Over on Librarything.com, I kept a running list of all the books I read throughout the year, along with brief reviews of each book. It was part of the ’50 Book Challenge’ that I participated in… and little did I know at the start that I would far surpass the 50 book goal. This year I’ve upped the ante – going for 75-100 books – and will try to post my list & reviews at the end of each month, to avoid the inevitably longer-than-anyone-could-possibly-read-in-one-sitting type of post that this one will turn out to be. So, without further ado, here are the books I read in 2008, more or less copied/pasted from the Librarything.com thread.
What I Read in 2008
*Note: A large portion of the books I read this year were about marriage (not surprising) or ARCs, “Advance Reading Copies”, that I received through a number of early reviewers’ programs I belong to. It’s been good in the sense that I’ve read some books that I might not otherwise pick up, and in a few cases, some books that I wanted to read and coincidently didn’t have to buy after all. I believe I received 13 free books in total, though not all of them are on this list – a few ended up being partial reads that I sent my review in for anyway, with plans to finish reading them eventually (I only did this on books I was enjoying, to be fair).
I’ve got about 10 -12 other partial reads lying around, and hopefully I can finish those this year, since I couldn’t legitimately count them in my total. If you’re curious about one of the books on the list, send me a message and I’d be happy to tell you more about it.
1) The Ruby in the Smoke – Philip Pullman
It wasn’t on par with The Golden Compass, but then again, I didn’t expect it to be. It was interesting, intriguing, light-hearted… and I certainly want to read the next book in the series.
2) Tahn – L.A. Kelly
My mother enjoyed this one, so I read it on her recommendation. It was a quick read, not excellent by any stretch, and at times I wondered how there could possibly be so many pages left when the story seemed to have already wrapped up. A nice diversion, at least.
3) Going Postal - Terry Pratchett
It’s only the second Discworld book I’ve ever read… but if they’re all this hilarious, I’ll be reading more. There are moments when you hit a perfectly crafted line and just have to sit there (after catching your breath from laughter) and marvel at the genius of it.
4) Plot - Ansen Dibell
Very good insight and advice for writers, including some things that I hadn’t really considered in tangible terms before. Dibell tells it like it is – one of my favorite parts is when the advice is given: unless it’s absolutely necessary to do otherwise, when the story is done, it needs to shut up. How true…
5) Every Marriage is a Fixer-Upper – Bill and Pam Farrel
Practical, useful advice for anyone who has been married for awhile, is thinking about being married, or is engaged and preparing themselves for marriage. The authors have an approachable style that’s peppered with anecdotes and humor – they’re not afraid to laugh at themselves and the mistakes they’ve made in their own marriage. It’s definitely one that I’d like to read again in a few years, to see how my own perspective has changed… since a little reminder on how to work on things daily is always good too.
6) The Shadow in the North (Sally Lockhart #2) – Philip Pullman
The second book in the Sally Lockhart series was entertaining, but darker than the first book… and at a few points, I was quite saddened with the direction things went with a few characters. Either way, I can see myself reaching for book three…
7) The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
Alright, so… I have a degree in Classical Studies & Archaeology, and this was recommended to me by a friend… she’d read it and thought it was hilarious, and it just so happened that a copy of it was sitting on my shelf (and had been for maybe 2 years) and I hadn’t bothered reading it, thinking it might be boring. Turns out she was right, I was wrong – it was hysterical, but I think maybe only because of my background in Classical Studies. The story was fun, but I had a great time shaking my head at all the liberties Riordan took with Greek mythology. ie. Athena has children. Athena!!! The perpetual goddess who once freaked out when Hephaestus tried to put the moves on her!!!
Anyway, even if you don’t really have a background in Classical Studies and just want to read a fun young adult fantasy-esque book, it’s worth picking up.
8 ) The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets – William J. Broad
I was pleasantly surprised with this book – it reads like a detective story about Delphi and the investigation that 4 men underwent to understand the ‘pneuma’ that supposedly induced the Pythia’s communion with Apollo. The book was detailed but still approachable, intelligent but without confusing jargon, and scientific without being demeaning to the ancient Greeks and their religious beliefs. I thought it was very balanced, and respected both science and religion in a way that seems highly lacking in many books on the Classical world.
9) Homebodies: The Homemaker’s Guide to Organization and Contentment – Linda Davis Zumbehl
I was highly skeptical about this book before reading it… but only a few pages in, I realized that I was a happier, less stressed almost-wife for having done so! With a wedding looming only a few months away, and our first house’s closing date on Feb.6th, I’ve realized that there’s a LOT to do to keep a home in order. Enter Zumbehl and her incredible (but common sense!) systems: everything from keeping a perpetual address book (which uses post-its so you don’t have to rewrite an entire address book in a few years), maintaining a “gifts” notebook to budget gift spending for the year, collecting and filing ALL receipts for tax/budgeting, her 4-hour regimen for cleaning the entire house… Let’s just say that when I move into the house in May, I’ll be implementing a lot of things from this book. Read it – take notes – your life will be less stressed and you’ll have more free time because of it!
10) Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex – Linda Dillow
This book was candid, gentle, sensitive, and absolutely infused with Scripture. I enjoyed the honest responses from the authors, and the practical suggestions that went along with realizing the answers. I think I’d like to put this one away someplace that I’ll easily remember where it is, since I think it would be an excellent resource to read again in a few years after I have a bit more perspective (ie. marriage). A little reminder here and there is never a bad thing!
11) Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis
The second official book in the Narnia series (going by Lewis’ original ordering scheme, not this newly-packaged chronological garbage)… need I say more? I read it so that the story would be fresh in my mind come the film version in May. The book is thoroughly engaging, I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint like the BBC version did.
