2010 Reviews

Jan.  8, 2011

I made it just over my goal of 50 books a year coming in at 51 for 2010. Not bad considering the hefty kinds of books I had to read for my 2 philosophy classes this year.

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Thanks to WordPress.com and Copy and Paste I get to have my old rating system back. Myspace discontinued these emoticons and Facebook wouldn’t allow them. Now that I have moved on to a 3rd host for my book reviews they’re back. They are as follows.

LoBook Reviews - Loved Itved It

Liked It A lotBook Reviews- Liked it Alot

Book Reviews - Liked ItLiked It

Book Reviews- It Was OkayIt Was Okay

Kinda BadBook Reviews - Kind Bad

Book Reviews - BadBad

Book Reviews - It stunk It Stunk

1. Wyrm 1/15/10 One of the craziest books I’ve ever read. You really had to have been into geekdom in the late 90’s to appreciate it. It’s hacker culture pre-2000’s plus role playing plus chess all mixed together with the “A.I. gets self-awareness and is now going to cause the end of the world” scenario. Other than that I’d recommend it and I would read it again some time.

2. Junie B. Jones- Has a Monster Under Her Bed/ is a Party Animal 1/15/10 I LOOOVe Junie B. Jones. She is hilarious.  Barbara Park has kindergartners down. These books really point out how adult talk gets translated by 5 and 6 year olds. Maybe we don’t make as much sense as we think we do. Of course I don’t recommend that children copy the antics of Junie B.

3. Why Mike’s Not a Christian 1/23/10 We bought this book when we had two Mike’s living with us. It was totally a joke. We left it out on the table for them to discover. After they moved out I decided to read it anyway. I remember it having some good talking points for Christian apologetics, but now a year later I can’t remember any of them.

4. Scarlet 1/28/10 The second book in the King Raven Series by Stephen R. Lawhead. Lawhead has been my favorite writers since I was a teen. And interestingly enough Robin Hood was one of my childhood hero’s. This retelling of the classic story is reset in a slightly different time frame than we are use to, that of the Norman take over of Wales. It is a little bit of a medieval political thriller, and a whole lotta action/adventure. It has all the Robin Hood daring do that we are use to, just a different dressing. I highly recommend it.

5. Series of Unfortunate Events #5: The Austere Academy 1/29/10 I am forcing myself to read these books. I still do not understand the draw for young readers. Things just keeping getting worse for the main characters. The adults that are not in on the schemes against the kids are clueless and helpless. In all adults cannot be trusted, because you never know what their real motives are or when they will simply abandon you. Well written, but why?

6. Tuck 2/1/10 The last book of the King Raven series by Stephen R. Lawhead. Raises the series from Action/Adventure to Epic. Betrayed by the King, Robin (Rhi Bran) is determine to raise his own army. The books gets into a lot of overlooked sociological/religious beliefs of the time. Tuck helps Rhi Bran to navigate the landscape of treacherous church leadership and nobles leading up to …. I dare not tell you. It’s so hard to talk about this book without giving spoilers. You will be well pleased with how everything wraps up in the end if you’ve read the other books.

7. Grandma’s Stories 1/31/10 We have a bunch of these Rick Steber books on Cowboys, and Pioneers and so forth. This one is a collection of recollections from Grandmother’s who lived during the Westward Expansion of America.

8. The Treasury of Clean Country Jokes 2/5/10 I made an effort to read some books that are normally just flip-through sorts of books. So I read this joke book cover to cover. It has a few cute jokes, but mostly just little chuckles or groans. Quite a few of the jokes were along the lines of “Why that bird has no beak,” the man said impeccably.”

9. Serenity 2/16/10 I’m a total Browncoat (a flan um fan of Firefly/Serenity) Firefly was a short lived FOX TV series by producer Joss Whedon. 500 years in the future mankind has moved on to new planets and terraformed them in a system now full of planets and moons that are habitable. The TV series is about the crew of a freelance ship Serenity. The show ended much too soon, but not before creating characters and a ‘verse that many came to love. A few years later the cast got an incredible opportunity to make a major motion picture to help tie up some of the lose ends of the series. This book is the movie novelization for Serenity.

