2011 Reviews

I like books. I like lots of different kinds of books. And I think this years reading selection really shows the breath of my tastes. Just take the first five books; a star trek novel, 2 classic YA books, a fantasy/horror book, and a non-fiction philosophy book. This year was also the year of mind-bendingly-weird books like the Skin Map, the Bone House, Prince of Europe, and the Spirit Flyer books. But I managed to squeak in at my goal of 50 books for the year. This year the “Loved It” books are easier to spot because I included a picture of the book cover. Enjoy!

The Rating System:

Loved It

Liked It A lot

Liked It

It Was Okay

Kinda Bad

Bad

It Stunk


1. Star Trek DS9: The Siege  When I bought these books Star Trek DS9 was still on the air. I watched the show and read the books until the crew felt like family. Re-reading it was a little walk down memory lane. They still felt like family, just family you hadn’t seen in a long time, and had a lot of catching up to do. But instead of talking about how life was currently you just sit around and reminiscence. If you were a fan of DS9 then you’ll probably enjoy this book. If not then skip it because the sci-fi aspects don’t measure up to a good enough read if you don’t care about the characters.

2. Winnie-the-Pooh Who wouldn’t like Winnie-the-Pooh, it’s a classic. I enjoyed it as much as an adult, as I did as a child. It’s a very good read-aloud book for kids. It’s sweet and fun, and funny just as you would expect from Pooh.

3. Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6) Not the best, and not the worst of the series. The story lines split for most of the book with Susannah/Mia separated from the rest of the group. In fact the rest of the group split up too. So the story is told skipping back and forth between parties.  Stephen King writes himself into the book in an increasing role. And I’m not really into the whole demon baby/ demon dinner thing, which is why I don’t normally read Stephen King..  The story ends on a cliff hanger leaving you eager for the next book. But well…… read #6 to see.

4. 50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need to Know We read several chapters from this book as part of my philosophy class. It not as dry or boring of a read as the typical philosophy book, so I figured why not finish it. Every couple of pages covers a new subject, and the break out give good examples and helpful info. The glossary in the back was very useful in studying for philosophy tests because the definitions were in everyday language not philospeak.

5. The Return of the Indian I loved the Indian in the Cupboard books as a kid, and as an adult they do not disappoint. Return of the Indian has some good lessons in it too. Omri, the boy with the cupboard, give in to temptation to use the cupboard again. He meddles where he shouldn’t and has to deal with the consequences. Through that he grows up a little, finds that plans must be thought out carefully and learns to stand up for himself.

6. The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, #7)  As the Dark Tower series has gone along it’s had it’s highs “The Waste Lands” and it’s lows “Wizard and Glass”, this final book in the series was another low.

For one thing, writing himself (Stephen King)into the book was a bad idea, it is a trick that falls flat. Revealing the Deus ex Machina and then showing him to be mostly powerless. He basically says he has no control over what he writes. It “flows from his belly button”. *raises eyebrows* He helps the characters out of a couple of spots, but more often he’d rather forget the whole business. Yet the characters can’t let him forget and are continually coming to HIS rescue reminding him that writing this story is going to save all the worlds.

Which opens up all sorts of questions when it comes to the many endings in the book. I can’t really go into them for fear of spoilers.  And the very end (to be fair, there was a warning from the author that you could stop before the epilogue because you might be better off not knowing) was extremely disappointing and made me wonder why did I waste my time reading these books. The biggest disappointment, however, comes not from the Deus ex Machina, but from the end of Modred’s story line. It builds up and up and then is pretty anticlimactic.

If you’ve made your way through the series you’ll probably end up reading this book no matter what I say, but be prepared for a series of let downs, and writing that is not up to par with several of the other books.

7. The Gift (Chiveis Trilogy #2) Although I have not read the first book in the Chiveis Trilogy, “The Sword”, I do think this book stands alone. The premise to the story is creative and the biggest draw to the novel for me. The post apocalyptic Christian fantasy, where the Bible has been lost to the ruins of time is really intriguing.

