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Rachel (aktakukac) Reads in 2017

This topic was continued by Rachel (aktakukac) Reads in 2017 (Part 2).

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Dec 30, 2016, 4:26pm Top

I grew up on a farm raising beef cattle, so books and cows are two of my favorite things.

Hello! My name is Rachel, and this will be my seventh year participating in this group. Sometimes real life gets in the way of my posting on here, and I tend to mostly lurk on other treads instead of commenting. I always say I will try to be more active on here, but don't hold your breath.

I work in a library in a small town in Ohio. One of my main responsibilities is ordering books for children and teenagers, which means the list of books I want to read is constantly growing. I live on a farm with my husband. Spring and fall are the busiest times of the year for us.

Last year, I started out with a reading rotation of one children's, then YA, and then an adult book. It only lasted for a few months, but I am going to start it again in January and see how it goes. I'm still pondering my 2017 reading goals, but I will post them once they are more organized.

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 9:12am Top

Books Read January-March


1. When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad
2. Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack
3. When I'm Gone by Emily Bleeker
4. Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
5. Winter's Bullet by William Osborne
6. Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis
7. The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton
8. This is Our Story by Ashley Elston
9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
10. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
11. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
12. Madly by Amy Alward

13. Royal Tour (The Potion Diaries) by Amy Alward
14. The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman by Margot Mifflin
15. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
16. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
17. By Your Side by Kasie West
18. Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner
19. The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton
20. Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England by Catherine Bailey
21. Local Girl Swept Away by Ellen Wittlinger
22. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
23. Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
24. Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes
25. Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown
26. Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook by Thresa Carle-Sanders

27. The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
28. Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
29. Below by Meg McKinlay
30. Winterfrost by Michelle Houts
31. The Littles by John Peterson
32. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
33. Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich
34. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio
35. Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee
36. Always by Sarah Jio
37. The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter
38. Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams
39. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
40. Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
41. The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron
42. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
43. Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio

Edited: May 1, 2017, 3:16pm Top

Books Read April-June

44. The Courage Test by James Preller
45. A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Banks Robbers & Other Badass Girls, Edited by Jessica Spotswood
46. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
47. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chalfoun
48. Hamstersaurus Rex by Tom O'Donnell
49. Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley
50. Ice Lake by Various Authors
51. The Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonough
52. Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton
53. The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff
54. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson
55. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
56. Ride the Wind: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Last Days of the Comanche by Lucia St. Clair Robson
57. White-Hot Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves
58. In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

Edited: Dec 30, 2016, 4:07pm Top

Books Read July-September

Edited: Dec 30, 2016, 4:07pm Top

Books Read October-December

Edited: Dec 30, 2016, 4:21pm Top

I'll use this space to add reading goals for next year, but my 2017 thread is now ready!

Dec 30, 2016, 4:35pm Top

Happy reading in 2017, Rachel!

Dec 30, 2016, 4:41pm Top

>7 FAMeulstee: Thanks, Anita! I will stop by and star your thread soon!

Dec 30, 2016, 5:26pm Top

Gorgeous picture!

Dec 30, 2016, 8:26pm Top

Welcome back for 2017, Rachel.

Dec 30, 2016, 9:18pm Top

Happy new thread!

Dec 31, 2016, 8:33am Top

Dec 31, 2016, 9:05am Top

I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.

Thank you for also being part of the group.

Dec 31, 2016, 12:18pm Top

Welcome back!

Dec 31, 2016, 9:58pm Top

Checking in and hanging my star!

Jan 1, 2017, 6:27pm Top

Hi, Rachel!

Jan 1, 2017, 6:58pm Top

Stopping in to say hello and Happy New Years! I just love the photo in your first post!

Jan 1, 2017, 9:10pm Top

>9 countrylife: Hi, Cindy! The second I saw that picture, I knew it would be a great thread topper!

>10 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! I'm hoping 2017 will be a great reading year!

>11 foggidawn: Thanks :)

>12 The_Hibernator: Happy New Year, Rachel!

>13 PaulCranswick: Same to you, Paul!

>14 drneutron: Thanks, Jim!

>15 thornton37814: Hi Lori, glad you're here!

>16 scaifea: Hi, Amber!

>17 DFED: Happy New Year! Isn't it a great photo?! :)

Well, the first day of the year is almost over, and I haven't started a book yet. The only thing I have read is a couple of pages in a cookbook and my recipe files while I was baking for a family Christmas today. I have the day off tomorrow, but we have a lot of errands and things to do, so I might not get any reading done tomorrow, either.

I also need to spend some time thinking about my reading goals for the year. I feel like 2016 was kind of a mediocre reading year, and would like to have some better reads. I also need to find a way to read more of my own books (which never happens) while still keeping up with new releases for work.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for visiting my thread!

Jan 2, 2017, 9:55pm Top

Happy New Year to Rachel!

Jan 3, 2017, 10:38am Top

Happy New Year Rachel.

Jan 4, 2017, 11:53am Top

>19 AMQS:, >20 BLBera: Happy New Year Anne and Beth!

Jan 4, 2017, 1:34pm Top

Book # 1: When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

In 1911, Inge Maria is a ten-year-old girl who moves to the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea, to live with her grandmother when her mother passes away. Life on Bormholm is very different from what she was used to in Copenhagen, and Inge Maria has a tendency to unintentionally cause chaos and mayhem wherever she goes. Her grandmother is a stern, unhappy woman…or is she?

The book follows not only Inge Maria’s adventures and escapades, but her changing relationship with her grandmother, how they deal with their grief, and plenty of historical and cultural references to keep things interesting. The character of Klaus, a young boy who becomes friends with Inge Maria, also adds a lot to the story.

This was a great first read of the year for me. I laughed at Inge Maria’s antics (especially the stool and the turkey), and could relate to her grandmother’s frustrations. I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy Anne of Green Gables or Pippi Longstocking, or Hans Christian Andersen, as his fairy tales also play an important role and are featured throughout the story.

Jan 4, 2017, 7:50pm Top

Hi Rachel! Happy New Year! You have a BB with your first book of the year. When Mischief Came to Town sounds like one I should read. Now I'm off to check the public library's catalog to see if it's available.

Jan 5, 2017, 12:16pm Top

Happy new year and new thread, Rachel! Glad to see your first read of the year was a hit.

Jan 5, 2017, 2:23pm Top

>23 cbl_tn: I hope you'll be able to find a copy, Carrie. It's a heartwarming, lovely story with an old-fashioned feel.

>24 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky! I had considered starting the year off with something more serious, heavy, important, etc. but decided a charming children's story would work just as well :)

Jan 5, 2017, 9:41pm Top

Happy New Year! (dropping a star)

I was a school psychologist in an elementary system for over 3 decades, Rachel, and always like keeping up with children's books. Don't let me down! :-)

Jan 5, 2017, 9:46pm Top

I think I got When Mischief Came to Town for my library last year. Looks like it will have to come home with me soon! Thanks for the BB:)

Jan 6, 2017, 4:26pm Top

>26 ronincats: Hi Roni, thanks for visiting! I am going to try to stick to reading an even number of children's, YA, and adult books this year, so hopefully there will be plenty of good juvenile fiction and non-fiction showing up on my thread!

>27 AMQS: Yes, read it, Anne! It's lovely :)

I have been reading a gothic YA novel set on an island off the coast of Maine for a few days now. I'm making very, very slow progress with it; it's one of those books you can't rush through, and I haven't found the time to really settle down with it without getting distracted. Tomorrow my in-laws are coming over to help us put together some shelving and do some other projects in the basement and garage. Hopefully it won't take too long and they will leave so I can have some reading time.

Jan 7, 2017, 2:36pm Top

When Mischief Came to Town sounds good, Rachel.

Jan 8, 2017, 3:37pm Top

Hi Rachel, I am finally stopping by with rather belated Happy New Year wishes for you and to drop a star so that I can find my way back.

Jan 11, 2017, 10:29am Top

>29 BLBera: It's exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a child, Beth!

>30 lkernagh: Hi, Lori!

It's been one of those weeks, and it's only Wednesday morning! But looking at the bright side, I did get a Laura Ingalls Wilder program/presenter booked for LIW's 150th birthday next month, and I also got my car registration and license plate tags renewed for another year OVER A MONTH BEFORE THE DEADLINE!!

Now if I can just get a book review up and finish the book I'm currently reading...maybe later today...

Jan 11, 2017, 2:50pm Top

Book # 2: Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

Cecelia returns to Sanctuary, the home where she grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, after the death of her aunt. She was sent away to school after her grandmother and sister perished in a fire, her father died, and her mother was committed to an asylum. Although her aunt warned her not to return, she does, and finds things have changed a great deal. She also meets Eli, a professor who is examining the contents of Sanctuary’s library.

Cecelia and Eli are drawn to each other, and begin to unravel the truth behind the tragedies that have occurred at Sanctuary. But is Eli to be trusted? Is there truly a place for Cecelia on the island?

While Cecelia’s story takes place in the late 1930s, an important part of the plot also takes place during the 1750s, and involves the forced Expulsion of the Acadians by the British. It made for some intriguing reading, and added a unique touch to the story.

I had been looking forward to reading this book for quite a while, but was underwhelmed when I finished it. It is one of those books that slogs along until it becomes too lengthy and almost boring. The writing did not always flow well, and some things that needed to be explained were not. I hate when that happens.

On the other hand, the descriptions were good, Cecelia’s uncle was a pretty good villain, there is just enough of the supernatural, it is a YA book that adults will also like, and for the right reader at the right time, could be a satisfactory read.

Jan 12, 2017, 2:00pm Top

I started reading Hostage Three by Nick Lake yesterday, but gave up after only 20 pages. I think I could have really gotten into the story, and I did like what I read, but there were absolutely no quotation marks to show dialogue. There was no way I could handle another 350 or so pages of that, so back on the library shelf it goes!

Jan 12, 2017, 3:08pm Top

>33 aktakukac: Props for giving up a book that would drive you bonkers. Hopefully your next read is a better fit. :)

Jan 12, 2017, 4:40pm Top

>34 MickyFine: I was surprised that only a few reviewers on GoodReads even mentioned the issue, so I guess it didn't bother a lot of readers. There are too many books out there to waste my time with something that would make me pull my hair out!

Jan 12, 2017, 4:41pm Top

Book # 3: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

When his wife Natalie dies from cancer, Luke is left to raise their three children in their home in the Detroit suburbs. He soon begins receiving letters that Natalie had written when she started her treatments and during the course of her illness. Luke doesn’t know how they are arriving, but he appreciates the helpful advice they contain and the comfort they give him.

Luke and Natalie’s oldest child discovers something that, combined with the letters, leaves Luke questioning everything he knew about his wife. Soon he is trying to uncover secrets and figure out how a certain character is connected to Natalie.

