The Prairie Thief

57.  The Prairie Thief
by Melissa Wiley
Middle Grade Fiction
My Library

I enjoy Melissa Wiley's blog, Here in the Bonny Glen, and particularly enjoyed an interview she did with Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.  So, when I was looking for a book to give to my daughter for her eleventh birthday, I chose Melissa's latest offering.  Both my girls read and enjoyed it, as did I.  A perfect middle grade selection, smart, fun, whimsical, and thoughtful.  Recommended for anyone who wants a fun escape from the everyday.


56.  Tuck:  The Legend Triumphs
by Stephen R. Lawhead
My Library

I've reviewed the first two books in this series earlier this year:  Hood & Scarlet.  This is the final installment, and it's an enjoyable and satisfying finish.  I wasn't really looking forward to a new narrator, especially Tuck, who just didn't spark my interest in the previous books.  But it isn't written as much from his perspective as in third-person, with alternating perspectives.  Anyway, the format, though different than the previous, worked for me.

The action is griping.  We've become invested in the characters and know and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses.  We're also familiar with Lawheads rift on the Robin Hood legend, and love rooting for our Rhi Bran y Hud.  Lawhead makes great use of the trilogy, creating an arch that is full and varied, and a world we can believe in.

"Hear me, friend priest," she said, holding him with her deep-set eyes.  This war began long ago:we merely join it now.  The trouble is not of our making, but it is our portion and ours to endure.:
"That does not cheer me much,"sighed Tuck.
"Regrets, have you?"
"No, never," he answered.  "That is the duty of any Christian."
"Then trust God with it and that which is given you, do."
"You are right, of course," he said at last.

From the fascinating Author's Note:
...a now little-remembered law of medieval combat -- namely, that when two opposing forces met, those with the most archers would invariably win.  A sort of corollary stated that when both sides boasted roughly the same number of archers, the side with the most Welsh archers would win.

Quaint as it might seem today, buying and selling prayers for cash was a business conducted in dead earnest at the time.  For it would be difficult to overestimate the fear of hell and its attendant horrors for the medieval mind.

The Happiness Project

55.  The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
by Gretchen Rubin
My Library

One of my favorite books of the year!  Gretchen takes a very practical approach to the idea of happiness, making personal rules, along with monthly resolutions.  She weaves a great amount of research into the account of her experiment, which really enriches the narrative.  I like accounts of people tackling a big project; see my review of "The Year of Living Biblically."

Happiness is such a multi-faceted idea, and this book focuses very much on the real world in front of us.  I found her ideas interesting and valuable, though certainly not comprehensive.

Favorite Quotes:
Another study suggested that getting one extra hour of sleep each night would do more for a person's daily happiness than getting a $60,000 raise.

Love is a funny thing.  I'd donate a kidney to Jamie without a moment's hesitation, but was intensely annoyed if he asked me to make a special stop at the drugstore to pick up shaving cream.

A line by G.K. Chesterton..."It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light" (or as the saying goes, "Dying is easy; comedy is hard."

In fact, researchers reported that out of fifteen daily activities, they found only one during which people were happier alone rather than with other people -- and that was praying.  To my mind, that isn't an exception at all.  The point of praying is that you're not talking to yourself.

Gretchen's Second Splendid Truth"
One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.

Robert Lewis Stevenson said, "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy."


(I've finally caught up!  I've blogged about all the books I've read!  Yea!)



54.  Scarlet: The Legend Lives
by Stephen R. Lawhead
Part of the King Raven Triology - I review the first book, Hood, earlier this year.
My Library

We are interested to a new narrator, Will Scarlet, who is a thoroughly likeable hero.  I really enjoyed this book, and love spending time in the world that Lawhead so magnificently creates.   The characters are so rich and real, and there is enough action to keep things moving, without it feeling like an exhausting chase.  Loved it!

Favorite Quote:
As for the rest, I need not say more.  If you have ever loved anyone, then you will know full well.  If not, then nothing I can say will enlighten you.

A Landscape with Dragons

53.  A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind
by Michael D. O'Brien
Read for my Colloquia
Borrowed from a wonderful friend!

Initially this book struck me as crazily-overdone, the rantings of a hyper-vigilant parent with too much time to think and not enough people to argue with him.  But, in the end, I did end up agreeing with many of the themes.
-Childhood should be protected.
-Children are not adults & need clear boundaries between good and evil.
-Symbols are important.
-Literature is a great way to lay foundations for the way we see the world and it's meaning.
-Parents should take time to discuss rich literature with their children.

This book inspired me to begin reading aloud Lewis's Narnia series again, an effort which has been incredibly rewarding.


