Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 Wrap-Up

How many books did you read this year and did you meet or beat your own personal goal?
I beat all my goals. First, I wanted to read more than 100 books. Second, I wanted to do the special 52 book challenge in among my books. And, third, I wanted to read more books and pages than I ever have before. I read 126 books and 37,104 pages (294 pages per book on average). That’s one more book than my previous record (2014) and 7,955 more pages (2012).

Share your top 5 favorite books.
Messenger by Lois Lowry
Moonraker’s Bride by Madeleine Brent
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Which books or authors you thought you’d never read and were pleasantly surprised to like them?
The 100 Series. My daughter begged me to read them. I was surprised how much I enjoyed them!

One book that touched you – made you laugh, cry, sing or dance!
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen

Share your most favorite character, covers and/or quotes?
Character: Miri from Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

The Elements

Library of Souls

“Are we absolutely certain he’s a wight?” asked Addison.
“Do cats grow on trees?” Emma replied.
“Not in this part of the world.”
“Then of course we aren’t. But when it comes to wights, there’s an old saying: If you’re not sure, assume.”
(Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs)

“Don’t worry, Herman, the Russians won’t bomb this place [a nursing home].”
(Petey by Ben Mikaelsen)

One book you thought you’d love but didn’t?
Call the Nurse by Mary J. MacLeod

What countries or centuries did you explore?
Ancient history.

What books would you recommend everybody read?
The Gregor the Underlander series
The Giver series
The Wave by Todd Strasser
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen

What was your favorite part of the challenge?

My favorite part was doing the special 52 book challenge. It encouraged me to find books in categories I might not have otherwise read.


Filed under Annual Wrap-Up

18 Things by Jamie Ayres

Olga and Conner spend the afternoon of April 1st sailing when a storm suddenly blows in. Conner is struck by lightning and thrown off the boat into the frigid Lake Michigan. He does not survive. Olga is guilt-ridden over not being able to save him. Her counselor suggests she make a bucket list of 18 things to do the year she is 18 years old. She sets off on a year of discovery and growth as she and her friends complete the list. And then a Major Plot Twist is dropped and absolutely everything changes.

Most of the storyline of 18 Things is well done. The Plot Twist kind of kills the whole book, however. It’s ridiculous. The author also lays on the religious sermon pretty thick at that point, too, which just doesn’t go along with the rest of the book very well. The book is also in need of an editor. Tenses occasionally changed inappropriately. Several times helping verbs were missing. Cliches were overused. Similes were also overused. In an attempt to not repeat words too often, the author used synonyms. The problem was sometimes the words used as synonyms didn’t actually mean the same thing (for example, butter and margarine). Most of the story was good enough, however, that the editing problems alone would have only reduced my rating to a 4. The Major Plot Twist was so bad, the ending lowered my rating an additional two stars down to 2.

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 126
Pages Read in 2015: 37,104
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)


Filed under Young Adult

Prescription: Murder! Volume 2 by Alan Hynd

Prescription: Murder! Volume 2 is a collection of true crime short stories that occurred in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The first three are about doctors who committed murder. The first two killed their wives while the third attempted to take out the majority of his wife’s extended family. The fourth story is about a masochist who married several women and killed some of them for insurance money. The final story is about the mobster Pretty Louis Amberg. The stories are extremely engaging. A must-read for anyone who enjoys true crime.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 124
Pages Read in 2015: 36,759
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under True Crime

Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

Gregor returns to the Underland to visit his mother and for lessons with Ripred. When a nibbler sends Luxa’s crown (a coded message that they need help), Gregor, Luxa, Boots, Hazard, and Howard along with four bats and Temp head out on a “picnic” (really, to investigate what is going on with the nibblers). They discover the gnawers are now being led by the Bane and attempting to eliminate the nibblers.

This fourth book of the Gregor the Overlander series is dedicated to setting up the final book. The feel of the entire thing is a bit darker than the previous books. The pattern established in books one through three is completely broken in this one. The end is quite depressing and makes you want to move right on to book five.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 123
Pages Read in 2015: 36,645
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Middle Grades

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer

Encompassing the earliest civilizations to the fall of Rome, The History of the Ancient World takes the reader on a journey deep through ancient history, but it never feels like reading a textbook. Susan Wise Bauer’s writing style is very accessible and engaging, and sometimes amusing, making history come to life. I very highly recommend this book for anyone of high school age or older interested in increasing their knowledge of ancient history.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 122
Pages Read in 2015: 36,295
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

A young boy named Shasta and a talking horse he calls Bree run away toward Narnia. They are joined along the way by another talking horse and a young girl. When they bump into a group of Narnians, Shasta is mistaken for a prince. After learning information about an impending attack, Shasta sets out to warn those in danger.

Most of the book was interesting and I wanted to know what was going to happen. Parts dragged along. On occasion I just didn’t care about the characters I should have. I found Aslan to be annoyingly preachy on occasion, like Lewis tried too hard to make it obvious that he was the Christ character. The Horse and His Boy is worth reading once, but it’s probably not going to be one I ever reread again.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 121
Pages Read in 2015: 35,399
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Discover Magazine’s Vital Signs

Discover Magazine’s long-running column, Vital Signs, has long been one of the magazine’s most popular. This book is a collection of 40 of the best Vital Signs columns. If you enjoy reading about puzzling medical cases, watching shows like Mystery Diagnosis, or are a fan of Vital Signs, you will love this book.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 120
Pages Read in 2015: 35,175
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Non-Fiction

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

After she is tricked by Digory’s uncle into touching a yellow ring, Polly disappears. Digory has no choice but to follow with a different ring, one that will bring her back. The kids end up in a dead land where Digory awakens an evil witch/queen. Later, Polly, Digory, Uncle Andrew, the witch, a horse, and a cabby end up in a completely dark land. Soon Aslan the Lion appears and wakes the magical world called Narnia with his song.

The Magician’s Nephew tells the story of Professor Kirke as a child (Digory) and the beginning of Narnia. It was slightly interesting, but mostly a lot of words and not much actual action. It was just okay.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 118
Pages Read in 2015: 34,792
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Son by Lois Lowry

When something goes wrong when Claire, a birthmother, delivers her first product, she is quickly discharged from the birth center and transferred to the fish hatchery. She develops a relationship with one of the nursery workers and so is able to get to know her son without anyone realizing who she is. The day Jonas escapes with Gabriel, Claire leaves the community as well. She is shipwrecked in a little village where it is nearly impossible to ever leave for no other reason than geography. But try to leave and find her son she must. Claire finds someone who can take her to Gabe, but he requires a trade that Claire does not quite understand the consequences of when she makes it.

Son, the final book in the Giver Quartet, is divided into three part. The first part is set back in the community at the time of Gabriel’s birth several months before Jonas was selected as Receiver. The second part is set in a village where the only ways out are the sea or a cliff. The third part is set in the village where Jonas and Gabriel ended up when the escaped from the community. While the book sometimes drags (particularly in the second third), it is enjoyable and ties up everything from the other three books very nicely. I highly recommend it to all who have read and enjoyed the first three of the quartet.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 117
Pages Read in 2015: 34,592
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Filed under Dystopian

The Story of Thomas Alva Edison by Margaret Cousins

The Story of Thomas Alva Edison is a well-written book about Thomas Edison’s life, from birth to death. It is written in a way that is interesting to children in late elementary through middle school. Many stories and anecdotes are included to give a well-rounded picture of the inventor. I recommend it for children and adults alike.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 116
Pages Read in 2015: 33,199
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Biography, Middle Grades