Well this year I disappointed myself a little with the number of books I read. Only making it to 29 of my goal of 50. I did read quite a bit more non-fiction than usual, and reading blogs and articles online increasingly accounts for more of my time.
The Rating System:
Liked It A lot
1. Nobody’s Princess – A fun YA “myth-lite” story about the young Helen of Sparta who is destined to be Helen of Troy one day. Helen is at the point and time in her life where she will soon leave girlhood behind. Helen will one day be the future Queen of Sparta- that and her growing beauty causes a divide between her and her twin sister Clytemnestra. Adding to that Helen is headstrong and would prefer to learn sword play than the duties of a queen. Meanwhile her sister is more traditional and settled. It was a fun coming of age story with the backdrop of Greek Mythology which I have a special predilection for.
2. The Try: Reclaiming the American Dream – The first book for our American Agri-Women book club. A great book of motivation, esp when it followed up a fantastic presentation by author James P Owen at our National Convention. It really speaks to those from rural America who understands Cowboy ethics and culture. Even if you aren’t part of that culture I think you will get a lot out of it. You’ll learn for instance what drives Ty Murray the “King of the Cowboys.”
What is the Try? “In standard English usage, ‘try’ is a verb that means ‘to make an attempt.’ But in cowboy culture, the word is a noun invested with profound meaning. When Cowboys say, ‘That cow hand, he’s got try,’ they’re talking about the quality of giving something every ounce of effort you can muster…”
“What makes things happen is putting effort behind your ideas, actions behind your words, and intention behind your dreams. That’s what having The Try is all about.”
3. Shen of The Sea : Chinese Stories for Children – Ugh. If you haven’t challenged yourself to read all the Newbery like I have; skip it. If you’re curious why read my full review : Newbery Goal Update
4. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze – Another Newbery book, this one is a really compiling coming of age story set again a backdrop of China right before the revolution. Again read my full review : Newbery Goal Update
5. Would You Like Fries With That? – Note: The author is a former client of mine and this book was provided to me as part of my job. This book is a bunch of small ante-dotes for sharing the gospel. Which makes since because the author Mike Silva is an Evangelist. It’s a good as an example for learning how to make your testimony conversational. However it lacks in helping you practice the principle. As my current pastor is fond of saying “Application is everything.”
6. Our Daily Bread; The Essential Norman Borlaug – Another selection for the American Agri-Women book club. Norman Borlaug is one of my heros. This book covers his boyhood in Iowa to his research days. It briefly touches on the prizes and accolades he recieved which include the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal and was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. His work in plant breeding was so important that he has been said to have saved a billion lives and ended a famine in India. Several countries went from being net importers of food to self sufficient because of him. I met Dr. Borlaug when my grandmother organized a get together with him at Oregon State University. I was about two (see picture below.)
7. The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t – I’ll admit I only picked this up because of the scandalous title. I read it because it I was curious. It’s a really great book on workplace culture and how leadership in the workplace can set the standard. It helps clear up myths about work place bullying and dealing with jerks. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean that they aren’t a poison pill in the work place. Successful jerks are still jerks. Their attitude can do one of two things to the people around them; 1.they can discourage them and force others to live in fear or dread 2. Spread their attitude until you have a workplace culture of jerks.
8. Nobody’s Prize – The sequel to Nobody’s Princess. This time Helen dresses as a man so she can join her brothers and Jason in the adventure of the Argonauts. While still a pretty fun story it doesn’t live up to the first novel. She’s changed the story of the Argonauts so much that the myth is hardly recognizable. Especially disappointing is golden fleece.
9. The Land of Elyon #1: The Dark Hills Divide – I’m going to group my thoughts on this trilogy into one entry. Wow! What an introduction to Patrick Carman. This series is fantastic. A fantasy story about a young girl (I know, I know some of you signed just then because every other YA fantasy story is a about a young girl who finds herself with some special power to save her world.) And yes this one is starts out just the same. Alexa Daley is given a special stone and thrust into a world she doesn’t know beyond the safe walls of her city with a destiny to save her world from a coming war. (Again I know you’ve heard all that before.)
