75 Books...More or Less! discussion

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Archive (2011 Challenge) > Jillian's 75 in 2011

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message 1: by Jillian (last edited Dec 29, 2011 07:28AM) (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Here we go again!





message 2: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wow. Just...wow. I forgot how much I loved this book and I am so glad that I re-read it. I'd forgotten the richness of Maguire's Oz. I love this flawed world and all of its people. I love how when you peel back the veneer, Oz is just like any other place--full of strife, political corruption, and injustice.

And Elphaba...oh Elphie. You are one of my favorite literary friends. Your story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. I loved seeing you change from a misunderstood child, to an opinionated schoolgirl, to a crushed woman with a broken heart, broken dreams, and broken ambitions.

And most of all, I love how this book tackles one my favorite themes: good vs. evil. This book causes you to question everything: religion, politics…even yourself. What motivates people to do what they do? If something is done in the name of good, does that make it good? And what exactly makes someone /something evil?

Dorothy Gale--you may be Oz's sweetheart, but you ain't got half the heart and soul of Elphaba.

This is one I will return to again and again...


message 3: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 2. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Hmmm...what can I say? Books shouldn't be written simply because their predecessors were successful? Or because a musical was made of the original and a sequel could be a cash cow?

It wasn't bad . But that's not saying much right? I've read a lot of truly terrible books. No, this book had a point and a purpose, but the pacing and presentation were just so jumbled. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for things to happen, and then suddenly, with 100 pages to go, everything happened at once. And there was so much potential for this to be good. I wanted more from Liir and from Glinda and from Oz. I wanted to really feel what Liir felt and to empathize with him and to follow him as he came into his own. I never felt that way. That's what frustrates me the most.

I loved Wicked and I will definitely re-read it again. This? Not so much. And again, not because it is horrible, but because I truly didn't feel as though it added to my understanding of Oz, Elphaba, or Wicked in any meaningful way.


message 4: by Charleen (new)

Charleen (charleenlynette) | 1595 comments Jillian wrote: "2. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Hmmm...what can I say? Books shouldn't be written simply because their predecessors were successful? Or because a musical was made of the original and a sequ..."


Jillian, I totally agree. I really didn't like Son of a Witch, and -- at least in my opinion -- A Lion Among Men wasn't much better. Very disappointing, considering I really enjoyed Wicked (the book; have yet to see the musical).


message 5: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Charleen--The musical is very different, but still very good. I'm starting A Lion Among Men today...and I don't have very high expectations. :( Really, too bad. Have you read any of Maguire's other works?

Charleen wrote: "Jillian wrote: "2. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Hmmm...what can I say? Books shouldn't be written simply because their predecessors were successful? Or because a musical was made of the origi..."



message 6: by Charleen (new)

Charleen (charleenlynette) | 1595 comments I have read most of his adult fiction, and really enjoyed his earlier works. Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Lost were all really good (and I know that I'm in the minority having enjoyed Lost). Mirror Mirror was okay, but I didn't like it as much as the others.

I just checked his Wikipedia page, and it seems there was another recent one (The Next Queen of Heaven) that I didn't know about, so I may have to check that out, and see if working back in the "non-Oz" world changes anything.


message 7: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments I haven't checked out his other stuff, but most people tend to run hot or cold with him. I think I'll see if my library has a copy of Confessions... . I wonder what his most recent is an adaptation of?


message 8: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
I read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and I thought it was good, but I don't recall it being great.


message 9: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Yeah, I'm about halfway through A Lion Among Men and it's fair. I really hit a reading lull when reading Son of a Witch . I had to force myself through it. I hate that--especially when you know there are so many other great things out there just waiting to be read!


message 10: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 3. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

Hmph. I feel the same way about this as I did about Son of a Witch . I wanted to like it, but it just didn't have the same magic as Wicked . Sure, some loose ends were wrapped up, but part of me really just...didn't care. Does that make me a horrible person? I felt so disconnected from the characters that I loved in the past (Elphaba, Fiyero, and Liir ...even Nessarose!). Sure, the Lion's life is interesting, but not enough to hold my attention. And I was satisfied learning more about Yackle, the Time Dragon, and the Grimmerie...but in a disconnected-finding-myself-skimming-kind-of-way. I was also a bit annoyed at the characters that were omitted from this installment, especially Candle and Liir.

I'm glad I saw this series through to the end, but when I revisit Maguire's Oz in the future, I am sure that it will only be through Wicked .


message 11: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 4. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Wow. This book is one hell of an emotional roller coaster. I found myself constantly thinking about Alice and her world. Alzheimer's is an incredibly scary disease...and this book is so raw and open. Every scene is the equivalent of spying on someone's innermost thoughts and memories. You experience Alice's shame, her pain, her anger, disillusionment, disorientation right beside her. Honestly, reading this was downright uncomfortable in places.

