Challenge: 50 Books discussion

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Finish Line 2009! > Mike's 50 for 2009

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message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) I want to start by saying that I am excited to find this group! I have been reading through many of the posts and this feels like a group for me. I have been an avid reader for most of my life, but have found with two young children at home, finishing books has become a challenge. I love the idea of a 50 book challenge for the year and hope that this group will keep me focused. I look forward to many great discussions!


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 1:

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

Having some time off, I read this book in the first couple of days of the new year. I enjoyed the read, but felt unsatisfied when finished. I feel that the author does a great job developing the main character and helping the reader feel connected to her. However, just when things start to get interesting, the book ends. I did not find the ending to be a great climax either as the story doesn't really build up to it. I know that a sequel has been written and I think I will have to pick it up. Hubbard has the good start to a series here, but I hope the next book picks up the pace a bit.




message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 2:

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

A fantastic book of historical fiction that doubles as a fast-paced thriller. The author does a great job putting the reader right in the middle of 9th century England through various characters. The fact that most of the people in the book were major players in the actual history make this book even greater. I am not doing a great job putting into words how much I enjoyed reading this book. I had been in a rut of late trying to find a book of fiction that excited me, but this first book of a four part series has me once again enthusiastic about reading. I have never read anything by Cornwell and am looking forward to the rest of this series and perhaps other books by him as he has written dozens.




message 4: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 3:

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

A good read covering the life of Elizabeth from her childhood to her learning of the news that she was to be queen. The first part of the book deals with her emotional development. Some of the best parts of the book deal with her relationship with her father and how she copes with the killing of the mother she never truly knew. Next we read about her passions and feelings toward men, and this part of the book was the hardest for me to get through. As a part of history, most of this was conjecture, and I found myself wanting to move ahead. The last part of the book looks at her time of fear while her sister Mary was Queen and this was my favorite period. The book left me wanting for a sequel, and I hope the author decides to write it.




message 5: by Mike (last edited Feb 28, 2009 08:36AM) (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 4:

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

This was the second book of a four book series dealing with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. I liked this book even better than the first. Cornwell does an outsatnding job of mixing history with action and it was difficult to put the book down. I love learning about the harsh life of early England, and the characters are well put together. This particular story follows the last of the free English from the brink of death to a major victory. The rest of the series will cover the final fights with the Danes. I can't wait to get started.


message 6: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 5:

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Although it is hard to admit as a man, I really enjoy reading books by Nicholas Sparks. I have read eight or nine now, and I have never been disappointed. This is another classic story of love and Sparks can get inside the emotions of a character as good as any author out there. This plot of the story takes quite a while to get going, as the first half or more of the book is simply two people meeting and how their relationship grows. The second half of the book really takes off though when the "choice" that needs to be made is revealed. This is very emotional, and I literally sat on the couch for two hours to finish. Great stuff.


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 6:

The Host by Stephenie Myer

My wife read this book and told me that I was required to read it as fast as possible so we could talk about it. I finished it in about a week, which is a quick read during the school year. I very much enjoyed this book. I thought the concept was fascinating, and the interplay between characters was done very well. I would have given it five stars if there had been a bit more action and a little less on emotions, but that is just the science fiction fan in my talking. I really enjoyed the entire read and feel that there is room for a sequel if the author feels to inclined.


message 8: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 7:

Pascal's Wager by James Connor

I picked up this book as a bargain book because I teach European History and thought it would be a good topic to learn a bit more about. I usually enjoy most of what I read, but I found this book to be very difficult to get through. It is very short, but very few of the chapters actually deal with Blaise Pascal. Most of the book was about religion and how the politics of religion played out in historical France. I did not find most of it interesting, I am sorry to say. Pascal himself is not necessarily a fascinating character, but this book did little to bring him to life for me. Disappointing.


message 9: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 8:

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

This is the third book of four in the Saxon Chronicles written by Cornwell. I really enjoyed the first two books of the series, and the third book really keeps things moving. This time the main character does not have it easy. Even knowing that things will work out in the end does not slow this story down at all as I had a hard time putting the book down. I finished it all in only a few sittings. I just picked up the final book to the series, and I am looking forward to starting up another Cornwell series when finished. Highly recommended.


message 10: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 9

When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith

"Wow" is what I want to say after reading this book. I have not been excited about reading fiction in quite some time but this book had me turning page after page, not wanting to stop. Historically, it does a great job taking me through late 19th century South Africa. Dramatically, it follows the main character through his childhood and into his becoming a man and details all of his ups and downs along the way. I loved every minute of the book and my only disappointment was a depressing end. I have already started the next book in the series and am happy to have found a new author to love!


message 11: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 10

The Shining by Stephen King

I have read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, and I have enjoyed all of them. For some reason, it took me quite some time to get through The Shining. I think knowing the basics of the story before reading the book took away from the experience for me. Also, I felt that of all the King books I have read, this story didn't move along as quickly as the others. As always, the character development was strong, but I didn't feel that enough happened in teh story to really keep me reading. However, I am basing this review on the comparison of King books which means that I still felt it was a great read.


message 12: by Mary Todd (new)

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

(My husband gave me a kitchen knife from my 4 year old one Christmas and the card said, Redrum, mommy. Soo creepy. I don't think I ever used the knife!)


message 13: by Mike (last edited Jun 11, 2009 06:59AM) (new)

Mike (erasmus) Mary Todd wrote: "congrats on 10!