10. The Vulcan Treasure 2/18/10 This is the Star Trek the Original Series in choose your own adventure style. But whoever wrote it probably hadn’t seen the series in 10 years. Either that or it’s some really bad fan-fiction that accidentally got published.

11. Runaway Ralph 2/19/10 Ralph S. Mouse is the hero in yet another book. You may know him best from the Mouse and the Motorcycle. This time he decides that the pressures of home are too much and runs away. He ends up at a summer camp and in a cage. He faces new dangers and makes new friends, but ultimately decides that home was good afterall. Now Ralph has to orchestrate an escape and find his way home.

12. The Visitation 2/24/10 Frank Peretti has a way of making his stories seem like they could happen in the present day. The Visitation is no exception. It seems like it could be ripped from the headlines, which makes it kinda spooky. A disillusioned ex-pastor acts as a Private Detective when a drifter turned miracle worker sets up shop in his small town. Miraculous things begin happening allover town and the drifter sets up his own compound/church on a ranch near town. The facade of the drifter begins to come apart as the ex-pastor digs into his past. Things start coming apart in a big way, as dark secrets near the surface.

13. My Side of the Mountain 3/5/10 I remember reading this book when I was in middle school, and as is my habit when I saw it at a thrift store I bought it. I have enjoyed re-reading a lot of books from my youth. A young boy runs away from home to his grandfathers homestead. The homestead is up in the Catskill mountains, off the beaten path. The house being long gone the boy set-up house keeping in a burned out tree. Hard work, and trial and error keep his wilderness lifestyle going for about a year. **SPOILER** Word eventually gets out about his whereabouts. Instead of the expected ending where he has to return to the city and the lessons he learned in the wilderness serve to help him be more brave or independent… in a delightful twist his family gives up city life to join him in the wilderness.

14. Uncle’s John’s Bathroom Reader 3/13/10 Part of my quest to read some flip-trough books cover to cover. This book is full of interesting anecdotes, quotes and stories. It’s good for a 5 min sit down, but not for an extended reading.

15.  Casino Royale 3/18/10 This book has a plot that is much more like the recent Bond movie than many of the other books. Too bad the movie featured the WORST BOND EVER! With that said I am a huge Bond fan, but I see a difference between the books and movies. The books portray Bond one way and the movies another. I am okay with this. You’ll see that Bond is still a smoker, a drinker,  and womanizer in this book. And you’ll learn a lot about baccarat. But Bond is much more serious, much more studious, and the twist is much more mysterious in this book.

16. The Little Mermaid 3/19/10 A young adult… very young adult, chapter book movie adaptation(meaning yes it has chapters, but it still has pictures and is about 80 pages long.) The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney cartoon growing up. I even used my own money to buy a subscription to the Little Mermaid magazine and to buy a set of Little Mermaid sheets. So once again when I saw this book at a garage sale I knew it had to come home with me. And coming home it had to go into the to-read-pile before it could find a permanent home. Hopefully someday I’ll have a little girl to share it with.

17. Wolves of the Calla 3/28/10 The next book in Stephen Kings The Dark Tower series. I am not a fan of horror and normally don’t read King, but the Dark Tower is his try at writing a fantasy epic. The Wolves of the Calla is a kind of sci-fi western story. And it’s probably the most emotionally packed of the book thus far (5 of 7.) Drawing together the present with Roland post-apocalyptic world and even a world inbetween filled with dark roads on which a surprise character from another King novel walks until he ends up in the small town of Calla Bryn Sturgis exactly where Roland and his group end up. As Gunslingers they are bound to help the people of the town when asked for assistance to clear up a strange problem. Almost everyone in town is a twin. And every 20 years the “Wolves” come to steal one of each pair of twins away between the ages of 3 and adolescence. The children are later returned, but are shells of their former selves (mostly ending up a drooling idiots.) The town has had enough, and Roland and his Gunslingers must put a stop to it.

