Challenge: 50 Books discussion

*Retired* 2008 Lists > Liz: 50 in 2008! On to 100?

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message 1: by Liz B (last edited Apr 13, 2008 03:34PM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments Hi! I'm new to this group--I joined because normally I would easily read well over 100 books in a year, but I recently had a baby, which cuts into my reading time. (As one would hope!) So I joined to help keep myself focused, and because under these circumstances, I think 50 is a goal both attainable and challenging.

So here goes! So far in 2008:

1. Freakonomics-- Levitt
2. Someone to Love--Deveraux
3. Lean Mean Thirteen -- Evanovich
4. Keeping Faith -- Picoult
5. Sword and Sorceress XV -- Bradley (ed.)
6. The Pillars of the Earth -- Follett
7. Prizes -- Segal
8. Simply Perfect -- Balogh
9. Lucifer's Hammer -- Niven & Pournelle

I've sped up considerably since January, so maybe I'll make it!

(edited to add authors)

message 2: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 10. Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell)--She makes the politics of the Garfield and McKinley administrations and assassinations accessible, entertaining, and even funny. Lincoln is included, too, and that section's just as good, but it's not so surprising to find Lincoln interesting. I wish I'd gotten it on CD, though. The Partly Cloudy Patriot is one of my favorite audiobooks, and what makes it so great is hearing Vowell perform it herself. (She's a frequent contributor to This American Life on NPR.)

message 3: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 11. Angry Housewives Eating BonBons (Lorna Landvik) -- one of those books I enjoyed reading, but won't remember for very long. It's the story of some women whose book club, created in the late 60s, lasts through the 90s. The club and their friendship sustain them through all of the troubles of their lives. Since the book covers so many years and so many families, it felt like the problems were wrapped up too quickly. Still, the characters were endearing, so it was nice to see everything work out for them.

message 4: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 12. The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell)--Not a light read by any means. The story of a doomed Jesuit mission to an inhabited planet, it was both hard to read and impossible to put down. It had an innocence and a harshness that reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro. I highly recommend it for those who like their speculative fiction to provoke thought, joy, and pain.

message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily | 74 comments I just finished reading The Sparrow for my book club. I would have never picked it up on my own. I didn't think it was excellent, but agree that it hit on a lot of thought-provoking material. We're meeting to discuss it next Friday and I'm sure looking forward to the discussion!

message 6: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments Sometimes the books that work best for me for book club are the ones I never would have chosen for myself. Reading Lolita in Tehran, for instance; that was the first book I read as part of a club and I was really reluctant about that selection. Turned out I not only liked it, but it was one of the best book club discussions that particular group has had.

message 7: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 13. Songs of the Humpback Whale (Jodi Picoult)--Finally I finished it. This early Jodi Picoult is more literary fictiony than her later work, in that there's not much plot...or perhaps, that what plot there is isn't important to the story. As a result, it's one of my least favorite by her. (Better than Harvesting the Heart and Picture Perfect, though.) I think she has improved greatly as a writer because in her later novels she has managed to keep the deep characterization and clarity of prose, while adding a plot that sucks the reader in and often has surprises or twists.

message 8: by Emily (new)

Emily | 74 comments I'll let you know how our discussion of The Sparrow turns out. I agree about book clubs being great for expanding your book selections.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Congrats on the new baby Liz!

What did you think about Freakonomics?? Would you recommend it?


message 10: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments Thanks, Emily...I'm interested to hear how it goes. I am in the process of checking out booknboob, but sounds like the baby is up...

Thanks, Ashlee! Yes, I would strongly recommend Freakonomics. It was surprisingly fascinating. I especially liked the chapters about cheating teachers and sumo wrestlers and the economics of baby names.

message 11: by Emily (new)

Emily | 74 comments I also really liked Freakonomics. If nothing else, it gives you enough shift in perspective to give you something to ponder.

message 12: by Liz B (last edited Apr 23, 2008 06:53AM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 14. Mine Till Midnight (Lisa Kleypas)--I needed something light after the last two. I enjoyed the first half of this book much more than the second half, which really fizzled. Cam Rohan turned out to be a boring hero, and Kleypas had two subplots and an unforeshadowed treasure which got wrapped up/ introduced lickety-split in the last 30 pages or so. Maybe Kleypas is too busy writing her new hardback contemporaries to do a good job with the historicals these days...which is a shame. Her worst historicals are still OK, but Sugar Daddy was just awful.

edited for spelling & clarity

message 13: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 15. So That's What They're For (Tamano) -- Best breastfeeding book I've read. Funny in spots while being 100% serious about the importance of breastfeeding for baby's health.

