Whitewavedarling's 2014 Challenge...Thread 2!

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Whitewavedarling's 2014 Challenge...Thread 2!

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Modificato: Gen 1, 2015, 9:07 am

Hi, all! Well, I didn't come close to meeting my 2013 challenge...partly because it was insanely optimistic, and partly because two categories were dissertation related (and that dissertation has now been happily abandoned for many reasons...). I also managed to get a concussion in 2013 which slowed down my reading incredibly. There's no telling what 2014 holds, but one way or another, I know there'll be plenty of reading :)

I've set up 14 categories, and hope to read 8 books in each category, ending up at 112 books (I'm on course to finish at around 100 for 2013). This year, they're thematic. Here they are....

A--The Sea (8/8--COMPLETE)
I'm always picking up books based on their associations with the sea, whether by subject, title, setting, or cover image, but especially over the last four years or so, I haven't been making time to read them. This is going to change in 2014. There'll be a mix of nonfiction and fiction depending on what's in my TBR pile...

B--Creatures on the Covers (7/8)
I can't resist books that have gorgeous or fantastical pictures of animals on the covers, especially cats, big cats, snakes, and wolves.

Strong Possibilities: Captivity, Greyhound God, Mazes of the Serpent, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The People in the Trees, Listening to Cougar, Soul Among Lions: The Cougars as Peaceful Adversary, Unspoken, Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary

C--Places? Places (8/8--COMPLETE)
Reading reviews this year, I've realized how rarely I read books that really do justice (or at least attempt to) to their settings. I'm always keeping an eye out for books that take place in Spain for my mom, but I rarely think about the place when it comes to my own reading. This category will be for the books that, expected or not, really work to bring a place to life--whether it be a small town that's as "regular" as one could come, or a famous space like Florence or the Amazon. I won't be worrying about exact and specific and "true" in this category, so much as I'll think about whether the book invokes a true-feeling atmosphere and description. (Though, I'll be curious if commenters can tell me whether the 'true-feeling' is true!

D--Questions of Justice (8/8--COMPLETE)
I pick up books dealing with the law and social justice, especially as related to the environment and psychology. Lately, with my dissertation, I've allowed myself to get away from reading them because so much of my other reading is serious. This is going to change in 2014--I want to get back to reading at least a few per year.

E--Who they Might have Been (8/8--COMPLETE)
I've finally gotten back into reading biographies, and I want to make sure to keep doing so. I'm sure this category will focus on nonfiction, But then, memoir is always just a little bit fiction as well...

F--Art and Artists (8/8--COMPLETE)
So much of my life revolves around promoting and creating art, it seems I should be reading a bit more about it...I think? Most of these will probably end up being nonfiction (especially about writing), but after recently finishing Updike's Seek My Face and really enjoying the way discussions of art fit into a novel, I'm hoping that there'll be at least a few novels as well...

G--The Creepy Cover (9/8--COMPLETE)
I love horror books, but there are some books floating in my tbr piles which collect dust because their covers regularly scare me off. Silly, perhaps, but true. I either want to be scared or I don't, I think (?), so 2014 will be a year to tackle some of these books (some not even horror!), and maybe search out some others...

H--The Seemingly Mundane (18/8--COMPLETE)
There are books who've found their way to my shelves which I don't read, and haven't read, either because their covers or their summaries draw me to put them back each time I consider them. In some cases, they're books by authors I adore, which is why I ended up having them. In other cases, they were give-aways, gifts, or recommendations.

I--Illness (8/8--COMPLETE)
We'll see how this goes now that the dissertation has been put aside, but I have a lot of illness-related books that I've been looking forward to reading for their own merits, so I'm hoping my being fed up with the diss. won't limit my ability to enjoy them, even if I do wait a few months before jumping into this category.

J--Politics (7/8)
Anything goes, as long as politics is a focus...most of these will likely deal with politics in the context of war and/or NGOs working internationally...

--Strong Possibilities: Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, Standard Operating Procedure, Why Are We at War?, The Death of Common Sense, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Blog of War

K--The Body (9/8--COMPLETE)
I'm always drawn to covers that feature bodies without faces, be they shoulders or hands or feet or knees or anything else. Somehow, the faces make them less interesting. I'm fairly sure this is how I discovered the Anita Blake vampire hunter series.... In any case, they're floating all over the place! Of course, I also have books dealing with the body as a subject, and they might end up here as well.

L--Houses and Stairways (11/8--COMPLETE)
I adore haunted houses and I adore starcases. This means that I gravitate toward haunted house books and books that have staircases on the front, or even non-haunted house books that just have fascinating houses (that look a bit haunted, haunted or not) on the covers. I'm also in the middle of writing a bad house book myself, so this seems like a must!

M--The Giveaways (10/8--COMPLETE)
I'm ashamed to say that I'm behind on Early Reviewer books, and very behind on Member Giveaway books (behind enough that I've long stopped requesting the Member Giveaways especially). As of right now, I think I've got three ER books to read, one from the summer and two from more recent batches, and maybe four Member Giveaways hanging about. Theoretically, there's another ER books (won in 2010) that could show up, but I won't hold my breath! These books may end up being listed in other categories if they're better fits elsewhere (especially in categories that might end up being lighter), so we'll see what happens...

N--The Lists (9/8--COMPLETE)
Yes, I've got a doc with the 1001 books and a few other lists (awards and what-not) saved on my computer, and I've bolded the books already waiting for me to read them. I've been reading them slowly, unlike some of these other categories, but I want to make sure I carve out a space for them.

On a last note, I won't double-list this year. I'll just put a book where I most feel it belongs, or if it's tied for two (as I think might be the case with some of the giveaways), the category that most needs filling! All categories are open to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, etc....maybe with the focuses as noted!

Modificato: Gen 1, 2015, 9:08 am

Last year, I also started doing a self-directed Alphabet challenge spurred on by the AlphaCat challenge, and really liked how it pushed me to work on the ever-growing TBR. So, again this year, I'll keep track of the alphabet regarding last names of authors I read and first letters of titles read, and see if I can reach a full alphabet in each category. As I read this year, I'll add in a letter (or letters) whenever appropriate. So, for now...

Alphabet by Author's Last Name:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P _ R S T U V W X Y Z

Alphabet by First Letter of Full Title (not counting articles):

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y _

Since this is towards the top of my thread, I'll also keep a list of works in progress here, though I can't say how often I'll remember to update it...

Currently Reading:
Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine
Three Cups of Tea
A Wizard of Earthsea (re-read, with student)

FINISHING GOALS FOR DECEMBER: Three Cups of Tea, The Zodiac OR The Zoo on the Road to Nablus, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, Listening to Cougar, Wonderbook

Modificato: Gen 1, 2015, 9:08 am

B. Creatures on the Covers

1. The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (1/25/2014)
2. Adult Head by Jeff Tweedy (1/29/2014)
3. Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey (2/2/2014)
4. Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham (4/28/2014)
5. The Explanation for Everything by Linda Grodstein (4/29/2014)
6. Book of the Lion by Michael Cadnum (12/16/2014)
7. The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton (12/31/2014)

Modificato: Dic 17, 2014, 11:16 am

C. Places? Places.

1. Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip (1/2/2014)
2. Saint by Christine Bell (1/6/2014)
3. With Rommel's Army in Libya by Laszlo Almasy (2/25/2014)
4. Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement (3/8/2014)
5. Ruby by Cynthia Bond (5/16/2014)
6. Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona (5/28/2014)
7. Astoria to Zion (5/30/2014)
8. The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor (8/12/2014)

Modificato: Dic 21, 2014, 11:42 am

F. Art and Artists

1. Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (2/8/2014)
2. The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (8/24/2014)
3. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (9/8/2014)
4. Rhyming Life & Death by Amos Oz (9/13/2014)
5. Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman (9/30/2014)
6. The Mexican Murals by Cynthia Kraman (10/10/2014)
7. Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe (10/24/2014)
8. Summertime by J. M. Coetzee (12/20/2014)

