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2013 Book Review

2013 Reading Recap:
Total pages read: 12289 (approx. 3000 less than 2012)
Number of books read: 34 (16 less than 2012)
Chunksters (over 450 pages): 11 (3 more than 2012)
Genre breakdown:
Non-fiction: 5 (1 less than 2012)
General Fiction: 2
Mystery: 5 (big drop – 26 less than 2012)
Historical fiction: 2 (2 less than 2012)
Thriller/Spy: 15 (10 more than 2012)
Young Adult/Youth: 4
Pictures / Animal: 1 (couldn’t resist the “Lil Bub” book)

I met two of my reading goals and got to the halfway mark on the third. I reject 19 books, and that’s a record for me. Sadly, several were rejected 1/4 or 1/3 in to the story. One was rejected at the 90% spot because I could NOT take any more of the whole thing.

I had three “Top Reads”, and that’s less than in years past, but given how few books I read this year it’s still good. Here’s my recap of my top three books for 2013:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech – This is the story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle (Chickabidee), her gramps and gram (Gooseberry), her friend Phoebe (Peeby), her mom, her dad and various other people she meets.

There is a trip cross country with a story within a story. You’ll see life in all it’s various stages played out. I found the characters captivating, believable, and lovable. I saw my own family in the story. I saw some of my friends, and I made new friends with every character in the book.

Considered young adult fiction (ages 12-18), the story has enough depth for most adults who simply enjoy a good read. When I finished the book, I sobbed for a good 30 minutes. It’s one the best books I’ve read this year, and it’s one of the worst books I’ve read this year. I recommend it, and do keep the tissues handy.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – Why did it take me so long to find this book? How did I even find out about this book? I wish I knew the answers to those questions. What a delightful read. Books, wizards, Google, secrets, codes, a touch of romance, travel, history and spies. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a modern day fairy tale. Or is it a modern day adventure? A thriller? It’s all of those and more!

Our protagonist, Clay Jannon, is out of work. He stumbles into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and his life immediately changes. Rather than just sit and collect a paycheck, Clay discovers a need deep inside to solve the puzzle of the bookstore. He enlists the help of some friends, and takes us all on a fun adventure.

As a long ago user of Aldus PageMaker (now owned by Adobe), I loved the nod to Aldus Manutius. I loved the nods to modern computers and the tie in to old time printing. I laughed over some comments about print vs ebook, especially since I started out by reading a hard bound copy from the library and then bought the ebook and finished reading on my Kindle.

I found myself totally wrapped up in this story and it was hard to put the book down. When the final secret was revealed I smiled, wiped away a tear and thought, YES! This book was “the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

Overboard!: A True Blue-Water Odyssey of Disaster and Survival by Michael J. TougiasOverboard! is the heart-wrenching, heart-stopping, riveting telling of a 2005 maritime rescue involving two sail boats. The At Ease had set sail from Chesapeake Bay with Bob Cummings and Jerry McCarthy aboard. They are heading to Charleston, SC to sail in the Charleston to Bermuda Race.

The Almeisan holds Tom Tighe (captain and owner), Loch Reidy, first mate; and a three member paying crew of Chris Ferrer, Kathy Gilcrest and Ron Burd—all experienced sailors and all ready and eager for the experience of a blue-water trip to Bermuda.

While the main thrust of the story is about the souls onboard the two sail boats, it also involves several members of the U.S. Coast Guard. Tougias weaves them into the story in a grand way and I felt the stress and concern of every member of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue teams. I worried that they would all come home alive. I found their bravery and courage incredible and encouraging.

The story wouldn’t be complete without recognizing the captain and crew of the USNS Seay. Called into action by the US Coast Guard, this ship lead a search and rescue mission of four ships. Eventually the Seay came alongside and “protected” the Almeisan. The Seay also sailed to Boston with the Sakura Express, serving as an intermediary between the Sakura Express and the US Coast Guard. A great picture, that gives you a sense of the enormity of the seas and shows the Almeisan and Seay can be found here.

One of the other ships in the S&R, was the Sakura Express (a tanker carrying jet fuel and part of AMVER). They also showed courage and tenacity in rescuing those in the water. Their care and concern with those they picked up had me in tears.

