Allison's Book Bag

2017 Reading Challenge & Review

Posted on: January 3, 2018

  1. Favorite book of the year? Best Friends: The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Sanctuary
    Glen takes readers all the way to the 1980s to before Best Friends Animal Society existed, to when a handful of friends were rescuing animals the way many of us do by taking them home. Thankfully for animal welfare, when these friends dreamed, they liked to dream big. And I mean BIG. In 1982, Francis Battista made a call to his friends telling them that he had found an oasis in the desert that would be perfect for an animal sanctuary. And from then to today, it was five steps forward and at times ten steps back. The group faced opposition from residents, bankruptcy, and the death of their first veterinarian. At a pivotal moment, they also had to decide whether to stay small or to reach out to animal welfare groups across the country…. Best Friends is an inspiring tale of passion put into action!
  2. Picture book I most liked? Hannah is My Name / My Name is Yoon
    Hannah is My Name by Belle Yang is about a Chinese family who emigrate to the United States and try to assimilate while waiting for the arrival of their green cards. The family wants to become Americans more than anything in the world. Why? Because in America one is free. Yet becoming American isn’t easy if one is born elsewhere.
    In My Name is Yoon, a Korean girl starts school for the first time in America. To prepare Yoon, her father teaches her how to write her name in English. But Yoon prefers how her name is written in Korean. Her name looks happy in Korean. The letters seem to dance. She doesn’t want to learn the new way. She wants to go back to Korea. My Name is Yoon tells how a young girl finds her place in a new country in her own time and on her own terms. I laughed and smile … but also understood Yoon’s sadness and frustration, which eventually turns into joy and acceptance. The author, Helen Recorvits, grew up in America. Her grandparents were immigrants from Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine.
  3. Intermediate book I most liked? The Cat Who Came in from the Roof
    Tibbles is so timid that he spends his time reporting about cats and nature, instead of about people. He’s at risk of losing his reporter job, when he meets a lady who can talk to cats because was once had been one. She tells him all the gossip around town, including some secret news, and he writes it all up for the paper. Suddenly he is a star. And she has a home. Except nothing can ever stay perfect. There is a bad guy, a quirky neighbor, a pregnant cat, and…. Next thing you know Tibbles has not only lost his job but also been evicted. Author Annie Schmidt is considered the Queen of Dutch Literature. She’s won several awards, including the Hans Christian Anderson, and is included in the canon of Dutch history taught to all school children.
  4. Middle School book I most liked? Clementine
    Readers of the classic Ramona books need look no further than Clementine by Sara Pennypacker for another lovably-rambunctious character. Clementine’s week hasn’t been going so well. She’s been sent to the principal’s office for cutting off her friend’s hair. Margaret’s mom has refused to allow the two girls to be alone together. The disastrous week is made worse partly because of the effort Clementine puts into making everything right again, including trying to glue Margaret’s hair back on and offering to sacrifice her own hair. Like Ramona, nothing Clementine does comes from a mean heart, but rather from a creative mind. Clementine is quirky, hilarious, and unforgettable.
  5. Young adult book I most liked? Extraordinary
    Extra Ordinary is a delightful debut novel about friendship. The main character of Pansy, who is quiet and fearful but also exuberant and determined, won my affection. I also admire the author, Miriam Spitzer Franklin, for creating a sweet but realistic story about disabilities. Just as what lies at the end of Pansy’s year isn’t exactly what she had expected, so I too was surprised at plot twists in Extra Ordinary, and both are good things.
  6. Adult book I most liked? The Cat Who / Therein Lies a Tail
    In The Cat Who Smelled a Rat, the 24th book, the residents of the small town of Pickax located in Moose County “400 miles north of everywhere” have two concerns. The first concern is how late the arrival of the Big One is; residents are becoming increasingly anxious about wildfires, which the first snow storm of the season would help obliterate. The second concern naturally involves murder. I enjoyed Braun’s fast-paced style, her focus on one main character through whom I meet residents and hear community gossip, her creation of a town which bubbles with personality and of course the cats. Although the cats are often in the background, they’re still prevalent in the story. They air their opinions of James’ redecorating efforts, predict changes in weather and newsworthy occurrences and, just as important, provide clues to James as to the murderer’s identity.
    The Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn have the most unusual quality of being narrated by a dog. To date, the series contains eight regular novels and four behind-the-scenes books. In Thereby Hangs a Tail, the second book in the series, Chet and Bernie are hired to investigate threats against the unlikely target of a pampered show dog named Princess. Although the series reads more like a thriller than a cozy mystery, I’ve become a fan due to the style, characters, and the location.
  7. Advanced Reader Copy I most liked? Gabby Duran
    Gabby Duran is a name you’ll remember. She’s the world-renowned babysitter in a hilarious science fiction series by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners for middle schoolers. What makes Gabby so famous? The fact that she’s sought by leaders and celebrities all over the world for the most impossible babysitting jobs. What classifies the books as science fiction? The fact that the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors hires Gabby as babysitter of aliens. To date, the series has three titles. All are fast-paced, action-packed, and will have high appeal to reluctant and avid reader alike.
  8. Nonfiction book I most liked? Rescuing Penny Jane
    Sutherland talks to shelter directors, researchers, trainers, adoption counselors, and caretakers across the United States to build her understanding of animal rescue.  Through Rescuing Penny Jane, I learned that today some shelters exist more as consultants than warehouses so that owners might stay united with their pets…. Sutherland also draws on her own experiences with rescue dogs to fill out her narrative. I appreciated how honest she is about her failings. She openly calls her first dog “canine training wheels” and refers to his fear linoleum and ceiling fans. I also enjoyed her ability to balance the serious with the humorous. Soon after Sutherland began volunteering at a local shelter, she found herself tackling the mammoth issue of how to find enough homes for all the dogs, but she also quickly realized that an equally important question was the issue of how to pull a halter onto a stir-crazy German Shepherd in the tight confines of a kennel. Rescuing Penny Janeis one of those books that was so good I couldn’t put it down, but for that reason I was also disappointed when it ended.
  9. Educational book I most liked? Gifts of Imperfection
    The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to a wholehearted life. The first five chapters provide the research and philosophy behind the book, while the remaining ten chapters provide ten guideposts to the wholehearted life. What’s a wholehearted life? It’s about being real in the very truest sense, the way that the Velveteen Rabbit was. It’s about putting oneself out there, being vulnerable and honest, while also finding belonging and love.
  10. Animal book I most liked? One at a Time
    The stories presented are based on the experience of the authors during one week in a typical animal shelter in California. When the authors arrived at the shelter, kennels were almost full, with 238 animals being cared for. By the end of the week, another 125 had arrived. For the book, the authors choose a random selection of animals, and then took the time to get to know them. They learned the circumstances that had caused the animals to be at the shelter, and then followed their stories throughout the week without knowing what the end would be.
  11. Special interest book I most liked? 50 Women Every Christian Should Know
    Everyone wants and needs role models. One handy reference guide is 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha. Published in 2014, the selections begin with the early 1100’s and end with the mid-1900s, and they include figures lesser known to me such as Dorothy Day along with those more familiar to me such as Madeleine L’Engle. What I most appreciated is that DeRusha dedicates an average of six to eight pages to each heroine. This allows her to weave a story, while at the same time provide enough detail to encourage further reading, which one can do by looking up her sources that our listed in the back pages.
  12. Book I can’t believe I waited to read? Catification
    What do you get when a cat behaviorist and a cat-friendly environment designer team up to write a book? You get a colorful and informative guide to designing a happy and stylish home for your cat. Catification is written by Jackson Galaxy, the host of My Cat from Hell, and Kate Benjamin, the founder of the cat design website Hauspanther. Together they walk readers through a step-by-step process of designing an attractive home that is also an optimal environment for cats.
  13. Best book I reread? Hiding Place / Gates of Splendor
    Though Gates of Splendor recounts the story of five young missionaries who were killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is written by Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of Jim Elliott, one of the young men who was killed.
    The Hiding Place is the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom who lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi invasion in World War II. She and her family were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews. One can only hope to show similar courage, if in the same situation.