In fact one the main problems I had with the book is that it tries too hard to remind you about the events of the previous book. There are at least 5 place in the book where he reiterates the events in “The Sword” where Ana and Teo find the Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong he needed to link the two books, and give new readers some back story. It was just over the top, and once you are in the third act of the book you really don’t need to hear AGAIN about how they found the book, you already know so get on with the action.

This just show that Bryan Litfin is new to writing fantasy fiction. With a few more novels under his belt Bryan Litfin could be the next Stephen R Lawhead.


8. The Boat and the Sea of Galilee It’s the story of two brothers who during a drought in Israel are exploring the newly receded shoreline and come across an old boat buried in the lake bed. A boat dating back to the time of Christ. The story unfolds as a scientific drama, sharing the personal insights and feeling of those doing the work of discovery and preservation. There has been no other find of it’s kind any where. It’s an interesting look into the historic find.

It is in fact a wonderfully laid out, full color, hard back edition with beautiful photographs and illustrations. The writing was translated from Hebrew, and that should be kept in mind while reading the book. A glossary would have been a nice edition for some of the cultural words we in the US are not familiar with.

9. Josefina’s Short Story Set Josefina is an American Girl and the only one from New Mexico, where I grew up, so it’s no wonder that she is my favorite. The stories are comfortable and familiar because I know the phrases and history. For someone who didn’t grow up with the New Mexican culture and history they are good about explaining and expanding the terms and info in the back of the books. The Josefina stories could be a good way to introduce different aspects of American history to young girls.

10. Antigone A very different and unique translation of the play. It was written for performances in Nazi occupied France, and then translated from French to English. It gives it a subtle emotional difference, esp in the parts about authority. For thsoe who don’t know Antigone is a classic Greek tragedy about Oedipus’ children. After Oedipus dies his two sons war over his throne, and both die in the fighting. One is given a hero’s burial the other left outside the walls of the city for beasts to tear apart. Antigone, their sister, refuses to leave her brother unburied, despite her uncle (now the king) decrees that he should not even be mourned. Her civil disobedience, and his reaction start a tragic chain of events.

11. A Swiftly Tilting Planet A book by Madeleine L’Engle featuring the same family as a Wrinkle in Time. Charles Wallace is now a teenager, and in the book sets out to put right a long ago wrong in order to prevent a nuclear Holocaust. He does this by traveling through time on a unicorn and living for a short time in other people to help change the “might-have-beens.” There are a lot of threads woven in and out through the different stories and times in this book. Entertaining, but because of some of the more new age fantasy elements and the seriousness of some of the issues I wouldn’t recommend it for children.

12. The Skin Map If you’ve read my book reviews before you know that Stephen R Lawhead is one of my favorite authors. In his newest series he has done it again, writing a compelling, intriguing and fun new adventure story. It interesting that I picked this book to follow “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” because both books are time twisters, happening in and out of several different time lines. Lawheads characters use the power of ley lines in travel not only in time, but in space as well. The book ended on a cliff hanger, and since this is a brand new series I had to wait for the second book to get published. See more on my review of “the Bone House.”

13. Kaya’s Escape! (American Girls: Kaya, #2) My second favorite Ameican Girl is Kaya. She the only Native American, American girl. Sacagawea was one of my childhood heros, and I see a little bit of that in the Kaya books. Kaya is independent, smart and a survivor. When she gets taken captive by another tribe she never gives up, and eventually finds a way to escape, then has to brave winter in the wild while searching for her tribe.

14. Radio Free Albemuth Another favorite author of mine is P.K. Dick. He is the king of dystopian science fiction. Radio Free Albemuth hits pretty close to home, being set in a believable near future. However it quickly get weird, and evolves into some sort of alien-religion/conspiracy theory story. It also features P.K. Dick himself as one of the characters which is a device that I’m not fond of.

15. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH “The Secret of NIMH” was one of my favorite movies as a child. The book is almost exactly like the movie, although it has more depth and the rats are more complex. The nostalgic factor is big for me, and having more detail on NIMH really added more to overall story. However, it really is a children’s story and might best be enjoyed by 10-12 year kids.

16. Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol  This book has a really interesting premise, but after a while it turns into stock Christian fiction plot. The book is about a troubled rock star who is deep into the new age and paganism, so much so that his psychic and her co-horts are basically writing the songs for him. They have him believing that he basically a god and is destined to lead his adoring fans into rebellion for the constraints of regular society and religion. But a run in with a Christian fan, and her continued coorspondence with him begins to change him and those who have been pulling his strings aren’t happy about it. After the first two-thirds of the book you can basically guess exactly how everything is going to turn out. Its a shame because it has such a good build up and starts off with such a unique idea. I wish the author hadn’t decided to wrap it all up so nicely in stereotypical Christian fashion. They could have told a great story of redemption without all the stereotypical trappings.

17. Little Pilgrims Progress I have read the illustrated Pilgrims Progress many times, starting as a child and feel a special connection to that book. This version is my husbands special version of Pilgrim Progress (neither of our versions is the full classic Pilgrim Progress, but versions adapted for kids and young adults,) so I read it at his request. It is very good, but I guess you’ll just like you first Pilgrim the best. Little Pilgrims journey is full of great imagery and meaning. I don’t think anyone could read it without finding a lesson that applied to their own life.

18. #1 Man: What Every Dad Desires, What Every Daughter Needs   It’s really hard for me to review this book. A client of mine wrote it, and I am in charge of the social media campaign for the book and the podcast that goes with it. I read it with high hopes, being a daughter and having a dad that I’m close to, it seemed it would be applicable. And I am very glad that someone has taken on this ministry of challenging dads to step up and be the #1 Man to their daughters. My critiques are that the book lacked polish. And I found the narrative voice to be inconsistent. A second edition could easily clear those things up.

19. The Moonstone Castle Mystery (Nancy Drew, #40) Nancy Drew was my third childhood hero (behind Robin Hood and Sacagawea.) As I tun across old hard cover Nancy Drew books at garage sale or thrift shops I pick them up. This one was pretty run of the mill Nancy Drew.

20. The Lost World No, not the atrocity by Michael Crichton, but the version by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s right, I bet you didn’t know that the author of Sherlock Holmes had another hero he wrote many stories about, Professor George Challenger. This is about Professor Challenger finding a lost world of ape-men, savages, and living dinosaurs on top of a nearly inaccessible plateau in the jungles of South America. He is accompanied by Professor Summerly, a doubting colleague sent along by the zoological society to make sure Challengers doesn’t falsify his finds, Ned Malone an journalist who will document the expedition, and famed hunter Lord John Roxton.

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also a cheesy television show that I enjoy. Although the premise is the same, and the four main characters are in the show the stories are not at all the same.

21. Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business Ahh Junie B. Jones, she’s so great. Babara Park really gets five year olds. In this book Junie B. misunderstand something he grandfather says about the baby her mother is expecting, and is convinced that her brother is going to be a monkey, which gets her into trouble with her friends at school.

22. Imperial Hostage To start with all the name are unpronounceable, and unmemorable. The characters are flat. The main character Erech (which sound like you’ve hacked something up and are clearing your throat) is too modern, too much like an abused He-man you don’t end up feeling for him despite his many trials. He always wins, always get the girl, and pretty much always gets his way. There are very little consequences for him, and after unpleasant things happen he rebounds shockingly fast.

The setting of the book is confusing. With no map to reference to help us out either. Once again things seemed too modern to fit within the story. And it’s all inconsistent.

The overall plot/idea behind the book, which I am guessing is meant to span into more books, is a good idea. It just needed to be flushed out with details, character and dialogue that would be believable and consistent with the setting.

