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karspeak's in for 2012

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 4:05am Top

Hi, all, I have been lurking on 75ers' threads for several years now, so I am finally joining up for 2012. I usually only read about 60 books a year, but my reading tastes and personality seem a better fit for this group... I enjoy a fairly wide of range of books--nonfiction, general fiction, classics, sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, the occasional mystery. A sampling of my favorite reads from the past few years are listed below. Happy reading to all, and please drop by anytime!!!

Cold Comfort Farm
The Handmaid's Tale
Peace Like a River
The Hunger Games
Pickled, Potted, and Canned
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Team of Rivals
Half the Sky

Dec 28, 2011, 4:21pm Top

Welcome to the 75er's group. We don't mind if you don't reach 75.. I haven't reached in the 3 years I have been in this group. We all enjoy each others company and reading each others threads. Feel free to lurk.. I do. :)

Dec 28, 2011, 5:26pm Top

Welcome to the group! Looks like we have some similar tastes so I'll be peeking in here from time to time.

Dec 28, 2011, 5:31pm Top

Welcome to the group! The four books on your list of favourites which I've read - Cold Comfort, Handmaid, Middlemarch and Sabriel - are all ones I enjoyed very much too. I hope you have a good reading year in 2012.

Dec 28, 2011, 7:29pm Top

Welcome! Glad you decided to join us.

FYI, we've added a couple of wikis to the mix this year. The first is where we keep important threads. The second is the Threadbook where we have a directory to all the members' threads. Both help keep a handle on the chaos! :)

Dec 28, 2011, 8:45pm Top

Hi Karen - I lurk quite a bit myself, but it will be fun to hear about what you read this year. Glad you've joined the group!

Dec 29, 2011, 9:07am Top

*waves* Howdy there newcomer! Looks like we enjoy some of the same books, so I'll be keeping an eye on your thread. :D

Dec 29, 2011, 9:36am Top

Welcome to the group! I'm glad you've decided to dive in at last. It looks like we have some similar tastes, so I'll be stopping back here to visit :)

And don't worry about the numbers. It doesn't matter whether you reach 75 or not, and also, many people have found that just being in the group magically helps them read more ;)

Dec 29, 2011, 6:09pm Top

Glad to see you finally joining up! I love the list of your favorites. One of these days I will get to Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Dec 29, 2011, 7:55pm Top

I like your samples. I'll be following along. Just read 1491 myself as a matter of fact and loved Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Edited: Jan 2, 2012, 9:53am Top

Thanks, everyone, for the warm welcome!! I can't wait to check out all of your threads!

#5 - BTW, Jim, the Threadbook is absolutely brilliant.

#10 - Steve, I am planning to read 1493 in the next few months. It is by the same author as 1491 and apparently shares some of the same subject matter as Guns, Germs, and Steel. Should be good!

Jan 1, 2012, 12:12pm Top

Hi Karen! I've got you starred. Your list of books at the top of the thread includes several of my favorites, like Peace Like a River, and several that I want to try. Here's to some good reading in 2012!

Jan 1, 2012, 6:37pm Top

Welcome to the group, Karen. I'm starring your thread as a fellow science fiction/fantasy reader.

Jan 2, 2012, 9:58am Top

#12, 13 - Hey, Amy and Roni, I've got you both starred, as well!

Jan 2, 2012, 11:01am Top

Hi! I've got 1493 slotted next for my morning commute. Although I skimmed through the last 1/3 of it, 1491 really altered how I viewed the Americas before Columbus. I still can't understand why he is celebrated with a National Holiday here in the States - he did not even land here!!

Jan 2, 2012, 5:07pm Top

1: 60 is a perfectly respectable number, and not as unusual as you might suppose from the more prolific among us. I hit 75 just barely in 2011 by counting magazines and switching to shorter lighter books toward the end of the year. 1491 was one of my favorites too, and I intend to read 1493 though I may not get to it for awhile.

Jan 5, 2012, 1:27pm Top

I have enjoyed following your log in the 50 books group. You've found some great books like Guns, Germs and Steel. I decided to stay in the 50 group even though my sights are aimed above 50 now, to 60 I hope. I've starred you so I can check your reading now and then. Keep up the good reads!

Jan 5, 2012, 3:48pm Top

#15 - Corrina, I love it when a book is a paradigm-shifter! I just jumped over to star your thread and then found I had already starred it! Looking forward to hearing how you like 1493.

#16 - Hi, Katherine, I should probably be reading fewer than 60, actually, given how busy my life is:). I am particularly looking forward to reading your NF thread this year...

#17 - Hi, Ron, how did I miss your 50 Challenge thread last year?! Anyway, I starred you for this year. Have you seen the "What We Are Reading: Sci-Fi and Fantasy" thread on this group? I have already gotten several book recs from it. Watch out, it could be dangerous!

Edited: Jan 5, 2012, 3:55pm Top

1. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard (LT rec)
This was very good historical NF. The author, who is a professor at Harvard, did an excellent job of wringing much meaning from Martha Ballard's diary, which covered 1785-1812. I got an excellent sense of what Martha's day-to-day life entailed, and it spoke to common themes in any woman's life. It was a bit of work to read, but it was worth it. Recommended if it sounds like your kind of book.

Jan 5, 2012, 4:12pm Top

Oh, I'm glad you read A Midwife's Tale! I really love that book. Like you, I found it so interesting to read about the daily life of a woman in that time period. Martha was in some a ways a very interesting and some ways a very typical woman which is was made the book so great. Wasn't it neat how Ulrich starts each chapter with actual excerpts from the diary and then you get to see all of the info she extrapolates from it?

Sorry . . . I get excited talking about this book!

Jan 5, 2012, 4:55pm Top

Ulrich's scholarship really was amazing. I agree with you completely--she was Every Woman AND she was remarkable. My favorite part of the book was actually when Martha was ill and her son and daughter-in-law moved in. Her personality, as viewed through her diary, seemed to change so markedly, and then she seemed to go back to normal when her health improved and she got her house back. (FYI, potential readers, that was in no way a spoiler.) And, as with any well-written history book, I always end up thinking of the quote, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Jan 5, 2012, 5:08pm Top

>18 karspeak: Thanks Karen. Reading some of these threads is very dangerous for my book addiction - too much temptation! I actually want to dial back my SF&F reading a bit this year and increase some other things I like such as historical fiction and mysteries. Plus some history and other non-fiction. Stephen King's recent 11/22/1963 was so good that I want to read some of his other recent works as well. At least one of them anyways.

Maybe next year I'll move up to the 75 book challenge if I do well this year.

Jan 5, 2012, 8:08pm Top

I have seen a couple of good reviews of A Midwife's Tale. I am going to have to get my hands on a copy. Glad to see that you enjoyed it, Karen.

Jan 7, 2012, 8:24pm Top

A Midwife's Tale sounds good - adding it to my wishlist!

I saw on another thread that you (I think it was you...) have two little boys - I have a 3-year-old boy, so I'll be hanging out here looking for children's books recommendations.

Jan 10, 2012, 1:53pm Top

2. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (LT Rec)
This book gets an A++ for creative world-building, but a B- (or C+?) for plot and pacing. In this imaginative and richly detailed future, society is a Colortocracy, and your societal standing is based on your ability to perceive certain colors.
But some things don't quite add up, and the main character Eddie begins to ask questions and nose around...