Here's one of my favorite passages:

"She wished she had cancer instead. She'd trade Alzheimer's for cancer in a heartbeat. She felt ashamed for wishing this, and it was certainly a pointless bargaining, but she permitted the fantasy anyway. With cancer, she'd have something she could fight. There was surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was a chance that she could win...Alzheimer's was an entirely different beast. There were no weapons that could slay it...Right now, everyone with Alzheimer's faced the same outcome."

I found myself rooting for Alice. I laughed with her and her family, and cried with each new loss. Certainly not a perfect book by any means (writing was a bit stilted at times), but overall very, very well done.

4.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because I truly believe that Genova has done something really important with this book. She's taken a very taboo subject and cracked it wide open.


message 12: by Charleen (new)

Charleen (charleenlynette) | 1595 comments Yay, glad you liked it! I can't wait to read her next one.


message 13: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Charleen, I'm so glad you liked Still Alice, I loved it! Her new book is one of our group read winners.


message 14: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments I'm excited as well! :)


message 15: by Jillian (last edited Feb 11, 2011 07:32AM) (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This book has been on my to-read shelf for years...and the time just came to tackle it. It was every bit as difficult and disturbing as I thought it would be. Let me clarify what I mean by difficult . 1. The detailed description of the crime and the killers is extremely chilling, especially since you know that this is based on true events. 2. Capote sets the pace and you have no choice but to follow him. It doesn't read quickly, nor can you skim.

I have a lot of respect for Capote and what he managed to accomplish with this book. I can imagine how difficult it must have been for him to keep the facts accurate, but also make for an entertaining read. Certainly not a book to curl up with, but definitely worth the read.


message 16: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 6. World War Z by Max Brooks

*Shrug*

I thought I would love this book. Everyone I know who has read it raves about it. I should know better by now. High expectations often lead to disappointment.

Hmm...that may be too harsh. I think this book accomplished exactly what it set out to do. It told the story in a very believable and consistent format. I appreciate that; it is quite well written.

A few gripes:

1. Since every few pages started a new oral history, I never really got invested in any of the characters or their plights. I wish that there had been more about the narrator figure and his life/experience.

2. Many of the voices were too similar to believe. They didn't sound distinctly different despite their often very different experiences.

3. It never drew me to read it. Once I was in it, I was fine. But more often than not, I had to force myself to sit down and read. I hate that feeling.


Again, for the most part, well written, and definitely an interesting topic. Creative and consistent, but not enough of a defined plot to draw me in.


message 17: by Christy (new)

Christy (christy_t) Jillian wrote: "6. World War Z by Max Brooks

*Shrug*

I thought I would love this book. Everyone I know who has read it raves about it. I should know better by now. High expectations often lead to disappointment..."


Jillian, I absolutely agree with your thoughts here. I wonder how much of it is that our expectations are so high they are never going to be met as a result of the hype you've heard, and how much of it is that people's taste just very greatly and no two people respond to subject matter in the same way.


message 18: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments A great point Christy. I just HATE when that happens!


Christy wrote: "Jillian wrote: "6. World War Z by Max Brooks

*Shrug*

I thought I would love this book. Everyone I know who has read it raves about it. I should know better by now. High expectations often lea..."



message 19: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 7. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

One of my favorite classics: worthy and likeable heroes (and heroines), complex and despicable villains, and an incredibly engaging plot. Yes, it's a beast of a book, but I found it incredibly readable! In fact, I’m sure I’ll read it again one day. I'd definitely recommend this.


message 20: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
I LOVE this book Jillian!!


message 21: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Me too! I keep talking it up to all my reader friends!

Andrea wrote: "I LOVE this book Jillian!!"


message 22: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 8. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

So glad I finally read this. I was surprised by how different the book was from the musical (I should know better by now), but certainly not disappointed. The Opera Ghost's (Erik) desperation came through in such a way that you couldn't help but feel pity for him. You gotta respect an author that can make you empathize with even the most pathetic and despicable of villains!

And can we talk about how vivid the imagery is in this book? Oh to be able to walk through the Opera House just once…and explore all the hidden passages and rooms…

This would be a great book to teach...so much to delve into with human nature, good vs. evil, etc....not sure if the kiddies would enjoy it, but I definitely would!


message 23: by Amy J. (new)

Amy J. | 595 comments Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is favorite Maguire to date. I loved Wicked (not so much the rest of that series) and What the Dickens too.


message 24: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Thanks for the recommendation Amy. I'll have to check it out!

