 sweeps readers back eight centuries in an absorbing portrait of life during a time of global upheaval, the ripples of which can still be felt today. At the center of this fascinating period is the document that has become the root of modern freedom: the Magna Carta. It was a time of political revolution and domestic change that saw the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart, King John, and—in legend—Robin Hood all make their marks on history. The events leading up to King John’s setting his seal to the famous document at Runnymede in June 1215 form this rich and riveting narrative that vividly describes everyday life from castle to countryside, from school to church, and from hunting in the forest to trial by ordeal. For instance, women wore no underwear (though men did), the average temperatures were actually higher than they are now, and the austere kitchen at Westminster Abbey allowed each monk two pounds of meat and a gallon of ale per day. Broad in scope and rich in detail, 1215 ingeniously illuminates what may have been the most important year of our history. (from the online description)

Review: This is a well-done overview of the cultural, political, and economical landscape of England during the years surrounding the creation and implementation of the Magna Carta. While not in-depth, this is an excellent introductory to the era. I enjoyed the easy prose,\ and the light tone of the stories. Occasionally, subjects seemed out of place, which can be a bit muddling, but overall, the book flows well. Although this era is not a particular favorite, I enjoyed this book. And given that this is the time frame when Robin lived (or is rumored to have lived), I recommend this book.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 1-15-2015
Pages: 298

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Synopsis: Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I'm not the only kid who lives here. There's my sister, Natalie, except she doesn't count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook's or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don't want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you're me. I came here because my mother said I had to. (from the back of the book)

Review: I wasn't sure what to expect when I read this, other than it would be good, because it's a Newbery. Choldenko keeps her story as close to historically accurate as possible, and yet, still creates a story that pulls you in, head and heart. It was fascinating to read about the life on Alcatraz for the families of the guards. It was heartbreaking to read about Natalie, and life for someone with her challenges. Things in those days were so different for people with autism (a word they didn't even have back then). I highly recommend, both for personal reading and for use in a classroom or as a discussion with kids.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor 2005

ISBN: 0-439-67432-8
Date Finished: 1-14-2015
Pages: 225

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Blue Poetry selected by Kevin Young (Everyman's Library Pocket Poetry)

Synopsis: Born in African American work songs, field hollers, and the powerful legacy of the spirituals, the blues traveled the country from the Mississippi delta to “Sweet Home Chicago,” forming the backbone of American music. In this anthology–the first devoted exclusively to blues poems–a wide array of poets pay tribute to the form and offer testimony to its lasting power. The blues have left an indelible mark on the work of a diverse range of poets: from “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes and “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden, to “Blues on Yellow” by Marilyn Chin and “Reservation Blues” by Sherman Alexie. Here are blues-influenced and blues-inflected poems from, among others, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Richard Wright, Nikki Giovanni, Charles Wright, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Cornelius Eady. And here, too, are classic song lyrics–poems in their own right–from Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Ma Rainey, and Muddy Waters. The rich emotional palette of the blues is fully represented here in verse that pays tribute to the heart and humor of the music, and in poems that swing with its history and hard-bitten hope. (Description from the inside of the book)

Review: While I'm not much of a blues girl, I enjoy the cultural and social history behind them. This is a fine collection - although they left out Billie Holiday on the grounds she's more jazz than blues, which was slightly vexing. But, that's a personal issue. I found this to be a fine, well-rounded collection. Young's introduction about blues was an excellent start to a collection that includes song lyrics, poems about the blues, and poems about blues singers, all from the beginning of the blues to recent years. For anyone interested in blues, Black culture in the 1930s and 40s, poetry, or Black history, this is an excellent choice. A well-done collection.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-375-41458-4
Date Finished: 1-11-2015
Pages: 256

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Review: Gamer Fantastic by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes

Synopsis: These thirteen original stories by veterans of the fantasy realms take role-playing games and universes to a whole new level. From a teenager who finds a better future in virtual reality; to a private investigator hired to find a dying man's grandson in the midst of a virtual reality theme park; from a person gifted with the power to pull things out of books into the real world; to a psychologist using fantasy role-playing to heal his patients; from a gaming convention where the real winners may not be who they seem to be; to a multi-layered role-playing game that leads participants from reality to reality and games within games-these imaginative and fascinating new tales will captivate both lovers of original fantasy and anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of role-playing games. (online description)

Review: The thing about anthologies is that usually, there are a two good stories, some mediocre ones, and a two or three boring/dreadful/stupid ones. This collection was a happy exception. The best was "Escapism" , and I particularly enjoyed "Mission from Hel" and "Mightier than the Sword" (by the talented Jim C. Hines and featuring the always welcome fire-spider Smudge). I thought this was an well-done collection of story, exploring many different aspects of gaming, the people who play, and the magic (real or make-believe) that they find within. I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7564-0563-2
Date Finished: 1-10-2015
Pages: 309

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Synopsis: It's bedtime for Frances - but she can't sleep. With songs and tigers and cake, will she ever get to sleep?

Review: I enjoy the Frances books. She's hilarious. Her imagination, her songs, her questions - clever and childlike and fun. I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0064434515
Date Finished: 1-9-2015
Pages: 16

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: The Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beers (Japanese Translation)

Synopsis: It was a big day for Lars"-bigger than he imagined, in fact, as the polar bear cub gets separated from his father and embarks on a fanciful journey. (online description)

Review: I bought this book at a thrift store solely based on the pictures - mostly because the version I have is in Japanese. Not Japanese written in English letters. No, Japanese script. I'm not sure if that counts as having read the book - because I most certainly do not read Japanese. I looked up the book, and it's was originally published in Switzerland, in German. It's been translated into English, so I was able to read a synopsis. Lars the little polar bear gets separated from his father and travels to the jungle. I'm not sure about the other animals (the Hippo's name is Henry) but he does make it back to his father with the help of a Killer Whale. In English, I think this would be a delightful book, given how much I enjoyed just looking at the pictures. I like my Japanese copy, but I'm going to try to get my hands on an English one too!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None (In English)

Date Finished: 1-9-2015
Pages: 16

Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: Hank Zipzer: the Night I Flunked my Field Trip by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Synopsis:Hank is thrilled about the "Best Field Trip of the Year"-everyone from Ms. Adolph's class gets to spend the night on an old-fashioned three-mast sailing ship in New York Harbor!  And Hank gets even more excited when the ship's captain chooses him to be the first mate.  But being first mate is not all it's cracked up to be, especially for a crazy captain who takes his job a little too seriously.  The best field trip of the year is becoming the worst night of Hank's life-how's he going to get out of this one? (from the online description)

Review: Once again, I immensely enjoyed the adventures of Hank and his friends. Hank is a very smart kid, but has trouble believing that about himself because of his learning challenges. For someone who doesn't always get that, it helps to read about it, in such a way that is changes my perspective. But the books aren't preachy or an emo; the adventures feel real. I highly recommend these books to everyone!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-448-43352-4

Date Finished: 12-31-2014
Pages: 154

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: Grimm's Fairy Tales by Zenoscope - Volumes 8-14

Synopsis: Sela is still battling the Dark Horde. She travels through Myst, through Limbo, and back to the Nexus, who's inhabitants know it as Earth. Along the way, she loses her one true love, and friends, but regains her purpose.

