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sandragon's 2008 50 book challenge

50 Book Challenge

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Edited: Dec 31, 2008, 8:38pm Top

I had a wonderful time keeping track of what I read last year and I'm excited about a new year with another 50 or so books.

I made it to 53 last year but I'm going to keep my goal at 50, instead I'm going to try to increase the number of books read that I actually own. Mount TBR is rather big enough that the number of books I borrow should not be greater than the number of my own books read. Last year, the ratio of my own books read to borrowed was 18:35. This year I'm going to try to make that 35:15.

I'm also going to try adding mini-reviews to my list. I love reading other LTers' thoughts about the books they just finished.

The 50 refers to books read for myself. I'm going to keep a separate tally of audiobooks, graphic novels and chapter books read with my kids and add them all up at the end.

17350 / 15000 pages. 115.7% done!

Jan 9, 2008, 2:33am Top

My rating system:
* Couldn't stand to finish
** Finished it but didn't like it
*** Meh
**** Good book
***** Wow! Would recommend to everyone!

Edited: Dec 31, 2008, 8:38pm Top

2008 TBR List
This is the list left over from last year. I thought I'd include it here and see if I actually get to them this year. The titles in bold are the ones I've read. The ones crossed off are the ones I've changed my mind about and have decided not to read. I'll also add books that I really want to get to soon as a reminder to myself.

The Wide Sargasso Sea by Rhys Jean
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
The Little Country by Charles de Lint
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin
The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin
Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin
Tales from Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
The Three Musketeers by Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Monsters of God by David Quammen
The Stand by Stephen King
The Green Mile by Stephen King
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Shadow's End by Sheri S. Tepper
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, audiobook
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts
Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier
The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfeld
Beauty by Sheri S Tepper
Beauty by Robin McKinley
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Dragon's Fire by Todd McCaffrey
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Foreigner by CJ Cherryh
Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
Invader by CJ Cherryh
Touchstone by Laurie R. King
Extras by Scott Westerfeld
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
Careless in Red by Elizabeth George
M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman
Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman
Storm Front: Dresden Files #1 by Jim Butcher
Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson
Fool Moon: Dresden Files #2 by Jim Butcher
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
The Stone Fey by Robin McKinley
The Book Without Words by Avi
The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Grass by Sheri S Tepper
The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S Tepper
Raising the Stones by Sheri S Tepper
Sideshow by Sheri S Tepper
The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey
Superfudge by Judy Blume
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
Count Karlstein by Philip Pullman
The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman
Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess
Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, & The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart
The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman

Jan 11, 2008, 8:52pm Top

Hi, I'm reading through the 50 book challenge postings and there are quite a few books that you have on your list that I have either read or that I have on my TBR list. I enjoy fantasy,also,and have just finished The Golden CompassThe Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass I didn't want them to end. I love the fact that both young adults and adults can enjoy them. Looking at your list from last year, I have readThe Stand Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and the only one I did not enjoy was The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency although it seems that the author is quite poular, so I have tried him in audiobook but still find him dull. Oh, well. Anyway, I would also like to read some of the books you have listed, particularly the fantasy titles. I am way behind getting my library catalogued because my husband and I run our own construction company, and there never seems to be enough time. Good luck with your reading list!

Jan 11, 2008, 9:43pm Top

very cool list... can't wait to start seeing some *****s!
(I mean your stars, not a deleted curse word...)

Feb 2, 2008, 7:29pm Top

Thanks mmignano11. This is the kind of challenge I think I will always enjoy! Funny, I'd already decided to strike The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency from my list but I'm still looking forward to getting to both The Stand and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (only thing holding me back so far are the daunting sizes.) I'll have to take a look for your challenge (I really need to catch up on the threads) and see what you've been reading.

Feb 2, 2008, 7:33pm Top

LOL TeacherDad. I didn't need you to clarify but for a second there I did wonder 'huh?' Now I just need to convince myself to start reading more books instead of trying to catch up on LT threads.

Edited: Apr 5, 2008, 12:00pm Top

January Summary

1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly ***1/2
This is supposed to be about a boy's journey past innocence towards adulthood but I found it improbable that a 12 year old boy could overcome some of the obstacles he did, or cope with the grisliness he encountered, even if it is supposed to be metaphorical. I just had to keep reminding myself that this is basically a fairy tale, and fairy tales were originally quite grim and grisly.

