Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone

When Samuel Collier was twelve, he came to the brand new James Town colony as a servant to Captain John Smith. Blood on the River is his story. The story covers just before he came to the New World through the Starving Time (though he was at Point Comfort and so did not experience those terrible months the way those who stayed in James Town did). There is a slight bias toward the colonists causing most of the problems with the Natives. I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it to middle grade age kids interested in the founding of Jamestown.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 80
Pages Read in 2018: 19,033
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Middle Grades, Reason: Pre-Reading for Cameron

Bug Island by RG Cordiner

When a cruise ship blows up near an uncharted island, the survivors are attacked by giant (as in 9 foot long) bugs.

Bug Island is a very strange book. Mostly, we (my 10- and 12-year-old sons and I) really did not like it. Often, there were random strings of letters representing sounds. What some of those sounds were supposed to sound like or represent, I have no idea. It was pretty graphic and often gross. Finding out what the bugs were was a bit disturbing and then the end was kind of sudden. The writing, however, was decent. The storytelling jumped between people/groups of people and that was quite effective. Those redeeming qualities just aren’t enough for me to recommend this book. It’s one you’ll probably want to skip.

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 79
Pages Read in 2018: 18,773
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Filed under Fantasy, Reason: Bedtime Story for the Boys

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell

A young mapmaker, Esteban de Sandoval, joins Captain Mendoza on his quest to find gold in the 1500s in the New World. With the gold hidden where no one will ever find it and Captain Mendoza dead, Esteban finds himself on trial for murder, which he denies, and for not giving the king his fifth of the gold, which he admits.

I guess I am just not a Scott O’Dell fan. This is the second book I have read by him and I didn’t care for either of them. The parts of The King’s Fifth that describe the courtroom and the trial are quite interesting, but everything else, which is most of the book, is rather boring. Even a description of a battle with an Indian tribe drags. I kind of wanted the conquistadors to die right then so the book would be over. I liked the premise and how the book went back and forth between what happened finding the gold and what happened in the courtroom. It was just the storytelling that I didn’t enjoy. If there is nothing else available, this book is good enough, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 78
Pages Read in 2018: 18,545
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Reason: Pre-Reading for Cameron, Reason: Pre-Reading for Fritz

Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia by Zu Vincent

Catherine the Great schemed her way from being a minor princess to empress of Russia. She had lots of ideas, some that she never was able to carry out, and could be pretty ruthless when it came to dealing with enemies. This Catherine the Great Wicked History book tells her story and asks if she really was wicked or just did what she had to do to achieve her goals. I highly recommend this book to kids learning about Imperial Russia.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 77
Pages Read in 2018: 18,268
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Filed under History, Middle Grades, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian

Gulliver’s Travels adapted by Nick Eliopulos

Adapted for a younger audience, Gulliver’s Travels is an easy to read chapter book that hits all the main plot points of the classic novel. It’s an excellent book for young kids and can help make it so reading the original later on isn’t so daunting. I highly recommend it to elementary age kids.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 76
Pages Read in 2018: 18,140
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Filed under Children, Classic, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, never really learned how to be a tsar and never really wanted to be one either. While he preferred to hang out with his little family, his wife, four daughters, and hemophiliac son, rebellion was starting among the common workers of Russia. The Family Romanov discusses Nicholas’s reign, Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution, the Romanov family, and the end of Imperial Russia. Scattered throughout the book are writings by regular Russians showing what life was like under Tsar Nicholas. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the events of that time period.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 75
Pages Read in 2018: 18,033
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Filed under History, Reason: Pre-Reading for Cameron, Reason: Pre-Reading for Fritz

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Focusing on several North Korean defectors, Nothing to Envy describes life under Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and (a tiny bit) Kim Jong-un, focusing particularly on the famine in the 90s. It’s quite fascinating to get a glimpse of what life was like for a handful of people, both before and after defection. They represent a wide range of North Koreans including, among others, a scholar, a kindergarten teacher, a doctor, and a true believer. I highly recommend this book to older teens and adults interested in or learning about everyday life in DPRK.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2018: 74
Pages Read in 2018: 17,695
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Filed under Non-Fiction, Reason: Pre-Reading for Cameron