Guest Post! — 7 Quick Books

Hey, I know the world ended on Tuesday and everything, but  they can have my seven quick takes

when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.  By which I mean we never really planned to put the computer in this area, so there is no heat in my workspace.  My hands hurt.  Stupid winter.  I blame Obama.  And Ron Paul, Mark Shea, Jane Fonda, Ashton Kutcher, Burt Bacharach and effing overrated Joan Miro.  I’m sorry, what is that?  Is that a chicken, some tinker toys, and a piece of macaroni?  Wow, that’s nice.  Here’s a million dollars.

Today’s post was written by my fourteen year old daughter, who is just as cranky as I am, but who hides it better.  Hoping to diversify my “50 books” list, I asked her what her favorite book was these days.  She said, “Just a minute!” and dashed upstairs.  A short while later, she came down and casually tossed onto my desk two pages of single-spaced book reviews of her seven favorite books.  This is what she said:
1.  Leviathan by Scott Westerfield
An excellent alternate history sci-fi novel.  It takes place in Europe during World War I, but a Europe that is divided into two opposing forces:  Clankers, who have steampunk machinery, and Darwinists, who have genetically engineered “beasties” for performing everyday tasks.  There’s also romance, action, snappy dialogue, lovable characters, and amazing ink drawing in every chapter that will keep you turning the pages around the clock.

2.  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Despite being dead for several decades, Tolkien is still the reigning king of fantasy.  If you haven’t read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings yet, then now is the time to start.

3.  Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Even more than his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Dirk Gently and its sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul showcase Adams’ ability to portray the insanity of normal people.  A lot of strange, screwed-up, and/or wicked funny things happen, and in the end it turns out that every one of them is connected.

4.  The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The plot is devilishly complex, and the main character is sympathetic and appealing from the very beginning of the novel.  There are two sequels which I have yet to read, but my cousin says they are actually better.  Inconceivable.

5.  A Dog’s Life:  The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin
Despite common misconception, Ann M. Martin of Babysitter’s Club infamy is not a bad writer.  When she’s not writing about whiny, babysitting obsessed teenagers, Martin is actually a wonderful writer.  A Dog’s Life is one of the most bittersweet and touching novels I’ve ever read.  Luckily, it has a happy ending.

6.  The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson
Realistic fiction about adolescents with troubled pasts is hardly my cup of tea, but Katherine Patterson is the only person who can make it readable.  Even wonderful.

7.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Kit is a girl from Barbados, and when she moves in with her Puritan relatives, she refuses to act like a decent Puritan girl and behaves as though she is still free as she was on her island home.  Not to sound sappy, but it’s really a timeless novel.

Okay, this is me, Simcha, again.  I have to say that I HAVE NOT READ ALL OF THESE BOOKS.  I know you’re supposed to be all up on what your kids are reading, but dude, I have nine kids.  That Leviathan one and The Thief make me a little  nervous (although not as nervous as I was when I thought she was telling me that she was reading Thomas Hobbes for pleasure.  I thought I had given birth to an alien). But I did realize that, even if my daughter is reading books she’s not supposed to be reading, she would be smart enough not to let me know that she’s reading books she shouldn’t be reading.  So I think this is a pretty safe list.

Happy Friday, and don’t forget to check out the other seven quick takes by people who probably had to actually do the writing themselves, ha-ha!



  1. “Gilly Hopkins” is awesome– I almost forgot about it, so thanks for the reminder! And that Leviathan sounds like a must-read. Great list, very well-written.

  2. The Thief is an excellent book. And the sequels are amazing too. But there are actually 4 books in the series: 1) The Thief, 2) The Queen of Attolia, 3) The King of Attolia, and 4) A Conspiracy of Kings.

  3. The Leviathan series is wonderful (There are 3). Westerfield wanted to recapture the ‘bookiness’ of the book, and make something that was too beautiful to read on a Kindle. So he gives us thrilling plots, gorgeous illustrations, and a good old fashioned riproaring adventure. I’d actually let my 9 year old read them. A few kisses, no sex… lots of swordfighting, explosions, spying, intrigue, an appearance by Tesla— whats not to like?

    I also like his “Uglies” series, but more for the 14-16 range, not for a nine year old. It’s a bit too dark…

  4. Had to send this list to my 14-year-old daughter since The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of her favorites too. Thanks for the all the book suggestions!