I did like this story but it started to lag about 2/3s of the way through. It seemed like it was just one twisted fairy tale retelling after another. It did come together in the end and I could see David coming to terms with the changes in his life as he battled his way home.

2. The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfeld ***1/2
A story with no definite sides of good and evil about a future in which a man has discovered the ability to cheat death and become immortal. He becomes emperor of the Risen Empire and bestows immortality on those he feels have earned it. But there are other groups of humanity with different beliefs and cultures and worlds inevitably collide. The descriptions of the space battles got too technical for me so I skimmed those parts a bit but overall not a bad read. A little anticlimatic at the end, probably because I KNOW there's no chance I could ever live forever.

3. The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block ****1/2
This is a wonderful reflection on memories; on how we try so hard to forget some things but rail against the forgetting that can be forced on us; on how memories are a simple part of our very cells and how one can forget to breathe as easily as forget where ones keys are.

4. Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper ****
A mix of well known fairy tales and some science fiction. Has a bleak outlook for our future but throws in some hope. Beauty carries within her this hope, hidden there by her aunt on the fairy side of the family. Tepper has a knack for settling her readers in a groove and then throwing them for a loop.

Read with my son:
1. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein ***1/2
Now my son occassionally breaks out in Runny Babbit talk.

2. Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide by Holly Black
3. Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone
4. Spiderwick Chronicles: Lucinda's Secret
5. Spiderwick Chronicles: The Ironwood Tree
All of these get a solid ****. Easy to read but still exciting with great illustrations. We're reading this series before seeing the movie.

1. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke ****
2. Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis ****
3. Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis ***1/2

Graphic Novels:
1. Fables: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham ***1/2

Not a bad reading month, although I did try to listen to Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin and stopped after a quarter of the way through. Too much teenage angst. Had an interesting premise but the main character was getting on my nerves. She had died and gone on to Elsewhere, where the dead live but get younger until they are babies again and ready to be reborn. Naturally, the teen didn't want to be there but I just wasn't in the mood for her.

Feb 3, 2008, 1:32am Top

I have to say I'm curious! Beauty by McKinley is an old favorite of mine, as are the Earthsea books by LeGuin. On the other hand, I started Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and never got past the first bit, and I really didn't care for The Story of Forgetting. I also really like Dumas and King, so I'll keep checking in to see what your thoughts are! good luck....

Feb 17, 2008, 5:02pm Top

Thanks, whitewavedarling. I've looked on your profile page and the books we share are some of my favorites (though there are also some there I've yet to read, sigh, I've got way too many unread books). The books you mentioned above are ones I'm looking forward to reading, it'll be interesting to see if we agree or not on them. We disagree on The Story of Forgetting but I've just picked up McKinley's Beauty and she's one of my favorite authors.

Feb 17, 2008, 5:02pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Mar 17, 2008, 3:43am Top

February Summary

5. Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh ***
Told from the POV of the sole human to live amongst the alien Atevi. I found it hard to get used to Cherryh's writing style. I was constantly rereading to decipher what she meant. I didn't find her sentences run on but that she jumped around from thought to thought and it was hard to follow her. But I guess that was the whole idea since we're supposed to be seeing events as the human, Bren, and human thoughts do jump around like that. But I found it made this book hard to read and to stay focused on. I also got frustrated with Bren's inactions. So much was happening around him and he had no control over anything. We only knew as much as Bren knew, which wasn't much at all, and everyone else seemed to know exactly what was going on but wasn't telling.

I do think Cherryh did a good job in in potraying the alieness of the Atevi. It made me wonder how much of the difference between humans and Atevi was due to hardwiring differences and how much due to cultural differences. If a human was allowed to grow up amongst Atevi, or vice versa, would that person grow up understanding the people they grew up with or would they still be as confused and disoriented as Bren became? I wasn't going to read on but I understand Cherryh handles this issue in the sequels and so I will try the next book, Invader. I am also curious to see how Bren's relationships with various Atevi develop.

6. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman *****
A reread. I'm enjoying this series just as much as the first time I read it. The Dust brings to mind the energy particles that practitioners of Pranic healing have told me about and shown me how to look for. The particles are there and can aid us and some people are able to tap into it, sometimes by using mediums such as the I Ching or Lyra's alethiometer.

