Saturday, December 27, 2014

Favorites So Far (July - December)

God's Double Agent: The True Story of A Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom. Bob Fu. Baker Books. 2013. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]

My favorite this week is the nonfiction book, God's Double Agent. This autobiography is an amazing read! I definitely recommend it. I would agree that it is "impossible to put down." 

A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection. Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy. 2014. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

It will be a hard decision to make this week. If I'm choosing based on Serious and Significant, then, 50 children definitely tops the list. How could it not? It was informative enough, and compelling too. But am I choosing based on Serious and Significant? Just because I read serious books sometimes, does that mean they always have to take preference over everything else? Who says?

Two other books stand out this week. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a time-traveling romantic comedy. It is just a delight to read and reread. A Match Made in Texas is a historical romance novella collection. I really, really, really loved it. All of the novellas were great. A few were giddy-making even. I expected to like the book, I didn't expect to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. 

Mission at Nuremberg. Tim Townsend. 2014. HarperCollins. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

The choice was easy this week, but, not as easy as you might think. I loved both Hidden Like Anne Frank and Mission at Nuremberg. Both books are nonfiction focused on World War II. If you haven't noticed, well, I can't resist reading books about that time period. Hidden Like Anne Frank was a collection of survivor stories. Each chapter was written by a different survivor. Overall, the stories were compelling but dark. I appreciated the honesty.

Mission at Nuremberg is about the Nuremberg trials. This was my first time to read about the Nuremberg trials, and, I found the book fascinating and thought-provoking. Again, I appreciated the honesty. I also appreciated the perspective. One of the main characters is an army chaplain, Henry Gerecke.

Religion was something the Allies were also going to have to contend with, specifically, whether to supply the architects of the Holocaust with a Christian minister to comfort their spirits as they explained to the world the murder of six million Jews. The decision for adding this provision had come late and was possibly more controversial even than putting the Nazis on trial. (135)
It was the victorious Allies who were judging the crimes of the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, but it would be a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who would try and convince those criminals that it was really God's judgment that they should fear. (8)
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]

Which book will it be? I usually know before I start writing the post. But. Not this time. North and South is one of my favorite books! It is a comfort read for me. Perhaps not a traditional comfort read. But it is a true favorite. (I love it more than Pride and Prejudice. I do.) The Duke's Children finished the Palliser series strong. And I adore Trollope! Out of the Depths wowed me. It really did. It's a powerfully compelling testimony! It is an autobiography of a marine who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. It's an incredible read! Both books deserve more readers in my opinion.

This week I choose North and South. I have no doubt that Out of the Depths will appear on my best books of the year post on Operation Actually Read Bible. 

The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

The Book Thief. I love, love, love, LOVE The Book Thief. I don't love it because it's a happy, happy novel. I love it because it is beautiful, haunting, ugly, yet hopeful.

Bridge to Haven. Francine Rivers. 2014. Tyndale House. 468 pages. [Source: Library]

This week I choose Francine Rivers' Bridge to Haven. I would love, love, love to see this book adapted into a movie. If and only if, it wasn't too cleaned up for audiences. Francine Rivers' books know how to illustrate grace perhaps in large part due to the fact that she doesn't stay way from WHY grace is needed. In other words, she's not afraid to have her characters be sinners and make wrong choices. Their fictional lives are messy and sometimes ugly. Her fiction is oh-so-realistic.

One of the reasons I want a movie is the time period in which it is set: the 1940s and 1950s. I can imagine how wonderful the soundtrack would be! And the clothes and the hair! That and the fact that half the book is set in Hollywood in the 1950s!

The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side. Damien Lewis. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm going with nonfiction this week. For the record, I love, love, love The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. I listened to the audio book narrated by Richard Armitage. It was WONDERFUL. But it was also abridged. I recommend it in spite of it being abridged because Armitage does such a fabulous job. But still I wish it had been unabridged.

The Dog Who Could Fly is my choice this week. I really loved it. I recommend it for those interested in World War II, OR in flying, OR anyone who is a dog lover! It was a compelling and memorable read. 

The Belton Estate. Anthony Trollope. 1866/1993. Penguin. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]

I LOVED Anthony Trollope's The Belton Estate. I also loved Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. 

The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

It wasn't as easy as you might think. I found many of these books charming and delightful or absorbing and compelling. But. There is something about The Daughter of Time that I just love and adore. I have to go with the book that I love most, right? But honorable mentions could definitely be given for Kiss of Deception and The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]
Blue Plate Special is my choice this week.  I loved it the same way that I love Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

What a week! I LOVED so many books this week! There were two picture books that I just ADORED. And then there's Unbroken. What a book! It is an incredible nonfiction read. Compelling and emotional. It's a book to be experienced. Easily one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. Yet. It's up against Fahrenheit 451! I've read Ray Bradbury's novel again and again and again. It's powerful and unforgettable and so beautifully written. I marked so many passages! I choose Fahrenheit 451. 