12) The Bondage of the Will - Martin Luther
I had to read this for a class I’m taking on church history… and unfortunately, the translation I had was crap and impossible to read. I’m still not entirely sure what he’s trying to say… fortunately, a few online summaries helped out a bit. Otherwise, stay away from the Henry Cole version… get the one by J.I. Packer, I hear it’s in modernized English and, you know… actually readable.
13) Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Nixie’s Song – Holly Black
While I enjoyed this book, I didn’t feel it was anywhere on par with the initial 5-book Spiderwick series. It was a good continuation of the theme, but I felt that the near-breaking of the fourth wall was a bit much to handle in terms of believability… though perhaps children will appreciate it, since it might make the story seem all that more real for them. For myself, however, I found it distracted from the storyline more than anything else.
14) Fondling Your Muse – John Warner
Hilarious. I honestly can’t even express just *how* hilarious it is, but… if you’re familiar with how traditional “writing advice” books are written, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this blatant piece of satire.
15) Percy Jackson & The Olympians: Book 2 – Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
Continuing with his tradition of butchering Greek myths, this sequel was actually just as entertaining, if not better, than the first one! I already have the third one on my shelf, waiting…
16) The Truth - Terry Pratchett
The best of the few Discworld novels I’ve read so far… very, very funny, extremely clever, and actually has a few ‘laugh out loud’ (and possibly some ‘groan out loud’) moments at the hilarity/bad puns/and so forth. Worth reading, and definitely a good place to start if you haven’t read Pratchett before (this is only my 3rd of his so far).
17) Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid – Lemony Snicket
So it’s a book full of quotes. But there are an awful lot of them, and I read them all! Which, in my opinion, means it counts as a book which I have read. Hah. Also, it was hilarious and I highly recommend it. So there.
18) Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony – Eoin Colfer
I think it was after book 4 that Colfer said he wasn’t going to write any more Artemis Fowl books…? We didn’t believe him then, and we don’t believe him now… these books continue to be written extremely well, with engaging plots, excellent new ideas, and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. If he finishes the series in the next few books, I’ll be very surprised…
19) Evernight - Claudia Gray [ARC]
I probably shouldn’t comment too much on this one, since I received my copy through the Harpercollins FirstLook Club, which means it’s an advance proof… I have to submit my review by the end of the month, which I should probably do before commenting on it elsewhere, but I do have one thing to say about it: it’s a waste of time. I felt cheated by the “clever twist”, and it was extremely evident that this was her first novel. Sorry Claudia… I really wanted to like it.
20) Intended For Pleasure – Dr. Ed Wheat
Yes, it’s yet another marriage-type book, dealing with sex from a Christian perspective… however, this book did nothing but disappoint me. I appreciated the medical-textbook style approach to certain things, but in other areas, I only ended up shaking my head or getting frustrated with how Dr. Wheat approached things – for example, he repeatedly stated that although there was no shame in the marriage bed and that Christian couples should feel comfortable to do whatever is pleasing for each other, he then went on to say that achieving the ‘Big O’ in any manner other than intercourse was shortchanging yourself. Really? REALLY? I could expound on the reasons why I think that this definition actually shortchanges couples… but do yourself a favor, and grab Dr. Kevin Leman’s “Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage” instead. It’s more appropriate for engaged couples (ie. certain things like sexual positions are not to be read until AFTER the wedding, to avoid temptation), and I’m pretty sure he’d slap Dr. Wheat upside the head.
21) Percy Jackson and the Olympians 3: The Titan’s Curse – Rick Riordan
What can I say… instead of getting worse, the series actually seems to be getting more interesting with each book! In the same vein as the previous 2 books, the main characters set out on a quest that is related in some way to a larger plotline which arches throughout the series. This large series-spanning problem/small book-spanning quest formula actually seems to work pretty well…
22) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Walt Disney World 2008 – Doug Ingersol
I really appreciated the basic, simple approach the author took to this guide. As someone who knew nothing about Disney World before reading it, after I’d devoured this one, I felt I was ready to move on to the larger, more intense “Unofficial Guide” that all (or so it seems) informed Disney World visitors rely on. I actually read this travel guide cover-to-cover, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and to be sure I got an overarching sense of what the World is like.
23) The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2008 – Bob Sehlinger
For someone who had never been to Disney World before and wanted to see it ALL in just a week, this book was fantastic. I read it cover to cover (what can I say, apparently I enjoy travel guides?) and found its information absolutely invaluable on the trip. There are opinions from both the author, visitors who have written in on their own experiences, and Unofficial Guide researchers, which means you get a well-rounded set of opinions and anecdotes for everything from hotels, to rides, to individual restaurants. Combining this with the Idiot’s Guide was really all I needed to plan the trip – which basically went off without a hitch, thanks for the information from these two books.
24) 5 Essentials for Lifelong Intimacy – Dr. James Dobson
This short book addressed the five key factors in a marriage that need to function effectively in order for the marriage to endure and thrive, not just survive. While the things he addressed weren’t new ideas by any stretch, sometimes I think it’s a good idea to just review the basics as a reminder of those things which need to be consciously and continuously worked on every day. Dobson’s anecdotes often put his points into perspective, which helps keep the ideas in mind after the last page has been turned.
25) Marriage Under Fire – Dr. James Dobson
This book was essentially a concise overview of the challenges facing the definition of “traditional marriage” in America. It was informative – albeit slightly dated, having been written in 2004 – but still useful to read the various points laid out very simply from someone who spends their life’s work defending God’s ordained view of marriage and family.
26) The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
This book I actually think I enjoyed more than her other books… Shopaholic series included! This one was more intelligent, had a more likable heroine, and seemed to have a decent message at the end that I was quite happy about. In a world of ‘Sex and the City’ women who are too focused on themselves and anything short of murder to get ahead in their careers, this book was a refreshing take on the alternative: it’s not a bad thing to slow down and just look out the window once in awhile.