7. Beauty by Robin McKinley *****
A wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast, simply told, yet adding more depth and complexity to the story I heard for the first time as a little girl. All the charaters from the old fairy tale are fleshed out and brought to life in this quiet story that held my attention from beginning to end. No special effects, no racing adventure, no high drama. This was an instant comfort read, even though I was reading it for the first time.

8. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam ***1/2
hadn't realized this was a collection of short stories, tied together by four characters that pop in and out of various ones. It took me a while to get into as I didn't have a character to get attached to. In the beginning I was kept interested by some of the medical details and when this started to wear thin (and I got tired of constantly looking up words in the glossary, not always finding them) the last few stories were luckily more interesting on their own merits. Lam touches on some of the moral dilemmas that doctors come face to face with, such as whether or not to tell a family member that a loved one died in pain, or deciding when it is time to stop trying to revive someone who shows no vital signs. Overall, I think I was looking for more miracles but what I found was down to earth and mostly stark.

Read with my son:
6. Spiderwick Chronicles:The Wrath of Mulgarath by Holly Black ****
All set now to watch the movie with my 7yo.

7. The BFG by Roald Dahl ***1/2
Seemed slower and less exciting than most of the other Dahl books we've read together, but it does have a lot of fun made-up words, such as whizpopper (the results of drinking a fizzy giant's soda).

4. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot *****
Wonderful. Delightful. I couldn't help smiling everytime I put this on. Herriot tells us about his initial years as a newly trained vet working in rural Yorkshire.

Mar 3, 2008, 2:58am Top

We can't read BFG around here without it being followed by a week's worth of whizpopping...

Edited: Mar 4, 2008, 12:02pm Top

A book I find whizpopping fun is Good Families Don't by Robert Munch. I like reading it to little kids. I love watching their eyes go all goggly and then they get all giggly. Come to think of it, I can get a laugh out of most of the parents I've shared this book with.

Edited: Apr 5, 2008, 12:10pm Top

March Summary

9. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart ****
This is all about Merlin. Arthur doesn't show up until the next book. Although the people of his time mostly considered Merlin a magician, the only thing magical about him were the visions he had occasionally and that he couldn't control. Otherwise, he was a learned man. He read a lot and observed and tried his hand at many things. He was an engineer, a naturalist, a physician, an astronomer. He was the renaissance man for his time. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

10. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson ****
Bryson seems to have had wonderful adventures in Oz. He pokes fun of many things Australian but also of his own reactions to these things. In short he seems to think of Oz as a large, mostly empty, place with very friendly people, some super scary critters and more than a few wonders.

This book brought back memories of my year in Australia. I spent most of my time in Cairns but did take a month off to do a big loop of eastern Australia by VW Kombi. I didn't do the research Bryson did and wish I had read this before my own trip. I would love to go back and see what I had missed (like Western Australia) and to revisit familiar places armed with my bits of newfound knowledge.

11. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman ****
A collection of short stories chosen with a younger audience in mind, almost half of which I'd read before in other collections. I preferred this more than Smoke & Mirrors which I read just a little while ago. M is for Magic is more fun, less bleak, less despairing in tone. My favorites were 'The Witches Headstone' and 'October in the Chair', both about boys in graveyards.

12. The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley ***
4 fairy tales, all of which contain a heroine with an inner core of strength that others are unaware of; in some cases even the heroine is unaware of her own strengths. Not bad stories but nothing that really grabbed me. They didn't have the richness of McKinley's full length Beauty.

5. The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis ***
6. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke ****
I really enjoyed this book about books, although it did drag on a bit in the middle. This was read by Lynn Redgrave and in my mind I kept seeing her as Elinor Loredan, one of the main characters who is obsessed by books.

Graphic Novels:
2. Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham ****

I started The Stand by Stephen King at the end of February and I'm now only 400 (of 1140, ack!) pages in. I kept reading bits of other books in between chapters. Hoping to finish this in April.

Apr 18, 2008, 11:33pm Top

I'm really enjoying reading your thread. I'm not a big scifi/fantasy reader, but I do try to check out the stars of the genre. Your blurbs are very informative and fun to read.

Edited: Apr 22, 2008, 9:29pm Top

Thanks citygirl. I've enjoyed writing them. I'm not confident in my abilities to write full on reviews but these little bits have been fun to do.

Heh, I'm a rather big scifi/fantasy reader, but I've been encouraging myself to branch out and try other authors. I'm a big lurker on the '50 book challenge' threads and have added many new authors to my wishlist.

eta: But, looking over my wishlist, it looks like I've added more new scifi/fantasy authors than other authors, lol.