23. Prince Of Europe I got this book from the authors grandmother. It’s a very different kind of science fiction fantasy than what I’m use to reading. It deals with secret organizations using science to mimic occult magic. One group even goes so far as to steal the DNA for famous men from the past and clone them. The clone retain a kind of DNA memory, and Charlemagne’s clone is out to take over the world. I can’t even explain it all in just a few sentences. Secret organizations, political intrigue, esp, fringe science, the occult, the fate of the world… thats what this book delivers and delivers well.


24. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is one of my current hero’s. I want to be like her. In this book Mrs Piggle-Wiggle has moved out onto a farm, and settled down into a quite life of taking care of her animals. Occasionally she has a child visitor whose parents are at the end of their wits when it comes to some irritating trait their child has picked up. The stay at Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles farm is just want it takes to help the child overcome that trait. So two things that I love; Mrs Piggle-Wiggle + Farm= Awesome.
25. You Wouldn’t Believe Me If I Told You Grab a box of tissues and steal away some place for a couple of hours, cause once you start reading this book you won’t want to put it down and I guarantee you won’t finish without a few tears. This story is poignant and amazing. Corine Ransom lived a life filled with challenges and tragedy, yet the overall theme of the book is hope.

The back of the book says:
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you” is a story about triumph, perseverance, and overcoming. This biography of Corine Ransom, written by her daughter in first person, tells a story of women who experienced all that life had to offer. Tragedy, love, excitement, terror, and mystery. From escaping a cult after being beaten, raped and starved, to discovering her husband was a con man, to finally marrying the man of her dreams, to losing two daughters in death, (just to name a few experiences) yet always maintaining her faith in God and rising above it all being a constant survivor. Corine’s life story if one that needs to be heard, applauded, and admired. She is a hero. “

The book reads like a Lifetime movie. I was so engrossed I could hardly tear myself away. I read all but the last 20 pages in the first sitting.

26. Anna’s Decision A poorly written young readers chapter book about a girl living on a farm with her parents and grandparents. It’s not so much about life on the farm as it is about the girl doing something wrong and lying to cover it up, and then dealing with the consequences. But there were so many errors in this books that I was constantly distracted.

27. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective: Meet the World’s Greatest Boy Sleuth #1  Another book my husband insisted I read. He enjoy the Encyclopedia Brown books as a boys and we’ve picked a few up here and there. It’s about a boy who is good at figuring things and riddles out, so he starts a detective agency and charges a quarter a case. I can see where kid might like it especially how you have to try to figure it out for yourself then flip to the back for the answer.

28. High School Confidential: Secrets of an Undercover Student This book is about a 24 year old who goes undercover at a Southern California high school to write about what teens are experiencing today. He finds exactly what you’d expect a television show about SoCal teens to have in it; sex, drugs, lots of drinking, parties, fighting, incompetent teachers, administrators who are cheating the system. I don’t know if he had anything new to tell us, but he tells it well and I was engrossed in the lives of the teens in the book.

29. Little Mermaid and Other Stories A children’s illustrated edition of several fairy tales. Actually has the classic version of the tales, not the sanitized Disney versions.

30. Lady of the Trillium The last of the Trillium books, I kept putting off reading this one because after this there is no more. I have enjoyed every book in this series. It’s set in such an interesting fantasy world, with touches of science fiction, and there is obviously a fascinating back story to the world yet it’s only hinted at never told.

This story is about the last surviving sister from the other Trillium books. Haramis is the Arch-mage and her magic has prolonged her life long after her other sisters are gone. But her powers are failing and when she has strokes the land suffers changes. She takes her niece Mikayla to train as the new arch-mage. Mikayla is reluctant especially when Haramis tries to separate her from her childhood friend and intended.

31. Flying Blind (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series, #8) With in the first couple of pages this book grabs you and pulls you in. The action starts right away, and the risks are high. Jake Cooper goes flying with family friend, and their small Cessna gets caught in the  turbulence of a large jet. With the pilot knocked conscious and Jake suffering from a knock on the head that has caused him to be blind the stakes are high. I wish I could say more about this book, but I’m afraid of giving away too many spoilers. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure stories, but you might feel more invested in the character if you read the other Cooper Kids book first.

