Sunday, June 29, 2014

Favorites So Far (January - June)

The Captive Maiden. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.

The Captive Maiden is a retelling of Cinderella. Like the movie Ever After, it retells the familiar story grounding it in reality without the magical touches. Our heroine, Gisela, and our hero, Valten (a duke) will get their happily ever after, but, they'll have to work a lot harder for it!

Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

It was oh-so-easy to choose Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. A contemporary retelling of Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Need I say more?! For those that love that funny and charming romance originally published in 1912, this one is a must! It may also be a must for those who love, love, love classic romances. Samantha Moore, the heroine, LOVES to read. (You've probably guessed that Jane Austen is among her favorites!) It's a very satisfying read.

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library] 

This week it was much harder to choose a favorite. Should I choose a reread that I absolutely love, love, love? Three of the books I read this week were rereads: Sense and Sensibility, Doomsday Book, and The Merchant's Daughter. I can honestly say that I love, love, love all three. The Boys in the Boat is nonfiction. And it was LOVELY. I was absolutely captivated by the story. It was everything a book should be. But do I love it more than Doomsday Book?! And can it compete with Austen?! 

I chose The Boys in the Boat. People need to be reminded that nonfiction can be unforgettable and compelling and WOW-worthy!

Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Good Morning, Miss Dove was easily my favorite book this week. I've read the book; I've watched the movie. I will say the movie has a definite not ambiguous ending; the book, perhaps, less so. But I want to believe that the book is just as optimistic about Miss Dove's chances for recovery as the movie.  

Seven Stories Up. Laurel Snyder. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My favorite this week may just be my favorite of the entire month of January. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Laurel Snyder's Seven Stories Up. The novel opens circa 1987, Annie, our heroine, is preparing to meet her (dying) grandmother for the first time. They meet. It's a bit overwhelming--a mix of good and bad, perhaps. The love the grandmother has for the granddaughter that she's never met because of the horrible relationship she has with the daughter--well, it's heartbreaking. But I can see how Annie might not now how to take on that much emotion from a stranger. She goes to bed, she wakes up in 1937! Same room. Same hotel. (In the modern setting, the family-owned hotel had been closed awhile.) Annie meets Molly, a girl just her age. It isn't long before she realizes that Molly IS her grandmother...this one is OH-SO-MAGICAL. Loved every page of it!!!

Sword in the Storm. David Gemmell. 1998. Del Rey. 448 pages [Source: Library] 

My favorite book this week is David Gemmell's Sword in the Storm.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 

This week I chose To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it. I watched it. I listened to it. I would DEFINITELY recommend listening to the audio book. It is narrated by Sissy Spacek, and it is wonderful! So beyond wonderful! Over the course of a month, I became absorbed in the story. It is a story that just resonates. Loved all three formats for getting the story!
The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1940. 334 pages. [Source: Library] 
It is a hard choice this week. Do I choose The Long Winter a book I've read dozens of times? Or do I choose an almost book? A book that I almost love but not quite? I found The Eustace Diamonds to be mostly satisfying but slightly frustrating at the same time! Trollope is a delight to read, a pure joy. But then again so is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I choose The Long Winter!

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008. Random House. 274 pages. [Source: Library]

Another tough decision faces me this week! Do I choose The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? This is a reread that I absolutely love and adore!!! It's so very quotable. It is just a book that delights from cover to cover. OR. Do I choose The Second Confession by Rex Stout. This is a new-to-me book from a favorite series. I adore Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. And this is one of the best mysteries I've read this year!!! As much as I adore Archie Goodwin, I think I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a tiny bit more! (It was oh-so-close!)

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm glad that not all weeks are this difficult! There are three books that could EASILY win almost any other week.
The Giver is one of my FAVORITE books. It's one I've read and reviewed again and again. But. People already know about The Giver.
P.S. Be Eleven was a GREAT read. I cared about the characters so much. It has a just-right feel to it which always deserves recognition.
Books set during World War II, especially children's books set during World War II, especially HOLOCAUST books have a special place all their own in my reading. I thought The Boy on the Wooden Box was EXCELLENT. I just loved it cover to cover. It's one that I think deserves more readers.
Though it wasn't easy, I choose The Boy on the Wooden Box.

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

Pride and Prejudice may not be my favorite Jane Austen novel, but it is still my favorite read of the week. For the record, I do like Elizabeth Scott's Heartbeat a good deal, especially Caleb. And True Colors is a very good coming-of-age novel. But there is something about Pride and Prejudice that keeps me coming back!
Fair Weather. Richard Peck. 2001. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
I really loved Fair Weather by Richard Peck. 
In the Best Families. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1950. 272 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
There were two books this week that I absolutely loved, loved, loved. I have read Five Children and It a handful of times now. I just love and adore this children's classic. If you have not read E. Nesbit, this would be a great first choice! I also absolutely loved, loved, loved In the Best Families by Rex Stout. Rex Stout wrote many, many Nero Wolfe mysteries. In The Best Families is the last book in a trilogy starring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. (And Be A Villain and Second Confession are the first two. The Second Confession and In The Best Families should definitely be read in order. And Be A Villain is more of a stand alone.) Nero and Archie are two of my FAVORITE characters. I love them so much. And this is one of the best, best books in the series, that is why it is my choice for this week's favorite and best!
Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed the books I reviewed this week! Switched At Birthday was super fun! The False Prince is the first in what has become one of my favorite, favorite fantasy series. And Robin Brande's new book? Well worth reading! But since I have to choose just one, I'm going to go with A.C. Gaughen's The Lady Thief.

