Saturday, January 4, 2014

Books I've Read in 2014

I love reading books meant for all ages.  Any book with stars by it is one I'd consider reading again in the future (or would consider having my kids read in the future) so presumably you (or your kids) might like it too.  If you've read (or wondered about) any of these books feel free to comment -- I'd love to chat with you...  Oh and if you love a book I don't (or vice versa), we can still be friends.

*Stranded Series: Books 1-3, Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts*
Four siblings from a blended marriage find themselves working together to survive when their family vacation goes horribly wrong.  Themes include: survival skills, sibling and step-sibling relationships, knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  Aimed at pre-teens.  Some mature themes that are handled nicely.

The Metro Dogs of Moscow, Rachelle Delaney
JR is a Jack Russel whose human is working in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow.  While in Russia, JR befriends a group of stray dogs and finds himself a part of a mystery that involves missing dogs.  Aimed at pre-teens.

The Shadow of Your Smile, Susan May Warren
Noelle and Eli's marriage has struggled through some serious hardhsips, but now Noelle has had an accident that causes her to lose memory of the last 25 years.  Will Noelle's amnesia bring her and her husband closer together or be the final straw that tears them apart?  

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series, Andrew Clements
This 5 book series was an interesting read complete with mystery and treasure, but there were some slightly morbid parts.  Book 4 was really focused on fr. masons and then that was never brought up in the next book at all(?).  Aimed at pre-teens.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
A 12 year old and her 9 year old brother decide to run away and live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  While living there they get taken up with the mystery of an angel statue thought to be sculpted by Michelangelo.  Aimed at pre-teens. 

Safe as Houses, Eric Walters
This fictional novel is based on the Weston, Ontario flood of 1954.  Three children work together to survive.  One section of the book has what may be a disturbing topic for some readers.  Aimed at pre-teens.

May B, Caroline Starr Rose
This free verse novel tells the story of May -- a young girl who is sent to work for a married couple and finds herself alone in a harsh pioneer winter.  Themes include: survival, dyslexia and the influence teachers can have.  Aimed at pre-teens.

Breaking Stalin's Nose, Eugene Yelchin
This novel tells of a young, Russian boy's disillusionment with Communism.  Good sprinboard for discussions about dictatorship, fear and father/son relationships.  Semi-autobiographical.  Aimed at pre-teens. 

A Vote of Confidenc, Robin Lee Hatcher
Gwen is a confident, single woman who is running for Mayor of Bethlehem Springs in the early 1900s.  Will she be able to hold her own against some strong competition?

Fit to Be Tied, Robin Lee Hatcher
Can a rough and tumble cowgirl find love in 1916 America?  Can a lord from England pull his weight as a ranch hand?  Cleo and Sherwood are each destined for journeys of self discovery in this novel.

Lessons from the Hiding Place, Pam Rosewell Moore
Pam Rosewell Moore was Corrie Ten Boom's constant companion for the last seven years of her life.  This book shares quotes and stories not heard in "The Hiding Place".  

***The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill***
Corrie tells the true story of her family's work in Holland's underground during WWII.  Themes include God's faithfulness, prayer, forgiveness and mercy.  An excellent read or re-read!

A Home in Drayton Valley, Kim Vogel Sawyer
A family struggles to find a place to belong and heads out west on a wagon train.  Themes include: honesty, trusting God and love.

The Heart's Pursuit, Robin Lee Hatcher
This novel tells the adventurous story of a bounty hunter and the woman who hires him.  Themes include: revenge, forgiveness and trust. 

When Hope Blossoms, Kim Vogel Sawyer
Amy is an Old Order Mennonite who is recently widowed and trying to start a new life for her and her children.  Themes include: faith, the love of family and the pain of losing a love one.

Song of my Heart, Kim Vogel Sawyer
While I liked the characters in this novel, I was disappointed with the climax of the plot.  Themes include devotion to family and doing what's right.

Kindred Souls, Patricia MacLachlan
This novel tells the touching story of a boy and his grandpa and the bond that they share.  Jake's grandfather, Billy, wants to rebuild the sod house where he grew up and he gets Jake to join in his planning.  Aimed at Grades 2 - 5, but may be too sad for some.

Four Perfect Pebbles, Lila Perl & Marion Blumenthal Lazan 
This is the true story of a young girl named Marion and her family.  This book highlights their experiences during the Holocaust at refugee, transit and prison camps throughout Holland and Germany.  

Bridge to Haven, Francine Rivers
I liked the first 1/4 of this novel, but then tolerated the rest.  A little too descriptive for me in some places and the book as a whole was twice as long as necessary.  Abra was found abandoned under a bridge as a newborn and spends much of her life looking for love and a sense of belonging.

Pieces of the Past, The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz, Carol Matas
This fictional book moves between two times in the life of Rose as she reflects on her experiences during the Holocaust.  The take away message is that you can never be safe, but at least you can try to be good.  This is a horrible moral of the story in my opinion.  Aimed at pre-teens, but not recommended.

Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear
I enjoyed the plot of this book, but there is a strong New Age vibe throughout the book -- ie: where she envisions white light shooting out of her forehead on two separate occasions and where she feels the "aura" of a murdered person.  I found the New Age emphasis extremely disturbing.

Ask Bethany, Bethany Hamilton with Doris Rikkers
This is a question and answer style book where Bethany answers questions often asked of her.  Bethany's faith in Jesus is clearly seen in her answers and there are even Bible verses based on themes throughout the book.

Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh
Bethany tells the story of how, at the age of 13, she was attacked by a tiger shark while surfing with friends.  One month after losing her arm in the shark attack, Bethany returned to the water and to surfing.  This inspirational story of faith and determination was turned into the 2011 movie Soul Surfer.

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey, Izzeldin Abuelaish
Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinain who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.  He describes his life in Gaza and his experience working in Israel as a doctor.  Three of his daughters and his niece were killed in their home in 2009.  Instead of wanting revenge, Izzeldin's hope is for co-existence and peace.

The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom
Lavinia is a young, Irish girl orphaned on her journey to America.  Lavinia is brought to the captain's house where she lives and works with the slaves of the kitchen house and comes to consider them her family.  As Lavinia gets older she is continually forced to straddle two different worlds. 

Mary Poppins, P.L. Tavers
After watching "Saving Mr. Banks" I was inspired to read this novel.  If you like Disney's version of Mary Poppins, avoid reading this novel at all cost.  Mary Poppins stares at her own reflection much of the time and snaps at the children the rest of the time.  One chapter is very creepy and another has a strong New Age message: "Bird and beast and stone and star -- we are all one, all one ---".  I strongly do not recommend.

***Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, Jack Mayer***
The true inspirational story of Irena Sendler (a Polish Catholic) who saved over 2,500 Jewish children during WWII in Poland.  This novel tells Irena's story and tells of the highschool students who brought her story to light.  A few swear words. 

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
This novel tells the story of a butler who strives for greatness and dignity in all that he does.  Stevens reflects on his life of service while taking a roadtrip to meet an old co-worker.  A bit of a slow read for me.

Below Stairs, Margaret Powell
This memoir is the inspiration for the tv show Downton Abbey.  Margaret retells her experiences in household service and her ongoing journey to better her lot in life.  Some innuendos.  

Sweet Sanctuary, Kim Vogel Sawyer
Lydia is a single parent who is desperate to keep her son safe from his drug addicted father.  Lydia's old friend, Micah, becomes a source of encouragement and help.  Themes include: WWII immigrants, substance abuse and doing what's right.   

Alone, Yet Not Alone, Tracy Leininger Craven 
Check out my review here

Through the Deep Waters, Kim Vogel Sawyer
Dinah is the daughter of a prostitute who is trying to make a new life for herself.  She wrestles with insecurities and wondering whether God (or anyone) could truly love her.  Themes include: jealousy, God's unconditional love and judging others.

A Promise Kept, Robin Lee Hatcher
This novel tells the story of Allison who learn about her great aunt Emma's life in the 1920s and 1930s through a collection of journals.  Themes include: secrets, divorce and unanswered prayers.  

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
This novel tells of the relationship between Lily and her African American housekeeper as well as between Lily and her abusive father.  Themes include: abandonment, looking for belonging and racism.  A made-up Catholic inspired "religion" is paramount throughout the novel which made the novel less enjoyable in my opinion.  

What Once Was Lost, Kim Vogel Sawyer 
Christina runs the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor.  An unexplained fire displaces Christina and all the residents -- including Tommy a young blind boy.  Themes include: secrets, the judgement of others and being saved by Grace.

Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
This novel tells the story of two young cousins who find a near ghost town of summer houses and two elderly residents.  Julian and Portia spend their summer learning about the past and exploring the area.  Some talk of ghosts and witches.  Written in 1957.  Aimed at pre-teens, but a bit long-winded.

Persecuted, Robin Parrish
This novel is a political thriller about religious "equality".  Popular evangelist, John Luther, is accused of murder to silence him and further a political agenda.   Themes in this novel include: standing up for what's right, redemption and betrayal.

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
Sarah and Handful, the slave given to Sarah on her 11th birthday, tell their stories of living in the south during the early 1800's.  Themes include: freedom, slavery and relationships.  Inspired by a true story of two sisters who battled for racial and gender equality.  Some language.

Echoes of Mercy, Kim Vogel Sawyer
This Christian novel is set during the 1900s and tells the story of Caroline -- who is sent undercover to work at a chocolate factory to solve the mystery of the death of the former investigator.  Themes include: trust, secrets, poverty and child workers.

Beloved, Robin Lee Hatcher
This novel is third in the "Where the Heart Lives" series and is a little more mature than the other two.  Diana's "dead" husband, Tyson, returns after a 7 year absence and claims that he has changed and would like a second chance.  Themes include: forgiveness, trust and helping others.    

***Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan***
This pioneer chapter book tells the story of two children whose mom died years ago and how their father tries to find a wife for himself and mother for them.  Themes include: life by the sea vs life on the prairies, finding love and belonging.  Aimed at Grades 2/3 and up, but a great read for any age.

Betrayal, Robin Lee Hatcher
This is a Christian pioneer novel and sequel to Belonging in the "Where the Heart Lives" series.  Hugh and Julia meet unexpectedly and find that they can help each other out.  Themes include: financial troubles, haunting pasts and secrets and betrayal.

***The Auschwitz Escape, Joel C. Rosenberg***
This novel tells the story of Jacob and Luc and how their lives become connected through the events of World War II.  Inspired by true stories of people who were sent to the death camps and the few who were able to escape.  Themes include hope and the desire to share the truth with the world. 

*Belonging, Robin Lee Hatcher*
This is a Christian pioneer novel that tells of a young teacher looking for a fresh start.  Felicia develops a close bond with her struggling student, Charity, and inadvertently for her father as well.  Themes include: the orphan train, the judgement of others and finding a place in the world.    

*Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear*
This novel is a detective novel and Great War novel all rolled into one.  Maisie is a wise and compassionate detective who is searching for the truth for a client.  This search causes her to deal with her own past and to uncover some of the horrors of war. 

***The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis***
This is a classic novel which I always enjoy.  My kids (8 and 10) and I read it together with everyone reading their own parts out loud.  Great themes for discussion: redemption, forgiveness, an allegory of Christ's death and resurrection, etc... 

The Bell Bandit, Jacqueline Davies 
This is book 3 of the Lemonade Ware series.  Jessie and Evan are faced with their Grandma's failing health and the mystery of a missing bell.  Themes include Aspergers and Alzheimers although neither one is mentioned by name.  Aimed at and recommended for pre-teens.  

The Truth of Me, Patricia MacLachlan
This novel tells the story of  a young boy and the relationship he has with his absentee parents and his loving grandma.  Aimed at pre-teens.  An easy read, but some harder themes.

Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek -- Book 1, Jill Osborne 
Check out my review here

Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids -- Book 2, Jill Osborne
Check out my review here

***Someone Named Eva, Joan M. Wolf***
Milada and her family face terrible trials when they are separated by the Nazi's in World War II.  Milada, a young girl from Czechoslovakia, is re-trained to be the perfect German citizen.  Inspired by real events.  Aimed at pre-teens, but a great read for adults too.

Son, Lois Lowry
This is the fourth book in The Giver series which brings closure for the series and its characters.  I was really drawn into the first part, but liked the second and third parts less.  I was back on track by the ending.  Aimed at teens.  

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, Ellis Weiner
This tongue in check novel will have pre-teens chuckling to themselves as they follow Abigail and John on their journey.  Some sarcasm.  Aimed at pre-teens.    

Messenger, Lois Lowry
This is a sequel to The Giver and Gathering Blue.  This novel tells the continuing story of characters introduced in the first two books.  Themes include doing what's right and loyalty.  Special powers are also thrown into the mix.  Aimed at teens.  

***Escape on the Underground Railroad, Nancy LeSourd***
This is a book in the Liberty Letters series that tied into our homeschool outcome of the Underground Railroad and Canada's part in helping to abolish slavery.  Aimed at pre-teens.  Recommended by Desiree (age 10) and me for any age pre-teen and up.

Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver
This sequel to Delirium was hard to get into at first.  I just kept thinking do you or don't you have silverware?  Half way through it picked up pace, but little inconsistencies and predictability in the novel made it frustrating.  Aimed at teens.

Delirium, Lauren Oliver
This dystopian fiction tells of a world where love is considered a disease that you must be cured of.  Lena is looking forward to her procedure until... (dot dot dot).  There was some necessary suspension of belief, but it was an interesting read -- not as violent as other dystopian novels.  Aimed at teens.

*** The Longest Ride, Nicholas Sparks ***
This novel tells the story of two couples -- one couple's story is set during World War II and the other is set in the present day.  Themes include love despite differences, financial struggles, keeping secrets.  Soon to be released as a movie --  I hope it's a great one! 

Pie, Sarah Weeks
This novel tells the story of a young girl and her relationship with her aunt prior to her death.  Themes in this mystery include a secret pie crust recipe, competition and love (in family and friendship).  Aimed at pre-teens.

~❀~ Chelsey ~❀~


  1. Wow--you have a good start on books for the year-- and this is only the 1st of Feb. I haven't even had time to start one yet---Now did you really like the book Pie, Sarah Weeks--would you recommend this?? Sure were friends -- we've chatted before

    1. Hi Dianna, I liked the book "Pie" and would recommend it to most people. I didn't recommend it to my 10 year old daughter to read yet because it does have a loved one who passes away... Let me know what you think of it if you read it!

      PS: If you don't have much time to read -- reading books aimed at pre-teens is a great way to read! Many pre-teen novels are amazing stories!


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