The author, Jasper Fforde of Thursday Next fame, puts a fun, zany, tongue-in-cheek spin on this dystopia. As one review put it, "It's a dystopia with a jam shortage." But I thought Fforde let it drag a bit in the middle, and then the answers came too suddenly and were a bit too pat. And it turns out this is the first in a trilogy. So, it was a fun read, but I was a little disappointed by the end. But Fforde's imagination and tone are fantastic. Most LTers seem to have LOVED this book, so maybe I'm being too picky?

Jan 10, 2012, 2:15pm Top

#22 - Ron, looks like I will have to read 11/22/1963!

#23, 24 - Stasia and Amber, A Midwife's Tale is definitely worth reading! Amber, my 5 year old is just getting into chapter books (yea!), so I will mention those from time to time. Of the ones we read in December, The Mouse and the Motorcycle was definitely his favorite.

Jan 10, 2012, 5:01pm Top

#25 by karspeak> I loved Shades of Grey but I can see what you mean about the pacing a bit. I will say, however, that the way you feel about SoG is the way I felt about The Big Over Easy- the world was great but the story was blah. It almost kept me from reading more in the series, but I persevered and really enjoyed The Fourth Bear. Hopefully the next book in this series will be more even and enjoyable for you.

Jan 11, 2012, 7:53am Top

Oh, The Mouse and the Motorcycle was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid - I can't wait until Charlie's old enough for it!

Jan 11, 2012, 9:58am Top

#27 - Fforde is so creative! His world-building skills are remarkable, but on top of that, he has been able to come up with so many different worlds/series that it boggles my mind!

#28 - I looked up the 1001 Children's Books list from your thread--what a fabulous resource!!! I promptly emailed it to various friends and family members. Thanks for mentioning it on your thread.

Jan 11, 2012, 1:18pm Top

29: You're welcome!

Jan 14, 2012, 12:44pm Top

Congratulations reaching 52 last year! Good luck swimming with the big kids! I've still got my floaties on over in the 50 group.

Edited: Jan 16, 2012, 12:47pm Top

3. Wool (Amazon rec)
This 70 page short story is fun and well-written!! Post-apocalyptic dystopia meets the Twilight Zone. And it's only 99 cents for Kindle, BTW. It was a very quick and engrossing read. On to Wool 2...

Edited: Jan 16, 2012, 12:47pm Top

4. Wool 2 (sequel)
Also very good. There are currently 4 Wools out, with the 5th (and maybe final?) due out soon. I often will only read the first book in a series, but I will definitely be reading more of these. Fun and addictive!

Edited: Jan 16, 2012, 2:27pm Top

I really enjoyed 1491, the author's previous book, but this one dragged on and on for me without offering up much new information. So, I gave up around page 250 then skimmed the rest.

Some of the author's main points:
1. Slavery from Africa became popular in the Americas because the American Indians and Europeans were dropping like flies from malaria. Most Africans were already resistant to most malaria strains, so they could withstand it.
2. The silver from the Potosi mine in South America fueled international trade. China wanted silver to bolster their currency, and Europe wanted their silks and porcelain. Spain controlled the silver mine. Voila, global trade is born.
3. Tobacco, rubber, and sugar cane also become important exports from the Americas.
4. China started growing sweet potatoes and corn (imported from the Americas) like crazy. They could be grown in poor soil, which eventually led to deforestation then erosion, which, combined with currency inflation because of too much silver, contributed to the destabilization of the government at that time.
5. The cultivation of potatoes (from America) led to Europe not going through cycles of starvation, for the first time. Except for the Irish potato famine, of course. But overall it led to population increases across Europe.
***End Spoilers***

The author's historical research is excellent, but I was hoping for more new theories or concepts. If you love detailed history books, this might be for you, but I felt that the author never delivered on his premise that the the sudden intersection of the people, other fauna, and flora of the inhabited continents shaped history as we know it.

Jan 16, 2012, 3:44pm Top

I am listening to 1493 on audio now and am also struggling though it. I think there's some great stuff in there, he is just so darn wordy and repetitive! Really, does he have to say "three score and five years ago" instead of just telling us the number??! I'll continue on for now since I've nothing better to listen to and many of the other historical facts are interesting - I'm learning about the "true" Pocahontas story and earthworms, but really.....this guy needs a braver editor.

Jan 16, 2012, 4:41pm Top

I find it a bit strange that a "historian" would say that South American silver was the birth of international trade when it had been going on for centuries before that... and was the reason the New World was "discovered." But maybe I'm just missing some finer point since I've not read the book.

Jan 16, 2012, 8:58pm Top

OK, I'm intrigued by the Wool series. I just got the first one for my Kindle - can't beat 99 cents. Thanks for the rec!

Jan 18, 2012, 3:29pm Top

#31 - Oops, I missed your post earlier, but I've got your thread starred now, PaperbackPirate!

#35 - Corrina, I enjoyed the Jamestown section, but after that it really went downhill for me--I hope it goes better for you! Yes, he definitely needed a better editor!

#36 - Sorry, I should not have used the term "international." He meant that it was the first time that the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe were all interconnected in trade, like the global markets that we have today. But, I agree with you, that does not seem very different from previous centuries, if you took the Americas out of the equation. I think he would argue that China had generally been very closed to trade, although some goods made it over the very long and arduous Silk Road, until the silver from South America blew their coastal borders wide open. Overall, the author didn't really sell me on his main premise.

Jan 18, 2012, 3:31pm Top

#37 - Amy, I look forward to hearing what you think of Wool!

Jan 18, 2012, 8:04pm Top

#38 by karspeak> After I posted, I had the feeling that when you said "global trade" you meant the author really meant literally global, as in the entire world, rather than just international or hemispheric. From your review, I feel no need to read the book. It reminds me of a truly disappointing ER from last year, the misleadingly titled An Edible History of Humanity.

Jan 20, 2012, 6:47am Top

Just posting to say I've starred your thread as Cold Comfort Farm, A Handmaid's Tale and Guns, Germs and Steel have also been books that I've really enjoyed. 1491 sounds interesting too - sorry to hear that 1493 isn't living up to it.
Wool also looks fun but it's £1.02 in the UK rather than your 99c - it always seems very unfair that you can't just buy Kindle books from whatever Amazon site you want to as you can with physical books.

Jan 27, 2012, 3:51pm Top

#41 - Rhian, I am able to download books from US Amazon to my Kindle while living in Germany, but I bought my Kindle in the US... Not sure how that all works out. The price differences can be crazy, I agree!

Jan 27, 2012, 3:58pm Top

5. Wool 3
6. Wool 4

I've read Wools 1-4 now, and I think they fall (for me) in the fairly well-written but very entertaining category. They won't win any lit awards but sure makes a train ride go by more quickly! I just downloaded Wool 5 (touchstone wrong b/c it's hot off the press), and darn if the price hasn't gone up from 99 cents to 2.99 for the Kindle--guess the series is gaining fans. The first in the series, Wool, could definitely stand alone if you wanted, and I think it is the best from a literary perspective.

Jan 27, 2012, 4:08pm Top

#42 - I think it depends where you buy your kindle. In the UK we can't borrow books either - I bought my husband a kindle for Christmas and I was under the impression that I could lend him books and vice versa. But apparently you can only do that in the US. In the UK the only way to share books is to set both kindle's up on the same Amazon account.

