Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Year of the Century: 1876 by Dee Brown

The Year of the Century: 1876 by Dee Brown discusses several events over the course of the 100th anniversary year of the United States. Quite a bit of the book is devoted to the election and results/lack of results that ran right up until about a week before inauguration day 1877 (which was in March back then). It also spends a lot of time discussing the Centennial Celebration. Also addressed are other events such as Custer’s Last Stand, the first superfast (max speed: 60mph) transcontinental train ride, the Women’s Suffrage movement, and larger than life people form the Wild West like Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, and Billy the Kid.

The book is well researched and includes many references and an index. It certainly is a complete overview of one year in the life of our country. It tries to give the information in story format, but, unfortunately, more often The Year of the Century: 1876 reads like a textbook. Parts are fascinating and told in rich detail. Other parts were dreadfully dry and boring. Even so, it’s a decent read for people interested in US History or wanting to know more specifically about the centennial year of our country.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 7
Pages Read in 2015: 1961
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)
Applied to Category for Special Reading Challenge: A Book With a Number in the Title

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Filed under Non-Fiction

Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara by Daisy Piper

First, there’s the strange words appearing in her breakfast cereal. Then, an odd man shows up at her school to give her a special 12th birthday present that sends her looking for the door in the floor in her backyard. Callie and her best friend Lewis (and Wanda, a bully who follows them) end up in a magical land called Albion where Callie learns that she is really a princess who was foretold to be the one to save the Albians from her aunt, the evil Raven Queen. Callie embarks on a crazy journey of getting to know her grandmother, learning how to harness her own magical powers, falling in love with her own baby dragon, and, ultimately, softening her heart toward her father getting remarried up in the land of Ur (our world according to the Albians).

Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara by Daisy Piper is a wonderful, fun story. I read a chapter a night to my 6 and 8 year old sons and all three of us looked forward to our daily dose of Callie and Albion. I wasn’t sure if the boys would like a book about a princess, but they were both totally sucked in! The older one even said to me one night, “Sometimes when you read this book, it’s like I’m in the story, too!” As soon as I finished the book, they both came up with a list of reasons why they hoped there were more Callie books (there are). I wholeheartedly recommend Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara to all, young and old!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 6
Pages Read in 2015: 1589
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)
Applied to Category for Special Reading Challenge: A Book With Magic

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Filed under Fantasy, Middle Grades

Tedd and Todd’s Secret by Fernando Trujillo Sanz

A man wearing a black suit is killed by having his head cut off with a sword by a man wearing a white suit. Even stranger, the two men are identical except the man in white, surnamed White, has blond hair and blue eyes and the man in black, surnamed Black of course, has dark hair and eyes. And so begins Tedd and Todd’s Secret by Fernando Trujillo Sanz, a strange tale of two gangs/families, the Blacks and Whites, as they hunt and kill each other, using medieval weapons, all across London. Add in a cop on the verge of a breakdown due to his wife’s death five years prior, a reporter with a thing for the cop, a filthy rich man who likes to sue people just for the fun of it, a strange violet-eyed pair of an ancient man and his child companion, a bunch of other random characters thrown in for good measure, and a malfunctioning Big Ben, and you end up with a mess of a book.

Often when a book has problems like Tedd and Todd’s Secret does, I feel like in the hands of another author, it would have been great. That is not the case for this book. The premise is crazy and not very explainable. Tons of characters are introduced rapidly and some are not mentioned again for several chapters. It made it very confusing. With the exception of Tedd and Todd, all the characters sound exactly the same. The most annoying thing about the book was the writing. It was just plain terrible. The overuse of commas was insane. Properly placed commas are important. Adding, commas for no, particular reason makes, no sense (the randomly placed commas in this sentence give an idea of the randomly placed commas in the book). There were many misspellings and quite a few times the wrong word was used altogether (for example, upholstered was used to refer to the act of removing a gun from its holster). Words and phrases were repeated often (example: He went he went to bed). The grammar was atrocious. And some of the choices of words were not great (example: “That’s my secret,” he whispered secretly). There was a definite and severe need of an editor for this book! The saving graces, and why I gave the book 2 stars instead of 1, are the action was steady and interesting and the ending was pretty good. For the most part, though, it was just so bad. I wouldn’t recommend anyone bother reading it.

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 5
Pages Read in 2015: 1299
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn is told from 12 year old Molly’s point of view. Molly’s 7 year old step-sister Heather is a very troubled little girl who lost her mother in a fire four years before the book begins. The blended family moves to a converted church complete with a graveyard. Heather finds a small gravestone marking the grave of a 7 year old child identified only as H. E. H. (which happen to be Heather’s initials, too). Molly soon discovers that Heather has made friends with Helen, the ghost of this child. Helen’s ghost is miserable and mean and wants Heather to die so they can be together. Molly realizes she needs to save Heather from Helen, but Heather doesn’t want to be saved.

I read Wait Till Helen Comes the first time in the mid-1980s. I was uncharacteristically drawn to the book (I usually don’t like anything the least bit scary) because I was only slightly older than Heather and we shared a first name and middle initial and also lived in the same state. I loved the book as a child and read it over and over. It had been a long time since I read it, though it must have made an impression since I always remembered it, and I was happy to discover I still enjoyed it after all these years. It is just creepy enough to be a good ghost story, but it’s not too scary. I wholeheartedly recommend Wait Till Helen Comes!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 2
Pages Read in 2015: 584
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)
Applied to Category for Special Reading Challenge: A Book From Your Childhood

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Filed under Middle Grades

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Picking up right where the first book ended, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs follows Jacob and the other Peculiars as they travel from their island in Wales to 1940 London. They visit a loop inhabited by strange animals, but, unfortunately, the ymbryne they need to turn Miss Peregrine back into her human form is not there/ They continue their journey in a race against time, meeting other peculiar children along the way and visiting two more loops all the while trying to avoid wights and hollows.

Hollow City is almost as good as the first book, something I often find to be unusual about second books in a series. There are a few places where the story drags, but the action sequences totally make up for it. The farther I got into the book, the harder it became to put it down. The end, while a definite lead up to a third book, is satisfactory. I was sad to reach the end and look forward to the next book!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2015: 1
Pages Read in 2015: 400
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)
Applied to Category for Special Reading Challenge: A book you started but never finished (This category was a hard one for me because I always finish books. I think I stopped reading a book one time, but I don’t remember the book or if I really never finished it. So, I decided this category could be completed by slightly adjusting it. I started this one in 2014, but did not finish it until 2015. Cheating, yes, but it’s the only way this particular challenge category would get done.)

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Filed under Fantasy