Monday, February 28, 2011

February - This Month in Reading

Hard to believe it is almost March 2011! Last month my goals for Feb. were: to read more than 10 books, stay caught up with the War and Peace chapters, and read at least one of my TBR Pile challenge books. I am happy to say I met the goals. I read 11 books, of which 2 were for the TBR Pile challenge, and I am completely caught up for the W&P challenge (Chapter 11 of Book 3 is on deck for tomorrow!). I also managed to complete Level 2 for the Buck Stops Here Challenge. On the down side, I didn't manage to add to the Forgotten Treasures Challenge, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, or the Read Outside Your Comfort Zone Challenge (ROYCZC).

For March, I have banned myself from the library. I have been bringing home too many books from the Library Sale shelves and so I am not going to go there at all, in order to resist temptation and to read what I already have. I also decided that all books I read in March must come from these Library Sale books, with the exception of Harry Potter books, which I can read for the Hogwarts Challenge (which ends in a few months). I know at least two of these books fit in with my ROYCZC genres/book types so I should be able to get started with that as well. 

Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro

I am not a huge fan of short stories, for many reasons - I think that oftentimes they are too impressionistic and I am left wanting more. This was no real exception, despite my admiration for the author's other books I've read. I didn't dislike the stories, but I felt like I didn't quite grasp them either. This contrasts with The Elephant Vanishes, a short story collection by another of my favorites, Haruki Murakami, which I really like. In fact, I gave away my copy to someone I thought could also appreciate them, and I need to replace this very soon, as I've been wanting to reread one of the stories in that collection lately.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Terrible Times - Philip Ardagh

Book 3 of the Eddie Dickens trilogy (at long last). A cute little series and a fast read. I also liked the illustrations by David Roberts.

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

This book had been recommended to me by a friend who also reads a lot, and I have seen it on a few "best books"/"books you should read" type lists so I finally made it a priority. I found it to be an absorbing story, even though it seems aimed at Baby Boomers, and I can see why they would love it, while missing some low-key criticism of their generation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Whales on Stilts - M.T. Anderson

Fooled you! Somehow I read this before Book 3 of the Eddie Dickens series. My, M.T. Anderson has a sly sense of humor! I would love to meet this guy. I got this book at the library and only when I was home realized that I had meant to look for his other books in the more YA section, rather than the J FIC section where I found this. An entertaining read anyway and I do look forward to reading more by this author, including the apparent sequel to Octavian Nothing. This book is aimed at kids but has a really fun thread of humor for those of us who are part of the "and up" in "10 and up."

Apropos of nothing, a quote I really liked:

"'How do you get to home, then, when home is in another era?'"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dreadful Acts - Philip Ardagh

Book Two of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy. An entertaining sequel and another fast read. Guess which book is next on the list? :D

A House Called Awful End - Philip Ardagh

Book One of the Eddie Dickens (no relation to Charles, thank goodness) Trilogy. A quick and entertaining read I found at the library. The illustrations are fun too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim

I enjoyed this book even though it was sometimes harrowing. I know next to nothing about Korean culture/history, and particularly the Japanese occupation of Korea at the beginning of the 20th Century, and this book made me want to learn more. It's also based on the author's family's experiences, making it that much more interesting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Haweswater - Sarah Hall

Another book based on real events that I knew nothing about, although to be fair they took place in the north of England at the beginning of the 20th century. Well written and affecting and was written in such a way that I had to take my time to finish. I may just have to read the second book by this author, although for some reason I seem to keep finding piles of books that need reading, as if they are multiplying.... at least I won't run out of books to complete the challenges! Another 50 cent Library Sale book. My library gets some gems in with the typical books that get donated for resale :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Read Outside Your Comfort Zone Challenge

This is an interesting challenge, and I feel like I should do it. I tell anyone who asks that I will read anything interesting, and it's true - but there are definite exceptions: Westerns, religious-themed books, Nicholas Sparks-type books, romance novels, Civil War military biographies, non-Harry Potter books with dragons (I used to love them, but it's all over now), classic literature written before 1850, etc. I think I can definitely find many, many books that will break me out of my comfort zone! Here's the link to the challenge: I'm going to go all in at the highest level, Exploring the Unknown (16-20 books), what the heck. Should be fun!

1. Leah's Choice - Marta Perry (religious-themed romance novel)
2. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (classic written before 1850)
3. Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede (book with dragons)
4. How Dolly Parton Saved My Life - Charlotte Connors (chick lit type novel with pervasive religious content)
5. Home Fires - Candace Schuler (straight-up romance novel) (and yes, I originally typed "Fries" - ha!)
6. Gingerbread Girl - Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (graphic novel)
7. Those Across the River - Christopher Buehlman (horror)
8. Taggart - Louis L'Amour (Western)
9. Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella (chick lit type book)
10. The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks (Nicholas Sparks book)
11. A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs (sci-fi/fantasy)

Comment added Dec. 31, 2011: This was the only challenge that I "failed" this year. Apparently it is harder to read books outside of my comfort zone than I would have thought! I enjoyed most of the books I read for this challenge, so that was good - I was glad I could discover new books, including graphic novels, which I now appreciate, and some classics. I even confirmed that at least one book on the list was as uninteresting to me as I thought it would be :-) I was really hoping to get to at least 16 books, but I did manage 11, so it wasn't a total bust. In any case, this is a great way to approach reading, and to make sure that as a reader I am not passing up great books because they aren't something I would normally read. I will keep that in my mind as I read in 2012 and beyond.

The House with a Clock in its Walls - John Bellairs

A fun, quick read with a bonus - illustrations by Edward Gorey! I have no idea where I actually got this book but I assume it was from the Library Sale. Read in its entirety on a plane ride with tons of time to move on to the next book (currently in progress :) ).

Portrait of an Unknown Woman - Vanora Bennett

Another 50 cent Library Sale paperback. Read it in its entirety on a plane ride. Enjoyed the story as another historical novel set around the time of Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn. Also takes care of another of my TBR Pile Challenge books.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets/George's Mother - Stephen Crane

This qualifies as both a bargain (under $1.00) book and a forgotten treasure. I am counting this as one book as my edition had both of these novellas in a single paperback, although Maggie was originally published in 1893 and George in 1896. I liked both, they reminded me of Frank Norris' McTeague in many ways, which I guess is because they all seem to be influenced by naturalism. Sad stories, well told.