27) Calm, Cool, and Adjusted - Kristin Billerbeck
As the last in the series, I have to say I’m glad it’s over. Not because the books weren’t particularly enjoyable, but because I found that the author’s consistency with characters was slightly off. Each book was written from the perspective of one of the girls, but I found that each narrative seemed to blend together – ie. each girl’s ‘voice’ sounded remarkably like the previous one, and nothing like the vastly different and individual women that were shown through the first-person view of each main character. Simply put, I liked each woman in third person much better. Oh well. Looking forward to her other books, though!
28) Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage – Dr. Kevin Leman
All I have to say is: every single engaged couple, newlywed, and married couple in existence should read a copy of this book. Then set it aside, on the bed stand. Then read it again every six months, if not every year… and TAKE IN what it says. That’s how impressed I was – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. So don’t be surprised if it shows up in this list twice…!
29) New Moon – Stephenie Meyer
I enjoyed the book, I thought the writing itself was on par with the previous book… but I thought the story could use some work. It simply wasn’t as good as the first book, and the ‘thriller’ aspect of the story left something to be desired. It was somewhat contrived, and I felt that she was stretching to make things work by the end – the plot shifted gears too quickly, and left things unresolved in an “I got lazy and rushed it” way, as opposed to a “To Be Continued… in Book 3!” way.
I know some people will lambaste me for my opinion on this, but never fear – I’ll read book 3 eventually, and perhaps it will redeem itself. Either way, Meyer is clearly raking in the dough…
30) I’m Fine with God…It’s Christians I Can’t Stand: Getting Past the Religious Garbage in the Search For Spiritual Truth – Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz
Thank you, Bruce & Stan, for writing this book. And I mean that. It’s refreshing to hear someone on your own team stand up and say “We’ve screwed up, I’m upset, and I am ashamed to count those people among my own”. A few Christians have made some pretty bold mistakes and created a terrible image for the entirety of Christianity as a whole, and although each and every one of us has fallen into one of their categories at one point or another (ie. bigotry, hateful speech/violence, etc.)… Bruce & Stan have done their best to let everyone know that this is NOT normal. Christians can be pretty horrible, and it’s unacceptable. We need to get back to practicing the love & respect that we keep telling the world about.
I appreciate that Bruce & Stan see the Gospel as something to be shared through relationships that are built up, through mutual bonds of trust – not shoved down people’s throats, because in this day and age? That just doesn’t work, and that’s what has gotten us into so much trouble in the first place. They make a good point: If Christians are supposed to be a light on a hill, instead of shining that light so that it blinds people, they should have the choice of whether or not they choose to investigate. And if we’re shining brightly enough… who wouldn’t be curious to see what that beautiful, bright light is all about?
31) Love is a Many Trousered Thing - Louise Rennison
Oh my giddy gosh, the 8th installment of Georgia Nicholson’s sufferings on the rack of lurve and in the cakeshop of agony is enough to make any person from the loony bin of Loonland have a nervy b. in the midst of a cafe whilst reading! Not that it would ever happen to me, of course… naturally, I read only such chav literature all aloney on my owney.
32) Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel - Cathy Yardley
Interesting, light-hearted, and occasionally informative… this ‘how-to’ writing book essentially told me what I already knew, though it was nice to hear it directly from someone who’d ‘been there, done that’. If anything, the book encouraged me to get out there and find a critique group for my work… and not to be ashamed to write Chick Lit, as it has blossomed into a perfectly legitimate book genre in the past 10-15 years or so. It’s not going anywhere, so why NOT write for it?
33) The Shack - William P. Young
I wasn’t especially moved by this book, as others seem to have been, but I did find it to be an interesting exploration into the character of God – though thinly disguised as a novel. I think seekers would do well to read this book, however, as well as anyone who finds themselves wondering about who God is and why bad things happen to good people… I think they might find some answers, or at least a starting point for some answers, from reading this book. Unfortunately, beyond this starting point… it becomes theologically suspect.
34) The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho
I picked up this book while browsing Chapters looking for something to read, and I’d honestly never heard of Coelho before… I got about 100 pages into it, was hooked, and decided on a whim to look in the ‘extras’ section placed in the back… I had no idea this guy was such a worldwide phenomenon! I guess his book ‘The Alchemist’ made a big impression on people, but after looking around at reviews for his other books, it seems that he gets stuck with the ‘not-as-good-as-The-Alchemist’ tag on everything he’s written since. It’s really too bad; I enjoyed the Witch of Portobello, and I’m definitely intrigued to make my way through his other writings.
35) Something Borrowed – Emily Giffen
I read this book because I’d heard it was really good, really funny, and fairly intelligent. I was ready to love it, and was pleasantly surprised when it started off well… but things seemed to fall quickly downhill after that.
We’re asked to care about a main character who does basically the worst possible thing you can do to your friend… and while she continually defends her friend throughout the book and is (apparently) consumed with guilt, the author makes her friend into a shallow, pathetic bitch in order to force we, the readers, to justify the main character’s behavior.
Without giving anything specific away, I was angered by the way the author decided to resolve the situation: turns out the friend did something even worse than the main character did, so by comparison, the main character looks like a wonderful person. So… even though it turns out they’re BOTH horrible people, the main character’s act was the lesser of the two evils and therefore justified (or that’s how we’re supposed to see it)??? I don’t think so. I didn’t feel any sympathy for either of them, and I’m not sure I care to read the next book.
