Challenge: 50 Books discussion

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Finish Line 2009! > Bonnie's 50 Books of 2009

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message 1: by Bonnie (last edited Jul 02, 2009 01:56AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments I've been keeping a list of every (non-school) book I've read and my thoughts on them since 2007 on my computer. Usually the list gets to 65+. But since I left college and now have a job in Japan, I'm not sure whether I'll be reading more or less than usual this year. Fifty seems a manageable goal, though. I'm still going to keep my list on my comp, but it will be fun to have one here, too.

1. Emma (Everyman's Library (Cloth)) by Jane Austen Emma by Jane Austen.

2. Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot.

3. The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley.

4. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster A Room With a View by E. M. Forester.

5. [image error] Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer.

6. Jurassic Park (Spanish Edition) by Michael Crichton Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

7. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

8. The Duchess by Amanda Foreman The Duchess by Amanda Foreman.

9. [image error] The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.

10. The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein.

11. The Door to December by Dean Koontz The Door to December by Dean Koontz.

12. The Dante Club A Novel by Matthew Pearl The Dante Club A Novel by Matthew Pearl.

13. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress A Novel by Dai Sijie Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress A Novel by Dai Sijie.

14. The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein

15. The Other Queen A Novel by Philippa Gregory The Other Queen A Novel by Philippa Gregory.

16. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

17. [image error] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

18. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.

19. Four Queens The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone Four Queens The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone.

20. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington.


message 2: by Bonnie (last edited Jan 28, 2009 02:08AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments I think the way I want to do this is to post my comments on books I read in new posts, and just keep adding to the book list by re-editing my first post; that way I've got my list in one place instead of disjointed.

So far I've finished Emma and Pants on Fire, and am mostly through several other books (Outlaws of Sherwood, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, A Room with a View, etc.).

Emma was fantastic. I read P&P so long ago it doesn't count, Sense & Sensibility I didn't really care for, Persuasion I liked, but Emma I LOVED. I don't have access to the movie versions right now because I'm in Japan, but I did re-watch Clueless (which I own) and loved all the little similarities I picked up on that I never noticed before (now I know why they made Cher's love interest her stepbrother, even if I still find it vaguely creepy!). If there was one Jane Austen book I'd recommend besides P&P, it would definitely be Emma.

Pants on Fire was not great literature, but I've been craving fluffy YA for months, and Meg Cabot is pretty reliable in that regard. If I had better access to YA, I'd probably not like it as much, but as is it satifised my craving.


message 3: by Bonnie (last edited Jan 28, 2009 02:08AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Three books finished in one day (although I'd started them all the week before).

Outlaws of Sherwood was hard to get into, but I really started liking it. And then half way through the PoV switched to a new character (Cecil) instead of Marian and Robin Hood. That really irked me. Still good, but I don't understand McKinley's sudden urge to make a minor character the main focus. I cared much more about Marian and Robin.

Room With a View was very good, but I feel like I really need a good English class to get everything I want out of it. It's a book to not just read and forget; you have to think about it more deeply. I did love every scene of Lucy and George together, but there were too few of them.

Breaking Dawn. Oh, Breaking Dawn. Part 2, where Jacob was the narrator, was awesome. Jacob is made of win and is hands down my favorite character. He makes it worth reading. Any scene involving just Edward and Bella is urgh. Not as bad as I feared and it did go quickly (skimming helps) but I did want to throw the book at the wall several times.


message 4: by Bonnie (last edited Jan 28, 2009 02:07AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Jurassic Park was the first audiobook I listened to in a long time. Not sure if I'd like the book better if I had read the book instead of listened to the audiobook; it's really easy for my mind to wander when I'm listening to a book. It was really interesting reading the book after watching the movie so much. Some of the characters were very different. Now I have to go watch the movie again...

A Christmas Carol was great! And definitely the most accessible Dickens I've ever read. I love how clever he is with words and the story isn't tired and stuffy despite how often I've seen the play/watched the movies. It still feels fresh and poignant.


message 5: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Duchess was one of the top biographies I've read. Not only is Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire a compelling historical figure but Foreman does a great job. She does very much emphasize Georgiana's political role and while she does her best, 18th c. politics can sometimes be dry and convoluted reading. It was interesting to see the movie after reading the book (I actually watched it while half way through the book). The movie DEFINITELY plays up the menage-a-trois of Bess/Georgiana/the Duke and Georgiana's affair with Charles Grey. And the book's focus is definitely not on that at all. In fact, I was surprised by how little Charles Grey featured in the biography.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was not a book I expected to like. It's a WWII novel and I don't generally like WWII novels. But the characters are endearing and although the terribleness and the horror of the war come through clearly, the book isn't depressing; it's funny and sweet and romantic and hopeful. I listened to the audiobook version and it's one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard. There were multiple readers who all did an excellent job and had charming British accents.