Edited: Oct 1, 2008, 2:26am Top

April Summary

13. The Stand by Stephen King ****
One of the few King novels I've really wanted to read and I'm glad I did. Lots of mentions of it on LT, recommendations by people who don't seem to read a lot of horror. The first 400 pages set up the time and place and introduced us to all the main characters, seemed to plod a little and I read some other books at the same time. The next 700 pages went like wildfire and I was glad of the set up of characters. King does a wonderful job of bringing his characters to life and my favorites of his stories are those that concentrate on the people and less on the horror. I thought the ending was somewhat abrupt and pat, and I would have liked to know more about the not so important people that ended up with The Walking Man.

14. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman *****
This series was just as amazing the second time around. I'd forgotten a lot of details though I remembered the story as a whole. I felt Pullman tied all the loose ends up wonderfully. Made my heart break all over again.

15. Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman ***1/2
16. Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman ***1/2
These were short and light and let us learn a little more of Lyra's world. The first is a short adventure involving Lyra, the second tells us about the circumstances in which Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby first meet. Also gave the tiniest hints about what Lyra was doing with her life, a couple of years and then several year after the end of The Amber Spyglass.

7. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis ***
This was always my least favorite Narnian story. I usually ended up skimming it when I read the series as a kid. This was worth it to hear Patrick Stewart reading but I still found it draaaaaagged on after Eustace and Jill get thrown into the stable.

8. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer ***
There could have been a lot less oohing and aahing over Edward's body by Bella but the vampire lore was interesting. I'll listen to the next book, hoping there will be less excessive adulation about Edward's perfection and that Meyer will just get on with the story.

Graphic Novels:
3. Y: The Last Man - One Small Step by Brian K. Vaughan ***1/2
4. Fables: The Mean Seasons by by Bill Willingham ****
5. Y: The Last Man - Safeword by Brian K. Vaughan ***1/2
6. Fables: Homelands by Brian K. Vaughan ****
7. Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days) by Bill Willingham ***1/2
I would breeze through a graphic novel, kind of like a palette cleanser, in between chunks of The Stand. These are the only two series that I've found interesting so far. I'll stick with these for now, maybe try Neil Gaiman's Sandman series again once I'm finished these. I had picked up the first Sandman several months ago but found I couldn't settle into the story and the artwork distracting rather than inviting. But the story line sounds intriguing and I want to give it another try.

Edited: Oct 1, 2008, 2:06am Top

May Summary

17. Storm Front by Jim Butcher ***
I was hoping to enjoy this more than I did. Interesting premise but all the characters except for Harry Dresden were very one-dimensional. Harry kept hinting at things in his past but all this myseriousness seemed contrived to me. Rather than making me more interested in reading about Harry, it just irritated me. The author kept making glancing remarks about different characters and past events that I wanted elaboration on but never got. All in all, fluffy, though okay reading on holidays. I was going to read the next book in the series, even got it from the library and started it, but gave up after a few pages. Just wasn't looking forward to it.

18. Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson ****
Much better than the last book of short stories I read by McKinley (The Door in the Hedge). These are more meaty and solid for all that they're short. There were actually three stories by McKinley and three by Dickinson, all using water as a theme.
- By McKinley:
The Sea-King's Son
Water Horse
A Pool in the Dessert
- By Dickinson:
Mermaid Song
Sea Serpent

I enjoyed all of them except for 'Sea Serpent' (too technical regarding tides and I just didn't enjoy the side theme of male-centricity. I'm not sure if this is the right term, but I can't think of another. In this story the men are physically stealing the women's symbols of their (female) religion to use as the men's own.)

My favorite was 'A Pool in the Dessert' a story about Damar, and made me want to reread The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. Enough so that I've bought them so I can have my own copies and don't have to borrow them from the library again.

19. Extras by Scott Westerfeld ***1/2
Not as good as the previous three books in the Uglies series. The main character was irritating and selfish. But I do always enjoy the bits of techno-info that Westerfeld comes up with and interesting was the take on a future society in which how much 'face' you have is all important (as in prestige).

20. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley ****
This is the second version McKinley wrote of Beauty and the Beast, 20 years after the first one and completely unrelated (except for the Beauty and the Beast theme). I liked the first one so much I didn't think McKinley could change the story and I would like it, but she did. One reason why it took me almost two weeks to finish this book is that everytime McKinley writes about Beauty gardening (which is a major part of this book) I would start thinking about my own neglected garden and start planning in my head to do this or that and before I knew it an hour would have passed. The second reason is that I actually did get into the garden to weed it out and plant some veg. Beauty (her first Beauty and the Beast book) is still my favorite though.

Read with my son:
8. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder ***1/2
This took us almost 3 months to read. We kept picking up shorter stories (picture books) to read instead. This was more confusing than I remember it (all the detailed bits about Pa building the house) and I'd also forgotten (or glossed over as a kid?) Ma's anti-Indian sentiments. I loved this series as a kid but I don't have any special memories attached to this particular book. Maybe I didn't like it as much. I sure don't like it as much as Little House in the Big Woods as an adult. I do still want to read Farmer Boy with my son, I do remember enjoying that particular book, but we're going to read someone else first.

Graphic Novels:
8. Chiaroscuro: The Privatel Lives of Leonardo da Vinci by Pat McGreal
Interesting but maybe a case of too much information. I had a certain vision of da Vinci, the hero, in my mind and this humanized him too much, even if the dialogue and motives of the characters were all conjecture.

Decided to put away Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I really thought I could finish it, it's such a short book, but I found it almost suffocating. I know that was the point but it just wasn't for me. It probably didn't help that I know the ending, having listened to Jane Eyre for the first time last year. I must admit that Jean Rhys was one skilled writer, the way she made the lush Caribbean seem as oppressive as any English gothic setting. This was a paper copy, I wonder if I would have finished Jane Eyre if I hadn't been listening to it on audio. I was glad to finally have read Jane Eyre, but I did immediately delete it from my player.

Edited: Jul 21, 2008, 12:54am Top

June Summary

21. I am Legend by Richard Matheson ***1/2
I finished just the novella. I didn't like it enough to read the rest of the short stories in the book (except for a couple of the really short ones to see if I would change my mind; I didn't) but I wanted to read this before seeing the movie. I didn't much care for the main character and thought his theories on vampirism were too simplistic. I gave it the extra half point because I did like the switch in POV at the end of the story and the revelation that comes with it.

22. The Stone Fey by Robin McKinley ***1/2
A short story, illustrated by John Clapp. I felt disquieted after finishing this. I couldn't understand Maddy's fascination with the stone fey and wanted to know more about him. We don't really know how he feels about Maddy and what about him causes Maddy to lose focus on her family and the not-fey world. Is it a magical reason or is it all consuming love?

23. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn ****1/2
Very fun book, even with it's dire message. I am in awe of Dunn's ability to continue writing beautifully, even after he has removed several letters from use.

24. The Book Without Words by Avi ****
I know I liked this, but now I can't really think of anything else to say about it. It's about a girl, a raven who was not always a raven, and a couple of boys trying to deal with a dead man who won't stay dead and discover his secret for making gold at the same time.

25. The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart ****1/2
Even better than The Crystal Cave. Stewart's writing is so lyrical, there were many times when I would read a simple single line over and over again because it was so perfect, to savour it and to heighten my anticipation of what was to come, even (especially?) knowing what was to come (not because I've read this before but because I'm familiar with the Arthurian legend). There were also a few times in the last 100 pages when I needed to stop and do something else because of the pressure building up in me. I really got into the groove of Stewart's writing in this one. I hope she keeps it up in the next one. I was only going to read her Merlin books but now I think I'll look for her other books to try too.

Read with my son:
9. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling *****
My favorite Harry Potter book. The magical world is so exciting and new as I (re)discover it through Harry's eyes. I loved sharing this with my son for the first time, after having read it at least half a dozen time on my own.

9. Inkspell by Cornelia Funke ****
More absorbing and satisfying than Inkheart. We get to know Resa, Farid and Dustfinger better. Makes me wonder how much of the characters' actions come from who they are, or are they truly being manipulated by Fenoglio's writing and Maggie's reading? But while Inkheart comes to a conclusion, Inkspell leaves you hanging and now I've got to wait until October to find out what will happen!

Edited: Sep 1, 2008, 5:13pm Top

July Summary

26. Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reeves ***
Interesting story about multiple copies of a boy named Joey in parallel universes. The must work together to stop two different groups of baddies from using Joey copies for nefarious purposes. One group of baddies is from one end of the reality spectrum and uses magic, the other group from the other end uses science. Great idea but read like the pilot of a TV series which it originally was supposed to be. We are introduced to the Joeys and their reality and to the baddies but it seemed only a teaser and left me unsatisfied.

27. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry ****
Set in the same world as The Giver, but in a village where hardship and selfishness is the rule. There is no attempt to teach ethics or morals to children and those with any kind of handicap are usually left to die. Kira is an orphan with a twisted leg but has a talent that the elders of her village want to exploit.

28. Grass by Sheri S Tepper ****1/2
The planet Grass seems to hold the solution to a plague that threatens to wipe out humanity every where else in the universe. But on Grass itself is an indigenous life form that humans don't understand and it seems to have some sort of control over the humans living there.

29. Messenger by Lois Lowry ****
The third book in the series which has 'The Giver' and 'Gathering Blue'. Brings together Jonas, Kira and Matt from the earlier books but is told from Matt's POV. Matt is now part of a village that used to open it's arms to those abandoned by or cast away from their old societies and where secrecy is frowned upon. But discord appears, and more and more people want to close the gates to other refugees. The natural world around them is becoming treacherous and adverse and theirs seems the only sanctuary.

30. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin ***1/2
31. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin ****
32. The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin ***1/2
Ged is a character in each of these but we don't really get to know him. The first story is told like a legend and we are distanced from events by time. We know what happens to Ged but not his thoughts. The second story is about Tenar (I think that's why this is my favorite of the three, because we become close to one of the characters) and Ged shows up partway and together they overcome the darkness that has been Tenar's life. The third book is about Lebannan and Ged, and, like the first book, there is a lot of travelling involved and we learn more about Earthsea itself than the characters.

Read with my son:
10. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald **
Both my son and I were disappointed. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle hands out these magical cures, origin unknown, to cure children of various misbehaviours. No explanation is given of why/how these cures work. They just do. I liked the earlier stories better when she would invite the children to her home and cure them herself using her child know-how.

10. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman **1/2
Short stories, a couple which I liked but many I didn't. I'm just not a big Gaiman fan. I like his stories for children better. His stories for adults tend to be rather bleak for my liking. The only adult novels of his I've ever really liked are Stardust and Good Omens, which have more magic and humour in them.

11. Zorro by Isabel Allende ****
I understand the studio which put out the Zorro movies, starring Antonio Banderas as Zorro, asked (commissioned?) Allende to write a prequel describing the life of Diego de la Vega before, and explaining why, he becomes Zorro. I thought this was well done and the reader had a wonderful accent and I loved the way the Spanish names rolled off her tongue.

12. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell ****
Based on a true story about a girl accidentally left behind on an island when her tribe moves to the mainland. Karana survives and lives on her own for 18 years before she is discovered and brought to California. Wonderful story. I enjoyed following Karana as she explored her island and got to know it and its animal inhabitants more intimately.

*sigh* I'm having trouble putting my thoughts to page, partly due to too much time elapsing before posting, partly due to the constant distraction of two noisy rugrats. So I don't know if I've been as clear and concise as I want to be.

Sep 24, 2008, 12:32am Top

It was not based on a true story think about it. A girl surviving all of those years especially if she never did any work exept gather food. Then suddenly she makes a house? I don't think so

Edited: Oct 1, 2008, 2:10am Top

August Summary

33. The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte ***
I was looking for something more swashbuckling, especially after listening to Zorro last month, but this was more introspective, on the protagonist's part, and didn't pick up until near the end. Made me think again I'd like to take up fencing though.

34. Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin ***1/2
We meet Tenar and Ged again, some twenty years after The Tombs of Atuan. Tenar takes in a girl, scarred physically by fire and scarred mentally by abusive parents, who is more than she seems.

35. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes ***
Barnes teases us with interesting-sounding characters but they are kept two dimensional and in the background. Of the two main characters, Moon is not very likeable and the Narrator not very reliable. The descriptions of Victorian London would start out great but then Barnes overdoes it and starts contradicting himself. I found this mystery unsatisfying and frustrating but I kept reading because I did want to know what was going on.

36. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley ****
Great! Wonderful short stories. So much better than the fairy tales redone in Door in the Hedge which were more insubstantial. The characters in this one seemed more solid and were more interesting. And there's always a touch of wistfulness in McKinley's stories that really came out in this collection which I loved.

13. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo ****
Sweet story about the adventures of a china rabbit and how his character is changed by the people he meet.