Alsoooooo… for heaven’s sake, what was up with Dex??? Now there’s a contrived character for you… he comes off as shallow, needy, and slightly clingy. His ‘great revelation’ of his feelings seems more like something out of a soap opera than real life, and it comes off as sudden and very out of place. If you read the book, you’ll see what I mean…
It’s too bad, because I had high hopes…
36) Pillage - Obert Skye [ARC]
I received this book through the LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer’s program, so here’s the review of it that I posted for the site:
Pillage started out as an engaging, entertaining story that seemed… unique, somehow. These days, a lot of children’s/youth fantasy seems slapped together with cookie-cutter plots, but something about this book kept me reading – in fact, I’ll be honest and admit that I read the entire book in one sitting, neglecting to make supper for my husband (oops) because I wanted to see what happened.
That said, I honestly wish the book had been longer. I thought a few loose threads needed tying up at the end, and the last part of the story seemed to pass by all too quickly – too quickly, in fact, to be consistent with the slow (but interesting) buildup that the author had given us during the first 3/4 of the book. I didn’t like how it wrapped up so suddenly, and the conclusion was far too convenient (I would have liked some more foreshadowing or suspense), but that said… let’s face it, I still read the book in one sitting, and overall, I enjoyed it. The ‘history’ pages placed between chapters was quite interesting as well (one of my favorite parts of the book, I’d say), and now that I think of it, I’m going to change what was originally going to be a 3.5 rating to a 4… because after this, I’m actually interested in reading more of Skye’s work. And after all, isn’t that what an author really strives for?
37) Relic Quest - Robert Cornuke
Wow, I read this awhile ago and apparently I forgot to count it/mention it here. This was an interesting adventure story (but allegedly true) of Cornuke’s search for the Ark of the Covenant. Through the duration of the text, he meets various Bedouin, scholars, monks, and so forth that give him clues as to where the Ark is located, and he uses this information to track it down to where he believes is its current resting place.
The proof he offers of its location, as well as the people he met along the way and what they told him, is very compelling – I want to be convinced that he’s right, but my scholar-sense is tingling and tells me to go read more books about peoples’ searches for the Ark before making any sort of conclusion. I’m almost compelled to do some digging on my own, not only in legend-chaser narratives, but in archaeological journals, so find out what the current consensus is. I realize plenty of scholars believe it was destroyed a long time ago, but hey… everyone loves a good archaeological mystery, yes?
38) The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists – Ravi Zacharias
While I haven’t read ‘The End of Faith’ by Sam Harris, I found Zacharias’ explanation of Harris’ and Dawkins’ ‘new atheism’ both informative and enlightening. Apparently they are not only intolerant of people who believe differently than they do (ie. religious individuals), while screaming tolerance at the top of their lungs, but even the way that they present their arguments is inciting and hateful. Many of their arguments are straw men that can be blown down with just a smidgen of reason – probably the reason why a good number of well-known atheists across the world have said they’re ‘ashamed for atheism’ due to its current association with Harris and Dawkins. Thank goodness that people like Harris are in the minority (for the time being), and that there are still people of differing beliefs who are willing to discuss these differences respectfully, rationally, and with extensive use of logic and reasoning!
39) I’m OK – You’re Not : The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop – John Shore
Excellent, excellent, excellent book. While I don’t necessarily agree with every detail in here, I am extremely grateful to Shore for writing this book, and I wish more people in the church would read it and actually put it into practice. Mind you, I don’t think the divide between Christians and nonbelievers is as wide in Canada as it is in the USA (where Shore’s target audience resides, it would seem), it’s certainly a wake-up call to those who try shoving the Gospel in other people’s faces and then wonder why they never manage to convert anyone.
From the blurb on the back: “…let’s face it: ‘Sharing’ our faith with nonbelievers can often feel like making a sales call during dinnertime – uninvited, unacceptable, and unlikely to get any results. Author John Shore proposes a radical solution: Maybe it’s simply time to take our focus off evangelism… After all, the only thing better than telling others about God’s love is letting them actually experience it.”
He focuses on building relationships with others, chastises smug Christians who look down on others for their ‘non-belief’, and emphasizes the critical need there is for Christians to respect their fellow human being – how can Christians be real examples of Jesus’ love if they don’t respect everyday people in the first place?
So… I feel like my description can’t really do the book enough justice, to be honest, and I really encourage anyone to go and read it. Also, Shore is hilarious – he’s a humor writer first and foremost, and the book reads very well: a serious message rolled into an entertaining and often fall-off-your-chair funny package (or at least I thought so).
40) Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight – Sheila Wray Gregoire
Common sense + points to ponder = good, quick read with a few things to think about at the end.
41) Around the World in 80 Dates: Confessions of a Christian Serial Dater - Christa Ann Banister
Funny!!! And well written. I like how this author isn’t afraid to jump between first person and third person, something which is rarely (if EVER???) done in this genre. How refreshing! I also found the main character’s “odd” habits, in many cases, exactly the same as my own… which made me wonder if these things I thought were normal are a little OCD after all (like counting the seats in a movie theatre row to make sure you’re sitting in *exactly* the middle… what’s wrong with that???)… heh.
42) Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email the Tangled Story of English Spelling – David Wolman [ARC]
What a fun book! This book looked at the beginnings of English spelling all the way to today’s ‘internet lingo’ and the problems associated with variable spellings. Wolman considers the case of groups who have long been pushing for spelling reform (even today!) and gives the pros and cons of both sides of the argument. Anyone even remotely interested in etymology will probably enjoy this book – it’s not too long, not too academic, but authoritative enough to compel you to keep reading. Who knew English spelling could be so interesting?!
43) Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You – Don Colbert, M.D.
Informative. Pinpoints the connection between certain emotions and your health, and simple things you can do about it. The suggestions are helpful – this is a worthwhile read if you find yourself constantly struggling with anxiety or stress.
