It's hard to believe one quarter of the year has flown by. Here are some of the books I've loved from the first three months of 2020. Some I read, some I listened to. I'm sure you'll find a new favorite. #amreading #amlistening #bookreview #lovetoread #history #mystery #middlegrade #birding

Titan: the Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

by Ron Chernow, Vintage, 2004, 832 pages (about 35 hours).

“John D. Rockefeller, Sr., history’s first billionaire and the patriarch of America’s most famous dynasty, is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, a National Book Award-winning biographer, gives us a detailed and insightful history of the mogul. Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller’s exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book indelibly alters our image of this most enigmatic capitalist.” ~Amazon

Why I loved this Audible Recording

I’ve head the name Rockefeller hundreds of times but had no real concept of the person behind the name. Now I do. From a poor little boy with an absent father to the richest man in American, Rockefeller’s story will inspire everyone with his resilience.

This comprehensive biography aims to give a balanced account of Rockefeller’s life. The author paints him as neither demon nor saint, but a misunderstood man who spent more of his life trying to do good than trying to make more money.

I prefer to listen to biographies while I drive, do housework, or run. Although I love history, I don’t enjoy reading an 832-page book. As with most Audible recordings, I had to play this one at 1.25 speed in order to stay awake.

My Dear Hamilton

by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, William Morrow Paperbacks, 2018, 672 pages (about 23 hours of audio).

“The epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton–a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. In this haunting, moving, and beautifully written novel, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before–not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal–but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.”~ Amazon

Why I Loved This Audible Recording

I don’t usually buy fiction to listen to, but this one showed up in Audible’s ‘Buy 2 for 1 Credit’ sale. The authors’ use of original documents to craft the characters, their feelings, and motivations made this a true historical novel. I don’t recommend listening to (or reading) the final chapters while driving or in public. Don’t ask me how I know.

Amy Snow

by Tracy Rees, Simon and Schuster, 2016, 576 pages (about 16 hours listening)

“It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home.

“But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know. From the grave, she sends Amy on a treasure hunt from one end of England to the other: a treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. Ultimately, a life-changing discovery awaits…if only Amy can unlock the secret.”~Amazon

Why I Loved this Audible Recording

I loved the gentle pace of the book and the fresh ways of describing situations and feelings. If you love Downton Abby and Jane Eyre, you’ll love this book. The historical details of the Victorian era help the reader understand the choices and decisions the characters make.

Managing the Rock Star: A Bad Boy Sweet Romance

by Emma St. Claire, Amazon Digital Services, 2019, 288 pages

“He was her bad boy rock star crush. Now he’s her boss. Keeping it professional should be no problem. Right? 

“Sterling James is a rock star with the bad boy reputation you’d expect. That negative image needs to go if he wants to keep his career on the map. But hiring a gorgeous, feisty strategist is more distraction than a help. Especially when they’re sharing the confines of his tour bus. Reese is a successful social media strategist but fixing the PR mess of her teenage crush might be too much. After a rocky start, Reese needs to keep the boundaries between them clear. Even when her feelings are anything BUT professional.

“When Sterling’s private family problems come to a head at the same time as a PR nightmare, both Reese and Sterling will have a crisis of faith and a choice to make: career or love?”~Amazon

Why I Loved This Book

I know, judging from the cover, this book doesn’t look like the regular kind of book I review. But I’ve become a big fan of Emma St. Clair and her sweet, clean romances. She writes with humor, keeps the reader guessing, and never gets heavy-handed with religion.

You wouldn’t mind lending this book to your granny, your co-worker, or your teenage niece.

The Falcon Thief

by Joshua Hammer, Simon & Schuster, 2020, 324 pages

“A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him.

“On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales.

“So begins a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell-bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.”~Amazon

Why I Loved this Book

I love true-crime stories, and I love birds. This win-win combination will open your eyes to conservation issues and the compulsive sickness some people have to collect things.

Circus Mirandus

Cassie Beasley, Puffin Books, 2016, 304 pages.

Micah Tuttle lives with his grandfather, a whimsical man filled with tales of a mysterious and magical circus. When his grandfather gets sick, and his Great-Aunt Gertrudis comes to take charge, Micah fears that his life will irrevocably change.

And it does. Aunt Gertrudis won’t let him visit Grandpa Ephraim whenever he wants to. She gets angry at any mention of the magical Circus Mirandus, and she makes horrible tea. With everything on his mind, Micah doesn’t have time to spend doing his part on the history project he’s doing with Jenny Mendoza, the new girl at school.

Fortunately, Jenny has plans and brains and doesn’t act like Aunt Gertrudis. She doesn’t believe in magic, but Micah doesn’t hold it against her. 

As Grandpa Ephraim’s health worsens, he writes a letter to the Lightbender, the best magician of all at Circus Mirandus. The Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle, and he’s ready to collect. Micah has his doubts, after all, flying women, incredible magic, butterflies that turn into fairies, and miracles don’t really exist. Or do they?

Micah goes on a rollicking yet poignant journey to convince the Lightbender to fulfill his promise of a miracle for Grandpa Ephraim. Along the way, he meets an endearing cast of characters from Circus Mirandus and discovers the joy of friendship.

Why I Loved This Book

Beasley’s lyrical prose will sweep you into this story from the first page. A beautiful example of magical realism, the author paints word pictures that make me laugh, giggle, and sigh. It’s not often that I feel like underlining things in a middle-grade novel, but I couldn’t resist. Your kids will love the whimsy, you’ll love the words.

The Case of the Missing Auntie

by Michael Hutchinson, Second Story Press, 2020, 168 pages.

“The Mighty Muskrats are off to the city to have fun at the Exhibition Fair. But when Chickadee asks Grandpa what he would like them to bring back from the city, she learns about Grandpa’s missing little sister. She was, they learn, scooped years ago―like many Indigenous children, the government had arranged for her adoption by strangers without her parents’ permission.

“Now the Mighty Muskrats have a new case to solve: uncovering the whereabouts of Grandpa’s long-lost sister. Once in the bright lights of the big city, the cousins get distracted, face off with bullies, meet some heroes and unlikely teachers, and experience many of the difficulties Indigenous kids often face in the city. Their search for their missing auntie takes them all the way to the government and reveals hard truths about their country’s treatment of Indigenous kids and families.”~Amazon

Why I Loved This Book

I loved the Boxcar Children books, but the Mighty Muskrats are even better. First Nations cousins who use their resourcefulness and Native knowledge to solve mysteries. If you have a middle-grader, they’ll love the Mighty Muskrats, too!

For more recommendations for younger readers, check out this post. Let’s take the time during the pandemic to broaden our horizons and read more books written by minorities and marginalized authors.

It's hard to believe one quarter of the year has flown by. Here are some of the books I've loved from the first three months of 2020. Some I read, some I listened to. I'm sure you'll find a new favorite. #amreading #amlistening #bookreview #lovetoread #history #mystery #middlegrade #birding

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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