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Books that we need to read (updated list!)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

I feel like we have made a lot of progress, but we still have a daunting number of books on our list. Whew. So much to read. So little time.

I’ve changed the priority for some, crossed out one, added a couple (I had to get the rest of the Kushiel books in hardback), and moved some between categories (for ones that one of us finished but not the other or when one no longer wants to read it). The ones that are starred indicate the higher priority books.

Books Kerry and Gabe both want to read (12):
(**Kerry) Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
(**Kerry) Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
(**Gabe) Lamb by Christopher Moore
(**Gabe) Fool by Christopher Moore
** Ptolomy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
** The World Without End by Ken Follett
(**Gabe) Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
(**Kerry) Airman by Eoin Colfer
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
** Physik by Angie Sage
** Queste by Angie Sage

Books that Kerry wants to read (and Gabe already has read) (10 9):
Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
Practical Demon Keeping by Christopher Moore
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
** The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
** The Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
** The Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
** A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
** Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

Books that Gabe wants to read (and Kerry already has read) (10):
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Busting Vegas by Ben Mezrich
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
** Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey
** Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
** Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
** Flyte by Angie Sage
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt

Books that Kerry wants to read (but Gabe doesn’t want to read) (19):
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
** Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Sabriel by Garth Nix
** All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
The Running Man by Richard Bachman
** A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I, Mona Lisa by Geanne Kalogridis
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
** Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
** The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

Books that Gabe wants to read (but Kerry doesn’t want to read) (31):
The Darkness that Comes Before by Scott Bakker
** Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop
Emerald Magic by various authors
** Zombies: The Recent Dead by various authors
Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Already Dead by Charlie Huston
** Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
** The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
** The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
** The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
** Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Wireless by Charles Stross
** Hyperion by Dan Simmons
** The Farseer Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
** Dooms Day Book by Connie Willis
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind
Forever Odd by Dean Koontz
Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
** The Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
** The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
** The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Ocho Cinco by Chad Ochocinco
The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx

Mid-year report on the books

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Earlier this year, I posted the books from our shelves that we own but haven’t yet read that we actually want to read. We’ve made great progress this year towards our goals of reading these books! I thought I’d do a little blurb of our successes (these aren’t the only books that we read this year, just the ones that we owned prior to the start of the year that were begging to be read).

Books Kerry and Gabe both want to read:

  • Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman (Gabe only) – Gabe read me snippets of this one as he was reading it. It has a lot of interesting stuff, and I look forward to reading it, too.
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Kerry only) – I look forward to reading the rest of the series (which I don’t have yet – I’m debating whether to get it on kindle or in paperback to match the other copies). I’m glad I’m reading this and hope that Gabe will read it, too. This is a good one for the kids to read someday, so I am leaning towards finishing the series out in paperback.
  • Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (Kerry only) – I enjoyed this one, too. As I said, I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
  • Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey (Kerry only) – I’m so glad that I decided to pick back up with this series! I forgot how much I love the characters and the stories. I was going to read the George R. R. Martin series, but somehow I felt this one to be easier to pick back up. I wouldn’t recommend this series for everyone, but I love it.
  • Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (Kerry only) – This is obviously in the same series as the previous one. I was sad to get to the end of this book, and I’m not usually sad at the end of a series. I knew that the next trilogy in the series was centered around different characters.
  • Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (Kerry only) – This is a companion series to the Kushiel books. The characters that you grow to love in the first two trilogies are mentioned in this one at times as legends. I like it, too. The style is similar. I can’t say that I like it as much as the first two trilogies yet, but it’s also good.
  • Books that Kerry wants to read (and Gabe already has read):

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – It’s been a while now since I finished this one, so it’s difficult to give a mini review. I think that I enjoyed the first two a little better, maybe?
  • Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling – Short, fun read. It’s the sort of a book that is a good palette cleanser between other books.

Books that Gabe wants to read (and Kerry already has read):

  • Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – I really wanted Gabe to finish the Harry Potter books before the final movie. I’m so glad that he did! Despite him grumbling about not wanting to read the series for YEARS, I think he enjoyed it quite a bit!
  • The Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling – Gabe zipped through all 3 books in January (well, I guess he started in mid to late December).
  • The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Hooray! He was able to read through the last book before seeing the last half of it play out on the big screen.
  • Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich – I’ve been wanting Gabe to read this one for a while because I knew he would love it. This is the book that the movie 21 was based upon. This book makes me want to go to a casino. Gabe felt the same way, of course

Books that Kerry wants to read (but Gabe doesn’t want to read):