Modificato: Set 30, 2014, 11:51 pm

G. The Creepy Cover

1. The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas (1/07/2014)
2. Beasties by William Sleator (2/15/2014)
3. The Korean Word for Butterfly by James Zerndt (4/3/2014)
4. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (5/8/2014)
5. Equus by Peter Shaffer (5/30/2014)
6. The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet edited by Kelly Link (7/4/2014)
7. Pig Island by Mo Hayder (8/26/2014)
8. The Oath by Frank Peretti (9/21/2014)
9. The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines (9/30/2014)

Modificato: Dic 9, 2014, 2:58 pm

Set 7, 2014, 7:57 pm

K. The Body

1. This Kind of Knowing by Susannah Sheffer (1/5/2014)
2. The Book of Common Betrayals by Lynne Knight (2/25/2014)
3. Hurts So Good: Unrestrained Erotica edited by Alison Tyler (3/11/2014)
4. Magic City by Yusef Komunyakaa (3/18/2014)
5. Push-Push! And Other Stories by Sindiwe Magona (4/11/2014)
6. Identity: A Novel by Milan Kundera (4/16/2014)
7. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (4/24/2014)
8. Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (5/23/2014)
9. Three Kinds of Asking for It edited by Susie Bright (8/18/2014)

Set 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

L. Houses and Stairways

1. The Dark Glamour by Gabriella Pierce (1/21/2014)
2. Dream House by Valerie Laken (3/17/2014)
3. House of Windows by John Langan (3/21/2014)
4. House by Sebastiana Randone (3/22/2014)
5. Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi (3/23/2014)
6. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
7. Starter House by Sonja Condit (4/9/2014)
8. The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman (5/14/2014)
9. Mrs. God by Peter Straub (6/11/2014)
10. Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino (7/25/2014)
11. Hell House by Richard Matheson (8/23/2014)

Modificato: Dic 31, 2014, 8:16 pm

Modificato: Ott 20, 2014, 11:53 am

Modificato: Set 7, 2014, 8:10 pm

Heavens! This is actually the first time I've gone beyond 300 early enough in the year to feel the need to start a second thread :) And, I probably should have done it sooner...it just took a while to find the time.

Meanwhile, I have no idea if I'll end up reading the 8 books in each category that made up my original goal. Originally, I didn't think it was remotely realistic. Now, I think the number is realistic...HOWEVER, I keep adding to finished categories because of the challenges I'm participating in.

I've managed to complete the GastroCat challenge every month, and I've managed to complete the RandomCat challenge every month as well. I've met the GeoCat challenge in every month But July. I've also been meeting the alphacat challenges, reading at least one book for each letter each month, though I didn't have time in July. In the second thread above, I'm also keeping track of my own alphabet challenge, reading at least two books for each letter--one the first letter of the book's title, and one the first letter of the author's last name. I managed to complete that personal challenge last year, so I'm determined to meet that one, at least, again.

I think whether I meet my goal here will depend on two things, the first being whether I prioritize the challenges or my category goals (so far, the challenges have won...). The second will be how much writing I get done. I wrote my first novel between November and April last year, and I've had every intention of doing the same last year. If I get off to a running start, as I hope to do if I get enough planning in in October, that means my reading will really fall back in October and November. So, we'll see what happens...

For now, as I keep going:
I'm almost done with The Writer's Life by Annie Dillard (eta to finish...tomorrow)
I'm about halfway done with True Stories, Well Told, hoping to finish next weekend since I'm reading it in small doses
I'm just starting The Lotus and the Storm by Lan Cao

Category-wise, The Writer's Life will fit in an unfinished category, True Stories, Well Told won't fit in any new category, and it's too early to tell about The Lotus and the Storm!

Modificato: Set 8, 2014, 6:55 am

Happy New Thread! I say this every time I visit someone's new thread, so I'll say it here too cause it's true. I like new threads as a chance to look over what people have read for the year since I usually skip right to the unread posts when I visit. You've had some good reads this year. ( we both read "The Secret Life of Lobsters".)

Set 8, 2014, 10:28 am

Welcome :) This has been a really good reading year. I'm on track to read more in 2014 than I've read in years, which I'm happy about!

Set 8, 2014, 10:41 am

F. Art and Artists #3: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

How I Picked It Up: I've been meaning to read this for ages, but it seemed like it would be such a quiet read, I just kept putting it off. In the end, Dillard wrote in such short sections that it was a fast and digestible read, and I really enjoyed it.

Full Review:

Fast-moving and graceful, this is worth reading for any writer or artist. Dillard's meditations on her own way of life, and on the choices involved with living as a writer, are so insightful as to push readers toward examining their own choices and paths. With her humor and honesty, the book ends up being full of revelations and humor.

Set 8, 2014, 1:31 pm

Happy new thread! I see you have managed to complete a number of your categories and good on you for having read something each month for the CATS with only one month missed for the GeoCAT is super impressive in my books.

Set 8, 2014, 1:51 pm

It's been fun to follow along with the challenges :) This was the first year I really tried to follow along with each month, and it was also my first time participating in a groupread...I plan to continue all of the above in 2015 :)

Set 9, 2014, 6:53 am

>22 whitewavedarling: Happy new thread ! I agree with Lori, reading for the CAT each month is impressive :)

I can't say the same for myself, I've chosen my categories before the discussions about the CAT last year, so I haven't be exaclty successful on this front.

Set 9, 2014, 3:54 pm

>23 electrice: I chose my categories without the cats in mind also...I've just tried to choose books off of my shelves with both in mind :)

Set 9, 2014, 4:00 pm

>24 whitewavedarling: Even more impressive :)

Set 10, 2014, 12:05 am

Happy new thread!! I have to agree with dudes22 - it's nice to get a reminder of everyone's reads when their new threads arrive.

Set 12, 2014, 11:18 am

You're in the home stretch now. Good job!

Set 12, 2014, 5:57 pm

Thanks, Eva an Mamzel :)

Meanwhile...the most political novel I've read in a long time:

J. Politics #4: The Lotus and the Storm by Lan Cao

How I Picked It Up: I enjoy reading war-related narratives, so I signed up for this in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was thrilled to receive it, but in the end, it wasn't quite what I expected. But, on the upside, it was so incredibly wrapped up in the politics of family and friendship (even moreso than those related to the Vietnam War, surprisingly, considering the book's description), that I have no problem using it to help fill out one of my more floundering categories...

Full Review:

Centered around a family's drama as pushed forward by the social upheaval built by the Vietnam War, this is a book filled with fascinating characters and subplots. With history and conflict and the heart of the book, Cao's portrayal of a complicated family is balanced against both the present in America (of 2006) and the time of the Vietnam War in Vietnam, culminating in the fall of Saigon and the difficult aftermath.

While the material of the book is fascinating, the downfall is that so very much is attempted. The drama and suspense of the war are overshadowed by the drama of the family's interactions and day-to-day difficulties, and while most of these are directly or indirectly related to the war, many of those connections aren't uncovered until very late in the novel; as a result, readers are torn between sympathizing with the family and gaining insight into history, and neither focus is given real power. So much is built into the work that, though the characters are believable, they aren't fully sympathetic and engaging for readers. Similarly, discussion of the war and socio-political difficulty is so broken up by family drama that that history is not as engaging or narrative-driving as it would be otherwise.

Simply, it felt as if the book was being torn in various directions, and while I appreciated what the author was working for, I often found myself half-bored by what I was reading, as interested as I would be if I were reading history or biography related to something I'm interested in, but no more. Generally, I didn't find the emotion or the entertainment that I expect from a great novel.

So, yes, I appreciated the art of the work, and I enjoyed many passages of Cao's lovely writing. Did I appreciate or enjoy the story? Well, that's a more difficult question, but is perhaps best answered by the acknowledgement that I wouldn't be very likely to pick up more of her work.

If you are interested in family dramas played out on the background of history, or in multi-generational narratives told in complex and politically-aware narratives, this might well be up your alley. If you pick it up because of an interest in war-related literature, however, or expect a novel pulling you forward from page to page with a real suspense...well, this may be too quiet a novel for you to fall into, because on the whole, I'd say it attempted too much, and was perhaps a hundred pages too long for what it did accomplish.

Set 13, 2014, 10:40 am

E. Who They Might Have Been #5: True Stories, Well Told edited by Lee Gutkind

How I Picked it Up: I'd been curious about this, and happened to win it from a Goodreads Read. Because so many of the essays are heavy on autobiography and memoiristic in nature, I think it does fit in this category, even if it's not a single full work.