message 6: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments All the lists I've made in years past about which books I've read in a year never included school books. For me, it didn't count if it was assigned; it was a book I HAD to read not that I WANTED to read (even though sometimes the two were one in the same). Besides, while I could see my way to adding something like Pride and Prejudice to a book list, I didn't want a reading list for the year made up of obscure, academic titles. Besides, while I always read those books I didn't read them in the same way as books I read for fun. Books for school were to be skimmed and studied, not fully enjoyed (again, sometimes they WERE enjoyable, but many academics don't make for light reading).

I'm doing some group challenges that I really love participating in, but some of the tasks call for me to read books that feel like reading for school. I don't enjoy them, and I just want to get through them. And I employ the art of fast reading. Those books don't really feel like they should count for this list. Plus, many of them are audiobooks. At first I wasn't going to include audiobooks at all (I wanted to do 50 books I read, not listened to). But then Guernsey turned out to be so well done and so good a book (not to mention, such a lovely cover) that I had to include it. And Jurassic Park was decent enough to be on the list, too. But from now on, an audiobook will only be included if I feel both the book and the audio have enough merit.


message 7: by Bonnie (last edited Jan 31, 2009 02:44AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Door To December was a thriller. I read it for the TNBBC Winter Challenge and didn't expect to like it at all. But actually, it was quite good! Kept me interested all the way through and was a breezy read. The only huge flaw was the insipid and unnecessary love plot Koontz tried to put in. The cop and the psychologist spent all of 10 minutes together and suddenly she's the love of his life and the most important person in the world to him? Really? His motivation could have been just protecting the child; no need to make him try to protect the mom and kid for TRUE LOVE.

The Dante Club was more slow-going than I'dve liked. I want my mysteries to be bloody and salacious. This one was just not fast-paced enough. BUT it was an interesting look at famous literary figures and Dante (though I read the Inferno 6 years ago, so I don't remember too much). Reminds me a lot of The Interpretation of Murder. Also interesting for its historical fiction aspect, but too slow and ponderous and the reveal of the murderer a bit of a let down.


message 8: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments So I'm thinking that I might need to set my sights higher for my reading goal this year. It's barely February and I've already read 13 books. I don't think I can keep that pace up every month, but even if it's only 8 or so books a month from now on I will surpass 50 books by a decent margin.

I'm trying to decide now if I should also apply to the 75 or 100 Books a Year Challenge. Not sure which one, though. Maybe I'll finish February and see where I stand and how ambitious I'm feeling. I'd still keep this list, but I'd have another one (with maybe less info for each book).


message 9: by Bonnie (last edited Feb 04, 2009 03:59AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a case where it’s GOOD to judge a book by its cover. The cover is gorgeous and this slim little book is surprisingly really excellent. Definitely a book I'd recommend for anyone interested in reading something set in China.

The Two Towers, like The Fellowship of the Ring, is a book I feel like I should like better. I LOVE fantasy and this is THE fantasy series. And yet...it's a little dull. Although any scene with Treebeard and Gollum (and to a lesser extent, Merry and Pippin), is made of win.


message 10: by Bonnie (last edited Mar 02, 2009 05:28AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Other Queen was both good and disappointing. I had absolutely NO sympathy for Queen Mary in this book. She was a liar and a seducer and the way she cold-heartedly used George (who was a fool, but an honorable fool) was disgusting. My favorite character by far was Bess and I totally sympathized with her plight. George certainly didn't deserve her. This was my first book by Gregory and although this isn't my favorite book, I'm willing to give her another try.

The Girl With The Pearl Earring was another disappointment. For how popular this book was, I was surprised by how much I hated it. The story itself was okay and I like reading historical fiction about a time period I want to learn more about. But Greit pissed me off. I was sympathetic to her until about halfway through the novel. Then I realized that my hopes for any real romance in this story were never going to come to fruition. Greit had this weird obsession for Vermeer, who remained a remote shadow and never seemed to show any real interest in Greit as a human being. Sure, he got jealous sometimes, but he seemed to treat her more as a possession he didn’t want to share than a woman he was madly in love with. And, sure, he taught her how to mix paint, but more so that she could be a useful assistant than because he wanted to make her an apprentice or really help her make use of her talent. And the man who was truly in love with her, Pieter the butcher’s son, who was funny and kind and considerate and handsome and charming to her parents, she was kind of mean to. She never seemed to really love him. Even after they were MARRIED she didn’t seem to care for him at all. Mostly she treated him as some awkward annoyance she had to put up with. THIS IS THE MOST UNROMANTIC BOOK EVER. Hate, hate, hate.