The story was decent, and not as sentimental as I had expected. However, I feel that the author tried to fit too much into the story in an effort to make it less predictable. There was too much drama by the end, and I felt like a made-for-tv movie was playing out as I read.

I’ve read Bleeker’s debut, Wreckage, and gave it the same rating as this one. Not bad, but not very memorable.

Jan 13, 2017, 7:30pm Top

Wreckage got the same rating from me. From your thoughts here, I'm not anxious to try When I'm Gone.

Jan 14, 2017, 12:00pm Top

>37 countrylife: Hi, Cindy! It had a lot of potential, but didn't live up to it. I was especially disappointed in Natalie's letters, as that aspect was what really made me want to read it in the first place!

Jan 14, 2017, 12:00pm Top

Book # 4: Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

Beans is a boy who lives in Key West during the Great Depression. He like playing marbles and going to the movies, but since his father went north to look for work, he is the man of the family and does odd jobs to help support his mother and siblings. He even takes part in some illegal activities to earn some money, although he isn’t exactly happy with that.

There is a lot packed into this relatively short book. One area of focus is the New Deal and the government’s plan to revitalize Key West and turn it into a tourist destination. Many young readers will not know much about this history, but they will learn a lot (and probably have a lot of questions) while reading. Slang and popular phrases from the time and setting pop up frequently, as do references to famous Hollywood films and stars of the day.

The story is also about lying and how not telling the truth can impact everyone around you.

I listened to the audiobook, which was excellently narrated, and includes an author’s note which was narrated by the author. Beans is a great character and this book would be an excellent read aloud for middle grade classrooms.

Jan 14, 2017, 1:41pm Top

Book # 5: Winter’s Bullet by William Osborne

Taking place over the course of several days in January 1945, Winter’s Bullet takes place during WWII and has a slightly different take on events. Tygo Winter has lost his father and mother, and possibly his sister. His father was a locksmith, and now the Nazis are forcing Tygo to use the skills he has learned to rob Dutch homes and buildings of their art, jewelry, and other valuables. If he doesn’t comply, he will be killed. Because he is seen as “assisting” the Germans, the Dutch Resistance also wants to capture and kill him.

One day, Tygo discovers a girl hiding in the chimney of a house where an extremely valuable diamond is supposedly hidden. Can she help him locate the precious stone? Everyone wants to get their hands on it, but will it be found, and if it is, what will happen to it?

Meanwhile, the Germans have built an incredible weapon that could help them win the war. After a test at sea goes well, they plan to use the weapon to destroy New York City. Adolf Hitler and several other high-ranking officials plan to sneak away to Argentina as well. Tygo even gets to fly to Barcelona, where he meets Eva Duarte (later Eva Peron), who is helping broker the deals.

Somehow, Tygo needs to locate the diamond and stop the Nazis, because it truly is a matter of life and death.

For the most part, the action and story moved along at a fast pace. There were some instances where the writing did not flow that well, but these were few and far between. I do wish the author had done a bit more with the Winter of Starvation part of the story. Yes, parts of the story (especially the ending) were pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, but it was entertaining reading and a different way to read about what did and could have happened during WWII.

Edited: Jan 14, 2017, 2:49pm Top

>39 aktakukac: I've been hit by a book bullet. My boyfriend's ancestors are from Key West. He's told me a little bit about that era, but I think I'd appreciate this book.

ETA: My public library has a print copy. I've requested TN Reads purchase the audiobook, but who knows if they will. Maybe so since it is 2016 copyright.

Jan 16, 2017, 3:51pm Top

Full of Beans looks like a good one. Is she the one who wrote The Fourteenth Goldfish?

Edited: Jan 16, 2017, 3:52pm Top

Oops -- the dratted double post!

Jan 17, 2017, 3:13pm Top

>41 thornton37814: Ohh, if you are looking for historical and cultural details about Key West in the 1930s, you'll definitely find them in that book, Lori! The print copy has a few pages with pictures from the time period in the author's note at the end.

>42 AMQS: Yes, she also wrote The Fourteenth Goldfish, Anne. I haven't read any of her books besides Full of Beans, but I enjoyed her writing style and might have to read some more by her in the future.

Jan 17, 2017, 4:36pm Top

Book # 6: Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis

Sarah Marquis is a Swiss woman who has done several extreme solo hikes on multiple continents. This experience served her well on a three-year trek through Russia and Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Australia.

I was very interested in reading about her planning, preparations, and the journey itself. However, she skims over most of the information about organizing for the trip. The book – and journey itself – jump around so much that I often got confused and had to re-read sections to know what was going on. I understand that on an expedition of that magnitude, things can and will go wrong, but I thought the title was extremely misleading.

As I said, the book does not flow well. She often talked about other hikes and how they related to experiences on certain parts of this trip, which was a bit frustrating at times because of the way it was presented. The author has a different world view that I can respect, but it also made for some passages that were not what I was expecting or wanting to read.

One thing I did like was the amount of the book that focused on Mongolia.

The book did not translate well, and left out a lot of what I was looking for when I read the summary. I also wanted to feel like I was there on the journey walking beside the author, and I never had that feeling. There is no doubt that what the author went through and ultimately accomplished is nothing short of amazing, but I am sure there are better books about long-term hiking expeditions out there.

Jan 17, 2017, 8:05pm Top

>44 aktakukac: I found an earlier book by her also set in Key West for $1.99 on Kindle so I grabbed that one for the moment. Of course, I have several books checked out of the library at the moment and several in process, but I don't have anything in process on my Kindle at the moment.

Jan 20, 2017, 2:46pm Top

Book # 7: The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton

This was a fun fantasy and adventure story that was full of wonderful characters, puzzles and logic, humor, and a clever plot. A slave boy, who has no name, has to rescue two girls, Plain Alice and Princess Alice from a dragon, ogre, and an evil Duke. The boy, girls, and a goblin, journey all over the land and will have to use their resources to save the kingdom (and keep Princess Alice from being forced to marry Duke Geoffrey).

There are several storylines and many characters, but they are all connected and come together to make a great story. It reminded me of The Princess Bride in a few ways. The twists and turns, as well as use of logic, questions, and words always gave the plot a new spin. One particular event toward the end was totally unexpected and incredibly exciting.

The debut was well written and engaging, but not perfect. One point of concern is the fact that A character is murdered at the beginning of the story. It happens in front of the main character, and while not graphic, it could be alarming for many readers.

All in all, a solid middle grade novel that manages to be lighthearted, witty, and humorous while also touching on deeper topics.

Jan 23, 2017, 3:28pm Top

Book # 8: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Now this, THIS, is what I love about YA fiction. I wish more books were this good!

Five friends, rich boys who all attend a preppy private school, go hunting one morning in the woods. One of the boys is shot and killed. None of the four surviving boys will admit to shooting him, and the victim was killed with his own gun – which all five of the boys had practiced shooting with.

Kate is a high school student at the local public school and has an internship at the district attorney’s office. She has to assist the lawyer she works for when he is given the case. Kate had been texting Grant, the boy who was killed, and she wants to find out exactly what happened in the woods, even if it puts her life in danger.

While Kate is the main narrator of the book, there is also a second narrator whose identity is a mystery, but we know is one of the four boys who are accused of shooting Grant.

That is all I want to say about the plot, because saying much more will give things away that really need to be uncovered as you read the novel. There is a plot twist that completely caught me off-guard and made me appreciate the author’s writing all the more. Wow, yeah.

I did have a couple of issues with the book, but they were pretty slight and I'm willing to overlook them in this case. The rest of the story, the characters, and the overall awesomeness of the book make up for the few negatives.

If you are a fan of well-crafted murder stories or good, suspenseful thrillers, please pick up this book. If you have been looking for a brilliant YA novel, you must read this one. I am very happy to have discovered Ashley Elston and will be reading more by her. I don’t say this very often, but this will be a book I will re-read. It’s that good!

And Shep totally makes me swoon! :)

Jan 24, 2017, 10:56am Top

>48 aktakukac: Ooof. Adding that one to the list!

Jan 24, 2017, 12:39pm Top

>48 aktakukac: That has gone straight onto the wishlist, it looks really good. Thanks for the review.

Jan 24, 2017, 3:40pm Top

>49 scaifea: and >50 lunacat: Amber and Jenny, I'm glad This is Our Story sounds interesting. My advice is to pick it up when you have a good block of time to devote to reading. You won't want to put it down! :)

Jan 24, 2017, 10:43pm Top

Hi Rachel! I really enjoyed The Goblin's Puzzle when I read it last year. Perhaps my favorite part were the author's notes at the end!

Jan 25, 2017, 4:51pm Top

>52 AMQS: Hi Anne! Yes, the author's notes at the end of The Goblin's Puzzle are great! I loved how the different characters and the story played in my mind as I read. I could see it being a fun movie, but the book itself is so entertaining and enjoyable :)

Jan 25, 2017, 5:24pm Top

Book # 9: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Set deep in the northern forests of Russia in medieval times, The Bear and the Nightingale is a historical fantasy novel that incorporates Russian folklore and mythology. When Vasya (Vasilisa) is born, her mother dies, and her father remarries in an effort to cure the child’s wild ways. Vasya is seen as odd and different from everyone else, and her new stepmother does not appreciate her stepdaughter’s abilities.

I enjoyed the setting of the story. I thought the first part was engaging and atmospheric, and the story held my interest. Then the pacing slowed down and the story just dragged on and on. I kept reading, because I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I really had to slog through it. After all that struggle, suddenly the ending in sight, but it was rushed and under-developed. I also didn’t care for the way the fantasy aspect was handled...some of those parts needed to be explained more clearly.

I liked the atmosphere, writing style, historical details, and the beginning of the novel very much. I did read that this is the first book in a trilogy. I hope some things will be expanded upon in the second and third books (especially the necklace and more folklore) but I most likely will not read them.

Jan 25, 2017, 10:25pm Top

This one popped on to my list - didn't know that it's the first in a trilogy.

Jan 26, 2017, 3:09pm Top

>55 drneutron: Jim, I thought it was a standalone novel too, but the author mentioned on Goodreads that it's the first of three. It does read well as a standalone. Arden mentioned who will be main characters in the second book, and that could tempt me to want to pick it up...possibly...

Jan 27, 2017, 12:18pm Top

>54 aktakukac: I agree with your criticisms of the book -- the pacing was definitely an issue! I also didn't realize that the author planned to write more in that world; I thought this one ended satisfactorily and I don't feel inclined to revisit it.

Jan 27, 2017, 1:51pm Top

>57 foggidawn: I was surprised when I learned there are future books in the works - it seemed like there was no need for more books. The characters Vasya, her sister Olga, and brother Sasha are the main characters in the second book...I wish the siblings had been around more in the first one, because I liked them and thought the author could have done more with them...

Jan 27, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Book # 10: The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

I’ve read a handful of books by Eva Ibbotson, and while I have enjoyed them all, I absolutely adored this one!