32. Titan A.E.: Cale’s Story Very disappointing read for someone like myself who enjoyed Titan A.E. and is a science fiction fan. They had such rich material to work with, but fail in telling a compelling or even interesting back story for Cale. The book covers the years between Earths destruction and the beginning of the movie. Cale grows up on an alien planet, never fitting in and always restless. So his guardian decides it’s time for him to get out and meet more humans. Which goes wrong and leads to their nomadic life as seen in the movie.

33. Pretties The sequel to Uglies which was one of my books of the year picks. The books are set in a future where everyone gets cosmetic surgery at the age of 16 to become pretty. Tally, the main character from the Uglies, is Pretty after being forced into it by Dr Cable at the end of the first book. Pretties picks up shortly after Tally’s surgery while she is living the high life in New Pretty Town, going to parties and trying to fit into a new group of friends. From there Pretties follows almost the exact same plot as Uglies. So close, in fact, that by the end I was groaning. He starts off with a good idea, but it quickly looses appeal if the exact same things are going to happen to the exact same characters in every story. It’s called being a one trick pony.

34. The Mystery of the Cupboard The last of the Indian in the Cupboard books takes an interesting turn as Omri finds a mysterious journal left behind by a distant relative. The journal reveals dark family secrets, and the origin of the cupboard. Once again Omri tries to change the past, and finds that somethings shouldn’t be meddled with.

35. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter A book about family, secrets, and regret. A doctor delivers his own twins last one night in the middle of a snow storm. He sees right away that the girl has down syndrome, and makes a decision to send her to an institution. He send his nurse away with the baby before his wife wakes up. The nurse seeing the conditions at the institution can’t bear to leave the baby there and disappears to a new life in another town with the child. Meanwhile the doctor tells his wife that the second child was stillborn. From their depression, guilt, and misunderstanding tear the family apart. A quite interesting read, but probably not for everyone, as it covers lots of serious adult themes.

36. Stanley, Flat Again! Read this book for work, and really don’t understand the appeal. There is a whole series of these books, and some educators have used them as a kind of pen-pal project. I didn’t think the book was all the interesting.

37. The Deadly Curse Of Toco-Rey (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series, #6) Compared to “Flying Blind” this was nothing. On its own it’s exciting and fast paced. Some of the set-up for the book is a little ridiculous, but you don’t read adventure books like this based on reality. This is a story that would make the Young Indian Jones proud.


38. Knight’s Castle I love the Edward Eager books. They are so great for kids, and re-reading them as an adult they have lost none of their charm. Two children have to spend the summer with their cousins when their dad has to go to the hospital. They bring with them a set of tin soldiers and one old knight. The old knight turns out to be magical, as the kids build a castle out of items they find around the house they begin having magical adventures at night in the castle. Fun book with good lessons, but not in your face/shove it down your throat kind of morals.


39. The Bone House These books are so unique I don’t quite know how to classify them. Sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, mystery, history… time twister, all wrapped into one. The stories revolve more or less around Kit Livingston who one day sees his great-grandfather in an alley that turns out to be a conduit into another time in a parallel dimension. Turns out that there are ley lines all around us leading to other times. Kit’s great-grandfather has been seeking a map of the ley lines that one early ley explorer had tattooed on to his body, the “Skin Map.” It has been split into piece and lost in time. The threads of the books also get split and lost in time as the chapters weave in and out of several connected stories and times. I can’t wait to see what the third book is like. There are so many unanswered questions,  I still don’t quite know where this is all going, and that makes it all the more exciting.

40. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray I love, love, love the original Bad Kitty book. It is a delightful full color kids book. Bad kitty as an early chapter book? Well it’s okay, esp for a book we got for 25 cents at a garage sale. If you want to explore Bad Kitty go for the children’s books, not the early chapter ones.