Jan 28, 2012, 8:21pm Top

It's the same in the US, I think. Have you seen the Kindle loaner page for this group? But usually the Kindle books I want to loan friends/family are not loanable!

Jan 29, 2012, 3:31pm Top

7. Wool 5 (wrong touchstone)
This was the final installment in the series. It was the weakest of the 5 books, IMO, which made me glad for it to be over. I even skimmed some parts. The first was the best, and 2-4 were entertaining, and this one was weak. But overall, a fun series.

Feb 3, 2012, 2:26pm Top

I keep forgetting to mention that my 5 year old son and I finished Stuart Little, which I found to be very so-so. Then we read Mr. Popper's Penguins, which was very cute. We are currently reading The Sword and the Stone, which is way above his level. I have to paraphrase a fair amount, but he is still enjoying it. It's about knights, so he is insistent that we finish it...

Edited: Feb 10, 2012, 4:18pm Top

8. The Warden (LT Rec)
I liked but didn't love this Victorian classic, the first in the Barsetshire series. I thought there were flashes of great perception of humanity and its foibles, but they were more of an exception than the rule. It was...nice.

Feb 12, 2012, 3:36am Top

My son and I finished The Boxcar Children, which was cute but turned Annie/Daddy Warbucks at the end. I will eventually read him more books from this series.

Feb 15, 2012, 3:20pm Top

9. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans (Europe books)

This 63 page book was a very quick, insightful, and entertaining book on the Germans. I have read several other books on understanding the Germans, and this one did it just as well as the other books in only 63 pages. Recommended.

Feb 17, 2012, 10:03am Top

>48 karspeak: I felt like you and liked but didn't love The Warden. However, once I read Barchester Towers I was hooked on the series. I think you have to read that one to know whether or not you want to continue the series.

Feb 17, 2012, 2:09pm Top

I will follow your advice, thanks, japaul!

Edited: Feb 27, 2012, 4:03am Top

Shadow Swans by Laura Thomas (touchstone wrong; random acquaintance rec)--Ditched
This book was terrible. It has a setting very similar to Neverwhere, a gritty world under the subway system, etc, but with no magic. Then the plot devolved. Avoid this one.

My son and I finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was great fun, and I looked forward to reading it each night as much as he did!

Feb 27, 2012, 2:36pm Top

10. A Woman of Independent Means (Book Club Selection)
I loved reading this book, from start to finish. It is the fictional collection of letters of a remarkable woman. We follow her from elementary school in small-town Texas through her elderly years in Dallas completely through her letters written to others. She was strong-willed, articulate, intelligent, sometimes bossy, honest, and deeply committed to her family. I enjoyed watching her grapple with children, marriage, love, tragedy, daily life, personal desires versus family responsibilities, and friendships. It felt so real, and she was so honest about the positives and negatives of all of it, the ups and downs. It is not literary, per se, but her letters were remarkably articulate and often clever. Recommended.

Feb 27, 2012, 4:13pm Top

#10 sounds like a wonderful book. I don't recall seeing this book before but I'll look for it now.

Feb 28, 2012, 11:00am Top

Oooh, I can't wait to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my own Charlie someday! I love all of Dahl's stuff; Danny the Champion of the World is my absolute favorite of his.

Mar 1, 2012, 2:42pm Top

#55 - Hi, Ron, if you do end up reading it, I would be curious to get your perspective on it.

#56 - Amber, my husband still owns his childhood copy of Danny the Champion of the World, so that is definitely in the queue!

Mar 1, 2012, 4:20pm Top

Hi, Karspeak. You give me renewed courage for someday. I have tried to read The Warden and was just not able to get into even though I really enjoyed the Pallisers. Now I'll try again, but not this year since it's devoted to Charlie D.

Mar 2, 2012, 9:52pm Top

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you don't hate The God Engines.

Mar 4, 2012, 1:22pm Top

#58 - Hi, Peggy, I didn't love The Warden, but I will give the sequel a try based on japaul22's rec. We'll see how it goes!

#59 - Hey, Rob, rest easy, see post below;).

Edited: Mar 4, 2012, 2:31pm Top

11. The God Engines (LT rec)
This was a quick, fun read. It felt like sci-fi, but it's Scalzi's first fantasy book. I cannot for the life of me remember what happened in Scalzi's Old Man's War, so we'll see how well God Engines sticks with me...

12. Gertrude Bell: Desert Queen (family rec)
Wow. Gertrude Bell was THE woman of the late 1800's and early 1900's. More than any other person, she was responsible for Iraq becoming an independent country. She was brilliant, tireless, rich, selfless, and fearless. She was a pioneering archeologist, mountaineer, and desert explorer. And then she was called in to work for her (British) government during WWI to deal with the problem of Mesopotamia. She and Lawrence of Arabia worked together for British Intelligence in the Middle East, but she actually played a greater role in the region than Lawrence did. She was an amazing and remarkable woman. It took a bit of work to wade through this well-written, 400+ page biography, but it was well worth it. I am glad she is not alive to see what has become of Iraq in the past few decades...

My son and I just finished James and the Giant Peach. It was cute, but I am Roald Dahl'd out at the moment. On to other children's book authors!

Mar 4, 2012, 3:04pm Top

Ooh, I remember really enjoying the Gertrude Bell book when I read it a few years ago. I also really enjoyed Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark which is similar.

Mar 4, 2012, 11:05pm Top

I love those intrepid Victorian women too. My current book on those lines is Up the Country, Emily Eden's letters about the progress with her brother, Lord Auckland, Governer-General of India in 1838.

Mar 7, 2012, 8:35pm Top

Every since I read The Dreamers of the Day, a historical fiction book with Gertrude Bell in it, I've wanted to read more about Bell. The biography sounds excellent! Thanks for the rec.

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 4:40pm Top

Ditched--The Bookseller of Kabul (Book Club Selection)
I just couldn't get into this non-fiction account of a female journalist living with an Afghani family. Let me summarize--women often get treated like crap in Afghanistan. I had already read several books about or set in Afghanistan, so perhaps that is why it didn't grab me. Also, I am a little skeptical because the author admitted that she could only interview the family members who spoke English, and she filled in the gaps by trying to cross-reference stories between various family members for verification. But, still, in a repressive society, how accurate a picture do you get if you can only interview some of the family members, many of whom are at odds with each other? But maybe it is the best peek into society we can hope for, until Afghani women (or men) start writing their own books.

My 5 yo son and I just finished The Enormous Egg, about a boy who has a triceratops hatch out of a chicken egg on his farm in New Hampshire. It was cute and entertaining, although it doesn't achieve the level of a children's classic. I have yet to find any really great adventure stories that are action-packed for my son. There are lots of cute, fun books, but he wants ADVENTURE.

Mar 15, 2012, 2:22pm Top

Hmm, maybe try a graphic novel version of Treasure Island (or the original version itself)? Adventure and pirates. You can't go wrong. ;)

Mar 15, 2012, 9:48pm Top

Peter Pan is good for adventure, too!

Edited: May 10, 2012, 3:12pm Top

#62 - Ooh, the Freya Stark book sounds good, also. I will have to add it to the list.

#63 - Up the Country also sounds good!

