The 52 Book Challenge

One of my New Year’s Anti-Resolution Goals in 2014 was to read 52 books during the year. I didn’t quite get there in 2014 (although I was close, and if I counted all the curriculum I read, I’d probably have been over haha).  I’ll be trying again this year, and keeping track here. My 2014 list is also here, just in case anyone’s looking for a good read!

 Title  Author  __/5 stars  Date finished  Comments
 1. Good People  Marcus Sakey  5  1/5  This was a real page turner, and I loved all of it.  Seriously read it!  Also, skip the movie–it’s awful.
 2. When I Get Where I’m Going  Cheryl Robinson  5  1/10  A nice chic lit type book about what it means to be a family and how families can overcome devastation and rocky pasts and move on to the present.  I liked it a lot–I found all three sisters’ stories compelling and the constant switches between them made the book fly by.
 3. Bud Not Buddy  Christopher Paul Curtis  4.5  1/25  This is a really cute story about a boy looking for his father.  It makes you think about family and the way that little kids view everyday life.  I really enjoyed it.
 4. Grow: A Novel in Verse  Juanita Havill  3.5  2/1  An OK novel/poem about a girl who helps with a community garden.  It reminded me a lot of Seedfolk, which I love.
 5. Don’t Be a Stranger  AR Winters  4  2/15  A good mystery book–when a girl’s roommate is wrongly accused of murder, she has to figure out who REALLY committed the crime.  There was a good sense of humor throughout this book that made it enjoyable.
 6. The Forgotten Girls  Alexa Steele  4.5  2/16  Loved this who-dunnit mystery story.  It was a good, quick read that had some interesting twists.  Also, I love books that make fun of rich people. ha.
 7. Love Handles  Gretchen Galway  4.5 2/17  I didn’t really expect this to be anything very “important.”  It was a cutesy romance novel that I did kind of like, but don’t read it for anything other than entertainment purposes.  Also, it is at this point that I am starting to realize that there are limited “free” books on the amazon app that are not hard core “romance” novels.  This one wasn’t too bad, but there are a couple of scenes that are for mature audiences for sure…
 8. Goodbyes and Second Chances  TI Lowe  4.5  2/18  I really liked this book a lot–the plot is about a young love and then the way it changes over time.  It’s got a cute ending, and it made me feel good, which after this long stretch of shit weather (and being sick) was much needed.
 9. The Center of Everything  Laura Moriarty  5  2/21  Someone recommended this author to me (a different book which was not available).  I loved the book, which is told from the point of a view of a kid. It’s really cool to be on the outside looking in and knowing “adult” things that she talks about.  It was a kind of sad story about the cycle of poverty, with takes on things like education and teenage pregnancy.  All that being said, it seemed to end rather abruptly.  I’m still learning to use the Kindle, so I’m wondering if I missed something, but I went back to try to find the actual ending and couldn’t, so I think it just ends abruptly.  Well worth the read, though!
 10. Thread of Hope  Jeff Shelby  4  2/28  Typical murder mystery type novel.  Good.
 11. Three Girls and a Baby  Rachel Schurig  3  3/14  I predicted the outcome of this book all along.  The main character ends up pregnant and her and her friends figure out how to make it work throughout her pregnancy and the first couple of weeks of her baby’s life.  It was a cute read, I guess, but the baby stuff was kind of hard for me to stomach to be honest.
