2012 Reviews

The Rating System:

Loved It Loved It

Liked It A lot Liked It A lot

Liked It Liked It

It Was Okay

Kinda Bad

Bad

It Stunk

1. The Forest House 1/23/12 I really enjoyed the first half of this book, but then it just gets bogged down. She almost tries too hard with all the intrigue and infighting among the druids and priestesses. There were so many moments where you just wanted to take all the characters and tell them how childish and stupid they were being. And all that stupidity leads up to a tragic ending that really could have been avoided at so many different points in the book. Good but disappointing compared to “Mists of Avalon.”

2. Lady of Avalon 2/5/12 I think that in playing upon the success of “Mists of Avalon” she wrote weaker and weaker material. As one other reviewer said on Goodreads “I learned from this book that one shouldn’t try to milk a successful concept beyond its possibilities.” Enough said.

3. Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe 2/10/12 There is just so much to enjoy about the short lived television series by Joss Whedon. And that is why there is not 1 but 2 books of essay’s about the show. Examining everything from it’s connections to the Civil War, Libertarianism, Media messages, and the strong female character of the Whedonverse. Really a great read if you are a flan of Firefly. (Kind made me want to write my own essay on the show.)

4. Reno 2/17/12 Westerns aren’t really my thing (excepting space westerns.) But someone gave this to me and I enjoy Gilbert Morris’ other historical fiction, so I gave it a shot. And it was ..okay. Just that easy to read, a couple of nice plot twists, and a main character that you really like despite himself.

5. The Outsiders 2/19/12 Can you believe that I had never read this book before? That right somehow I escaped public school without even taking a glance at The Outsiders. I can understand why so many others I’ve talked to consider this a YA classic, and why so many are required to read it in school. The intense realistic drama on top of the socio-economic study in the book, and the climatic scene towards the end make it a emotional ride. I enjoy books where the main character is challenged and grows and deepens throughout the story. That exactly what happens with Ponyboy.

6. Conquering Nonprofit Chaos 3/8/12  (First of all disclosure, the author is a client and a friend of mine.) But that doesn’t keep me from being blown away by his book. Bradley is a nonprofit consultant, and this book is filled with practical experience and helpful tips. I actually requested a box of these books and have given them away to nonprofit leaders that I know. Its short enough that if you skip the question sections you can finish it in a day, yet if you fill out the questions it walks you in-depth through applying the ideas to your nonprofit.

7. Mossflower 3/13/12 I really enjoyed Redwall, but Mossflower didn’t seem to have the same sense of danger or risk for the characters. Aka no real drama, no real peril. I guess tha’ts to be expected for a prequel. (You do kinda know the outcome ahead of time.) It just didn’t keep me engaged as well as the first one. Tsarmina, the crazied cat, just didn’t cut it as a villain. Her lackies were even worse. They were just a terrible mess. How the woodlanders came to be afraid of them is a wonder. Not everything was a loss however, I did enjoy part where they went “questing” to Salamandastron, and the adventures they had along the way. If the book had simply been a quest for a sword I think I would haven enjoyed it.

8. The Honorable Imposter 3/21/12 Taking a walk back in time with this book. Actually in more than one way. It’s a historical romance set on the Mayflower and the early days of the Plymouth colony, but it’s also the first in a series of books that I read in high school. Gilbert Morris has a talent for taking you back in time and making the book com alive with action, adventure and romance. It’s a perfect curl-up with a cup of hot cocoa and read all day book.

9. Six Hours One Friday 3/29/12  I really don’t remember much about this book, except that I enjoyed it while I was reading it. That alone tells me something. Some books have good stories, good information, but if it doesn’t move you to have memories it’s pretty much failed. So since I can’t remember much about it I’ll let Goodreads give you the scoop.

In “Six Hours One Friday,” Max Lucado delves into the meaning of Jesus’ last hours on the cross. Through his death, your life has purpose and meaning. You are forgiven and loved by a Savior who died for you. And an empty tomb proclaims that death does not have the final word.

“Peace where there should be pain. Confidence in the midst of crisis. Hope defying despair. “Does death have the last word?” I can see Jesus wink as he gives the answer, “Not on your life.”