Full Review:

Gutkind's collection of some of the best essays from the journal, Creative Nonfiction, this is an eclectic mix of transporting essays. While all are beautifully written, the stand-outs are those which are as informative as they are personal. As a collection, the whole will appeal to any reader who wants a better feel for creative nonfiction or personal narrative essays, and also to readers who want a fast taste of many honored nonfiction writers.

That said, I have to admit that I found many of these essays to be rather over-written and self-involved. In some cases, I was simply bored, and glad to be done with a given essay. More often, I did enjoy the short engagements with different worlds and different authors, but I have to say that reading this didn't make me feel more likely to pick up the journal itself. I expected a better feel for creative nonfiction, and a bit more respect for the genre, along with entertainment. We'll just say that I got some enjoyment, and some entertainment, but not nearly as much understanding or entertainment as I expected in any case. I think my nonfiction reads will continue to be lengthier reads instead of essays like this.

Set 13, 2014, 7:07 pm

F. Art & Artists #4: Rhyming Life & Death by Amos Oz

How I Picked It Up: I discovered Amos Oz long ago, and I've loved him ever since. He's a voice I go to on occasion, spacing his works out, seeking quiet escape and entertainment, and beautiful language. He hasn't disappointed me yet.

Full Review:

In a dramatic telling of a single night, Rhyming Life & Death is something of a story, and something of a demonstration of a story's genesis, exploring the wonders and twists of an imagination.

Working from the mind of an author, our narrator for the duration, Oz wanders through his imaginings about an assortment of characters, bringing them together into a world that is hardpressed to be called either imaginary or real. In the end, it doesn't matter. Oz has explored the process and wonder of creation, and given us a story and a show in the process.

Absolutely recommended.

Set 13, 2014, 8:59 pm

I haven't read much Amos Oz but I do remember reading Rhyming Life & Death. Great review and I agree, it is a recommended read!

Set 13, 2014, 10:11 pm

I think I've read three of his works now, and each one has been totally different, and utterly worth the read!

Set 13, 2014, 10:17 pm

H. The Seemingly Mundane #16: Oblique Prayers by Denise Levertov

How I Picked It Up: I've had this for ages, and it's one that doesn't particularly fit in this category because I'd never consider Levertov to be mundane. Of course, that said, it's also been sitting unread on my shelf for ages, which makes it perfect for the category. In any case, I picked it up now because I was in the mood for some poetry after some very slow-going (and unpoetic prose) works, and it came to hand.

Full Review:

Smart and graceful, Levertov's poems are meditations on what is possible in a world of compassion, and what comprises darkness in the same. As ever, her language is drenched in lyrical grace, and seemingly effortless. Some of the poems here are spiritual, some concrete. Some of them are difficult and striking, others straightforward. All together, though, the collections rings with soulful engagement with the world, and any poetry reader will find something to love here.

Well worth the read.

Set 17, 2014, 11:11 am

So, my Thingaversary is coming up at the end of October, and in the past, I've always forgotten about it until months later. Now, I certainly end up acquiring enough books in a year to make up for those missed thingaversaries, but this year, I plan on actually spoiling myself to take advantage of it :) As such, instead of thinking about regularly, I'm going to plan it out here so I've got my list and my reminder in one place, though, of course, something may get changed along the way (especially if I can't find used copies)...but, I am going to try to concentrate on fun instead of serious!

As of now, my plans are to pick up copies of:

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
2. Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton
3. A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton
4. After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
5. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
6. Ignorance by Mulan Kundera
7. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
8. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
9. Less Than Human by Gary Raisor

1-6 are from authors I already love, and the others are off of lists I'm slowly wandering through. If any of them raise your eyebrow as a 'that's a mistake', let me know! Heaven knows I've regretted some of the 1001 books I've made time for...

Set 17, 2014, 5:09 pm

I'll be interested to hear what you think of After the Quake! It's on my to-read list.

Set 20, 2014, 3:45 pm

A. The Sea #8: The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda

How I Picked It Up:
I picked this work up some time ago after falling in love with Mda's writing when I came across his work in a short story anthology. With the movie being associated with the Toronto Film Festival, I discovered it would be the perfect book for this month's RandomCat challenge. On the whole, I enjoyed it, though I hated the ending more than I can possibly say. Unless someone can assure me that the movie ends very differently, there is absolutely no chance I'll be seeing it.

Full Review:

Mda's The Whale Caller is so rich that it's difficult for a reader to distinguish between fantasy and reality. The characters are so flawed and distinctive, and their story so sweet, that the world becomes something almost idyllic, despite its downfalls and poverty. Centered in off-kilter romances and fantasy, the book is something of a lovesong to what imagination can accomplish for its characters, and of course for the reader.

Yet, for me, I have to admit that the ending very nearly ruined the book for me, and certainly ruined the world of the book. Having read it, and been so shocked by it, I couldn't really recommend the book to other readers unless they could commit to neglecting those last few pages. I adore Mda's writing, but that ending... well, it would be enough to put me off of his work if I weren't already a fan, not for the believability, but for the too-easy horror, that is all to believable, just as much as the rest of the story is surprisingly believable.

I don't know what to say beyond the fact that Mda's writing and world-building an character creation are marvelous. And that I now hate him, just a bit, for writing this ending.

Set 20, 2014, 4:19 pm

Wow! That is a very interesting review.

Set 20, 2014, 5:53 pm

>36 whitewavedarling:
Well, now I want to read it just to see how bad the ending is. :) What's the name of the movie? Maybe I'll try that one instead...

Set 20, 2014, 7:31 pm

The movie should be by the same name... I'm afraid I can't say anything else about the ending without giving it away, so I won't, but it's not something I'd want to see :( I like horror (love horror, actually), but this was just horrific from the standpoint of the direction the story takes...and it wasn't something I wanted to read or see, I'm afraid.

Modificato: Set 20, 2014, 8:35 pm

Oh, I just figured out why I couldn't find it - it's still being crowdfunded. Hope it shows up near me at some time - looks quite interesting.

Set 20, 2014, 8:48 pm

If it does, I'll be curious to hear what you think of it!

Set 21, 2014, 6:00 pm

G. The Creepy Cover #8: The Oath by Frank Peretti

How I Picked It Up: I had high hopes for this one, even after I realized it was not only labeled as horror, but also considered christian fiction. Alas, my first doze of christian horror might very well be my last because this left a lousy taste in my mouth, reading-wise.

Full Review:

If this book were much shorter, it might have some chance of success. As is, though, the heavy-handed nature of the book, and the easy predictability of it all (from very early on), end up making it somewhat tedious, and far from frightening.

The plot of the work, and the downfalls/stereotypes of the respective characters, are so easily pinpointed and predicted early on that there's not much here to find compelling, aside from the short sections of narrative and the relatively fast-paced plot. Those things manage to drive the book forward for perhaps half of it, but at that point, it becomes obvious that the characters have little to no depth, and the book itself is written toward such a single and heavy-handed theme that there's just not much to be entertained by.

In the end, I didn't find this scary, or particularly interested once I realized where everything was going (around page 50 or 75, perhaps, of a 550 page novel). I won't be reading anymore of Peretti's writing.

Set 22, 2014, 9:30 pm

J. Politics #5: Bringing Down Gaddafi: On the Ground with the Libyan Rebels by Andrei Netto

How I Picked It Up: I won this from the Early Reviewers Group on Librarything--it took me a while to pick it up, but I'm glad I ended up being a winner on this one. Well worth the read.

Full Review:

Netto's account of the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi is both extensive and detailed, coming together as a complex history and a compelling feat of journalism.

Beginning with the actual capture of Gaddafi and the surrounding chaos, Netto then moves backward to the beginning of his own journey crossing the border into Libya illegally and traveling with the rebels to tell their story. Yet, despite his obvious sympathies as expressed in his reasoning for being in Libya at all, Netto does an impressive job of giving an objective view to the entirety of the conflict and politics surrounding the revolution. Throughout his narrative and history, Netto never backs off from calling attention to faults in reasoning, humanity, and understanding...on both sides. As a result, Netto's work looks both forward and backward in history, examining the path which led to the violence he witnessed and the ongoing rebellion, and managing to look forward to the faultlines already being laid for future attempts at peace-keeping.