  5. I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond — I hope my kids will read it soon (oldest is 12 . . .). And your daughter is a solid thinker and good analyzer.

  6. My husband and I both LOVE The Thief. I wish I could forget the book and read it again fresh. My husband agrees that the sequels are better. I am giving it to my 13yo niece for her birthday. Your daughter has good taste! 🙂

  7. I also have to second The Witch of Blackbird Pond – I first read it in 5th grade, and still enjoy it as an adult. I think there are at least 3 copies floating around my house…just in case one goes missing. Both of my daughters (now 19 & 22) enjoyed it as well.

  8. I’ve only read “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” and “The Hobbit” off this list, but I did greatly enjoy the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” so I’m confident Douglas Adams can’t write crappy books. 😉 I’ll have to check the rest of them out!

  9. Is there a link to get to Amazon? I bet you can buy a sweet little space heater on Amazon… And yes, I am retarded when it comes to computers, but JOY! My sweetie is coming home from college today to fix my account problem :):):) AND it’s Friday. Your young lady book reviewer is adorable. I’m still stunned at how much my kids DO tell me, like why that phone was left in a taxi last weekend, how much the party in the city actually sucked, ,,and gosh could you please get me a new iphone to replace the one I lost Mama? … All this knowing the one she lost was better than her parents’ phones!! Of course I’m going to. She rides the bus in OAKLAND at 10pm every night!
    Now I’m off to google Joan Miro to find out who she is and why she’s effing.

    • Anna Lisa, I haven’t been able to get a general Amazon link for my homepage yet, but if you click on any of the links in this post, you will get to Amazon. So you’ll be at the page of a specific book, but you can keep shopping for anything you want from there. As long as you originally got to Amazon through one of my links, I get credited for whatever purchases you make.

      Enjoy having your kid at home! None of mine have moved out yet, but they’re gone more and more, so I see how it will be.

      • Do you know what happens to your credit if I put the book in my shopping cart and it stays there for a while? Also, do you get credit for the whole shopping cart (hoping) even if it has items that didn’t come from a session linked from your blog? Not sure that makes any sense but I’m happy to direct $ your way for items I’m buying anyway!

        • You’re so nice! I only get credit once a book or other item is actually purchased. And I only get credit for items put into the shopping cart if you got to Amazon through one of my links. But please don’t go taking things out of your cart and putting them back just for me! Unless they’re really expensive, of course, ha ha.

          But seriously, I really appreciate people going to the trouble. I know shopping through Amazon can be confusing enough, so I’m really touched that you’re thinking of me as well as all the other steps that go into picking stuff out.

  10. Oh I gotcha. Am I the only person on the planet left besides my Mom who is lacking computer savvy? Between that and the Joan Miro comment, I’m going to go take a capsule of fish oil for my poor brain, but hey Joan Miro and Joan Miro with a tilde over the o make a damn lot of difference. (blushing)
    And yeah, old lady comment forthcoming:
    They’re gone before you know it.”

    • Well, I’m not computer savvy enough to figure out how to make the tilde go over the letter, so I guess we’re evenly matched.

  11. Ok, I need to get to a library. I have heard Leviathan and The Thief recommended so many times, I need to get my hands on those! Please thank your daughter for her reviews.

  12. Hobbes for pleasure? I suppose it is better than reading Nietzsche, as my teenaged son did. It’s one of the dangers of owning a Great Books set and still having copies of books read in college on our shelves. After the Nietzsche messed with his mind, we did tell him the “Freud” volume was off-limits until he was in college.

    Not to be nit-picky (or to ruin your entire day), but it technically is still autumn, not winter. It is only going to get colder, honey. I’d say what my choleric German husband always tells me – living in this old, drafty, insulation-free house builds character – but every cold season, I still feel like strangling him when he utters those words and still engage in heated (ha, ha) debate about how wrong he is and how stupid it is to be this ***** cold in the first world!

  13. I LOVE Leviathan! It’s such an amazing story. Not all of Scott Westerfeld’s books are squeaky clean, but this series is.

  14. Yay, more books for my reading list. I may also be able to use some of these to lure my 11 year old away from Harry Potter, Star Wars and Warrior Cats…not that there is anything wrong with those but I would like a bit more diversity. Still haven’t convinced her to read Anne of Green Gables even though she is her long lost sister.

