I Made It!! (75 books in 2014!)

I read five books in two weeks to catch up and just barely made it to my goal for 2014…75 books read.

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To be honest, I chose some light reading towards the end,reading three mysteries that Santa brought! But I enjoyed it for a change!

The more serious books include The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, a fast-paced and exciting account of Theodore Roosevelt’s exploratory expedition to map the uncharted River of Doubt in the Amazon jungle. A great book! I felt like I was travelling along with them as they carried their boats through the thick jungle, encountering fierce natives, poisonous snakes and mutinous crew members. It was amazing to read how they took their boats over the steep falls.NOt everyone made it back. A thrilling adventure!

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It took a little more effort to get into the story of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, setting off events that led to World War I. The Assassination of the  Archduke by Greg King and Sue Woolmans tells the story of Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia who died along with him. I thought the authors might be distantly related to the family because they had only praise for the Archduke and  Sophia. They did not provide an objective view and were too lavish in their praise for Sophia. She comes off as a saint!

The book goes on to tell the story of the three surviving children and their lives in Nazi Germany. It was ironic that they were not considered Hapsburgs during their parent’s life but were persecuted as beings such during the Nazi rule.

All in all, I enjoyed finding out the circumstances of this incident that changed history. I would recommend it if you are a history buff.

These are the mysteries I read:

Murphy'sI enjoyed these stories too! Sandra Brown’s book Best Kept Secrets,  was disappointing as it turned out to be a rather graphic romance novel instead of a detective story!




Rush to the Finish Line!

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We began setting reading goals each year when my daughter used to come home for Christmas. We’d gather in the upstairs kotatsu for coffee every evening about 9:00 and  discuss the best books we’d read in the year. This began when she was in high school and continued through college. We decided to each set a goal for how many books we intended to read in the coming year.

For the last ten fifteen years or so, I wrote down the title, author and genre of each book, with maybe a few comments on a book i really liked. It definitely motivated me to read more! Now Goodreads keeps track of what I am currently reading and how close I am to my goal. My challenge for 2014 was to read 75 books! A little ambitious, huh?

I am on #68 but, with only three weeks left till New Years, I don’t think I’m gonna reach my goal. I have read a lot of good books this year though so I guess it is a win-win challenge anyway!

I didn’t have time to blog about what I read the last month so I’ll just catch up with a few quick notes!

Eighty Days:

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History Making Race Around the World

Almost as exciting as Jules Verne himself, the spunky reporter for The World, Nellie Bly set off from New York on a ship to England. Suffering from seasickness the first few days,Nellie soon recovered and made the amazing trip in just 75 days! A monthly magazine that had heard of the challenge, immediately sent free lance writer, Elizabeth Bisland off to circle the globe in the opposite direction, hoping she could beat Nellie and sell more copies at the same time!

This is a fast-moving and readable story.

Life and Death in Shanghai     by Nien Cheng

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I read this book about 30 years ago and bought it again. I know that the author was a Christian and worked for an American oil company in Shanghai before being imprisoned during the cCultural Revolution of 1967.

The rampant Red Guards invaded her home, smashing priceless Ming ceramics, burning antique scrolls and destroying everything in her home. She was taken to a detention center and continually interrogated, urged to confess to  crimes she didn’t commit. Most people broke down and denounced others to gain leniency. But Nien Cheng didn’t give in, even when tortured, even when she became very ill.

It is an amazing story of human endurance in the face of persecution. I enjoyed reading it this time as much as I did the first time!

The Cabinet of Curiosities          by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

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Took a break to re-read a mystery from my favorite detective writers, Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston! This on is particularly creepy and a great read!!

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Nobody Nowhere  by  Donna Williams

The story of a childhood she later pieced together, an inspiring tale of a young autistic woman who managed to overcome her limitations and create a life for herself in spite of an abusive mother and absent father!

The Senator’s Wife                      By Sue Miller

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Another fiction break! I got this for a dollar at the Largo  Library bookstore some years ago and finally took it to bed on a cold night! It was engrossing and kept me up till the wee hours! Good read!

