I am sure that for some, this book, “The First Tycoon”, would be a fascinating read.  For anyone who has an interest in business, or economics, or the history of these subjects, this is a highly recommended book.  However, since business and corporations are not really my thing, this was a book that I found a bit difficult to wade through.  This is by no means a commentary on the author of this book, or his abilities.  It is just an observation and a warning, for those who might think that this book is more about Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man.  That is the mistake that I made when I decided to read “The First Tycoon”.  Stiles does a fabulous job of detailing the beginnings of corporate America and the machinations that took place among America’s early businessmen.  The focus, though, is very much on Vanderbilt, the businessman.  While the Vanderbilt family is, inevitably, a part of the story, they are but a small part, and really only discussed in how they were affected by the patriarch of the family and his overpowering personality.  Very nearly each person mentioned is discussed in relation to Vanderbilt as businessman.  I did find interesting the evolution of corporations and how Americans slowly accepted the changes in the nation’s economy.  This, however, was the main focus of the book, and there is just a bit too much detailed information about Vanderbilt’s businesses for my taste.  This is not a condemnation of the book, which is very well-written, but of my ability to perceive the subject matter before I began reading.  The fault of the fact that I did not thoroughly enjoy this book lies entirely with me.

That being said, I personlly have to give this book 3 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:     Anna


This book, “No Ordinary Time”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a pretty comprehensive account of life in the White House just before and during WWII.  Although it is a lengthy book, with a wide cast of characters, Goodwin, in my opinion, never fails to make the story entertaining, and the characters come alive.  Her research is exhaustive, but because of that, the personalities and the stories are arrayed in such detail, that is almost as if the reader is a fly on the wall.   Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, are treated objectively, with good points and bad pointed out.  Their triumphs and joys, as well as their sorrows and shortcomings are portrayed so well that the reader feels they can actually know these people.  They are very real and human.  Goodwin never fails to disappoint for me as a reader.  She is a scholar, to be sure, but writes for the lay-reader who enjoys history.  I am definitely not a scholar, and I feel as though I come away from reading her books with as comprehensive a feel for the subject matter as is possible to get in one book.  I find her books approachable, easy to read, and extremely informative.  She makes history fun!   I highly recommend “No Ordinary Time” if you are a fan of history, the Roosevelts, or Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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I do have a list of my all-time favorite books that I would like to share with you!  These are books that I so thoroughly enjoyed, I have read them many times!  Now, not all of these books have been reviewed, but if we do have a review for it on our site, there will be a little star next to it!  Without any further ado, and in no particular order, my List:

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters By: Lesley M. M. Blume

The Looking Glass Wars By: Frank Beddor (Series)

The Golden Compass By: Philip Pullman

The Prophecy of the Stones By: Flavia Bujor

Princess Academy By: Shannon Hale

The Westing Game By: Ellen Raskin

Just Ella By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Tale of Despereaux By: Kate DiCamillo

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas By: John Boyne

The Phantom Tollbooth By: Norton Juster

Pride and Prejudice By: Jane Austen*

The Sisters Grimm By: Michael Buckley (Series)

Ties that Bind, Ties That Break By: Lensey Namioka

Life as We Knew It By: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Our Town: A Play in Three Acts By: Thorton Wilder

Saving Juliet By: Suzanne Selfors

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie By: Jordan Sonnenblick

The Forest of Hands and Teeth By: Carrie Ryan

The Hunger Games By: Suzanne Collins*

The Giver By: Lois Lowry*

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks By: E. Lockhart

The Da Vinci Code By: Dan Brown

Reincarnation By: Suzanne Weyn*

Enthusiasm By: Polly Shulman*

Palace of Mirrors By: Margaret Peterson Haddix*

The Midnight Twins By: Jacquelyn Mitchard

My Most Excellent Year By: Steve Kluger

Carpe Diem By: Autumn Cornwell

Austenland By: Shannon Hale

Once a Witch By: Carolyn  MacCullough

The Red Queen’s Daughter By: Jacqueline Kolosov

The Minister’s Daughter By: Julie Hearn

The Debutante By: Kathryn Williams

And that is my List so far!  But it will definitely change as I read more books and add more to the list!  Enjoy!

~Austen A.~

I’m not sure exactly how I felt as I embarked upon the journey that this book would take me on.  Aurelia is crown princess of the kingdom of Tyralt, but someone wants her dead.  So her old classmate, Robert, comes to be her bodyguard, and ends up falling for her, and she falls for him.  Still, she decides that she doesn’t need Robert to protect her.  Aurelia is an almost overly strong character; stubborn, independent, impulsive and an amazing leader.  She didn’t have many bad qualities that I could detect, which made her seem less believable.  I found this story to be overly dramatic and intense and very much in need of a bit of comic relief.  I had to practically force myself to read this book!  The whole idea of this story seems intriguing in theory, but it was executed in a not so great way.  This book was so rife with intensity that it was almost tangible!  The revelation to the assassin mystery has a dramatic and somewhat climactic end.  The culprit was someone that I would never have guessed, and yet the ending was lacking something.  In the end, everyone’s true colors are revealed and yet Aurelia does not get the ending that she deserves.  The end left me feeling unsatisfied somehow.  There was definitely something lacking from the plot.  If you decide to give this book a try and find yourself just scanning the pages like I did, give it up, it’s not worth sticking with it to the end.