Breaking Stalin's Nose

52.  Breaking Stalin's Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
YA Fiction
My Library

I read this entire book on a four-hour road trip, which was mostly in the dark.  Crazy!  Anyway, the suspense pulls you in and the whole idea is wonderfully executed.  We spend about 24 hours with Sasha, a young boy growing up under Stalin, whose world changes entirely within that time.  Fascinating, and wonderfully illustrated.  A great way to introduce children to life under communism, but the themes and realities of this story are pointed and painful, so be thoughtful.

The Golden Goblet

51.  The Golden Goblet
by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
YA Fiction
Read aloud to my 13yo daughter as part of Sonlight's Core G
My Library

An intense and descriptive mystery told from the perspective of a boy, orphaned in ancient Egypt.  Confession - I didn't read aloud the entire thing, my daughter did some of it on her own.  But we both enjoyed it!  I might get it on audio when it's time to read it with another of my kids.

Funny Quotes from Heqet:
"Though of course we both have our natural beauty, as the hippopotamus said to the rat."

"Fine if it had worked, as the fish said when it tried to talk a walk."


Walk the World's Rim

50.  Walk the World's Rim
by Betty Baker
YA Fiction
Read aloud to my 10 year old daughter as part of Sonlight's Core D.
My Library

This is the second time I've read this aloud & I loved it even more than the first time.  (The first time I spent about the first fifty pages confused about who was who.)  It has the great ability to get inside the reader's (or listener's) mind and stretch it.  It allows children, and even adults, a framework where they can struggle with themes of slavery, honor, poverty, and mission.

Favorite Quotes:
"But I know my master.  His promises are like rainbows, formed in bad weather and vanishing in a clear sky."

"You were like brothers," the woman said.
Chakoh nodded.  "We walked the rim of the world together."

"You are soft," said Esteban.
"I am not."  But he stopped rubbing his aching legs.
"You are a fat grain-fed duckling preening his feathers on the lake of Mexico."
"Nothing, little one, but beware.  Food is always used to bait traps."

The Remedy for Regret

49.  The Remedy for Regret
by Susan Meissner
Christian Fiction
My Library

Another fun read from Susan Meissner.  


My Name is Asher Lev

48.  My Name is Asher Lev
by Chaim Potok
Read for my Colloquia
My Library

One of my all-time favorites!  I also love the sequel & so wish that Potok would have written the final book of the trilogy!  Asher comes to age as both he and his family grapple with the intensity of his artistic gifts and what they mean in the context of their ultra-conservative Hasidic Jewish community.

Favorite quotes:
"Millions of people can draw. Art is whether or not there is a scream in him wanting to get out in a special way."
"Or a laugh," she said.  "Picasso laughs, too."

Only one who has mastered a tradition has a right to attempt to add to it or to rebel against it.

Asher Lev, there are two ways of painting in the world.  In the whole history of art, there are only these two ways.  One is the way of Greece and Africa, which sees the world as a geometric design.  The other is the way of Persia and India and China, which sees the world as a flower.  Ingres, Ce'zaane, Picasso paint the world as geometry.  Van Gogh, Renoir, Kandisnsky, Chagall paint the world as a flower.

One must not paint everything one feels.  But once you decide to paint something, you must paint the truth or you will paint green rot.

A Seahorse in the Thames

47.  A Seahorse in the Thames
by Susan Meissner
Christian Fiction
My Library

Alexa tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her sister's disappearance.  Interesting & enjoyable!


A Mother's Rule of Life

46.  A Mother's Rule of Life:  How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
by Holly Pierlot
My Library

Holly weaves her own story into her formula for creating a "rule of life."  She describes a rule of life:
"It consists primarily in the examination of one's vocation and the duties it entails, and the development of a schedule for fulfilling these responsibilities in a consistent and orderly way."  She approaches this task through the lens of the "Five P's" five priorities of the married vocation given her by "a wise old priest."  (Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider)

I loved the insights into Catholic beliefs, and found Holly's personal stories very engaging.  And I really appreciate her thoughtful approach to examining and designing our lives as women and mothers.  In fact, I think I could use a reread.


Blue Heart Blessed

45.  Blue Heart Blessed
by Susan Meissner
Christian Fiction
City Library

Have you ever been so very very hungry, and then you eat what seems like the most fabulous meal of all time?  And then you wonder, was it the food, or was it me?  That's how I feel about this book.  I know it's hard to imagine that a book, especially a book like this, could be exactly what I needed, but it was, and it really was one of my favorite books of the year.  Hooray for Blue Heart Blessed!  A sweet story of second chances, what it really means to love, and the reality of hope!


(Meissner employs a really cute journal-writing technique, which is where many of these quotes come from.)

I would imagine coming out from under bitterness might take awhile.  Like losing a few pounds compares with getting a haircut.  Both make you look different but one takes a lot longer than the other.

It actually feels good to be sitting here and not cataloging my woes or ticking off my grocery list of things I want.
It feels really good to jus sit and be silent
I close my eyes and let the stillness fill me.