16. Agnes and the Hit Man (Crusie) -- The best novels by Crusie are the zany ones, and this fits the bill. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to her next. I hope, though, that she will do some more straightforward contemporary romances. Her collaborations with Bob Mayer have been fun, but not as much fun as Faking It and Bet Me, her two most recent solo novels.

17. Beginner's Luck (Pedersen) -- A friend sent me the whole trilogy in a box, and I just loved the first one. Hallie is a high school dropout, runaway, and full time yard person. She's also a a mathematical genius, shrewd observer of people, and mostly successful gambler. Fortunately for her, shortly after she drops out of high school she finds a job working for the Stocktons, a bohemian family who are as far out of the social norm as Hallie herself.

message 14: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 18. Heart's Desire (Pedersen)--The second in the Hallie Palmer series. This one is less about Hallie and more about the Stocktons--all to the better, in my opinion.

19. What to Expect the First Year--I'm keeping it as a current reference, but I also realized yesterday that I'd read through the whole thing. It's a good general reference, particularly the section on baby care basics. I *needed* specific directions on how to give a baby a bath. Although the author tries very hard to be open-minded and nonjudgemental, it's pretty clear she has clear opinions about certain aspects of raising babies. I'm mostly OK with that--I'm not reading this book for childcare philosophy or advice, I'm reading it to find out things like how to use a nasal aspirator. I do think she should bring her information on solids into line with the current AAP recommendation to wait to introduce solids until 6 months. I think I remember her mentioning that recommendation, but her main section on solids is in the 5 month chapter, and she starts talking about cereals at 4 months.

message 15: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 20. Jo Frost's Confident Baby Care--This is a terrible baby care book: her information on breastfeeding is incorrect and on feeding solids is outdated and contradictory, and she recommends "controlled crying" to help babies learn to sleep. In the sections that don't contain errors, it's not detailed enough to be helpful to new parents.

21. Something Blue (Giffin)--Surprisingly fun. Giffin takes Darcy, her shallow and narcissistic main character, on a journey of personal growth. I liked it enough to read more by the same author.

message 16: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 22. The Big Shuffle--Forgot about this one! This is the 3rd Hallie Palmer book. Not as fun as the other two, because there's too much about Hallie (she has to come home from college to take care of 8 younger siblings) and not enough about the fabulous Stocktons. Still, I enjoyed reading it.

message 17: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 23. Such a Pretty Fat (Lancaster) -- Funny!! Funny!! Funny!! I probably should've given it 5 stars. I like to save that for books that make me cry...but then again, this one made me laugh so hard I cried.

message 18: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 24. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Kingsolver)--I really do love nonfiction about food, and this was no exception. I not only vicariously enjoyed food through her lovely descriptions, but I was inspired to go out and buy some fresh local asparagus and strawberries. Mmmmmmmm nonvicarious food...

message 19: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 25. The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program--I probably shouldn't really review this yet since I've only been trying it for 2 days. But I like the first part of the book: my baby's naps are already getting longer, & I'm having an easier time helping him fall asleep for them. The second part of the book, however, suggests "cry it out" as a method to help babies (over 6 months) learn to even if the first part continues to work, I don't think I'll give it more than 3 stars.

message 20: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments And I'm delighted to be at #25 before it's officially June!

January: 3 books
February: 2 books (plus I started that Follett monster)
March: Finished Follett, plus 4 more
April: 5 books
May: 10 books! Yay! I'm definitely speeding up!

message 21: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #26. The Host (Meyer)--Great scifi premise and very hard to put down. I liked it quite a bit more than the Twilight series.

message 22: by Melynna (new)

Melynna | 118 comments What did you like more about it?

message 23: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments First of all, it had a lot more plot. The Twilight books tend to wander, focusing on Bella's emotions, and then wrap up in a quick climax that often seems almost unrelated. (This is characteristic of romantic suspense...since the focus of the plot is the romance, the suspense part is a subplot. I'm OK with this--I really enjoy traditional romances--but because the Bella/Edward romance is so drawn out and melodramatic, I'm not as drawn to it as I might otherwise be.) In The Host, the romance is the subplot. For me, it meant it wasn't as sheerly sensual as the Twilight series, but it was more interesting.

Next is my personal preference. I think vampire stories are OK, but I LOVE creepy end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scifi.