The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]

How do I choose between The Hobbit and Northanger Abbey? They are completely satisfying reads, but in very different ways! I love Catherine and Henry. The story is funny and sweet and predictable and satisfying. I love Bilbo too. I love him more than Frodo. I love the world-building in The Hobbit. I love the writing too. Especially the dialogue. There are chapters of The Hobbit that I simply adore!!! But the same can also be said of Northanger Abbey. There are scenes--if not whole chapters--that I love so very much. It doesn't help that both books are so very quotable. (Usually, that helps me decide if I'm having a hard time.) Since I can only have one winner, I choose The Hobbit. I can't imagine this list without it. 

No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.

While last week was difficult, this week was an easy choice for me: No Name by Wilkie Collins. This 748 page book was a quick read--yes, really--because it was so very, very, very good. It also reminded me of WHY I tend to LOVE Wilkie Collins! Have you read Wilkie Collins? Do you have a favorite? 

Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I choose Goodnight, Mr. Tom. I loved, loved, loved this one. This book is set during World War II in England. Need I say more? That would be enough to get my attention at least. I also loved, loved, loved the movie adaptation of this one!!! 

The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom. With John and Elizabeth Sherrill. 1971/1984/1995. Chosen. 228 pages. [Source: Bought]

There are four books I considered picking as favorite. The Midnight Library is a picture book that I absolutely loved. It still hasn't been nominated for the Cybils, if you're looking for a picture book to nominate. Howl's Moving Castle is a reread. I love this book. I do! Sky Jumpers is another book that I loved. (Though I didn't love the sequel as much as the first book.) If I hadn't happened to reread The Hiding Place, it would definitely have been the favorite this week. But. The Hiding Place is special. It is one of the BEST, best books. It is a must-read memoir. 

An Autobiography. Agatha Christie. 1977/1996. Berkley. 635 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, LOVED Agatha Christie's Autobiography. It was so very GOOD from cover to cover--not dull for a moment. The Eye of the World was a great re-read, I'm glad I made time for it this year. But. It can't really compete with Agatha Christie's Autobiography.

The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library]

I love, love, LOVE Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener. It may just be my favorite book published in 2014.

Frankenstein. Mary Shelley. 1818/1831. Oxford World's Classics. 250 pages. [Source: Bought]

Did you notice I reread The Night Gardener? I didn't just write a second review, I reread it in order to write a second review for Operation Actually Read Bible. If anything, I loved it MORE the second time I read it. It wouldn't be fair, perhaps, to have the same book win two weeks in a row. So. I choose Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Steve Sheinkin. 2014. Roaring Brook. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved reading Steve Sheinkin's The Port Chicago 50! It was a great read, and I definitely recommend it!!! 

A Snicker of Magic. Natalie Lloyd. 2014. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Library] 

A Snicker of Magic is one of the best middle grade books I've read this year.

Black Beauty. Anna Sewell. 1877. 245 pages. [Source: Bought]

I'm torn between two books this week. I love Black Beauty. I love Bo at Ballard Creek. Black Beauty is a reread. It's a book that completely surprised me the first time around. I don't read horse books. I don't. So falling in love with a horse book surprised me. My love for the book only grew upon rereading it. And it's so quotable.

Bo at Ballard Creek is a great read. It is illustrated by LeUyen Pham. It's set in Alaska in the 1920s, I believe. It very much has a "Little House in the Big Woods" feel to it. I love the style it's written in. I loved many things about it. That being said, is it one I see myself rereading again and again and again? I'm not sure. I definitely would recommend it. So which book do I choose?!

I often choose the book that is more quotable and the book I'm most likely to reread in the future. It was a hard decision though.

Tolkien: How An Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote the Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century. Devin Brown. Abingdon Press. [Source: Review copy]

I loved, loved, loved E. Nesbit's The Magic City. I did. I loved, loved, loved Devin Brown's biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. It's horrible having to pick between the two!!! I was swept into the story--the fantasy world--that Nesbit created. I was. It was just a joy to read Magic City. I also found the biography to be captivating. I learned SO much. It was a book I just couldn't put down. Actually I couldn't put Magic City down either. Because I have to choose, I suppose I'll go with the nonfiction. It is a new release after all. It would make a lovely gift for Tolkien fans!!!

The Princess in Black. Shannon and Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Must I decide? Since I can choose only one, I must go with Shannon Hale's The Princess in Black. I think it may be the first 'favorite' of the week that is an early chapter book. It is a great read!!! But I also loved, loved, loved The Tale of Despereaux. I did love My Friend the Enemy and Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. So many great books in one week. 

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Isabel Florence Hapgood. 1862/1887. 1232 pages. [Source: Bought]

I choose Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I love, love, love this one. There were other books I loved as well, of course. I loved both My New Friend Is So Fun and Waiting is Not Easy!!! I also loved Loved Unexpected. I loved rereading The Polar Express. I loved rereading The 5th Wave. But Les Miserables is so amazing! The choice was an easy one.    

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Barbara Robinson. 1972. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]

I choose The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It is my favorite, favorite Christmas book. And it's a book I've read dozens of times through the years. It is a book that I just adore! It's familiar and funny and touching too. Brown Girl Dreaming was a FANTASTIC read. It was. It was a compelling, absorbing read. (Probably the first book that I've read that so intimately describes growing up Jehovah's Witness.) And it is easily one of my favorite verse novels that I've read this year. But it can't really take the place of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in my heart. 

Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte. 1847.  300 pages. [Source: Own]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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