14. Airman by Eoin Colfer ***1/2
I would have loved to have grown up as Conor Broekhart did in this story. He is friends with the King's daughter and, when they're not exploring the castle together, he studies philosophy, sciences, French and fencing with a tutor who is also the king's friend and advisor. Unfortunately, Conor also gets mixed up in some intrigue, gets branded a traitor and ends up in a hell hole of a prison at the mercy of a sadistic captain of the guards.

15. My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse ***
Light, but too silly at times. Bertie is a nice guy but too much a pushover. And I can't help but think so many of the situations he or his friends get themselves into wouldn't have happened if they would just talk to the aunt/uncle/potential fiance. I know that's not the point and it's supposed to be silly but...

Graphic Novels:
9. Y: The Last Man - Ring of Truth by Brian K Vaughan ***1/2
10. Y: The Last Man - Girl on Girl ****
11. Fables: Wolves by Bill Willingham ****
12. Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon ***1/2
13. Y: The Last Man - Paper Dolls ****
14. Y: The Last Man - Kimono Dragons***1/2
15. The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar ***

Serenity was a look at the events between the final Firefly episode and Serenity, the movie. It was nice to see these characters again and find out a little more about them. And I like how they can be rough with each other yet look out for each other as well.

The Professor's Daughter was interesting if a little bizarre, about the relationship between the Mummy Ramses and the daughter of the archeologist who discovered him. The whole time the mummy is in bandages, as they travel around London. Anne Rice did it much better with The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned, which I think I'll have to read again soon.

Edited: Oct 1, 2008, 3:04am Top

September Summary

37. Tales from Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin ****
I think I've enjoyed these short stories the best of the Earthsea books so far. I don't normally like short stories, I think familiarity with Earthsea helped me to sink into these. But I also liked these because they were more about the people than the adventures. Le Guin writes interesting people.

38. Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey ****
It's been several months since I read Kushiel's Avatar and this has been like settling in with old aquaintances and catching up. I also like that nothing majorly traumatic has happened yet to Imriel, as it always seemed to be happening to Phedre in the last trilogy. I liked reading Phedre's story but so far Imri's is more relaxing.

39. Superfudge by Judy Blume *****
I picked this up because my 7yo's teacher was reading this to her class. I'd read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing with my son last year and before that when I was a kid. But this is my first time reading Superfudge and I am so glad I did. This was wonderful! I can see my own sons in Peter and Fudge. Blume is bang on with the interactions and reactions of Peter and his family. And she writes with humour and tenderness (though Peter would never admit to it). I read it in one sitting and I couldn't stop chuckling the whole time.

40. The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin ***1/2
I enjoyed reading about the dragons and about the division between dragons and people but I'm getting tired of reading about the land of the dead again. But again, I like the way that Le Guin writes her people.

41. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett ****1/2
Another one sitting book, it was only 124 pages. Couldn't help chuckling through this one either. This time I could see myself in the Queen's behaviour and thoughts after she gets sucked into the world of books.

16. Freedom's Landing by Anne McCaffrey **1/2
Disappointing. Another book by McCaffrey about exploring an unknown world. I consider McCaffrey a favorite author, but lately I haven't enjoyed her books very much at all. I love Pern, and have also enjoyed the Pegasus and the Talent series, but can't get into any others that I've tried.

17. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau ***1/2
Listened to this one in preparation for watching the movie. Interesting world where the things we take for granted are not even known anymore and essential supplies are dwindling. DuPrau does a good job of creating tension in the bubble world that is Ember. The darkness is opressive and one can't help but wonder how these people have survived it.

Graphic Novels:
16. Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham ***1/2

17. Athena Inc. Volume 1: Manhunter Project by Brian Haberlin **1/2
This story had much promise but fell flat for me. I wanted more back story, more filler about the people in it, more information about the technology. Instead it was like a fast paced action flick with lots of jumping around from scene to scene but not many answers. It was also quite dark with not much light to alleviate it (within the story and the illustrations). Maybe more background will be given in later volumes but I probably won't read them.

Dec 13, 2008, 2:39am Top

October Summary

42. Touchstone by Laurie R. King ***1/2
I didn't care for the time spent setting up the political atmosphere of the 1920s. Other than that, as usual I enjoyed getting to know King's characters. An FBI agent (actually pre-FBI) travels to Britain in search of a bomber and enlists the help of a man with an acute sensitivity to the world around him. So much so that he has pretty much become a hermit to get away from the noise and conflict he can't help but fell within almost everyone.