“Everything you hunger for, you’ve already been given,” he continues.  “You’re already loved beyond your wildest dreams.  You are wearing the ruby slippers, Daisy.  They’ve been on your feet the whole time.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever really considered that it’s the love I give away -- not the love I receive -- that truly defines me.  I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

I told Max about it and that I’m worried it won’t work, and he just said it’s not cool to kill your chickens before they’ve hatched.  I asked him, “What the heck does that mean?”  He said “Don’t make reservations for the worst-case scenario.”  

when your greatest desire is to offer love, not collect it

Dear Daisy,
The Voice of Reason cannot fully know what faith alone reveals, but I have to say I am reminded of that line from the movie Les Miserables.  You know, that one you like so much:
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Enjoy the view.

Pumpkin Roll

44.  Pumpkin Roll:  A Culinary Mystery
by Josi S. Kilpack
LDS Fiction
City Library

Another Sadie Hoffmiller mystery.  The ending was a little strange, but if it wasn't I'd probably be saying it was too predictable.  


Kisses from Katie

43.  Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
by Katie Davis with Beth Clark
Appropriate for older teens & adults
Read for my Colloquia
My Library

I know my review won't do this book justice.  It is a powerful book, and was a great choice for my Colloquia.  Katie left her life as a popular, financially comfortable, young person just ready to start college, to care for orphans in Uganda.  She tells her story from this unlikely beginning, to the even more unlikely ending ending as a mother adopting thirteen girls.  Though her story is so far removed from the life most of us lead, she shares her joys and struggles in a away that help us to see the potential path of following God's call on our life and giving our whole hearts in love.

Favorite Quotes:

That love is the reason I just keep filling up my little eyedropper, keep filling it up and emptying my ocean one drop at a time.  I'm not here to eliminate poverty, to eradicate disease, to put a stop to people abandoning babies.  I'm just here to love.

Thankfully, God's plans do not seem to be affected much by my own.

The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it to pieces, and put it back together more beautifully.

We aren't really called to save the world, not even to save one person; Jesus does that.  We are just called to love with abandon.

Her Good Name

42.  Her Good Name
by Josi S. Kilpack
LDS Fiction
City Library

An older Josi Kilpack, identity theft, mystery, and romance.  Pretty decent, with a likeable main character, and an interesting male lead.

Blackberry Crumble

41.  Blackberry Crumble:  A Culinary Mystery
by Josi S. Kilpack
LDS Fiction
City Library

I think this series is fun in small doses.  I read two this summer which was about right.  Of those two, this was my favorite, perhaps because I read it first.


The Squire, His Knight, & His Lady

40.  The Squire, His Knight, & His Lady
by Gerald Morris
YA Fiction - appropriate for 10-12+ (probably younger if read aloud)
My Library

Not as fabulous as the first, but still a fun read.  I may pick up the series again at a later date, but this one, though enjoyable, didn't leave me hungry for more.


The Blue Sword

39.  The Blue Sword
by Robin Mckinley
YA Fiction
City Library

Love Robin McKinley!  This was a beautiful book.  The characters and setting come alive and carried me into their world.  The heroine is wistful and strong, Harry (short for something, which I can't remember).  Her counterpart is the equally intriguing Corianth, whose unwieldy power must find it's balance to save his people.  Adventure, fantastic setting, and a little romance, combine to create a great read!


Why Gender Matters

38.  Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences
by Leonard Sax
Non-fiction for adults or mature teens
Read for my colloquia group
(Confession - I only read about three-quarters of this book)
My Library

I have been wanting to read this book for quite awhile, and I'm glad my colloquia gave me a good excuse to tackle it.  I was unable to make to the book discussion, so my comments lack the depth that they would have gained from my fabulous friends at colloquia!

This book discusses physiologically differences in males and females.  From vision, to hearing, to actual brain tissue; understanding these differences can help us to more effectively love, relate, and teach those around us.  I have not done exhaustive study on the topic, and Sax's perspective is the only one I'm familiar with on the subject of gender science.  But I do appreciate the invitation to reconsider the assumption that my own perspective is the same one through which others around me see the world.

A note on content:  The section on sex, and possibly some of the sections I didn't read, is very blunt, to the point that it is upsetting and may be objectionable to some readers.

Also, for a fun summary of this book as it relates to education, listen to Andrew Pudewa's lecture on the topic, "Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day."


Boys and girls show gender-typical toy preferences long before they understand gender.

In boys, as in men, the part of the brain where emotions happen is not well connected to the part of brain whee verbal processing and speech happens - unlike the situation in teenage girls and in women.

So: one reason many boys engage in physically dangerous activities may be that the danger itself gives the activity a pleasant tingle.  That's a tough concept for some women to grasp.  A mother who warns her son, "Don't ride your bike off the boardwalk.  You might get hurt," has missed the point.  Her son knows it's dangerous.  He's riding his bike off the boardwalk because it's dangerous.