If there is a real fault to the work itself, it is Netto's attention to detail. Names and individuals and places are constant, and unfamiliar readers will struggle to keep up with who's who and where's where, as quickly or carefully as they read. Still, the story and the meaning comes through. As a help, Netto includes at the back of the work a careful timeline of "Gaddafi's Libya", detailing notable political and socio-cultural happenings going back to September of 1969. It's in any reader's interest to take a look at this timeline before reading the book.

All told, this is a compelling and detailed read, and Netto can only be applauded for his journalism and his efforts. Considering world events, reading this book is in anyone's best interests at this point in time. It sheds a careful look on the political difficulties and rebellions in the Middle East, and it gives a smart look to a situation and history which may otherwise seem incomprehensible.

Is this an easy read? No. Is it necessary and compelling? Absolutely.

Set 29, 2014, 5:10 pm

Interesting review on Bringing Down Gaddafi Sounds like the book is unusually rich with background information. Fairly complete picture.

Set 29, 2014, 6:58 pm

>44 cammykitty:, It is a very complete and rich book--not a fast and easy read, but well worth it for those interested!

Set 29, 2014, 8:43 pm

An end-of-the-month update...

Well, as I probably mentioned last month, I withdrew from academia (at least for this year while my husband and I are hoping to move, and don't want to be tied to an academic schedule) and I'm now free-lancing full time, doing everything from copy-editing to transcription to tutoring and serving as a book coach. The latest cool news is that I've been hired on as a part-time book editor on an on-going basis. Not only does it mean that I'm being paid to read and help with unpublished novels, but it also means that my husband and I will be able to repay our savings and stop worrying about meeting basic bills, by the end of October if not before. By no means will we be rich, and I'll still be doing other random jobs and projects, but I'll be making a little bit more than I did working full time for my university last year, which is both a surprise and a relief (we were expecting to have to get by on a lot less, even as we attempt to plan for a move at some point).

The downside...I'm constantly online, or at least at my computer, for work! I feel like I'm tied to my computer, which means that it's harder and harder for me to spend real amounts of down-time anywhere near it, including catching up on LT... And, even though I've got less time free than last year, I'm still hoping to participate (and succeed) in NaNoWriMo again, so November's going to be a crazy month once I get there.

Still, I'll be around, lurking if not participating, and hopefully completing reads I can enter here!

Meanwhile, good reading, everybody. I'm still hoping to finish The Dead Whisper On and Hollow Earth before October hits, both of which I'm really enjoying, so we'll see how that goes...

Set 29, 2014, 10:32 pm

Good luck with your new job and with NaNoWriMo in November!

Set 29, 2014, 11:13 pm

> 47, Thanks :)

Set 30, 2014, 12:06 am

Freelancing sounds great! Sounds like you've put together quite a variety of clients very quickly. Are they mostly local clients?

Set 30, 2014, 9:44 am

The freelance book editor job sounds wonderful and wow on tackling NaNoWriMo in November!

Set 30, 2014, 10:31 am

>50 lkernagh:, Thanks! I managed 50,000 words last year---I'm hopeful for this year, but not quite so optimistic as I was last year.

>49 cammykitty:, Almost none of them are local! The last few years, I'd served as a local free-lance copy-editor and dissertation coach, mostly relying on word-of-mouth. It was nice pocket money, but nothing more. This year, I signed up with an online platform named oDesk--they 'collect' freelancers for all sorts of needs, and have tons of clients looking for freelancers on a daily basis. I'm lucky I found them, and I've got a friend who's a graphics and web designer who's starting to get work through them, too. I'm still working with a few folks around where I live, and tutoring a few students in the area, but I could actually let all of the local stuff go (if I wanted to) now and just rely on the clients I've gotten through oDesk, which is pretty cool :)

Set 30, 2014, 10:32 pm

F. Art & Artists #5: Hollow Earth by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman

How I Picked It Up: I actually picked this up because of the beautiful creature on the cover (for my creatures on the covers category) and because I wanted an easy-going YA read to finish out my month. I'd gotten it for free when the summer school where I teach was cleaning off bookshelves. And, oh my, I'm so glad I came across it! In the end, this is actually fits just as well in my art and artists category, some of the big questions at the center of the work revolving around artistic responsibility and growth.

On a side note, I almost never go out and get sequels while still reading a first book. With this one, though, I ordered the second and third book in the series while still only halfway through, and my husband got a huge laugh today when the third one came, and I had a fit because I was so hoping the second one would be here so I could start it immediately! It looks like it will be a few days, so I'm going to start something else as my bedroom reading instead--there are only three books after all, so I suppose I ought to space them out with a few weeks break in between, and probably enjoy them more for it. I suppose.

If you can't tell already...I LOVED IT.

Full Review:

Built from art and adventure, and full of fantasy and magic, this is one of those YA fantasies that will have you searching out the sequel moments after you've read it. The Barrowmans have created such engaging characters, and such an intriguing and fully built world, that it's difficult to believe this is only the first book in the series.

Centered on twins with a mysterious set of parents and abilities they're still learning to maneuver, the book takes on a compelling landscape, full with questions regarding responsibility and loyalty. Yet, there's such depth--to both the story and the ideas involved--that there's no doubt the Hollow Earth series will entrance adults just so much as it will appeal to young readers.

I don't remember a first fantasy book ever flowing so fluidly and clearly to build a wholly new understanding of the world, and this is certainly my new favorite YA series.

Absolutely wonderful.

Set 30, 2014, 11:55 pm

G. The Creepy Cover #9: The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines

How I Picked It Up: I found this at a library sale, used and cheap, and it looked so creepy that I couldn't resist. It was enjoyable, but it didn't make me any more likely to search out a spiritual/christian suspense or horror book. Most likely, I wouldn't have picked this one up if I'd realized the ties to christianity--it's not that I'm offended, but I do find the genre pretty predictable, book by book. Of course, that's based on only a few, but it's hard to imagine how things would go differently if the supernatural elements are always going to be tied to spiritual/christian elements of belief and being. Oh well. I may try this author again anyway, since it was a pretty fast and entertaining read, and the beginning was, as I note in my review, really wonderfully creepy. In the end, I gave it 3.5 stars.

Full Review:

I'm new to the genre of 'spiritual thrillers', and I'm still not entirely sure what to think about them, but this one was a far cry better than the last one I came across. The characters are believable and engaging, and the first half of the book especially is wonderfully creepy. Further into the book, things begin to get more predictable and didactic (which has, admittedly, been my problem with spiritual/christian fiction and thrillers in the past), so the book lost some of its momentum for me. As characters figure things out in this genre, the reader invariably figures out which characters are going to be fine, and the basics of what's going to happen, along with why...this might be unavoidable, but it does slow down the story and make it fairly predictable. If the characters had had more depth, they themselves might have compelled me more fully, but if there is one downfall to the book outside of predictability, it's that the characters could be far more interesting and complex than they are. Right now, all of their complexities are tied up in things which directly relate to the story, and with everything so perfectly neat and logical...well, it takes away what reality the story could otherwise hold.

On the whole, I loved the creepiness of the first half of the book, and even when I knew exactly what would happen (maybe 75 pages from the ending on page 314), I was still entertained enough to want to continue reading. And, really, it was well written--I just would have preferred a bit more depth to characters, and a bit less predictability. When you tie a supernatural thriller's plot to faith, however, my fear is that the end will always end up being rather predictable, along with climaxes and explanations. They may be surprises to the characters themselves, but no smart reader will be surprised by end results.

Ott 1, 2014, 12:28 am

Congrats on having the job work better than expected - always nice when things like that happen! :) Good to hear that the Barrowmans' book is great - I've heard good things, but it's mainly from Captain Jack-fans. :)

Ott 1, 2014, 3:50 pm

>52 whitewavedarling: Never heard of Hollow Earth, but I think it's going on the TBR list now!