  15. How do you know which are truly decent, engaging books and not the they-never-even-hinted-in-the-synopsis-of-the-crude-and-excruciatingly-detailed sex scenes thrown in that I didn’t see coming? I’ve read books that were intriguing and interesting and then seemingly out of nowhere the author takes a triple-X turn and there went my thoughts of sharing what I thought was a great book with my older teen daughter. Who is an adult now but still. Since I was a teen I’ve randomly picked up books at libraries, through friends and from bookstores that were ruined for me because I didn’t think the crudeness was necessary to the furtherance of the story. Is it just me? How do you feel comfortable letting a teen pick out any book to read without their parent having read it first?

    • It’s not just you. I don’t feel comfortable! But it’s just a fact that I can’t read all the books they read. I don’t have the time, and they read voraciously.

      The best I’ve been able to do is, while they were still young enough to be under my thumb, I DID keep a close eye on everything they read; I insisted that they at least try to read certain books, which I thought would form their tastes and standards in the right way; and I make it very clear that they are supposed to put a book down RIGHT AWAY, no excuses, if it takes a bad turn. I let them know that their father and I do this, too (we talk conspicuously to each other about “Gee, I was really enjoying this TV show, but it had too much inappropriate stuff, so we had to stop watching” etc.).

      I totally get that even one bad scene can stick in your mind forever, and that innocence is worth preserving. I’m not one of these “Aw, ya gotta let them explore – sheltering is bad for kids.” But realistically, you have to start letting them figure it out on their own at some point.

    • My kids know to give me a head’s up if they encounter something they believe is inappropriate and then I watch/read to either confirm and answer questions or explain that it’s fine. So far so good. Their calls are pretty accurate and they seem to know the difference between items I would “caution” them on vs “forbid” on their own. I know what it is to be human though so I do keep a close eye on their behavior and demeanor to make sure they aren’t getting sneaky.

      When it comes to new book series we are considering that are in YA vs Jr we usually take a look at Amazon in the 1-star area since there is almost always someone complaining there if something inappropriate popped up out of nowhere. I am a faster reader than my kids though so I can usually plow through at least the first book of a series before they start it.

    • I use Sharpies and rip pages out when I have to (and she was bent out of joint). I know my daughter saw bad things at friends’ houses though, (like Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries). I’m not so sure about VD, because I never watched it, but she was so into it I caught her sneaking it on the lap top. That’s when I simply had to realize that she was going away to school soon, and there wasn’t much more I could do but discuss and keep discussing why crap is crap and also leaves a bad taste in the heart. They know it’s true. Everything changes when they turn 18 though. A mother never gets to feel comfortable with what is “out there”. I pray like crazy for them.

  16. Thanks for the link, Simcha. Good points and the comments were enlightening, too. I wish I’d had more discussions with my daughter about the books we both read. We did have some but I will encourage her further in that department as her little ones get older.

  17. Simcha: I take full responsibility for the single-handed destruction of the Republic,as well as for that cold spot where you keep your computer. I have also hidden your car keys and unplugged your stereo from that really hard to get at wall socket. And tell Damien he’s ugly.

  18. Thanks to Simcha and her daughter!! I’ve been desperate for some new fiction to read, and I happen to be a little bit of sci-fi/fantasy nerd. I just requested some of these from the library…and I wonder if I convince my 4th grader to read “A Dog’s Life”. I suspect that my 1st grader would really love that, though.

  19. Your daughter has good taste!! I love the Thief (though the King of Attolia is better). I particularly like it because while the series has romance, a lot of it is very subtle – there’s no extravagant kisses or crude scenes like the type mentioned by Aileen above, and they’re not even hinted at either. I also love Turner’s treatment of the relationships between the gods and humans (more fully explored in the later books, particularly the Queen of Attolia).

    Hmm. Leviathan sounds pretty interesting. Thanks for the list!

  20. Another vote for Megan Whalen Turner’s books. They deal with faith, romance, duty, prejudice – and are just tons of fun to read. It runs the line between realistic, approachable characters, and a little of the old-school style of an epic legend. Content-wise, they are pretty kid-friendly.

    I have a copy of “A Conspiracy of Kings” in my dorm room, and it is my go-to sanity-preserver both for when my brain is just about to explode from engineering, or when I just need a break from the dominant “college culture”.

  21. Did something happen on Tuesday? Did the Rapture come? Oh no, I’m still here!

    Wait… is the Rapture the one where Evangelicals turn into zombies? No wait, the Rapture is some kind of hipster musical ensamble. Did the Rapture break up on Tuesday?!

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