A baby was left in a small church in the Austrian Alps, where she is found by Ellie and Sigrid, best friends who are employed by three professors in Vienna. They adopt the baby, who is named Annika, and she grows up in a happy household with lots of caring and friendly neighbors.

One of the people Annika encounters is an old woman who tells her about her life as a performer on the Paris stage. The two become friends, and when the elderly lady passes away, she leaves her belongings to Annika. There isn’t much in the trunk, but Annika is happy to have something to remember her by.
The entire time she is growing up, Annika wishes her birth mother would arrive. One day, that finally happens, and Annika is spirited away to the family estate in the northern part of Germany. She must now learn to adjust to her new life and behave appropriately. But things are not as they appear, and there is plenty of adventure and discoveries in store for Annika.

The plot, which is well-developed, is also a bit predictable, especially if you have read some of Ibbotson’s other novels. It is still entirely enjoyable, and adults (and teens) reading it will be able to appreciate the writing style. There is a fairy tale and old fashioned quality to it that I loved. The story is also full of details that help the story build up to a rather dramatic yet satisfying ending, and the varied characters are so well drawn and memorable.

Ibbotson was born in Vienna, and her love of the city shows. The majority of the story takes place in 1908, and the author has portrayed the time and place so beautifully. If you read this and haven't been to Vienna, you are going to want to visit the charming, enchanting city. If you have been to the city before, you will want to go back after reading this.

I listened to Patricia Connolly narrate the story, and she did a marvelous job. I highly recommend this book, either the print or audio version, for a lovely, endearing read.

Jan 27, 2017, 7:17pm Top

>58 aktakukac: I also wanted to see more of the siblings, but like you I'm probably not going to continue reading, even for the sake of hearing more of their stories.

Jan 30, 2017, 4:03pm Top

Book # 11: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Confession: I have been meaning to read this ever since I was in high school and watched the movie You’ve Got Mail. I remember Meg Ryan’s character, who owned a small bookshop, recommending it to someone in a scene. It’s only taken me almost twenty years, but I finally read/listened to the story. And now I feel really old, because it doesn’t seem like that movie should have been released almost two decades ago.

Anyway, the story is about three girls, who are all orphans and adopted by an eccentric old geologist who then leaves them in the care of his employees. The girls grow up and become a family while studying, developing their talents and interests, and performing on the stage.

I wish I had read this one when I was a child. As an adult, I liked it, but did not love it. Still, I can see why so many readers find it so charming and endearing.

And now I feel like watching You’ve Got Mail again.

Jan 30, 2017, 7:59pm Top

>61 aktakukac: I always pull out You've Got Mail in the fall. It's that opening email about sending bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils that does it, I think.

Feb 1, 2017, 11:11am Top

>62 MickyFine: Yes, I love that line :) And when she mentions loving the smell of Scotch tape. Yeah, I need to watch it again soon!

Feb 1, 2017, 11:14am Top

Book # 12: Madly by Amy Alward

Princess Evelyn mistakenly drinks the love potion she had created for someone else, which causes big problems for her and the royal family. A Wilde Hunt is called for the first time in decades, in which alchemists race to find a cure for the princess. Samantha Kemi, whose family sticks to natural ingredients and potion making, hopes to win the Hunt not only to save Princess Evelyn, but also because it could save the Kemi’s business. Not only will Sam have to face danger and hazards each time she gets a step further in the process, she will also be competing against her crush, whose family has made it big in the research, development, and production of synthetic potions. Then there’s the real problem – the evil, exiled aunt of the princess plans to destroy all of the teams and win so she can take over the kingdom.

This was a fun, light fantasy read that was entertaining and held my interest surprisingly well. The author has created a unique world that ended up being one of the things I liked best about the book. It wasn’t the best example of world-building I’ve ever encountered, but it worked for me.

What I had the most issues with were the plot and a few characters. There were many times when explanations were rushed or completely left out, and I then ended up confused by what was happening. Something happens to Sam and her ability to continue with the Hunt, but then it is too easily “fixed” without proper clarification. This sort of thing annoys me as a reader, and these plot holes could definitely turn off some readers.

As for the Hunt itself, it wasn’t quite what I expected, but I loved the different creatures involved, lands traveled to, problems Sam found herself in, and ingredients needed to find a cure.

The character I didn’t care for was Zain. Yes, there were times I liked the character, but for the most part, I thought the author could have done more with his role. Maybe I'd like him more if I were a 14 year old girl...

Some of the most humorous parts of the story were the chapters about Princess Evelyn coping with her situation. That’s not the best way to explain her circumstances, but I don’t want to spoil anything. There was a lot of giggling involved whenever I was reading her chapters.

This is the first in a trilogy or series, I’m not sure which. While the writing needed improvement, I liked Sam, the world she lives in, and am planning to read the next book to see what happens next.

Apparently, the title of the book is/was Madly in the USA and Canada, and The Potion Diaries in the UK, where it has this cover:

Feb 1, 2017, 4:18pm Top

January Summary

I had hoped to finish one more book (the second Potion Diaries book) but life has been busy for the last several days. My January 2017 totals are a lot better than January 2016. I'm pleased with the number of books I read (of course it would have been nice to have read a few more, but life happens) and I'm also happy with the J/YA/Adult ratio. I'd like to get more non-fiction in next month, and a few titles that have been on my reading list for way too long. So to sum it up, I'm satisfied with my January reading and have high hopes for February.

Feb 1, 2017, 6:37pm Top

>65 aktakukac: Your book covers are a cheery mix!

Feb 1, 2017, 7:35pm Top

Oh, I LOVE The Star of Kazan!! We stumbled upon Eva Ibbotson quite by accident -- I saw The Secret of Platform 13 in a library display, and it turned out to be one of our all-time favorite read alouds. We've read nearly everything she's written, and a librarian also recommended The Star of Kazan. I finally made it to Vienna a few years ago:) . Love that book.

My younger daughter recently reread Dragonfly Pool and asked me if I had read it. When I said I hadn't she pointedly asked me what I had been DOING with my life -- this is EVA IBBOTSON we're talking about! Point taken -- it's on my pile now:)

Feb 2, 2017, 10:07am Top

>66 foggidawn: Thanks! I've never done a monthly summary, let alone one with book covers, but I hope it will help me at the end of the year when I will make a best of the year list. Most of the covers this year should be more on the cheery side - I don't read horror or things like that. But with all the books and book covers out there, who knows what could happen :)

>67 AMQS: I LOVE Eva Ibbotson too, but it seems like I let too much time pass between reading her books! I've read a mix of both her children's books and the YA/adult novels. I haven't read Dragonfly Pool yet, but I plan to at some point. I studied in Vienna in college, and traveled to and through the city many times when I was living in Hungary, so The Star of Kazan reminded me of how much I love that city. Haha, that's too funny about Marina! I'm sure she had to twist your arm to make you add the book to your pile :)

Feb 3, 2017, 4:22pm Top

>65 aktakukac: That's definitely a gorgeous collection of covers.

Feb 3, 2017, 10:25pm Top

Also an Ibbotson fan as well, but you hit me with a book bullet for Madly.

Feb 8, 2017, 5:53pm Top

>69 MickyFine: Thanks! I think I'm going to like seeing them like that at the end of each month :)

>70 ronincats: Yay for more Ibbotson fans! I hope Madly will work for you...it wasn't as well-written as I would have liked, but I definitely got sucked into the world and the adventures Sam went on. I finished the second book in the series last weekend and it was MUCH better. Now I can't wait for the third book to be published :)

So life has been crazy, both good and bad, and it has been a super busy week at work, again, both good and bad. Hope to get some reviews posted in the next couple of days and make my way through LT threads at some point.

On the bright side, we FINALLY got some snow today. But, the roads are not that great and I have to drive home in it. I've been noticing that drivers are becoming increasingly inconsiderate and reckless EVERY DAY on my way to and from work, so it will be great to add several inches of snow to that mix...

Feb 9, 2017, 11:00am Top

>71 aktakukac: Hope you made it home ok, Rachel. We're due for around 5 cm (close to 2 inches) of snow in my neck of the woods later this afternoon. Makes me so glad I walk to work and don't have to deal with rush hour. :)

Feb 9, 2017, 3:36pm Top

>72 MickyFine: I did make it home ok, although there was a car right on my tail that was making me nervous and I didn't slow down as much as I should have to turn onto my road. The back country roads were definitely worse than the main road I take. My husband had shoveled the sidewalk and part of the driveway, but you couldn't tell by the time I got home. It was still snowing a lot this morning and the schools closed, but we haven't had many kids in the library today. I am happy we finally got some snow and it feels like winter...but probably only for a day for two, because the temps are supposed to be above average this weekend. Ugh. I am not a fan of these constantly fluctuating temperatures!

Thankfully, I don't live too far from the town where I work. I've lived in big cities before and would rather live out in the country, even if it means I can't walk to work or the shops and places like that :)

Feb 10, 2017, 9:39am Top

Icy country roads + ditch =1
Rachel = 0

Feb 10, 2017, 2:21pm Top

Book # 13: Royal Tour by Amy Alward

I am so glad I continued with this series! The second book in the Potion Diaries was MUCH, MUCH better than the first. A lot of the issues I had with Madly were fixed (this book had better explanations and flowed pretty well). A definite improvement!

*Slight spoilers for Madly*

Sam and Zain are joining Princess Evelyn on her Royal Tour. They are also trying to find a solution to Evelyn’s growing problem. Her magical powers are getting stronger by the day, and until she marries, they will only get worse. Sam is slowly getting interested in using synthetic materials for potions, as well. Then Emilia returns, and does something to Sam’s granddad that messes with his memories. The dangers Sam will have to face to find a cure make her adventures on the Wilde Hunt seem like child’s play.

Then Sam is kidnapped.

*End of slight spoliers*

There’s much more to the story, but I’m trying to avoid spoiling too much or giving too much away. I thought the adventures in this book were as exciting and creative as they were in Madly, even more so in a way. I am very curious to see what happens next…boy that was quite the cliffhanger at the end!

My biggest qualm with the book is the title. Considering what all happens (and doesn't happen) in the story, I don’t think it’s the most accurate or best title that could have been used. But that’s just me.

Feb 10, 2017, 2:22pm Top

Book # 14: The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman by Margot Mifflin

I’ve had this book on my want-to-read list for about ten years now, and I finally decided it was time to cross it off the list. I listened to the audio version while following along with a print copy, which worked well because I enjoyed listening to the narrator, and was also able to see the various maps, illustrations, sketches, and photographs that are included in the physical book.

Olive Oatman was a daughter of Mormon pioneers. In 1851, the family was making their way through the deserts of Arizona when they were attacked by a band of Indians. Olive, a sister, and a brother were the only ones to survive the massacre. Olive and her sister were taken by the Indians and later traded to another tribe. A few years later, she rejoined white society, where a tattoo on her face immediately marked her as different.