Ott 1, 2014, 9:09 pm

Ott 8, 2014, 12:40 pm

E. Who They Might Have Been #6: The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

How I Picked it Up: I found out about this one through librarything, and even though reactions were mixed, it sounded too strange and interesting to not pick it up. Since it centers on the biographies and doings of two men, I'm putting it in this flagging category...

Full Review:

In many ways, this is a great read simply because it's an entertaining book full of strange and interesting tidbits of knowledge. The problem is just as clear, though--there are so many interesting stories and directions which the book is pulled in, that in the end, none of them are given the depth a reader really wants. Whether you're most interested in the creation of the OED or the friendship between the two men at the heart of the book's title, or even trivia surrounding both, the book explores so much territory, and is so short, that I doubt any reader will be fully satisfied. Still, it is a fun and fast read with plenty of interesting trivia, if not the depth or full story that the book's title and blurb seem to promise.

All together, I'm glad I read it, but I wish it had been a bit more substantial.

Ott 8, 2014, 9:33 pm

M. The Giveaways #9: Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan

How I Picked It Up: I got this from the Early Reviewer Program--I'd signed up for it because of reading Nordan's work in the past, and always meaning to pick up another of his novels. I can't say that this quite stood up to the standard set by Nordan's Wolf Whistle, but I'm still very glad to have read it.

Full Review:

Built from childhood humor and skepticism, this is one of those books which can transport readers back to a child's version of the world, as wonderful and horrible as that may be at different turns. Although it pulls together in what feels more like a series of sketches and anecdotes and understandings than a single full story, the work as a whole revolves around a boy's attempts at understanding love...as a result, the work ends up being surprisingly cohesive, surprisingly touching.

Nordan's worlds are memorable, and constantly believable, as are his characters. While he may not write about easy subjects, his books are easy reads, and lovely journeys into a world that can at least work toward helping us understand the craziness of the world around us.


Ott 12, 2014, 8:09 pm

F. Art and Artists #6: The Mexican Murals by Cynthia Kraman

How I Picked It Up: This is one of those poetry collections I picked up long ago, and then kept on glancing over because it also contained essays on craft and art...and, generally, I'm in the mood for either poetry or essays, so I overlook the collections that contain both. In this case, partly because of the alphacat and partly because I was in the mood for poetry and partly because of this category...I picked it up.

Full Review:

Made up of prose poems and short essays on art, along with two or three non-prose poems, this a collection built from fragments and images, philosophies and colors. While Kraman's self-styled experiments (as explained in her essays) are scattered and heavily grounded in concrete images, they are also so personal as to come across as more meditation than meaning. There are many wonderful moments--in language, in music, in image, and in thought--but the book as a whole rather blends together, and I'm afraid that, in the end, I won't find it particularly memorable compared to other poetry collections that have all but forced me to reread the, share them, and think on them long after they were closed. This one will stick with me because of some of the ideas, and because of its set-up, but not particularly because of the poems or the power of it all, which is what I'd prefer from a collection of poems.

Ott 20, 2014, 11:56 am

N. The Lists #8: Cider House Rules by John Irving -- Another Category Complete!!!

How I Picked It Up: I'd had this and Hotel New Hampshire on my shelf for some while, but kept on getting put off by them because of their lengths and small print. The gastrocat challenge for October pushed me to finally pick this one up, and I'm so glad it did--I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Full Review:

Irving's Cider House Rules is an intelligent and entertaining story, balancing controversy against good will, and debate against simple storytelling. Irving's style is straightforward, and his characters are so engaging and so real that the story ends up being a superb read--reading it is like taking a step into another world, one which feels very real, if even too real at times.

Absolutely recommended.

Ott 20, 2014, 5:06 pm

Congrats on completing another category!

Ott 20, 2014, 7:51 pm

Thanks, >61 rabbitprincess: :) It'll be a real stretch for me to consider finishing all of my categories, but at least this is one more in!

Ott 24, 2014, 1:09 pm

F. Art and Artists #7: Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe

How I Picked it Up: I read about this somewhere on librarything...then, after getting it, I found out it was the second in a series, and went back to read the first one first. Finding out that this one picked up with different characters put me off a bit, so it took me some time to get back to it, but I'm so glad that the randomcat challenge pushed me to pick it up again sooner than later. (And, category-wise, the man at the center of the book is a musician, and much of the work revolves around song.)

Full Review:

This is one of those odd books that has the power to surprise a reader with how much power it entails. The story, the characters, the language...every piece picks up more and more inertia as it works forward, until in the end you can barely put it down, and you're sorry to see it end.

Truthfully, in the very beginning (nearly before reading), I was disappointed. This book had been recommended, so I'd read Bledsoe's The Hum and the Shiver first, since it was the first in the Tufa series. When I turned to this one, I realized from the jacket that it wouldn't pick up the stories of the characters I'd read in the first book, something I'd been counting on. Instead, this would take place in the same world and community, but follow a different story entirely. So, I left the series for a few months instead of picking it up right away, and came back to it once the other story was further in the background.

Even now, I have the instinct to recommend this book more than the first, but in all honesty, I don't think any reader is going to enjoy this nearly as much without having read the first--there's more background there since this one is told from an outsider to the community. This one, though, has more feeling.

Bledsoe's writing is sometimes heavy-handed, and the descriptions occasionally border on the cliche'd, but his depiction of a strange Appalachian mountain community where the people aren't quite your average people is simply wonderful storytelling. The characters are strangely believable, and the book is a whole isn't, I think, going to be easily forgotten.

Yes, I absolutely recommend this one, but I also recommend you read the first one first, give the series some space, and then come back for more. If there's a third installment, I'll be reading it as soon as it comes available.

Ott 26, 2014, 12:07 pm

You make the Tufa series sound very interesting.

Ott 26, 2014, 2:35 pm

I have The Hum and the Shiver on my Kindle, heaven knows when I will get to it, but I like the sound of Wisp of a Thing so I may have to get that one as well.

Ott 26, 2014, 4:08 pm

>64 hailelib: and >65 DeltaQueen50: -- It is an interesting series, and both books are incredibly fast reads :) I enjoyed using both as lighter reads while I was making my way through heftier pieces... Though, in the end, I couldn't pace myself with either of the Tufa series, and ended up rushing through unable to put them down once I got to a certain point...

Ott 26, 2014, 9:20 pm

Well, as of today, I've been a member of Librarything for 8 years! I've always missed my anniversary before, but today, I celebrated by splurging on a number of books (all used except for one):

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
Tel Aviv Noir from Akashic Noir
The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Ignorance by Milan Kundera
The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton
Magic for Beginners: Stories by Kelly Link
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Ott 26, 2014, 9:28 pm

Happy Thingaversary! Great haul :)

Ott 26, 2014, 11:14 pm

Happy Thingaversary!! I'm half-way through Tel Aviv Noir right now and, although there isn't much actual noir in it, it's really very good.

Ott 27, 2014, 7:38 am

Happy Thingaversary! I'm planning to read 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster next year which was recommended to me by a friend. Hope you enjoy your reads.

Ott 27, 2014, 10:44 am

Thanks, all!

>69 -Eva-:, that was one of my experiences with the other collections, and I'd been really disappointed to not receive that one in the ER giveaway, so I thought I'd give it a try :)

>70 dudes22:, 600 Hours of Edward was fantastic! I only realized there was a sequel over the summer and hadn't had a chance to find it, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I really hope you enjoy Lancaster's work!

Ott 27, 2014, 6:18 pm

Happy Thingaversary! Looks like you have quite a few good books to celebrate with.

Ott 27, 2014, 11:59 pm

Happy Thingaversary, looks like you got yourself some excellent books.

Ott 28, 2014, 8:58 pm

Happy Thingaversary! Love the splurge!

Ott 28, 2014, 10:44 pm

Thanks, guys :)

Nov 2, 2014, 12:22 pm

I. Illness #5: Tweeds by Clayton R. Graham

How I Picked It Up: I picked this up while still working on my abandoned dissertation related to HIV/AIDS in literature. The topics involved in the study still interest me, so this category was created to help me make my way through some of those books...

Full Review:

This is one of those rare books that sneaks up on readers, becoming more believable and more powerful as it moves forward. Centered around an incredibly formal, awkward, and uncomfortably self-conscious character, the narrative follows Corey as he slowly and painfully comes to accept himself as a gay adult who is, amazingly, head over heels in love. More than a romance, though, this is a story about a man who slowly grows to accept himself, and the people he loves, as individuals, and as true.