18. Junie B. Jones- Mushy Gushy Valentine/ Captain Field Day 4/1/10 Ahh more Junie B. Jones. Truly enjoyable.

19. A Name of Her Own 4/18/10 A very likely choice for book of the year. Jane Kirkpatrick sat next to me at a Oregon Women for Ag dinner. Afterward I was able to buy a couple of books and have her sign them. Sacajawea was one of my childhood hero’s and the heroine in this book share a very similar story. The book is about Marie an Indian woman who insists on taking her children and going with her French-Indian husband to Oregon Territory with the Aster Party. The Aster Party were the second party to successfully make the journey overland to Oregon, and they founded the city of Astoria. But they were badly managed and suffered many tragedies. Marie Dorion is a founding mother of Oregon, and this story is well researched and historically sound, but told as if you were watching it all unfold.

20. Apology 5/10/10 In my Intro to Philosophy class we had an option to read the New York Times everyday or pick a couple of philosophy books to read. I think almost everyone read Apology. It’s a short, easy introduction to Plato.  The book is about the trial and death of Socrates. Although it helps to know a little about ancient Greek culture going into the book, you can understand it well enough from context.

21. Zorba the Greek 5/22/10 Also read this for my Intro to Philosophy class. Zorba the Greek is the main character of this novel which seems to be a kind of biography of his life. In reality it’s a biography of philosophical ideas. Understanding that will help make sense of the novel which at times is a head scratch-er. Zorba is wild and unpredictable, yet witty and wise (seeming.) The book draws a comparison of Zorba by casting him against “the Boss” who is a scholar, and a recluse who has withdrawn from daily life. Zorba lives life to the fullest, and his goal is to help the Boss do the same. Good book if you want a little depth and can figure out all the philosophical references.

22. Holes 5/25/10 This summer I helped with a kids book club and Holes was going to be one of our selections. Amazing book, and the movie follows it almost exactly, which is even more amazing. Stanley Yelnats IV (everyone in his family is named that because it’s a palindrome) has a curse. It’s the curse of his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather” and it gives him and his whole family bad luck. Stanley IV’s bad luck lands him at Camp Green Lake, which isn’t a camp and doesn’t have a lake. The camp is a correctional facility for boys where everyday they have to dig one hole as deep and as wide as their shovel. There Stanley meets Zero and through their relationship the Yelnats curse begins to change. A great read for young adults. I highly recommend it.

23. The Door in the Wall 5/29/10 A young adult book about plague ridden London. A young noble boy has lost the use of his legs in an accident. After his servants either die of the plague or run away he is rescued by a monk. He goes with the monk and lives in the monastery where he has a change of heart from bratty noble boy to humble young man. He also learns to use his strengths and not focus on his weaknesses (his legs.) Good morals, but I think the pacing would be a little too slow for most young adult readers.

24. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency 6/8/10 A very quirky book about time traveling, ghosts, and friendship. If you didn’t get (or haven’t read) Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide books skip this one. On the other hand if you like Hitchhikers Guide and enjoy Monty Python you’ll enjoy this book. Hardly anything makes sense if taken separately, but together this book weaves a wildly unique sort of detective book.

25. Junie B. Jones- Big Fat Mouth/ is (almost) a flower girl/ has a Peep in her Pocket 6/8/10 I found a bunch of Junie B. books at a garage sale. Lots of giggles can be had for a quarter.

26. The Thrall and the Dragon’s Heart 6/18/10 Occasionally I have to get my fix on cheesy fantasy. One of the best places to do that is in an Elizabeth Boyer book. Her books may be cheesy, but at least they have there own twist on the fantasy world. It doesn’t feel cookie cutter or copy-cat.

27. Say Uncle 6/28/10 LBCC had a special event during April, which is national poetry month, when they brought the poet laureate of the United States to LBCC for a reading and a question/answer session. I couldn’t believe a little school like ours was able to get such a notable person to visit. Then during the Q & A I learned that Kay Ryan, the poet laureate, is herself a professor at a community college. Say Uncle is a good collection of well written poems. My favorite poem by Ryan is one she read at LBCC, which I am including below.

