Challenge: 50 Books discussion

Finish Line 2009! > Ed's 50 or more in 2009

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments It's January 1. Happy New Year! I hope to have as much fun pursuing my goal this year as I did last year. Full reviews of all books listed here can be found on my Goodreads' Site:

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

1. The Third Secret - Berry, Steve

This Da Vinci Code look-alike started off as a solid four star read and ended with a weak two star rating. The problem is that it becomes more and more unbelievable as the story progresses.

message 3: by Ed (last edited Feb 09, 2009 04:07AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

2. Sharpe's Enemy - Cornwell, Bernard

This is perhaps the best of the Sharpe series, and I've read 14 of the 24 I know about. The only volume close to it is "Trafalgar". Sharpe is most human in this story. The Battle scenes are extraordinary.

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3. Garden of Beasts - Deaver, Jeffrey

Not as good as his Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs novels, the story starts slow but picks up markedly towards the end of the book.

Staged against the backdrop of the preparation for the 1936 Olympics, the story involves an assassination attempt by an American hit-man on the chief architect of German re-armament.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

4. Deception On His Mind - George, Elizabeth

In this story, Elizabeth George takes on the cultural difficulties of Pakistani immigrants as background for the entire book. Reading it turned out to be quite a slog. Put simply, a recent Pakistani Immigrant is murdered and Sergeant Barbara Havers follows a Pakistani neighbor and friend, who's been asked to help the family, to Balfour le Nez on the North Sea Coast. After days and days and days of false trails and frustrating interviews she figures out who she thinks did it only to realize it was someone else she never expected.

message 6: by Ed (last edited Jan 30, 2009 07:04PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

5. The Secret Life of Bees - Kidd, Sue Monk

It is a delightful trip into the mind of a 14 year old girl in 1964 South Carolina. The book captured the increasing tension between whites and blacks while at the same time presaging the inevitable integration of blacks as voters, students and professionals. It also featured the essential humanity of the characters whether they were black or white. It's no "To Kill a Mockingbird" for sure but it is a wonderfully described look into the daily lives of a rather strange black family and the white teenager they take into their home.

message 7: by Molly (new)

Molly | 330 comments To Kill A Mockingbird I think you meant. Thanks for the nice review of The Secret Life of Bees - I have been hearing a lot of good things about that one.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

6. Cadillac Jukebox - Burke, James Lee

I don't know how I missed this one. I've read most of his other offerings. Written in 1996, it is one of his best.

It is, at its heart, a dark story populated with some unremittingly evil people, some people who practice evil without necessarily realizing it, and some people who do evil but somehow manage to rise above their own actions.

All ends well, though. It was a very satisfying read.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

7. Man's Search for Meaning - Frankl, Victor E.

I have read this book more than a few times, actually five or six times. Reading it this time was like reading it for the first time.

I cannot over-emphasize how influential this book has been and will continue to be in my daily life.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

8. Sharpe's Honor - Cornwell, Bernard

Covering the Vitoria campaign in the Spring of 1813, this story is different from many of the others because the focus is on the lovely courtesan , Helene, as much as on Sharpe.

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9. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 - Manchester, William.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be re-read; its pages discolored, its cover cracked but its story as fresh in 2009 as it was in 1984.

Undoubtedly, the greatest military mind in the history of the United States, Douglas MacArthur can only be understood by the standards of the late 19th Century. This well researched biography reveals MacArthur totally.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

10. The Secret Servant - Silva, Daniel

In a review of "The Messenger" which precedes this book, I said, "In spite of my carping, I will read the next in the series, "The Secret Servant" but I'll wait for the mass market paperback edition."

Well, I'm glad I did. The story is well plotted, the characters, less stereotyped, and the atmosphere current and realistic. Gabriel Allon does very brave, almost unbelievable things but somehow, in the context of this story, they make sense.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

11. Life of Pi - Martell, Yann

An astounding story. I can't say I enjoyed every bit of it but I am in awe of the imaginative prowess of Yann Martel.

The interweaving of family, biology, religion, animal lore, survival tactics, and fantasy is unparalleled in any book I've ever read.

message 14: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments congrats on 10!

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

12. Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir - Athill, Diana

I think I let my expectations get in the way of truly enjoying this book. I had read some very positive reviews praising the frankness and honesty of Athill's description of her declining years.

I found the book's so-called frankness to be somewhat boring. It seemed to always come back to her sexual experiences.