 12. Dragonwings  Laurence Yep  5  3/19  I’m reading this with my 6th graders, and it is phenomenal.  The story is told from the point of view of an 8 year old Chinese immigrant and highlights the pains and pleasures of learning to live in a new culture while still maintaining your old one.  Very cool story.
 13. Six Years  Harlan Coben  5  3/25  AMAZING plot.  I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery novel from start to finish.  I couldn’t even put it down!
 14. A Dog’s Purpose  W Bruce Cameron  5+  4/3 If you have ever loved a dog (or any pet), this is the book for you.  I loved it!  It’s told through the eyes of a dog who dies and is reincarnated several different times, each time with a different “purpose” that all lead him to his ultimate overarching purpose.  It was mostly funny, with a touch of sad (I cried a few times reading it).  And of course it has a happy ending.  🙂
 15.  The Silkworm  Robert Galbraith  3 4/19  Apparently this book is written by JK Rowling, under a pen name.  Who knew?  Certainly not me.  Interestingly, before I discovered this I was fascinated by who could possibly have an effed up enough mind to come up with some of the scenes in this book.  Apparently she wrote a book that was a competitor with 50 Shades.  Who knew?! In any event, this book seemed really slow to me and like I already mentioned there were some scenes that were pretty messed up.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great and it took me forever to get through.
 16.  True Sisters  Sandra Dallas  4.5  4/22  This novel followed Mormon “emigrants” to Salt Lake City–they pushed hand carts all the way across the country to get to Zion.  It chronicles their trip, which was terrifically harsh.  More importantly, it focuses on women’s roles in the LDS church at the time as well as in a broader scope.  What makes a sister? What will sisters be willing to share? Women are the strong ones in this story–and who doesn’t love a girl power story??
 17.  Fault Lines  Nancy Huston  5  4/28  This book was amazing–told through several generations of the same family, the family’s secret slowly comes out.  It was really good, and each story was unique but also very connected.
 18.  The Look of Love  Sarah Jio 5  5/3  This is a good beach book–a woman finds out she has the ability to literally see love, and she must follow the directions given to her to ensure that she can find love in her own life, too.  It was a cute storyline and everything works out for everyone in the end (even if not exactly how the characters may have planned), so it was happy.
 19.  Island Girls  Nancy Thayer  4.5  6/1  Super cute book about a group of half/step-sisters who go from enemies to friends when their father unexpectedly dies.  This is just a happy, feel-good book that would be perfect for a beach day. 🙂
 20. The Watchlist  Jeffrey DeWeaver and others  2  6/2  I started this book a month ago and forced myself to finally just sit and finish it off.  It had a cool premise–all different mystery/suspense authors would write a chapter of a book.  I didn’t like the plot, though, and just wasn’t “into it.”  Maybe it was just me…
21. Windfall  Penny Vincenzi  4  6/26  Woman is an unfulfilled 1930’s housewife comes into a substantial amount of money and suddenly can make her dreams come true without her husband’s help…the story follows the choices she makes and looks at feminism and questions whether women are happier as housewife or career woman–can you have it all?  It was an interesting read, and I enjoyed it, although it got a little long in the middle.
22.  Last Known Victim  Erica Spindler 5  6/28  This was a real page turner murder mystery with plenty of plot twists and interesting characters.  A great, easy read.