Boys systematically over-estimate their own ability, while girls are more likely to under-estimate their abilities.

According to psychologist and criminologist Edwin McGargee, three-quarters of all murders are committed not by overtly aggressive people, but by quiet, seemingly well-behaved men who have never found a safe or appropriate outlet for their aggression.

"You can't turn a bully into a flower child.  But you can turn a bully into a knight."

The same jolt of electricity, the same blast of heat, will be experienced differently by girls and boys.  The girl will experience more pain.  This fundamental sex difference in sensory perception, mediated at the cellular level, amy conceivably play some role in boys' greater willingness to risk pain.

Many young boys are energized by confrontation and by time-constrained tasks.  Few young girls will flourish in high-pressure, do-it-in-five-seconds-or-you-lose formats.

Moderate stress improves boys' performance on tests...the same stress degrades young girls' performance on tests.

The areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills mature about six years earlier in girls than in boys, the areas of the brain involved in targeting and spatial memory mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls.

Sex differences in childhood are larger and more important than se differences in adulthood.


Teresa of Calcutta

37.  Teresa of Calcutta: Serving the Poorest of the Poor
by D. Jeanene Watson
Biography - from The Sowers Series
Read Aloud to my 13yo daughter
From Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere Core
My Library

Mother Teresa is an amazing woman.  Both my daughter & I enjoyed learning more about her, putting a person behind the name.  The Sower's biographies lack soul, but still give a rich look into the lives of amazing people.

Favorite Quotes:
(The quotes from Mother Teresa are fabulous!!)

No one came forward to join her.  The entire community she hoped to establish still consisted of only one person: herself.

"I count it a great honor to have you share my home," he said.  "You do the work of God, and you will be treated as an honored guest."  In all the time Teresa lived at 14 Creek Lane, Michael Gomes never accepted any money for the services he provided.

To encourage a young and inexperienced girl to undertake such an awesome task put great responsibility upon Teresa's shoulders.  If Subhasini failed, then Teresa would share in that failure.

Teresa spoke to them, explaining the purpose of the Missionary Sisters of Charity.  "We are first of all Christians.  We are not social workers.  we serve Jesus, who comes in the form of poor people.  We nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, visit Him, and comfort Him.  We do it all for Jesus.  Let kindness be in your face, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting.  Never think in terms of a crowd, only of one person.  Finally treat the poor alike whether they be Hindu, Christian, or Muslem.  Yes, treat them all the same.  We are not neutral concerning our religion; let your lives preach Christ."

Teresa explained, "First of all we make them feel they are wanted.  They learn that they are children of God.  For the few hours they have to live, they have His love and our love."

Teresa explained to the visitor..."This is the worst disease.  People have no time for their children, no time for each other, no time to enjoy each other.  Jesus Himself experienced this loneliness.  He came among His own and His own received Him not.  It hurt Him then and it has kept on hurting Him."

"We all have our shortcomings," Teresa said, "but the marvelous thing is that God uses us for His work, even with our weaknesses.  God writes through us, and however imperfect pencils we may be, he writes beautifully."

"Now let us do something beautiful for God."


The Squire's Tale

36.  The Squire's Tale
by Gerald Morris
YA Fiction - appropriate for 10-12+ (probably younger if read aloud)
My Library

Though my summer reading was embarrassingly full of sub-par adult fiction, I have decided that the best light reading is well done literature written for youth.  This book is a wonderful example.  A lovely escape from reality, with something to say about myth, love, and loyalty; this book is a fun rift on the tales of King Arthur.


The Fallen Angel

35.  The Fallen Angel
by Daniel Silva
My Library

Loved it!  Set in the Vatican, Silva gives us more of what we really want - Gabrielle Allon being Gabrielle Allon - genius, unflinchingly committed to right wrongs, and a seriously good shot.  Silva's books are intelligent, perfectly seasoned with political and human commentary, and fun to read.  This one does not disappoint.

Cream Puff Murder

34.  Cream Puff Murder:  Hannah Swensen Mysteries
by Joanne Fluke
Audio Book
City Library

A forgettable mystery, I didn't enjoy it and have no desire to read or listen to another by the author.  YMMV

Saboteur: A Novel of Love and War

33.  Saboteur:  A Novel of Love and War
by Dean Hughes
LDS Fiction
Audio Book
City Library

This book is set in Utah & Europe during WWII.  A fairly solid piece of Latter-day Saint fiction.  Romance, suspense, and a bit of social commentary about the Japanese internment camp in southern Utah.  I enjoyed listening, and it kept me company during our annual house-overhaul in preparation for our Independence Day Firework Party!  (I'm obviously quite behind in my posting - one down - thirteen to go!)


Fun Summer Reads!