Review: While I enjoy these stories, Volume 8-13, it wasn't until Volume 14 I felt like it was the old story, the ones I originally enjoyed. Too much angst and stupid "revenge-as-motivation" crap. I can't only handle that as a motivation for the bad guy some many times before it just become stupid. I also didn't enjoy how many times people died, only to "come back to life" a few pages later. It seemed ridiculous after a while. Overall, these didn't seem as good at Volumes 1-7, at least, not until Volume 14.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None:

ISBN: Multiple
Date Finished: 12-31-2014
Pages: Approx. 75 per Graphic Novel 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Derserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

Synopsis: This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher's eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the page. Colorfully illustrated with photographs, portraits, and relevant artworks, this handsome hardcover is a visual treat too, making Letters of Note an utterly distinctive gift, and an instant classic. (from the online description)

Review: I enjoyed this collection immensely. It's a product of Usher's website of the same name. Reading letters from scientist and actors, queens and presidents, it gave a small glimpse into each of their lives. The format was well-done, with art and, when available, facsimiles of the original letters. For anyone who enjoys the art of letter writing, this is a must-have book. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3425-3
Date Finished: 12-29-2014
Pages: 351

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review: Father's Arcane Daughter by E.L. Konigsburg

Synopsis: When Caroline unexpectedly appears at the Carmichaels' doorstep on Thursday afternoon, life begins to change dramatically for Winston and his younger sister, Heidi. Caroline's reappearance after many years opens up a whole new world, as Winston's father recovers the daughter he thought he had lost and Winston and Heidi discover the sister they never knew they had. But as Caroline begins to uncover the hidden truth about her "new" family. Winston suspects that she may have her own secret to hide. Will he ever be able to discover the truth about Caroline? (from the back of the book)

Review: I can't quite describe this book. It's not a happy book,and yet, when it was over, I felt satisfied. It ended perfectly. The mystery, the characters, the plot - it was perfectly done. As with every Konigsburg book, at the end, I felt like a different person, and it took me some time to come back to the real world. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-42496-8
Date Finished: 12-28-2014
Pages: 118

Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery

Synopsis: Celebrate Christmas with Anne of Green Gables in this keepsake collection of sixteen heartwarming holiday stories. Share Anne's delight at receiving the dress of her dreams, the joy of a young woman reunited with her long-lost brother on Christmas Eve, and the surprise of a trio of sisters who inadvertently end a family food by arriving at the wrong uncle's house for Christmas dinner (from the back of the book)

Review: As with all Montgomery's work, this is a warm, sweet, pleasant collection of stories. Good always triumphs, family is united, and all ends well. It's perfect for Christmas. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-57100-1
Date Finished: 12-24-2014
Pages: 211

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Review: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (Signet Classic Edition)

Synopsis: For over four hundred years, The Prince has been the basic handbook of politics, statesmanship, and power. Written by a Florentine nobleman whose name has become a synonym for crafty plotting, this fascinating document is as pertinent today as when it first appeared. The most successful statesman of his era, Machieavelli wanted to set down for all time the rules and moves in the ageless game of politics. The results is this highly readable, witty - and devilishly shrewd - formula that has long been required reading for anyone interested in politics and power. (from the back of the Signet Classic Edition)

Review: Having heard many thing about this book, I was eager to dig in and see what the fuss was about. I have to say, Machiavelli was an INTJ. His prose, his ideas, his assessments - all of them are logical, well-explained, and rational. I understand why people might assume he is conniving and evil. But truthfully, he's just practical and honest about what it takes to rule. If I ever decide to take over the world, Machiavelli will be my guide.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-451-52746-1
Date Finished: 12-20-2014
Pages: 127

Review: Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin

Synopsis: While Mona hates all the attention her eccentric relatives bring to her in town, there is one Figg family member she likes: her Uncle Florence, the book dealer. But Uncle Florence keeps hinting that he's going to find his way to Capri, the Figg family heaven. And that means leaving Mona behind. Can Mona find Capri before it's too late, or will she learn that things are seldom what they seem when books are involved? (from the online description)

Review: It was harder than usual for me to get into this book. But after the first few pages, I was hooked. Mona is a teenager from a strange family - but one that loves each other. So when her Uncle, her best (and seemingly only) friend hints that he is going to Capri, the family word for heaven, she revolts, struggling to understand how to deal with his death. This is an exceptional book  - one that deals with a hard topic - the death of a loved one. It's not an easy book to read. There is lots of magic and metaphor, with a fairy tale sequence. I highly recommend but with the caveat that it's a strange book, strange but good. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1975

ISBN: 0-590-45961-9
Date Finished: 12-17-2014
Pages: 152

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review: Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfood Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss by Manual Villacorta, M.S, R.D.

