Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

Marcus Aquila’s son, Flavius, along with his cousin Justin are young members of the legion. They cross the wrong person and must flee. When they chance upon the eagle hidden by Marcus years before, they know they must rally the right people to save Roman Britain.

If I wasn’t pre-reading this series for my son to read next year in school, I would not have read The Silver Branch after reading the first book in the series. This would have been a mistake. The Silver Branch was so much better and more enjoyable. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history (it’s not totally necessary to read the first book first).

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 53
Pages Read in 2016: 13,372
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Historical Fiction

The Valley of the Lost by Emily Rodda

Lief, Barda, and Jasmine are searching for the diamond, the last gem they need to complete the Belt of Deltora. They visit Tora where they are surprised things are not as they expected to find them. After they are warned by Doom not to proceed to the Valley of the Lost, they go anyway, knowing that is where the diamond is to be found. There they encounter the Guardian and his four evil pets and must play his game to discover his true name in order to win the final gem.

The Valley of the Lost is the second to last book in the Deltora Quest series. There are two very unexpected twists that make it quite exciting. I highly recommend this book and all the other books in the Deltora Quest series.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 52
Pages Read in 2016: 13,188
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Middle Grades

The Man They Killed on Christmas Day by Catalin Gruia

The description for The Man They Killed on Christmas Day says it is a “concise journalistic account of Ceausescu’s life.” What it should really say is that it is an extraordinarily brief overview that skips pretty much everything he did to the Romanian people. It mentions the abortion laws and the dramatic decline of the economy in the 80s, but it doesn’t really give any indication as to why the Caeusescus were sentenced to death. It doesn’t really give any indication as to why the people of Timisoara rebelled. It doesn’t even really answer the question it promises to address: Who was the “real” Nicolae Ceausescu? There is just way too much missing and is not really worth the time it takes to read it (which isn’t much – it is quite short and really barely able to be called a book).

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 51
Pages Read in 2016: 13,025
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under History, Non-Fiction

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

As the flood waters rose in Williamsport, PA, my very pregnant great-great-grandmother escaped out of an upstairs window along with her two-year-old daughter and pig. Even though Williamsport was quite a distance from Johnstown, the water caused destruction there, too. Two and a half months later, my great-grandfather was born safe and sound (and my great-great-grandfather chose to rebuild the family home on higher ground in case another flood was ever to occur). Because of my family’s connection to that flood, I’ve always wanted to read The Johnstown Flood. It is typical McCullough. Well researched, very detailed, and long. Everything you ever wanted to know about the flood (why, who, and what) and more is explained. It includes a list of the many people who were killed in the flood. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 50
Pages Read in 2016: 12,923
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Filed under History, Non-Fiction

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Because of her father’s supposed crimes, in 1941, 15-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother are forced from their home in Lithuania and sent to Soviet work camps, first a beet farm and then cutting wood in Siberia, while her father is sent to a Soviet prison. Even though life is hard and sickness and death is all around, the will to live is strong. Lina find solace, and holds on to a bit of herself, through her art, always hoping to get back home.

The deportation by Stalin of people from the Baltic States is not a well-known part of World War II. In America, we grew up hearing about Hitler and the Holocaust, but Stalin, the leader of one of our allies, was carrying out mass deportations, too, and many of those people died in the work camps and prisons they were sent to. Between Shades of Gray is a beautiful and sometimes heartwrenching book. It tells the story of what it was like to be one of the deported from the point of view of a teenager living through it. I highly recommend this book!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 49
Pages Read in 2016: 12,619
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Historical Fiction

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

A year and a half after the Taliban took over Kabul, Afghanistan, Parvana’s father is arrested leaving 11-year-old Parvana, her mother, her older and younger sisters, and toddler brother to fend for themselves. Because of Taliban rules, Parvana’s mother and older sister cannot be seen without a burqa and cannot be out of their house without a male escort. Since the family still has to eat, the only solution is to turn Parvana into a boy named Kaseem and send her out to work in the marketplace to support the family.

The Breadwinner is the first book of the Breadwinner series. At times it made me angry because while the story is fiction, it could have happened and could still be happening, all because of horrible people imposing their will on innocent families. The story moves along slowly, but steadily. I recommend it to adults, teens, and older children.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 48
Pages Read in 2016: 12,235
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under Realistic Fiction

The Story of the World 4 (Modern Times) by Susan Wise Bauer

The Story of the World 4 (Modern Times) by Susan Wise Bauer covers the period of time from Mexican independence from Spain (1821) through the end of the 20th century (with a minor touch on 9/11 in the afterword). The history is told more or less chronologically in an easy to understand format perfect for elementary age (grammar stage) kids. This book is an excellent jumping off point for homeschoolers teaching modern history. I highly recommend it.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2016: 47
Pages Read in 2016: 12,065
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (more book reviews!)

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Filed under History, Non-Fiction