Monday, September 1, 2008

Top 14 Reads of August

It looks as though I have been a reader-rabbit this month, but a few of these are ones I read in July and forgot about (oops). Of the 14, two are read-alouds with my nine-year-old, four are audio-books, four are young-adult novels, and four were short adult novels. When I wasn't living life or reading, I was captivated by the Olympics. I considered watching them my "stay-cation" and allowed myself many hours of being a couch potato. At least when I read I take many breaks and move around, but my body is not used to sitting for the hours I spent cheering on volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, etc. It was a let-down when it ended, but now I can catch up on some sleep!
But anyways, this is a book blog, not an Olympic's blog! Here are my reads from August from least favorite to favorite:

14. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
This seventh installment of A Series of Unfortunate Events was vilely boring, despite the brilliant narration of Tim Curry. I found the tens of thousands of rules of the village the Baudelaires are sent to be slightly humorous, but the rest was tedious.

13. The Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks
Book two of the Word and Void trilogy, Brooks inserts demons and fairy-like creatures into modern day Seattle. The fairly predictable plot dragged for 2/3 of the book with some excitement in the end.

12. Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks
A little bit better than The Knight of the Word, this one continues the battle between good and evil, touching on the tragedy of drug abuse, and throwing in some Christian symbolism. All in all, I prefer Brooks' Tolkienesque fantasies better.

11. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
The is the first of the Enola Holmes mystery series that my nine-year-old daughter and I decided to give a try. Enola is the 14-year-old sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes, and in her search for her missing mother comes across another mystery to be solved. It is filled with ciphers to be unscrambled, detail upon detail of the clothing of the period, and lots of new vocabulary words for a fourth-grader. We liked it, but didn't love it. I think we will try the next one, though.

10. The President's Lady by Irving Stone
This books cover boasts that it is one of the most romantic love stories of all time, describing the often thwarted and tragic relationship of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. I didn't find it all that romantic, but it was historically interesting. I have previously read Those Who Love by Stone, about John and Abigail Adams, and liked it better.

9. Dragonwings by Lawrence Yep
This Newbery Honor YA novel is about a Chinese boy who comes to California to be with his father at the turn of the century. Inspired by the Wright Brothers' air machines, the boy and his father set out to build one of their own. While not a terribly exciting plot, I felt like it ended in a meaningful way that gave it more substance.

8. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide by Black and De Terlizzi
I think this series really needs to be reviewed as a whole. I do love the cover, illusrations, and mood of the book, but this one just introduces you to the story, so it's hard to make a judgment. My daughter and I do look forward to reading each night (we're on to the second one now.)

7. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
One of my favorites so far of the Unfortunates. I suppose the usual conventions of Snicket could get old for more intelligent people than myself, but I found myself still highly amused with Book the Sixth, and very entertained by the narration of Tim Curry.

6. River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Companion to Hale's Goose Girl and Enna Burning, River Secrets tells the story of a young man who is surprisingly chosen to go on a diplomatic mission to his country's war-hungry neighbor. He is a lovable character, and it is exciting to see how he discovers his strengths and his value to society. I love her lyrical and uplifting writing.

5. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Enna develops a power that threatens to overwhelm her as the kingdom of Bayern wars with Tira. She has the power to conquer the enemy, but what will it cost her? Great story, great writing. I loved it. I would definitely identify myself as a Shannon Hale fan!

4. Fast-Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Fascinating. Eye-opening. Informative. Shows what that regular trip through the drive-through may be costing our society, and exposes the dangers in the meat-packing industry that may make you not want to eat beef again (that only lasted a few days for me, but I'm not that big of a meat-eater anyways.) I suffered from an E. Coli-phobia for about a week after reading this, but I think I'm over it now. After criticizing several fast-food chains, the author basically gave the thumbs up to In'n'Out. What a relief--I don't think I could give that up!

3. Atonement by Ian McEwan
Brilliant! The only reason I didn't put this at number one is because it was a bit darker and heavier than my top two (both warm and fuzzy YA books) and this was a tough month in which I needed comfort more than a delving into the darker aspects of humanity. The basic plot of Atonement is rather simple, but it is McEwan's writing and what he makes of the story that makes it a masterpiece. I haven't seen the movie, but I have to think that the power of the book would be completely lost on the big screen.

2. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
I'm a bit compulsive about reading things in order, so I felt I had to read this before reading Inkheart by Funke, since it was written first even though they are two unrelated stories. I am glad that I did. I can't really put my finger on what I loved about it, but one review I read on Amazon said that this was like a Dicken's story in a Venetian setting, and I love Dickens so maybe that explains it. (I think that was like a run-on sentence but I'm tired so I don't care.) The end didn't wrap up the way I imagined, but it didn't ruin the book for me. Inkheart here I come! I may have stumbled upon a new favorite author.

1. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
My only complaint about this book: it's the last one of Hale's and I've read them all now! She better get writing! I read that she is doing a graphic novel about Rapunzel next, but I don't know if I will like that or not. Like Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days is based on a little-know fairy tale. It is presented in journal form, written by Dashti, the handmaid of a lady who is locked in a tower as punishment for not marrying an evil man. The two manage to escape from the tower as they also break free from the roles society has placed them in. It's feel-good reading with just the right amount of depth and complexity to keep it from being average. Highly recommended.

Well, this took my three days to finish, so I'm not even going to check for errors. Feel free to point any out in the comments.


  1. Sorry you didn't love Enola. I didn't like the first one nearly as much as the second one.

    And, I'm so glad that you liked Thief Lord. There's a movie out - it strays from the book, but I actually liked it quite a bit. Also, just so you know, while Thief Lord was Funke's first novel published in English, her first published novel was Dragon Rider. I hope you like Inkheart!

    Oh, and I left an award for you over on my blog if you want to check it out.

  2. You read so many books that are on my TBR list. I want to read all of the Shannon Hale books but haven't gotten to them yet. I've read Dragon Rider which was pretty good and I have been planning on reading Thief Lord. I also have a copy of Atonement and plan on reading it eventually so I'm glad to hear that you liked it so well.

  3. KT,
    Oh no! Now I'm all messed up! I saw Dragon Rider at the library and wondered if it was any good.

    Shannon Hale books just make me feel happy and entertained at the same time. Just a heads up though--Atonement is by no means a clean read. A might be a 5.5.5! But it's one of those books that all of that stuff serves a meaningful purpose overall, and that's when I tend to overlook it.

  4. I love reading your countdown lists. Lots of interesting reviews that are short and sweet :)

  5. Thanks for the heads-up on Atonement. I kind of figured it would be one of those but, like you, I'm willing to give it a try because of it's other redeeming qualities. If it's too much, I'm getting pretty good at putting it down or skipping parts.

  6. i like the way you did this and the previous posts. i've read a few of the books on both lists. i really did like The Historian; although it was a slow read, i thought it was fascinating. i've really got to get to more Shannon Hale; the only one i've read so far is Princess Academy which i loved. have you read Rapunzel's Revenge yet? i'm looking forward to that.

  7. Atonement is the ONLY movie I have ever seen that actually lived up to the book. Absolutely brilliant. You should watch it, if you get the chance. And the book? One of my absolute favorites. I've read it twice. It's very dark, but so moving. I cried and I new what would happen. :-)