2008 Reviews

on Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I’m a totally behind on my annual book review. To those of you who may be new to my blog I’ve been keeping track of all the books I’ve read since 2006, and at the end of every year I write reviews for all the books, and pick a book of the year. Well this year I procrastinated, and then myspace was having problems with the little smileys I used for a rating system. And now it is February, and I must get it done.

This year I have to use a scale rating of Horrible, Bad, Okay, Good, Awesome, instead of my cute little smileys.

1. Battlefield Earth 1/24/08 Awesome- When I said I wanted to read this book the Big D wondered why I’d want anything to do with L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. I told him that I thought Scientology was Science Fiction too. I like the movie, and I wanted to read the book. This book really has it all, it is a story of the triumph of humanity, it is an action adventure, sci-fi, epic, love story with a reluctant hero who is a real mans-man. You really couldn’t ask for this book to deliver more.

2. Taran Wanderer 2/2/08 Awesome- The Pyrdian Chronicles, which include the Black Cauldron, have moved up there next to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia as a young adult must read for me. They are full of wonderful characters that you fall in love with, and lessons on life and becoming an adult. This one was a little bit more preachy that some of the others. But it provides an important piece to the development of Taran, our hero.

3. A Wizard of Earthsea 2/13/08 Okay- I love Ursala K. Le Guin’s “The Lathe of Heaven” but her fantasy was uninspired to me. This book is about boyhood ambitions, how they can go awry and mark a person for the rest of their life. Personally I liked the movie better. Gasp, yes I said it, the movie had more character than the book, and was more entertaining and less preachy.

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep 2/9/08 Good- We are always keeping our eye out fro P.K. Dick books at used book stores (orphaned book adoption centers). This is the very first one we’ve come across. His books are so popular that people don’t sell them back, and when they do arrive in store they are sold within a couple of day. Ours had arrived only two days before we bought it. “Blade Runner” is suppose to be based on this book, but boy is it loosely based. The book by itself is different, and set in a very strange but believable future. It asks the same question of “Blade Runner”, what makes us human? In fact it is very hard to tell the humans from the androids, and it hints that it all boils down to a religious experience that only humans can have.

5. The Planet of the Blind 3/5/08 Okay- Another book that asks what it is to be human. A billionare playboy crashlands on a mysterious planet. The human like inhabitants do have have or know what sight is. They mistake him for an animal and send him away to be kept at a farm. He must escape with help from the chief scientists daughter, who he teaches to “see” with an invention of his. But seeing is heresy…

6. The High King 3/8/08 Awesome- The last book in the Pyrdian Chronicles. This is the one all the other have been leading up to. The biggest battle, and the biggest rewards, but also the biggest challenges. What will have to be sacrificed in order to triumph over Arawn and Achren once and for all? It’s a great book and really fulfills the promise of the whole series.

7. The Color of Magic 3/15/08 Okay- Everyone always raves about how funny Terry Prachet is, and he has been highly recommend to us by friends. So we of course started with his first book, and it really didn’t live up to the promise. It shows real promise, and has a very interesting world that it is set in (world building is very important to me.) But for all the fantasy farce it lacks any real funny moments.

8. The Taming of the Shrew 4/21/08 Bad- I make it a point to read one classic every year, and for 2008 I chose a Shakespeare play that I’ve never read before. I like Shakespeare, I truly do. Hamlet and Macbeth are among my favorites, but the only good I got out of this book was the realization that “10 Things I Hate About You” is based on it. I can’t stand books, movies, or television shows that are based on lies piled on top of lies where the characters run around most of the time hoping everyone won’t figure them out.

9. The Partridge Family #5 Terror By Night 4/23/08 Okay- I admit it I read some junky books from time to time. I didn’t even watch the Partridge family growing up, but for some reason I really dig these books. I can’t even remember which is which except for the very first one I read where Kieth and Danny get trapped in a cave.

10. The Partridge Family #10 Marked for Terror 4/26/08 Okay- see above.

11. Sign of the Beaver 4/26/08 Awesome- This is one of those book I remember reading as a kid, and of course then I picked it up at a garage sale recently. My rule is that I have to reread every young adult book we buy. This one is great and I highly recommend it. It’s a pioneering story of a Father and a 12 year old boy who go out to their new land. The father and the boy build a small cabin and then the father goes back east to get the mother, and younger siblings. When the father is over do the boy must learn to live on his own.

12. Deus Irae 5/12/08 Awesome- Was my book of the year pick for 2005. I reread it as an option for my Science Fiction Lit class. P.K. Dick working his weird, yet wonderful world building techniques again. Can a man with no arms and no legs travel across a post-apocalyptic landscape in order to take a picture of his religions god? The god of wrath, the one who caused the destruction of the modern world. And how does the Christian man Phil fit into the picture? Isn’t his god dead, his religion dying? Great book if you like sci-fi.

