Saturday, April 30, 2016

April - This Month in Reading

April got away from me - between some out of town company, work, classes, volunteering, and general life stuff, I only managed to read 7 books, or about half of my goal of 12. On the other hand, 6 of the books I did read were from the TBR pile, and not from the library, etc., so I'm happy with that. I also managed to make a better dent in a couple of my reading challenges, so I'm also happy with that. I didn't manage to do a reread this month, but I'm sure I can work in at least one if not 2 for May, so I'll work on that.

Speaking of May, I plan to continue the library ban and keep concentrating on the books I have on hand. I have a couple NetGalley books in the queue, but in general I plan to keep working on the challenge books as much as I can.

How was your April reading?


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Little Joe Otter - Thornton W. Burgess

After The Silent Cry, I needed a book that was light as a feather, and this one neatly fit the bill. Once again, this is a vintage children's book I found on the Library Sale shelves. Sadly, I only found 2 books in this series of four "Smiling Pool" books, but maybe I'll be able to pick up the others somewhere else.

In any case, these are charming books. I love how the author  calls the animals "little people" because I think of animals as people too. Unlike many authors of this era (the 1920s), Burgess' animals have agency, and are smart and resourceful and are not just there to be imprisoned or blown away by humans. The story moves along nicely and is engaging for the reader. There are even some nice illustrations by Harrison Cady, including the one on the cover shown below.

As you can see, the cover is green, so I am claiming this book 
for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge - hooray! 

All in all, these are nice books and if you like vintage children's books, you will most likely enjoy these as much as I did. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Silent Cry - Kenzaburo Oe

Readers, I apologize upfront if this review sounds really strange, it's that this book left me in a kind of book daze, with my mind immersed in the story, unable to entirely shake it off. I wasn't even sure I liked this book when I first started reading it, and in fact, I'm still not 100% sure if I "liked" it, but I can tell you that I was drawn in to the story and it has been living in my mind for a while now. Much of the book is somewhat unpleasant, and it's about as far as one can get from a comedy or from "light reading," and yet it has burrowed into my mind and won't let go.

In my mind, this book was reminiscent of Robert Frost's classic poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening; literally, because some of the story takes place in or near the woods, and figuratively, because of the unspoken depth - and possibly menace - the reader feels while reading. This book has so many layers that one could write a 40+ page thesis paper on it - and then write another, and another, and another, without ever considering the same element. I feel like I will have to read this book again in the future to satisfy a need to plumb the depths a bit. Recommended - if you're looking for something to think about.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale

This nonfiction book has been patiently waiting to be read for years, and I have no idea why I never picked it up before now. It works as a classic whodunit, as the reader follows the investigation into the shocking murder of a young child in the 1860s. Detectives were just coming into their own as part of the police force at this time, so we also get some of that history as well as the emergence of detectives in fiction in this well written book. The titular Mr. Whicher was one of Scotland Yard's best detectives, and was well known in his time - he met Dickens, who probably based at least one character on him. Whicher's investigation was partially hampered by the Victorian mores of the time but all in all it seems that he was very wise. I won't say any more so as to avoid any spoilers, but it's a great read for mystery fans or history buffs, or anyone who enjoys good writing and a good story. Recommended.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Before the Fall - Noah Hawley

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been otherwise compensated for this review in any way and my opinion is my own.

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I immediately recognized the author's name as the creator of the amazing and wonderful Fargo TV show and as a big fan I jumped at the chance to request this book. Holy moly readers, can Noah Hawley tell a story. The pacing is phenomenal, and each character is a fully realized person. The way the story is structured gives the reader context and background that adds depth. This book is the ultimate beach read - it's a page turner that you don't want to put down, but it's also well written and has depth. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Adventures of Pinocchio - C. Collodi (Carlo Lorenzini)

In a way, I can't believe that it never occurred to me to read this book when I was a kid; much like Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, I feel like I should have read this back then, but somehow didn't. A couple years ago I found a vintage copy of this book on the Library Sale shelves for the princely sum of $1. I'm not sure how old it actually is, as there's no date, but I suppose it's from the 1930s or so, and I love vintage kids' books so I was happy to find it. And now I've actually read it too!

