51. Stardust, Neil Gaiman (3.5 stars) Stardust is a fast paced story that includes fairies and unicorns, witches, quests, and the moon and stars, all intermixed with a bit of historical reality. It seemed to be quite similar to the movie; a lot of fun. See my full review.
52. The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare (4 stars) Junior Fiction that won the Newbery Award in 1962, and is still a great read. Portraying Jewish culture under Roman rule, this book shows the great contrast that Jesus' message of love brought to a young man filled with hate.
53. Writing Christian Fiction, Ron Benrey (3 stars) I bought this book for two reasons: first, my friend had dared me to write a cheesy Christian historical fiction book; and second, I thought it was hilarious to find a "Complete Idiot's Guide" to something Christian. I did end up reading it, and although I didn't find much that was really novel (pun intended) it was also a good concise overview of the writing and marketing process.
54. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith (5 stars) A fabulous book, one of my new forever-favorites. This is definitely one to read over and over again. I might need a few copies. It was an achingly beautiful look at growing up in the tenements of Brooklyn, with strong themes of determination and perseverance, family legacy and social class, love and the struggle to define good and bad. Deeply engaging, with amazing characterization and deceptively simple prose, this is a book not to be missed. See my full review.
55. Black Potatoes, Susan Campbell Bartoletti (4.5 stars) A fantastic summary of the five most intense years of the Great Irish Famine, this book also includes many illustrations dating from the period itself. The author does a great job at showing the bleakness and hopelessness of the situation, delivering staggering statistics, while managing to show the hope and courage in various people at the same. This is a great way to get a basic overview of this important time in history. See my full review.
56. Gods in Alabama, Joshilyn Jackson (1 star) My disclaimer is this: I don't typically read this genre of book, and I didn't know a single thing about it before reading it (dust jacket was missing, so I didn't even have a synopsis.) I found the characters to be two-dimensional, the writing to be overly done at some points and flat at other points, and the plot unengaging and somewhat predictable. That is not to say that the book is boring, it is quickly paced and spirited, just that the subject matter (heavy & serious) didn't match the writing (lighthearted and jocular), and the result was that I didn't care what happened in the story. Perhaps it would be entertaining if you like to escape into a story you don't have to think about? I can't really say because that's not the reason I read. It's not a book I'd recommend.
57. Keeping the House, Ellen Baker (4 stars) Moving back and forth in time between 1897, the World Wars, and 1950, this is the story of Dolly striving to be the perfect housewife in 1950 while trying to discover the mysterious history of the Mickelson house that has captured her fascination. There were a couple of dull parts, but the characters were interesting, and the story kept me hooked. The bits of advice gleaned from the Ladies' Home Journal and other decades-old publications were a fantastic addition. See my full review.
58. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan (3.5 stars) I haven't read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but much of the information in this book was similar information as Food, Inc. which I'd already seen. It was fairly quick to read, and interesting information as well, although not necessarily new for me. There were a couple of points where the author contradicted his own advice, funny enough--he admonished readers to take lightly all the scientific research, yet then suggests eating much less meat and promotes Omega-3s. I guess that's fairly unavoidable, however, and generally speaking this book is worth the read.
59. The Kitchen Boy, Robert Alexander (3 stars) I had high hopes for this book: a short, fictionalized account of the last Tsar's last days. Most of the book, however, was rather boring to read. I also felt like I needed to know more of the history to really enjoy the book, which was rather frustrating.
I don't' know if it is unusual for me, or unknowingly typical to have a 5-star book and a 1-star book in the same month, but it felt kind-of funny. I don't hand out those 5 stars (or the 1 star) very often. When I look back at the month in review, it looks like I read a fair amount, although it didn't feel like it. I still have that panicky-I'm-running-behind feeling in the pit of my stomach. I need to jump into another classic!
Have you read any of these books? Have a review you want to link? What did you read this month?