10. Once on a time 4/2/12  An “adult” fairy tale, or fairy tale spoof by AA Milne, best know for the Winnie the Pooh series. It’s suppose to be a hilarious take on fairy tales, but falls far short of it. I didn’t see much humor, and the story managers to be both muddled and extreamly simple in plot.

11. Pirates of Venus 4/8/12  I decided to bite the bullet and read through Edgar Rice Burroughs “Venus” series this year. Pirate is the first book and recounts how a man named Carson travel from earth to Venus, and gets stranded there. He is able to communicate his adventure back to earth via telephathy. Chief among those adventures is, batteling giant spider-like ape creatures, falling in love with Duare the forbidden daughter of the King, being kidnapped and taken as a slave, then finally leading a mutainy and becoming a pirate.

12. Children’s Stories 4/12/12 RICK STEBER  CAME TO THE SCHOOL WHERE I WORK!!! I was like a total fan girl… I brought in a whole stack of books and he signed them all, even giving me another to add to the collection. 🙂 It was totally awesome to add him to my short list of Oregon writers I admire and have been able to meet. (Jane Kirkpatrick is the other author on the list… As soon as her book is published my friend Karen Barnett will be another.)

So then on to the book. Children’s stories is not a collection of stories FOR children, but rather about the children of pioneers, settlers, ranchers, and others is that other west. Nevertheless I do use the book a lot when I go read to classrooms. Kids like to hear stories about other kids growing up in a different time ( the success of American Girls shows us that.) My favorite is “Bobby the Wonder Dog” the most famous dog in Oregon history.

13. Lost on Venus 4/14/12 Who knew? Nazi’s, zombies, and utopia (if you have the right genetic qualifications) are all a part of life on Venus. I really like how ERB uses the stories in the Venus books to explore different sociological concepts, of course Sociology was my major in college. This book is rather episodic, they bounce from one civilization and adventure to the next, all while trying to figure out where they are and how to get back to Duare’s people. With no stars for navigation and in uncharted territory their task is not easy, and that leaves lots of open room for “Adventure, Excitement, Romance!”

14. Grandpa’s Stories 4/14/12 Imagine that grandpa was an old pioneer. When you sat down and he would tell you his stories of life growing up on the range, or the Oregon trail he might tell you some of the stories in the collection by Rick Steber.

15. Magic Tree House 1-5 4/16/12 Some children’s books are equally delightful to adults and children. These books are not quite there. Although there are hints of a larger story throughout the books, the stories just didn’t hold my interest. This is one of those cases where a the books are really just for kids.

16. An Oregon Message 4/17/12 Written by poet laureate and Oregonian William Stafford. I especially enjoy his short verse.

17. Prophet 4/20/12 Frank Peretti does it again. He has a gift for telling stories that suck you in and hold you. Things become murky when a news anchors father becomes the news. Investigating the recent death of his father, John Barrett uncovers some truth that his producers will fight to keep quiet. It’s a more than a religious drama prophet has surprising turns and intrigue like a Mary Higgins Clark novel. It kept me glue to the novel until I finished it. 415 pages in 3 days, not too shabby.

18. Partials 4/23/12 I admit that I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Recently there has been plenty to choose from thanks in large part to “Hunger Games.” Partials was a Goodreads suggestion, and since I could get it at the library while I was on the waiting list for the “Hunger Games” I did. Dan Wells does a good job weaving a believable story out of some rather used genre material. So the humans-living-in-a-ruined-world-after-machines-we-built-destroy-civilation-as-we-know-it and the not-everyone-is-who-they-say-they-are genre devices have been used over and over and over. But Dan Wells uses these backdrop as a sandbox in which he places rich complex characters, and put them into believable real-life situations that you might expect of people rebuilding their lives after the devastation of civilization. The he turns it on it’s head and picks up the pace to make it a race-to-find-the-truth-and-save-the-human-race. It’s a really great take on one of my favorite genres.

19. The Running Man 4/27/12 Well what do you know another book set in dystopian future. Ben Richards is a down-and-out, out of work man trying to support his wife and baby girl. He’s out of options when his baby girl gets sick and he has no money for medicine, so he tries out for a television game-show. The government and the corporation that run the television studio use the game shows as a way to distract the poor masses and to give them a glimmer of hope of escaping poverty. The top show is the Running Man, if he can make it onto that his baby girl will get the medicine she needs. His wife and daughter will get $100 for every hour hour he can stay alive. Fast paced and intelligent I wonder why they had to change it all up to make the movie.