Clayton Graham's depictions of slow acceptance, self-conscious worry, and paranoia regarding homophobic reactions, are all masterful, and as Corey's story collides with realities of HIV/AIDS, Graham's narrative becomes a sort of coming-of-age story which is compelling.

The book does, undoubtedly, have faults. Corey's character is so awkward and self-conscious as to be more annoying than engaging, particularly while readers are still getting used to him. Similarly, the dialogue in much of the book is stilted, only more so when combined with Corey's over-the-top formalities. Still, as a sort of coming of age tale focused on the psychology of a man who can barely admit to himself who he is, let alone to others, the book shines with a simple beauty and appreciation for life.


Nov 2, 2014, 12:42 pm

D. Questions of Justice #7: The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest by Andrew Revkin

How I Picked It Up: Most of the nonfiction I pick up has some relation to conservation, science, environmentalism, or art. This had been on my shelf for ages, and I finally got around to it, now specifically because of the GeoCat challenge. I'm so glad I did.

Full Review:

Revkin's examination of Chico Mendes is far more than the story of his murder, or even his legacy on the workers in the Amazon rain forests. By taking a broadview look at Mendes' life and work, Revkin also tells the story of a debt slavery system and its slow undermining, and how the story of the rubber tappers and workers in the Amazon began as a human rights story which only later became a question of environmental or global concern.

Chico Mendes began his fight out of his love for the people in the rain forests; when informal education led him to encourage unions, organize workers, and fight for conservation, his eventual legacy was always rooted in his straight-forward desire for sustaining a way of life he'd always known, ideally in more livable conditions than imposed by the debt slavery which forced so many of the workers he knew to live without any options and all but starving.

Revkin's work examined every aspect of this story--the humans involved, the science involved, the history involved, and, of course, the money involved. Any reader who wants a look into the Amazon rainforests, or into struggles for human rights (moving out of debt slavery and poverty), will find a great deal to admire in this work.

Whether you come to the book for a look at the history, the conservation, or the story of Mendes and his legacy...it's worth your while.


Nov 11, 2014, 5:51 pm

H. The Seemingly Mundane #17: Jumper by Steven Gould

How I Picked it Up: I picked this up after seeing the movie and, very simply, wanting more--more of the story, more of the characters, and more depth. Then, I ended up reading another in the series first, fearing I'd be bored by a plot I already knew from the movie. Actually, though, this was more than fresh enough to gain and hold my interest, and now I find that I rather wish the movie had been more like the book!

Full Review:

Gould's Jumper is hard to resist. Built from suspense and engaging characters, the novel moves quickly and really resists easy categorization. Much as I came to this novel because of enjoying the movie, Gould's original exploration has more depth and immediacy than what ended up portrayed on the screen (much as the synopsis doesn't particularly reflect that difference). From page to page, I was as much compelled by the characters as the plot, and Gould's writing mixes humor and suspense easily.

All together, I'd recommend this to anyone interested.

Nov 15, 2014, 10:01 pm

E. Who They Might Have Been #7: The Secret River by Kate Grenville

How I Picked it Up: I picked this up now because of the geo-cat challenge and the alpha-cat challenge, but it originally came to me as a gift a few years ago. I'm putting it in this category because, in all honesty, I feel like this was written to depict people in a piece of history--more so than to explore history or, certainly, to tell a story. Truly, I often felt like I was wandering through a somewhat flat viewing of history, in the same sort of way a museum might give a display to allow visitors to walk through, piece by piece, what a settler's life might have looked at. I know this is a popular book, but as you may already see, it wasn't particularly up my alley.

Full Review:

Grenville's depiction of daily life in London and unsettled South Wales is impressive, detailed, and filled with a clear appreciation for both nature and history. In fact, once the story moved to South Wales, I sometimes felt I was reading a piece of nature writing more so than a novel. This, essentially, ends up being the problem with the text. While the story is certainly realistic and detailed, the characters are mere silhouettes from history for the vast majority of the novel. Absolutely, they are believable, but they are also simply drawn, and incredibly flat considering the scope of the novel.

At the climax of the work, well into the novel, the characters come more into focus, Grenville's writing of plot and action excelling as she writes what is, fairly clearly, at the heart of the book (and perhaps the reason for the book in its entirety?). Afterward, however, the characters move back to the background, their story only important as it stands as a frontal lens for history.

Readers who want the history more than a great read will, most certainly, appreciate the book, and it certainly does give a view to a little enough discussed piece of history. That said, as a novel and as a story to explore for story and character...it's not something I'd recommend, lovely as the writing may be.

Nov 16, 2014, 7:25 am

I've skipped over your review because I'm still reading The Secret River but will come back to it once I finish.

Nov 16, 2014, 7:58 am

>79 whitewavedarling: Good review of The Secret River. I felt the opposite of you; I really enjoyed Grenville's writing and her exploration of relationships between settlers and aborigines. I also just liked her writing style. I agree that her point was more to explore issues of colonization, but I still found the characters memorable and central to the story.

I enjoyed reading your take on the book, though. We can't all enjoy the same books! Hope you enjoy your next one more.

Nov 16, 2014, 1:30 pm

>81 japaul22:, Thanks... I think, in the end, the book probably did its job--I was interested in the material, but I felt the characters were sort of universal for people ending up in their situation. I suppose it felt like such a meshing of nonfiction and fiction that I just wished it were one or the other! Still, I wasn't the ideal audience either! I don't read all that much historical fiction--and when I do, I tend to either love it or hate it!

>80 dudes22:, I'll be curious what your reactions end up being. I don't think I give anything away in my review, but it could certainly alter your reading perspective!

Nov 17, 2014, 11:01 pm

J. Politics #6: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

How I Picked it Up: Yes, I read it in high school, and my review does indeed share the story of my journey to a reader then, something near on 20 years ago (eek, to say that out loud!), and my reading of the same book now. What an amazing difference. And, what is this book about, if not the politics of interpersonal understanding and relationships, guilt and innocence?

Full Review:

Like so many others, I first encountered this work when I was in high school--and, to be honest, I don't remember having any particular reaction...if anything, a vague sense of boredom accompanies my memories of the book. At that age, I didn't particularly like it or hate it,and years later, I remembered little of it beyond some of the major themes and characters. Pushed to reread it this month, I did so out of duty instead of desire or interest.

Rereading it as an adult was both a journey backward and a revelation. Harper Lee's writing is near perfection, bringing to life characters who are as believable as they are flawed and wonderful. Her depictions of innocence and hypocrisy are wide enough to draw tears, and well worth revisiting as an adult. Indeed, I think the best viewing of this text is going to come with reading the book as a young reader and then again as an adult, feeling the growth in yourself even as you read the growth of character on each page. It moved quickly, and the humor was wonderful, leading me to enjoy each page, and only wish there were more, or perhaps another side from the voice of Atticus.

As a high schooler, I didn't appreciate this--and, looking back, I can't imagine how I would have. Still, I see why teachers and the school system think it worth teaching. Reading it through this time, I've been in conversation with a high school student I'm tutoring, and I can hear in his voice the boredom I felt when I first approached the text. If he's to learn about civil rights and the hypocrisy of racism, he'd just as soon read nonfiction. Like I was, he's an advanced reader who has already moved on to writers like Stephen King and Ursula K. Le Guin, and Lee's realism doesn't hold much interest. Working with him, I can see him learning to appreciate the text, but he's not going to see the beauty in it for years to come, as is the case in my own experience.

The solution? I'm not sure. I don't know that I'd bother passing this on to teen readers, but I would recommend it to any adult.

Nov 18, 2014, 11:17 am

I never read it as a teen and only as an adult. It blew me away. I think I would have appreciated it when I was a teen as I was a pretty advanced reader. I don't know if growing up in the Caribbean was the reason I was never aware of the book. I read it after seeing the movie.