43. Count Karlstein by Philip Pullman ***1/2
A quick-paced, tongue-in-cheek gothic story for young readers with some very evil and wicked characters preying on the very good. Fun read.

44. The Firework Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman ***1/2
Another story for young readers with some beautiful illustrations. A girl sets out on a quest to prove that she has what it takes to be a real firework maker, just like her dad. She has the help of her friend and the talking elephant he takes care of.

45. Stardust by Neil Gaiman ****1/2
I've read this before but wanted to read the illustrated (by Charles Vess) version. Beautiful artwork. Beautiful fairy tale for adults. A man gets his heart's desire.

Read with my son:
11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling *****
I wanted to save this for Tam to read himself some day, but when he asked me to read it to him I couldn't say no. And I can still hope he'll read it on his own in a few years. I enjoyed it as always and he enjoyed it just as much as the movie he's already seen (which we're going to rewatch now).

12. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell ***
I found the chapters very brief and abrupt. No flow in the story. Tam was into the gross factor but he found the story a little hard to follow as well. One boy bets his friend that he can't eat 15 worms in 15 days, then starts sabotaging him when it looks like he'll make it.

18. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne *****
Ended up bawling at the end. Very well told from a young boy's point of view that I found completely believable. I can't wait for my boys to be a little older so I can share this with them.

19. The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau ***
The population of Ember discover the world around them that they'd forgotten existed. Everyday things we take for granted is new to them, like trees, shovels, dogs. I found I wanted to know what happens to the Emberites in their new surroundings, but not eagerly. The story didn't really grab me.

20. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie ****
I can't believe I've only just read this for the first time. Very magical. Barrie has a beautiful way with words. Don't know if I could have been as patient with Pan as Wendy though!

Graphic Novels:
18. Y: The Last Man - Motherland by Brian K. Vaughan ***
19. Y: The Last Man - Whys and Wherefores ****

Edited: Dec 22, 2008, 12:07pm Top

November Summary

46. Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper ***1/2
Interesting twist on modern day gender issues. Six Moons Dance is a science fiction on a planet where the traditional roles of women and men have been turned upside down. It's interesting and I usually really like Tepper, but she does seem to be lecturing at me in this one. I've heard people complain about that with her other books that I've had no problems with but I can see it in this one. Tepper always has definite thoughts regarding gender and social and environmental issues.

47. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks ***1/2
Really enjoyed the stories within the story, illuminating the (fictional) history of the 500 year old Sarajevo Haggadah, and how major events left their own clues behind in the Haggadah for present day book conservationist, Hanna Heath, to find and decipher. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy as much the main story about Heath. But overall, it was time well spent.

48. Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume ****
Again, I can instantly see my kids in Fudge and Peter. Laugh out loud funny.

49. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman ***1/2
I can see myself in Fadiman's descriptions of herself. How lucky that she grew up in a family that loved books/words/reading as much as she did. A good book but it did make me feel, not illiterate, but unliterate. Lots of authors I'd never heard of much less read.

50. Double Fudge by Judy Blume ***1/2
Disappointing. Blume is trying to make her book relate more to today's kids by throwing in a lot of words that didn't exist when she first wrote about Fudge. Throughout the book: mp3 player, dvd, Harry Potter... I found it jarring and didn't enjoy this book as much as the others. The others were more timeless, although I did notice she must have updated the previous ones. In Superfudge she's obviously replaced some words in Peter's Christmas wish list. I wonder what Blume replaced with cds and laptop computer. Superfudge was originally written around 1980!

21. The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau ***
My interest in this series is waning. DuPrau threw in a lot of mystical stuff that she never explained and didn't seem to go anywhere.

22. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer *****
23. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident *****
24. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code *****
A reread, actually a re-listen. I LOVE Nathaniel Parker's reading. His voices of all the different characters are wonderful, lots of different accents. I instantly know which character is speaking. The mix of fantasy and sci-fi is neat, the characters have a great rapport and they're funny! I previewed the 6th book, The Time Paradox, read by a different person and it was just wrong. I was very disappointed to find out Parker didn't narrate that one. I'll be reading the paper version of it, but I do have books 4 and 5 narrated by Parker to look forward to first.

Graphic Novels:
20. Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham ****1/2

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