44) Split Ends – Kristin Billerbeck
Yay, a new Billerbeck novel that wasn’t just cut-and-dry chick lit! This book renewed my confidence in Billerbeck after slogging through all 3 Spa Girls novels. It was a quick read, fun, and one of those books you can just curl up with and devour on a lazy afternoon. But I shouldn’t discourage anyone from her other books – I have 3 friends I can name off the top of my head that absolutely loved them (and maybe it’s just that I’m not really a ‘spa’ person…). To each their own, right? Also, I like Billerbeck’s style of characterization – I think she has a gift for creating ‘real’ women that her readers can relate to. I really think Split Ends is the best of all her books, but I haven’t yet read ‘Trophy Wives Club’… it’s on the list for next year!
45) Happy Hour at Casa Dracula – Marta Acosta
Different, interesting, witty, and actually funny. Sometimes the characters seemed a bit unbelievable, but I was happy to read a Chick Lit novel that wasn’t all about shoes and credit card bills. I plan to read the sequel… hopefully it can follow through.
46) Size 12 is Not Fat - Meg Cabot
47) Size 14 is Not Fat Either – Meg Cabot
These books were nothing but pure, unadulterated fun. I liked the idea of ‘mystery’ chick lit too, because I often have a hard time getting into mystery books – either they’re too grisly, too serious, too much bad language – but I quite enjoyed these ones. I look forward to reading the third!
48) The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
It started off mediocre… and then blew me away. I really don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil the story and the beauty/heart wrenching agony of the narrative, but if you’re interested in ancient history and the Near East (specifically women’s history, which is often glossed over)… read this book.
49) Geisha, a Life – Mineko Iwasaki
Fascinating, compelling biography of one of Japan’s top geisha. She was the first in 300 years to come forward and tell her story. The least we can do is listen.
50) How to DeStress Your Life - Gregory L. Jantz
This book was excellent… so excellent, in fact, that I am feeling inspired to get a copy that belongs to me (instead of the church library) and highlight the most useful points in it. And this is from someone who considers highlighting in books to be the epitome of evil.
51) Pillow Talk - Karen Scalf Linamen
Good points, well written, humorous. I found it to be a really good, light read before bed, with useful advice and ideas interspersed along the way. (This book was previously published under a different title, but I can’t remember what it was… something about Marriage ABCs.)
52) Atherton #1: House of Power - Patrick Carman
This was fun! I read it in one evening at Starbucks, nursing a Pumpkin Spice Latte and sitting in a very comfortable chair. Afterward, I proceeded toward the children’s section in Chapters to find the second book (it ends on the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers, argh)… only to learn that it isn’t out in paperback yet. Grrrahgh!
53) Cul-de-Sac - Richard Thompson [ARC]
When I received this book from the ER program here, I was prepared to be skeptical… after all, I’ve read a lot of newspaper comics over the years, and my family has a habit of collecting comic compilations like this (at Christmas, everyone gets a new newspaper comic book). The majority of the comics we/I like are a) very well drawn, and b) hilarious. Upon first opening this book, I took one look at the art and thought “oh NO, this looks terrible…”. But I read the foreword by Bill Watterson, who lauded the art, and felt very confused… how could HE love this comic, when it clearly looks drawn by a sloppy artist who was running out of time?… I decided to go ahead and read it anyway.
A few pages in, I was still skeptical. I wasn’t laughing. It felt forced. A few pages more, and the adventures of the guinea pig began… now THAT was entertaining… a few pages more, and I was at the black and white strips, intrigued. A few pages more… and I couldn’t put the book down. It turns out that the art style *suits* the comic very well – the haphazard and slightly abstract style seems to match the chaotic world of a young family (and the 4-year-old girl that the comics are mostly based around), and I think anyone with young children will greatly appreciate this comic.
That said, the strips with the guinea pig in it were my favorite, but I think this is a book I will grow to appreciate more as the years pass. I don’t have children yet, and while I can still enjoy the comics and laugh out loud (which I admittedly did at a few points), I think the humor will simply grow more poignant over time.
That said, I enjoyed this comic and look forward to reading more. For the skeptics who still aren’t sure, just push through those first few pages – afterward, you’ll be thankful you did.
54) Book of Enchantments – Patricia C. Wrede
This was an entertaining collection of short stories, some of which had rather poor endings (but that’s typical of short stories, it seems) in the sense that they seemed hurriedly contrived… but in general, the book was fun and easy to get through.
55) The Hunter’s Moon – O.R. Melling
My friend lent me this book after learning that I’m working on a novel about the Good People of Ireland. Apparently this YA book won a literary award, but I suspect that it’s because it was Canadian and actually somewhat entertaining. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it was good enough to read in one sitting on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you’re interested in the subject matter, it’s worth the quick read.
56) Brida - Paulo Coelho [ARC]
So… I read this book in one sitting. I found it to be engaging and intriguing, but at the same time regrettably similar to ‘The Witch of Portobello’ (the only other Coelho book I’ve read before). Now, before you jump up in protest, I’m not saying the story is the same, nor the surrounding characters… and I’d even go as far as to say that the female MCs both treat the primary men in their lives differently – however, as I read this book, I was just waiting for the moment that Brida would do the same thing to her boyfriend that Athena did. I found that the women reacted similarly, their thoughts were in some cases interchangeable, and their spiritual journeys were somewhat twin.
That said… I enjoyed ‘Brida’. I also enjoyed ‘The Witch of Portobello’. As a result, I found Coelho’s storytelling to be… not captivating, per se, but it evoked my curiosity enough that I didn’t want to put the book down until it was over. If you’ve never read a book by Coelho before, I’d say ‘Brida’ is as good a place to start as any. If you’ve read and enjoyed his work in the past, this seems to live up to the same standards as usual. It’s worth your time, and at the very least, it will probably provoke some thought about your perceptions of traditional spirituality.