Little Women was a sweet little read. Unlike, Pearl Earring, I was surprised how much I liked this book. The book was a lot more pedantic than I thought it would be (each chapter taught an important moral lesson!). But it was also sweetly written and really well-done.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow was decent YA fluff, but a tad disappointing. In summary, East did it better. I’ve been craving some good fantasy YA and this did not fully do the trick. It just felt…okay. The troll kingdom resolved way too easily, especially compared to the creepiness and darkness that East portrayed during the same scene.

Four Queens was what all nonfiction history should be; informative and interesting. would love a historical fiction about this. Sisterly rivalries that put The Other Boleyn Girl to shame. They were fascinating and Goldstone told their story very well.

Up From Slavery was a very interesting read, especially after Malcolm X’s autobiography. Both well-written (and Booker's autobiography felt awfully modern considering it was written over a century ago). And both had very, very different views of whites and what blacks should do about prejudice.


message 11: by Bonnie (last edited Mar 29, 2009 08:43AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments I've read too many books! I can't fit them all onto the original post so I'm continuing my list here.

21. What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank.

22. Eat, Pray, Love One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

23. American Gods by Neil Gaiman American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

24. No god but God The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan No god but God The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan.

25. The Great Gatsby (Wordsworth Classics) by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

26. Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga) (partial draft) by Stephenie Meyer Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer.

27. The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie.

28. Die Achse des Blöden. Eine politische Evolutionstheorie der USA. by Dave Barry Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway by Dave Barry.

29. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 1) by Alexander McCall Smith The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

30. Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde.

31. The Stranger by Albert Camus The Stranger by Albert Camus.

32. [image error] Belle A Retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" by Cameron Dokey.

33. The Jungle Book Complete and Unabridged (Puffin Classics) by Rudyard Kipling The Jungle Book Complete and Unabridged by Rudyard Kipling.

34. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

35. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

36. Othello (Folger Shakespeare Library) by William Shakespeare Othello by William Shakespeare.

37. What Might Have Been Imaginary History from Twelve Leading Historians (Phoenix Paperback Series) by Andrew Roberts What Might Have Been Imaginary History from Twelve Leading Historians by Andrew Roberts.

38. The Nine Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin The Nine Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

39. White Fang by Jack London White Fang by Jack London.

40. Daddy-Long-Legs (Puffin Classics) by Jean Webster Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.


message 12: by Aprile (new)

Aprile (aprileb) Wow! 1/2 way done! Good job!


message 13: by Bonnie (last edited Mar 03, 2009 12:52AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Thanks! I'm in the Next Best Book Club challenge and so I'm reading a ton of books. I'm going to way overshoot fifty!

What's the Matter With Kansas was one of the few political books I really liked. I’m not generally very enthused about reading partisan political books because they tend to be just so angry (I’m looking at you, Al Franken). But Frank managed to not come across as angry and spiteful and I actually ended up understanding the conservative point of view a lot better (funny considering it's a liberal book!).

Eat, Pray, Love was a book that I hated. HATED. Just thinking about it again makes me angry. Basically, the book could occasionally be charming and funny and I really enjoyed learning about the Italian language, meditation and Bali history. But Elizabeth Gilbert came across as selfish, self-involved and sometimes rather dumb. I couldn't stand her and considering it is a memoir by and about her, that made it very difficult to read.

American Gods was an addictive book but probably not my favorite Gaiman work.I always like Gaiman, but I expected something more from this book given how highly it’s praised. It was a little cruder than I expected (wow, lots of bodily functions going on). That said, it was something I couldn’t put down. I kept trying to and I kept going “one more chapter, just one more” and before I knew it I had read the entire book! There were a LOT of gods and mythical figures I couldn’t identify and I had to use the internet to help. Very well researched.


message 14: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments Sky rockets to your halfway mark!


message 15: by Molly (last edited Mar 03, 2009 08:13AM) (new)

Molly | 330 comments Bonnie wrote: "The Other Queen was both good and disappointing. I had absolutely NO sympathy for Queen Mary in this book. She was a liar and a seducer and the way she cold-heartedly used George (who was a fool, b..."

I really enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and I usually do not like books set in that period. There is a true love story built in amongst all the terrible conniving.