20. Carson of Venus 5/2/12 Duare seems to have a knack for getting kidnapped and putting Carson into dangerous situations. This one is very episodic. Which is probably because the stories were originally released that way in magazine. Luckily ERB keeps it wild and fun, so you can keep coming back for more.

21. Escape On Venus 5/5/12 Same old, same old, like I said it’s lucky ERB is imaginative enough to make it fun enough that you keep coming back.

22. Zaanan: Fatal Limit 5/6/12 Set in a future were citizens are strongly controlled by the government, and religion has been abolished this book tries to take the “utopian on the surface, dystopian underneath” theme to the Christian young reader audience. It’s a pretty hard jump. I think if they had take the same story and worked it into an adult piece of literature it would have gone off better. It’s not really the sort of subject that works well in a book written at 3rd grade level with pictures every other page.

23. Zaanan: The Dream of Delosar 5/8/12 Ditto.

24. The Wizard of Venus (Including *Pirate Blood*) 5/15/12  The final stories of the adventures on Carson on Venus is unfinished. Both Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood were found and published after ERB died. The Venus story is pretty much more of the same, but Pirate Blood is a surprisingly interesting read. Pirate Blood is a novella about Johnny Lafitte whose ancestor was a pirate. The novella asks the question if “bad blood” stays in the family. Through a bizarre series of events he is kidnapped and ends up in the far east with the choice to be a victim or a pirate.

25. The Hunger Games 5/20/12 If you don’t know anything about the Hunger Games trilogy you’d had your head in the sand for at least a year. Besides being a best selling book, it’s also been a blockbuster movie with a sequel coming out this summer. Again because I am a dystopian fiction junkie this was right up my alley.

In the future the country has been split into several districts. Most of the population scrapes by, living in poverty working to provide items for the citizens of the Capital. Citizens in the Capital live high tech lives in luxury that most of the population can’t imagine. To control the outlaying  districts the Capital created the Hunger Games, requiring the districts to send 1 boy and 1 girl every year to participate in a fight to the death. One winner earns fame, a life of ease and extra food for the people in the district.

There is a lot to the sociology and psychology of the book, and I could go on and on. Like how the manipulation of young adults reminds me of “Enders Game.” Or how the fight-to-the-death on live TV reminds me of “Running Man.” It really does deserve all it’s accolades.

26. Surprise Island (The Boxcar Children Mysteries #2) 5/23/12 A sweet blast from the past, Surprise Island is the second book in the Boxcar Children series. They just don’t write books like this any more. The children get to spend the summer on their Grandfathers private island… alone. They grow a garden for their food, and make-do in a make shift house. Its the kind of independence kids dream of, playing house, but for real.

27. White Raven (Advance Reader Version) 6/1/12 White Raven is a fantasy book by Russian author Irina Lopatina. Because I enjoy the Scandinavian flavor of Elizabeth Boyer’s books I was curious to see what a Russian perspective would add to a fantasy novel.

The main problem was the translation was not very clean. Other reviewers have gone in depth on that subject so I won’t. The book is pretty standard fantasy far, with a few new “Russian-esq” fantasy beings, until two-third through. At that point it takes an interesting time-travel twist. Despite not being a very good translation I enjoyed the “fish out of water” twist in the book. It becomes some what of a comedy at that point having the warrior prince from long ago trying to adjust to life in the modern world.

If you can get past the roughness of the translation I think this book would be an enjoyable read for anyone who likes fantasy. (See Updated Review on New Edition.)

28. The Trouble With Tink 6/7/12 Okay I’ll admit it I mostly bought this book because it’s cute and has a fairy on it. It’s one of those cute stories with a good moral lesson based on your favorite characters kind of books. The perfect kind of thing for an 8 year-old girl.

29. Lily’s Pesky Plant 6/7/12 Is it okay to use “ditto” twice in my reviews? Because if so…………… Ditto

30. Rama II 6/21/12 Rendezvous with Rama with Rama is a classic, a great piece of Sci-fi that leaves you with a lot of questions. So naturally they wrote some sequels to try to answer those questions. So much of this book is the politic-ing, and history of the planet since the last Rama vessel visited. It crawls along with the crew on earth for a large chunk of the book, and then crawls along with “personality” conflicts and bureaucracy. Even though it tedious it lays the ground work for the intrigue towards the end of the book. The payoff comes when you’ve slugged through it all and finally get some twists and turns and action that you were totally not expecting.