The book tells about the circumstances leading up to the attack on the Oatmans, Olive’s time with the Indians, and what happened to her after she was returned. There are a lot of unknowns regarding Olive’s teenage years, and some parts of the book are limited. The book also deals with 19th Century stereotypes and gender roles.

The things I liked the most were learning about Olive’s life after she left the Indians and learning a bit about other women in American history who voluntarily or not, lived with different Native American tribes.

Feb 10, 2017, 2:22pm Top

Book # 15: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday was earlier this week, so I thought it was appropriate to continue reading my way through the Little House series. I read the books dozens of times when I was young, but this is the first time reading through them as an adult.

I remember not caring for this one as much when I was younger (I didn’t dislike any of the books, but I certainly had my favorites!) because Laura wasn’t a little girl or a young woman and because it was the first book to deal with Mary’s blindness. Reading it as an adult, I thought a few parts were exciting (the first time they rode on a train, for example) but thought the overall story was a bit lacking. I also never quite picked up on how of often the family was in danger when I read the books as a child. Goodness, they were isolated during the winter! I did enjoy reading about some of the history of building the railroad and paid more attention to Pa’s job description.

I’m curious to see what I’ll think of The Long Winter when I get to it later this year. It was not one of my favorites as a child.

Edited: Feb 10, 2017, 2:23pm Top

Book # 16: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

This is another classic I never read as a child or teen, and I have heard lots of people praise it. I’m one of the minority who did not care for it. I didn’t care for any of the characters, and as I read and listened to it, I felt like I was constantly missing something important. I did like the ending. Perhaps it is a case of wrong book at the wrong time, but I don’t really think so.

Feb 10, 2017, 3:19pm Top

>74 aktakukac: Oh dear. Hope you and your car made it back out of the ditch ok.

My brother lives on a farm and I drove out there for New Year's Eve this year. There had been a major dump of snow the day before and as I'm still a relatively new driver it was my first time doing rural slash gravel roads with snow on them. My brother's range road is pretty quiet so I was in the set of tire tracks that had been packed down a bit. Spent that part of the drive just wishing really hard not to meet anyone so I would have to pull over to my "lane." It worked. :)

Feb 10, 2017, 3:34pm Top

>79 MickyFine: I managed to avoid hitting a bridge railing, and there was no damage done to my car. There is a spot on the road where one township stops plowing and another begins, and it is ALWAYS bad in the winter. I wasn't even driving fast, but I hit it just so and started spinning. I am so thankful nobody was coming in the opposite direction!! I went down in the ditch to avoid hitting the railing, and kept going and tried to get myself back out of the ditch, but it was too steep. I called my father-in-law (thankfully it was one of the days he wasn't at his job in town) who was a couple of miles down the road. He brought his truck and a chain and was able to pull me out. I need to get him a gift card or something as a thank you :)

Both sets of my grandparents lived on gravel roads, and now my sister does too. It can definitely be a challenge in the winter! I would have been the same way as you, driving on roads like that. It's always a relief when no other cars are in sight and you don't have to worry about them!

Feb 10, 2017, 3:46pm Top

>80 aktakukac: Glad you're ok. I had my own car drama earlier this week. With the cold snap we had (we hit -30C aka -22F) my car got cranky and refused to start. My dad came and gave me a jumpstart and that made my car much happier. However, that bit of drama meant I've missed my fitness class 4 weeks in a row now. Class next week is going to BURN.

Feb 10, 2017, 4:01pm Top

>81 MickyFine: Cars are great until they have fits like that! At least it was an easy fix! Ohh, that class might be rough...you'll have to relax after with a good book!

Feb 10, 2017, 4:13pm Top

>82 aktakukac: It was particularly weird as my car is a hybrid so the hybrid battery and the regular battery turned on but the engine refused to turn over. Silly car.

There is going to be a hot shower and then a good book after that class for sure. :)

Edited: Feb 14, 2017, 9:20am Top

I'm actually not a big fan of Valentine's Day, but I couldn't resist posting this adorable picture today:

Feb 14, 2017, 12:04pm Top

Book # 17: By Your Side by Kasie West

Kasie West is a YA author that I’ve been meaning to try for a while, even though I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for her books. When I read a blurb for her latest, I immediately placed a hold because it’s about two people who get locked inside a library for a long weekend!!! I just had to see where this would go.

Then I read the book, and quickly realized it’s not really about the library or books or any of that stuff. Very disappointing…it really could have been set in a dentist’s office or clothing store or wherever.
There’s a love triangle (of course) that did not work at all. The characters themselves were boring and flat.

If you are interested in this book simply because of the fact that part of it involves a “trapped in the library” situation, please skip it because that part is incredibly dissatisfying. On the other hand, if you need some light fluff to help a few hours pass by, this might be a book to help do that. I might try more of West's books, but not anytime soon.

Feb 14, 2017, 1:34pm Top

>85 aktakukac: Ah, that's too bad -- the "trapped in the library" aspect of that story did intrigue me, so I'm sorry it didn't live up to its potential.

Feb 14, 2017, 1:48pm Top

>86 foggidawn: Yes, it was full of wasted potential in that regard. Oh well, I've got enough other books waiting to be read, time to move on!

Feb 14, 2017, 2:15pm Top

Book # 18: Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner

An informative and interesting look at the creation of many of the items we use in our daily lives – in graphic novel format.

There are nine sections, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and grocery store. Each section contains about four to six different objects, which are each given about four pages in the book. Warner gives some background information, history, and general trivia about each item and its inventor(s), as well as a “Briefer Histories” bit for more obscure or continuing information that pertains to the item.

I read this a few items or couple of sections at a time, which worked well for me. I enjoyed the author’s sense of humor and the trivia information I learned, but I do wish some of the information was more in-depth and meaningful. There was a lot of focus on the inventors, and there are some I am interested in researching further.

Feb 16, 2017, 12:53pm Top

Book # 19: The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton

Lettie is twelve years old, and runs the White Horse Inn. Her mother disappeared out the window some years ago, and since then, her Da has been drinking and gambling away their money. Before she left, her mother left a list for Lettie, including a rule: she must never leave the Inn, which is supported on stilts, or she will die. One day, a mysterious guest arrives, and proceeds to use his alchemy skills to create something Lettie has never seen before – snow. Lettie learns that the alchemist, known as the “Snow Merchant,” is connected to her mother.

From there, Lettie’s adventures really begin. Despite her mother’s warning, Lettie leaves her home. Along with a new friend, they sail away, hoping to get Lettie’s mother back, fix something that has happened to her father, and discover why the snow is so important for Lettie.

This was a very fast-paced novel. There was always something interesting happening, some new discovery or realization that helped the plot along. Lettie and Noah’s friendship was one of my favorite parts of the book. The greedy villains were also hilarious, and the author’s ways of dealing with them were very creative.

The book was previously published under the title The Snow Merchant. It would make an excellent middle grade read aloud, and is recommended for readers who love magical stories or strong friendship themes.

Feb 17, 2017, 2:30pm Top

Last night, I finished an audio book I have been listening to for weeks. It was good timing because my next audio came in today, so now I will have it to listen to during the long weekend (if I get a chance, that is). This morning and afternoon, a co-worker and I went to a workshop in a nearby bigger city. The speaker talked about all the recent award-winning books, as well as a lot of other books that were given a lot of praise last year. We also got free books, so yay! Then we went to a restaurant that has a delicious salad (that was today's special, so again, yay!) and it is sunny and like 60 degrees. Not a bad way to spend part of my birthday, even if I'd prefer a cold and snowy day. My husband and his aunt are taking me out to dinner tonight, and because she and I love the place, and I love German food, I picked this restaurant/bar that has a nice selection of German food and beer. So it should be a good time. The big weekend project will be painting one or two bedrooms in the house. It will be such a relief to finally get that done!

Feb 17, 2017, 3:31pm Top

Happy birthday! Glad it's been good so far. :D

Feb 17, 2017, 4:22pm Top

>91 MickyFine: Thanks! It's been pretty low-key and I'm not complaining about that!

Feb 18, 2017, 12:12am Top

Happy Birthday, Rachel! (It IS still your birthday here, at least.)

Feb 20, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>89 aktakukac: You just have to love a name like Lettie Peppercorn.

Feb 21, 2017, 11:29am Top

>93 ronincats: Thank you, Roni! One reason it's nice to know people in time zones throughout the world is because it makes the celebrations last longer :)

>94 thornton37814: Yes, indeed, Lori! It suits the character quite well.

Feb 21, 2017, 4:37pm Top

Book # 20: Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England by Catherine Bailey

I love to read family sagas and books set in massive country manor houses, but I usually enjoy these on the fiction side of the aisle. I branched out and listened to this work of non-fiction, which contains family secrets, a sprawling British estate, social history, politics, economic conditions, history, scandals, and much more.

Most of the information was interesting, although there were some sections covering political and economic issues of the time periods that were heavier than I would have liked. The overall organization of the book needed work, because it skipped and jumped around a lot.

Overall, I was able to learn quite a bit about a wealthy British family, coal mining, and how the family and their home began to decline. I understand the reasons why the lack of information made portions of the book difficult to write (the author explains that on more than one occasion), but wish the book had been formatted differently.

Feb 21, 2017, 4:49pm Top

Book # 21: Local Girl Swept Away

Ugh. I had high expectations for this one, and it turned out to be a total waste of time. The premise itself is good: four friends are out walking along the breakwater during a storm when one of them falls and her body is never recovered. The surviving three must carry on with their lives, although there is no denying that everything has changed.

After we get a few things established, multiple plot twists start happening, and they had me rolling my eyes each time. A lot of the story was predictable, and some things made me angry (keeping it spoiler free). Between the flat, naïve characters and the bad made-for-tv-movie plot, I basically kept reading because it was a fairly short book and I wondered just how messed up it would get by the end.

Feb 25, 2017, 11:08am Top

Book # 22: The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Reading this book has made me want to take an autumn road trip through New England and stay through the winter. It has also set off an urge to bake (and eat) all sorts of desserts, breads, and especially apple pie.

Olivia (Livvy) is a pastry chef who decides to take a break from her job in Boston when she sets the building on fire. While visiting her best friend in Vermont, she agrees to a year-long contract at a bed-and-breakfast. She becomes friends with many of the town residents, and also discovers the real reason her employer hired her. But just when Livvy feels she might belong, she must make a couple of big decisions about her future, and where that should take place. Will she stay in Vermont? And will she be able to create a prize-winning apple pie?

I wanted to like this more than I did. The story was good, but some parts did not flow as well as I would have liked. In some ways, the story was not what I was expecting. It still is a good read with enjoyable characters, and makes me want to go hiking through the woods, take a sleigh ride in the snow, and eat plate after plate of dessert.

