Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Book Review 2007

My January got so messed up that I didn't have a chance to do my annual Book Review List for 2007. I was heavy on the historical fiction and Biography last year, mainly so I could learn more about the time periods I was teaching in history (WWII during the spring and ancient history this school year). Historical fiction is my favorite genre anyway, so it was no great sacrifice :-). I added some notes this year in case you're looking for some great reads (or some to avoid!)

Historical Fiction = 17
Biography= 7
General Literature = 4
Reference = 3
Other Mystery/Thriller = 2
Other Non-Fiction = 2
Total= 40

*= one of my favorites. I rated the books by how much I enjoyed them- not necessarily their literary merit; 10 is highest

*Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery- 10
I still love the Anne of Green Gables series as much as I did when I was a teen. "Rilla" is a coming-of-age story about Anne's daughter, Rilla, set during WWI. It's a keeper in my library.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields- 6
A look at the life of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. I found the relationship between Lee and Truman Capote fascinating. He owed her much more credit than she received for her behind-the-scenes work on his best-selling book In Cold Blood.

Act of Treason by Vince Flynn- 3
Flynn should have stopped while he was ahead; the Mitch Rapp series needs to come to an end.

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion Series #1) - 5
An Echo In the Darkness (#2 in the series) by Francine Rivers- 4
After reading a classic like Quo Vadis, it's just really hard for other books on the same subject to measure up. But if you like some ancient Roman history mixed with your Christian fiction, this is a good choice

On Secret Service by John Jakes- 4
I am sorry that this is the first book by Jakes that I've read, because I think he's got better stuff out there. At least I hope so.

*The Winds of War- 10
*War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk- 10
Some of the best WWII historical fiction I've ever read. Fortunately, the books are far, far better than the wretched miniseries from the 1980's.

*In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton- 9
A WWII battleship carrying over 1,000 men is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sinks, leaving the survivors to float in the Pacific Ocean at the mercy of elements and predators, without anyone realizing the loss for more than four days. A spellbinding story of survival in one of the worst naval disasters in US history.

*Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission by Hampton Sides- 9
Another gripping read! The story of the American soldiers who were taken captive on the Bataan Death March, and the man who spearheaded their daring rescue when MacArthur's troops arrived to retake the Philippine Islands.

Rosa's Miracle Mouse: The True Story of a WWII Undercover Teenager by Agnes Lackovic Daluge- 6
One you can read with your kids! The autobiography of a courageous German teen who spied for the Allied Forces as part of the Munich underground during WWII.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas- 5
I had such high expectations for this book that I'm afraid I doomed it from the start. A rare case in which I prefer the movie to the book.

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis- 6
A retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and way deep if you stop to examine all the spiritual truths Lewis explores in the story. Many people consider this their favorite book by Lewis.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare- 7
I love her books as much as my kids do! This one is set during the time of the Roman Empire. It offers a fascinating perspective on Jesus' ministry through the eyes of a teenage Jewish boy

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw- 7
Another page-turner, set in Ancient Egypt, which my kids and I both loved.

*Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel by Louis De Bernieres- 10
A gut-wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny love story set on the Greek island of Cephallonia during WWII. Fortunately, the book bears little resemblance to the wretched movie starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz.

Simple Genius by David Baldacci- 3
Baldacci's old stuff is much better.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer- 6
The emaciated body of a young man is found in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992...

I'm not usually drawn to books like this, but I went to high school with Chris McCandless, the subject of the book, and his sister Carine. The author interviewed a number of McCandless's friends and it was the strangest feeling reading their comments because I *knew* these people, and yet... I didn't. It's a compelling book, and I hope the movie, which I hope to see soon, has done it justice.

Homecoming- 4
The Farther Shore by Christie Golden- 4
Pure escapism for Star Trek Voyager fans who want to know what happened after the series finale.

Jack Higgins: Three Complete Novels: The Eagle Has Landed; The Eagle Has Flown; Night of the Fox by Jack Higgins- 6
Well-done WWII espionage fiction. If you like Tom Clancy, you'll like Jack Higgins... or vice versa!

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling- 9
Not my favorite book in the series, but a satisfying ending

*Tramp For the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom- 10
I love Corrie Ten Boom! I reviewed this book here

*A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute- 10
"A Town Like Alice" tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese death march in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life...."
Another book that is, fortunately, much better than the BBC production.

The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities for Kids Ages 3-12 by Linda Dobson- 5
I wrote a review here

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer- 5
A controversial Holocaust memoir written by a young German law student who went into hiding during WWII and eventually married a Nazi officer who helped her maintain her false identity.

Flight of Eagles by Jack Higgins- 6
Another WWII espionage novel from the spymaster

*Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales- 10
I didn't quite know what I was getting when I began this book, but it turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read. It explores the science behind survival, whether you are stranded in a blizzard, swept out to sea, or facing a domestic crisis. It was absolutely fascinating reading.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven- 6
What do you do if you get stuck in quick-sand? Or are chased by Killer Bees? How do you excape from a sinking car? Just in case you ever wondered...

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks- 6
I finally got so mad at Nicholas Sparks for killing off his main characters at the end of every book that now I actually check the ending to make sure it's worth the read. Not as good as The Notebook, but satisfying.

The Greatest Weddings of All Time by People Magazine- 5
Once, while I was reading the Life section of the local Sunday paper, my husband asked me why I bother reading about all those weddings and engagements. "You don't know those people," he said. He's right... I guess I'm just nosy.

Books to Build On: A Grade-by-Grade Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers (Core Knowledge Series) by E.D. Hirsch Jr. -5
Because I'm always looking for the best in children's Lit and because I love Charlotte Mason's idea of education through "living books"

Star Trek Voyager: Endgame by Diane Carey, et al.- 5
The book form of the Voyager series finale

A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery- 5
Does not rank anywhere near the Anne of Green Gables series, but L.M. Montgomery fans will still enjoy

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham- 5
"You're reading a football novel??" was my husband's reaction when he saw this book. Well, yes and no. I did come away with a *slightly* greater appreciation of the game of football, but generally, I glossed over the football parts in favor of Grisham's wonderful tour of Italy. I had a hard time liking the main character, but it was a short, fairly enjoyable read.

*The Masters of Rome Series by Colleen McCullough:
The First Man in Rome- 6
The Grass Crown- 6
Fortune's Favorites- 7
These are the first three books in a (mostly) historically accurate 7 book series, set during the last days of the Roman Empire. "The First Man in Rome" tells the story of the rise of Gaius Marius and his protege and friend, Lucius Cornelius Sulla. It's been the most difficult book in the series so far, partly because I found McCullough's prose difficult to decipher at times, partly because she has so many story lines, and partly because of her accurate but graphic portrayal of the barbaric nature of Roman times. Sulla's story in particular is difficult because of the depravity of his background.

"The Grass Crown" follows the decline of Marius and the rise of Sulla, and "Fortune's Favorites" chronicles Sulla's dictatorship and death as well as the rise of Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, and Marcus Licinius Crassus, who would eventually form the First Triumvirate. The books become progressively easier to read- partly, I think because someone did a better job of editing, and partly because McCullough narrows her focus as she reaches an era in which there is much more written history to draw upon. I am enjoying the series, but I think that it takes a real history junkie to wade through it. That being said, this is some of the best *historical* fiction I've ever read.

1 comment:

Framed said...

It's always nice to meet another fan of L M Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables is one of my all-time favorites. And I really liked A Tangled Web. This is a fantastic list. I will be adding some to by TBR list.