Synopsis: Description: 75 Delicious, Easy-to-make Recipes in Less than 30 Minutes with Vegan and Gluten-Free Alternatives. So, what's an Andes diet and what makes eating the Peruvian way so beneficial? In his third book in as many years, Manuel Villacorta lays out the important components that make his plan a well-seasoned recipe for good health. 'Superfood' is not just a buzz-word or a passing vogue; it's becoming more integral to a healthy lifestyle by the minute. As onceobscure products find broader distribution and consumers have greater access, superfoods are finding their way into the mainstream, becoming a staple in healthy lifestyles. And the benefits of consuming superfoods are astonishing: from fighting cancer and reducing inflammation to boosting energy and enhancing memory—it's all in there. In his Andes diet, Villacorta provides simple but thorough explanations of terms and concepts using an appealing page layout with beautiful color photography, bullet points, and sidebars summarizing each benefit. Using the core principles from Eating Free he proves to readers that they can achieve a super-health plan, be able to cook from scratch, dine with elegance and reduce stress. (from the LibraryThing Early Review's Description)

Review: I picked this book because I wanted new recipes that were not low-fat, and fell more in line with paleo/primal. I thought the intro was well-written and had easy-to-understand information. The recipe were plentiful and had lots of variety - and delicious! The book itself had brilliant pictures and easy-to-follow instructions. It didn't lay open, flat, which is always helpful when you have a cookbook. But that isn't my major qualm - it's the ingredients. I understand that the book is written using traditional Peruvian ingredients, but many of them are hard to find here - or, expensive. I wish the author had offered reasonable substitutions. While this book isn't the be-all / end-all of health books, it is a welcome addition to anyone collection. The recipes are fine additions to a gluten-free or paleo/primal diets. 

NOTE: I received this for free in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7573-1821-4
Date Finished: 12-14-2014
Pages: 307

Review: My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Synopsis: When Elmer Elevator hears about the plight of an overworked and under-appreciated flying baby dragon, he packs his knapsack with supplies and stows away on a ship headed for Wild Island. Nothing will stop Elmer from rescuing the dragon! (from the online description)


Written like an old folk tale or fairy tale, this is a delightful tale of a boy who travels through a strange and dangerous land to rescue a dragon. He uses cleverness and kindness as his tools. A good book for young children - complete with a map! 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1949

ISBN: 978-0-590-13695-2
Date Finished: 12-6-2014
Pages: 77

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Synopsis: Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is "never going to stand by and say nothing again." This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color. (from the online description)

Review: Considering the current buzz about bullying, one might think it is a current issue. Estes' book shows that it is not. Written in 1945, from the perspective of the flunky of the bully, it is a powerful tale about speaking up for others and not being silent. This is a worthwhile book to read to children (and frankly, I know adults who could benefit from this lesson as well). Highly recommend. 

Bookmarks:  7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Award, 1945

ISBN: 0-15-642350-2
Date Finished: 12-5-2014
Pages: 80

Review: The Earth Dragon Awakers: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Laurence Yep

Synopsis: Over the years the earth has moved many times under San Francisco. But it has been thirty-eight years since the last strong earthquake. People have forgotten how bad it can be. But they will soon remember. Based on Actual Events of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and told from the alternating perspective of two young friends. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a well-done fictional account of this events, combining facts with enough fiction to transport the reader into the story. While it is real, it is not too gruesome or dark for children - although I would not recommend for anyone under 6 or 7. It would be an excellent book for a classroom.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-000846-8
Date Finished: 12-2-2014
Pages: 117

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ramble: 2014: A Year in Review

I haven't posted all my reviews for 2014, but I wanted to post my year in review before February or June or something. 