Feb 25, 2017, 11:23am Top

Book # 23: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

A YA novel set in prehistoric times that is supposed to have parallels to Pride and Prejudice. The P&P aspect fell drastically short. For all the “romance” and violence in the story, the plot was actually rather dull and boring. There weren’t any major problems with the writing or the book itself, but I couldn’t connect to the characters or the story. I hope it will work better for other readers, because the author did a lot of research. If you start the book expecting a P&P retelling, you will be disappointed, but if the setting in a prehistoric world sounds interesting, give it a try.

Feb 25, 2017, 11:33am Top

>99 aktakukac: Hmm, guess that one's off my list. :)

Feb 25, 2017, 1:24pm Top

>100 drneutron: Ohh....maybe it was just me...I think it's a case of a book you will either really, really enjoy or not like at all. It wasn't bad, it was just pretty dull overall.

Feb 25, 2017, 1:25pm Top

Book # 24: Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes

From the moment I first heard about this book, which is the first in a series and written by a Hollywood screenwriter, I knew I HAD to read it. It’s the type of book I would have read over and over as a kid, and it is so much fun! It’s basically Indiana Jones meets the Goonies, with a bit of James Bond thrown in as well.

Addison and his sister, Molly, are being raised by their aunt and uncle, who are archaeologists and museum curators. Their parents were also archaeologists, and Addison has a great love for it as well.

One evening, Addison and Molly go to the museum to visit their uncle. He shows them a clue he recently discovered – the first of three keys to a long-lost Incan treasure. Then, in the blink of an eye, the siblings find their aunt and uncle kidnapped by the bad guys and themselves on the run for their lives. Together with a couple of their friends, they decide to travel to South American and find the next clues, the treasure, and rescue their aunt and uncle.

From there it’s one adventure and misadventure after another. There is no shortage of history, danger, or excitement. Addison had me cracking up and wondering how he and his team would be able to pull off certain situations. Keeping in mind that this is fiction, and several of the scenarios the kids get into would not happen in real life, it is an incredibly fast-paced read that will make even reluctant readers want to read the book in one sitting. The sibling relationship between Addison and Molly is also lovely, and I like how each character brings something to the story.

I love the story, dialogue, adventure, and humor. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in the series, which will hopefully be as wonderful as this one. Highly recommended.

Edited: Feb 25, 2017, 4:19pm Top

>98 aktakukac: The premise sounds cute. If it were a made for TV movie I would totally watch it. But I'm a sucker for fluffy Hallmark movies (Christmas ones are particularly dangerous).

Feb 27, 2017, 12:23pm Top

>103 MickyFine: Hi, Micky! The premise is cute, but the novel is a bit deeper than you'd expect from my synopsis. I was expecting something lighter and more like a Hallmark movie. I think that's one reason I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. I could definitely see parts of it being a TV movie, though!

Feb 28, 2017, 10:51am Top

Book # 25: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Samantha is a clever 17-year-old British teen who catches the eye of some officials from MI5 during a competition. She is then recruited and trained to join La Dame Blanche, a women’s spy organization. Although she is initially hesitant to join, the promise of information regarding her father, a diplomat who has disappeared, is too good to pass up.

Sam is fluent in several languages, and has grown up solving puzzles and decoding ciphers with her father. She also lived in Berlin for a time as a child, and her knowledge of the city will be essential when she is sent on her first assignment. Posing as a distant relative of a member of the royal court, Sam will be an assistant governess to several royal children. Her real mission is to locate and extract a British spy who is known only as Velvet, and who is unknown as her handler has been murdered. She will have to use her talents and intelligence to figure out who Velvet is and get herself out of danger before it’s too late.

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot. I really enjoyed this one, and it was a rather quick read for me because I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next. There was just the right amount of mystery, suspense, history, politics, twists, and even romance for a YA novel. Adult readers who are keen on the thrills of espionage and seasoned to spy thrillers might not care for it as much, but I thought it was an enjoyable read.

What I did NOT care for was the cover. I can think of a dozen reasons why it’s horrible and does not suit the book! This is a good example of not judging a book by its cover!

Feb 28, 2017, 10:51am Top

Book # 26: Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders
This cookbook, which contains over a hundred recipes, also contains a passage from one of the books in the series regarding that particular item (with an exception for a recipe from Diana Gabaldon). The book contains a diverse selection of food and drink, as well as items such as preserves and condiments. The recipes are pretty straightforward and well written. I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but there are several that I plan to try. They also contain notes at the end of each recipe regarding substitutions, tips and extra information. The pictures included are gorgeous as well.

Reading through the cookbook has reminded me that I need to reread the books in the Outlander series that I have already read, and then continue with the rest of the series. Ahh, someday…

Mar 1, 2017, 1:56pm Top

February Summary

I was extremely pleased that I managed to finish 14 books in February! A few of the titles had been sitting in a pile for too long and it was great to get them cleared out of the way. I'm also happy with the number of non-fiction titles I read.

I don't have any definite reading plans for March, but I might try to read a few more children's and teen books and less adult...but we'll see...

Mar 1, 2017, 7:13pm Top

>107 aktakukac: Very respectable reading month. :)

Mar 2, 2017, 9:13am Top

>108 MickyFine: Thanks! I hope that March will be just as good!

Mar 6, 2017, 9:31am Top

I almost skipped right over your review of Velvet because the cover looked like something I wouldn't be interested in. But skimming your last sentence drew me back to read about the book, which DOES sound interesting to me. My library has it in a paper book, which takes me longer to get around to reading than audiobooks, but I'm looking forward to it.

Mar 7, 2017, 10:49am Top

>110 countrylife: I'm glad a bit of the review caught your eye, Cindy, because it's worth reading...just ignore the cover! The copy I read was borrowed from the library, and I'm ashamed to admit it sat in a towering pile on my night stand for months and months. When I eventually met my renewal limit, I was mad at myself for waiting so long to read it! I'll be interested in what you think of it when you do get to it.

Mar 7, 2017, 4:11pm Top

Book # 27: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

Four friends decide to go white water rafting in the “middle of the middle of nowhere” Maine. They get separated from their raft and supplies. From there things only get worse, and soon they are on the run (or swim?) for their lives.

There was a twist in the book that I did not see coming, and I didn’t like the way the book progressed after that. My overall feelings regarding the book are just…uninspired. I wanted more from the book. It had major potential, and while it wasn’t a bad read, it ended up simply being average for me.

Edited: Mar 17, 2017, 3:25pm Top

Book # 28: Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

When the title character was a few days old, she was found abandoned in a snowbank on an estate belonging to the Vennaway family. Aurelia Vennaway, several years older than Amy, discovered her and they became as close as sisters. Aurelia’s parents were none too pleased about the relationship, but had to allow it.

Eventually it was determined that Aurelia had a weak heart and would not survive more than a few years. After Aurelia passes away, Amy is banished from the estate. She learns, however, that Aurelia left a series of clues and letters for Amy to uncover. The treasure hunt, taking place in various parts of England, would change Amy’s life in many ways. But would Amy ever have to stop running from the Vennaways? And will she ever learn the truth about her parents?

I liked the story, although it moved much slower than I would have preferred. The secondary characters added a lot to the story. It’s set in early Victorian times, which I don’t often read about and was a nice change for me. However, it was easy to figure out the mystery regarding Aurelia, and I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t some other “surprise” at the end. I also thought that the sections featuring a certain gentleman were not properly developed. I listened to the audiobook, which was nicely narrated, although a bit slow.

Mar 9, 2017, 12:27pm Top

Book # 29: Below by Meg McKinlay

On the day she was born, the mayor of Cassie’s town flipped a lever and literally drowned the town. Because she was born prematurely, Cassie’s lungs were not properly developed, and she has to swim six laps every day to help them improve. Her curiosity about the Old Lower Grange and the man-made lake that covers it soon gets the better of her, and she begins swimming in the restricted area above the flooded town. As the water level drops due to lack of rain, Cassie and her friend Liam begin to wonder if there are secrets surrounding the flooding and eventually work towards uncovering the mystery.

I liked the story, but it took me a while to figure out where it was going. I also didn’t realize it is set in Australia until I was quite a way into the book. Cassie is an interesting and likeable character. While this will not be a book for everyone, it should be a good read for some middle grade/tween readers.

Mar 13, 2017, 3:53pm Top

Book # 30: Winterfrost by Michelle Houts

Bettina is a Danish girl who lives on a farm. When her parents and grandmother have to go away to visit some relatives, they leave Bettina at home in charge of the farm chores and her eleven-month-old sister, Pia. It’s Christmas time, and with all the hectic chaos going on, Bettina forgets to follow a special holiday tradition – leaving a bowl of rice pudding for the nisse, small mythical creatures who are supposed to help in the barn and the house.

Bettina takes Pia outside in her pram for a nap, and returns to find the baby is missing. Bettina will have to learn a lot about the nisse and their world in order to get Pia back.

I like the story, and thought it was a fun, charming read. I thought the ending dragged on for longer than necessary, and there were times when the plot could have been a bit tighter. It had a beautiful winter setting and the audiobook was absolutely lovely to listen to.

Mar 16, 2017, 4:36pm Top

I can't believe it's already the middle of March! I feel like I haven't been making much reading progress in the last week or two. I've definitely gone off my reading routine and actually have several reads and audios in progress. I'm enjoying them all, but haven't been able to devote the time to actually finishing them. Hopefully this weekend...

Mar 17, 2017, 10:24am Top

>116 aktakukac: Wishing you luck at having a cozy reading weekend.

Mar 17, 2017, 2:36pm Top

>117 MickyFine: Thanks! We went to Michigan last weekend, which was nice but so busy. I'm looking forward to staying home this weekend and getting caught up on laundry, cleaning, and reading. I need to boost my numbers for March! I did read a short book today at lunch, so that's progress :)

Mar 17, 2017, 2:36pm Top

Book # 31: The Littles by John Peterson

I never read this series as a child, so I decided to read it during my lunch break. I didn’t love it, but I can see where I would have enjoyed it more as a child. I should read The Borrowers to compare the two.

Mar 17, 2017, 3:06pm Top

>114 aktakukac: : At first I thought I'd read the book you mentioned, Below, but when I went to check what I rated it, it turns out that the book I read with the flooded city was The World Below. Have you read that one?

Mar 17, 2017, 3:21pm Top

>119 aktakukac: I remember loving The Borrowers as a kid.

Mar 17, 2017, 3:41pm Top

>120 countrylife: No, I haven't read The World Below, but I'm adding it to the list as it seems to have a lot of elements I enjoy in a story! Thanks!

>121 MickyFine: I think my younger siblings may have read it, and I thought I had a copy floating around somewhere, but it doesn't seem to be in my LT library. I'll have to dig through some boxes and tubs of books that are still packed away and see if I can find it.

Mar 20, 2017, 4:42pm Top

Book # 32: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This book had been on my radar for a while, and while I meant to read it last year, it just didn’t happen. Now that I have finished it, I wish I would have read it earlier! It wasn’t perfect, but it was close. I even told my aunt about it, and she immediately placed a hold on it even though she has about a zillion books checked out right now.