“After Zeno”

(For my father)

When he was

I was

But I still am

and he is still.

Where is is

when is is was?

I have an is

but where is his?

Now here–

no where:

such a little

fatal pause.

There’s no sense

in past tense.

 

 

28. 7th Tower: The Fall 7/31/10 See number 34

29. 7th Tower: Castle 7/4/10 See number 34

30. 7th Tower: Aenir 7/5/10 See number 34

31. The Case for Christ 7/11/10 After my Intro to Philosophy class I felt like I needed some mind cleansing. All those crazy philosophical ideas were mostly atheistic or  agnostic at best. Some good grounding material in Christianity was the perfect follow up. This book digs deep into the reason to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, that his death was real, and that his Resurrection has historical proof. Very good book, that I’ll have to read again, and put more work into remembering the proofs he puts forth.

32. Because of Winn-Dixie 7/12/10 Another book for the summer kids book club. A sweet story about a girl looking to belong in a new town, and the dog that helps her do it. Winn-Dixie, the dog, also helps the girl and the dad heal from the abandonment of her mother.

33. The Terminal Man 7/13/10 Somehow I almost always end up reading at least one Michael Crichton book year, even though I consider him a pop-trash-novel writer. My husband listened to the audio book version of The Terminal Man, and thought it was good. I thought it was so-so. It’s fast paced light sci-fi about a man who has violent blackouts after suffering a brain injury. An experimental surgery could cure him. Of course things go wrong, and instead of curing him they make him worse.

34. 7th Tower Volumes 4-6 7/18/10 I sped through the first three books in the series, and then immediately went to Amazon to buy the rest of the series. This series is a possibility for book (s) of the year even though they are YA books. The books are set in a fantasy world where the planet is covered in a veil which makes the whole world dark.

The Chosen live in a Castle with seven towers that is lit by sunstones. The sunstones also give them the magical ability to bend and weave light. Tal, the hero of the series, is a young Chosen of low order who is just on the cusp of the rituals that would bind him to a spiritshadow, give him his own rank within the Chosen, and make him an adult.

The Icecarls live in the wild parts of the world. They sail on iceflows and hunt selski, huge creature that are the source for food and material for the Icecarls. The Icecarls have maintained a war-like lifestyle, and fear light magic and moving shadows. The two societies are complete opposites of one another. With the exception of a few leaders they have no idea that the other society exists. Until Tal falls from the Castle and finds himself in the Icecarls world, and very unwanted. He is allowed to make the dangerous return trip to the Castle only because the Icecarls need a sunstone, and only with an Icecarl accompaniment, a girl named Milla. Milla is also on the cusp of adulthood, waiting for the trial that will make her a shield maiden.

Together Tal and Milla will uncover a sinister conspiracy that threatens their entire world. Both characters develop nicely and richly through the series. They learn to break out of their cultural habits to learn from each other. They face danger, and mistrust, and betrayal, but they continue on.

As I’m writing this review and trying not to give too much away this quote came to mind, “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going… because they were holding on to something.” Samwise Gamgee in The Two Towers. That’s the way I feel about these books too. Samwise you said it just right.

35. The Short Reign of Pippin IV 7/28/10 A political satire by John Steinbeck. Not bad, but I may have appreciated it more if 1. I was raised in France 2. I understood the political scene of the time and 3. I liked political satire.

36. The Wizard in the Tree 8/10/10 This book is a cute YA story by the Author of the Chronicles of Prydain  (The Black Cauldron, etc.) It features Mallory a downtrodden girl who works as a maid for a greedy and cruel mistress. They live in a downtrodden town that is about to be razed to be replaced by a coal mine. The Wizard, Abrican, who Mallory found trapped in a felled tree losing his powers, but he owes Mallory a gift for freeing him. Together he and Mallory get tangled up with the greedy Squire whose going to turn the town into a coal mine.