Her description of her declining faculties depressed me. Maybe because my own are declining and I'd rather not read about other people's struggles with sore feet, etc. I've got my own sore knees to worry about.

message 16: by Ed (last edited Apr 24, 2009 04:13AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

13. The Archer's Tale - Cornwell, Bernard

In this story,(also titled "Harlequin" in its British Edition) the first of the three book "Grail" series, Thomas of Hookton, becomes an archer in the army of Edward the 2nd at the beginning of the Hundred Year's war between England and France (mid 14th century).

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14. Persuader - Child, Lee

Lee Child's books are one of my guilty pleasures.

In this version, Jack Reacher gets involved in trying to rescue an undercover DEA agent who just happens to be held by someone Reacher thought he had assassinated for all the right reasons, 10 years ago.

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15. The Afghan - Forsyth, Frederick

I have always felt Forsyth's "Day of the Jackal" was one of the best suspense/thrillers, I've ever read.

How far the mighty have fallen.

In what reads like a channeling of Tom Clancy, "The Afghan" goes on and on with details that have little or nothing to do with plot or character development.

Very unsatisfying even as a guilty pleasure.

message 19: by Ed (last edited Mar 21, 2009 04:55PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

16. Sword Song - Cornwell, Bernard

This is the fourth volume in the Saxon Tales series with Uhtred of Bebbanberg as the main protagonist.

It is, in my opinion, the least interesting of the four. The battle scenes, as in all Cornwell's writings, are drawn with extraordinary clarity. There are also some very interesting new characters, Siegfried and Erik, two Norsemen brothers plus an assortment of priests, warriors, and women.

Nevertheless, I find it difficult to put down a Cornwell story once I've started it.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

17. Toy Monster - Oppenheimer, Jerry

If you are interested in what Mattel is really like as a company and a place to work or if you are truly interested in how the toy business operates, do not bother reading this piece of high-priced trash.

A sloppy, poorly researched, biased, tabloid worthy book.

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18. Night Soldiers - Furst, Alan

An amazing effort by Alan Furst. This particular story has more depth and reach than the others I have read but that is not to take away from his other books.

The story follows the exploits of Khristo Stoianev, a young Bulgarian, who is recruited into the NKVD in 1934.

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19. The Collectors - David Baldacci

In this case, Oliver Stone and his three Camel Club friends, Caleb Shaw, Milton Farb and Reuben Rhodes get involved in trying to solve the murder of Caleb's boss at the Library of Congress. There is a sub-plot involving one Annabelle Conroy, a skilled con-artist, who eventually teams up with the Camel Club as the situation becomes more complicated.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

20. Sharpe's Fury - Bernard Cornwell

It seems that this volume in the Richard Sharpe Series, published in 2006, was written almost as an afterthought. In the Historical Notes, Cornwell admits that, after visiting the Cadiz area, he could not resist writing about one more battle: in this case Barossa.

The battle of Barossa happened in 1811, at the low ebb of British fortunes in the Peninsular War. Cornwell's description of it, accompanied by an excellent map, is outstanding. As good as any battle scenes Cornwell has tackled.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

21. Betrayal - John Lescroart

I am a big fan of Lescroart but this story doesn't quite hit on all cylinders.

The publicity would lead you to believe that this publication heralded the return of Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky, the dynamic duo of the Irish-Catholic Lawyer and the Black-Jewish police inspector. Contraire! 70-75% of the book was taken up with the back story of Evan Scholler and his struggles with betrayal, brain damage, unrequited love and eventually a murder conviction, all growing out of his service in Iraq.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

22. Capital Crimes - Stuart Woods

I used to be a big Stuart Woods fan but it seems that he never deviates from his formula. This offering is no different.

The plot is a simple one, a left wing leaning sniper is killing right wing leaning people using a number of different methods. He is obviously a skilled assassin since he leaves absolutely no clues. The FBI then focuses on ex-government law enforcement people as obvious candidates. The story unwinds from there.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

23. The Sacred Cut - David Hewson

This is my first Hewson Novel. It starts fast but drags at the end. In fact, I believe he could have made the book fifty pages shorter and had a better story.

Hewson's character development is outstanding. I also love the scenes he sets of Rome, its people and its monuments. The plot is complicated but also well-drawn and seductive.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

24. Copperhead - Bernard Cornwell

"Copperhead" is a huge improvement over "Rebel", the first book in the Starbuck series covering the U.S. Civil War.

As usual, Cornwell's research on the actual events is impeccable. Cornwell does a good job of character development in this story and brings not only the soldiers and officers to life but also the citizens of Richmond as they contemplate a Union victory.

The story itself starts with the battle of Ball's Bluff in October 1861 and continues through the Seven Days Battles in July, 1862.

message 28: by Ed (last edited Apr 24, 2009 04:10AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

25. Code Name: High Pockets - Edna Bautista Binkowski

A very well-researched, straight-forward account of the Philippine resistance during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WW II.