Probably most important--I find Bella pretty annoying at times. She's so PASSIVE. And whenever she's not passive, she's doing something totally stupid. Wanderer (main character of the Host) shares some of those Bella tendencies, but at least they're understandable (I won't explain here b/c of possible spoilers).

What Twilight has that The Host lacks is--Edward. Yeah, there are some tormented male characters, but no one nearly as yummy and Heathcliffy as Edward. :)

message 24: by Melynna (new)

Melynna | 118 comments That gives me hope. I've personally given up on romance altogether because of that -- I want more plot! I want the characters to fall in love while doing interesting things, not just sitting around looking at each other (or worse, having some kind of domestic crisis).

It sounds like you and I completely agree on Bella, so that's good news as well. And about vampires -- I read a fair amount of sci-fi and fantasy and mostly just take what's there and buy it okay, but these vampires are way too fluffy. I'm no big vampire reader or anything, but they just clash with my personal taste. I mean, they sparkle? For real? I think it would be more compelling if they were a little scarier-looking.

Anyway, thanks for sharing that! I'm much more interested in it now.

message 25: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments I'm glad! I definitely do recommend it.

And yeah. I agree about the sparkling. Plus they're all just so nice!

message 26: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #27. Belong to Me (Marisa de los Santos)-- I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Love Walked In, but it was still a lovely read. De los Santos takes ordinary life and makes it beautiful, thoughtful, extraordinary. I will keep buying her books in hardback.

message 27: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #28. Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jennifer Lancaster)--Very funny! While Such a Pretty Fat was unified around Jen's quest to lose weight, the chapters in Bright Lights, Big Ass are much more loosely connected, focusing on life in the city.

I find it interesting that I just called the author by her first name. It drives me crazy when my students do this. I think, though, that this is a compliment to Lancaster's self-revealing style and confiding voice. No, she's not my friend (I'm not a psycho stalker!) but I feel like I know her.

message 28: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #29. Babyproof (Giffin) -- Not as much fun as the last Giffen book I read (Something Blue). I was interested and engaged while reading, but felt the ending was anticlimactic at best. For people who loved each other so much, the main character and her husband/ ex-husband didn't seem to do much serious talking,

message 29: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #30. Black Ice (Anne Stuart)--Better-than-average romantic suspense.

I think I might change the title of my list, because it looks like I'll definitely make it. :D

message 30: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #31. The No Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley)--Lots of great ideas.

#32. Bitter is the New Black (Jennifer Lancaster)--This was Lancaster's first memoir. I didn't find it quite as funny as her latest, but I still laughed out loud. A lot.

message 31: by Paula (new)

Paula (Paulagrin) | 289 comments Hey Liz, I think the Little House books can be very good for boys to have read to them. I don't find the books to be necessarily "girl" books at all, especially since Laura herself isn't the perfect female character that, for example, her sister Mary is, and there is enough action in the books to keep the stories exciting/interesting for boys, too. Plus, there are the books from Almanzo's perspective, too (I'm about to start reading Farmer Boy soon), and, overall, these books are quite a history lesson! Hope that helps! (I'll probably be better-informed myself about this once I really get into Farmer Boy.)

message 32: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments Thanks for the insight, Paula!

message 33: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #33. Careless in Red (Elizabeth George)--Wonderful. First 5 star book for me in a long time. British mystery at its very best. If you like mysteries at all and haven't tried one by Elizabeth George, you really need to.

message 34: by Paula (new)

Paula (Paulagrin) | 289 comments Oooh, British mysteries, a genre I always wanted to read more about (since I never really got beyond Sherlock Holmes). I will have to add that one to my ever-growing reading list!

message 35: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments I recommend starting with A Great Deliverance, her first. Unlike Christie, where the mystery is the only focus of the book, George's mysteries focus on a set of recurring characters...and it's easier & more fun to start at the beginning.

message 36: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #34. Something Borrowed (Giffin)-- As good chick lit should be, it's light and fun; what makes it better than typical chick lit is the deep back story and delicate touch. Rachel is sleeping with her best friend Darcy's fiance. Although the book naturally focuses on Rachel's feelings about Dex (the fiance) and the affair itself, it is as much about her friendship with Darcy. Rachel's shared history with Darcy makes this book much more than a "plain Jane gets even" story.

message 37: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments On vacation (yay!) with only sporadic a quick post:

35. Ice Blue (Ann Stuart)
36. The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan)- EXCELLENT
37. Case Histories (Atkinson) -- Strongly recommend to those who like mysterie.
38. A Lick of Frost (Laurell K. Hamilton)--Hey! Something happened! At least sort of. :)

message 38: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments 39. Ice Storm (Ann Stuart) -- Better than Ice Blue, not as good as Black Ice.

message 39: by Liz B (last edited Aug 06, 2008 08:50PM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #40. The Lost Duke of Wyndham--Cute at times, but basically only OK.

message 40: by Liz B (last edited Aug 06, 2008 08:51PM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #41. Babyhood-- Forgot about this one earlier. It was a re-read and pretty funny.

message 41: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #42. Banewreaker (Jacquelyn Carey) -- Hard to get through at first, then I finished the last 150 pages in a night. I enjoyed it, but I'm still taking a break before I read the sequel.

message 42: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #43. The Harlequin (Laurell K. Hamilton)--finally some plot in the Anita Blake series. There was a big center section of relationship blah blah, but the beginning and end were more like the books in the series that I enjoy the most.

#44. Duchess by Night (Eloisa James)--Right now I think she's the most reliably fun romance writer out least for Regencies. (Although this one was a Georgian.) I haven't enjoyed her Duchess series as much as some of her other recent novels, but this one was an exception. I'm looking forward to the next.

#45. Fortune's Fool (Mercedes Lackey)--Another fun one. Not as fun as The Fairy Godmother, but so so so so so much better than One Good Knight.

message 43: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #46. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Pollan)--Much shorter and less complex than The Omnivore's Dilemma. I didn't enjoy it quite as much--it was much less about eating and cooking, and much more a call to action. Which is fine! I hope many of the people reading it are inspired to change their food buying habits, even if just a little.

message 44: by Liz B (last edited Sep 18, 2008 11:43AM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #47. Waiter Rant (The Waiter): Overall...disappointing. I'm disappointed that it was disappointing. And I hope The Waiter doesn't frequent this forum so I don't hurt his feelings.

In that sense, the book was very successful--he presented himself as a real and vulnerable person I came to care about. I certainly read the book quickly enough--I've been bogged down lately in a couple of long books, and I've been busy with the beginning of school, but I raced through Waiter Rant. It was interesting, definitely. Disappointing because-

1. I've read some much better blogs-that-became-books. Julie and Julia is one; so is Bitter is the New Black.

2. I wanted it to be funnier than it was.

3. His writing style needs some shaping up. Too many sentences of about the same middling length, too many deliberate fragments, too many sentences that begin with prepositional phrases and other phrases and clauses. Perhaps future books won't suffer from these problems!

In any case, good luck to him.

message 45: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #48. Anne Frank: A Hidden Life (Presser): This is a YA biography of Anne Frank, but I recommend it to all who are interested in learning more about her.

Almost there! I'll definitely make 50, probably before September ends. And now that school is back in session and I'm reading YA books again (professional responsibility and perk all in one), I want to see if I can actually hit 100 before the end of the year.

message 46: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #49. The Clique (Harrison)--Frighteningly reminiscent of Cruel Intentions, but without the sex.

message 47: by Liz B (last edited Feb 25, 2009 02:17AM) (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #50. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--I'm so glad this was my 50th book. This is my favorite book of the year. I love epistolary novels anyway, and this one was sweet and funny and terrible and real. Seriously--go out and read it.

#51. Breaking Dawn--Took FOREVER to finish it. Meyer knows her target audience--and for that reason this one deserves to be a hit...and of course it is. I found it mostly tiresome, but couldn't just give up on it.

message 48: by Benita (new)

Benita (Benita411) Hi, Liz, a co-worker and I have formed a small book club, and we just finished reading this book and loved it! There is a travel website for Guernsy is It is much closer to France than I imagined. The authors' website is This book reminded me how much I used to love to write and receive letters which is a lost art today.


message 49: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments Hi Amelia,

Thanks for the information! I would love to travel to Guernsey (kind of like I'd like to travel to Prince Edward Island)--not really to do anything, just to be there.

Another great book for those of us who love letters is Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty. It's been marketed as a YA book but it's excellent for adults, too.



message 50: by Liz B (new)

Liz B (LizB) | 104 comments #52. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist--I feel stodgy complaining about all the f-bombs. Yes, I know this is how (some) kids really talk. But really! Multiple per page! I hope teenagers are finding and reading this book--I think it's great--but I'm simply too prudish to recommend it to any of the teens I know.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Breaking Dawn (other topics)
The Hunger Games (other topics)
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (other topics)
One Good Knight (other topics)
Beauty (other topics)