**Sorry for the weird formatting–my computer is being funny and I don’t feel like fixing it currently…

23.  Breakneck               Erica Spindler            4.5                  7/8                  A good, quick murder mystery.

24.  The Skeleton Road     Val McDermid            4.5               7/9                  Another really good whodunit mystery that mixes drama with history–in this case the Balkan War and post WWII European conflict, which was fascinating (and depressing).

25.  You Were Meant For Me      Yona Zeldis McDonough       7/10               “There are many ways to have a baby,” reads the front of the book.  I bit on that, for obvious reasons.  This is the story of a woman who finds a baby abandoned in the subway and tries to foster/adopt it, even though she’s got no clue what she’s doing.  It was a cute read, albeit somewhat (a lot?) unrealistic.

26.  A Hole in the Universe       Mary McGarry Morris                                A young man gets out of jail and tries to figure out how to make a new life for himself in a town where people think he’s a monster…all while slowly revealing the truths about the crime for which he was imprisoned.

52 Book Challenge 2014

Title Author ___/5 stars Date finished Comments
 The Silent Wife  A.S.A. Harrison  3.5  1/3   I never really got into this book, although I did appreciate the way it examined guilt and revenge. I found the characters all highly unlikeable, which was new for me. Usually I fall in love with at least one character and really care what happens to him or her. This time around, I was indifferent to all of them.
 Raylan  Elmore Leonard  3  1/5  I love crime/mystery novels, so I picked up a bookmark from the local library with “if you like this, try this” and grabbed the first book I could find on the list.  I hated it.  There’s a lot of dialect that I didn’t get (they are talking like they’re from the south AND talking about poker).  It just wasn’t very good, in my opinion.  I don’t know if I’ll even bother reading any more of this guy’s books…sad.  that’s 2 not-so-great books to start off the year.
 Remember Me?  Sophie Kinsella  5  1/7  If you like happy, feel-good stories, this is a good choice.  There is absolutely nothing to “think about” in this book.  It’s just pure chick lit.  I loved it.  Quick read.  Would be great for a summer book/beach book.  I’m definitely adding her to my list of authors to read more of…p.s. saw a book review/rec for another book by the author above (elnore?) that’s getting turned into a movie.  May have to give him another try at some point this year…
 Rosie Dunne  Cecelia Ahern  5  1/17  I loved this book from start to finish.  If you need a good beach read, this would work.  It’s a really different structure–the entire story is told through letters/messages/emails between various characters.  AND it’s got a happy ending, which I think you always kind of know is coming, but when it does finally come along, you just have to smile.  I actually almost cried, but I get overly emotional sometimes, especially when it comes to lovey dovey mushy gushy stuff.  Ha.  [Side note: This is the author of P.S. I Love You, so that should give you a better idea of what kind of book you’re looking at here…]
 Invisible Prey  John Sandford  4.5  1/20  A good murder/crime mystery novel by a writer I had never heard of until I pulled one of those “if you like, then try… bookmarks from the big library.  I was worried it would be too scary to read when Eric wasn’t home, so I waited to start it until after his trip, but it was not too scary at all!  I would read something else by him for sure.
 The Book Thief  Markus Zusak  5  2/19  I had a really hard time getting into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.  Maybe it’s my personal connection to WWII and Europe (my grandparents lived through the war in Hungary and Oma used to tell me stories all the time of the horrors of war).  I cried at the end–it’s always a good book if it can elicit that kind of emotion…
 My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)  Luisa Weiss  4  3/8  I loved the stories about acculturation and looking for your place in the world.  When she wrote about life in Berlin, it brought me right back to life in Valencia in college.  European life is so different from life in the states, and in so many ways it was so much better–although I did also like how she talked about how it was partially her overly romanticized memories that gave her high expectations when she moved back…there were some cool recipes, too, from all over the world (since the author has parents from different countries and spent time living in Europe, Boston and NYC).
 Ice Bound:  A Doctor’s Incredible Battle of Survival at the South Pole  Dr. Jerri Nielsen 4  4/3  This book was pretty interesting–I didn’t know much about the South Pole/Antarctica before reading it, but she does a great job explaining life at the base camp, why people are there, and the medical issues both she and her patients faced.
 Therapy  Jonathan Kellerman  4  4/17  I love murder mysteries.  This one was pretty good, and not much grisly stuff to give me nightmares, which is a plus. 🙂
 This I Believe II(Book 10)  5  4/21  This book is a collection of short essays from different people–famous people and ordinary people.  They were asked what they believe and had to write in less than 500 words.  It’s a really cool concept and it’s awesome to read all the different things that are important to different people.  I really liked this book and would recommend it as a quick read or a coffee table book (if you’re into that kinda thing).
 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  Karen Joy Fowler  3.5  4/24  This book looks at a very quirky family and examines the relationships between the different members.  It also looks at animal behavior a little bit, and raises some interesting ethical questions about animal rights.  I don’t want to give away the surprise of the book (which is explained relatively early on actually) by saying more, but it’s interesting.  I didn’t LOVE it, but I also didn’t hate it.