57) At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things - Diane Purkiss
This is what I call a serious study. Purkiss examines fairy lore all the way back into the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, moving through history up to today’s obsession with aliens and Elvis. She cites numerous examples of fairy folklore, literature, comparative studies… there are more references here in the endnotes than I’ve seen in some academic textbooks. She really did her research, and wrote a fascinating and compelling book to go along with it. Forget dry history or lifeless folklore. While I may not agree with all her conclusions – and in some cases I wonder if her conclusions are pushing the boundaries of the evidence – this book is definitely worth reading for those who are interested in folklore, mythology, or faerie lore.
58) The Fair Folk - Marvin Kaye, ed.
This book was a collection of short stories from some well-known authors, all centered around the fay: Patricia McKillip, Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder, Tanith Lee, Megan Lindholm, Kim Newman, and Craig Shaw Gardner all contributed. Sound like a winning combination? Actually… it was! A few of the stories were difficult to start – as in the first 3 pages or so were slow going and in some cases, hard to follow as the narrative was rather vague, but that’s the way it is with the fay. In all, I thought all the stories were well done, none of them sagged or seemed to cause a ‘weak spot’ in the collection.
59) Survey of the Old Testament – Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton
I had to read this for a course I’m taking, and as it’s pretty long (and I even took NOTES), I believe it counts as one of my books for the year. I actually didn’t mind this text; I thought it was well organized and well written – for once, I actually made it through a textbook without falling asleep or having to re-read entire sections that I’d previously glossed over in a daze…
I really appreciated the sections on Near Eastern history & archaeology included in the text, and I also enjoyed reading about the various challenges and theories scholars have with dating the O.T. books’ original composition. Each chapter included a look at the writing of the book, its historical background, the purpose & message, the organization & structure, the outline, and the major themes… a lot of information, but organized in a comprehensible (and readable!) way. So shoot me… I liked a textbook.
60) Beyond the Gap – Harry Turtledove
I typically don’t read alternate histories (mainly because they’re set within the time frame of modern history, which I’m not all that good at retaining in terms of what actually happened in the first place… making the whole ‘alternate’ scheme a bit of a moot point), but this one was set in the Bronze Age (!!!) so I picked it up with enthusiasm. Perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm… I think I read the first few chapters in the store, and was convinced that this book was going to be an exciting foray into the realm of alternate *ancient* history… a far too little explored niche, in my opinion (unless there are scads of these kinds of books out there that I simply haven’t stumbled across yet???). Anyhow, the book was by Turtledove – The Master of Alternate History – so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
The first few chapters were good. The next few chapters were alright. The following few chapters were… uh… wait a minute, I’m halfway through the book and absolutely NOTHING has happened yet??? Why am I still reading?!?
Allow me to summarize (*spoilers ahead*… sort of…): They journey toward the gap. They go through the gap. They have one significant encounter on the other side of the gap. They come back through the gap. They tell the southern people about the danger. Then… 3/4 of the same people head back up toward the gap. Annnnd… that’s a wrap.
Seriously. Nothing happens. They travel. The main character whines and broods about his ex-wife and her whoreishness at LEAST TWICE ON EVERY PAGE. I mean… come ON! Give it a rest already, we get the point: you’re still not over her even though years have passed, and she’s easy. Auuugh. Please. Just stop. Please.
This book… in the end… made my brain hurt. It seems like the entire novel was just a setup for the main conflict that doesn’t come until, well, book 2. And if book 2 moves as slowly as this one, it’ll send it right back to the empty gap in Turtledove’s brain where it came from. Who thought this book was good enough to go ahead to publication??? WHO??? Can he write just about anything and get away with it because of his prior successes??? I’ve read a few other books of his, and they actually had, for example, a moving plot.
Honestly, save your time – read the synopsis on Amazon.ca, and then go ahead to book 2. You can thank me later.
61) Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
Unfortunately, this post doesn’t get any better. Apparently I’ve just chosen to read a few poorly written books in a row. Mind you, I thought Eclipse was better than New Moon… except… (say it with me now): NOTHING. HAPPENS.
Bella moons over Edward’s perfection. Edward acts perfect. Jacob is angsty and wants Bella. Bella continues to moon over Edward.
WE GET THE POINT.
It’s really only in the last 100 pages or so that any real action occurs. I’d have to say this book is better than the previous one for that reason alone… at least no action is better than stupid action. I wanted to like this series, I really did. Twilight was great… but I think Meyer’s success gave her a little too much free range. I’ve heard that the last book in the series is really, *really* awful… I’ll probably read it anyway. I’m a glutton for punishment, it seems.
62) Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs - Dave Barry
Short, but funny. To me, the end chapters were the best, though I suppose if you grew up in the era of 60′s and 70′s songs, the first bunch of chapters would be even more entertaining than they already were. It’s a quick read, but a great diversion. Dave Barry (almost) ever disappoints!
63) Maybe Life’s Just Not That Into You - Martha Bolton
This pseudo-self-help book is a parody on all the other self-help books out there that claim you can have “infinite wealth in 30 days!” or “one month to the weight of your dreams!” secrets… The gurus are gently mocked/teased, with the purpose of showing you how ridiculous some of the claims are that these so-called “experts” tend to make. Feel better about yourself – read this book!
64) We Bought a Zoo – Benjamin Mee [ARC]
While sometimes devolving into a rather depressing account of his wife’s descent toward death, We Bought a Zoo is actually a very intriguing story about what happens when a typical individual simply decides to buy a zoo. I love animals, so I thought ‘what better book to read?’, and I can’t say that I was ever bored by the story. It definitely reads like a memoir – delving into details of his family’s personal life, sometimes with commentary that surprised me at how intimate it was – but there are also plenty of anecdotes about the animals to keep you really interested.