Amy wrote: "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is favorite Maguire to date. I loved Wicked (not so much the rest of that series) and What the Dickens too."


message 25: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 9. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Not my favorite to read (or re-read for that matter), but it sure does work well with the 10th grade curriculum.


message 26: by Jillian (last edited Mar 23, 2011 06:59PM) (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 10. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

This took me WAY too long to read. Why? A combination of two things: 1. Not enough time. 2. Not enough interest.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn't love it or reach for it. I'd definitely recommend The Other Boleyn Girl over this one.


message 27: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 11. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

I first came across John Connolly when I was blown away by The Book of Lost Things . I picked up The Gates shortly after; didn't love it, but still appreciated his writing. Every Dead Thing was just okay for me. I read it during a time when I was incredibly busy, so in all fairness, maybe the fact that I read it so sporadically contributed to my overall blasé feelings toward the book, its plot, and the main character. While I liked the mystery element of this book, I had a hard time keeping all the plots and characters straight.

If you love mystery, and you don't mind some serious gore, you'll probably enjoy this. If not, I'd steer clear!


message 28: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
This looks really interesting! I wish I had a higher tolerance for gore, I get spooked and grossed out too easily...lol


message 29: by Joy (new)

Joy | 1116 comments Jillian wrote: "10. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

This took me WAY too long to read. Why? A combination of two things: 1. Not enough time. 2. Not enough interest.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn't lo..."


I have this one in my tbr pile. I keep meaning to get to it. I enjoyed "The Other Queen" by her too. Now I'm curious about this one....


message 30: by Joy (new)

Joy | 1116 comments Jillian wrote: "7. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

One of my favorite classics: worthy and likeable heroes (and heroines), complex and despicable villains, and an incredibly engaging plot. Yes, it's a beas..."


I've heard such great things about this one! I have it qued from dailylit.com, to be e-mailed to me. The entire thing is probably sitting in my inbox as we speak...lol


message 31: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Joy, I loved WIW! It's one of the best classics I have read so far. It is also very easy to understand as well as being fun because it's a good mystery!


message 32: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 12. Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Well hello Goodreads--I'm back. Whew. April was quite the busy month, and thus, it took me 23 days to read a book that could absolutely be read in 4 days.

I didn't love this book. I found that I didn't sympathize with any of the characters, and the ending seemed a little contrived. I DID enjoy that it was an easy read and didn't require a lot of attention to follow the plot.

Meh. Just okay. Though you may not want to trust me on this one--is it really fair for me to assess it when I maybe picked it up twice a week?


message 33: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Jillian, I so understand what your saying! Sometimes when I read a book in a weird way and I don't end up liking it I feel like it's my fault for not reading it right and that's why I didn't like it. Boy us bookish people are weird...lol


message 34: by Charleen (new)

Charleen (charleenlynette) | 1595 comments I totally get that as well. Did I not like it because I only read it in spurts, or did I only read it in spurts because I didn't like it?


message 35: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments And then, you can't help but ask yourself: am I overthinking this???

I'm looking forward to get back into my reading groove though! I hate when life gets busy and takes me from my literature!


message 36: by Jillian (last edited May 11, 2011 06:49PM) (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 13. An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

Blech...This book...wasn't what I thought/wanted/expected/hoped it would be. What was I expecting? Good question. That's like someone saying, "That's not what I thought you were going to say." And then when asked what he THOUGHT the other person would say, that same person responds, "I don't even remember anymore." Does that make sense? ( Should I delete that part of this review? Oh man. Am I coherent at ALL?)

I wouldn't say this is a horrible book, but I do think that your enjoyment rests solely on your opinion of the narrator. If you thought Holden Caulfield was a rambler, wait until you meet Sam. Whew. He can't stay on topic for more than a few moments, and he has zero self-awareness. I can see how some people would enjoy questioning his reliability as a narrator and piecing together the truth of his world; I did not. I didn't like him much and didn't sympathize with his mistakes. Yes, I felt badly for him, but does that didn't mean that I truly cared about his plight.

Wouldn't recommend it, but I can also safely say that I've read far worse.


message 37: by Karol (new)

Karol Very interesting - and coherent - review, Jillian!


message 38: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Kay wrote: "Very interesting - and coherent - review, Jillian!"


Thanks Kay!


message 39: by Jillian (last edited May 19, 2011 12:53PM) (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 14. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I'm not going to lie--I read this book because I wanted to watch the movie. And yes, I'm one of those crazy, hey-if-it's-a-book-first-then-i-must-read-before-viewing people. Go ahead. Judge me.