  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova – This was a book club selection. It’s sad, but it is well done. It reminded me a little of Flowers for Algernon (in style). I was impressed to find that the author has a neuroscientist background. Well done.
  • House Rules by Jodi Picoult – Gabe picked this one up for me as a Christmas gift as he knows I like reading Jodi Picoult now and then. I feel like it has been too long for me to give much of a review for this one. I enjoyed reading Picoult again, though this isn’t one that is going to stand out in my mind as well as ones like My Sister’s Keeper and Nineteen Minutes.
  • Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris – It’s been a long time since I picked up this series! It’s not too hard to jump back into, though I barely remembered the characters or what had happened in previous novels. It’s not necessary to enjoy it. I’ll read another one or two of these in between other weightier books. They are quick reads.
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – I really enjoy this author! I loved this one, and I look forward to reading The Peach Keeper
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – This was definitely one of my favorite books of the year and of all time. I can highly recommend it! I enjoyed the movie, too.
  • Honolulu by Alan Brennert – I remember enjoying his other book, Moloka’i, so I was looking forward to this one. Interesting historical fiction about Korean picture brides in Honolulu in the early 1900s. I loved this one, too.
  • Books that Gabe wants to read (but Kerry doesn’t want to read):

  • The Terror by Dan Simmons – Gabe said this one is “long and mostly boring” (and as I recall, cold). He said it made him curious about the arctic and how people deal with extreme cold, but he’s not really selling it. I think I’ll pass.

Avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup with Powder

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Since I discovered Propel’s new formula contains hfcs, I have not been buying it. Considering how much of it I drank in the past, I really missed it. I decided to try the powder packets. They are tasty, and of course they do not contain hfcs. I’m happy.

Another challenge has been finding a good marinade. Our favorite marinade contained hfcs, so we have been searching for another. We liked the Paul Newman marinades ok, though they weren’t quite as flavorable as our old favorite. Recently, we discovered McCormick Grill Mates marinades which come in the form of powder packets. These are very tasty! The flavors really stick to the meat and only take 15 minutes to marinade. I like my marinades to have a strong flavor, and these definitely fit the bill. Yum!

Update on Book Challenge

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

In November, I posted a book challenge which involved reading 5 books “from the stacks.” This meant reading 5 books that you have never read from books that you already own. I was pretty sure that I could accomplish this, especially with Christmas in the middle of the challenge. I ended up reading the following (links to my reviews included):

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Only two of these books were for my book club, so I’m giving myself an extra pat on the back for reading more than what is “required” of my book club. I haven’t been reading too many additional books in the past year as my time is obviously limited with my new baby (can I call her “new” for the entire first year?). The Uglies series and The Last Lecture were pretty quick reads, but I still feel good about accomplishing this goal! I plan to continue to avoid buying books for as long as I can, though I’m sure I will need to make exceptions for book club.

Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Friday, January 30th, 2009

It has been close to a month since I finished Specials, so this review will be a bit shaky. I enjoyed this trilogy about Tally and her adventures. The books were quick reads which is something that I appreciate from time to time! I know that one additional book, Extras, exists in the series so far. From what I understand, Specials is the last one that features Tally. This was my 5th book in the From the Stacks challenge, the challenge that required me to read 5 books without purchasing new ones. I received Specials for Christmas, is that cheating?

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

In Specials, Tally has been altered once again, not only in appearance but in attitude. She is now one of the elite members of Special Circumstances and has been modified with super strength, reflexes, and defenses. Westerfeld’s language once again effectively conveys her new attitude as he did when she became a Pretty in Pretties. She works together with Shay in the Cutters group. As I mentioned in my review of Pretties, I felt that the cutting in the series was inappropriately handled for the intended audience (teenagers). The Cutters cut themselves in order to give themselves clarity or feeling. I can understand introducing controversial topics in teen reading, but I saw no consequences. The cutting was more glamorized than anything. I am not suggesting censorship, but I felt that the handling of a controversial topic was disappointing.

Despite my problems with the cutting issue, I enjoyed the books! I would recommend them and his Midnighters trilogy as well.

Book Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

I started reading Pretties as soon as I finished Uglies, and it marks the 4th book that I have read for the From the Stacks challenge. I am positive that I will be able to complete this challenge as I have already started reading Specials, the third book in The Uglies series.

I have to say that I enjoy Scott Westerfeld’s books. Both The Midnighters and The Uglies are teen series, and they read very quickly. Both have worlds that are somewhat unique, and he has developed terminology, mythology, and slang within those worlds. The Uglies is told from the third person limited point of view of Tally, and I appreciate how the language changes as Tally changes in the series. I recommend this series to those who enjoy light science fiction and to those who enjoy thinking about the flaws of utopian societies (as well as the flaws of modern day society).