In January of 1945, refugees are trying to reach the Baltic coast in order to secure passage on ships leaving port. Four characters, two male and two female, take turns narrating the story, in which we learn how their paths connect. They are all attempting to book passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a military transport ship.

The ship was sunk by three Russian torpedoes, which caused the largest loss of life from a ship sinking in history.

At first I wasn’t sure I would like the short sections and flipping between the four main characters so much, but as the story progressed, I realized it didn’t bother me at all. I listened to the audiobook, and there were four different narrators, which worked well for this story.

There was a lot more build up to the various characters reaching the ship than I expected. I also figured out a couple of things regarding two of the main characters well in advance, but it was still interesting to see how the stories played out. I do wish a little more background information had been provided at the beginning regarding a couple of characters, and that a few things which went unresolved and the end had been cleared up.

Overall, this is a first-rate novel full of wonderful storytelling, well-researched information, and fantastic characters. Highly recommended.

Mar 21, 2017, 3:03pm Top

Book # 33: Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

I continue reading the Stephanie Plum series because it’s predictable, funny, and easy. There were some good parts to this one, but I thought it was not one of the better books in the series. I’ll keep reading because I know what I’m getting and I like to see what the characters will get up to next, but I hope there will be some improvement and that some decisions will finally be made so things can move forward.

Mar 21, 2017, 3:03pm Top

Book # 34: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio

I have a nephew named Warren, so I decided to read this children’s book which features the main character with that name.

Warren the 13th is following in his ancestor’s footsteps by living and working at the family’s hotel, which was designed by Warren the First and built by his son. Warren the 13th is being raised by his lazy Uncle Rupert since the death of Warren the 12th. Since Uncle Rupert took over, the hotel has fallen on hard times. Uncle Rupert recently married a nasty woman, Annaconda, who is after one thing, a magical, mysterious object known only as the All-Seeing Eye.

One day, a guest arrives, and before you know it, Warren’s life is filled with adventure, mysteries to solve, witches and curses, and a chance to reclaim the family legacy.

I quite enjoyed this middle grade read. Warren is a likeable character, and the rest of the characters each add something to the story. It’s fast-paced and the illustrations are key to the story. I listened to the audiobook, but followed along with a print copy so I wouldn’t miss the artwork.

This would make a fun read aloud. I plan to read the follow-up book and can’t wait to see what adventures Warren will find himself on next.

Mar 21, 2017, 3:41pm Top

>124 aktakukac: Comfort reads are the best.

Mar 21, 2017, 4:25pm Top

>126 MickyFine: Yes, indeed! Sometimes a reliable series and a book you don't have to take too seriously is just what you need :)

I should revisit some more comfort reads. I've felt like rereading 84, Charing Cross Road for a while, so maybe that would be a good start.

Mar 21, 2017, 4:29pm Top

Hello, Rachel!

>127 aktakukac: 84, Charing Cross Road is one of my all-time favorites - and the film version is pretty well done too.

Mar 21, 2017, 4:48pm Top

>127 aktakukac: My current read is good but challenging so I think I might deserve a comfort read in the near future. I'd say next but my hold on Gaiman's Norse Mythology just came in so that's up next automatically. :)

Mar 24, 2017, 3:54pm Top

>128 alcottacre: Hi, Stasia! Thanks for visiting! I haven't seen the film version, but 84, Charing Cross Road is such a special book and I'm going to have to find my copy and read it again soon. Maybe then I'll watch the film.

>129 MickyFine: Ahh, yes, holds can come in at inconvenient times, can't they? It seems like I'm either waiting forever and have a ton of other books to read when a hold comes in, or it gets here sooner than I expect and I get taken by surprise. I'm definitely not complaining, because the consortium I'm in now is pretty awesome. And yay for Norse Mythology!

Mar 24, 2017, 3:55pm Top

Book # 35: Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee

This was different from the previous memoirs I’ve read by North Koreans who have escaped from their homeland. In Every Falling Star, the author recounts the circumstances that led to his becoming homeless growing up on the streets, joining a gang of boys who stole at the markets, and even time spent in a forced labor camp. It is written for a younger (teen) audience, but adults will also find it to be a powerful and moving memoir. At times, the writing style is sluggish and choppy, which took away from my overall rating.

Mar 24, 2017, 4:56pm Top

>130 aktakukac: There's definitely a Murphy's Law equivalent for library holds. :)

Mar 27, 2017, 4:31pm Top

Book # 36: Always by Sarah Jio

When Kailey, a young woman engaged to Ryan, leaves a restaurant one evening, she sees a homeless man on the sidewalk. She soon realizes that the homeless man is Cade, a man she was in love with in the past and who disappeared one day without a trace. Kailey tries to help Cade, and it soon becomes apparent that he suffered some type of brain injury. Will they be able to put the pieces of Cade’s past together to figure out what happened to him? Eventually Kailey will have to decide which man she wants to have a future with.

The story alternates between Seattle in the 1990s and ten or twelve years later. The ‘90s sections also focus on the music scene in the city at that time, which wasn’t the most interesting for me, but could be for other readers.

I’ve enjoyed all of the author’s previous books, and make a point to read them. This one was by far my least favorite. It was more like a soap opera, was very predictable, left some rather important issues unresolved, and the ending was wrapped up too neatly in my opinion.

While I’d recommend Jio’s earlier novels, I advise readers to skip this one. If you do decide to pick it up, prepare to be underwhelmed. Here’s hoping her future books will be back on track with her previous ones.

Mar 27, 2017, 4:31pm Top

Book # 37: The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter

I never read much Beatrix Potter when I was a child, so I decided to work my way through this collection. I’m glad I did, although the stories did not grab my attention and interest the way I expected them to.

Mar 27, 2017, 7:13pm Top

>133 aktakukac: : The only Sarah Jio I've read is her Violets of March, which I enjoyed. Thanks for the warning about Always, and at the same time, the reminder to read more Jio. Just planted a few on my library wishlist.

Mar 29, 2017, 3:55pm Top

>135 countrylife: Some of Jio's novels are definitely better than others. I've always enjoyed reading them, and it seems I've rated Morning Glory and The Look of Love the highest, followed by The Violets of March and Blackberry Winter. I do hope she writes more in the future.

Mar 29, 2017, 3:55pm Top

Book # 38: Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams

This was a fun, heartwarming, and slightly long children’s fiction book that manages to portray the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather with empathy as well as being completely silly and zany at times. In 1983, Jack’s grandfather, who was a RAF pilot in WWII, is suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia, and believes he is still fighting in the war and flying his Spitfire. Eventually, the decision is made to put him in a nursing home, known as Twilight Towers. After discovering the facility is drugging its residents, Jack and his grandfather devise a plan so the man can escape. But what will happen to his grandfather?

The first part of the story was quite different from the rest, as it was more realistic. As the story progressed, there were times when I found it to be too over-the-top and dragging on. Even with that, it was still a lovely story and the illustrations were amusing. Recommended.

Mar 29, 2017, 3:55pm Top

Book # 39: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Alosa is a pirate captain, who along with her father, plans a way to allow her to search an enemy ship for part of a long-lost treasure map. That’s all I am going to say in regards to the plot, because saying too much will give away a major plot twist.

Alosa is a great character. She is an expert pirate who is intelligent, strong, witty, and capable. The story itself is fast-paced, full of action (including the requisite murder, this is a book about pirates after all), adventure, and romance (which I hope will be developed more in the follow-up book). The novel sets up well for Alosa’s story to continue, hopefully with more adventure and exploration.

While Daughter of the Pirate King is not perfect, it is very fun and should appeal to readers who enjoy entertaining pirate stories.

Mar 29, 2017, 6:01pm Top

>136 aktakukac: - Thank you for sharing your 'ranking' of various Jio books! The only Jio book I have read so far is The Violets of March and I found that one to be an enjoyable read. Perfect rainy weekend reading material!

Mar 30, 2017, 4:27pm Top

>139 lkernagh: Hi Lori, I agree that Jio writes lovely books to read during a rainy weekend! I like that they alternate between the "present" and some time in the past and that there are often some connections (which may or may not be a surprise!) between the characters in the two time periods. Hope you enjoy the next one you pick up :)

Mar 30, 2017, 4:33pm Top

Book # 40: Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Unbecoming is the story of three women. Katie is a teen who lives with her mother, Caroline, and brother. When Caroline’s mother, Mary appears in their lives needing care, all three women will have to reveal secrets about themselves and learn how to deal with each other.

I listened to the audiobook, and I think that took away from the story for me. The narrator (who happens to be the author) read so slowly it drove me a little crazy. The format of the book was also slightly annoying for me, but only slightly.

While this is a YA novel, it’s doesn’t exactly read like a YA novel. A lot of readers, especially those who enjoy women’s fiction, will appreciate this one.

Mar 30, 2017, 4:41pm Top

Book # 41: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

Tess and Max are siblings who are sent to stay with their Aunt Evie in England. Their mother is sick and their father is a war corresponded in the Middle East. While exploring one day, Tess finds a key that unlocks a mysterious gate. She and Max then become friends with William, a boy who lives in the castle on the other side of the gate. But there are strange things going on, and William gives Tess a dire warning: stay away from the hawthorn trees.

I liked parts of this story, especially Tess and Max’s relationship. But there were too many things I didn’t care for, including lack of explanation for the magical things that happen in the story, too much focus on unnecessary details, and an ending that too quickly and too neatly wrapped up William’s story.

If the book had been longer, perhaps some of these issues could have been fixed or expanded upon, but as it is, this is not one I can recommend.

Apr 3, 2017, 12:31pm Top

Book # 42: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

At times, this was a quirky read. Etta decides to walk east across Canada to the ocean. The story flashes back to when Otto and Russell were young, how Etta came to know them, Otto’s time in Europe during WWII, and more. I enjoyed the parts set in the past. At times, it was hard to follow and the story jumped between too many perspectives. I was ready for the book to be over by the time I got to the end, which seemed jumbled to me.

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 12:31pm Top

Book # 43: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio

This book starts pretty much where the previous book left off. This time, the story involves a mimic who impersonates Warren, an evil witch who wants to control the Warren Hotel, sap-squatches, and Petula improving her perfumier skills in order to help her mother, who has been kidnapped.

Again, the illustrations greatly add to the story, and I also recommend the audio version. I still enjoyed Warren’s adventures and the situations he finds himself in. I wish a couple parts of the story had been a bit deeper, but overall it was still a great read. I hope there will be more Warren the 13th books in the future.

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 12:39pm Top

March Summary

I’m happy with the number of books I read this month. I do wish I had read more non-fiction, but hopefully that will improve next month. Once again, I only read library books…I really need to start reading some of my own!