#64 - I highly recommend it, porch_reader!

#66 and 67 - Thanks for the recommendations. I ordered the Classic Starts version of Treasure Island, and I ordered Peter Pan, too.

Edited: Mar 17, 2012, 6:39pm Top

13. Shadows in Flight (sequel)
This is the latest installment in Orson Scott Card's Shadow subseries, one of the series that branched off of the wonderful book Ender's Game. I read parts and skimmed parts. The characters felt recycled from previous books, and the plot was poor. Not recommended. Boo.

Mar 23, 2012, 4:54am Top

14. Snow Child (LT Rec)
This was a nicely done somewhat modern (early 1900's) fairy tale set in Alaska. It blends historical fiction with magical realism in the Alaskan wilderness. Recommended if "adult fairy tale" sounds up your alley.

Mar 25, 2012, 5:56pm Top

Just dropping in to say that I've been reading the Wool Omnibus after seeing your review earlier in the year. I've really enjoyed it - I think I agree with your assessment that It won't win any literary awards but is a well-written page turner. I found Wool 5 to be more satisfactory than you did though - it was Wool 2 that I found to be the weakest.

Mar 26, 2012, 8:37am Top

>69 karspeak:: Ah, that sounds like one of the "skip it" reads in the Enderverse. Too bad it's the most recent installment. Card writes such amazing stuff a lot of the time, it's too bad his most loved universe seems to be getting the short end of the stick.

Mar 30, 2012, 3:37pm Top

#71 - Yea, Rhian, I'm glad you enjoyed the series! Fun page-turners can be hard to find, sometimes, at least for me.

#72 - Hi, Faith, I starred your thread, thanks for dropping by!

Mar 30, 2012, 3:43pm Top

15. Xenophobe's Guide to the French (book in a series)
This is my second Xenophobe's Guide book, and I am quite impressed with the series so far. The books are very brief (this one was only 63 pages) but do a better job than their much longer counterparts at describing the various traits that make the French, Germans, etc, unique. Concise, entertaining, and very informative.

Apr 6, 2012, 3:20pm Top

16. Survival of the Prettiest (Husband rec)
This was an interesting, informative NF book about beauty. The author's main tenet is that almost all of our fascination and obsession with beauty is the result of our biological programming, ie, millions of years of evolution at work. And we all pay much more attention to appearances than we think we do. The author didn't belabor any points, though, and she packed tons of info and thoughts into the book in a very readable fashion. Recommended.

Apr 6, 2012, 3:21pm Top

My 5 y.o son and I just finished Indian in the Cupboard, which is such a great book, but I felt like it would have been even better for him if he were a few years older. He still enjoyed it, though.

Apr 8, 2012, 5:22pm Top

17. The Iron Duke (LT Rec)
I was looking for something light and fun to give me a break from some heavy reading, and this did the trick--sort of. First of all, if you are a fan of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, the first of which is Soulless, then this is a book for you. Soulless and The Iron Duke are actually eerily similar--steampunk adventure romances with a smart, independent female investigator and a very strong, large man who is ridiculously besotted, overprotective, and in lust with said investigator.

As with Soulless, I found the romance parts to be very BLECH. But The Iron Duke had very good steampunk world building and fun adventure plotting. I stayed up until 1 am to finish it, which I very rarely do. I thought the steampunk and adventure components were stronger than those in Soulless, but Soulless was a bit more on the mystery side of things, FYI.

As an aside, the steampunk genre seems so completely random to me. Why pick the Victorian era for alternate history? And then, a steampunk action romance, really?! And then, TWO different steampunk action romance books, really?! So random.

Apr 8, 2012, 5:25pm Top

You got me! The Iron Duke is on the wishlist.

Edited: Apr 9, 2012, 4:04am Top

Too easy;)!

Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 4:05am Top

18. Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Book Club)
This is narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel. It delves into the lives of some of the men, women, and children in the Annawadi slum next to the Mumbai International Airport. An open sewage lake, women and girls commiting suicide, rampant corruption of the police and justice system, rat bites, garbage scavengers, corruption of all government and foreign aid, plans and schemes to get ahead, and fear of having the slum razed are some of the aspects of daily life.

The author has been reporting on poverty for many years, and she ably succeeds in bringing these people to life while also highlighting their struggles and the issues surrounding globalization, etc.

I think this book is important and very well done, but I certainly did not enjoy reading it. It was sad and depressing, and I am glad to be done with it!

Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 4:16am Top

19. The Night Circus (LT Rec)
This fantastical novel has been getting lots of LT buzz and love. It was nicely done, but it didn't enchant me.

Apr 29, 2012, 5:06pm Top

20. Boneshaker (LT rec)
Hmmm. This steampunk novel was both a Hugo and a Nebula nominee. It is set mostly in the Seattle underground in the late 1800s. I've visited downtown Seattle many times and been on the unground tour, which made this book a bit more fun for me. The book is fast-paced since the main characters are constantly running from zombies, running from bad guys, or looking for safe air to breathe before they pass out and get found by the aforementioned bad guys or zombies. But the plot and world-building fell flat for me. Not recommended unless you love all things steampunk.

Apr 29, 2012, 5:21pm Top

I can gauge how crazy/stressful my life has been by how many light fiction (usually sci-fi or fantasy) books I read. I still read good nonfiction, but slide toward fluffy but ultimately unsatisfying (for me) fiction. And based on my reading log for this year, it's been a doozy! Well, what did I expect when I moved to another continent with a toddler and preschooler? I keep thinking I will finally be settled and things will slow down--maybe next month!

My 5 y.o. and I finished the Classic Starts version of Treasure Island, which is heavily altered (not just abridged) to be appropriate for a younger age group. But I thought it still maintained the plot and literary flavor of the original. He and I both enjoyed it, and we will eventually try other books in the Classic Starts series.

Apr 30, 2012, 8:56am Top

>82 karspeak:: I haven't managed to get on that underground tour yet, but one of these years I'll get there when I visit. And I do love all things steampunk, so I wonder if it might be a book I enjoy. I haven't read any Cherie Priest though, so who knows!

Apr 30, 2012, 4:59pm Top

Hi, Faith, I'd be curious to see how you like it. It is a quick and entertaining read, and I've seen several reviewers say it is one of Priest's better or best books. But Amazon reviews average only 3 1/2 stars, so I wasn't alone in being underwhelmed by it.

Edited: May 4, 2012, 9:30am Top

21. Bringing Up Bebe
This was very good. I really enjoyed it and actually even took some notes. I will be trying out some new French-inspired parenting techniques/philosophy with my kids. I wish I had read it back when I was pregnant, although that would have been impossible since it was just published this year!

The author is a former staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal who moved to Paris, had 3 kids, and spent time pondering and researching why American kids tend to be so poorly behaved compared to their French counterparts. And why can French kids sit through meals in restaurants without making a fuss? And why are French kids generally less picky eaters than American kids? The answers themselves are interesting, and it was interesting reading how American versus French parenting philosophies were shaped. I hadn't realized that (most but not all) of my parenting philosophy is so typically American, but that is the nature of culture, of course. It is a fun read, as well, since the author is not only a skilled writer and researcher but also a funny and honest storyteller of her experiences as a woman and mother in Paris. Definitely recommended for parents of young children, or anyone considering having children. Or if you are just curious about cultural differences in child rearing.