Having recently finished Little Women you may enjoy March which is told from the father's perspective as he was off during the Civil War and his family was back in MA. Another historical novel I thought was well done and enjoyed.


message 16: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Thanks Mary Todd!

And Molly--I actually just bought The Other Boleyn Girl and am going to read it soon. I saw the movie and hopefully the book is better. I've heard of March and want to read it! I'm glad you liked it; I was wondering if it was indeed any good.


message 17: by Bonnie (last edited Mar 05, 2009 04:46AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments No god But God is probably the best primer about Islam that I’ve ever read. It really made me understand Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad better. Muhammad’s teachings—before they were corrupted by centuries of dogmatic religious scholars—were actually very progressive. He comes across as a very good man. The book bogs down in the middle when it gets into scholarly religious debate and I always go cross-eyed when reading about Sufism (an entire college class about the subject and I still don’t understand). But the first half about the history of Islam was fascinating and this is such a good, moderate, mostly highly readable book about a badly misunderstood religion

The Great Gatsby was a book that surprised me by how much I liked it. If only we had read it in high school English so I could analyze and discuss it! There is so much there. I am becoming more and more intrigued by complex characters and the characters in The Great Gatsby are very interesting. Gatsby’s life was so tragic; he focused all his hopes and dreams on one selfish, spoiled girl who wasn’t worth the effort. Although this book was a surprisingly enjoyable read, Fitzgerald has the same problem as Hemingway when writing women: they come off as half-people, never fully formed. Maybe men of that time just couldn’t write women.


message 18: by Molly (new)

Molly | 330 comments I always felt Faulkner formed his female characters well - albeit often through the other characters. Maybe this allowed the reader to complete the formation themselves?


message 19: by Bonnie (last edited Mar 08, 2009 08:44PM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Molly wrote: "I always felt Faulkner formed his female characters well - albeit often through the other characters. Maybe this allowed the reader to complete the formation themselves?"

Do you mean Fitzgerald? I never had a problem with Faulkner's female characters, but I feel that Fitzgerald uses his females just to be romantic interests of the male characters instead of being important characters in their own right. But to each his own! The great thing about these classics is that everyone can interpret them differently.


message 20: by Molly (new)

Molly | 330 comments Bonnie wrote: "Do you mean Fitzgerald? ..."

I was responding to your thought that perhaps men of that era just couldn't write women - Faulkner was their contemporary and I thought he did a decent job. I've not read any Fitzgerald - I do try to dip into a few classics each year - it is fun - and makes me feel smart :0



message 21: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Molly wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "Do you mean Fitzgerald? ..."

I was responding to your thought that perhaps men of that era just couldn't write women - Faulkner was their contemporary and I thought he did a decen..."


Ah, I see! And I agree!

Midnight Sun: I don’t know why I torture myself by reading ALL the books in the Twilight Saga. I read this because it fit a Next Best Book Club challenge and was free on the internet. And it started off fairly well; dark!homicidal!Edward is SO much more interesting than angsty!Edward. And then it was blah, blah, blah Bella is PERFECT. What is with Meyer and making her characters go on ad nauseum about how perfect and super special awesome their love interest is? And most of what Edward said WASN’T true about Bella. She is not selfless. In fact, she proves to be incredibly selfish, putting her obsession with Edward in front of everything else, damn the consequences to her family and friends (and poor Jacob Black). The only reason she is so interesting and “better” than other humans is that he can’t read her thoughts. I had to read them for four books, and let me tell you they are even more banal and annoying than the average person’s. I hated being in Bella’s head, and Edward would too if he could. Whatever, book.

The Toughest Indian in the World: Eh, I didn’t really like any story in this collection. They were all so…vulgar. I’m interested in reading one of Alexie’s full-length novels but this short story collection was not good; I didn’t like a single story in the entire collection (though I did like bits from both “Dear John Wayne” and “Saint Junior” where the smart, feisty protagonist totally shut down the arrogant, condescending antagonist).

Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway: Dave Barry can occasionally be pretty sometimes. And he can occasionally be trying too hard. Mostly I was hit by how quickly he becomes dated. Some of the jokes I got but realized my children won’t and some jokes were already before my time (1984 Presidential election). That’s the problem with being a topical comedian. But it was overall an amusing look at America as a democracy and a political system. And the more you actually know, the more jokes you get.




message 22: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency:Not what I was expecting at all, really. I thought it would be a fast-paced thriller with one central mystery. Instead it was a leisurely slice-of-life with a smattering of small mysteries. This book is good for a look into modern African life. I’m ashamed to say I don’t think I’ve ever set a book set in Africa (not counting ancient Egypt). That’s kind of sad. Although I do have Things Fall Apart and Poisonwood Bible on my immediate TBR list. Anyway, now that I know what I’m in for, I think the sequels will be better. Slice-of-life is cool, but not when I’m in the mood for a mindless thriller.