Tougias has a wonderful talent for drawing the reader into the event so that I felt as though I was on the boat, in the water, and struggling to survive. I likely would have read this story in two days time, except I found it necessary to put it down in order to breathe, relax and focus on simple, every day, stress free happy events.

A rich, wonderful telling of a difficult true-life event. I highly recommend this book, and it is one of my top-reads for 2013.

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (repost)

This was originally published as part of a “Book Meme” for Day 1: The best book you read last year. I’m bringing it forward, with the book title because it’s such a great book.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 496
Highly Recommend

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars, and it was one of my 4 top reads for 2011.

Unbroken is a wonderful book by a truly gifted author. The book tells a story that is filled with hope and despair, joy and sorrow, maltreatment and forgiveness.

Like American Nightingale by Bob Welch, and Salt In Our Blood by Michele Longo Eder, this is a difficult read, and not just because of the subject matter. The story is so well written, and the historical figures are so well developed, I felt as though I’d known them all my life; and deep inside I wished with all my heart that each of them would survive and live healthy, happy lives. I knew this wouldn’t happen, but still my heart hoped. So with the loss of each person, my heart broke and I would cry. Still I read on—I had to—for the future of others was still waiting for me.

My stomach would churn as I read about the POW camps and the treatment of these heroes. I find it strange that the world has long focused on the horrors of the Nazi POW camps and Jewish concentration camps of WWII, yet little is said about the horrors of the Japanese POW camps of WWII. Having heard Kay Friederichsen speak at a woman’s retreat, I’d already heard about the treatment of some people in Japanese camps; but never did I dream it was worse than what Kay had shared. I hurt as I read the story of Louis Zamperini in the camps. I ached as I read the story of Louie once he returned home and he let his life fall apart. While I can see the reasons for his emotional pain, there were times when I wanted to find him and shake him.

Then I read about Louie’s salvation. As I got to the paragraph where Billy Graham extends a personal invitation to Louie, I remembered all those nights that my family sat and listened to Billy Graham (TV and radio). How often I heard him say something so similar. I remembered my dad telling about the night he went forward. I remembered the teen crusade I attended and how my heart longed for the peace of Christ. As I read the words, “ ‘This is it,’ said Graham. ‘God has spoken to you. You come on.’ ”, my heart rejoiced. The horrors shared in the book washed away. The sadness and despair lifted from my shoulders and I rejoiced. Louie had finally found the joy and love he had so long sought.

What a testimony his life is. Would I find it in my heart to forgive as he has? I’m not sure I would. I’ve faced far less in my life and have had a hard time letting go of the bitterness.

How often in life we fail to see that God is polishing us and preparing us for what is ahead. For surely He knows our future and what we will face. He knows how we will fail, yet He loves us still and stands with us—holding us up when we don’t even realize it. Just as He loved Louie and held him up.

Such a wonderful book. One that has renewed the joy within my heart.

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Foreign Influence by Brad Thor

ForeignInfluenceThor

Book #28
Foreign Influence
Thor, Brad

Genre: Thriller/Spy
Pages: 560 (chunkster)
Recommend

This is my second read of this book, with the first being July 2010; and while I wasn’t quite as blown away with the story this time (too recent of a read for me to be totally surprised and *I wasn’t surprised by the ending this time), I still think my comment from then is good:

My jaw actually dropped open at the ending. Oh. My. Word! I never saw that coming*. Thor’s best book ever – bar none. Best quote? The very, very, very last 2 sentences of the book (in the Acknowledgments – speaking of his wife, Trish): “Thank you, honey. I love you.”

This book was timely in 2010, it’s even more so today. Recommend the book and the series.

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September Wrap Up

Grand month. Weather was lovely, we were able to take some nice drives, enjoyed dinner with friends and flat out had a good time. The end of the month saw the real arrival of fall, with a hint of winter and we enjoyed 3 great storms in 2 days: wind (70-80mph stuff), around 5 inches of rain—give or take an inch, lost power for a bit, and survived it all. Fun stuff.

My favorite picture this month is my new banner. Such a busy bee. Spotted him while on our way to dinner with friends. We were late while I photographed. Fortunately our friends understand my quirks.