May 2, 2012, 6:31pm Top

I've read an excerpt of that book and also found it interesting. Maybe I'll check out the whole thing. Thanks for the review!

May 5, 2012, 10:48am Top

There's another book along these lines that you might be interested in - but one that looks at the cultural differences between American and Japanese schools, mainly the primary years, Japanese lessons: a year in a Japanese school through the eyes of an American anthropologist and her children. It was very thought-provoking for me!

May 10, 2012, 3:15pm Top

#87 - I'd be curious to hear how some other mother-readers like it.

#88 - I lived in S. Korea for a year and a half, and the Korean and Japanese mindsets toward education are so different! I never read a book specifically on that topic, though, so I may have to add it to the list. Thanks for the rec. BTW, I just finished Peter Pan with my son this evening, and he really enjoyed it! Thanks for that recommendation, as well!

May 13, 2012, 9:39pm Top

I'm glad to hear that you both enjoyed Peter Pan - it's always been a favorite of mine! There is a contemporary series that you might also like. It's up to 5 or 6 volumes now, starting with Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson and Greg Call. The series starts with a prequel to the classic tale, sort of a "who Peter Pan and the lost boys were and how they came to be lost." I haven't read the series myself, but a colleague at work has been reading them with his 10 year old son and they're always excited to hear when there's a new one in the works.

May 20, 2012, 2:54pm Top

#86. I've also been reading Bringing up Bebe (published in the U.K. as French Children don't throw Food, and it has some useful things to say a about child rearing in the U.K. as well. When my son was young I did feel slightly out of step with the norm in the U.K. and a lot of the ideas in the book I felt quite at home with. There were other ideas that I wish I'd come accross when my son was a baby. I'd recommend it to anyone with a new baby or toddler.

May 27, 2012, 12:02pm Top

#90 - Thanks, I added Peter and the Starcatchers to the list!

#91 - The idea that I most wish I could go back in time and implement is starting babies off on pureed vegetables instead of rice cereal! Duh!

I have started a few books and ditched them, but I haven't been reading much. Hopefully my life will slow down at some point!

May 28, 2012, 4:17am Top

My 5 y.o. son and I just finished Bartlett and the Ice Voyage. This was a fun, cute book, but it could have used some serious editing. I finally started skipping or summarizing paragraphs to quicken the pace. My son is in LOVE with Superman comic books from the 1940s, reprinted as The Superman Chronicles.

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 3:54pm Top

22. Bossypants (Random pick)
This was a fun read. I only laughed out loud twice, but I quite appreciated her clever, articulate wit.

Jun 9, 2012, 6:01pm Top

23. The Ship Who Sang
Anne McCaffrey once mentioned in an interview that this was perhaps her favorite book of all the ones she had written. I really enjoyed it, although I found the ending a hair cheesy. But, still, it was quite good.

24. Me Talk Pretty One Day
I guess you could call David Sedaris a comedic writer, but really what I love about him is his complete, unflinching honesty about himself and the human race. Some critics describe his wit as "acid," but there is a note of warmth to it, too, maybe because of his acceptance of his own faults? The first chapter, about his experience with his high school speech therapist, should be required reading for any speech pathology graduate student!

Jun 26, 2012, 4:27pm Top

25. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir (Book Club selection)
Author Jenny Lawson, a popular blogger, has been compared to Tina Fey and David Sedaris. I agree that the funniness level is about the same, but Lawson is quite a bit quirkier than Fey or Sedaris (which is saying a lot), and she comes across as being more vulnerable and fragile. Recommended if you are a Fey/Sedaris fan, but her writing quality is not quite in the same class as that of Sedaris. Quirky.

My son and I just finished Winnie-the-Pooh last night. Fantastic!!! Our 22 year old babysitter read a chapter to him one night, then she read the whole book after he went to bed:). My son loved the silliness in each chapter. It's tied with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for best children's book we've read this year.

I'm reading some great nonfiction right now; I will hopefully finish one of the books soon and can then post about it.

Jun 26, 2012, 4:59pm Top

#96 Winnie-the-Pooh is just wonderful. I loved it as a child and I still loved it when reading it to my son, as did he. 'When Piglet was Totally Surrounded by Water' was my favourite story. A Bear Called Paddington is another one that we both really loved at the same sort of age.

Jun 27, 2012, 1:13pm Top

Agreed on the Winnie The Pooh front. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Both wonderful wonderful. Tomm and Charlie and I are working through the Paddington books together now, and we really love them, too, so I second that nomination!

Jul 2, 2012, 4:21am Top

Oh, we have had a Paddington anthology sitting on our shelves for years, thanks for reminding me about it!

26. Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure (Amazon rec?)
This is a delightful food memoir of Europe that covers the first half of the 20th century. The author is quite talented and very knowledgable about various cuisines. He writes about food from his childhood, university days, then through adulthood. His entertaining and insightful tone is pitch-perfect throughout. He covers food from France, Austria, Prague, and, I think, Hungary. Recommended if you are a foodie, or if you will be traveling in those areas.

Jul 9, 2012, 11:14am Top

27. Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (book by a familiar author)
This book was a fun but very forgettable space opera. This was not nearly as intriguing as Howey's Wool series. It helped to pass the time on a long car ride.

Jul 9, 2012, 5:59pm Top

My 5 y.o. son and I just finished Owls in the Family, and it was fantastic!! I would strongly recommend it as a read-aloud for any boy in the 5-6 age range. It is the true story of the author's childhood in a prairie town in Canada. The author, Farley Mowat, is best known for Never Cry Wolf.

Edited: Jul 14, 2012, 8:51am Top

28. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Spanish (Europe read)
This is the third book I have read in the Xenophobe series. This felt very outdated, although I did learn a few things about Spanish culture. Not recommended.

29. The City and the City (LT rec)
I really disliked Mieville's Perdido Street Station, because I found the squalor of New Crobuzon so depressing. But I'm glad I gave Mieville another try. I really enjoyed The City and the City, which is a noir police procedural with a remarkably creative setting--two cities that are intertwined but whose inhabitants lead separate lives and "unsee" the other city's inhabitants. Recommended for both the noir and fantastical/creative elements.

Jul 15, 2012, 10:49am Top

Agree with your take both on Perdido Street and City and City. Will have to red some of his other stuff in the near future, and hopefully it will be more like the latter.

Jul 16, 2012, 9:22am Top

30. What's Eating Your Child? (Professional development)
Excellent. The subtitle for this book is "The Hidden Connections Between Food and Childhood Ailments: Anxiety, Recurrent Ear Infections, Stomachaches, Picky Eating, Rashes, ADHD, and More. And What Every Parent Can Do About It." Despite the excellent reviews of the book, I was worried that it would be pop science, but it was very solid science and/or logical reasoning behind the various topics discussed. The author is obviously one of the top specialists in the U.S. for treating medical disorders through nutrition, when indicated. I read this with one or two children on my caseload (I'm a pediatric speech pathologist) in mind, but I think it applied to a few other children, as well. And as a result of having read this book, I will be changing my own children's vitamins (gummy vitamins are crap, alas) and probably adding a good source of DHA/fish oil. Professionally, the most interesting idea in the book was recommending specific dietary supplements for children with verbal dyspraxia (a certain kind of speech disorder).