41. The Sword and the Satchel Every once is a while I just need to read a good cheesy fantasy book. No high-flatulent language and big ideas; just a man a dwarf, a wizard and a quest. Elizabeth Boyer provides just that in a setting ripe with Scandinavian myth. And her books are easy to find cheep at thrift stores. The Sword and the Satchel is pretty standard fare, no big surprises if you’ve read any of her book before. But if you’re thinking of starting to read Boyer this might be a good introduction to her fantasy world.

42. The Secret of the Caves (Hardy Boys, #7) A fairly good Hardy Boys books that is a little out of the ordinary box of Hardy Boys adventures. Not too much, but I enjoyed the different setting and the way that for most of the book the boys were on their own, and the element of real life danger this one carried.

43. Star Trek 11 I am almost done reading the James Blish Original series episode adaptations. This is book 11 of 12, and includes classic episodes like Wink of an Eye, Day of the Dove and Plato’s Stepchildren. In my option Blish is the best Star Trek writer I’ve ever read. Not only are most of his book script adapations he does a real nice job keeping the characters and mood of the story true to the series.

44. The Only Game in Town– see The Last Christmas

45. Bicycle Hills: How One Halloween Almost Got Out of Hand– see The Last Christmas

46. American Agri-Women 2011 Annual Report Not really a book per-say but since I slogged my way through all 100 and some pages of reports I figured I needed some sort of recognition for it. I have been the social media chair person for AAW for the last several years, but this is the first time I’ve read through all the annual reports. They are extremely varied in length, format, and depth of content.

47. The Last Christmas: The Holiday Scheme to Stop Spirit Flyers– I am still scratching my head about these Spirit Flyer books. They are seriously the strangest, most mind bending things I’ve ever read. Madeleine L’Engle meets P.K. Dick meets Frank Peretti is the closest I can come to describing how to characterize these books.

The books are based on an allegory using Spirit Flyers (mostly old red bicycles) as the symbol of a life changed when you give your life to the service of the King and the Kingson (God and Jesus.) Each story has a different protagonist and antagonist, although the characters are intertwined and the stories make one solid arch, and the main behind the scenes “boss” villain is the same. It centers around the “boss” villain owing an evil toy company, Goliath Toys, that makes products that are literally meant to enslave children, and in the process he is part of a world-wide conspiracy for a one world government.

The basic idea is that the Spirit Flyers=Christians and Cobras/Goliath Toys=Satan’s Forces. There is a war waging for the souls of men that most people aren’t aware of, and the war is spilling over into the real world. The crazy thing is that these books have the best and most convincing setup for America becoming a dystopia I’ve ever read. (P.K. Dick is the best dystopic writer I know of, but his stories are usually after the crisis has created the dystopia, not during the crisis.)

If this has you intrigued, or are like me and already read the 3 authors I mentioned I’d say you should read it for yourself.

48. Ruby the Diva Clydesdale I bought this book after hearing the author speak at the American Agri-Women convention. It’s a sweet short, true to life, story about getting a Clydesdale horse trained and ready for a horse show.

49. Brian’s Winter This is a “what-if” story set-up a sequel to Hatchet. In Hatchet Brain is a young man who survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness. He has to learn to live off the land with a hatchet being his only tool. At the end of the book he is rescued during the beginning of autumn. In Brian’s Winter, the writer revisits the setting of Hatchet and asks, “What if he hadn’t been rescued? What if Brian had to figure out a way to survive the harsh Northern winter?” Very good book, if you liked Hatchet, Sign of the Beaver or My Side of the Mountain (all of which I highly recommend) you’ll probably like Brian’s Winter.

50. Hudson Taylor A cheep and cheesy children’s illustrated reader about the first Christian missionary to inland China. It only gets a “liked it” because Hudson Taylor is one of my Christian heros. Both the writing and illustrations are poorly done, but it gets across the main points of his life and service, and would be a good introduction to missions themes for a young child.

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  1. March 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

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