2016 Reading: First Half

Aug 1, 2016

I made a goal to read 70 books this year. At the end of June, I had only finished 34 (and that was with a lot of shorter books worked into the mix), so I'm not feeling overly confident about the second half of the year. I think the fact that I'm posting this a month late also shows that I'm just behind on everything right now, which is not something I enjoy. Looking on the bright side though, I read many good books during the first six months of the year, including three that I'm pretty sure will make it onto my favorites list at the end of the year. Here's a recap (book titles are linked to full reviews):

1. Lulu and the Hamster in the Night by Hilary McKay, 5/10
I kicked off 2016 by being a Round 2 judge for the Cybils Early Chapter books category. This was the first title I read, and even though I'm not going to rush out and read the rest of the series, I have no problem recommending it to an eight-year-old.

2. Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon, 8/10
This one, on the other hand, I liked well enough to then check out the first one in the series. And if Abby Hanlon writes any more books about Dory, I will read them. (Update: Dory Dory Black Sheep comes out on September 20th!)

3. My Pet Human by Yasmine Surovec, 2/10
Creative premise, disappointing execution.

4. Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner, 2/10
I'm always on the lookout for excellent historical fiction for the 7-10 year-old set. This one, unfortunately, is not going on the list.

5. The Lake House by Kate Morton, 8/10
I still like The Secret Keeper more, but I'd be lying if I didn't say this one pulled me in and didn't let me go until the end.

6. Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale, 4/10
It was fine, but I was very much aware that I was reading kids' lit.

7. The Case of the Snack Snatcher by Liam O'Donnell, 3/10
This one felt too much like it was trying to feature a special needs character, and so the mystery itself fell flat for me.

8. Clover's Luck by Kallie George, 7/10
I was pleasantly surprised by this one and would recommend it to elementary-aged kids.

9. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, 10/10
A re-read for me. I enjoyed every bit of it. I am more comfortable with who I am and my own hopes and dreams because of this book.

10. My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke, 6/10 (audio)
I love Dick Van Dyke, but I lost interest during the second half of this book.

11. Ragweed by Avi, 9/10 (readaloud)
Aaron read this first and then begged for me to read it aloud. If that's not a glowing endorsement, I don't know what is. (Also, if you like fun accents, this is the perfect readaloud for you.)

12. The Children Act by Ian McEwan, 5/10 (audio)
This makes for a great book club discussion, but let that be your warning: you'll want someone to discuss it with.

13. Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy, 7/10
I have not read very many books about the Great War, so even though this one was targeted towards a younger audience, I learned a lot from it.

14. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt, 2/10 (audio)
Ugh. I know several friends who love this book, but I think the audio version might have ruined it for me.

15. Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon, 8/10
I read this myself and then had to share it with my kids because Dory was just too delightful to keep to myself.

16. Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol, 7/10 (readaloud)
My brother loved these books as a kid, so I read one aloud so my kids would get hooked, too. We loved solving the mysteries together.

17. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, 8/10 (readaloud)
So good. Caddie has some serious spunk but also a tender heart.

18. Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein, 5/10
I would have liked this book a lot more if the library had actually been a cool library and not some technological showcase.

19. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, 9/10
I didn't think I could love a graphic novel about roller derby, but I did. Really top notch.

20. Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson, 7/10
The loose morals in this book (published in 1938) were shocking, but Miss Pettigrew herself was a model of decorum.

21. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, 10/10 (audio)
I loved everything about this book: the multi-layered characters, the rich language, the quiet story. Five stars all the way.

22. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, 2/10 (audio)
Book club certainly helped me appreciate this book more, but I still didn't like it.

23. Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary, 10/10 (readaloud)
Ramona is the comfort food of books for me.

24. One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale, 8/10
I've been recommending this graphic novel series to anyone who has kids who love historical fiction.

25. Rascal by Sterling North, 6/10 (readaloud)
We loved parts of this book, but some of it was slow and tedious.

26. The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge, 7/10
This memoir about how befriending a refugee family helped heal Sarah Thebarge after the trauma of breast cancer was inspiring and touching.

27. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, 7/10
There were a lot of hard things in this WWII novel, and at times I found it erring towards the dramatic, but I liked it.

28. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, 8/10 (readaloud)
This one has so many great adventures, and my kids were absolutely enthralled.

29. Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, 7/10
The main character is quite a bit older than what is common for most middle grade novels, but it works in this one.

30. By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman, 9/10 (readaloud)
What an absolutely delightful adventure story.

31. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, 8/10 (audio)
There were things about the book I didn't love, but Ove made up for almost all of them.

32. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier, 10/10
I read this book, and then Aaron read it, and then the whole family listened to it on audio. And just like that, it has become one of our very favorites.

33. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, 8/10 (audio)
Another re-read. It was fun to read the story while knowing what the twist was going to be. I was just as impressed as the first time I read it.

34. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, 10/10
Oh wow. So heartbreaking, but what a powerful memoir.

Our recent trip helped me close some of the gap, but without any more ten-hour plane rides in my immediate future, I think it's going to be difficult to maintain my lead.

What have you been reading lately?


  1. We adore Beverly Cleary's books! We're listening to Henry Huggins in the car, and it has made for some fun rides. I just finished Salt to the Sea, and recommend it! Thanks for the list! I need to add some to my library list!

    1. You're the third person who has recommended Salt to the Sea! I must read it!

  2. Man 70 books is quite the feat! Some of these I've read or heard of and a lot I haven't so I'm excited for more recommendable reads. I'm actually about to get A Man Called Ove at the library. I saw that you and Suzanne did a book blab about it so I'm interested to hear both of your reviews after I finish. And Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is one that I'm excited to read as well. I love a good children's fiction!

  3. I've been working on finishing John Adams. I started it last summer in New York! (Sad.) I've been reading regularly, but not for long periods of time, so it's taking awhile, but I'm enjoying it.

    I own some books that I've probably read 5-10x during my lifetime (Beverly Cleary, Gerald Lund, even a couple textbooks and a Jodi Picoult. They are my comfort food of books!)

    Thanks for the list.

    1. John Adams is a hefty one, but I've heard it's so amazing! I'm interested in which Jodi Picoult book you return to regularly? I've never read anything by her and would love a tried and true one to start with!


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