Though the title of the book refers to Claire Phillips, code-named High Pockets, because of her choice of a hiding place for messages: her brassiere. The book actually spends a great deal of time on events leading up to the Japanese victory in 1942 and on resistance efforts other than those of Claire Phillips and her network of spies and couriers.

message 29: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments

(Hope this isn't too cute...not a lot of manly choices on tickerfactory!)
Happy 25!

message 30: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Mary Todd wrote: "

(Hope this isn't too cute...not a lot of manly choices on tickerfactory!)
Happy 25!"

It's cute enough. I appreciate your encouragement.

message 31: by Aprile (new)

Aprile (aprileb) Yay for 25 :D

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

26. Irons in the Fire - John McPhee

It's not often that a book of essays would be placed in the "Couldn't Put It Down" category but this volume qualifies.

The title refers to the opening essay which is focused on Brand Investigators, in an open range section of Nevada, whose job is to stop and/or catch cattle rustlers.

What separates McPhee's work from others is the detail he is able to elicit and then present in an interesting manner, his dry sense of humor and irony and the obvious affection he develops for those people he interviews and humanizes in a most unique way.

message 33: by Ed (last edited Jun 17, 2009 12:40AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

27. Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny - Robert Wright

This is another of those rare non-fiction "I couldn't put it down" books.

Using Game Theory, Wright develops a theory of Cultural Evolution that gives rise to optimism, while not ignoring those things that could go wrong. However, if history is any guide, the increasing complexity of human culture has always moved Homo Sapiens closer and closer to a culture of mutual collaboration and reciprocal altruism to the point that we might look forward to a global culture that would make war even more of a zero-sum game than it is now.

message 34: by Ed (last edited Jun 17, 2009 12:41AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

28. The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

This is an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying explanation of why some things reach epidemic proportions and some things don't. I wanted more details and fewer anecdotes. I wanted more suggestions of how to bring something to a "Tipping Point" and less long explanations of how it worked in a few cases.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

29. Void Moon - Michael Connelly

I am a big Michael Connelly fan and wondered how I had missed this book. Well, perhaps it's because it isn't up to his usual standards.

Written in 2000, it describes the efforts of a Las Vegas thief and parolee, Cassie Black, to raise enough money to kidnap her natural daughter and take off for Tahiti.

Overall, this particular effort was a disappointment.

message 36: by Ed (last edited Jun 17, 2009 12:41AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

30. The Cleaner - Brett Battles

A very good effort for a first time author.

The story moved along at a good pace. The characters were fairly well-drawn and some of them were memorable. The villains were appropriately evil though somewhat stereotyped. The plot was well thought out and developed slowly but surely. The ending was surprising and unexpected.

message 37: by Ed (last edited Jun 17, 2009 12:40AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

31. A Morning for Flamingos - James Lee Burke

This book exemplifies why I think that James Lee Burke is the best at writing mystery/thrillers. I don't know how I missed it: maybe because it was published in 1990 before I discovered Burke's talent.

I know he won two Edgars with "Black Cherry Blues" and "Cimarron Rose" but, having read both those novels, I think this one is better.

message 38: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments I agree...he is the best! My favorite is something about the Confederate Dead in the Mist...long title, but I loved the otherworldlyness of it.

message 39: by Ed (last edited May 27, 2009 07:10AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

32. East and West: China, Power and the Future of Asia - Chris Patten

When my wife, Pam, and I first moved, more or less permanently to Hong Kong, Chris Patten was the newly appointed and last Governor.

Reading his memoir and advice, 12 years after the handover and 10 years after publication of this book, was a much needed trip down memory lane and a much needed reminder of how China operates and what is needed to successfully deal with her politicians and to a certain extent her business people.

Patten writes with a nice light touch and understated humor. He is humble in the extreme but also unafraid of presenting his ideas and his principles.

I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the latter parts. I suspect because it covered history that I had lived through. The rest of the book, though is well worth the time spent and should be required reading for anyone interested in how things really work in Asia.

message 40: by Ed (last edited Jun 17, 2009 12:41AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

33. Resolved - Robert K. Tanenbaum

One of Tanenbaum's or is it Michael Gruber's best efforts. It started a little slow and the last chapters were a little anticlimactic, nevertheless it was a terrific read.

The Butch Karp series has always been peopled with astounding characters and this volume does not disappoint.

The story revolves around a terrorist plot, the reappearance of an old nemesis of Butch and Marlene's, the sociopath Felix Tighe, and Marlene's return home from her self imposed, self-loathing, guard dog training exile on Long Island.

For some reason, I had stopped reading the Butch Karp/Marlene Ciampi series. Now I'm hooked again and plan to soon read the prequel to this novel "Absolute Rage".