Stolen:I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I liked it and had to read it in one sitting because I had to know who Isabelle really was and what really happened to her, even though I guessed the truth pretty much right away. On the other hand, it’s not up to my Vivian Vande Velde standards. Lately, none of her books have been as good as her best (Dragon’s Bait, The Conjurer Princess, A Well-Timed Enchantment, etc.). I’m getting frustrated when each new book by her isn’t up to par. If it wasn’t VVV, I wouldn’t be so disappointed. It’s good YA. But it is too slight…VVV seems to be writing really thin books nowadays. Anyway, I want her to write another great book! But this isn’t it. Good, but not great. Still, worth the read for any YA fan.


message 23: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments #1 Ladies'!!! It's a charming series and DID YOU SEE THE HBO FIRST OF THE SERIES LAST NIGHT? IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Next Sun is show #2...you can watch the first one this week...LOVED it.


message 24: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Mary Todd wrote: "#1 Ladies'!!! It's a charming series and DID YOU SEE THE HBO FIRST OF THE SERIES LAST NIGHT? IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Next Sun is show #2...you can watch the first one this week...LOVED it."

I want to watch the show, but I haven't seen it yet. I'm glad you liked it! I've got books #2 & #3 and am going to read them during the Summer Challenge




message 25: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Stranger: This book gets one giant “meh.” It was only interesting after I read what Sparknotes had to say and I discovered the book DID have a point beyond it’s stupid meandering and annoying protagonist. It’s all about the randomness of life and nothing matters and that is so French.

Belle: Why are my favourite YA authors disappointing me? I have been very happy with Dokey’s contributions to Once Upon a Time. Beauty Sleep was great, Golden was fantastic, even Before Midnight was pretty good. This is just…not good. It feels like a bad Rose Daughter and Beauty rip-off done poorly and with some details changed to make it different, but that don’t make it better. First off, why do the sisters in the modern retelling have to be so damn nice? They are supposed to be BAD. And why is the mother alive? Unnecessary. And the whole, it’s not a rose, it’s this piece of wood from a magical tree!!! Okay….But what really seals it is that Belle interacts with the Beast for all of two or three chapters before the curse is broken. There was no romance and no reason to care for them as a couple other than the fact that you know you have to love them because they’re BEAUTY and the BEAST forgodssake. You can do better, Dokey.

The Jungle Book: I only vaguely remember the Disney version, but I will say this is not how I remember it. Mowgli is much more…mature. The Jungle Book itself is pretty good, and I LOVED Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, but the other stories included were pretty boring.

Things Fall Apart: For being such a famous book, I thought I’d like it more. It’s an interesting insight into African culture that I haven’t gotten before, and maybe some interesting characterisation (like the son who’s charming, lazy father inspires him to grow up to be a harsh, demanding workaholic) but I didn’t care about anybody in it and felt it was a rather plodding effort.


message 26: by Mary Todd (new)

Mary Todd (marytodd) | 924 comments #1 Detective Agency on tonight on HBO!!


message 27: by Bonnie (last edited May 30, 2009 07:42AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Year of Wonders: I am always extremely hesitant to read books I know will be depressing. This is a book about the plague--how much more depressing could you get? And yet I ended up loving the book. Maybe because I expected everyone to die (except the people you know from the beginning are going to live, as this story begins post-plague and then flashes back to before/during the plague). So when people dropped like flies I hadn't let myself get overly attached. Or maybe I was so ready for it to be heartbreakingly depressing but it really wasn't. Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. But in the same way that Hamlet is sad and tragic.This novel was beautifully written and difficult to put down. And, yeah, some of the characters seemed a bit too modern in their sensibilities, but unless it's annoyingly obvious I usually let that slide in historical fiction. The only thing that bugged me came at the end. What I saw as a 180 by the minister totally threw me. Oh, and one review by The Guardian on the back of the book mentions a "Sapphic bond between two women" which totally made me think Elinor would turn out to be a lesbian and have romantic feelings for Anna. For half the book I kept waiting for that to come out. Woah, was that ever off base (nothing off the kind is even slightly insinuated in the actual novel). Poor choice of words, reviewer.

