2014 Reading Challenge – My 5 Star Reviews

As far as literary merit goes, this year may go down in history as my worst in quantity and quality reading in a decade. (Did the 11 year old Amy read more non-fiction 2004 then I did in 2014? Alas, it is a possibility) The lack can be blamed on a crazy schedule. My lofty goal of 250 books rapidly dropped to 100 new books as my hours fluctuated from 40 to 60 June through November. I mainly read fiction. From Sophie Kinsella to Lloyd Alexander, this year proved eclectic within a certain genre but not very scholarly.

However, I did discover some true gems this year and so, without further ado, I present Amy’s 5 Star Reviews From 2014 (In the random order ordained by Goodreads…and me)

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

A fabulous fantasy/medieval/magical series following an eclectic group of friends (including Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper, and Princess Eilonwy), I loved this series. True heroism and sacrifice are imbedded in each of the 5 books. Though I gave the majority of them 4 stars, Taran Wanderer andThe High King easily deserved their 5 stars. One of those books that brings to mind C.S. Lewis’s wise words: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Out of the Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan and his mother Angela Yuan

Discovered this book when Christopher Yuan came to speak at my college. I highly recommend it. There is so much grace found within its pages. The authors are vulnerable and willing to tell their own stories of brokenness and healing. Without compromising the truth, Out of the Far Country brings a mercy-drenched, grace filled perspective to a frequently damaging and hurtful topic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Usually when I listen to audio books, I end up loathing the book. The speed reader in me grows bored, I feel compelled to finish, and in the end leave more frustrated than enlightened. Not with The Book Thief. I have tried reading it for years and could never get past the first few pages. Listening to it on audio, I fell in love. I understand now why this book is so beloved. I didn’t mind Death as a narrator. I enjoyed it, though he is horrible at spoilers. You would think that would slow the novel down, but it doesn’t. It wets the appetite for more. I like words and this book positively dallies in them.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

I’m not a manager so I don’t know if this book succeeds in its attempt to enable a more creative work environment. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s perspective about creativity and productivity, as well as the history of Pixar’s journey from Steve Jobs to Disney to the problem of sequels. I loved reading about the beginnings of my childhood friends (Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, etc.) Interesting from a historical perspective and a creative one. By the time I finished I wanted to go do something “different and zany” which is always a good feeling.

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

A simply beautiful book for grade to middle school readers about a boy who goes to live with his father, step-mother, and four half-brothers when his Mom goes to jail. Despite the mature sounding plot, this novel strikes a tone of discovery, loss, family, and friendship.  It is innocent yet sorrowful. There are funny moments, sibling rivalry and of course….Freaky Fast Frankie Joe’s Delivery Service.

Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women by Katie Pavlich

I knew the minute I saw that this book was coming out that I would love it. When I got it in August, I read straight through in maybe two hours. Then I reread it. And started it for a third time within a month. Though occasionally she grows a little caustic for my taste, the majority of this book appealed to me. She correctly points out the double standards given to women (and men) based on whether they have a “D” or an “R” by their name. I enjoy Katie Pavlich’s writing. She is a rare journalistic and political role model for young women.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Have you ever read a book and immediately loved it? The loving may have nothing to do with actual literary quality, but the minute you finish you know you have met a best friend. If you don’t know love Helene Hanff, you have never read anything she wrote. 84, Charing Cross Road contains the 20 year correspondence between an American authoress (Helene Hanff) and a British bookseller (Frank Doel). It is short – under a hundred pages – yet immensely endearing. Heartbreaking, amusing, beautiful and sad. And real. Perhaps that is the best part, it is the true letters exchanged by the two. Not a “romance” as advertised, but the story of a genuine love of books and humanity. (The Duchess of Bloomsbury, also by Hanff, is just as satisfying and stands as a sort of real-life sequel)

Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff

The story behind Helene Hanff’s writing of 84, Charing Cross Road and her subsequent experience after its publishing. The book nearly left me speechless. It roused my fernweh. I adore Helene Hanff’s love of England. Her love of books. Her quirky, crisp writing style. Q’s Legacy was a nearly perfect 5 star read. It filled and yet sparked an ache for more. Marvelous.

Check out my 5 Star Reviews from 2013! – https://fernwehscall.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/2013-reading-challenge-my-5-stars/

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