What sets this series apart and makes it something you really want to read is the connection between the creator Elyon and his land and his people. The mystery behind that relationship keeps it interesting. Plus there are other mysteries; why were the walls built? Where is this evil influence coming from? Why are the leaders so secretive?… It’s starts out like those others YA fantasy stories but becomes a touching Christian allegory.
I copied this passage as a small example of that: “Elyon has only one hope for us Alexa. That we would know he loves us. Do you understand? The one who made you, the one who made everything… He loves you. And more than that, there is nothing you or I need do to earn his reckless affection for us. That love has driven me tho fight his enemy the enemy of us all… I have failed, and failed, and failed again… But no amount of failure can move Elyon’s hand of affection away from me. It’s inescapable. To live bodily for that kind of love is the least I can do.” The visuals popped out from the pages and I was really able to get into the world of Elyon. He does a really great job with imagery and mood. You can not only see the world in your head you can feel it too.
12. The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread – Love, love love! This a fantastic book and totally deserved it’s Newbery Medal. Read my full review : Newbery Goal Update.
13. Robot Haiku: Poems for Humans to Read Until Their Robots Decide It’s Kill Time – One of the funnest poetry books I’ve ever come across. This is a book for sci-fi lovers who may not like poetry. Dip your toe into Robot Haiku and find out how fun poetry can be.
14. Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) – It ends as it should, but might leave you feeling depressed. Unlike like some series it doesn’t wrap up with a happy ending or with complete tragedy. Like I said it ends as it should, in a way that real life works. War is messy even when the war is over there’s not a happy ending for everyone, and in real life the heros of war carry scars their whole life. I really respect Suzanne Collins for keeping her feet on the ground, wrapping up the series without being sapping or dramatic. So should you read it? If you’ve read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire you’ll want to read it to have closure (Esp since Catching Fire ends on a cliff hanger,) but don’t expect a warm a fuzzy wrap up to the story. It will however leave you turning pages late into the night as the action keeps you engaged with the text.
15. Divergent (Divergent Series) – If you’ve read my reviews before you know I’m a sucker for dystopian fiction. I know that with the movie coming out a lot of people are jumping on the Divergent bandwagon, and others are comparing it to Hunger Games or Twilight as a cheep knock-off. I’m in neither camp, I just enjoy seeing what authors come up with as far as dystopian worlds are concerned. This won’t be a lastly classic or anything, but it’s a good entry in the genre. I like how it leaves questions hanging and leaves you hungry for more. The idea of factions and divergence is interesting. It’s an extreme world of pigeon-holing, fit in or get out.
16. Dulcie’s Taste of Magic (Disney Fairies) – A quick cute read, would be great for like a 3rd girl. I pick them up when I see them for twenty-five cents at a garage sale.
17. The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change – One of our selections for the American Agri-Women book club. Great book that speaks to me as someone involved in agriculture as well as someone concerned for humanitarian causes. The Last Hunger Season follows several small farmers struggling to survive and help their children progress beyond poverty in rural Kenya. The choices they have to make with their resources are heart-breaking, and you really come to understand why they are stuck in the cycle of poverty. However, its not like many books that harp on the problems and suggest solutions (workable or not) this book shows the solution WORKING! One Acre Fund, is the NGO that brings hope and real life answers. The challenges can be overcome. There is a way out of the cycle.
18. Insurgent (Divergent Series) – **Spoilers-Lite** Divergent was really good and you were left with a lot of questions that kept you hungry for more. However when some of those questions get answered in Insurgent it’s a let down. Especially when you find out the motivation behind the lead villains actions (that basically amount to genocide) it’s just hard to believe that she would choose to do such horrible things under such incentive. The action is good and the character development is great.
19. The Retirement Miracle – I’m not really the kind of person who is interested in books on retirement. A friend who is a financial planner gave it to me. It has some interesting ideas in it, but it’s not for everyone.