Othello: Not Shakespeare’s finest work. Sure, Iago is a piece of work and he’s kind of an eviler Chuck Bass who is kind of a badass for working everybody so thoroughly (but for shame for tangling all the puppet strings at the end). Othello was interesting, though obtuse, and went 180 way too quickly (they’d been married for what, a week, before he turned on Desdemona?). There weren’t many great lines, though, and it didn’t have the epic AWESOMENESS of Hamlet or even the greatness of Macbeth. I’d probably like it more if we analyzed it in class, but I still feel this isn’t Shakespeare at his finest. Worth the read, though.

What Might Have Been: I expected more from this. I expected some interesting parallel worlds caused by one event turning out in a different way (it’s twelve “What Ifs” of history). Instead, it was kind of a confusing, muddled mess with not much in the way of how the world would be different except that maybe it wouldn’t be so different after all; the world would right itself and carry on it’s merry way, a very Whig view of things. There were a few that were actually worth reading, like Antonia Fraser’s Gunpowder Plot entry. If they’d all been like that, it would’ve gotten a higher grade. As it is, I just felt kind of cheated.


message 28: by Bonnie (last edited May 30, 2009 07:43AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court: It was SO GOOD. I now feel like I understand all the justices that the author wrote about so much better and understand how the court works. Though the author definitely has a thing for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; he is kind of obsessed with her and I could see him writing a biography of her because he seems to love/respect her that much.

White Fang: I seem to be on a classic children’s books kick. How did my mom never read White Fang to me as a child? It’s an impressively interesting book. The beginning drags a little, but once White Fang becomes part of the Indian camp it keeps going strong. London has the amazing ability to do a respectable job writing from an animal’s PoV. If I found out that animals really think like London writes, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m adding this to the list, alongside Little Women and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” of stories I want to read to my children.

Daddy Long Legs: This is a GREAT children’s book. First off, Webster’s writing feels so modern. If you change some references, etc. you could pass it off as written in the past decade. Judy’s (née Jerusha) voice is so strong and funny that she sounds like a modern girl. I read this all in one sitting and it was so enthralling. The one downside is that her love interest, Jervis, (who of course turns out to be Daddy Long Legs, and isn’t it kind of creepy she called him Daddy the entire book?) is kind of a jerk. He’s like Mr. Darcy pre-Elizabeth Bennett, so sure he is right and so prideful. He DEMANDS things and then calls Judy a fool when she disagrees. Of course, she ignores him and does what she wants anyway. I’m going to fanwank that Judy’s headstrong personality helps Jervis to become like post-Elizabeth Mr. Darcy.


message 29: by Bonnie (last edited Jul 02, 2009 01:59AM) (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments This brings me OVER 50 books. Yay, challenge completed! I already joined the 100+ Book Challenge because I'm well on my way to finishing that one, too. I'm going to keep posting here since I started here. Let's see how many books I can read this year!

41. Reserved for the Cat (Elemental Masters, #6) by Mercedes Lackey Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey.

42. Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1) by Orson Scott Card Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

43. Brief Lives of the English Monarchs by Carolly Erickson.

44. Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy (Penguin Classics) by Jean Webster Dear Enemy by Jean Webster.

45. Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier.

46. Nobody's Princess by Esther M. Friesner Nobody's Princess by Esther Freisner.

47. Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer.

48. Great Short Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) by Paul Negri Great Short Poems by Various.

49. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

50. Of Swords and Spells by Delia Marshall Turner Of Swords and Spells by Delia Marshall Turner.

51. [image error] The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory.

52. At the House of the Magician by Mary Hooper At the House of the Magician by Mary Hooper.

53. The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd.

54. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.

55. The Mexicans A Personal Portrait of a People by Patrick Oster The Mexicans A Personal Portrait of a People by Patrick Oster.

56. The Wizard of London (Elemental Masters, #5) by Mercedes Lackey The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey.

57. The Eyes of the Dragon (Signet) by Stephen King The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King.

58. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

59. King John (Folger Shakespeare Library) by William Shakespeare King John by William Shakespeare.

60. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.


message 30: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Reserved for the Cat: Really one of the better books in the Elemental Masters series, although only very loosely tied to the Puss-in-Boots story that it’s ostensibly based on. Oh, and the love story was really weak and I didn’t really feel like it was even worth it to put it in because it wasn’t very romantic anyway; just kind of there. But otherwise, it was an engaging read, I loved learning about the ballet world, I liked the characters and it’s nice to have a fluff book that I really LIKE and doesn’t disappoint me.

