Saturday, March 01, 2008


2007 Reflections on the Year's Reading

Saturday, December 29, 2007
2007 is almost over. I've looked over my reviews for the past year; and I've read a lot of really good books and a number of not-so-good books. 109 total books!! It's understandable that I accomplished nothing this past year with my nose in a book so often. This was the year of book mooching and paperback swapping. I've mooched about 75 books and given away about that many. So I really didn't gain much additional space on the shelves. I've also finished 17 challenges. That seems almost unbelievable to me until I saw that I have already joined 8 challenges for 2008 and am continuing to work on my personal Book Around the States Challenge. I only read seven States books this past year; but if I finish all the books I have listed for other challenges, I'll read another fifteen. My reading included a splendid diversity ranging from non-fiction to fantasy, mysteries to westerns, and don't forget the classics. I read my first vampire book, first science fiction and first western. Here is a list of the books I rated a five for my own personal and very subjective reasons:
Far and away, the best book I read this year: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Other 5's:
Trinity by Leon Uris
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Louis Albert Urrea
Zazoo by Richard Mosher
Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Random Harvest by James Hilton
The Quiet Heart by Patricia Holland
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audry Niffenegger
More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brinks
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Boxmaker's Son by Donald Smurthwaite
East by Edith Pattou
English Creek by Ivan Doig
The Story Girl by L M Montgomery
Bridge to Terabithia by Kate Patterson
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Other great books that were not quite five's:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Posted by Framed at 12:45 PM
Nymeth said...
wow, 17 challenges! That's a lot!

I keep seeing people listing The Book Thief as their favourite... it makes me really excited about reading it!

12/29/2007 1:21 PM
BookGal said...
The Book Thief seems to be on everyone's list. I need to see what it's all about. I'm awed at the number of challenges you completed!

12/29/2007 1:31 PM
Marg said...
I've enjoyed a couple of the books on your list as well. The Book Thief and The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Time Travellers Wife.

12/29/2007 1:49 PM
Charley said...
I Am the Messenger is one of my Top 5 books of the year. I can't wait to read The Book Thief.

12/29/2007 8:34 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
I just copied and pasted this whole blog onto my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendations! I did read Stardust and didn't enjoy it (the romp in the grass sorta threw me off) but I'm looking forward to the rest of them.

12/29/2007 11:52 PM
Literary Feline said...
I hope to read The Book Thief this next year. I committed myself to reading War and Peace January through April and so my plan to read The Book Thief the beginning of this year has fallen a bit by the wayside. You never know though!

You fit in a lot of books this year! And many good ones! I hope your reading this next year is even more worthwhile and fun!

12/30/2007 1:45 PM
Les said...
The Book Thief was my #1 read a couple of years ago. Glad you enjoyed it so well. Let's see, of the others you rated highly, I've read:

Ender's Game (liked), The Time Traveler's Wife (loved), and More Than You Know (don't remember much). I plan to read I am the Messenger and Stardust in 2008.

I read about half the number of books as you, but my numbers are way down this year, thanks to my wonderful job that cuts into my reading time! And, I only had one perfect 5/5. I'll get my list up later this week.

12/30/2007 4:00 PM
Booklogged said...
What a good reading year - so many good books.

12/30/2007 7:30 PM
Wendy said...
I am so with you on The Book Thief. It is on the top of my list this year too - and actually, it makes the top of my all-time favorites. What an amazing book.

I printed your list of 5's and almost 5's. I think you and I pretty much like the same stuff :)

12/31/2007 12:03 PM
gautami tripathy said...
I plan to read the Book Thief this year. I am impressed by your list!

Have a great reading year 2008!

1/01/2008 3:07 AM
Framed said...
For those of you who haven't read The Book Thief, enjoy, it's so wonderful.

About the challenges, I read someone's blog who did 31. WOW!

Tristi, if the romp in the grass was too much, avoid The Time Travelers Wife. It's very explicit. Too bad because it is so well-written and creative.

1/01/2008 10:12 AM
Andrea said...
The Book Thief is on my TBR challenge list! I also enjoyed The Time Travler's Wife. I see you have a lot of books by Shannon Hale, is she a YA author? Somehow her name seems familiar but I haven't read any of these books. I've written down the titles you have listed here to look up at the library later.