We enjoyed loads of good movies (reviews HERE), and I read five good books. Spoiler-less reviews ahead, but first the statistics.

Recap:
September: total pages: 1673; 5 books (no rejects)
2013 Recap to date:
Total pages read: 10573
Number of books read: 27
Chunksters (over 450 pages): 10
Non-fiction: 4
Fiction: 1
Mystery: 3
Historical fiction: 1
Thriller/Spy: 14
Young Adult/Youth: 3
Pictures / Animal: 1

September Books:
Book #23
Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea by Tougias, Michael J.

Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 244

Not quite as good as Overboard!, but still a most compelling read. Tougias give depth to each person in the story.

Recommend.

Book #24
Lil BUB’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet Hardcover by Lil BUB

Genre: Pictures / Animal
Pages: 128

Little book filled with 128 totally delightful pages of pics of “Lil BUB” on an adventure. Brings a smile to my face. Buy it. Buy several and give them away. You’ll be glad you did.

Recommend.

Book #25
The Apostle by Thor, Brad

Genre: Thriller/Spy
Pages: 357
Recommend

Review is HERE.

Book #26
Fire Along the Sky by Donati, Sara

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Pages: 688 (chunkster)
Recommend

Review is HERE.

Book #27
Secrets at Sea by Peck, Richard

Genre: Youth
Pages: 256

I’ll admit that having spent months last year dealing with mice in our car and then rats in our garage (thanks to a neighbor who wasn’t dealing with their garbage), reading a story where mice are the main characters was almost too much to bear; but Peck created charming mice within an endearing story. Totally fun read and a nice break from the heavier read for the month.

Recommend

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Fire Along the Sky by Sara Donati

Book #26
Fire Along the Sky
Donati, Sara

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Pages: 688 (chunkster)
Book 4/6 in “Wilderness Saga”
Recommend

I started this series in 2011, but I don’t remember how, why or who. Likely someone mentioned them on a book list, or a friend from the library said they were good reads. If the person who suggested this series to me is reading this: my thanks.

As with the last story in this series, this was a wonderful read with a good blending of history and the author’s imagination. There are rich characters that draw you in and make you wish you were part of this family—or at the very least, a close friend. There is suspense, danger, love, hatred—all the human emotions that make us who we are. My heart thrilled over the joyous news and events, and broke over the difficult.

My one dislike is the same as always, the intimacy is a bit much for me and I don’t think it advances the story, so I skip parts. If intimate scenes bother you and you can’t skip them, then skip this book. Otherwise, pick it up and dive in. It’s an enjoyable read for rainy weather.

Definitely recommend this series.

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The Apostle by Brad Thor

apostle

Book #25
The Apostle
Thor, Brad
Genre: Thriller/Spy
Pages: 357
Recommend

As a long time fan of Brad Thor’s ‘Scot Harvath’ series, I expect certain things in each book: patriotism, adventure, political conflicts, terrorism, and a good read that keeps me interested and entertained. The Apostle met all my expectations and then some.

The characters, both friend and foe, were well developed; the settings fit the story; and I found myself cheering at the end of chapter 60.

By the time I reached the very end, I was glad for a break—yet wishing there was more to the story. Best of all, I felt proud to be an American; and, sadly, I seldom feel that way with our current president. I’m thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, and I’m deeply grateful to every man and woman who serve (and have served) in order that I might live in this wonderful country.

I join the heroes of this book in the closing words of this book:

With that, all of the men in the room raised their bottles and in unison said, “To the United States of America.” – The Apostle (Brad Thor), page 357

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Lil BUB’s Lil Book

Book #24
Lil BUB’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet Hardcover
by Lil BUB
Genre: Pictures / Animal
Pages: 128
Highly Recommend

Little book filled with 128 totally delightful pages of pics of “Lil BUB” on an adventure. This book brought a smile to my face. Actually, just thinking about it makes me smile. Okay, I’m a cat lover and Lil BUB makes me smile. She encourages me. She doesn’t care that she’s different. Her disabilities don’t stop her. She never gives up. She’s a reminder of God’s grace and love. I adore this cat (who I’ve never even met), and I adored this lil’ book.

Buy this book. Buy several and give them away. You’ll be glad you did.

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