As for April, I hope to get through some of the stacks on my nightstand and on my desk at work. I also have a 24-disc audio book to listen to at home, which should take up a good portion of my listening time. I should also have a book or two with a pretty dress on it :)

Apr 3, 2017, 4:12pm Top

>145 aktakukac: That's a pretty selection of covers there, Rachel. :)

Apr 4, 2017, 11:05am Top

>146 MickyFine: Thanks! I haven't had to look at many bad covers so far this year. I'm currently listening to an audiobook that has a pretty deceiving cover. It's a western/historical fiction based on true events and judging by the cover, you'd think it's a romance. The first few chapters have made it clear it's not!

Apr 4, 2017, 11:05am Top

Book # 44: The Courage Test by James Preller

Against his will, William Meriweather Miller has to spend part of his summer vacation on a road trip with his dad. Will isn’t happy with this for several reasons. His parents have divorced, and this hasn’t set well with Will. Since his father is a professor and is obsessed with the Lewis and Clark expedition, the road trip involves retracing part of the journey made by the Corps of Discovery. Over the course of the trip, Will will literally follow in the footsteps of history, experience the wild and rugged outdoors, meet and help some people, including a 15-year-old pregnant illegal immigrant, and find out more about both of his parents.

I was expecting a little more from the camping/wilderness survival aspect of this story. I also think that the Maria Rosa character worked against the story. It didn’t add anything to the plot and was unrealistic. Overall, the story didn’t flow was well as it could have. While parts of it were interesting (because I like history and learning about Lewis & Clark), this one could have been much better.

Apr 4, 2017, 11:05am Top

Book # 45: A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls Edited by Jessica Spotswood

A collection of historical fiction short stories about women during different points of American history.
Some were definitely better than others. I wish that some of the stories could have been complete novels. Some of the authors were new to me, and some stories were written by authors I’ve read in the past and quite enjoyed.

What I didn’t like was the fact that several of the stories were more historical fantasy or had fantasy or mythology elements that took over and the stories were not so much historical fiction as fantasy that was set at some point in history. At least one story had no business being in the anthology.

I did like the diversity included in the stories, and discovered a couple of new authors that I will be reading more by in the future.

Apr 6, 2017, 4:09pm Top

Book # 46: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Set in an English village during several months in 1940, this story is told through the letters and journal entries of a handful of village residents. It shows how the women on the home front had to adapt to most of the men being gone due to the war, as well as dealing with everyday drama. The women form an all-female choir, which I thought would play a slightly more important role in the story.

This book had been on my radar for months, and I was looking forward to it, especially because of comparisons to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir started off strongly and was a story I wanted to both devour and stretch out and savor, it began to feel a bit routine about two-thirds of the way through. I thought it got caught up too much in all the scandal and gossip, and ended up feeling more like a soap opera than I liked.

I think my expectations were too high for this one. It was still worth reading, even if I was slightly disappointed with it.

Apr 9, 2017, 4:00pm Top

>150 aktakukac: If you were expecting Guernsey quality, I'm sure you were disappointed. Chilbury was fun for at least a while though.

Apr 9, 2017, 4:07pm Top

>138 aktakukac: Adding that one to the BlackHole!

>150 aktakukac: I already have that one in the BlackHole. I just need to track down a copy.

Apr 9, 2017, 5:08pm Top

Hi Rachel! I fell farther behind than I knew, and now I've been ht with all sorts of BBs, including Warren the 13th and sequel (I have the first book in the library), The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn, Velvet Undercover, and The Chilbury Ladies' Choir (second BB in as many days for that one -- I've learned enough to know that's a sign!

Apr 11, 2017, 11:35am Top

>151 thornton37814: Hi, Lori! Yes, I think I was expecting it to be more like Guernsey, and was let down in that regard. I thought the first half or so was much stronger than the end of the book. It was still a decent read, just not what I wanted it to be.

>152 alcottacre: Hi, Stasia! Yay! Daughter of the Pirate King is an entertaining story and a lot of fun :)

>153 AMQS: Hi, Anne! I'm always behind and feel bad that I don't post on other threads very often. Ohh Warren the 13th is a lot of fun. I think you'd enjoy the audio version, but you HAVE to read the book too to see the fantastic illustrations. The others were all good reads too, and I'll be interested to see what you think of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

Apr 11, 2017, 11:43am Top

I finished a couple of books over the weekend, although I had to work on Saturday and then we attended a fundraiser in the evening. For the second year in a row, my husband won the 50/50 raffle drawing, so we unexpectedly got a nice chunk of change from that. Of course, we ended up spending it on items at the auction that took place toward the end of the fundraiser. We bought tickets to a Cincinnati Reds game, so we'll FINALLY go to one this year. We've only been talking about going to one for five years now, so now we HAVE to go. He also bought a John Deere tractor cake that was baked by a local lady who is an exceptional baker. A couple of guys we know kept bidding to raise the price of the cake, but it was all for a good cause (maintenance, repair, etc. for an old country school house that is used for local events and such) and now I told my husband that I don't have to bake him a birthday cake for his birthday next week.

And now I'm back at work where I'm swamped with planning summer reading. I'm tired just thinking about the next three months.

Apr 11, 2017, 12:57pm Top

>155 aktakukac: Sounds like a great weekend, Rachel. As for summer reading:

Apr 11, 2017, 2:13pm Top

>156 MickyFine: Haha, thanks Micky! I think I have a lot more actually organized than I realize, but there's still a long way to go!

Apr 11, 2017, 2:13pm Top

Book # 47: The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chalfoun

Maria is a girl who lives with her mother, a nurse, in New York City. While the two have a good relationship, Maria spends her time either at school or home alone because her mother works long hours. After an incident involving some bullies, Maria’s mother decides they need to leave the city. She takes a job caring for an elderly man, Mr. Ironwall, on Martha’s Vineyard. Earlier in his life, Mr. Ironwall was a movie director. He is also wealthy due to the inheritance that has been passed down from several generations of sea captains and pirates.

When Maria discovers an old map in the eaves of the cottage where she and her mother live, she is determined to find the treasure that is buried on another island. With the help of a local boy, she fixes up Mr. Ironwall’s boat, and the two set out to locate the treasure. But what, if anything, will they find? And will the boat be able to bring them safely home?

I liked this story, but it got bogged down in too many details and not enough adventure. There was quite a bit of build up to a lackluster ending. Still, the writing was nice and the story was enjoyable enough for me.

Apr 11, 2017, 2:13pm Top

Book # 48: Hamstersaurus Rex by Tim O’Donnell

Sam’s sixth-grade class unexpectedly gets a new pet, a hamster that he names Hamstersaurus Rex due to its tiny arms. Not long after he arrives, the rodent escapes and Sam is determined to find him. Unfortunately, the class bully plans to find the hamster first. The hamster has quite an appetite, and accidently eats a bottle of a vitamin supplement. He undergoes mutations and starts living up to his name.

Sam has to overcome the bully, fix problems the hamster causes, and keep it a secret from his best friend. He also has to come up with a project for Science Night – or does he?

The story was funny at times, and will appeal to 3rd -6th graders. As an adult, I found a few plot holes to be annoying, but most kids will overlook them. Kids will also enjoy the illustrations. It wasn’t deep literature, but it was entertaining enough.

Apr 12, 2017, 10:37am Top

I abandoned a YA book last night. I think the concept of Thief of Lies is great - being able to jump through certain books into beautiful libraries around the world. But the execution was not that strong. After a little over 100 pages, I felt like I'd had both information overload and also knew nothing. To be fair, I did start reading this a few weeks ago and set it aside (I think it was about to get better, too) but the thought of continuing for an additional 250+ pages was painful. Perhaps I will revisit the book at some point in the future...

After giving up on Thief of Lies, I started a different YA book last night and so far it's amazing. I have a feeling it will make me both sad and angry at times, but I love the writing so far.

Apr 12, 2017, 11:01am Top

Life's too short to read a book that isn't working for you. Feel no guilt!

Apr 12, 2017, 12:58pm Top

Apr 18, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Book # 49: Factory Girl by Josanne LaValley

In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, a Uyghur living in western China, agrees to work for a year in a factory in a southern Chinese city. She travels there with a group of Uyghur girls, and they work, live, eat, and sleep at the factory where they spend 12-16 hours a day cutting fabric and sewing clothing to fill the orders that have been placed. The Uyghur girls are treated horribly in every possible way. They are not allowed to speak their own language, practice their religion (Islam) or wear head coverings, they are at times fed pork, are not given proper medical care, and Roshen has been warned that there are spies amongst them, so she has to be careful about what she says.

When Roshen is selected for a special assignment, she doesn’t want to take part, but she is given no choice. What will happen if she refuses? Will she (and the other girls) be able to go home after a year? What will her life be like if she does return home?

I thought this story was fascinating. The author spent time with the Uyghurs, and she used the information she was told during her travels to tell the story of Uyghur girls who are forced to work in Chinese factories. I know this novel will be sticking with me for a long time. The author has written another story about a Uyghur girl, and I am anxious to read it. Factory Girl is highly recommended.

Apr 18, 2017, 3:18pm Top

Book # 50: Ice Lake by B.J. Daniels and Other Authors

The best thing I can say about this collection of three slightly-connected novellas is that it makes me want to go stay at a mountain resort in Montana. The stories themselves were ok, but there is much better romantic suspense out there.

Apr 18, 2017, 3:26pm Top

Book # 51: The Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Marcel lives in a small town in France, where his mother runs the bakery. He is obsessed with bicycles and the Tour de France, although the race has been cancelled due to WWII. One day while delivering baked goods, Marcel discovers a note inside a loaf of bread, and he realizes that his parents are part of the French Resistance.

A new girl, Delphine, has moved to the town with her family, and she loves bicycles as much as Marcel does. When Marcel learns a secret about Delphine, he has to decide if he should tell. Eventually, a plan is set in place, but things do not go according to plan, and it will be up to Marcel to figure out how to save the day…if he can…

In some ways, this was a fairly simple story, yet Marcel was a brave character and the story had a strong setting. I think a few parts could have been more developed. I liked how the author wove bicycling history and information about the Tour de France into the story.

Apr 18, 2017, 3:38pm Top

Book # 52: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

The Haves meet the Have Nots in this YA novel. Piper has always wanted to be a journalist, and when she is awarded a scholarship to the elite Chiswick Academy in Washington, D.C., she knows she has a chance to win the Bennington, a highly-coveted award which will get her into practically any college in the country.

There are two groups of students who attend Chiswick: kids on scholarships, like Piper, and the rich, elite offspring of top government officials, diplomats, and such. As she spends time with some of the other students, Piper learns quite a bit about the lives of teens with diplomatic immunity – and she knows she could write an article about them that would give her the best chance at winning the Bennington.

BUT Piper falls for Raf, the son of the Spanish Ambassador. How can she submit the article when Raf, and his family, would be most likely to suffer? Piper and her family need her to win the Bennington, but at what cost?

