Tag Archives: Lloyd Alexander

2018 Reading Challenge: Honorable Mentions

With so many books read in 2018, several stand out but didn’t quite make the 5 star mark. I still have to give them a shout-out! (And you should consider adding them to your to-read list.)

In Another Girl’s Shoes & His Official Fiancé by Berta Ruck

Berta Ruck wrote in the midst of World War One and it makes her fluffy, female novels all the more intriguing. They are romantic and fun but written at a time when most women really did not know if their boys would make it back. It shows in her style. She also takes a strong, feminist tone that is remarkable considering women in England did not have the vote yet when these books were published. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her, but these two particularly stand out. I suspect they will become re-reads every year.

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

It took me over a year to get through this swashbuckling adventure, but it was worth it in the end. If you love Robert Louis Stevenson or Walter Scott, you’ll love this tale of nobility and piracy! (Stick with it, the last third is the best.)

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I haven’t watched the TV show Orange Is the New Black and I was a little skeptical of the book, but my professor recommended it and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Kerman does a good job humanizing prison and talking about necessary reforms without getting on a soap box and alienating the reader. Definitely an adult book, though. Don’t recommend for younger readers.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

There are two sides to every story, and Bryan Stevenson does a powerful job telling the stories of the incarcerated men and women on death row. Agree or not with his conclusions – this is a powerful book.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Possibly this book stands out because I read The Stolen Songbird right before it, which basically has the same plot but done much more poorly. At any rate, this is the story of a young woman forced to be the Goblin King’s bride.  It is one of those fantasy books where the author takes an existing mythology and adds her own twist, creating a whole new legend to tell around the campfire. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander (who the author credits), Beth Hilgartner (perhaps it is just the use of the name Kate, but there is a The Perilous Gard feel), and Diane Stanley.

A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Prior to this book, I only knew Burnett the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. This book read so differently I kept double-checking to make sure I wasn’t confused and mixing up authors. But no, this is her! The heroine of A Lady of Quality is thoroughly strong willed and dislikable. She is mean and twisted. But Burnett redeems her, not by sacrificing her to wasting disease or anything like you would expect from an author writing in the 1800s, but by giving her a romance for the ages. Though the book builds towards her final, saving romance, it doesn’t revolve around it. Different kinds of love push the story along, from a sister’s devotion to a Father’s self-centeredness. It really is fascinating and not all what I expected from this era.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

I went into this book mostly to better appreciate my sister’s minimalist lifestyle, and frankly, doubted it would apply to me. Turns out, it did! Kondō called out a LOT of my habits – like getting rid of clothes by forcing them on my younger sisters, saving boxes from appliances because maybe, someday I’ll repack, and keeping something because I got it as a gift once and have not used since. In fact, time and again her points hit so specifically home that I would experience a twinge of shock. Oh yeah…I do that…

Pimpernel by Sheralyn Pratt

I obsessively love The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book…the movies…the series…. you name it. I love it. And once upon a time I discovered Across A Star-Swept Sea, which was a fantastic, gender-bender retelling. But guess what? I FOUND ANOTHER AWESOME RETELLING. This book! Pratt takes the Scarlet Pimpernel we all know and love and turns him into a white-collar crime fighter. It works, partially because she does not try and recreate the Scarlet Pimpernel. Jack is very much his own man. He’s….well, Pimpernel. This is another book I can’t wait to re-read.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett is a master at the crime noir genre, but I think he excelled in The Thin Man because he steps a tiny bit away from the dark, brooding shadows and creates a funny, likable couple as his main sleuths. Nick and Nora are great! I cannot wait to get my hands on the movie. (The only thing I like more than a good noir book is a good black and white movie.)


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/