I would recommend this book for parents whose children have feeding problems, suspected or known food allergies (milk, wheat, etc), possible ADHD or behavioral problems, verbal dyspraxia, or anything else mentioned in the subtitle. The author also did a nice job dealing with topics such as GMO foods, organic foods, etc, in passing. I would also strongly recommend it for any pediatric medical professional or professionals working in the field of child development.

Jul 16, 2012, 12:27pm Top

Uh-oh. I give Charlie gummy vitamins. Should I switch to something else? And if yes, what does the book suggest? What's wrong with the gummy ones?

Jul 16, 2012, 9:56pm Top

Another gummy vitamin user -- (blush) I've been known to used the Adult gummies, as they make vitamin-taking more pleasant . . .

Jul 23, 2012, 7:10am Top

I know, gummy vitamins seem brilliant! She only discusses childrens' vitamins, so I'm not sure about adults'. To quote the author:
"Beware of gummy multis. Most of them have an incomplete component of B-vitamins. B-vitamins have a strong flavor and make chewables taste disgusting. To improve the taste, most of the gummies simply do not contain the strongest flavored ones, such as vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin), making them poor choices. Be sure the multi you choose contains the full set of B-vitamins (B1, B2, niacinamide, B5, B6, folic acid, and B12)." The author is very careful to avoid any product endorsements, so I will have to hunt around and see if I can find any kid-friendly vitamins that are better...

Jul 23, 2012, 7:11am Top

Many thanks for the info - I'll be hunting too!

Jul 23, 2012, 7:18am Top

#103 - Steve, it's interesting that we had the same impressions of the 2 books. I wonder which Mieville I should read next...

Edited: Aug 16, 2012, 4:19pm Top

31. Now I See the Moon (professional development/topic of autism)
This is a mother's story of adopting a child from a Russian orphanage, accepting that he has autism, working amazingly hard to treat his autism, dealing with a marriage falling apart, dealing with financial problems, dating, dealing with relationships, etc. I gleaned a few thoughts about autism here and there in the book, but mostly I felt like I was wading chest deep through her inner emotional life. Not my kind of book at all, but I think it would really resonate with some readers.

32. The Gate to Women's Country (not sure how this appeared on my TBR list...)
If women ran the world, would the human race veer from its self-destructive, violent path? Are men, not women, at fault for most of the world's problems? This post-apocalyptic fantasy book explores this question. I skimmed a few parts because I got a bit bored, but I was pleased that the plot did not unfold the way I had been sure that it would. Interesting, but harsh, premise, and fairly enjoyable.

My 5 y.o. son and I just finished Ribsy, which was okay but a big disappointment compared to Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

Also, I wanted to mention The Food of France, by Waverley Root. Originally published in 1958, around 500 pages in length, it is an amazing food travelogue detailing each and every region of France. I have been using it as a reference for short trips I make to France. Then I know in advance which regional dishes to look for on menus, plus I have an intelligent overview of the region, including a food history of the area. Yep, it is as nerdy as it sounds, but it is so up my alley!

Aug 16, 2012, 9:56pm Top

Karen, I sorta take the blame for Women's Country because it was a surprise favorite of mine from last year. I can't recall who recommended it to me, but I think part of why I liked it so much was because I too thought it played out much different than I expected. In hindsight there were indeed some slower parts.


Aug 18, 2012, 12:53pm Top

Wow, I read Ribsy 25 years ago. I remember I really liked it but I agree The Mouse and the Motorcycle is hard to top!

Aug 24, 2012, 4:09am Top

#111-There is no blame for book recs on LT! And I am glad I read it, because it has stuck with me. I have also read Tepper's Beauty, which I wasn't crazy about. Gate was better. After reading lots of Amazon reviews of her various books, I think I will give Grass a try. The general consensus seems to be that that is her best novel to date.

#112-It gives me a serious case of both deja vu and nostalgia to read these books with my son!

Aug 24, 2012, 4:23am Top

33. Adventures on the Wine Route (Amazon Rec)
The author and well-known wine importer Kermit Lynch is my new wine world hero. He is an excellent writer, and the book is filled with great insight and honesty. M. F. K. Fisher's review of the book: "One of the pleasantest and truest books about wine I've ever read." And Roald Dahl's review: "Kermit Lynch is certainly an expert, but his book is also a great pleasure to read. I enjoyed it more than any other wine book I have read."

This book was published in 1988. Lynch takes us with him through the various wine regions of France (except Alsace), into rustic cellars and grand chateaux. We experience with him his delight at finding interesting vintners who love their craft, and his despair when traditional wine making methods are abandoned and wine loses its unique regional flavors. He scorns Americans' obsession with the "point values" of wine. Instead, he says, we should be worrying about what pairs best with the food, and the weather, and our mood...

I would recommend this book for anyone who will be visiting a French wine region or who already knows the basics about wine and wants to learn more.

Aug 24, 2012, 4:41am Top

I have no idea what a 'point value' is!

Aug 24, 2012, 4:59am Top

Various wine critics such as Robert Parker or Steve Tanzer, or wine magazines such as Wine Spectator, taste and rate wines on a 100 point scale. Many people prefer to drink 90 or above, etc. Of course, when a wine receives a high rating, such as a 95, it is instantly snapped up, and the price usually soars, as well. But the point system is skewed toward big, bold wines that taste interesting by themselves. These are not necessarily the best (or most economical!) wines for eating with various foods, or when it's hot outside, etc. Men, especially, seem to get into the hunt for high-point wines, like it's a contest or something, or maybe it's the fact that something complex like wine has been reduced to a score card, like golf. Mmm, wine...

Aug 25, 2012, 5:07pm Top

I know some guys very into the point thing too - they won't buy something until they know how many points and have the review. I've never understood it. I mean, you go a wine store, hopefully you can try out some wines, if you like something, you buy it. You drink lots and figure out what kinds generally appeal to you and get more of them. There are lots of great wines at all price ranges. So why do I care how many points a wine gets? How do I know the people doing the rating like what I like?

Aug 26, 2012, 8:53pm Top

While I'm ranting, have you ever actually seen a wine rated below 80 or so? Are all wines really that good? I've had some stinkers and they were still rated in the 80s! So what's the point of the 100 point scale? Rant complete.

Aug 27, 2012, 8:37am Top

Well, it's really a 20 point scale with 80 points added at the end to make the producer feel better. :)

Seriously, point inflation makes the ratings nearly worthless. I'd rather talk to folks at the local wine shop that I trust. They've almost always tried everything they're selling. Must be a heckuva job. :)

Aug 27, 2012, 9:04am Top

#116 I obviously don't read the right magazines to have come across the point scores. I think my wine buying is a lot more haphazard than that!

Aug 27, 2012, 11:47am Top

I choose wines according to how cool I think the label looks. Clearly I'm not a connoisseur...

Aug 27, 2012, 3:33pm Top

#121 - Apparently wines with animals on the labels tend to be less good on average. Don't remember where I read that. Otherwise, labels may be as good as any other way ...

Aug 28, 2012, 7:16am Top

Steven: Ha! Interesting...

Aug 31, 2012, 12:28am Top

I like to visit wineries and taste the wines. I buy based strictly on what tastes good to me (and doesn't cost an arm and a leg). Points? Phooey.

Sep 1, 2012, 4:39pm Top

I've been making red and white sangria all summer, but I'll be back to drinking "regular" wine soon;).