Nov 18, 2014, 12:26 pm

>84 mamzel:, I really did enjoy it this time around. Funny enough, though, I think the reason I didn't enjoy it much as a teen was because I was too advanced... I was reading so much adult material that the story and themes struck me as being too simple, whereas now I can appreciate it. I remember having a lot of friends who didn't read very much, but who really enjoyed the book. It's interesting to consider, though I don't know the answer! I do remember falling in love with Shakespeare and Barbara Kingsolver the same year I first read this, so I have to think that the child's perspective just made it seem simple, and I didn't have the patience to read slowly...

But, all that said, I don't think I ever have seen the movie--I may just have to do that!

Nov 18, 2014, 12:42 pm

>85 whitewavedarling: Make it a priority! Gregory Peck was astounding as Atticus!

Nov 18, 2014, 10:40 pm

>86 mamzel:, I shall, as soon as NaNoWriMo is done.... Meanwhile, this next reading wasn't light, and I didn't pair it with To Kill a Mockingbird intentionally, but they fed off of each other in a marvelous/horrible way.

D. Questions of Justice #8: The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin

How I Picked It Up: I bought this after reading The Fire Next Time by Baldwin, having already been a long-time fan of his fiction. I needed/wanted to finish up my questions of justice category, and this work had for some reason seemed to be staring at me more and more out of the tbr pile. In the end, it was a fast read, if a hard one to swallow (meaning-wise, because I want to believe better of people in general than what Baldwin is forced to explore here), and I'm so glad that I stumbled across it at this moment in time. In the future, I'll never hear of this book without thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird, or vice versa.

Full Review:

Baldwin's exploration of a deeply faulted criminal trial and the surrounding issues is a scathing and widely-scoped picture, one which examines a very real portion of American history, civil rights, and racism. Baldwin's essay, sometimes sarcastic and at many points infuriated, examines a guilty verdict which is, at best, questionable, and the essential forgetting of more than twenty murders. Examining evidence, action, and report, as well as wider-reaching issues of poverty, psychology, economics, and race relations, Baldwin delivers what amounts to a dissection of supposed justice and legality.

Tightly delivered, there is no way to parcel out pieces of this essay into different sections or expect some version of easy organization to come across. Weaving each issue with the others, and weaving the single story of multiple murders and an ensuing trial in with larger issues of race and psychology, Baldwin's work is nearly overpowering in its intricate (and yet, frightfully straight-forward) delivery of information and analysis.

Very simply, this book should be read by any American who cares where the country has come from or has any interest in civil or human rights, let alone history. The book is frightening and exploratory, but it is also entirely impossible to ignore or forget.

Highly recommended.

Nov 22, 2014, 7:14 pm

Well, the last month's reads helped me finally nail down plans for my 2015 category challenge. I've shaped it around titles! (Yes, as in, actual book titles.) I've come to the conclusion that I too often manage to overlook titles, or rather forget about them. I'm hoping this challenge will help me keep them in mind and give them a bit more thought.

2015 Challenge Thread Here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/183325

Meanwhile, I'm slowly reading Afterlife and Other Stories, Thanksgiving Night, and Wonderbook....but in all honesty, most of my spare time is going to NaNoWriMo...

Nov 28, 2014, 2:55 pm

H. The Seemingly Mundane #8: Thanksgiving Night by Richard Bausch

How I Picked it Up: I'm a long-time fan of Bausch's short stories, so I'd picked up this novel and one other at a used bookstore ages ago. Then, it sat on the shelf. This month, the GastroCat pushed me to pick it up, and I'm so glad I finally did! It's one of those books that comes off as sounding rather plain when you start to describe it, but it was really lovely, especially a nice escape as busy as this month has been.

Full Review:

Bausch's characters are both believable and engaging, and the quiet weaving together of their stories is masterful in Thanksgiving Night. From the comical to the heartbreaking, the mundane to the crazy, the book creates a peak into another small world, and it becomes more and more compelling as it moves forward. For some, the book's subjects might be too ordinary, too centered on the day-to-day living of people who may as well be our neighbors or even ourselves, but Bausch's powers of language and description are beautiful enough that this becomes one of those books which uncovers the extraordinariness of emotions we might otherwise overlook as too average for thought, if not our own. He is a master of prose and creation, and this book is a wonderful excursion.


Nov 29, 2014, 11:48 pm

Catching up! It's been too long since I've visited. Thanks for the tip on oDesk. That might be a good way for me to fend off starvation during the summer. ;0 Okay, summers aren't that bad but they are bad since I'm a para in a middle school. I agree totally with your comments on The Professor and the Madman and whole heartedly approve of your thingaversary purposes. If you want to do a team read of The Razor's Edge, let me know.

Nov 30, 2014, 5:58 am

Ok -color me confused. What's a para in middle school? I looked up para and the dictionary told me it's a Turkish coin. Which I'm pretty sure you're not! And I'm pretty sure you're not a parent in middle school :) Paralegal? Parenthetical? Paranormal?

Nov 30, 2014, 3:57 pm

>90 cammykitty:, Hi! I may take you up on that with The Razor's Edge. If you join oDesk, just give yourself a few weeks advance notice to get set up and get some jobs. I spent tons of time during my first few weeks applying for jobs, and didn't have much to show for it for a few weeks. Then, it took a few More weeks to get a decent paycheck, but now I'm getting decent paychecks on a weekly basis...it just takes some time to get started. I'm with >91 dudes22: though in not being quite sure what a para is.... is that short for a part-time sub or...?

Modificato: Nov 30, 2014, 5:10 pm

"Parenthetical? Paranormal?"
Now, that's funny!
Para is short for paraprofessional, sometimes called teacher aide or instructional aide.
Unless, of course, cammykitty is in fact paranormal! :)

Nov 30, 2014, 6:49 pm

>93 -Eva-:, thank you lol :)

Modificato: Dic 9, 2014, 3:02 pm

J. Politics #7: Miss Chopsticks by Xinran

How I Picked it Up: I discovered Xinran while looking for "X" works for the alphabet challenge. In the end, I'm gad to have read it, and to have discovered that this was just as much about the politics of gender and identity as anything else.

Full Review:

Xinran's Miss Chopsticks is as much an exploration of culture and new discoveries as anything else. Weaving together the stories of three young Chinese women who've ventured into the city to seek work, all three based on real persons she's met in her past, Xinran explores the avenues of choice and identity taken by each young woman.

In whole, this is probably a somewhat optimistic and simplified view into a girl's journey from country to city, self-doubt to self-worth, but the characters are nevertheless believable and engaging, and the book is a real view into the psychological background and surroundings of girls who are otherwise viewed by their culture as little more than burdens.

Absolutely, I recommend this. It is smart and careful, and well worth the read.

Dic 11, 2014, 11:08 am

I. Illness #6: The Afterlife and Other Stories by John Updike

How I Picked This Up: I've really enjoyed Updike's novels in the past, and since I more often discover authors through their short stories (where those stories exist, that is), I thought it was high time that I got around to Updike's. That said, my choice had nothing to do with this category. BUT, so many of the stories centered on illness, disease, or grief, it made sense to put it in this category in the end. Honestly, had I realized that illness would be such a recurring theme in the collection, I wouldn't have picked up just yet, if at all. Still, many of the stories were enjoyable, even if there was too much overlap in theme and character for my taste. Updike is a phenomenal writer--I just believe his writing is more suited to novels...here, I'm afraid the details of language rather overshadowed the details of plot and character, and I just wasn't compelled to continue from one story to the next.

Full Review:

Updike's stories are beautifully written, and the details of life presented here are touchingly real. That said, the characters in many of the stories are similar enough, and the themes similar enough, that it wasn't as compelling as his other work which I've read, and there wasn't enough variety as I'd like in a short story collection, even one from a single author. I did enjoy many of the stories, but I think each might have been more powerful if stumbled across in the midst of other authors or as narratives within a larger framework/novel. Real as they were, I was often left wishing for more.

Dic 17, 2014, 11:20 am

B. Creatures on the Covers #6: The Book of the Lion by Michael Cadnum

How I Picked it Up: I'm working with a 9th grader, tutoring him two times a week. His teacher told them to pick out a book based on their interests (anything as long as it was fiction), and he chose this. When I heard, I thought it was a perfect fit--he loves history, and this is one of the time periods he's told me he's interested in. Unfortunately, it still didn't impress either one of us (and, yes--the student I'm working with actually enjoys reading...).