I think what I took away from the book, above all else (random animal facts excluded) was a brand new understanding of all that it takes to run, of all places, a zoo. The legislation and regulations involved, the amount of connections one needs to make, how much money (and *wow*) it takes… not to mention how much training and expertise one needs to do a simple thing like feed the porcupines. Hah. I honestly now have a better understanding and appreciation for zoos and how they function, especially those geared toward conservation efforts.
If you love animals and care about how they are cared for, you will probably appreciate Mee’s memoir… just keep in mind while you’re reading that that’s exactly what it is: a memoir, so it won’t read quite the same as, for example, a monograph on zoos and how they’re run.
65) Tales from Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan [ARC]
Wow… what a refreshing change. It was weird, obscure, bizarre, and utterly delightful. It made absolutely no sense, both the short stories and the images that went with the tales… but the images were excellent, suitable, and created by an obviously skilled hand.
The way I described this nonsensical book to my husband was: “It’s like… a nonsense book for adults. Think ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ for grown-ups. But… more strange, somehow”.
I’ll be honest – I’m not really sure what the best way to describe it is, other than telling you it’s something you need to pick up the next time you visit your local bookstore… provided you aren’t phased by the strange and bizarre.
66) Friend or Frenemy?: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t - Andrea Lavinthal [ARC]
If you’re a female, 20+ years old, and have friends (and pseudo-friends, as I like to call them)… you need to read this book. You’ll laugh, you’ll smile, you’ll wince at the truth of it all… and then you’ll find yourself thinking about the friendships you have and where they fit into your life. Maybe you’ll realize there are some people you’re just better off not acquainting yourself with anymore – maybe you’ll realize there are some people you should really get to know better, and how come it took you so long?
That said, the book was written in a humorous, approachable style, making it an excellent gift for someone you’re trying to give the hint to. Friend hint or frenemy hint? Take your pick.
67) Chainfire – Terry Goodkind
Okay… I actually didn’t mind this one. Yes, it was redundant and poorly edited, yes, characters went on tangents and spouted off with long diatribes during rather crucial moments where time was (apparently) of the essence… but let’s face it. We all just want to see this series through to the end, and after the last few books, anything new and that doesn’t have to do with Jensen is a breath of fresh air. He took this one in a new direction, and really? If you hadn’t read the previous lot of the series, you could probably get away with starting here. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I’m just saying you could.
Anyway, I’ve grabbed Phantom and am going to finish this series before the year is out. I’m determined, if nothing else.
68) Any Given Doomsday - Lori Handeland [ARC]
(Review below is what I posted for the book on Librarything.com, as I received the book through the Early Reviewers program.)
Wow… well, you know… it’s hard to say much more beyond what other reviews have said (at least the ones who seem to fall into the same category as me, ie. less than 3 stars). The truth is, this book is poorly written, has a tacked-together plot, an unlikeable heroine, and advocates sexual violence against women (“oh, but I know he loves me deep in his heart!!”). Ugh. Disgusting.
I thought it started off decently… it was nothing special, just another mediocre urban fantasy. Then the first sex scene arrived. Okay, FINE, I’ll let it slide. Then there was another. And another. And… for the love of… ANOTHER one??? Let me put it this way: the author got lazy and didn’t know how to fill the required word count, so she just added more sex. But not sexy sex… no, it’s sex that’s forced upon the main character, who then proceeds to justify it in her mind that it was ‘okay’.
It’s rape. Plain and simple. She’s raped on multiple occasions and in violent ways, but we get the dialogue in her head justifying what’s happening (she’s drugged up too, just so you know) because the man doing it to her used to be her lover, and now she’s hoping to redeem him by showing some of the love they used to have…?!?!?! What?!?! By allowing him to rape you repeatedly over the course of several weeks?!?!? Yeah, that’ll show him. He’ll definitely come to his senses with that strategy.
I’m giving the book one star for how it started out. The author started with a workable premise, but it was executed very poorly and turned into something that is NEVER called for, especially in this day and age. Nice role model, Handeland. Sigh.
69) Stop in the Name of Pants – Louise Rennison
So, this was #9 in the Georgia Nicholson series. What can I say… I LOVED IT. Again. These books never fail to entertain me, make me laugh/groan/giggle hysterically/repeat phrases from the book in my daily life/in this case… even cry! Yes, for the first time in the Georgia series, the book made me cry. But it was alright in the end…
Rennison also went for the red herring in this one, leading you on to think one horrible thing is going to happen, when *boom* she hits you with something completely different. Well done. She could write these things forever and I’d still read them… she’s come this far while still maintaining the quality & hilariosity of the series, so keep it coming!
70) Phantom: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 2 - Terry Goodkind
…it’ll all be over soon… just one more to go…
71) Girls of Riyahd – Rajaa Alsanea
This book was engaging, honest, and very well crafted… and the translator did an excellent job on his/her end. This was Chick Lit done Saudi-style, based off real-life friendships of the author. The book was initially written as a series of emails to a Yahoo group, and it was only by sheer luck (and probably due to the email groups’ massive popularity that grew with every installment) that it got picked up and turned into a book. The author admits that some of her friends ended up turning on her and she hasn’t spoken to them since, while others thought having Alsanea write their stories down was a wonderful idea and supported her through the process. It was a great eye-opener to get behind the scenes of the lives of Saudi women… it’s really not a perspective you can get from anyone BUT somebody from the inside, and I applaud Alsanea for taking the risk to tell her story and allow us to catch a glimpse of the limits and restrictions Saudi women have to live with every day of their lives.