13. The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe 5/13/08 Awesome- I reread this book as a preparation for the release of Prince Caspian. I haven’t revisited Narnia since I was a child. I was surprised by the ease of the reading. Tackling Lewis’ adult books had me thinking that everything he write must be very literary and difficult. Not so with Narnia, very easy to read, and characters that you fall in love with. Should have made the visit sooner.

14. Prince Caspian 5/16/08 Awesome- Rereading the Narnia books was a good idea, rereading it and then watching the movie a bad idea. It makes me furious to think about how they changed the whole meaning of Prince Caspian. There is no revenge in him or Peter in the book, but the movie make it out to be a matter of revenge, not a matter of good vs. evil. And in the book you really feel for Lucy who sees Aslan first, and has to be the only believer for a long time.

15. More Two Minute Mysteries 5/25/08 Okay- A book of short stories/mysteries. Would be fun to read with kids, but not so interesting to an adult.

16. The Tail of the Arabian Knight 6/12/08 Bad- This Indiana Jones esq. adventure book was written by someone who had heard of New Mexico only by rough description, and then set out to write an adventure story that highlighted only the bad parts. The opening chapters are so bad that I almost gave up, but it turns out to be a rip-roaring story. In fact someone nearly dies at the end of every chapter. It wasn’t bad, but for the same action effect Indiana Jones is a much better choice. But then the author totally dumped on the state where I was raised, and the book was all downhill for me.

17. The Pearl 6/28/08 Good- I had forgotten how heart breaking this story was. It’s only 87 pages long, but sometimes it was hard for me to pick it up. It was just so emotionally charged. I understand why Steinbeck is one of the great American writers, this story becomes so real, too real to the reader.

18. Animorphs: The Invasion 7/2/08 Horrible- I”m still making up my mind about this book. It is really simply written, I’d say about a 3rd grade level. But the content is more Junior High level. I think younger kids would find this book really scary, and would be unsatisfied with the ending. Yeerks, are still out there and anyone could be one.Younger kids wouldn’t be able to separate the fiction from the truth. And it doesn’t seem like older kids would be interested in it. But then again reading levels have been in decline…. I read all the young adult books we get as a preview for when we have kids, and I am not sure I will allow this one to pass.

19. Over Sea, Under Stone 7/9/08 Okay- Book has a lot of promise and Susan Cooper began a good story line, but it doesn’t really go any where. You also don’t really feel as if the kids, who are the main characters, are ever in any real peril until the very end. We just bought the second book, and I am very excited to see where the story goes next.

20. Childhood of Early Americans: Sacagawea 7/12/08 Good- Sacagawea was one of my childhood heros. This Childhood of Early American series is interesting, but obviously for a young reader, not a young adult. I really love to read fiction about pioneers and explorers and how life was lived back then.

21. The Waste Lands 8/2/08 Awesome- Love this book (except for the one sexual scene.) Can’t wait to get my hand on a copy of the next book in the series and continue my travels with Roland the last gunslinger. This book has been billed as Stephen King fantasy series, but so far I’d call it much more Science Fiction. Which I like, and so all’s good.

22. The Clue of the Screeching Owl 8/6/08 Good- I love a good Hardy Boys book. Although I prefer to read the versions that are be 1960, when they were all edited and changed. And there are no shiny new Hardy Books, or Nancy Drew book in my collection.

23. The Lost World 8/9/08 Bad- “Harrowing Thrills…Action-Packed, Gripping, A Very Scary Read, An Edge-of-the-seat Tale.” All words on the back of the book that do not describe it at all. I was sorely disappointed. Maybe it’s because the movie does a much better job of making the raptors seem really, really scary and smart (which makes them more scary.) Or maybe it’s because the book is so different from the movie, and I was expecting more action and less science. Michael Crichton seems to be hit and miss with me. Jurassic Park and Sphere were great, but the Andromeda Strand was weak, and so it the Lost World.

24. Golden Trillium 8/14/08 Good- The Trillium books are a good solid fantasy with little traces of a Sci-fi origin to the world. The book focus on only one of the Triplet Princesses, Kadiya. There is a disease taking over the Oddling peoples world. A creeping black thing that kills all life in its path. Kadiya has to go to forbidden ground, to the unknown reaches of the realm to find a cure. It’s a good story to get lost in.

25. The Partridge Family #15 The Disappearing Professor 8/14/08 Okay- I promised myself I’d read all the Partridge Family book that were left on my YA to-read-shelf in 2008, and I did it. Of course they’re not really heavy reading.