Full Review:

Cadnum's details of the time period are impressive, and smoothly placed, but his focus on detail and history ends up overshadowing any potential depth in character or plot. Even though the book is narrated in first person, and it seems pretty clear we're supposed to see Edmund grow as he becomes a squire, gains responsibility, and travels, there just doesn't seem to be much depth here, and if you're not engaged with the history itself, you're not going to be engaged with the book.

I read this while working with a ninth grade boy who was reading the book for a book report, and it really should have been right up his alley based on his interests in history (this branch of it, in fact); yet, both of us were left less than engaged and, in the end, disappointed. When reading it, I thought perhaps it would engage him in a way it didn't reach me--because of my student's interests, specifically. Instead, I'm only left wondering if this was made a National Book Award Finalist solely based on Cadnum's flair with historical detail.

Well-written and historically detailed? Absolutely. Interesting and engaging as a story with a plot and characters? Not so much.

Dic 21, 2014, 11:29 am

E. Who They Might Have Been #8: 58 Degrees North: The Mysterious Sinking of the Arctic Rose by Hugo Kugiya

How I Picked It Up: I've had this for some time, but picked it up in November for the disaster randomcat challenge--I didn't end up finishing it, obviously, but only because so many little things popped up, it being the season for surprises and whatnot (and a heavy work schedule!).

Full Review:

Kugiya's exploration of the Arctic Rose's disastrous end is a comprehensive look at the men who worked aboard her and the circumstances that might have led to her destruction. Through looks at character, at science, and at the accepted dangers of commercial fishing, the book comes together as both a case study and a look back in honor of the fifteen men who died in April of 2001, likely before anyone realized something was wrong, let alone attempted to move forward in rescue.

The story is heartbreaking, but told with careful attention to detail, to respect, to history, and to the realities of the fishing industry, as it stands. For anyone interested in knowing more about how the industry works, the dangers and the realities and the pleasures and the difficulties, this is a must-read. For anyone simply looking for a real story of the men of the Arctic Rose, or an attempt at untangling the loss and the mystery of all of it, this is also a must-read.


Modificato: Dic 21, 2014, 11:44 am

F. Art and Artists #8: Summertime by J.M. Coetzee

How I Picked It Up: I'm a long-time fan of Coetzee, so this was the perfect way to meet the GeoCat challenge and read another work by a favorite author.

Full Review:

What a strange and wandering story, amounting to something both pedestrian and fascinating, and somewhat unnerving. Coetzee's picture of (himself? a fictional version of himself? a writer who only shares his name?) as told through interviews and snippets of events is a balancing act of art and memory and defense.

All told, this isn't as compelling as some of Coetzee's other novels, but it is strangely engaging, and more and more disturbing as it moves forward, amounting to a more and more jarring picture of the disconnect between a writer, a person, and the world that views him up close.

Altogether, I do have to recommend this, especially for fans of Coetzee and for artists or writers.

Dic 28, 2014, 11:50 am

I. Illness #7: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

How I Picked It Up: The cover drew me in--and I'm not sure I could have resisted the cover even if the jacket hadn't made it sound so interesting. But, science? Undiscovered people and creatures? Gorgeous cover? I had to pick it up...

Full Review:

Yanagihara has crafted a frighteningly believable, and an incredibly strange, story with this novel. Maybe more than any other novel I've read, it truly reads as the piece of nonfiction/memoir it is meant to represent--what I mean by this is that you'll have to remind yourself, over and over again, that you are reading fiction. As such, the reading is sometimes dry, and it might not come together in the fashion you'd expect of a novel, but it is a strange journey in and of itself.

Questions of ethics, of personal and professional responsibility, and of health and science are interwoven into nearly every page of the novel, creating a web of situations which are as difficult for the reader to approach objectively as they are for the scientist/narrator to approach from a more public subjectivity. In the end, readers read about his actions through a film of horrified fascination, finding his beliefs and actions all too possible, all too reminiscent of how a scientist might move in an unknown world.

Is this horrifying and uncomfortable and strange? Yes. Are the descriptions and built worlds as beautiful as they are foreign, as believable as they are new? Yes. Does this piece of fiction read like nonfiction, built true to life? Yes. Is it hard to read, hard to accept, and frightening to contemplate, expertly crafted and carefully considered? Absolutely, and that's why it's just so terrible as it is wonderful.

Recommended for anyone interested--this one won't be for everyone, but it is worth the journey, oddly enough, and it won't be easily forgotten.

Dic 29, 2014, 12:19 pm

I. Illness #8: Hungry Gods by J.D. Brink

How I Picked It Up: Okay, so it's kind of a stretch for this to be fitting in this category, but since zombie(hood?) is sort of an illness, I'm making the stretch to allow myself to finish up this category :) This came to me by way of an author I work with professionally, and I'm also glad to recommend his work!

So, if you like superheroes, or zombies, or know someone who does...

Full Review:

Brink's writing is full of adventure, humor, and enough suspense and action to keep you reading until the book is done. If you've never thought about reading a book about a superhero instead of a comic or a movie, this is the change you'll want to take.

Spitball is your average mostly-unknown superhero, ready and waiting for his opportunity to save the world, so when the country's most well-known superheroes are missing and his government comes asking for help, he can't help but jump at the chance. What follows is a fast-paced adventure built from too-believable situations and hugely engaging superheroes.

If you or someone you know is a fan of action/adventure books or superhero stories, you'll want to pick up Brink's work the first change you get...

So, yes, absolutely recommended!

Dic 29, 2014, 4:08 pm

Sounds like you had fun reading Hungry Gods!

Dic 29, 2014, 5:04 pm

I did :) I don't think I would have found it if the author hadn't hired me as an editor, but I had a blast with the reading, continually reminding myself that I had to go slowly to make sure the work was getting done while I was enjoying myself!

(And, nope, I don't leave reviews for even half of what I edit--I just offer positive reviews to the books that I really feel deserve it!)

Dic 31, 2014, 11:52 am

You always read the most interesting books. So many book bullets, so little time!

Dic 31, 2014, 12:21 pm

>104 paruline:, thanks :) And yes, always too many books and too little time!

Dic 31, 2014, 1:40 pm

Have a great 2015 with lots of good books!

Dic 31, 2014, 8:08 pm

You too :)

Dic 31, 2014, 8:18 pm

M. The Giveaways #10: The Sexy Librarian's Big Book of Erotica edited by Rose Caraway

How I Picked It Up: True to the category, this was a win from the Librarything Early Reviewer's Group.

Full Review:

Unlike most of the erotica collections I've come across, this one is filled with stories which are both varied and wonderfully written, stories that are worth reading and engaging on a human level, and not just included to balance out others or on the basis of particular scenes. All told, even the stories here which were (far far) beyond anything I'd find erotically interesting were still so well-written and so cleverly executed that I didn't have any desire to skim over them or skip them entirely, as has always been my instinct with some stories in other (similar) collections. Rather than seeking out a best-of collection the next time in the market for a collection like this, I'll look instead to works edited by Rose Caraway.

If you're looking for a collection of erotica, or want to know whether erotica can be literary as well, this might just be worth your while.

For what it is? Recommended.

Gen 1, 2015, 9:10 am

Well, I managed to fit in one more finish last night before it struck midnight! Happy New Year, Everyone!

B. Creatures on the Covers #7: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

How I Picked it Up: I enjoy archaeology-related fiction, and I stumbled across this when I already knew I needed an 'X' book title-wise, so I picked it up to read almost as soon as I found it...

Full Review:
Hamilton's details of Mayan history, archaeology, and artifacts are interesting and beautifully woven into the fabric of the mystery, but that said, they rather overshadow everything else (and this is coming from someone who truly has an interest in those details!). In comparison, there was just too little attention to characterization but in the opening pages, and actual action (as opposed to thought or discussion) was so rare and quick that it might be slipped into the space of a paragraph, until the very end...and even then it was rushed.

All told, anyone coming to this for the discovery of a new mystery writer or a bit of suspense will likely be disappointed. The focus is on the interwoven details, and I'm afraid I wasn't pulled in enough by the character to try the next book in the series.