Every book blog needs a list of summery books, the kind that perfectly compliment those busy warm days.  These are some of my favorites.  I love books that call my name from across the room, "Becky, come read me!!!" and these definitely fit the bill.  Whether you are relaxing on a beach somewhere or racing from one summer activity to another, I think you'll find these books to be perfect companions.

1.  East by Edith Pattou.  Appropriate for 10+.  A retelling of the fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon; this book is gorgeously written, full of delicious romantic tension, and the setting became so real to me I felt the cold through the pages.  Perfect for summer, right!

2.  Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour.  Another cold weather tale, this is one of the few non-western L'Amours.  It is a gripping, has a fascinating hero, and is perfect for any adventure lover.  Don't let any fear of westerns scare you off, this is a well written book, full of great action scenes and wonderful suspense.  (I'd also recommend "The Walking Drum," another non-western L'Amour I wish I was reading right now!)

3.  The Geography of Bliss:  One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.  Non-fiction.  Adult language & situations.  Looking for a vacation? This book will send you on a thought-provoking trip around the world, and if I am any indication, have you laughing out-loud.  I loved it!  Similar in style to one of the first books I read this year.

4.  The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.  Written for adults, appropriate for teens+.  This tale by the author of Anne of Green Gables won my heart and I think it will add a lovely charm to your summer.  Thought-provoking and sweet, but not stickily so, this is one of those tales you will return to.

5.  The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  Older Teens & Adults.  I'm am one of the hold-outs who has never read the Twilight series, but I thoroughly enjoyed Stephanie Meyer's stand-alone sci-fi novel.  The themes are worth pondering about, the characters are real, the romance is heartfelt, it's hard to put down and incredibly fascinating.

What are your favorite books for summer?


The Universe Next Door

32.  The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog
by James W. Sire
Non-fiction for adults or very motivated teens
Read for my colloquia group
My Library

I will confess I did not read every single word in this extensive treatise on the topic.  But I am a very good skimmer, and my Colloquia group had a great discussion.  I've been part of a year-long class on Worldviews which used this text (which I won't be reviewing here, because I can't even claim I skimmed it all) so it was nice to take the subject from a different point of view.  Though I would recommend this book to the serious student, I'm still looking for the book I can use to introduce my children, when they are someday teens, to the foundationally important subject of worldview.

Sire poses eight basic questions (like "what is real" "what is a human being" "how do we know what is right and wrong"), and then proceeds to answer them from the perspective of nine worldviews (Christian Theism, Existentialism, The New Age, Postmodernism, etc.).  I like his approach.  I still don't totally understand existentialism, does anyone?, but I liked the way he showed how these worldviews were often responding to each other.  That reminded me of Sophie's World, which is a great history of philosophy if you are so inclined.

There has been a movement from (1) a "premodern" concern for a just society based on revelation from a just God to (2) a "modern" attempt to use universal reason as the guide to justice to (3) a "postmodern" despair of any universal standard for justice.

(from the perspective of Existentialism)
each person, in the loneliness of his or her own subjectivity, surrounded by a great deal more darkness than light, must choose.  And that choice must be a radical act of faith.

Miss Julia Takes Over

31.  Miss Julia Takes Over
by Ann B. Ross
Why can't I learn my lesson?  Every time I enjoy a fun silly read, I spoil it by reading another by the same author and then end up feeling very similar to the feeling you get after eating an entire bag of Twizzlers.  Oh, well, it certainly was a fast read.
Adult Mystery
City Library

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind

30.  Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
by Ann B. Ross
I borrowed this book from my library because I saw it recommended here.  It was a fun little mystery, which I enjoyed but was very glad I didn't buy.
Adult Mystery
City Library

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

29.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
A darling tale of a young Chinese girl on a quest to find The Old Man of the Moon and improve her family's fortune.  Interwoven with Lin's semi-traditional Chinese tales, it speaks to the timeless need for friendship, contentment, and imagination.
I read this at the recommendation of my thirteen year old daughter, who found it in Sonlight's Core F.
Middle Grade
My Library


28.  Hood
by Stephen R. Lawhead
Robin Hood set in medieval Britain, this almost 500 page book, is well-researched with a richly-developed hero.  Though it made me work a bit to follow the intricacies of the setting, the result was that I felt fully transported.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Lawhead's triology.
Adult Fiction
My Library


27.  Beauty
by Robin McKinley
A captivating retelling of "Beauty & the Beast," this book was loved by both my 13 year-old daughter and I.  Charming without being too sweet, it is both a wonderfully well-crafted and irresistibly fun to read.
City Library

**Please click 'Older Posts' & read about "The Passion of Mary-Margaret" - it shouldn't be overlooked simply because it never had any time on the front page.
Thank you,
The Management

Pedro's Journal

26.  Pedro's Journal
by Pam Conrad
A gloomy account of Columbus's voyage to the new world from the perspective of a young ship's boy. Read aloud to my 10 year old - part of Sonlight Core D.
Middle Grade
My Library

The Passion of Mary-Margaret

25.  The Passion of Mary-Margaret
by Lisa Samson
A beautiful novel about the unexpected path of following God.  One of my favorite books of the year.  It is intense and beautiful, but also difficult and mystical.
Adult Fiction - see disclaimer
My Library

I know I can't do this book justice in a review.  It spoke deeply to me about the inexhaustible love of Christ for us, and the reality of our ability to help in his work, and the richness of redemption.