My son and I just finished Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. Some stories were better than others, but overall he really enjoyed it. Recommended for boys 5-6.

Sep 1, 2012, 5:22pm Top

118--I completely agree. My husband and I use a 5 pt scale: 1 is bad, 2 is meh, 3 is okay, 4 is good, 5 is great.

Sep 1, 2012, 10:23pm Top

What's your sangria recipe? That sounds like a good drink for the Labor Day weekend!

Sep 3, 2012, 7:54am Top

Oooooh, Sangria! Delicious!

I'm a McCloskey fan in general, but I agree with you that some of the Homer Price stories were definitely better than others. Glad your little man enjoyed it!

Sep 4, 2012, 2:41pm Top

127--Sorry, Roni, I just got back into town, so these recipes come a bit late for the holiday weekend! The red sangria recipe should be cut way down, obviously, since it makes 5 gallons (!).

Red Sangria (from Jaleo Restaurant in DC)

9 ltr red wine
24 oz orange juice
32 oz 7-Up
8 oz Rose's Lime Juice
24 oz sugar
8 oz vodka
8 oz brandy
2 cinnamon sticks
Diced pears and granny smith apples

Mix all items together except fruit. The sangria can be stored up to two weeks in a cooler. Add fruit approximately one hour prior to service.

Yield: 5 gallons

White Summer Sangria

2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced (any kind)
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise
1 750 ml bottle white wine (a dry-ish white wine is best – I like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay)
1/2 cup white rum
4 cups lemon-lime soda
Add lemon slices to a large pitcher, then the apples, then the strawberries.
Pour the wine and rum over the top.
Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 hours.
Remove from refrigerator and add the lemon lime soda. Add a few pieces of the fruit to your glass and pour sangria over to serve.


Sep 4, 2012, 2:47pm Top

34. Born to Run (Book Club selection)
This is a very, very drawn out true story about some American runners who went and ran a race with some Tarahumara Indians in Mexico's Copper Canyon. The author loves to make digressions and build up false suspense, all of which really annoyed me. And some of his science about running, diet, etc. is very shaky. But I am still glad I read it, since it did make me re-think why so many people get running injuries, and how we should run, and whether or not humans evolved to run. So, a mixed review, but recommended if you are a runner.

Sep 5, 2012, 7:19am Top

Many thanks for sharing the recipes! I'll definitely tuck those back for a rainy day...

Sep 5, 2012, 7:36pm Top

Thanks for the recipes! That red one sounds really powerful tasty.

Sep 6, 2012, 12:19am Top

132--Ha ha:)!

Sep 7, 2012, 11:02pm Top

Thanks for the recipes. I love sangria!

Sep 27, 2012, 2:13pm Top

Whew, I'm back after a busy few weeks! I will digress for one more post; here are two of my favorites recipes from this past summer. It's been cold and rainy here this week, so I wanted to think back to some warm days:).

Spicy Shrimp Salsa

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and poached
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 c diced red onion
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and minced
1 T chopped fresh parsley
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Cut each shrimp into 4-5 pieces and place in medium bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, chili, and parsley and mix to combine. Add the lime juice and oil and toss to mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Chill until serving time and serve with tortilla chips.

Grilled Peach Appetizer

Halve and pit several peaches. Brush with olive oil and balsamic, grill until slightly softened but not mushy. Slice peaches. Slice and toast a baguette, then spread goat cheese, and top with peach slices. Optional: combine peach slices with some chopped rosemary.

Sep 27, 2012, 2:27pm Top

35. The Fault In Our Stars (Friend Rec)
This was an enjoyable, clever novel about three teenagers who meet through a cancer support group. The novel grapples with love, relationships, family, life, and death, but the (unbelievably) intelligent and witty teen characters keep the book from being at all maudlin. Recommended, but the characters were unbelievable for me.

36. Why Don't Students Like School (Friend Rec)
This was a good but not great book discussing the latest research in cognition and how it pertains to teachers. I finished it two weeks ago; the main thing I remember from it now is that one chapter debunks the idea of learning styles. The research just doesn't support that an individual student will consistently learn better through specific modalities. That was a minor paradigm shift for me, although I don't think it really changed how I work with students.

Oct 9, 2012, 2:24pm Top

37. Salvage the Bones (Book Club Selection)
This novel is set in Louisiana in the few weeks leading up to Katrina. The motherless children of a family with an alcoholic father try their best to raise themselves and care for each other. The main character is a young pregnant teenager. It is well-written, but I found it heart-wrenching to read about the childrens' struggles, particularly how upset and overwhelmed the girl feels as she deals with her pregnancy. The last chapter, post-Katrina, is actually the most encouraging of the whole novel. Recommended if the description sounds like your kind of book.

Oct 10, 2012, 3:54pm Top

My son and I just finished another Roald Dahl book, called The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me. I had never heard of it before and bought it for 50 cents at a book sale. It was very fun! I liked it better than several other Dahl books, including James and the Giant Peach. Also, it is quite short; we finished it in 3 nights. Recommended for kids 4 and up (and maybe some 3 year olds).

Oct 11, 2012, 6:51am Top

Oh, I love The Giraffe the Pelly and Me! My all-time favorite Dahl book, though (and I've read all of his kids' books) is Danny the Champion of the World. I need to get back round to him and read his other stuff sometime...

Oct 11, 2012, 2:10pm Top

I really like Danny, too. Any other Dahl kids' books besides the usual suspects that you would recommend?

Oct 11, 2012, 6:39pm Top

George's Marvelous Medicine is pretty great, and Matilda, too. The Vicar of Nibbleswicke made me laugh until I nearly peed my pants, but you may want to read it first before sharing with your son - I think some of the puns are a little on the bawdy side, if I remember correctly. Then, of course the Charlie books are high on my list, and I can't wait to read them to my own Charlie!

Oct 12, 2012, 7:42am Top

Thanks, I will request some of those from our library!

Oct 12, 2012, 1:58pm Top

38. The Kitchen House (Book Club Selection)
Whew, I am glad I am finished with this book and Salvage the Bones, since both novels have quite a bit of unhappiness in them. Kitchen House was okay. It felt like a stereotypical book club selection. It is narrated by two women: Belle, a slave who works in the kitchen and is the illegitimate child of the master of the house; Lavinia, an Irish indentured servant who is raised with the slaves and loves them as her own family, but eventually is drawn into the white family in the Big House. When I lived in Georgia I read a lot of books about Southern slavery. Many of the details in Kitchen House were historically accurate, but other aspects were unrealistic. And ALL of the slaves were very kindhearted and caring--really?! Every single one of them, even the one who had his ear cut off, or the ones who were repeatedly raped? Were there no lingering psychological effects from the trauma, that carried over into their relationships with other people? I think that many of the women in my book club will like this book, but I was underwhelmed.

Nov 4, 2012, 3:07am Top

I have several books to add, yea!

39. 84, Charing Cross Road
This lovely, brief book is the compiled exchange of letters between a writer in NYC and a bookseller in London. This book has received much love on LT, and it is well-deserved. I have added Hanff's Q's Legacy to my reading list, as well.