 The Conviction  Robert Dugoni  4.5  5/2  This was a really good, quick read.  Maybe it was interesting because we debated jail sentences and juvenile offenses in 8th grade, maybe because I worked in jail last year, but either way the story was interesting.  That being said, I had figured out what was up with the boot camp long before the characters in the book did–which is actually shocking because I am usually clueless about crime. haha.
 Killing Floor  Lee Child  4  5/13  The first Jack Reacher book–I’ve read some of Lee Child’s stuff before.  It’s good.  I don’t know how these people come up with these crazy story lines and all the ways to kill people, though.  Creepy.  Picking a “nice” book next…
 Girls in White Dresses  Jennifer Close  4  5/18  This book is cute–it follows the lives of a variety of young women in different stages of their lives/relationships.  Easy read. 🙂
 Murder One  Robert Dugoni  4  5/28  Interesting read, although I knew who did it all along.  I liked it a lot til the end–then it felt a little wordy and drawn out.  But overall a good read by a new-to-me author…
 Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits  Laila Lalami  5 (+)  6/5  I LOVED this book.  It’s a quick, easy read about immigration from Morrocco to Spain.  Having lived in Spain and having a friend who lived in Morrocco and also married a guy from there, it was really interesting to me.  It’s also interesting to see the ways that illegal immigration are similar, despite different cultures and countries.
 Black Students.  Middle Class Teachers  Jawanza Kunjufu  4  6/7  I read this for a book club at work.  I’ve read similar things in the past discussing whether or not white teachers can effectively educate minority students.  I liked that he gave a pretty exhaustive list of reasons inner city students struggle academically.  While I didn’t agree with everything he said, it was interesting and spurred some good conversation with Eric.
 Look at Me  Jennifer Egan  2  7/3  I thought this book was going to be so good–all about how we see ourselves and how beauty is only skin deep and we have so much more to offer someone than our bodies.  I never got into it, and I don’t really think any of those themes came through in the book.  Not a fan at all.  Disappointed, but maybe I set my hopes too high?
 Tenth Circle  Jodi Picoult  5  7/5  Eric and I both read this and loved it. Picoult can take a topic that many people see as black and white and blur the lines to gray.  This book deals with rape/teenage sex/parental relationships.  It also has a graphic novel componenent, and at the end, you look through the graphic novel to find a hidden message.  Thankful for a good book when we were stuck in our tent reading all day…
 Into the Beautiful North  Luis Alberto Urrea  5  7/10  Eric and I also both read this and loved it.  It’s the story of some women who go on a mission to bring back some of their men to save their Mexican village.  Exploring themes of immigration, language, gender roles and family ties, it’s a quick read, but a great one!
 We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works  Kurt Vonnegut  1  7/14  I hated this.  It wandered, made no sense and dragged (for me).  I was just thankful when it was over.
 Ice Cold  Tess Gerritsen  4  7/22  Cults, wilderness survival and mystery.  It was a fun read, and for some reason it had me super nervous many times.  I was reading yesterday in a park and kept glancing over my shoulder (yes I’m a disaster).
 Picture Perfect  Jodi Picoult  4.5  7/24  I liked this book a lot.  It deals a lot with domestic abuse, women’s rights and what makes someone strong and blah blah blah.  I was a little disappointed with the ending, but when I really think about it, it makes so much more sense to end it with the main character being strong and not relying on anyone else.
 The Other Queen  Philippa Gregory  2.5  8/10  I’ve read some of her other books and found them really fascinating, but this one was one I struggled to get through.  Towards the end, it got better, but the mid-way point of the book really dragged and I actually considered quitting this one…
 A Better Way to Die: How to Make the Best Choices at the End of Life  Dr. Jeanne Fitzpatrick and Eileen Fitspatrick  5  8/11  A really fascinating read about end-of-life care and how to have a “natural death.”  Maybe this book was so interesting to me given some of our family situations, but I couldn’t put it down.  Knowing so many people who are/have been scared to talk about their imminent deaths, this book was eye-opening and gave good points to talk about and think about.
 More Than You Know  Penny Vincenzi  3  8/23  I had a really hard time getting into this book until the last third, when they got to the divorce part of the relationship.  Then suddenly I was fascinated by the book and the story line.  Watching the relationship deteriorate, seeing how the divorce played out…it was really sad to compare this to what is going on in my life.  The sappy sweet ending on the one hand gave me a lot of hope for a happy ending for my family, but it also irritated me that things got tied up so neatly but seemingly so quickly.  An OK read, but not on my list of “must reads” by any means.
 A Framework for Understanding Poverty  Dr. Ruby K. Payne  4  8/25  Not exactly the best book I’ve ever read as far as excitement or interest, but it was really good as far as providing a good look at poverty and why the cycle of poverty exists.  I found myself seeing a lot of qualities of students and their families and it explained a lot of things.  A good read, pretty quick, but pretty dry.