37. Nancy Drew : The Whispering Statue 8/26/10 Among the books that I collect are old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. When I was a little girl I read every Nancy Drew book our library had. Now as I get them from garage sales and used books store I am re-reading them. This book fits into the “Nancy goes on vacation to solve a mystery” category, which is actually an extensive category. Nancy, under an assumed name, gets a job in a pretty coastal town working for what may be a corrupt art dealer.

38. Starship Troopers 9/13/10 The movie is about 10 pages worth of story, out of the 300 or so pages of the book. The book is really excellent, and not quite as cheesy as the movie. Follows Johnnie Rico through his career in the Mobile Infantry (a kind of futuristic Marine Corp.) Is a very good, very real look at what life in a future military would look like. With an ongoing interstellar war Rico has to stay alive to make it through the ranks. Lots of philosophical ideas about government, capital punishment, and the military life in this book too. It’s actually a “deep” book for a sci-fi action/adventure novel.

39. Seven Day Magic 9/14/10 I love the Edward Eager YA books. As it says on the back of the book, “All books are magic, but some are more magical than others.” They are innocent, fun, and really make you remember a time when children were children, and didn’t spend their lives connected to a screen. After checking out an old book from the library Susan and her friends find that it’s about them. Only the last few pages are blank, ready to be filled with wishes.

40. A Cry in the Night 9/18/10 I got several Mary Higgins Clark books from an aunt and read one every once in a while, just to get them off the to read shelf. Pop culture suspense books aren’t really my thing. This one is about a single mother who gets caught up in a whirlwind romance with a wealthy artist. She is swept off her feet and married before she even has time to breath. When things finally settle, she and her girls have moved from NYC to Minnesota to live on his farm. Soon she finds out that there is something terribly terribly wrong with her new husband and his obsession over his dead mother. She discovers that she trapped with a man who may be a murderer. The only way out is to discover the truth of what happened years ago surrounding the death of his mother.

41. Bridge to Terabithia 9/18/10 A bittersweet YA story about friendship. I remembered this from school when I was a kid, but it wasn’t how I remembered it. For one thing, its a lot sadder than I thought it was. For another it was lighter on the parts where they are in their imaginary land of Teribithia. I think the “imaginary land” part is probably what sparked my imagination as a child and so that’s what stuck. As an adult the tragedy in the story takes center stage. It seems to me that you’d have to deal carefully with this story when reading it to its intended audience because the sadness of the event could be a little overwhelming, but it may be helpful to children dealing with issues of death.

42. Shadow Puppets 9/29/10 Orson Scott Card tries to be Tom Clancy in this novel that continues the story of Bean one of Ender’s jeesh (close confidants/ friends) from the critically acclaimed Enders Game. I like Card and I like Clancy, but Card trying to write like Clancy is a big mistake and leaves it lacking on both the sci-fi and the political thriller side of things. Becoming a book with few surprises, and only familiar characters to keep you engaged. Hopefully the next book in the series goes back to the sci-fi roots from which is was born.

43. Timaeus 10/6/10 Another Plato book I read for a Philosophy class. After Intro to Philosophy I was invited to be in Great Books, which is an invite only discussion based Philosophy class. This book, which has the first references to Atlantis in it, is more or less about science. Explaining the way Plato/ Socrates uses logic to figure out how the universe IS. To Plato the world can be understood by reason and not always by senses.  Some ideas are down right silly to modern readers, some are surprisingly insightful. My favorite is that the four elements (fire, earth, air and water) are made up of different triangles, and those triangles combine in different patterns to make up the basis of everyday matter. The “everything is made of triangles” hypothesis seems silly, but part of his writings rings of an atomic understanding or grasping.