Ditched My Berlin Kitchen
I liked the recipes but nothing else about this food-slanted autobiography. The author seemed very self-absorbed to me, and I really couldn't stand it. The recipes will come in handy, though, since most are made with German ingredients, especially European winter vegetables, that I can buy easily in my area.

I read 3 more in the Xenophobe's Guide series. I do love this series, with the exception of the Spain guide, which was just not very good. And the American guide was pretty good but not great. Highly recommended to date: Germans, Italians, French, Dutch.

40. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch

41. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Italians

42. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans

And, finally, a book club read:

43. Gone Girl
Whoa. This book completely toyed with my emotions the whole way through--suspense, disgust, anxiety, surprise, anger, dislike, sympathy. This is a psychological thriller that delves into the inner lives and relationship of a married couple. The wife disappears one day, and the husband becomes the prime suspect. That sounds like a tired plot, but the myriad of twists and turns make it very gripping and will make your head/emotions spin. Some people have complained about the ending, but I was okay with it.

Nov 4, 2012, 8:29am Top

Both 84, Charing Cross Road and Gone Girl are on my TBR list. Glad to hear they were both good in their own way.

Nov 12, 2012, 9:07am Top

Just finished Doctor's Proctor's Fart Powder with my 5 year old son. He thought it was quite funny. I thought it was cute, too. The author is Norwegian, and it has kind of a Dahl-ish feel to it, although the writing is not as good. Children's classics versus non-classics seem a much sharper divide for me than it is for adult literature.

145--I look forward to reading on your thread what you think of them!

Edited: Nov 18, 2012, 12:10pm Top

44. Excellent Women (Book Club Selection)
Well, this was, um, excellent. The character studies and insights into humanity's foibles and foolishness were so well-done. The setting is post WWII London, and involves many pots of tea, jumble sales and other church activities, new neighbors and old friends. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing the protagonist continually learning more about herself and growing as a person from every event in her life, big or small. I have added two other books by Pym to my TBR list.

Edited: Nov 27, 2012, 4:50am Top

One more comment about Excellent Women (above). I also really appreciated how the author depicted the main character moving from a religious/goodness based naive view of others to a more nuanced and balanced understanding. Her honesty with herself eventually trumped her overly rosy view of people which had come from always trying to think the best of people. She had been too skewed toward kindness, and she learned to find a better balance between truth and kindness.

45. Don't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse (Random Selection)
This is a very fun account of one man's life in the oil rig business. Lots of drinking, very unusual characters, and exotic locales combine to make some crazy and entertaining stories. It made for a good airplane read.

46. The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad
I picked this out to read on my Kindle because I traveled to Venice over Thanksgiving. I did gain a few insights into what it would be like to live in Venice, but overall I found it written in a very amateur (ie, annoying) style. Definitely not recommended for general reading. Venice was stunning, though!

Dec 6, 2012, 9:22pm Top

>144 karspeak: I have been meaning to read 84, Charing Cross Road for an age now.
You give me yet another reminder of the fact :)

Oh, and Don't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse is an excellent name for a memoir!

Dec 16, 2012, 3:39pm Top

#149 - Isn't it, though?! I think it is tied with The Sex Lives of Cannibals for most memorable memoir title!

47. Ender's Game (Book Club selection)
I hardly ever re-read books, but I hadn't read this in many years and wanted to be able to discuss it for book club. I'm happy to say that it stood up well to a re-read. This sci-fi classic, which transcends the genre and is a true classic, IMO, has so many interesting themes: what is intelligence, what responsibilities and workload and decisions can/should children handle, what makes a good leader? A fun, creative, and interesting (sci-fi) novel, definitely recommended.

48. Many Colored Land
I think that, of all the genres, sci-fi most often pushes the boundaries of creativity and imagination. But sci-fi novels are sometimes not well-written. Alas, this was the case for Many Colored Land. Fantastic premise and world-building, but the author couldn't quite hold it all together. I still enjoyed it but won't read the sequel.

Edited: Dec 16, 2012, 3:48pm Top

I am still finishing up a few books, but I'll go ahead and start my year-end summary:

Best Books That I Read with My 5 Year Old Son in 2012, in no particular order
Owls in the Family
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Farmer Boy

Best Book for Professional Development (Speech Therapy)
What's Eating Your Child?

Dec 17, 2012, 3:08pm Top

Ditched/skimmed the two books below, because I found the first to be sub-par, and the second I found too gimmicky.
The Year of Living Biblically

Dec 23, 2012, 6:24pm Top

I thought that one sounded gimmicky, too.

Dec 25, 2012, 12:25am Top

Glitterfy.com - Christmas Glitter Graphics

I want to wish you a glorious celebration of that time of year when we all try to unite around a desire for Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All. Merry Christmas, Karen!

Edited: Dec 27, 2012, 3:57pm Top

Thanks, Roni!!! I have enjoyed spending time with relatives who are visiting.

49. Howl's Moving Castle (LT Rec)
A cute YA fantasy. I was expecting a bit more from all of the glowing reviews.

50. The Shape of Water (LT Rec)
I really enjoyed this mystery, the first of the Inspector Montalbano books. It is set in Sicily. The plot is good, the characterization and setting are excellent, and it's gritty without being dark or uncaring. I've already downloaded the next book in the series.

51. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women (Book Club selection)
This NF book about Islamic women and related issues is excellent. Earlier this year I had read and panned/denounced the terribly researched The Bookseller of Kabul. Nine Parts is the antithesis. It is wonderfully researched and written by Geraldine Brooks, who worked for six years as a Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Her experiences interacting with Muslim women, ranging from Queen Noor to university professors to activists to impoverished women, and covering many different Middle Eastern countries, form the basis of the book. You may have read Geraldine Brooks' fiction, which includes People of the Book and Year of Wonders. I particularly appreciated her knowledge of the Koran and how much she references it to help explain various Muslim perspectives. Definitely recommended.

Dec 27, 2012, 4:41pm Top

I read Nine Parts of Desire for a paper a few years ago -- thought it was fantastic as well. I appreciated her very unique perspective, being a Jewish woman in Muslim countries. Definitely a must-read for anyone looking to better understand the situation of Muslim women on that side of the world.

Dec 31, 2012, 6:05am Top

Faith, I was surprised that Nine Parts of Desire also gave me a better feel for Islam, as currently believed and practiced, than several other books on Islam, fiction and nonfiction, that I've read.

Happy New Year, everyone!!! Below is my year-end summary of my reading. I'll be in the 75ers for 2013, hope to see you all there!

Best Books That I Read with My 5 Year Old Son in 2012, in no particular order
Owls in the Family
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Best Book for Professional Development (Speech Therapy)
What's Eating Your Child?

Best Light, Fun Read
Wool (post-apocalyptic)

Best Non-Fiction, in no particular order
Gertrude Bell, Desert Queen (long, but worth it to learn about this amazing woman)
Adventures on the Wine Route (for serious oenophiles, only)
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Honorable Mention
The Xenophobes' Guide series (great, entertaining, brief books giving an overview to the cultures of various countries)

Book that Most Changed/Affected My Thinking
Survival of the Prettiest

I read 24 nonfiction books and 27 fiction books this year. I did not have any stand-out fiction this year; I will try to focus more on quality fiction next year. And, as always, I hope to have more time for reading next year;).

Jan 1, 2013, 8:25am Top

BTW, my 2013 thread can be found here. Hope to see you all there!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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