Heart in the Right Place   by Carolyn Jourdan

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Now this was a book I really enjoyed. I guess it is light reading. All true and a very heartwarming story of what happens when a high-powered lawyer form New York returns to her Tennessee rural home to help her father in his small clinic. The colorful characters are quite entertaining and we can’t wait to see what Carolyn will decide in the end! Definitely recommended!

The Lincoln Letter  by   William Martin

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Tracking down a diary that had belonged to Lincoln is the dream of any historian. Taking place in 1864 and the present,  this fast-moving story is simply entertainment. Picked this one up at the Media PA library sale this October!

and yet another mystery!!…

Gone Girl          by Gillian Flynn

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Aunt Annie recommended this,or was reading it when I visited Philly. Have you seen the movie yet? It is a story that keeps us guessing till the end…and surprises us after all!

And just so you won’t think I’ve gone soft with my reading..

A Severe Mercy       by Sheldon Vanauken

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This book contain many heretofore unpublished letters by C. S. Lewis, ANd no wonder as the writer got to know the famous man when he studied at Cambridge. This is a deeply touching story that wery well parallels Lewis’ own tragic love story we can read about in Surprised by Joy. Vanauken’s unique relationship with his wife, the tale of how, both agnostics, they find Christ. An important book about love and loss and what it means to follow Him.

Well, I may not make my 75 book goal but I did read some great books! Nien Cheng, Vanauken, and Carolyn Jourdan in particular!!

Say You’re One of Them


by Uwem Akpan

This first-time work of short stories was amazing. I was especially gripped by the  story ” Fattening for Gabon of child-trafficking in Africa. The thing is..although this is fictional, it has all actually been happening. Reading about the ethnic strife and massacre in Rwanda between Tutsi and Hutu factions is almost surreal…just too bloody and unreal for words. People who were neighbors for years just started killing one another. I wish it were mere fiction. This is what actually happened in Rwanda: Continue reading

Lost Horizon



James Hilton

Visit the mysterious land high in the Himalayas and enjoy the strange story taking place there. A long-time classic, this book keeps you turning pages to se what our protagonist will decide to do in this situation. Fascinating story!

Definitely read British writer James Hilton original which he wrote in just 6 weeks before you see the picture (again?)


The film from 1937 stars Richard Coleman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe as the High Lama. director Frank Capra  apparently mortgaged his home to make  this timeless saga.

I recommend this book for a cold winter evening before the fire or tucked in bed!


Anna Karenina

Read the original before you see the new film version

Read the original before you see the new film version

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

This edition put out by Wordsworth Classics is a marvelous translation that is a joy to read after having struggled through some other classics in very archaic language! The story of Anna and her great love affair and the tragic results kept me reading in spite of the 800 some pages in length!


Set in the 1860’s, just after the serfs were liberated, the struggle for Levin to find good laborers on his rural estate is a backdrop on his own almost failed love affair. We hope for his success and that somehow, he and Kitty will end up together!

Written after War and Peace and published in 1877, some say that this is Tolstoy’s best novel and even the greatest Russian novel. The struggle between what one desires and the moral standards of the society around us is a perennial theme. Once Anna crosses the line, the fact that she is ruined socially no longer matters to her at all. The very act we abhor, once committed, becomes acceptable to us.

At first one feels little sympathy for the stolid Karenin, Anna’s wronged husband. But he suddenly and unexpectedly redeems himself in our eyes when he unconditionally forgives Anna. He is even moved to compassionate action toward Anna’s love child. He becomes a fine character after all.

He was not thinking that the law of Christ, which all his life he had tried to fulfill, told him to forgive and love his enemies but a joyous feeling of forgiveness and love for his enemies, filled his soul.

Tatiana samoilova in the 1967 Russian version

Tatiana samoilova in the 1967 Russian version

Anna and her Count Vronsky are forced to live abroad and she loses custody of her young son. Yet she is very happy …for a time. Soon, however Vronsky is plagued by boredom and Anna begins to realize the magnitude of what she has done in giving up her son.

 I was surprised how readable the story is even after 150 years have passed. Don’t be put off by the length! By all means, read this great Russian classic.
Keira Knightly as Anna

Keira Knightly as Anna