This book was good. Not great. But good. Light, fluffy, and exactly what I wanted to read while sitting in jury duty for 5 hours. Sure, I would have liked more from the novel...specifically more about her cooking and less about her dead-end secretarial job. But then again, I picked it up knowing that I'd be getting mindless brain sugary chick-lit. And that's exactly what I got. So you know what? I'm not complaining.

I'd recommend it for the beach.

Oh, and I'm still interested in watching the movie. So that counts for something right?


message 40: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Jillian, I am the same way so I did the same thing! I have not seen the movie yet but I plan to at some point.


message 41: by Charleen (new)

Charleen (charleenlynette) | 1595 comments Sometimes I will read a book before seeing the movie, but my tastes differ in terms of which genres I prefer for books vs movies, so sometimes I just don't bother.


message 42: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
I used to not see or listen to anything unless I had read it. It took me 36 years to get to the boint where if I know that I won't read something I don't force myself to just so I can see it or listen to it. It has really opened up the audio selection at the library and introduced me to a lot of new authors.


message 43: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Charleen--I wish I could be more like you!!

Andrea--I'm so jealous! I'm sure I'll get there one day. Let's chat after we've both seen the film!


message 44: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 15. The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

I picked this up because I came across a snippet of one of Millay's poems somewhere (can't remember now of course):

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!


When I read this, I swamped with work, correcting papers, and choreographing/directing a musical. And those four little lines managed to make me nod my head, smile to myself, and think, "Oh yes. I know exactly what she means." So of course, I scurried over to my library and picked up a selection of Millay's poems.

Of course, not all of the poems spoke to me, but many of them did. I don't usually read a book of poetry from cover to cover, but I had no problem with this little volume. In fact, I forced myself to read it slowly so that I'd have time to savor and reflect on each poem.

For fans of poetry, I'd recommend this--there are definitely some gems in here.


message 45: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 16. Scout, Atticus, and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy

I loved the tidbits about Harper Lee's life and some of the people interviewed had really great stories about their experience novel. However, parts seemed repetitive and some people were very self-important in their interview/essays. Just okay.


message 46: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 17. The Mysterious Benedict Society

This book was given to me by a friend--good thing because I most certainly would have purchased this one for myself! Just look at that cover! (Don't judge. You know you like it too.)

So, if you're craving a Harry Potter or a Percy Jackson type of story, this novel is for you. I don't think it is quite as good as either of those series (though I know this is only the first installment, so who knows--maybe it will really develop as the children grow), but still worth the read. The plot is compelling, the characters are likeable, and the dialogue is snappy and fun. Definitely a great read aloud book!


message 47: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Jillian, I just borrowed this from the library! I remember this being one of my favs as a child :)


message 48: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments 18. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

This book has been on my "to-read" shelf since I joined goodreads. I've picked it up, felt its weight, and put it back on my shelf more times than I can count. And it wasn't just its size that intimidated me. I'd heard from a couple well-trusted sources that this was one of their all-time favorites. God, I hate when people say that. It sets the bar so high...and sometimes, leads to unreachable expectations.

Let me start with this: Though the book is long (clocking in at just under 900 pages), it doesn't feel or read long. And I honestly I don't think the story could have been condensed in any way. Though parts of this are incredibly painful—they are all necessary to the overall messages of the novel: Life comes full circle. Forgive, but don't forget. Those who don't understand and recognize the past and their mistakes are bound to repeat them. While we are all the products of the past, we also have the power to change the present and our futures.

So much of Dominick's story resonated with me. He's one of those characters that I feel like I could call up for coffee. After reading this book, I know him that well. Would I want to be his close friend? No, probably not. He's certainly a flawed man. But then, who isn't? We all carry our crazy pasts on our backs. We all live with guilt and remorse.


Two things keep me from a five star review: 1. It is incredibly predictable in places. 2. The ending...things wrapped up a little too neatly for me...don't get me wrong--it wasn't a fairytale ending by any means. But still. Everything was just a wee too resolved.

I would absolutely recommend this book, and I know it is one that I will return to in years to come--do not be intimidated by the size or the reviews you have come across. It will not disappoint.


message 49: by Andrea, Moderator (new)

Andrea | 4124 comments Mod
Jillian, I really liked you review! I'm a huge fan of Wally Lamb and I read this book right when it came out. Since I read it a while ago I don't remember a lot of the book but I know I really liked it. Lamb is one of the few authors that I would read again.


message 50: by Jillian (new)

Jillian | 207 comments Thanks Andrea--have you read his most recent?

Andrea wrote: "Jillian, I really liked you review! I'm a huge fan of Wally Lamb and I read this book right when it came out. Since I read it a while ago I don't remember a lot of the book but I know I really like..."


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