I give this book 3 1/2 out of 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.

If you read Just Ella by Haddix, then you will most likely enjoy this book, I know I did!  This book is full of palace deception, scandal, and one big secret!  Although a little unbelievable at the beginning, you get used to the whole idea that Cecilia is a princess who has been hidden away for her own protection, under the care of a knightly guardian, Sir Stephen, and old Nanny Gratine.  When she turns 14, though, Cecilia decides that it is simple not enough for her to sit about when she could be doing so much more for her country, so she and her best friend Harper set off for the capital city to confront Cecilia’s decoy, the commoner, Desmia, and take up her rightful position as leader of the country.  When they arrive, they face quite a few bumps in the road that test Cecilia’s character and morale.  I have to say that, at the point when Cecilia and Harper were locked up, she was so very whiny and weepy, all she seemed to care about was that her crown was lost and that Desmia was a horrid girl!  Very annoying!  She does rectify her actions later on in the book, multiple times.  In the end, the book takes a very surprising turn (although, when you think about it, you could kind of see it coming the entire time)  and the ending has a refreshing twist!  If you are thinking about reading this book but have not yet read Just Ella, I recommend that you read that first to become familiar with what is going on politically in the world that these girls live in and to meet a character that makes a cameo appearance in this book.  I loved Cecilia’s character, she was everything that I could want in a heroine; caring, witty, strong, courageous, with a touch of imperfection that makes her real!  I truly enjoyed this book and any fantasy buff will love this book too!  I urge you to give this book a try!

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.

I was very excited to read this book, and I was enjoying it as I started reading, but the farther I got into the book, the more disappointed I became with how the plot was unraveling.  Pearl was found in the sea as a child and grew up to be extraordinarily unusual appearance wise.  Her skin was virtually transparent, her hair silvery.  She suffered as an outcast from the village, the only thing that kept her sane were her weekly meetings with her best friend, a boy she had met on the beach, the prince, James.  Now, I had guessed that this was a retelling of the Little Mermaid, but the angle that the author took was completely unappealing to me.  You can tell that James was going to propose to Pearl, but then come along a mermaid and her brother and they ruin the whole thing.  The mermaid falls in love with James and the merman has been in love with Pearl forever, and all of a sudden, the four of them are tangled up in a plot to James’s father, the king.  Towards the end the whole story became very silly and I was very much sick of it!  Throughout the entire book, I had been hoping that James and Pearl would end up together, but it ended up that Pearl and the merman end up together, whereas the mermaid gets James!  I was very upset!  But don’t let this deter you from reading this book if the plot sounds interesting to you.  If you like what you hear, then I urge you to read this book, if not, then don’t read it.  My opinion, in general, is that this book was silly and took a very wrong turn and ended up as a train wreck.  But that’s just me.

I give this book 3 out of 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.

I enjoyed this book, though it turned out to be the exact opposite of what I was expecting!  This turned out to be a good thing, though!  I expected a whiny teenage girl who was forced to play music and hated it, then fell in love with a musician and discovered a hidden talent. Instead, I got a story with subtle hints at romance, a mysterious murder, and palace cover-ups, including blackmail, extortion, and shadowy visits to Gypsy camps!  Theresa’s father was killed on Christmas Eve, and robbed of his violin, convinced that there was more going on than she was being told, Theresa goes on a quest to discover the truth.  While dodging her creepy uncle who keeps setting her up with old men, the watchful eye of her godfather Joseph Haydn, she runs out Gypsy camps, learns to fire a pistol, and goes gallivanting around the sewers!  She sounds like my kind of heroine!  Although Theresa had her weak moments, she had a lot more heft and inner strength than some of the other characters that I have encountered.   I liked how the author created Theresa as a normal girl for her time as well as trying to uncover the biggest secret in the kingdom.  She has to deal with conflicting feelings of love for her father’s associate, deal with her over protective mother and her weird, old uncle, and keep the household going while her mother battles with depression after her father’s death.  It made the entire story seem all the more real.  Although I truly enjoyed this book, I have to say, the ending was not up to my standards it definitely left me unsatisfied.  Overall, though, this book was very nice and I recommend it to all who have a hunger for mystery, intrigue, music, coming of age, adventure, or just a great plot, then you should definitely pick this book up the next chance that you get!

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.