26. Fablehaven 8/15/08 Horrible- Something about this book just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess its the way it preaches magic to small kids. What should be a wonderful fairy tale is too full of occult information, and under currents. It has a premise that even evil things should be allowed to exist, and have a right to there own place in the world. I read it and now I’d like to get it off my hands, but the bookstore wouldn’t buy it from me.

27. Rendezvous with Rama 8/27/08 Awesome- Truly a Sci-fi classic, and a fully sci-fi story. It’s not tainted by any other genre like most modern sci-fi. And it has just enough social commentary to let you know what the authors vision of the future is, not so much that is preachy. When a huge derelict spaceship shows up in the solar system Commander Norton has the only space shuttle that can explore it before it leaves our system again. He’s a shuttle commander not an explorer, not a scientist, and not an archeologist. His instincts have to lead the crew in, get the information, and get out before it’s too late.

28. Twelve Angels from Hell 8/30/08 Okay- After reading half a dozen David Wilkerson books they kinda get repetitive. God’s redemption isn’t boring, but these micro stories loose interest after a book or two. Maybe I should start looking for book by the addicts themselves. Get a new perspective on a ministry I admire, but admit I am not build for.

29. Logan’s Run 9/11/09 Okay- Another book where I enjoyed the movie more. The world building in the book is too loose for the kind of story they are trying to tell. In the end it feels thrown together. For a sci-fi story that is a social warning it doesn’t do a very good job.

30. A Series of Unfortunate Events: #3 The Wide Window 10/4/08 Bad- These book are well written, and I enjoy they way the author really teaches vocabulary. But the plot is exactly the same in the 2nd and 3rd books. Hopefully those kids have some new kind of troubles or else it going to get really hard to finish reading the rest.

31. Lords of Middle Dark 10/10/08 Awesome- Very different premise for a sci-fi novel. Unique story, not at all what I expected. After reading the whole series now, it’s hard to rate this first one, because the groundwork is so different from the other stories. He blends primitive cultures with an all powerful computer overlord, and a totally new governmental system. Like nothing I’ve read before. Well worth the read.

32. Stillwatch 10/27/08 Good- I read these Mary Higgins Clark books because my Aunt gave me a stack of them. They are a quick read, and yes a page turner, but not really my cup of tea. Capital politics and intrigue, and a past they will catch up to all the characters.

33. Hood 11/8/08 Awesome- My favorite author Stephen R. Lawhead has tackled the retelling of the story of one of my childhood heroes, Robin Hood. He set the story back further than the usual telling, and makes Robin Hood into a Welsh Prince, at a time when Normans have taken over and are bullying the Saxon and the Welsh. Really good book, am looking everywhere for a mass paper back copy of the next one, Scarlet. The problem with buying new books is that they always come out in that big paper back size first, and that is just not the right size to cuddle up and read all day with.

34. Medea 11/11/08 Okay- Every year I read at least one Greek play. The story of Medea is really a cruel story, but then again so are most Greek tragedies. Let me make it clear that you do not want to betray a Greek woman. That is one thing that these stories have taught me. Medea’s revenge on her husband Jason goes too far. I imagine that this could serve as a parable on the terrible effects of divorce.

35. Sing Down the Moon 11/11/08 Okay- Even though I read this book in one day I wouldn’t say it was really memorable. Scott O’Dell certainly has a touch when it come to stories about Native populations. However, this book was too patchy. You could feel the character plight, but were too far removed from them to really care about the individuals.

36. Pirates of the Thunder 11/16/08 Okay- The follow up to “Lords of Middle Dark”. It’s a totally different kind of book. But still the author comes up with a unique story, and totally bizarre tech and worlds. It’s bizarre, but it all fits together in a way that seems totally believable. Now the primitive cultures are in space. Good read.

37. Afternoon of the Elves 11/17/08 Okay- Starts out really good, but the ending is so harsh that it kinda spoils the whole book. The friendship that develops between the two girls is real, it’s the kind of friendship I see with my kids all the time. And they’re fairy town, and all the imaginative work that goes into is really good. But, and maybe this is what most kids think, in the end the parents spoil everything. *WARNING SPOILER* I just couldn’t hold it in. They were so cruel to the girl who wanted nothing more than to stay with her mom. Even if that meant living in poverty, and taking care of herself. Yes, I can see the need to call child protective services, but then to be so cruel as to say she was holding her mother prisoner is just wrong. The child had a real problem, get help for her mom and lose her forever, or stay with her and risk being cold & hungry. You have to give her some credit for trying.

38. The Glories of Nature: Forests 11/17/08 Okay- I fit this in as my poetry book for the year. Was a collection of poems, and quotes, and photographs about…forests.

39. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 11/17/08 Awesome- I want to be Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle when I grow up. To be so wise in the way of childhood that children and parents are drawn to you. To be the fun little old lady who bakes the neighborhood kids cookies, and let them dig for buried treasure in the backyard, and has all sort of adventures with them. And of course to live in an upside down house 🙂

40. The Tombs of Atuan 11/20/08 Good- The next book in the Earthsea series. After reading 4 of the 5 Earthsea book I’ve realized that they are very loosely connected. In fact the main character in the first book doesn’t even show up until 2/3 of the way into this one. The one thing this book really does a nice job of is showing what it’s like the have your eyes opened to the fact that you’ve been serving a false religion your whole life. Really show true emotion there.

41. Fear the Year 2099: Betrayal 11/21/08 Okay- #2 in a series of YA sci-fi. Pretty good, but I haven’t been able to find #1 or #3 any where. It was kind of like coming into the middle of a story and then leaving just when it was getting good.

42. Secret of the Andes 11/23/08 Okay- I picked this up because I remember that we had to read it once for school. Was kinda boring, with a story that kept promising a surprise, but didn’t deliver. If there is a secret to the Andes it that you come of age to find out if you like your job or not. I’d say you could easily skip it.

43. The Elves and the Otterskin 11/27/08 Okay- The first book I read by Elizabeth Boyer I couldn’t put down. In fact those of you who’ve actually read these before will know that I snarled at the Big D for trying to make me put it down. The one wasn’t quite as good. The characters weren’t quite as believable (as far as fantasy characters go.) And I had a harder time getting into it, once the main character crossed over into the other realm.

44. The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport 11/29/08 Bad- I was really into Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys growing up, and have a big collection of both, so the Bobbsey Twins seemed like the next logical choice. I read a couple of them as a kids. But the story is not one that translated into adulthood. Really it would only be exciting if you were reading it to a kinder or first grader.

45. The Next Generation:Encounter at Farpoint 12/3/08 Bad- This is the novelization of the very first Next Generation episode. I like Star Trek books, and the Next Generation is like family to me… I feel like I know them all so well. But this book had inconsistencies with the major TNG story lines, and then the author had the audacity to call Wesley Crusher unattractive. For someone who grew-up with a crush on Crusher this is nearly unforgivable.

46. The Farthest Shore 12/12/08 Bad- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, oh sorry was I sleeping, it’s probably because this story is so boring and pointless. It’s like the Old Man and the Sea fantasy version, with a brat prince. Makes the other two Earthsea books I’ve read seem so much better. I understood what she wanted to say, but it was so slow, and really the journey to nowhere just dragged on and on one pointless encounter after another. Why should we care about Earthsea anyway, you never established anything that has emotional connection in the first place.

47. Half Magic 12/14/08 Awesome- After that streak of bad books I needed something better. Edward Eager is one of my favorite YA authors, and I am trying to collect all of his books. They are innocent, and sweet, and really tell a great story. This one is about a group of siblings having a terribly boring summer until they find a magic coin. Only it just grants you a half wish. So if you wish your friends where here to play ball with you and they’re at the beach you only get a ghostly half friend, and a lot of worried parents. Funny and sweet you ought to read it to your kids and/or grandkids.

48. Calyx 30th Anniversary Issue 12/14/08 Okay- Took my most of the year to work my way through this publication of women’s poems and short story. It’s published in Corvallis, so I thought I might have a chance to submit my poems to this journal. And it’s always a good idea to reading a journal before submitting. The poems were really hit and miss, and too many of the stories were about sexuality… gay/lesbian, living unwed, etc. It may still turn out to be an outlet for me. I think I will read another issue before I decide.

49. Great Illustrated Classics: A Christmas Carol 12/15/06 Okay- This is a children’s version that has pictures on every other page. But it was timely to read it before Christmas. I also want to say that I’ve read all of my YA books before my kids (someday) will be able to read them.

50. The Oregon Trail: Illustrated Classics Edition 12/18/08 Horrible- Another children’s edition with pictures on every other page, but this story is so boring I don’t know if I’d have been able to make it without the pictures. And they never really travel the Oregon Trail, so the title is a little misleading.

51. Stardust 12/25/08 Awesome- Thank you, thank you, thank you Angela for leaving this one with us. I had never even heard of it, the book or movie. I loved the book (except for the one sexual scene. Why do authors feel they have to be graphic about it? All I needed to know was that the one character was seduced and produced a child.) Anyone who likes fantasy, and can overlook that one scene will really enjoy this story. It’s like a fairy tale for adults, and dreamers. Yet it is unique, and special, and even a little deep.

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