1/04/2008 12:42 PM
Maw Books said...
I also loved The Book Thief! It's sitting right here on my desk as I'm right in the middle of typing up a review that I hope to have up sometime this weekend. I borrowed it from the library, but now I think I must buy it to put in my library!

Thanks for the great list. I love lists!

1/19/2008 3:02 PM
Terri B. said...
I absolutely LOVED East by Edith Patou. I didn't realize at the time how much I liked it until months later I'm still thinking about it!

I really like Shannon Hale's YA books too and I can't wait to read Good Omens by T. Pratchett and N. Gaiman.

Love your list of reads.


Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Canadian Book Challenge: Nova Scotia
This book begins with Russell, an ornithologist, telling about his flight from New York to Holland when something goes seriously wrong. In that first chapter, you get a slight introduction to several of the ill-fated passengers on the plane. The next chapter, we meet Kevin, an innkeeper on Trachie Island who sees the plane as it hits the water. Kevin and his partner, Douglas, gear up for the newly arriving guests, friends and family of the victims. The main character from this point is Ana, Russell's wife, and a fellow ornithologist. From that first gripping chapter, through the arrival of the grieving families, to five years later, we are taken on a journey through grief, acceptance, and moving on. Along the trip, Kessler weaves in facts about the migratory habits of the birds who pass over the island each spring and fall. Even though the subject matter is incredibly sad, Kessler maintains a matter-of-fact level that keeps the novel from becoming too maudlin. The characters are easy to identify with and their situations and manner of dealing with their losses make sense and are never over the top. And the bird facts are fascinating and a lyrical addition to this beautiful novel. I love this particular quote:
"How is a story like a bird? It keeps us aloft. It flies. It goes from one place and lands at another, seemingly at random. But its movements are carefully choreographed, and if you look closely, you'll know exactly where it will next perch."
I truly enjoyed Kessler's style of writing and look forward to reading other books he has written.
Rating: 4.5
Posted by Framed at 11:11 PM

John Mutford said...
Though I haven't read it, Edward Riche's Rare Birds, set in Newfoundland, also intertwines bird trivia into the story. Sounds good.
12/26/2007 7:13 AM
Literary Feline said...
I read another blogger review of this book not too long ago. It does sound like a worthwhile read. Thank you for the great review!
12/26/2007 10:12 AM
Booklogged said...
Very nice review. I liked this book, too.
12/30/2007 7:04 PM
Crafty Green Poet said...
this sounds like a book I need to read, I love reading about birds, especially when they're woven well into a story


The White Dawn by James Houston

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Challenge - Canadian Book Challenge - Nunavat
This book takes place on Baffin Island in 1896. While the Eskimos have heard of the men from the south with light skin, they have never seen one. Into their orderly village lives come three such men who were swept overboard and managed to reach the island. Two men are light-skinned, the other black, but their appearance into the village of twenty or so Eskimos, manages to change things immensely. The story is told by a young, crippled man who lives on the outskirts of village life because of his disability. While telling how the three strangers are taken in and cared for, Avinga also shares many details of how the Eskimos lived and how their society functioned. Houston also made small sketches of utensils and snow houses throughout the book. Even though this is a novel, the facts about the people are historically correct and absolutely fascinating. It's quite humorous when Avinga discusses the white men's (dog children) strange customs because they seem so normal to me. What the story eventually comes to share is how a society which worked so well for these people becomes corrupted by the influence of the outsiders. My main advice for anyone planning to read this book is to do it in the summer. I really struggled with page after page of blowing, blinding snow and frigid temperatures while I'm suffering with the cold from hell in frosty Vernal, UT. I know I've got it easy. Thank heavens for my furnace, soft bed and down comforter. No dark, musty snow house warmed only by a seal-oil lamps and sleeping on a snow shelf wrapped in caribou skins for me. Not to mention the bathroom facilities. Ycch.
Rating: 3.75
Posted by Framed at 7:56 PM

Susan Helene Gottfried said...
I read this a few years ago and simply loved it. What a great book! Glad to see you've discovered it, too.
12/22/2007 1:32 PM
John Mutford said...
I recently read his Whiteout and just about despised it. Perhaps White Dawn is much better, but I'll have to take your word on it.
12/23/2007 3:02 PM
Booklogged said...
Sounds like summer would definitely be a better time to read this chilly tale.


Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Canadian Book Challenge - Ontario
This book is set in Northern Ontario in a very small farming community. Kate Morrison lives on a small farm with her parents, much older brothers, Luke and Matt, and her baby sister, Bo. The family seems fairly normal if a touch bit reserved and undemonstrative. Then tragedy strikes. As the narrator, Kate tells the story of her youth interspersed with the present. It's interesting because you can see a direct correlation between what happened when she was seven and how it affects her twenty years later. "Crow Lake" is beautifully written, never melodramatic, but emotional. There is humor mixed in to many sad moments and a wealth of wonderful characters. I loved the description of Mrs. Stanovich, the large-bosomed neighbor who likes to hug the reticent Kate, and who cries at the drop of a hat. The novel really illustrates how misunderstandings can become overblown, how we can resent those who gives us the most, and mostly the importance of family love.
Rating: 4.25
Posted by Framed at 9:51 PM

John Mutford said...
Wow, this book has almost become an official selection of the Canadian Book Challenge. I think you captured a lot of the appeal when you wrote "never melodramatic, but emotional." Not an easy task, but I agree she pulled it off. Any plans on reading Other Side of the Bridge now?
12/15/2007 10:16 PM
gautami tripathy said...
Thanks to you, I got to read this book. I am very glad I did. I even passed it around to few of my friends.You summed it up so well!rootedreading room
12/16/2007 7:01 AM
Joy said...
Hi Framed! I'm glad you enjoyed this one, too. I'm picking up The Other Side of the Bridge very soon.
12/16/2007 8:00 AM
Lauren said...
I loved this book!!! I'm glad you enjoyed it too! :)
12/16/2007 10:05 PM
Stephanie said...
Nice review!! I have this on my list for the Canadian Challenge as well. Man, I really need to get to work on this one!!
12/18/2007 5:56 AM
Les said...
I've read both this and The Other Side of the Bridge. This was the better of the two, but I did enjoy both. I thought the humor Bo provided helped keep this from being too terribly depressing, didn't you? I look forward to her next novel. Let's hope it's soon!
12/18/2007 5:55 PM
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12/19/2007 1:29 PM
Booklogged said...
Sounds good. Are you mooching this book off? If not, can I borrow it?
12/30/2007 7:15 PM
Framed said...
Booklogged, I was planning to mooch it but you can borrow it first.


The Shepherd, The Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Challenge: Christmas Theme Books
Our narrator, Doug, is a twelve or thirteen-year-old telling about his life in 1960, with special emphasis on the Episcopal Christmas pageant that year. The story is a wonderful one for those who wax nostalgic for a simpler time. And because the writing is very basic, it's also a great book to read your children at Christmas time. At first, I found Barry's style a bit boring as it was obviously geared toward a much younger audience; but as the story progresses, I became caught up in the humor of adolescent boys' antics and the love of a dog. The story contains tender moments and tearful moments, and a hilarious finale at the pageant.
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 9:20 PM

Debi said...
Hello!I'm stopping by to let you know that I've set up a separate blog for the What's in a Name? challenge. I hope you'll be able to stop by once in while to see what contests are going on and to leave links to any reviews you write. Thanks again for joining!--Annie
12/13/2007 10:29 AM
Bookfool said...
Dave Barry's style is kind of nerdy, elbow-in-the-ribs humor. I think that's what I like about him. You don't have to do a whole lot of thinking and you get some great laughs.


Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book by Bill Richardson

Monday, December 10, 2007

Canadian Book Challenge: Manitoba
This hilarious book is the the third in a series about twin brothers living on a island, who turn their home into a bed and breakfast for readers. Sounds appealing, doesn't it? Don't ask me why I started with No. 3, but I fully intend on reading the other two as soon as I can get my hands on them. The brothers, Virgil and Hector, are over fifty and wonderfully eccentric. Actually, all the characters in this delightful novel are, well, characters. There's Hector's girlfriend, Altona, who paints his toenails while he sleeps; Caedmon Harker, the handyman; Mrs. Rochester, the parrot who has a fitting quote or scripture for every situation; as well as neighbors, past patrons who write letters, and interesting pets. Then there are the quotes from a local deceased author's book, "Hygiene for Boys." Don't read this poem if the subject of zits makes you queasy:
When you find a pimple, lads,
You mustn't make a fuss,
Although I know you're eager, boys,
To see that gush of pus.
Leave the nasty welt alone--
Don't give the thing a squeeze.
And if temptation proves too great,
Then wipe the mirror, please.
So I was totally grossed out, but rolling on the floor laughing. Along with the chuckles and guffaws, I enjoyed Richardson's style of writing. He uses such a wonderful variety of words, words that I knew and understood, but don't come across very often. I wish I had such a awesome command of the language. Here are some passages of the many that I particularly responded to:
From the chapter: Hector's books for bathroom browsing ----- "There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't seek to enliven the time we spend attending to the baser dictates of biology. Nor is there any reason why we shouldn't feed, or a least tickle, the mind while we disabuse ourselves of the slag for which the body has no further use. A good bathroom book (as opposed to a good bathtub book, which is something else altogether) should be provocative, enduring, entertaining, educational, and sufficiently pithy that it can be absorbed in brief spurts. It should be easy to put down and inviting to come back to, but not so enthralling that it keeps the reader enthroned for hours at a stretch, mindless of the queue that might be forming outside the door."
Virgil's rant about the world's move away from sentimentaility: "When did "sentimental" become a perjorative barb? I do not at all share the notion that a piece of music, or a poem, or a film that bypasses the brain and aims straight for the heart, and canvasses for an emotional rather than an intellectual response, should automatically be heaped with scorn. I think it is symptomatic of a sad and dangerous impoverishment of spirit."
After many years, Hector conquers the hula hoop: On this frabjous day I won an unexpected victory and made the wounded welkin ring with raucous cries of praise and thanksgiving. Glory be! Hallelujah! Laud creation! Hot damn! Given that no historian will consider my accomplishment worthy of attention, and as I am certain it will rate not even a footnote in the eventual annals of these, our perilous times, I will set down the news here. Perhaps some future curiousity seeker will read it and be coaxed haltingly to the understanding that the thunderous, flesh-tearing, terrain-sundering doings of the generals and industrialists are not what power the turning of the planet, but rather the dull, quotidian and largely overlooked progressions of ordinary pilgrims."
Along with these marvelous passage are some great chapters that I must mention: A letter from a former guest who tells of the bittersweet experience of visiting his childhood home to find his parents have changed everything; Virgil's books for baby Matirna's first five years; the letter from a woman whose bookclub had recently visited the B & B; and Hector's chapter, "A dishwasher is a wonderful thing." BBBPB was such a fun book to read, with memorable gentle characters, and beautiful writing. I recommend it for when you need something lighthearted and funny.
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 9:48 PM

Candleman said...
Great little poem, I'm going to have to memorize that one.
12/11/2007 4:54 AM
Cassie said...
This sounds like a fun read, I'll have to borrow it from you, so no mooching.
12/11/2007 8:52 AM
Carrie K said...
Oh, I'd forgotten about these books! Or more properly, I didn't realize there were more.
12/11/2007 6:07 PM
Stephanie said...
This is one of the books I want to read for this challenge. I liked the Title!! Sounds like a good one!
12/12/2007 10:13 AM
Les said...
I loved the first in the series, but didn't care too much for the sequels. If you loved this one, you're in for quite a treat (and lots of laughs) with the first. Enjoy!
12/12/2007 5:00 PM
John Mutford said...
Your the second participant to go for this book this month. I agree it's a funny book- and one most booklovers would be into.
12/12/2007 7:37 PM
Nan - said...
I think I am the other one John means, but I didn't read the third; I read the first. Speaking just for me, the second and third were too "over the top" for me. I preferred the more serious tone of the first book, though there was humor, it wasn't quite so broad.


A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2nds Challenge
"A Wind is the Door" is the sequel to L'Engle's fabulous "A Wrinkle in Time," and the perfect way to finish my 2nds Challenge. I think I liked Wind even better than Wrinkle. Maybe I find becoming microcosmically tiny and inhabiting one of your younger brother's cell structures more appealing than being transported off in space to face a menacing brain. Like Wrinkle, Wind is a classic tale of good versus evil. With the help of cherubim and farandolae, Meg and her friend, Calvin are able to triumph over the evil Echthroi and save Charles Wallace's life in the process. Even though this story is a sequel, there is no reference to the previous book, and I thought it odd that Megg seemed so surprised and disbelieving when a dragon shows up in their garden. Even so, the characters are appealing and L'Engle's writing is creative and entertaining. The messages are loud and clear: Love is necessary to overcome adversity and wrong; and even the tiniest personality can have universal impact. Who can argue with that?
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 8:54 AM