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

34. Kowloon Tong - Paul Theroux

Ultimately a disappointment, this novel started fast and petered out with an ending that challenged believability.

I rated it as high as I did because the writing and descriptions were up to Theroux's standards. The plot, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

The characters are somewhat stereotyped but not as badly as some other reviewers thought. They are more likely composites, created to emphasize their failings.

For me, one of the highlights of the book, perhaps because I live here, was the description of various venues and situations in Hong Kong.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

35. The Neon Rain - James Lee Burke

This is the first book in the Dave Robicheaux series. I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to reading it. This initial offering, while having some rough edges, sets the tone for the rest of the series.

The story covers Robicheaux's last months as a New Orleans Police Detective, his stormy relationship with his partner, Cletus Purcell, his initial romance with his soon to be wife Annie Ballard, his relationship with his brother Jimmy and his ongoing feud with the "Feds", no matter what their department.

I highly recommend this book.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

36. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West - Stephen E. Ambrose

This biography of Meriwether Lewis must have been a daunting task and Stephen Ambrose was certainly up to it.

The sections of the book covering the Lewis and Clark Expedition are as well written as anything Ambrose has done. The book is, of course, not only a biography of Meriwether Lewis but also a view into the thinking and attitudes of Thomas Jefferson, in particular, and other luminaries of the time.

The story of Lewis' life is a glorious and sad chronicle as we share both his triumphs and his disappointments.

"Undaunted Courage" is a great bit of historiography and a great bit of writing also.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

37. A Darkness More Than Night - Michael Connelly

An excellent example of Connelly's ability to create a plot that twists and turns and in the end leaves the reader astounded as the truth comes out.

While undemanding of the reader, this book is, nevertheless, a fascinating story and well worth the time to read.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

38. Absolute Rage - Robert K. Tanenbaum

As in most of these novels, the plot starts out in mundane ways and keeps getting more and more unreal but by the time you are at the point where believability is totally threatened, the story has you hooked.

In this case, a family the Karp's barely know is massacred in West Virginia and Marlene Ciampi gets involved at the request of a surviving son, Dan, who is her daughter's boy friend. Butch Karp is eventually dragged in and the fun begins. Before you know it, dozens of people are killed or maimed and the good guys win though at a high cost. Whether justice is done, becomes a moot question.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

39. Vagabond - Bernard Cornwell

The second volume in the Grail Series, this story was not nearly as interesting or exciting as the first book in the series, "The Archer".

It opens with the 1346 battle of Neville's Cross in Northern England, which is peripheral to the main plot of Thomas of Hockton's search for the grail which is supposedly under the control of his family and has been hidden by his dead father. It ends with the 1347 battle of La Roche-Derrien in Brittany between the forces of Charles of Blois and the English occupiers.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

40. Under the Color of Law - Michael McGarrity

The best McGarrity I've read - very exciting with a little letdown at the end.

The story revolves around two murders that appear to be unrelated. They turn out to be involved with National Security and as the body count rises begin to look like part of a massive cover up.

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Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

41. The Dogs of Riga - Henning Mankell

Written in 1992, it's a bit dated as it covers events in Latvia as the Baltic nation tried to pry itself loose from the USSR.

Wallander, who's life and career as a detective both seem to be at a stand-still is assigned to investigate a washed up life raft with two bodies in it.

The case is eventually shifted to Riga, Latvia where Wallander is asked to assist in the investigation of a fellow detective's murder. The plot unfolds from there.

This particular Mankell offering, while not as good as some of the others, I've read is, on the other hand, the most exciting.

message 49: by Ed (last edited Jul 16, 2009 11:33PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

42. The Lions of Lucerne - Brad Thor

I love thrillers, especially spy thrillers but this offering was a great disappointment.

The plot has more "coincidences" than you would hear about at a Deja Vu Society meeting. The characters are pure cardboard.

On the positive side the action is unremitting and the story moves at breakneck speed, which explains how I was able to finish the book.

message 50: by Ed (last edited Jul 29, 2009 11:56AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 235 comments Adding:

43. Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her - Robin Gerber

I was surprised at how interesting and well-written this book about Ruth Handler, the founder of Mattel Toy Company and the creator of the Barbie doll was.

The writing is first-rate. It reads like a novel and as the friend who gave me his copy said, "I couldn't put it down."

The book covers her entire life, warts and all, and uses her relationship to Barbie, the ubiquitous fashion doll, as a way of showing what drove Ruth Handler and what, in some ways, defined her.

It is, in the end, the very human story of a driven successful, failed and eventually redeemed, almost bigger than life person, Ruth Handler.

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