The format is interesting, jumping back and forth in time; that sorta drove me crazy but I skipped ahead, figured out the main points, and then returned to where I was and read without the tension of wondering what would happen.

Disclaimer:  Hmmm...I'm not sure how to put this, but the Savior is a character in this novel, I thought it was well done, but I can see that it would be off-putting to some.  Subjects of rape, sexual abuse, and various sins are addressed.  There is no confusion between right and wrong, but the ugliness of sin and the pain of other's wickedness is apparent.

A quote to whet your appetite:

"Although, indeed, I've never felt particularly wise, just willing.  And even then, my brain sometimes protested like an argumentative Sophomore even though my body jumped in the car and took off.  Jesus was always at the wheel, but he's not particularly cautious."


The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

24.  The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
by Jeanne Birdsall
The third in the Penderwicks Series; we are impatiently waiting for the fourth (of five).  Another delight, though I wish these girls wouldn't grow up!
Appropriate for all ages - though there is a bit more boy-drama as the girls age - I thought it was handled well
Middle Grade Fiction
Read aloud to my 10 year old daughter
My Library

Favorite Quote:
"Though Jane would have liked him to say more, she was pleased with the mysteriousness of him saying less.  This was what she'd meant by hidden depths.  Jane had occasionally tried to develop her own hidden depths, but she never could decide what to hide and how far down."

The Third Choice

23.  The Third Choice
by Mark Durie
An exhaustive study on the Islamic concept of Dhimmitidue.  Disconcerting, it brings the reader face to face with the seemingly insurmountable problem of communication across vastly different worldviews.  It is difficult to know if this author's perspective is accurate.
Adult or motivated older teens
Read for my Book Colloquia
My Library


What is the human problem?
Islam:  ignorance --> guidance --> success
Christianity:  sin --> forgiveness --> salvation

"I have been concerned to inquire how non-Muslims, and Muslims with compassionate hearts, can resist the dhimma's demands upon their thought patterns, and how a soul weighed down by the legacy of dimmitude can find healing and freedom.

For many who already live under manifestations of Sharia law, this is a question about how humanity can live with dignity under conditions of humiliation and inferiority.  For others, citizens of free nations, there is a pressing need to gain understanding, and in so doing to strengthen the will to be free."

The King of Attolia

22.  The King of Attolia
by Megan Whalen Turner
The final installment of the Queen's Thief Triology doesn't disappoint.  Though it took some adjustment to warm up to our new perspective on the action (I missed Gen!) it was a good move by the author.  This finale was satisfying without being a foregone conclusion.
I would suggest this for older teens & adults
My Library

The Queen of Attolia

21.  The Queen of Attolia
by Megan Whalen Turner
Second in the Queen's Thief Trilogy, This intricate plots and multidimensional characters wrap the reader in the faraway world of Attolia.  Eugenides is as charming as ever, but the darkness that faces him requires courage of a deeper kind.
Middle Grade Fiction  (according to amazon, but I disagree)
I really enjoyed this, and though there is nothing objectionable, I don't think this would be that interesting to someone younger than 15.
My Library

Favorite quote:

"I don't feel like a hero.  I feel like an idiot."
"I think heroes generally do, but those men believe in you."
"I did wait until I was outside before I threw up."

How An Economy Grows and Why It Crashes

20.  How An Economy Grows and Why It Crashes
by Peter D. Schiff & Andrew J. Schiff
An easy-to-read explanation of macro-economics and why the financial principles we all understand are a better solution than the Keynesian economics today's politicians pretend to understand.  The fun illustrations and entertaining storyline make this book accessible as well as valuable.  I'd like to have my kids read this so we can discuss it before they leave home.
Appropriate for teens & adults
Read for my Book Colloquia
My Library


In Search of the Source

19.  In Search of the Source:  A First Encounter with God's Word
by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore
The fascinating autobiographic account of a missionary in Papua New Guinea as he translates the Bible into the language of the Folopa people.
Non-Fiction - Autobiography
Appropriate for probably 10-12 & up as a read aloud, read alone, maybe 13-15 and up
I read this to my 13 year old daughter, we loved it!
My Library

This was a fabulous book, and such a wonderful read aloud.  I read it as part of our homeschool curriculum from Sonlight, and it is another reason I love Sonlight.  I never would have read this book, and almost didn't, but it impacted both my daughter and I for life.  It was so fascinating to step into a radically different culture and see their initial interactions with the word of God.  Most chapters tell of Anderson struggling to translate a specific passage, and then some interaction between he and the Folopa people which allows them to understand each other and the scripture better.  I am so grateful for the discussions that this allowed my to have with my daughter and I will never read the Bible the same way.

