Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July - This Month in Reading

I finally picked up the pace in July, and managed a whopping 13 books, more than any other month so far in 2012. At the beginning of the month, I decided that since I needed to go to the library, I may as well read as many books as possible for my reading challenges this year, and I managed to read multiple books for the Around the World Challenge, so that was good. I also managed to read a book for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, and a couple for the Mixing It Up Challenge. I failed to read one of my TBR books, but at least I got more caught up on my other challenges.

I also corrected my error and started the Planet Earth Challenge, which should be fun.

For August, I would like to again concentrate on reading specifically for my challenges with the goal of finishing as many of the challenges as possible by the end of August, so that I can once again stop going to the library and concentrate on reducing my massive TBR pile. I will set the official goal at five books , however, one for each challenge plus an extra from the TBR Challenge.

How was your reading this month?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe - Sophie Warne

Another travel guide. This one also had a lot of useful information about the countries, some of Africa's smallest. Apparently Gabon is a place where people can observe gorillas in the wild, which would be an amazing experience, as well as view all sorts of wildlife over all kinds of terrain, from beach to mountains. ST&P seem fascinating if small; I think that would be the charm of a visit. Very comprehensive guides overall.

4,000 Days - Warren Fellows

The subtitle of this book is My Life and Survival in a Bangkok Prison and after reading this I can't believe he, or anyone else for that matter, survived this ordeal. I have never been inclined to commit crimes in general or to smuggle drugs in particular, but even if I were, reading this would scare me straight. It was a gripping book overall.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Planet Earth Challenge

I am a total dummy.

I recently realized that what I was trying to accomplish with the Around the World Challenge I set for myself for 2012 would have been better done using my enormous TBR pile and simply keeping track of the countries that serve as the settings for the books I read. Instead, I ended up going to the library, which led to reading non-TBR-pile books that aren't for challenges, the purchase of more irresistible 50 cent Library Sale paperbacks (which swells my TBR pile rather than reducing it), etc. etc.

To remedy this situation, I decided to create another, similar challenge, which I'll call the Planet Earth Challenge. This challenge will be to keep track of the countries that serve as settings for the books I read, with the goal of someday reading a book set in each country on the list of world countries I used for the Around the World Challenge. To qualify, a book must have at least 75% of its action take place in the country I'm claiming for it; for example, although a small part of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo takes place outside of Sweden, at least 75% of the book is set in Sweden, so I'd use it for my Sweden-set book.

I am not quitting the Around the World Challenge, but I am going to fold those books into this challenge by counting them for this as well.

To make this somewhat fair, I will allow myself to go back to January 2012 and count the books I've read so far this year for this challenge, since the Around the World Challenge was originally begun in January 2012; 2011 books will not count.

I'll keep track of the books for this challenge in this post, using the number of the country on the list, so the numbers will be all out of order until I read them all!

As always, feel free to join me in this, or let me know if you've been doing something similar so we can  compare notes!

This is the site I used as my list of countries.

15. Australia - Lights Over Emerald Creek - Shelley Davidow

31. Botswana - A Carrion Death - Michael Stanley

45. Cayman Islands - Cayman Islands - Tricia Hayne
46. Central African Republic - Culture and Customs of the Central African Republic - Jaqueline Woodfork

49. China - Years of Red Dust - Qiu Xiaolong

63. Cyprus - Othello - William Shakespeare

65. Denmark - The History of Danish Dreams - Peter Høeg

71. Egypt - Palace of Desire - Naguib Mahfouz

82. France - The Man in the Iron Mask - Alexandre Dumas

86. Gabon Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe - Sophie Warne

94. Greece - A Dark Enchantment - Roland Vernon

109. Hungary - Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - Julian Rubinstein

111. India - Sacred Games - Vikram Chandra

113. Iran - Embroideries - Marjane Satrapi
114. Iraq - Late for Tea at the Deer Palace - Tamara Chalabi
115. Ireland - In The Woods - Tana French