(My husband gave me a kitchen knife from my 4 year old one Christmas and the card said, Redrum, mommy. Soo creepy. I don't think I ever used the knife!)"


Thanks for the note Mary. Great story about your 4 year old and the knife. I wouldn't have used it either!


message 14: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 11

Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler

I have read a handful of Cussler books in the past and have enjoyed them all. He gives exactly what you expect in his stories, creating smooth characters that never lose their cool and always win in the end. I have no problem with the formula as I am always entertained.

I rated this one lower than previous books because it just seemed to go too far with the "good guys always win" theme. It pushed the edges of being realistic and I just didn't find the desire to keep on reading that I have had in his previous books.

With all of that said, I did enjoy it. It was like watching a so-so episode of one of your favorite sitcoms.




message 15: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 12

The Radical and the Republican by James Oates

This was a short book tracing the political history of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass with the focus on their views of slavery. I enjoyed the book and did learn a lot about how the views of slavery of each figure evolved throughout the decades, but I found it to be very repetitive. The author did a good job of mixing in the important historical events that influenced the two main characters, but I thought that there was not enough pure substance to see how the views of each changed. In short, I feel that even though the book was short at just under 300 pages, it was stretched out beyond what was necessary.



message 16: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 13

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I picked this book up on a whim because it was listed as a Barnes and Noble pick at the store. I finished it in just a couple of days and truly enjoyed the story. The story goes back and forth between the modern protagonist and characters from the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. I found the history fascinating and the writing style to be beautiful. I often felt that I could see the places as they were being described, and I had a hard time putting the book down. This is the first book by Katherine Howe, and I hope it is not her last. Highly recommended.


message 17: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 14

American Creation by Joseph Ellis

I grabbed this book at the local library because I love reading about the American Revolution and I had read a few Ellis books in the past. I enjoyed his insights into the five particular stories of the period that his book breaks down. There were many interesting ideas that I had not thought of before. However, I must admit that I feel that Ellis spends too much time trying to impress himself with his writing style. For a work of what must be considered popular history, he writes using language and vocabulary that I found slows the story down. If you like early American History, I would recommend it.


message 18: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 15

The Sound of Thunder by Wilbur Smith

This was the second in a trilogy written by Smith that follows the Courtney family in South Africa at the turn of the 19th century. Like the first, I really enjoyed this book. It is truly a page-turner and I had a hard time putting it down. Smith writes in a way that helps the reader connect with the characters and root for and against them. My only problem with this second book as that parts of the plot connected too easily and at times could be a bit far-fetched. However, I think that was a minor fault and as I said in the earlier review, I am excited that I found a new author.



message 19: by Mike (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 16

Defenders of the Faith by James Reston

Although I teach A.P. European History, I had never read a book dealing with any time period earlier than the late 18th century. This was my first, and I have a new appreciation for the period and the people involved. This book focuses on Charles V and Suleyman of the Ottoman Empire. Other major characters also figure prominently including Martin Luther, Henry VIII, Francis I, and Pope Clement VII. The author did a great job of weaving their stories together and paints a picture of turmoil all over Western Civilization. I learned a tremendous amount of history from this book and I plan on picking up others by Reston. My only wish is that it was a bit longer and went deeper into the lives of each historical figure.




message 20: by Mike (last edited Sep 08, 2009 02:08PM) (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 17

Shogun by James Clavell

Every once in a while you grab a book that you love and will stay with you for the rest of your life. This is that book. I learned so much about Japanese culture during the Age of Exploration and the book made me feel like I was a part of the story. The characters were well developed, and since I had a couple of weeks of uninterrupted reading time, I had no trouble following the many people and places in the story. I will never forget this book (if for no other reason than I think it is the longest book I have ever read) and am looking forward to reading more from Clavell's Asian saga.


message 21: by Mike (last edited Sep 08, 2009 02:09PM) (new)

Mike (erasmus) Book 18

Testimony by Anita Shreve

My wife finished this book last week and told me I had to read it. So I picked it up on Labor day and read the entire book in one day. It was not very long, but I enjoyed the story. Some of the details are a bit much to think about (involving teenage sex), but the author tells the story in a unique and interesting way. Each chapter is a different person talking about what they remember, and each voice is well done. I wouldn't call this amazing reading, but it is a page turner and a book I am glad to picked up.


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