Favorite Quotes:

(upon tasting a chocolate bar for the first time)
"Brothers," he said in the Folopa language, I'm dying of the deliciousness of whatever this is.  "What's it like?"they asked.  I wondered how he would answer.  I could see the wheels turning his his head, his tongue still savoring over his teeth.  To what would he compare this most different of tastes?  Finally  he looked up.  "It's like pig's liver," he said.

The term in Folopa is bete'.  
It's a word they use and use and use; it never gets tired, never old, never used up.  Like words in any language, it has many moods, nuances, senses, shades of meaning.  At once it embodies the concepts of root, basis, prime beginnings, deep structure, first cause, life, meaning underlying strength, essence, source.
It is the fundamental verb of "being" and the most basic metaphor in the entire language.

(on Luke 14:26)
We'd translated that into good Folopa and the men were giving their approval.  "That's good," they said, "but there's one little thing you've got to change.  It's just a small thing.  Just a word.  Everything else is good.  You don't need to change anything else, but there's one part you've got to change."
"All right," I said, "what part is that?"
They smiled a little.  "Well, the meaning is mixed up.  The way you translated it there it says, 'Unless a personal hates his father, mother, wife, children, and all, he cannot be My disciple.'"
"Yes," I said.
"But what you should have said is, If a person hates...he cannot be My disciple.'"
I suppose I should have seen it coming but I hadn't.  I could could see what they meant.  They knew enough about the Gospel at this point to know that love is the key, not hate.
"Yes, you're right," I said.  "of course you can't be a disciple if you're going to hate someone.  I know it and you know it.  But the trouble is, this is what the Lord really said:  'Unless you hate your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, you cannot be My disciple.'  We did not translate it wrong."

"Now we know God, the true bete' of all things.  Why should we ever go back to anything less?"

The Alliance

18.  The Alliance
by Gerald Lund
A tale of a future, post-nuclear holocaust society where safety trumps individual choice.
Science Fiction
Appropriate for young teens & adults
My 13 yo loved it!
The Library

Lund tells the story of two societies seeking to survive after the world we know is destroyed by war.  The main character is likable and the setting is thought-provoking.  "The Alliance"  asks questions of individual responsibility, how to fight injustice, and security versus freedom.  A great book to discuss with youth.  And if you are like me, not ready for your youth to tackle "The Hunger Games" this gives them a good chance to begin dealing with some of the same issues on a less-disturbing level.

My Favorite Quotes:

With a sigh he decided it was a problem of infinite complexity and limited interest.

My father used to tell us that love and goodness are interwoven and interdependent. The more goodness a person exhibits in his life, the easier it is to love that person.  Selfishness, cruelty, exploitation -- any evil act makes it harder and harder to feel love for a person.

Lady of Milkweed Manor

17.  Lady of Milkweed Manor
by Julie Klassen
A not-so-fabulous story about a Brittish wet nurse in Victorian England.
Fiction - Christian
Appropriate for older teens & adults
My Library

This is the second book I've read this year by Julie Klassen.  I didn't really care for this one.  It was a bit gloomy for a "fun read" and the main character lacked the spark that makes you root for her happiness.  I should probably add the disclaimer that I read this book in a single day - I was sick - and my malaise probably doesn't make me the most impartial reviewer.

Bound on Earth

16. Bound on Earth
by Angela Hallstrom
A sincere and well-written story, told from the various perspectives of family members.
Fiction - LDS
Appropriate for adults and older teens ready to deal with more mature themes
My Library

This book was very well done.  It is rather somber in tone, but that fits the subject matter.  I am not generally a fan of LDS fiction (sorry!) but this book was definitely worth the read. Hallstrom addresses mental illness, the realities and challenges of marriage, and parenting; all without sugar-coating or over simplifying. My only criticism was that telling the story from so many perspectives didn't give me a singular character to connect with.

Favorite Quotes:

Nathan took a deep breath.  He wasn't good at these conversations, never had been.  He had a hard time understanding Alicia's eagerness for complication.

And that's the prayer she prays as she rocks, over and over, as insistent as the Indian chants she hears sometimes, throbbing down from the mountains at night.  I've had all I can bear.  She knows that he can hear her.  She doesn't know if he agrees.