I thought the story was pretty good, although I lost interest a couple of times because it seemed like the same old thing was happening. It won’t go on any of my “best of the year” lists, but it was fun and a good enough read.

Apr 18, 2017, 3:51pm Top

>166 aktakukac: It's got a pretty great cover at least. :)

Apr 19, 2017, 11:50am Top

>167 MickyFine: Can't argue with that :)

Apr 20, 2017, 12:52pm Top

Book # 53: The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff

When his father unexpectedly gets the chance to go to Antarctica and conduct research, Brian is sent to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Nora in Boring, Illinois. Uncle Gary expects Brian and Nora to spend every weekday doing a computer program he is developing called “Summer’s Cool,” which is basically summer school. Brian struggles with following new rules, building a relationship with his cousin, and not dying of boredom. One day, Brian and Nora get lost in the woods and meet Cosmo, a boy their age who lives with his eccentric father and uncles in an even more peculiar house, the Matchstick Castle.

As Brian and Nora spend time with Cosmo and his family, the summer starts looking more interesting. But when they make a discovery that the castle is in imminent danger, they have to use all their resources – and those of Cosmo’s entire family – to try to save it.

This was a fun story filled with giant insects, hidden passages, doors that open to steep drop-offs, long-lost treasure, unconventional characters, an evil villain, and the right amount of humor. The reader will keep wondering what will happen until the very end. I do wish the author could have used some synonyms for “bureaucrat,” but otherwise it was a good middle grade story. I listened to the audiobook, which I thought was narrated nicely.

Apr 21, 2017, 11:58am Top

Book # 54: Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Sachiko was a young girl when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. Her siblings were either immediately killed, or died within days/weeks/months, as did her uncle. Eventually her parents died of problems caused by their exposure to radiation, and Sachiko herself had to deal with health problems as a result of the bombing. Her life after the bombing, and learning from her father, Ghandi, Helen Keller, and Martin Luther King, Jr. helped her eventually be able to speak about the bombings, experiences with illness and death, and hope for peace.

The book does an excellent job of telling Sachiko’s story and weaving in historical information (about WWII, Japan, nuclear and hydrogen bomb testing, the Cold War, and more). There are lots of pictures which also add to the text. I can also recommend the audiobook, although I’m glad I looked through the book to see the visual material.

Highly recommended, this is a book that will give the reader plenty to think about.

Apr 24, 2017, 12:15pm Top

I had to run an errand before work today, and I took a book with me because I KNEW there would be a long line and I would have to wait a while. I was actually looking forwards to standing in line because I have had no reading time for the last three or four days, and I really, really wanted some time to read even a few pages in my current read.

But no. There was nobody waiting, and I was in and out in just a couple of minutes.

So now I'm waiting for my lunch break, and hope that I'll be alone in the break room so I can laugh and swoon and read in peace.

Apr 24, 2017, 12:42pm Top

>171 aktakukac: Crossing my fingers for you!

Apr 26, 2017, 3:59pm Top

>172 MickyFine: Thanks! I was able to finish it yesterday...review to come soon! I think it's one you'd enjoy :)

Apr 26, 2017, 4:41pm Top

>173 aktakukac: I'll keep my eyes peeled for your review. :)

Apr 26, 2017, 5:35pm Top

Book # 55: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I started reading this lovely book late last week, and finally found time to finish it yesterday. Even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and wishing I could just sit down and not get up until the book was over. It was slightly maddening, but on the other hand, it allowed me to savor the story.

Marianne was sent to stay with her grandmother in Bath after her mother unexpectedly died. Her father took off for France, and her twin sister has been staying in London. When Marianne is invited to stay with her mother’s friend Lady Caroline at a sprawling country estate in Kent, she is excited – even if it means behaving like a lady to appease her Grandmother. In order to inherit a fortune from her grandmother, Marianne must keep several conditions that the elderly woman requires.

On the journey to Edenbrooke, Marianne’s carriage is attacked by a highwayman. This causes some unexpected travel complications, and she has to stay at an inn. Another guest at the inn, Philip, helps her. Philip happens to be Lady Caroline’s son, and the two strike up a fast and deep friendship over the course of the next weeks.

But Marianne’s twin, Cecily, has already decided she will marry Philip, and Marianne always lets Cecily have what she wants. Philip himself is also keeping secrets from Marianne. How will things play out? And will Marianne ever be the elegant lady she needs to be?

There was a little of everything in this Regency-period romance. Sibling relationships and rivalries, action and adventure, balls and fancy dresses, horses, and letter writing (oh, the love letter writing bit was my favorite!). I do wish a couple of parts had been more clear, as I either read things wrong or interpreted something differently than I should have, and it made me rate the book a bit lower. I saw a lot of myself in Marianne, and the dashing hero was the perfect romantic lead.

Recommended for anyone who likes a good historical romance set in a beautiful country estate.

Apr 26, 2017, 6:36pm Top

>175 aktakukac: Ok that's the second positive review of that one that I've seen in as many weeks so onto The List it goes.

Apr 27, 2017, 12:43pm Top

>176 MickyFine: I'm sure you will approve when you get around to it. I hope the author will hurry up and finish her next book, because I want to read more by her!

Apr 28, 2017, 3:05pm Top

Book # 56: Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson

This epic historical fiction novel is based on true events. In 1836, Cynthia Ann was kidnapped during a raid on the settlement her family was living at. She was adopted by the Comanche and lived with them for decades, even marrying a chief and they had three children together. Eventually, she was captured and returned to white society, where she became something of a celebrity. Cynthia Ann was never able to adjust to living in white society, she missed her husband and two sons, and after her daughter died, she lost the will to live. She stopped eating and passed away. One of her sons, Quanah, was the last free chief of the Comanche.

A few thoughts: first, the cover of the book is horrible. It’s far from a romance, so don’t judge it based on that. Second, some parts are quite graphic, and I had to remember the time, place, and history involved to continue. The novel is more than just Cynthia Ann’s story – it covers so many aspects of Comanche culture, life, Texas and Oklahoma history, and how the Native American way of life ended.

If you are interested in a magnificent narrative, western historical fiction, or are even remotely curious about the Comanche, you must read this Golden Spur Award winner.

Apr 28, 2017, 3:32pm Top

Book # 57: White-Hot Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

This is the follow-up to Heart-Shaped Hack, so I’ll try to avoid spoilers.

Kate and Ian are trying to stay unnoticed, so they buy a secluded house and Ian keeps busy with his work. Kate gets tired of cooking, Pilates, and driving her new car, so she begins to help Ian with his work. But there are still people trying to find them, and some hackers and cyberterrorists have big plans…

Again, I adore Ian, and wish Kate wasn’t so perfect. They are so perfect together, though, and the chemistry shines just like it did in the first book. This book was a total escape for me, because I don’t know anyone who lives in a house like that or has unlimited amounts of money and can buy or do whatever they want. But that's part of the fun of the book!

If you like fast-paced romances with technology, computers, and hacking in the plot, don’t miss these two books.

Apr 29, 2017, 4:34pm Top

>179 aktakukac: Sounds cute but not quite my bag. Great cover design though.

May 1, 2017, 3:27pm Top

>179 aktakukac: I was a bit skeptical when I started the first book, because technology and cyber crime and all that doesn't typically interest me. But it worked - it never overwhelmed either story, thank goodness! In the second book, it takes a slightly different aspect for most of the story, which was interesting to read about. Towards the end, it got a little more involved, and it was strange to think if something like that were to happen in real life. So luckily, I didn't get bored with all the technology stuff :) And yes, the cover has a nice design!

May 1, 2017, 3:27pm Top

Book # 58: In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

Alice has to stay with her estranged grandmother while her mother stays in the hospital with her younger brother, Theo. Theo has undergone a heart transplant, and due to complications and infections, may not survive the surgery. So Alice stays in a tiny cottage surrounded by a large, dark wood. Her grandmother is determined to have the trees cut down, as the roots are causing problems with the foundation of the cottage, and there is no light because of the height of the trees. But things keep preventing the woods from being cut down. Alice also begins to spend time with a girl called Flo, but nobody seems to know who Flo is. There’s a connection between Alice, Flo, fairies, WWI, and Alice’s father, but things won’t be entirely clear until the end of the book.

I like the writing and plot, but sometimes I thought things were dragging a bit. I wish a few more things had been revealed over the course of the book instead of in a big unveiling at the end. I also had a hard time connecting to the whole fairy aspect, but maybe kids won’t have such a problem. Overall, I enjoyed the story and would like to read more from the author.

May 1, 2017, 3:31pm Top

April Summary

It felt like April was a bit heavy on children’s fiction, but that’s fine. I need to step up the YA reading, and I have a ton I’m anxious to get to, but we’ll see if that happens in May or not. I need to stop putting holds on books and read what I already have checked out, as well as some of my own! April was another solid reading month numbers-wise, and I hope May will be as well.

Edited: May 1, 2017, 4:04pm Top

Our one-year wedding anniversary was yesterday, so I found the box that has the books a couple friends and I made. We put them on the tables at the reception, and they were numbered 1-15 and 20 and 25, so each year on our anniversary, we will read that number and see what people wrote in them. I was surprised by how many anonymous messages there were in this one! Some messages were humorous, others offered advice, some were sweet and lovely, and others made me blush. My husband had forgotten all about the books, so it was a good thing I remembered them (and found them, on the back of the highest shelf in the basement).

Since it was raining on Saturday, we decided to get away for the day. We drove through some parts of eastern Indiana’s Amish country, and stopped at a furniture store to order a piece I’d been wanting for a few months. If you paid with cash or a check, there was an additional discount, and I happened to have my checkbook with me (my husband hadn’t told me where we were going that day, so I didn’t know what to expect and was lucky it was in my purse). So I wrote the check, and it was MY money (which is not the issue, I was planning on buying it anyway) but once I gave it to the clerk, he completely ignored me, talked only to my husband, and then shook HIS hand and wouldn’t shake mine! I don’t care if I bought something for $10, $100, or $1,000…if I give you my money, you better treat me with some courtesy! Grrr. Sorry about that rant! Anyway, we continued on to the big city, had a nice afternoon and evening, and then had some of the top tier of our wedding cake last night. It wasn’t stale or dry in the slightest!

I hope to get a new thread up later today or tomorrow, as it’s about time for that.

May 1, 2017, 3:54pm Top

Belated happy anniversary!

Ugh! Sales sexism is the blurst! My sympathies.

May 1, 2017, 4:02pm Top

>184 aktakukac: Thanks! Yes, it is awful and the more I think about it, the more irritated I become! I guess the next time I go there, I will be sure to only deal with the woman who had been helping us!

May 1, 2017, 4:18pm Top

May 3, 2017, 4:23pm Top

>187 MickyFine: Nice, Micky!

Please head over to my new thread!

This topic was continued by Rachel (aktakukac) Reads in 2017 (Part 2).

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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