31. The Garden of Rama 6/30/12 The slow downhill turn of the Rama books, just enough mystery to keep you interested, to keep you hoping that there will be something spectacular at the end. This one is filled with “social sci-fi,” all this stuff about family situations, and character investigation. More social sci-fi with the setting up of an microcosm of earth society on Rama. Only problem is that instead of a true microcosm, representing the population of earth, they get 50% violent criminals. There were just enough aliens in it to keep me reading.

32. Rama Revealed 7/6/12 I could not imagine a worse ending to a scifi series. You get strung along through four books, it keeps building and building and then………………………………………………………. and then you feel like you have wasted all your time with these books. Biggest disappointment I’ve had in a long time. Stop with Rendezvous With Rama, and don’t waste your time on the rest of the series.

33. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath 7/6/12 Why do they feel that if the first book was a hit, possibly even a future classic, that it means that you should let the author continue to put out other books even if they are crap? I feel like I read quite a bit of these kind of books this year. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath is just another example of bad editorial decisions. Makes me wonder if I can trust other series.

34. The Clue in the Embers (Hardy Boys, Book 35) 7/16/12 The Hardy Boys take on an international case in this book. When their friend Tony inherits some odd curios it attracts the attention of thieves. In order to solve the case the boys have to travel to Guatemala.

35. The Aliens Approach: A Novel (Space – Above and Beyond) 7/19/12 A junior novelization of the first episode of the short lived Space Above and Beyond television show. Space Above and Beyond is one of my favorite shows. Unfortunately I seem to mostly enjoy sci-fi shows that are doomed. Space Above and Beyond only lasted for one season, and of course ended in a cliff hanger. I grew to really love the characters, and so revisiting them in the book was great fun (even if it is written poorly.)

36. Moon White: Color Me Enchanted (TrueColors Series #11) 8/2/12 This book really struck a cord with me. Melody Carlson has a very real grip on teenagers, their inner thoughts and their dialogue. The book rings true for a teenager searching for answers and looking to supernatural forces. Playing with dark supernatural powers has consequences. Giving your life to Christ defeats the darkness. My story isn’t the same as the stories main character, but I understand those principles very well.

37. The Troll’s Grindstone 8/4/12 Every year I have to fit at least one cheesy fantasy novel into the mix. Elizabeth Boyer books fit the profile perfectly, and I can often find them for 25 cents. After a few books though it starts to be really formulaic. A first I enjoyed her twist on the mythological elements in her fantasy, but when the plot is recycled through a few books it gets old.

38. Frankenstein (ICE) 8/5/12 Illustrated Classic Edition of Frankenstein is short and sweet, but keeps true to the story of young Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. A good intro to a classic work.

39.Ben Hur (Young Readers Christian Library) 8/9/12 Young Readers Christian Library Ben-Hur falls some where between Cliff-Notes and cartoon. Yes it covers all the major plot points of the story. Yes it has all the right characters, and they more or less act like they should. But it just isn’t the same as the classic novel.

40. Christopher Columbus (Young Reader’s Christian Library) 8/12/12 I collect these Young Readers Christian Library books when I see them at garage sales because I fondly remember reading some of them as a child. David Livingston and The Pilgrim Progress where two that I remember and loved. But Christopher Columbus didn’t spark the imagination, or capitalize on the adventure or daring that you expect from a story about an explorer. Instead it focused entirely too much on the fact that he was a Christian, and tries to “clean-up” the story of Columbus.

41. The Yellow Feather Mystery 8/23/12 Really enjoyed this Hardy Boys book. The boys are invited to solve a mystery at their fathers alma mater, a private high school. The owner has past away and the will is missing. To kept the school open they have to find the will, but of course a sinister person want to keep them off the trail.

42. White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors 10/30/12 I was given a very unique opportunity as an early reviewer, and that was to review the book a second time after the translation from Russian to English had been cleaned up. I am very grateful to the publisher for this chance to review White Raven again (You can read my old review at number 27 on this list.)

White Raven is a fantasy book by Russian author Irina Lopatina. Because I enjoy the Scandinavian flavor of Elizabeth Boyer’s books I was curious to see what a Russian perspective would add to a fantasy novel.