Nymeth said...
I bought A Wrinkle in Time just the other day. I have it on my list for the YA challenge and I really look forward to reading it. This sounds like a wonderful series.
12/08/2007 9:54 AM
Sandy D. said...
I loved the appearance of the principal in this book. Mr. Jenkins just stole the show!My son and I are now in the middle of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet", and it's just not as satisfying for us as the first two. It's still good, though, and we'll be reading "Many Waters", too. :-)
12/08/2007 4:20 PM
Candace E. Salima said...
Mmmm, sounds like I'll have to pick that up and add it to my library.By the way -- the six finalists for the Best Husband in the World contest are posted on my blogspot. Please pop on over, read through them (they really are wonderful men), vote and then spread the word far and wide. Merry Christmas!
12/10/2007 7:16 AM
Shelley said...
A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books; but I've never read the others in the series. Thanks for the recommend.
12/10/2007 11:13 AM
Tristi Pinkston said...
I love this whole series -- anyone who hasn't read them is seriously missing out


Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Read for The Canadian Challenge
A baby girl is found on an iceberg floating in the ocean east of Newfoundland. The family who takes her in, names her Aurora and raises her as their own child. The book follows her life from that point to old age. Having been born in Newfoundland myself, I was so interested in the history and character of the island that was captured in this story. Joan Clark writes beautifully. Her descriptions of the landscape and the ocean are quite breathtaking. However, the story of Aurora herself didn't touch me very much. The book covers a period of over eighty years, including the sinking of the Titanic, and the birth of Aurora's children and their lives. The beginning of Aurora's story seemed a little magical and the rest of the book was quite prosaic. But Clark weaved the story of Newfoundland into Aurora's story wonderfully, and I really liked how she did that. I do recommend the book as it was interesting and well written.
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 8:53 PM

Literary Feline said...
This does sound like it would be good. Thanks for the great review, Framed.
12/05/2007 10:11 PM
Carrie K said...
Nice review! I'd probably have been really disappointed at the magical beginnings being dropped.
12/07/2007 1:41 PM
Booklogged said...
Clark does give a good feeling for Newfoundland. I read somewhere that there really was a baby from the Titanic found alive on an ice pan.
12/07/2007 6:53 PM
Laura said...
I read this book a few years ago when it first came out. I checked it out of the library, and liked it so much I bought a copy. I agree with your assessment, but one of the things I liked about Aurora was that she read an entire set of The Book of Knowledge, and that's something I've always wanted to do!Anyway, I thought Latitudes of Melt was worth recommending to my daughters, and so far three of them have read it, too. Thanks for the concise review!
12/08/2007 10:45 AM
John Mutford said...
This post has been removed by the author.
12/10/2007 10:23 PM
John Mutford said...
It's been a while since I read this, but your summary seems pretty accurate to what I remember. Her Audience of Chairs is supposedly pretty good, too, but I haven't read that yet.


The Cat Who Dropped a Bomb by Lillian Jackson Braum

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I listened to this book on my way to Salt Lake and back on Sunday. Like the rest of the "Cat Who" series, the mystery takes a back seat to the interplay and oddities of the inhabits of Moose County, "400 miles north of everywhere." There's a lot of strange people up in those woods. Not to mention a couple of extraordinary cats. The story revolves around the planning and exeuction of those plans for Pickaxe City's 150th year celebration. Jim Qwilleran, of course, is totally involved and manipulates things with a light hand. Whenever funds are needed, the K Foundation is ready to cover expenses. The actual murder happens quite near to the end of the book and is solved almost immediately, so you can see it is only incidental to the book. Even so, reading or listening to these books takes very little time or thought. When you want an amusing, light read, pick this one up.
Rating: 3

Posted by Framed at 8:41 PM
SuziQoregon said...
My husband and I use this series for road trip listening. We giggle about it being dangerous to live in Moose County, particularly if you help Jim Qwilleran ;-)

We haven't listened to this one yet.

12/06/2007 8:54 AM
Booklogged said...
I like listening to these stories, too. Qwilleran is a great character.

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