Ender's Game: Wow, I love this every bit as much as I did in middle school. But I think I am truly more horrified at the psychological torture the adults put Ender through than I did the first time I read it. I just have to continue to pretend the sequels don’t exist (nor do the parallel books, besides Ender’s Shadow). This book is still so…wow. There are simply no words. It is perfect in almost every single way.

Brief Lives of the British Monarchs: This is a slow book to get through. I read a couple entries, found it very interesting, read something else, came back, read a couple more entries, rinse and repeat. But this is the kind of book that encourages that and really didn’t hurt the book at all. In fact, it can’t be read all the way through very effectively; everyone gets muddled together in my mind. I am very glad that I have a decent background in English history, otherwise I probably would’ve been more confused. I just wish I had a better memory so I could retain all the interesting biographical bits that Erickson throws in. This book is truly about the monarch themselves, not their times and not English itself. Erickson makes everyone so HUMAN. And, really, he makes them seem so unfit for office because all their (very human) flaws. How did England not destroy itself with so many incapable monarchs; or with the many monarchs that held such promise in youth but as they grew older they hardened and grew incompetent? I did note with interest the trends in the various royal lines that cropped up in each generation: the Tudors were absolutely brilliant (although their other flaws were many), the Stuarts were arrogant and rather incompetent, and the Hanovers (now the Windsors) tended to HATE their heirs and in general were bad parents (too strict, too cold). Also, the Hanovers are nowhere near as breathtakingly brilliant as the Tudors; in fact, a great many of the Hanovers were rather stupid. I kind of want a copy of this book myself so whenever I hear a monarch referenced I can pull it out and go “Oh, yes, THAT guy, with the inability to choose good advisors.”


message 31: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Dear Enemy: Sadly, not as good as Daddy Long Legs. As others had warned, it had some weird views about children. But it was a quick read and was pretty good overall.

Cybele's Secret: The companion novel to Wildwood Dancing. Another romantic, compelling YA.

Nobody's Princes: It was…bad. I mean, it would be fine if I was 10 and had not developed taste as such yet. It had the required spunky heroine, the adventure sequence, the whatever. But it was so…boring. And poorly written. And formulaic. This is BAD YA, the kind that really is just for kiddies and not for anyone who likes good books.

Cindy Ella: It’s like most of Meg Cabot’s works…it has the requisite fluff quality when you want fluff, but it’s not great stuff.

Great Short Poems: Just what I was looking for: many of the poems that I want to have a copy of (“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”; ‘Fire and Ice,” etc.) and introduced me to many poems that I instantly loved (“To My Dear and Loving Husband” etc). Perfect for a poetry dilettante such as myself.


message 32: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Love In The Time of Cholera: a. Beautiful writing. Stunning in parts. But the characters? Horrible! The plot? Lame! This was the worst romance EVER. Florentino was a huge douche. Sleeping with hundreds of women MAKES YOU A HORRIBLE LOVE INTEREST. I don’t believe for a minute he actually loved Fermino (and isn’t Marquez evil to make the two have such similar, confusing names). I think he was obsessed with her in a creepy way.

Of Swords and Spells: This is my THIRD time reading this and I still love it to pieces. I LOVE the heroine. She’s the perfect blend of sarcasm, defensiveness and vulnerability. I LOVE the romance. I just know I'm going to read it at least one more time before the year ends.

The Queen's Fool: What’s with Gregory’s hatred of Queen Elizabeth? Seriously? She opens the book with a 14-year old Elizabeth seducing her step-mother’s husband. Eww. And then she continues to characterize Elizabeth as a shallow, whiny, self-indulgent, bratty, selfish, scheming, manipulative whore who enjoys nothing more than seducing another woman’s husband just to show that she can. Did Elizabeth kill Gregory’s puppy or something? Every time this Elizabeth came on screen I wanted to slap her. That was the absolute worst part of the book for me and there were passages I had to read through gritted teeth because of the way Gregory was bastardizing Elizabeth. When the plot DIDN’T directly involve Elizabeth, I really liked it (though Hanna did get on my nerves a bit near the end…but I guess she had to be a bit of a brat in order to learn and grow at the very end). It was very gripping, pretty exciting, and kept me interested. Now if only Gregory didn’t have a vendetta against Elizabeth, it could’ve been a pretty great book instead of pretty good.


message 33: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments At The House of the Magician: Meh. This book might’ve been fine if I was eight, but I have higher standards. Boring, not much of a plot, lame characters. A hint the sequel might actually be interesting, but not worth spending money on.