 Private London  James Patterson  4.5  8/26  I read this book in one day–super quick read, fast paced plot line, and a nice twist at the end.
 A Long Walk to Water  Linda Sue Park  5+  9/14  I cannot say enough about this amazing book.  It was a fabulous, quick read.  It brought me to tears more than once.  It was fascinating.  It made me reflect on how much I have and how good my life is here in the US…how much we have and how little I SHOULD want for.  Great stuff.
Running for my Life  Lopez Lomong  4.5  10/28  After finishing A Long Walk to Water, Eric recommended this book to me.  Lopez is a US Olympic track runner and also a Lost Boy.  The story was very similar to ALWTW, but there was much more emphasis on his life when he got to the US. I feel like an expert now on the problems facing South Sudan from all of the work we’ve done in school plus this book and the movie “God Grew Tired of Us.”
 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30  The editors of Glamour and Pamela Redmond Satran  4.5  11/4  This book is a collection of essays from many famous women about the original “30 Things” article published in Glamour magazine.  It was a cute read full of sometimes humorous, sometimes serious takes on what women should focus on.  Lots of girl power, rah rah cheerleader-y stuff, so it’s the perfect pick-me-up AND as it states numerous times it’s great for women of all ages.  As I was reading, it felt like the kind of book I could highlight passages and annotate for various friends and then pass along…kind of like Ashley did for me in college when she gave me He’s Just Not That Into You (which is another fabulous read, particularly if you’re single).
 The Dinner  Herman Koch  2  11/5  There were a lot of points where I wanted to put the book down, but I just couldn’t for some reason.  It was pretty boring, dragged a bit in the middle, and the ending was anticlimactic (in my opinion).
 The One I Left Behind  Jennifer McMahon  5  11/10  I LOVED this book from start to almost finish (the ending was kind of blah).  It was a cool who dunnit that moved pretty quickly and tackled other subjects like how friendships can change over time.
 Teach Like a PIRATE  Dave Burgess  4.5  11/10  If you need a pick-me-up to your teaching, this is the book for you.  He’s entertaining and full of ideas that make you excited to be a teacher.  If you ever get the chance to see him speak in public, go! He’s intense, but hilarious.
 The Art of Falling  Kathryn Craft  5  11/22  What a book!  All about a dancer who tries to kill herself (or so she thinks) and her struggles with depression and eating disorder, and finding friends in unlikely places to help you overcome.  “We don’t get to choose our gifts, just as we don’t get to choose the shape of the vessel into which they are poured.  If you fail to claim the gifts, what will you have?  The same vessel–just empty.”  Wow. Powerful words.
 Now You See Her  James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge  4.5  11/24  Not gonna lie–I picked this book because Patterson novels are quick reads and entertaining, and with such a short amount of time left in my challenge, I need that type of book to make some progress. But Patterson is a good author–interesting who-dunnits and like I said quick reads.  Not much to think about (although I guess this one did make me pause to think about what other people around me might be doing in their spare time).
 The Fault In Our Stars  John Green  5  11/25 Wow.  Amazing read.  Horribly depressing, yet completely left me at peace with so much. There was a time when I read Lurlene McDaniel books and dreamt of my future as an oncologist (til I remembered how terrified I was of needles).  This book brought me back to that.”I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1.  There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others.  Of course, there is a BIGGER infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million.  Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.  A writer we used to like taught us that.  There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set.  I want more numbers than I am likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got.  But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” (p260)
 The Lightning Thief  Rick Riordan  5  12/20  Really great read–teaching it in school and it’s pretty cool all the allusions to Greek mythology.  I’d suggest brushing up on those, first, otherwise the book is not nearly as “cool.”
 Just Take My Heart  Mary Higgins Clark  5  12/22  Quick, easy read.  I love murder mysteries, even if they keep me awake all night long thinking someone’s in our house trying to kill us. hahaha.
 Accused  Lisa Scottoline  1  12/29  I have no idea why all the rave reviews are written on the jacket of this book–perhaps some of her other books are really good?!?!  This was not one of them–it dragged forever, there were typos, there were random commas, and it was not even that great of a plot/ending.  Lame.  Highly do not recommend.
 The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances  The Oatmeal  5+  12/31  This book is hilarious.  If you are a runner (or an aspiring runner), get it and laugh your ass off. And if you do not understand my propensity for running long, pick up a copy of this bad boy–it explains it well.  Thanks for a good read, Liz!
 Lyddie  Katherine Paterson  3.5  12/31  Had to read this one for work.  It’s alright–the story of a young girl in late 1800’s working in a textile mill, fighting for her rights.  Interesting, and it makes you pause to think about where your clothes come from and what kinds of conditions the workers who make them are forced to endure.
 (Book 50)

One Response to “The 52 Book Challenge”


  1. love and marriage | shmeruns - September 8, 2014

    […] 52 books in 2014 […]

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