Of course I've seen the animated Disney film version of this book, but it was a long time ago so I only really remember the high points. Even so, I recognized most of them, in slightly different form at times. I can easily see why the Disney screenwriters made the changes they did; the film's story has a better flow and makes more sense compared to the book, which is more episodic - it's easy to see that the book was actually released in serial form. The story is pretty obviously a cautionary tale, designed to keep kids on the straight and narrow by providing scary tales of what happens to naughty little boys (naughty little girls are not specifically covered). It's super transparent to an adult reader in 2016, but it's still an entertaining story. And it did make me want to buy a spelling book and go to school, ha ha. Fun vintage read for all ages.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Conversation - Jean d'Ormesson

This book was my prize for winning French Bingo last year (merci encore, Emma!). The book's subtitle is The Night Napoleon Changed the World, and it's a transcript of a fictional conversation between Napoleon and his Second Consul, Jean-Jacques Cambacérès, in which Napoleon outlines his plans for his empire, and explains its philosophical underpinnings. According to the preface, the author based Napoleon's dialogue on contemporary accounts of things he actually said, and the dialogue does seem very plausible as a result. This book is small in size but it paints a very detailed picture of the mind of the man who, in some ways, created a new France after the revolution. This would be a great book for a history buff.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Case of Two Cities - Qiu Xiaolong

Inspector Chen is in hot water in this installment of the series - and he gets to travel, which adds a new dimension to the story. I like how each book has a crime that gets solved, but it's all in a larger context of politics and etc. that gets slightly more complicated and intriguing every time. As I read this series, I find myself really liking the character of Peiqin a lot. I find her to be a very sympathetic character, and I want to know more about her. All in all I am so happy that I picked up this book by chance during the Borders last days sale, so I could discover this amazing series and fall in love with it. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March - This Month in Reading

Ok readers, I have made an effort to stop repeating this time-flies sentiment in every month-end wrapup post, but I honestly can't believe it's going to be April 2016. It really feels like I was just doing the usual end-of-year-mad-reading-dash to finish up some 2015 challenges!

Last month, I wrote that I wanted to read 12 books, and get started reading books from my TBR pile in March. I just missed my goal, reading 11 books, but I did in fact get started reading from the TBR pile, so I'm happy with that. I think that since today is the end of the first quarter of 2016, a quick challenge status report is in order:

Back to the Classics Challenge - 4/12 books read - not bad! I'm happy with this.

Mount TBR Challenge - 14/60 books read - I'd have to read 5 books per month to keep up a good steady pace for this challenge, and this is just one book off, so I'm happy with this as well.

Color-Coded Reading Challenge - 5/9 books read - excellent! Looks like white and brown (as usual) will be my problem color categories this year. Suggestions appreciated!

Read It Again, Sam - 3/16+ books - slow start, but I think this will work out OK.

2016 Banned Books Challenge - 2/3 - 5 banned or challenged books read - so this one is doing fine. I'm hoping to read more than 5, but if it doesn't work out, I'll be OK.

Books in Translation - 13/10 - 12 books read - well, I guess this challenge is technically completed! LOL I will check in to moving up into a different category, since I know I have more translated books that I will be reading.

French Bingo 2016 - 1 book read so far - I need to get moving on this one. I plan to read some foreign-language books this summer so that will help, if I don't manage to read any other applicable books soon.

Literary Loners Reading Challenge 2016 - 12 books about loners, introverts, etc. read so far - it helped that Harry Hole is a loner, so there were a few books right there.

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge - 21/26 books read so far - I'm still missing books with titles beginning with J, U, V, X and Z - suggestions appreciated!

TBR Pile Challenge - 1/12 challenge and 0/2 bonus books read so far - this one got off to a slow start because I chose books from a series, etc., but this should pick up considerably in April.

LGBTQIA Reading Challenge - 1/5 books read - another slow start that I'm hoping picks up soon.

All in all, this is not too bad!

For April, I'd like to read at least 12 books, and I'd really like to concentrate on challenge books. I've decided to take a break from the library for the next couple months, so I can work on the books I have on hand. Possibly this summer I'll have to do some more challenge-related library book reading, since I have more series books in the TBR Pile Challenge list, but I hope to be in good shape otherwise.

How was your first quarter of 2016 reading?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Reread - Finn Family Moomintroll - Tove Jansson

Readers, I goofed. I thought this book was the first one in the series, and didn't double-check before I started reading. So now I've re-read this book out of order. Sigh! Oh well, if that's the worst thing that happens to me this week, that's not so bad, eh? ;)

I loved this series so much when I was a kid. It's so imaginative, and the author's illustrations are fantastic. The Moomins are soooooo cute! Even the more "unpleasant" characters aren't too bad, and are in fact usually rather cute as well. As an adult I identify more and more with the cranky but amusing Muskrat. I like that there are "problems" in the book, but they are not that big of a deal, and are solved fairly easily, with no true strife. This is a nice book with nice characters who are generally kind, and a welcome antidote to the less-nice aspects of real life. Recommended.