So, here is my report:

1) Goals

I accomplished my goal of reading 150 books in one year. 150! That's 35 more than my previous record of 115 in 2011. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. However, I don't think it's impressive because many of those 150 books were children's picture books. I think next year, I want to concentrate on reading more books of substance, more classics or cozy fiction, and definitely, more books about God. 

2) Themes

There were two major theme's for this year. The first was the Revolutionary War. This was an intentional theme. I joined the Daughters of the American Revolution this year and that only fueled my already considerable interest in the American War for Freedom. From 1776 by David McCullough to Hope's Crossing by Joan Elizabeth Goodman to Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War by Kenneth A. Daigler, I read a nice assortment of historical prose and fiction. 

The second theme was not planned, being quite accidental: life from the viewpoint of someone with a physical or mental handicap. In particular, Yolen's The Mermaid's Three Wisdoms and Konigsburg's Father's Arcane Daughter. Both of these, like Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (which I read last year), helped me adjust my viewpoint, to see life from another's perspective. I intend to be more diligent about reading books on this theme. 

3) Series

I wasn't able to finish as many series as I wanted. But I finished 4:

The 2001 Odyssey Series by Arthur C. Clarke: I read this because of its status as a Science Fiction Great. It was vastly different that I expected, but as good as it was rumored. 

The World's 1000 Best Poems ed. by Berton Braley: Worth reading. I didn't enjoy all the poems, but the wide variety and different styles made this an excellent read. 

The Millie Cooper Series by Charlotte Herman: I read the second book in the series when I was a child, and it made an impression on my. I'd never felt so connected to a character before. But the book wasn't mine, and over the years, I forgot the title and author - but never the story. Kind people on Librarything were able to help me locate this book again, and I bought and read all three. They were as soul-touching as ever and I'm grateful to have them again. 

The Starbridge Series: Of the 7 books, I read the last 4 in 2014. While not every book was amazing, all together they were an excellent sci-fi series, one I recommend to other. Silent Songs was my favorite, with Silent Dances a close second. 

My Top Books of the Year:

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

1776 by David McCullough

A Share of Freedom by June Rae Wood

Miss Buncle, Married by D.E. Stevenson

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

Sad Underwear and Other Complications by Judith Viorst

Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

The Millie Cooper Series by Charlotte Herman

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dreamby Adam Shepard

Silent Songs by A.C. Crispin and Kathleen O'Malley (Starbridge, Book 5)

The Journal of John Wesley ed. by Nehemiah Curnock

Review: Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban by Stephen Tanner

Synopsis: For over 2,500 years, the forbidding territory of Afghanistan has served as a vital crossroads for armies and has witnessed history-shaping clashes between civilizations - Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, and Tartars, and in more recent times, Britain, Russia, and America. Following the events of September 11, 2001. America's military entered this land - land that for centuries has become a graveyard of empires. By spring 2002, America had defeated the Afghan Taliban regime, and the terrorists it harbored were on the run...But was America's easy victory proof of its military superiority, or were the Afghans merely eyeing the newcomers as they have watched foreign armies in centuries past, knowing time is on their side? (from the back of the book)

Review:  History books can be extremely boring, all dates and names jumbling into a brain-numbing mess. Tanner's work is a happy exception. Starting with Alexander the Great and moving to the early days of the America's entrance in the war, Tanner walks the reader through a land where the geography and culture, more than any other place, change the rules of warfare. It was fascinating, to see how the land shaped events, to see how men and empires suddenly change course when confronted with the rugged, harsh ways of Afghanistan. I found this book enthralling and I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-306-81233-0
Date Finished: 11/15/2014
Pages: 351