72) Girl Time: A Celebration of Chick Flicks, Bad Hair Days & Good Friends – Laura Jensen Walker
Lighthearted, easy to breeze through on a lazy afternoon, and a good reminder to make time for the women in our lives that mean the most to us. Whether single or married, with or without children, women need female friendships – it’s simply a fact of life. Walker reminds women to cultivate these friendships and value each of them for the special roles our friends play in our lives. She ends each chapter with a suggested activity to do with certain friends or relatives (the ones that *should* be our friends!). I actually bought an extra copy of this book, and I am now happy to give it away to someone else who I think may enjoy a little reminder like this now and again!
73) Confessor: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 3 – Terry Goodkind
It’s over! It’s over!!! Ring the bells! Sound the trumpets! I’m DONE!!!
…and what a finish it was. In fact, I almost feel inspired to go read the first book of the whole series again *just so I can remember why I loved these books in the first place*… and so I can remember them with a good taste in my mouth, instead of the bile that rose up during this last trilogy. Seriously. Goodkind: the end of your series is *not* the place for you to get on your soapbox and preach your own sad beliefs. Why did you feel the need to tear others down with your own unfortunate view of the world? I get the sense that Goodkind has, somewhere in his past, been terribly hurt by organized religion, and hasn’t ever recovered from it. Okay, I understand, but is HERE really the place to take out your sufferings? Please. You’re a good writer, but these last 3 books were:
d) poorly edited (seriously – sometimes people say the same line twice on the page, NOT on purposes, with perhaps ONE pronoun changed. WTH.)
e) unoriginal… a far, FAR cry from the first few books in the series
In all, I was very disappointed with this ending. My husband, who is also reading through the end trilogy right now, doesn’t seem to be faring any better. When I recommend Goodkind’s writing from now on, I will specifically tell people to stop reading after book 3 or 4, because that seems to be where the originality that characterized the first few ran out, and the Goodkind Preaches His Worldview aspect began to creep in. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that an author’s worldview probably should pervade everything they do… but in this case, talking down to your readers and giving long, soapbox diatribes is really NOT the way to present things. *sigh* I really wanted this end trilogy to be good. I did.
So like I said: Wizard’s First Rule, here I come. You still stand on my favorites list… and I’d like to keep it that way.
74) Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
This was an easy read, but at the same time, very interesting… I thought the idea of people getting turned ‘pretty’ when they’re 16 was unique, but at the same time there were a lot of logistical plot holes in Westerfeld’s created civilization. I did my best to ignore them and am hoping he fleshes out the explanations in the following books, Pretties and Specials… which I am going to read, as soon as I can make my way to a bookstore.
75) The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling
Rowling… What can I say, really? The woman knows how to write, and does it well. Reading this collection of fabricated fairy tales/fables was just like picking up an old Grimm collection, or an old edition of Aesop. Rowling clearly did her research before putting this together, and paid close attention to how the old tales were formulated for tone, plot, characters, setting, and delivery. She manages to deliver her own short tales with exquisite precision, crafted carefully to resemble an ancient tome of traditional stories. In short? I loved it. I greatly admire Rowling for her ability to research and then turn her acquired knowledge into entertaining fiction.
76) Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity – Nancy Pearcey
Superb. Pearcey’s monograph addresses the issue of Christian worldview, and how it should pervade one’s everyday life (that’s what a worldview IS, after all), instead of simply ‘playing Christian’ and picking & choosing how to let one’s beliefs affect interactions within day-to-day living. This book was refreshing, honest, and engaging. It made me think, and it made me examine how I live, think, and interact with culture. I could write for a long time about this book, but if you’re interested in it at all, I suggest you just go read it. I will say, however, my favorite part was the section on how as a Christian, your worldview should affect everything, in the sense that you don’t need to be in a “Christian job” to let Christ into your work. I know exactly what she means: I write fiction, but I don’t write Christian fiction, so does that mean my work and my beliefs are two separate things? Absolutely not. I can be a positive role model and engage the culture through my writings – allowing my worldview to show through – without being a pastor, career missionary, whatever.
Anyhow, I sense my description is not doing the book justice (it could be that I’m only on my first coffee of the day), so… just read it if you’re interested. But I warn you: prepare to be challenged.
77) Unholy Business:A True Tale of Faith, Greed, and Forgery in the Holy Land – Nina Burleigh [ARC]
I knew archaeological forgeries were a huge industry and an enormous problem. I think, after reading this book, I understand a little better the scope of things. It’s not just people in a back room putting these things together, but well-connected business men who can afford the best workers and the best DEFENSE to cover up what they’re doing! Burleigh’s book focuses particularly on the James Ossuary and several inscriptions (I think the Jehoash inscription?) that were “found” around the same time, and she even managed to somehow catch a glimpse of what appeared to be a forgery manufacturing studio. Yikes.
The key element under discussion here – whether even the author realized it or not – is the issue of unprovenanced artifacts. Should they be studied and placed on display, or is it too risky? Do these items simply encourage illegal trade, site raiding, and forgeries? Some say yes, some say no. It’s a tricky situation. Either way, the book was entertaining and certainly informative. Worth the time if this is an area of interest to you.
78) I’m Ready for My Movie Contract: A Get Fuzzy Collection - Darby Conley
Yes, I’m counting this comic collection as a book. What, I read it! And it was great, as usual. I love Get Fuzzy… yet, more and more, Bucky reminds me of our cat, which isn’t comforting in any way.
79) Ricky Gervais Presents The World of Karl Pilkington – Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant & Karl Pilkington
This book is a compilation of transcripts from interviews/conversations Ricky and Stephen had with Karl during the Ricky Gervais podcasts… and I give you fair warning, do NOT read this while drinking a liquid of any kind. It is hysterical… and I bet it would be even better heard live. If you enjoy Gervais’ TV shows (The Office, Extras) AND British humor, you’ll ‘have a laugh’ with this book. It was certainly an excellent diversion at the end of our busy, busy Christmas holidays.
Tags: 50 Book Challenge, books, reading