The book begins in the kingdom of Areya, were humans dwell and the Eternal Forest were werewolves, gnomes, druids (small tree folk) and other magical creatures live. Several of the creatures were new to me, and I would guess that is because they come from Russians mythology. Vraigo, the dukes nephew is gifted magically and as a warrior, but is an outcast among the humans who don’t understand his love for the Eternal Forest and its inhabitants.

The first 2/3 of the book are pretty much standard fantasy fare, battles, magic, an evil villain who threatens the whole world, ect. Then it takes a very interesting time-travel twist. I enjoyed the “fish out of water” spin the book takes at this point. It becomes some what of a comedy having the warrior prince from long ago trying to adjust to life in the modern world.

I enjoyed it and would be interested to see where the next book in the series takes the story. I think if you enjoy fantasy you would enjoy the White Raven.

43. Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure! 12/14/12 A fun little read, and possibly a future classic of children’s literature, but again it doesn’t appeal very much to adult readers. It’s silly and preposterous, and I’m sure that kids love all of that.

44. Series of Unfortunate Events #7 The Vile Village 12/14/12   The Baudelaire orphans seem to have no control over their lives. They just bounce from one bad situation to another. Pawns of adults who really don’t care or who just want to use the kids. In this case a whole village of adults who are looking for children to do their dirty work. However the end puts a wrench into the works, and made me want to read the next one to see just where he is going with this,

45. Series of Unfortunate Events #8 The Hostile Hospital 12/18/12 Just when I was getting tired of the formulaic plots of these books Lemony Snickets throws it out the window, and writes a new kind of story. This is the first one that really advances the over arching story that’s been hinted at in small ways through the Quagmire triplet side story and Count Olafs troupe. I was about to give up on the whole thing and then this book comes along with new surprises.

46. The Oresteian Trilogy: The Choephori 12/18/12 The middle play in the Orestia by Aeschylus. Orestes returns home to find his sister Elektra grieving over the grave of their father, Agamemnon. He vows revenge for his fathers murder, only to find out that his mother and her lover are the guilty ones. My favorite lines:

No man may hope to spend
His life untouched by pain
And favored to the end.
Some griefs are with us now; others again
Time and gods will send.

47. Series of Unfortunate Events #9 Carnivorous Carnival 12/23/12 Finally the Baudelaire’s attempt to take their fate into their own hands. You get tantalizing hints at the larger story and almost get answers, but once again it gets yanked away at the last moment.

48. Series of Unfortunate Events #10 The Slippery Slope 12/27/12 More hints at the larger story, the big conspiracy behind it all. More character development of the parts of the orphans. They actually seem to be growing and learning through their experiences. I’m suddenly interested in where this is going.

49. Gunfighters 12/29/12 Rick Steber’s collection of stories about famous gunfighters in the old west.

50. Stanley in Space 12/31/12  Talk about milking an idea too far. Flat Stanley is a truly fun book for kids. Stanley Flat Again is also pretty good. This one is just ridiculous, and takes the suspension of disbelief too far.

BONUS:

I can’t believe that I forgot to write these kindle books in my journal when I finished them. I got both books free from the Kindle thanks to Inspired Reads. If you want free Christian books for the Kindle you should definitely follow them on Facebook.

1. Prophet (Books of the Infinite) A very good Christian fantasy novel that has a little bit of an historical feel. It draws you in and holds you. “Ela Roeh of Parne doesn’t understand why her beloved Creator, the Infinite, wants her to become His prophet. She’s undignified, bad tempered, and only seventeen–not to mention that no prophet of Parne has ever been a girl. Worst of all, as the elders often warn, if she agrees to become the Infinite’s prophet, Ela knows she will die young.”  The characters feel real, the mystery feels real, and the danger mounts yet you never question that there is a greater plan behind it all. You don’t often find such a moving believable book in Christian fantasy.  There are two more books in the series and Im looking forward to them.

2. Infinitely More  Alex Krutov is an orphan growing up in a changing Russia. The lives of orphans are harsh in Russia, even in the mist of a Russia that is opening to a wider world. Alex could have ended up hopeless, broken, addicted or leading a life of crime. But God showed Alex that he could be Infinitely More. A very touching, inspirational read.

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