20. The Spirit Well (Bright Empires) – Sophomore slump? I liked it, but it wasn’t nearly as good as what I expect from Lawhead. I know that the middle of a series is typically the hardest to write, but Lawhead being an accomplished writer who has many a series under his belt could have done better. My biggest complaint was introducing a major character this late into the series, and not advance the other characters stories further. That being said, it’s still a mind bending and twisting, time and dimensional traveling tale. Kit and Mina seem to be settling into their lives in alternative times, but the hunt for the skin map is still on and still dangerous.
21. Mistaken: First Impressions Are Never What They Seem – NOTE: The Author is a personal friend of mine, and I even got to go to the book release party (get the highlights.) It was a fun pro-habitation party and it fit the book perfectly too. Mistaken is about a girl named Laurie and her struggle for love and belonging in Port Angeles, Washington during pro-habitation. Her father is a drunk, her brother a rum-runner, and she thinks new-comer Daniel is in on it. Although, it took sometime for Laurie to grow on me, I think thats because she a real person not just a “character actor.” It’s a fast read, and while I’m not into romance stories I enjoyed Mistaken.
22. Lost Mission – A strange story that tries to be a supernatural thriller, but ends up being a jumpy ride between characters with a let down ending. There are several threads in this book; one in the distant past at the Mission , two in modern times with Lupe (a lovely lady, who come illegally to the USA to preach to the “lost gringos”,) Delano Wright a rich American, and Tucker a Christian man who is dedicated to helping poor immigrants so dedicated that he looses site of right and wrong.
23. The Story of Scripture: How We Got Our Bible and Why We Can Trust It – I got this through the LibraryThing early reviewer program. Puts hefty ideas into easily understood quick reading chapters. Just a sample of the accessibility of the writing, “Inerrancy does not mean that the Bible provides definitive or exhaustive information on every topic… If you want to learn how to bake French pastries, for example, there is no biblical text I can suggest. I can, however exhort you do do all things diligently for God’s glory… and I would be happy to sample any of the pastries you make.” An enjoyable and quick read, and a handy reference for the future.
24. Supertoys Last All Summer Long: And Other Stories of Future Time – I hate being preached at by radical vegetarians who think our modern food system is going to collapse the environment. It’s even worse when they weave it into their science fiction. (Sidenote: I come from a multi-generation farm family. If farm families like mine didn’t take care of the land we farm we wouldn’t be able to pass it down to the next generation. Find out the real scoop from places like Common Ground, American Farm Bureau, or Animal Agricultural Alliance.) Besides that, the stories you really read this complication for are the ones that the movie AI were based on, and thats Supertoys. Also this version has a great note by the author about developing the movie script and how the Pinocchio theme got into movie.
26. Neverwhere – Where to start? This book is crazy in a good way, like a steampunk trip to an grown-up Wonderland in the underworld of London. Neil Gaiman writes weirdly good stuff, Neverwhere is a really excellent example. It grows on you as the story gets deeper and deeper the twists keep you guessing. Richard may seem like a little lost lamb, but its his profound personal character is what carries him through the wild underworld. In fact its because he is willing to extend kindness to a stranger that he gets drawn into events and a world that are beyond anything he thought possible. I enjoyed the multiple layers of story and the fact that someone with integrity is central to the story.
27. Titan A.E.: Akima’s Story – Ever read a book and feel like, “Well thats over”? Yep, Akima’s Story feeling like it was written by a amateur writer with a good editor. It’s okay, but fails to make you really connect with the character or feel like you’re living in their world. It’s just a plot-point-connect-the-dots.
28. A Series of Unfortunate Events #11: The Grim Grotto – The story is getting complicated, and for each hint at an answer more questions come up. With only 2 books left I really have to wonder where this is going. Probably not to a happy ending.
29. Guardians of Ga’Hoole #1: The Capture – Fantastic young adult book. I can’t wait to see where the series is going to go. Owls that can talk, have societies, and secrets like oh kidnapping and brain washing owlets. It sounds cheezy, but it really works the way Kathryn Lasky writes it.