15. Fallon
by Louis L’Amour
A archetypal L’Amour western; the rugged hero, the desert landscape, an evil gang out for vengeance.
Fiction - Western
Appropriate for teens & adults
The Library

A good read; the ending was too abrupt for me, though a bit charming in its brevity. Not a classic, though L’Amour has certainly written some. I came to L’Amour kicking and screaming, but he really is a great writer, dry wit, fabulous at painting a picture, and occasionally really nails human nature with all it’s capacity for valor and selfishness.

Fun Quotes:

People, he told himself, were suckers. The fact that on several occasions he had proved to be one himself only served to illustrate the point.

There was strength in the man, and background too. It showed in so many little things. It shoed in his way of speaking of women, always with courtesy, never indicating familiarity, always with respect. It showed in the way he ate, the way he drank, the manner in which he carried himself. Brennan was not of the gentry, but he knew gentry when he saw them.

He glanced at the two books thrust down into his unstrapped pack -- purposely he had left it open for the last few items. He had always wanted to read more, but there had never seemed to be time. Yet he knew that was not true, either -- there was always time. One simply had to make time, and there was always a lot a man did that was trifling and altogether unimportant.

And then he was dead . . . or he felt like it. Never having been dead, he might have been mistaken.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

14. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
by Jeanne Birdsall
An absolutely charming tale of four sisters and their widowed father.
Appropriate for all ages!
Read aloud to my 10 year old
Middle Grade Fiction
My Library

The second in a series that will eventually have five, three are currently published, this book is a true gem! An absolute joy to read. Birdsall has this amazing ability to make you feel like she wrote this fifty years ago, yet something about is still springing forth with the yellow-green of new spring growth. Fantastic!

Every day my daughter and I would sit down and the time would just fly! She teased me that I would always save her read aloud for last, but it was true - it was my favorite or all the kids’ read alouds and was like the sweet cherry on top of our school day - or occasionally like the savored piece of chocolate at the end of a marathon. (Marathon runners probably don’t celebrate the end of a race with chocolate, but I can’t think of anything else that compares to a really long school day - maybe juggling in the middle of L.A. traffic at rush hour?!)

I didn’t keep track of quotes for this one (sad!) so I searched the web so I could have a few on record:

“Jane,” she said, climbing down from the chair. “Remember last year when I built that model wind tower for you and you wrote those poems for me?'”

“And you said you'd never switch homework assignments with me again.

For good reason. My teacher had a hard time believing I wrote Tra-la the joy of tulips blooming, Ha-ha the thrill of bumblebees zooming. I'm alive and I dance, I'm alive though death is always looming. When I finally convinced her that I had, she asked me if I needed to talk to the school counselor.”


“And I don't know if Batty's gotten over it yet,” said Skye.

Mr. Penderwick looked out the window to where Batty was playing vampires with Hound. Hound was on his back, trying to wiggle out of the black towel Batty had tied around his neck. Batty was leaping over Hound's water bowl, shrieking, “Blood, blood!”

“She looks all right,” he said.


“The referee told me this league has never had a brawl of that magnitude," said Mr. Penderwick after a long, painful silence. "Of course, at the time I was pretending to be a casual passerby and not a father at all.”

[The kitchen] was also messy--delightfully so, thought Jane--and it didn't look as though lots of cooking went on there. There was a laptop computer on the counter with duck stickers on it, the spice cabinet was full of Ben's toy trucks, and Jane couldn't spot a cookbook anywhere. This is the kitchen of a Thinker, she decided, and promised herself that she'd never bother with cooking, either.


Applause never does go on forever...

Civil Disobedience

13. Civil Disobedience
by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau considers the responsibility of citizens and individuals to act when government is causing injustice.
Appropriate... well for anyone who is interested, I guess!
Read for my Book Colloquia
Printed from a public domain website

I often look back at the mid-1800s and think of it as America’s Eden. Revolution settled, land, health, and personal liberties abounding in the land. I know, this perception has left the territory of idealism and entered the land of fiction where disadvantaged individuals have faded into the some romantic-haze. But leave it to Thoreau to bring me to reality. Turns out, even the privileged had plenty to complain about and people were already terribly dissatisfied with their government.

Thoreau makes an impassioned case for refusing to pay taxes to a government which is actively engaged in wrong-doing, in his time slavery and The Mexican-American War. I find his argument appealing in its clarity and unsullied approach to justice - I like clean lines. But I also think he has greatly over-simplified the impact and difficulty, if not impossibility, of his proscribed course. He’s also a precocious Post-Modernist, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Lots of quotes:

This American government--what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its

Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only
obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

Others--as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders--serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without _intending_ it, as God.

It is not so important that many should be good as you, as that there be some absolute
goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump.

They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in
earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for other to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret.

Even _voting for the right_ is _doing_ nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail.

It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders.

Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary

I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I
could name--if ten _honest_ men only--ay, if _one_ HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, _ceasing to hold slaves_, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man.
I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax.

There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.