A few weeks I reviewed Scarlet. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for its premise and its potential. It wasn't a perfectly-perfect book--for me. The second book in the series just wowed me! It had so much depth, so much intensity. And the characters, well, they went from one dimensional to being oh-so-achingly human. Characterization is one of the most important things to me, and, this novel excelled way beyond what I hoped and expected. For anyone who enjoys Robin Hood stories, this one is a MUST. 

The Runaway King. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy. I do. The Runaway King is the second in the series.  
The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This series is oh-so-wonderful.  

Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World's Fair. Robert Jackson. 2004. HarperCollins. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a very tough decision this week! I loved, loved, loved Melisande by E. Nesbit! I also loved The House of Arden. I wouldn't say I loved it as much as Melisande or as much as The Phoenix and the Carpet, but E. Nesbit is WONDERFUL. I also loved Kate Breslin's For Such A Time. This historical romance is set during World War II. It was quite the read! I highly recommend it! But. Meet Me in St. Louis is a GREAT nonfiction read. One of the few nonfiction books I've wanted to read again, again. I found it to be well researched and very fascinating. 

Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. Douglas Florian. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]   
This week was oh-so-easy. I love, love, LOVE Douglas Florian's Poem Depot!!! Yes, I enjoyed other books this week. I did. Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck is probably my favorite, favorite Peck title. But it is a book that I've read and reread. I've even listened to it on audio. Poem Depot is a new title, a deserving title that should be read by kids and adults who love kids books!
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

My favorite this week is the nonfiction book Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. I've read this one three or four times now. It never fails to captivate. It was interesting reading Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World and The Winter Pony so close together. Both books are set on Antarctica within a decade of each other. But they tell very different stories. With one leader, it is men first; men's lives are always worth saving. With the other it is all glory, glory, I want glory. 
The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved Lindsey Leavitt's The Chapel Wars. I enjoyed many other books this week. Overall, it was a very strong week! But The Chapel Wars is YA romance at its best!
Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought] 

This week I choose Because of Winn Dixie as my favorite. I love, love, love this one! It's just a wonderful novel. Love the writing. Love the characters. Love the narration. It's just a book that stays with you.
 Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 1997/2005. Multnomah. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a hard decision this week. On the one hand, I loved reading McCormick Templeman's The Glass Casket. It had atmosphere, in my opinion, and it was oh-so-compelling. I read it in one sitting. It's not my typical genre. I don't really read horror at all. Not on purpose anyway. So the fact that it grabbed my attention and kept my attention says something. But is it truly-truly my favorite of the week? On the other hand, there is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a fantastic historical novel that I'd heard so much about. I've been meaning to read it for over five years! It has been sitting around my house for that many years! It did not disappoint. It has a definite message: it is a retelling of the book of Hosea. But it is probably NOT what anyone would expect a christian novel to be. It goes to dark, uncomfortable places. The heroine was sold into prostitution as a child. She's spent years of her life as a prostitute, and her journey to grace is not an easy one. If I'm looking just at themes or messages, then the choice would be easy. It would be Redeeming Love. It speaks to my heart. If I'm looking just at suspenseful storytelling or pacing, then the choice would be easy, it would be The Glass Casket. These two are so very different from one another!

The better cover? The Glass Casket. I can't say I'm a big fan of headless women on novels! And the cover of Redeeming Love is probably one of the reasons why it took me so very long to read!

Either book would easily win if reviewed in another week...

My choice is Redeeming Love. One of the reasons why I ended up choosing Redeeming Love is that I thought it had more reread appeal. I am more likely to reread this one than the Glass Casket.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Why a picture book? Why not a picture book! I chose Meanwhile Back at the Ranch because I loved the crazy storytelling. Is a tall tale? Is it romantic comedy? Can a picture book even be romantic?! I loved the characters. I loved meeting the heroine, Tulip Jones. I loved the hero, Charlie Doughpuncher. I loved how the widow's friends (Linsey, Woolsey, and Calico) helped "save" the day by advertising for 1,000 brides! The storytelling was practically perfect! And the language was just so much fun!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 

I enjoyed many books this week. I did. I really loved reading two very different "history of England" books. One by Jane Austen. One by Charles Dickens. I found Wounded Tiger to be a compelling World War II novel with unforgettable characters. But. One book stood out above the others: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. This classic novel by Betty Smith was just so WONDERFUL. Francie, the heroine, is a kindred spirit in some ways. I'm sure many book lovers can agree! On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived. 
Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I choose Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee.

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]  

Frozen in Time is my pick this week. It isn't the only nonfiction on my list. Other favorites from this year include The Boys in the Boat, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. Frozen in Time is incredibly compelling! It was impossible to put down. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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