The Lambs of London: What a waste. Charles and Mary Lamb are an AMAZING story. Ever since they were mentioned in Guernsey I’ve wanted to know more and thought that someone could make an awesome fictionalized version. It has everything: madness! murder! a touching sibling bond! And what does Ackroyd do? Fob onto it some lame Shakespeare forgery scandal…and then proceeds to make that the main focus. And he makes Charles kind of a dick….how could that man give up everything to protect Mary by keeping her out of asylums? These are historical people who are just ACHING to have their story told because it is so deliciously scandalous. How could Ackroyd not do them justice? It doesn’t help that he throws out random and gross backstories on minor characters (like a cameo of a black servant who apparently is sexually abused by his two masters. Probably true life but…unnecessary in this book, when it has NOTHING to do with the plot or any of the main characters). Ackroyd had the chance for a GREAT story and he BLEW it.


message 34: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments Fire and Hemlock: I was pretty into the first half of the book, and I thought Jones did a surprisingly good job of showing the divorce and two very incompetent parents. But then, as all the reviews said, it got weird. Like, really weird. Like, incomprehensible weird. The Perilous Garde does the Tam Lin story much better, but this was still pretty good.

The Mexicans: Okay, this might be 20 years out of date but it was still really good. I learned a lot about Mexico/Mexicans and I really wish there was an updated copy (not just a lame afterward) so I could learn how close this portrait is to current Mexico. It was very informative while still being interesting, which is something (a very good something).

The Wizard of London: Definitely not Lackey’s best and one of the weakest in the Elemental Masters series. In fact, it barely felt like it was part of the series. She introduced a random psychic powers story line that didn’t make much sense with the elemental magic that was previously established and is the main focus of the series. And, worst of all, there was no romance! The main lady was happily married. Great for her, but bo-ring. But, mostly, I didn’t think it was that great because it was slow and didn’t fit in well with the overall series.


message 35: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments The Eyes of the Dragon: I think it’s boring as crap and inspires me to never touch Stephen King again. NOTHING HAPPENS. I ended up skimming a good chunk of it waiting for some action. Nothing. It’s the kind of book I’d usually put down half way through, wander away from, and never pick up again.

The Picture of Dorian Grey: Honestly, I thought it would be a lot more interesting. It was pretty good, especially near the end. But there were some pretty long passages of…boringness. It wasn’t even as witty as Wilde usually is.

King John: I don’t like Shakespeare’s history plays. This one didn’t convince me that they were actually any good. They’re just so…slow. And boring in the way that makes people think Shakespeare is dull.

Slaughter-House 5: Very Catch-22-esque. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say they were by the same author. But I think Catch-22 did it better. Still, very worthwhile read.


message 36: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 30 comments So I'm well on my way to 100+ books. In fact, my new goal is to finish 100 books by the end of the summer. I'm kind of amazed that I've read so many books. I've never read this many before, but then again this is the first year I haven't read books for school. So all my reading time goes straight to this list.

61. Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey.

62. The Road by Cormac McCarthy The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

63. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker The Colour Purple by Alice Walker.

64. Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy.

65. The Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama The Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama.

66. The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (Collins Modern Classics) - Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein.

67. a short history of australia by Manning Clark A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark.

68. John Adams by David McCullough John Adams by David McCullough.

69. The Pearl (Centennial Edition) by John Steinbeck The Pearl by John Steinbeck.

70. [image error] A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith.

71. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

72. Life of Pi by Yann Martel Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

73. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

74. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

75. [image error] The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.

76. December 6 A Novel by Martin Cruz Smith December 6 A Novel by Martin Cruz Smith.

77. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.

78. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy.

79. The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick.

80. The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip.


message 37: by Lisi (new)

Lisi (toyonomikoto) | 43 comments Wow, 80 books in one year, this is a lot!


message 38: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Bonnie wrote: "Thanks Mary Todd!

And Molly--I actually just bought The Other Boleyn Girl and am going to read it soon. I saw the movie and hopefully the book is better. I've heard of March and want to read it! I..."


Bonnie, just be aware when you read "March" that you are going to be getting a very different view of the father from "Little Women." Certainly more true to what Bronson Alcott was like but I had such an affection for the father in "Little Women" that it was hard for me to see him this way.


message 39: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Bonnie wrote: "Love In The Time of Cholera: a. Beautiful writing. Stunning in parts. But the characters? Horrible! The plot? Lame! This was the worst romance EVER. Florentino was a huge douche. Sleeping with hund..."

At last! Someone else who isn't raving about "Love In The Time of Cholera!" I agree, beautiful writing, strange story.


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