44. King Lear 10/10/10 Also a Philosophy book, and probably the one I enjoyed the most. King Lear is Shakespears classic story of an aging king who splits his kingdom up between married daughters who pledge to take care of him in his old age. He banishes a third daughter for not flattering him like her sisters. The two sisters whose husband have been put in charge of the kingdom soon plot to betray their father. The plot gets more and more complicated with noble families which are also full of betrayal. At the climax the King is mad, his most loyal subject blinded by one of the villains, and being lead by a naked madman (who is also his loyal son in disguise) and the kingdom is on the brink of war. It really is a masterpiece. If you’d like to watch it instead of reading it choose the Lawrence Olivier version. I watched a couple of the versions and it was by far the best. Of course I am hoping that Kenneth Branagh, who did Hamlet and Othello, will do a King Lear movie.

45. The Foundling 10/12/10 I read this book to take a break from Copernicus, which I was reading for Philosophy class (and never managed to finish.) The Foundling is a group of short stories that explain some back story of the character from the Chronicles of Pyrdain. Would probably work as a stand alone book, but I thought it was a really nice follow up to the Chronicles.

46. Junie B. Jones- Yucky Blucky Fruitcake/ Boss of Lunch 10/14/10 Really can I say anything more about Junie B. Jone? She was a nice break in the midst of all these heady philosophy books.

47. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution 10/20/10 My Philosophy professor has his Great Books class read these every term, which is one thing I applaud him for.  If you haven’t read through it before you should add it to the top of your reading list. It’s not great prose, and my version of the Declaration had capitalization on every word with four or more letters, and it may not be easy to read, but they’re such important documents. To have no knowledge of what is actually contained in them is to sell yourself short as an American and as a patriot.

48. As Sure as the Dawn 10/23/10 I had been looking for this book for years after having read the first two in the series, A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness. The Christian book store never seemed to have it, and used books stores never seemed to have any books in the series at all. The book is set in Rome during the beginning of its fall and focus’ on the underground church and an ex-gladiator. Atretes, the former gladiator, finds out the son he thought was left on the rocks to die by his uncaring ex-lover is alive and being raised by a Christian widow. His goal is simple, reclaim his son and return to Germania, but the child refuses to nurse from anyone other than his adopted mother, Rizpah. Atretes, stuck with the “infuriating” Christian women, begins his journey. To get to Germania he must travel through Rome where old revivals seek to put him back into the Arena. To escape he uses Rizpah’s connections in the underground church, which leads him to a Roman centurion named Theophilus, who is a real Biblical/ Historical character. This book does a great job weaving drama, faith, and history together. Theophilus is a great example of this and his story is one I’d like to know more about in the historical sense.

49. A Series of Unfortunate Events #6 The Ersatz Elevator 10/25/10 This book proves that the Baudelaire orphans’ cannot trust adults, as one of their new guardians betrays them for money (even though she is already exceedingly rich) and the other is too limp wrist-ed to do anything about it. This one makes me want to give up on the series, but I have vols. 7-10 sitting on my to read shelf. I guess I shall have to read at least those (but no one is saying I have to do that any time soon.)

50. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 11/15/10 This was the book I challenged my professor on. I proposed that this book picked along with the existentialist work The Brothers Karamazov where chosen particularly to make the two of us who were Christians in the class uncomfortable. I accused him of trying to convert us. He argued that he picked them because they were important books to understanding history and philosophy (and because he had never read either.) He urged me to read this autobiography saying that I may be surprised by what I find in it. I was not surprised, and it did nothing to change my mind about Darwin or Evolution. Darwin is nothing more than an eccentric gentleman’s scientist. He had family money, and probably married for more money and disregarded the fact that he was trampling on the religion his wife held dear. It was a waste of my time to read this book, esp. since most of the others in the class did not come prepared to discuss it.

51. The Brother Karamazov 12/30/10 A book that seems like it is going somewhere good for the first half, and then gets bogged down in Russian philosophical musings. Just when you think its out of the depressing musings and going to get on with where it was headed it has an anti-climatic resolution which should be the end. Instead of ending the book at the natural place it goes on to repeat most of the plot in a very boring court room drama which takes up at least a forth of the book. This is what happens when publishers pay authors by the page. I enjoyed Crime and Punishment when I read it years ago. I did not enjoy The Brothers Karamazov. (This was the final book for my Great Books Philosophy class.)

Finished Feb. 20, 2011

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