This past year has been full of life changes: a new job, a new house, my citizenship, and a visit from my family for the first time since my wedding. As such, last January when I discovered Brene Brown feels like such a long time ago. As does last April when I read immigration books in light of political unrest and last June when I read animal welfare books as part of a plea for unity among those in the field. By the time that December came around, I needed some light-reading, which I found in animal cozy mysteries. How did your year go? What books were your favorite reads from 2017?

On Friday, I’ll return a tribute to young adult authors whom we lost in 2017. And then? I plan to try something new at Allison’s Book Bag. At the end of each month I’ll report on my reading activities and pick my favorite books to review in the following month. As I’ve been doing for the past few years, I’ll also share highlights of my writing publications and other activities. Join me for another year of reading and blogging fun!


4 Responses to "2017 Reading Challenge & Review"

I’m so glad you enjoyed Gabby — thanks so much for reading it!!!!

Gabby was fun! I look forward to the next title in the series. 🙂

You love to read like I love to read. I love how you did this post. Gives those of us who may not have read one of these your review in a fun way.

Have a fabulous day. ♥

Thanks! I’m glad this post worked for you.

It’s taken a few years to figure out an efficient way of doing it. The graphic is derived from my Goodreads Reading Challenge and the descriptions come from reviews I’ve written.

Have a great weekend!

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Happy New Year!

Allison’s Book Bag is currently on hiatus. I will return after a much-needed rest with reviews of Advanced Reader Copies including: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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