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Uglies ended with Tally turning herself into the authorities and requesting to be made Pretty. Pretties starts about a month after Tally’s pretty operation. Tally is not only Pretty in appearance, but she is also “pretty minded” where her biggest concerns are what to wear to the night’s party. I was somewhat annoyed by the language at the beginning of the book as it reflected Tally’s vapid new existence. As the novel progresses, Tally regains her clarity or “bubbliness” and the language transforms from valley girl back to normal. I thought that this was clever. Tally and her Pretty friends struggle to find a cure for their brain lesions, the ones resulting in brain damage to make the Pretties complacent. Turns out that becoming pretty has a cost as learned in the first novel, but the beauty of it is that you don’t know the difference when you’re a pretty bubblehead. Hrm, would you rather be intelligent or pretty?

I enjoyed Pretties, but I do have one problem with the series so far. The Pretties live their lives in a fog but have moments of clarity brought upon by boosting adrenaline. Alcohol causes their thinking to be even more muddled, which makes sense and is a good message to the intended audience (teenagers). The parts that I thought were wrong involved eating disorders and self mutilation. Tally and Croy starve themselves for weeks and this helps their clarity (though it is not their sole purpose in starving themselves as they are trying to remove tracking cuffs). One sect of Pretties called the Cutters determines that they clear their minds by cutting themselves. I didn’t like how cutting was glamorized in the series. This seems like a poor and reckless message to teenagers. I have not seen any consequences to the cutting in the series. I thought that this was worth a mention as it bothered me due to the targeted age group.

Overall, I enjoyed Pretties and am enjoying Specials so far. I am planning to read other Westerfeld novels as well.

Books, books, books!

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I love books! I received quite a few for Christmas this year. I can’t imagine ever getting to the point that I am bored and do not have anything to read. The From the Stacks Challenge really made me realize how many books that I have sitting on my shelves, just waiting to be read. I am hoping that I can refrain from buying any books for a while, though I may have to make exceptions for book club choices.

Here’s a summary of the books that I received as Christmas gifts:

I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson: It has been a while since I have read Bill Bryson, but I remember being amused by A Walk in the Woods several years ago. I have been wanting to read more of his travel memoirs and had a few on my wish list.

New England by Eyewitness Travel – I love the Eyewitness Travel guides! This isn’t exactly a book that I will read cover to cover, but I will enjoy looking through it for ideas for our vacation next Fall with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. My parents gave it to us for Christmas since we are all taking the trip together next year.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke – I read Inkheart, the first of this series, about a year and a half ago. I had heard that the second, Inkspell, ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. I decided to wait until the third book was released to continue reading the series. Inkdeath was released this year, and I look forward to reading both books when I get a chance! Inkheart has been made into a movie which is going to be released early 2009.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell – I have been wanting to read this one and The Tipping Point for a while. I read a few excerpts from The Tipping Point a few years ago and thought it would be something I might enjoy.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – A friend recommended this book in the historical fiction genre. The novel is the story of Mama Borthwick and her love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright and is set in the early 1900s.

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris – We’ve been watching the HBO series, True Blood, which is based on the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I’ve read the first five books, and I need to catch up on the last 3. All Together Dead is book 7 in the series.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore – A coworker recommended this book, and it sounded interesting to me and reminded me of On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, which I enjoyed.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – This is my book club’s January selection. We thought it would be good to start the year with an inspiring selection. Plus, the book is short and we all wanted a little break from heftier titles. I plan to read this one soon and will post my review.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling – As a Harry Potter fan, I was looking forward to reading more by J. K. Rowling. Gabe picked up my new book the other day and has already read all the stories! It has inspired him to finally read the Harry Potter series (yay!). He’s on book one, so it may keep him busy for a while!

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – I’ve read a few of his books. While I didn’t enjoy the latest as much as I thought I might, I definitely wanted to read some of his older books.

Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World by Sarah Vowell – I had read and enjoyed The Partly Cloudy Patriot over 3 years ago (wow, time really flies). I wanted to eventually read more of her books. This is another collection of essays which I’m sure explores more of her quirkiness.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell – This one sounded interesting to me, too, as it involves her travels around the country visiting various assassination sites and other historic places. I love how she embraces her geeky nature (in her case, drawn to various aspects of history, namely assassinations).

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld – This is the second book in the Uglies series, and I just completed it yesterday. I hope to post a review of it soon. I’m enjoying this series and look forward to Specials, the third installment in the series.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld – As mentioned above, this is the 3rd book in the Uglies series. I’m currently reading this one. One more book exists in this series, Extras, but I will have to wait until it is in paperback.

Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I’m starting to think that I will actually complete the From the Stacks Challenge! I selected another quick read to give myself a fair chance to complete the challenge. I had read and enjoyed Westerfeld’s Midnighters trilogy and decided I wouldn’t mind giving The Uglies series a shot. I received the first one for my birthday and the second and third for Christmas yesterday. I don’t believe Uglies to be a literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly kept my attention and left me wanting to read the rest of the series. I would consider this series to be categorized as “science fiction light” which suits me just fine as I enjoy a quick read now and again, and I’m not sure that I’m terribly interested in heavy sci-fi.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

In Westerfeld’s world, everyone undergoes a series of surgeries to become “pretty” at their sixteenth birthday after spending the last four years as an ugly, separated from their parents and heavily monitored. Westerfeld’s world is essentially a flawed utopian society, and he clearly has some messages that he wishes to impart upon the reader. Today’s society’s obsession with being pretty and homogenized is taken to the extreme.

The main character, Tally, is an ugly and is just weeks away from becoming a pretty and moving to New Pretty Town where she will be able to attend parties every day and become truly happy. She can’t wait. Her best friend has already undergone the transformation, and she longs to join him. In the meantime, she meets Shay. They learn that they share the same birthday, and they quickly become friends. Shay is not as enthusiastic as Tally. They spend weeks performing practical jokes and getting into trouble as many uglies do in the last months before their surgery. Just before their birthday, Shay reveals that she is running away to a secret society called The Smoke where other uglies are creating a life and opting to forgo the surgery. Brainwashed since she was very young, Tally cannot understand why anyone would want to avoid the pretty surgery. Shay runs away without her. On her birthday, Tally believes that she is getting ready for her transformation and soon learns that she will not be allowed to have the surgery unless she betrays her friend and leads the authorities to The Smoke.

Believing that she has no choice, she sets off on an adventure to find the smoke with a cryptic note full of riddles that Shay left for her. When she finds The Smoke, things get a bit more complicated as she learns more about the secret society and their ways. She falls for David who has been raised in The Smoke and leads uglies to their camp. His parents are doctors and have inside information about the pretty surgeries, revealing that they alter both your appearance and your brain, basically causing brain damage that makes you complacent. All of this makes Tally give more thought to her original decision to betray Shay and her new friends in The Smoke. Hrm, would you rather be intelligent and ugly or dumb and pretty?

I enjoyed the book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. It was a very quick read, which is what I needed right now! So far, I think that The Midnighters is probably a better written series. I still like Uglies and recommend it to others who enjoy teen sci-fi or fantasy.

Book Review: A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I finished reading this one several days ago, and it is a part of the From the Stacks Challenge that I am attempting to complete. I have my work cut out for me as this is only book number 2 that qualifies for the challenge. I think I can make it as I have some quick reads on my bookshelves (and got a few more for Christmas!). I enjoyed A Girl Named Zippy, though I found that it didn’t keep my attention as well as some other memoirs that I have read. Overall, I would recommend it. I had picked up and read the first few pages at a friend’s house and decided to put it on my list of “to read some day.” I received it for my birthday this year.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

A Girl Named Zippy tells the story of Haven Kimmel’s childhood. I have read a good number of memoirs, so it was surprising to read about a childhood that was more or less a happy one. The story could be anyone’s who grew up in a small town in the midwest, but she does tell it in an interesting (and often laugh-out-loud) way. It took me a little while to realize that I was not reading about another extremely dysfunctional family with unbelievable disasters or horrific living conditions. I have to admit that I’m often drawn to those for some reason, so I suppose it is refreshing to read a memoir that doesn’t make me question humanity.

I was entertained by the small town stories and related to a few, even though my small town wasn’t nearly as small as hers! Sometimes her storytelling made me snicker out loud (Gabe never asks me why I’m laughing when I’m reading a book – I guess he’s used to it). I would be interested in reading more of her memoirs.

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

The Red Tent was November and December’s selection for book club (due to the holidays, we are only meeting once for both November and December). This book is also my first completed book for the From the Stacks challenge. This means I have to read 4 more books from my list (or Christmas gifts) between now and the end of January! I enjoyed The Red Tent well enough, but I would not list it as one of my favorites. It’s not one that I would ever read again (and yes, I do sometimes reread certain books). If someone were considering reading it, I wouldn’t turn them away from it, but I doubt that I will go out of my way to recommend it either. I do believe that the book was an excellent book club choice, and I look forward to next week’s discussion.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

The Red Tent is historical fiction set in biblical times, and the title refers to the place where women gathered during their periods and childbirth. The novel focuses on the life of Dinah and her four mothers, the four wives of Jacob. The bible only mentions Dinah very briefly, and Anita Diamant expands upon her life in great detail. My previous knowledge of Jacob and his many sons was limited to the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, so I was unsure about how much creative license that Diamant was taking with events and details. It seems like the major details are in the bible as she describes them, and it’s the life of the women that is brought to the forefront. I liked the idea of showing another side to the better known biblical stories.

I’m having trouble writing a meaningful review, so I will point you to fellow book club members Cindy and Audrey for their opinions on this month’s selection.