121. Japan - Plum Wine - Angela Davis-Gardner

132. Laos - The Merit Birds - Kelley Powell

147. Mali - White Leopard - Laurent Guillaume

172. Nigeria - Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

176. Norway - Sophie's World - Jostein Gaarder

184. Peru - Touching the Void - Joe Simpson

193. Russia - Snowdrops - A.D. Miller

202.  São Tomé and Príncipe - Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe - Sophie Warne

206. Seychelles - Seychelles - Sarah Carpin

215. Spain - Captain Alatriste - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

221. Swaziland - Sangoma - James Hall
222. Sweden - Let The Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist

225. Taiwan - Taroko Gorge - Jacob Ritari

227. Tanzania - Green Hills of Africa - Ernest Hemingway
228. Thailand - 4,000 Days - Warren Fellows

235. Tunisia - Benny and Omar - Eoin Colfer
236. Turkey - My Name Is Red - Orhan Pamuk

238 +. Tuva - The Blue Sky - Galsan Tschinag

243. United Kingdom
243a. England - The Coma - Alex Garland
243b. Wales - How Green Was My Valley - Richard Llewellyn
243c. Scotland - The Blackhouse - Peter May

256. Zambia - In My Family Tree - Sheila Siddle with Doug Cress

Chicken with Plums - Marjane Satrapi

Couldn't resist completing my Marjane Satrapi reading. Another wonderful book that I wish had been 100 times longer. You know you love a book when all you want to do is keep experiencing it! I just found out I missed an opportunity to see the author live here in April - aaarrrrggghhh! I'm so sorry I missed that. Oh well, I can content myself with the books and hope that there is a next time and when it comes I'll be more in the loop. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - Julian Rubinstein

Found this book while searching for books set in Hungary for the Around the World Challenge. I hadn't heard of the Whiskey Robber before reading the book, which is a fascinating account of Attila Ambrus, who robbed banks and eluded police in Budapest in the 1990s. I will say that I was surprised by some clunky turns of phrase I didn't expect, but the story was engrossing and it left me wanting to learn more about the events and people described.

Babycakes - Armistead Maupin

What can I say, I've been in the mood for more stories about these characters, plus I have the latest book in the series on my TBR pile, so I have to read the preceding books to catch up and read that one. I still wonder if Baby Boomers really smoked this much pot and etc. in the 80s, but otherwise I enjoyed this book.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Don't judge me, reader, I often pick up random books at the library on a whim, and this is one of those books. I think I'm too old for these teenage-drama books, but I'm not exactly the target market, and I'm sure if I were I would have liked this book quite a bit. It was a fast read that was pleasant enough, and now I can choose to see the movie if it comes on cable.

Embroideries - Marjane Satrapi

Felt compelled to get this book so I could continue to experience the author's art and writing after finishing Persepolis 2 and wanting more. Another fascinating graphic novel I can highly recommend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cayman Islands - Tricia Hayne

I did not intend to read travel guides when I thought up the Around the World Challenge, but as I am having trouble finding books for some of the countries I chose I picked up a couple such books so I can fulfill my challenge, and this book was one of them. Of course, if I manage to find a different book that is set in the Cayman Islands in 2012, I'll read it, but for now this will have to do.

While not a novel or a nonfiction book set in the Cayman Islands, etc., this book did have a nice summarized history of the islands. I have to say reading this book did make me want to visit these islands, and I'm not a tropics/heat/beach person at all. Of the three islands, I think it would be nicest to visit the smallest and least developed, Cayman Brac, as it would provide the least crowded snorkeling sites, and less crowded bird watching opportunities, etc. So maybe someday I'll take a vacation there and have the challenge and this book to thank.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Green Was My Valley - Richard Llewellyn

I admit this book was chosen because I had heard of it and I needed a book with "green" in the title for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge. Aside from the title, I knew nothing else about it, but now I know it's a book about a Victorian-era Welsh family of coal miners, who are living through a time of great upheaval in terms of the beginnings of the labor movement and unions, and workers trying to improve their working conditions, pay, etc. I found the book to be more absorbing and compulsively readable than I thought I would, and I enjoyed the narrator's voice. The writing has some beautiful turns of phrase and imagery, although it got just a little bit ponderous now and again. I also enjoyed the Welsh rhythm to the narration, although of course its written in English. Welsh is a really cool language; if you need proof, go to YouTube and search for "Ioan Gruffydd on Graham Norton speaking Welsh" and see for yourself. Overall I am glad I read this book and I would recommend it as a classic.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Persepolis 2 - Marjane Satrapi

These books are never long enough for me - they are so absorbing I could read them for hours and hours. As with the previous volume, the deceptively simple artwork makes the content powerful. I will have to explore the author's other works and prioritize the film version. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

This book was all over book blogs last year, and I was intrigued but I had so many other books to read I put off adding my name to the library hold list to read it. Now that I have been back at the library for my challenges, I decided to add my name to a now much shorter list. I love, love, love vintage photographs, particularly weird ones and particularly photos from the very late 19th/very early 20th century, so this book's use of them as illustrations was right up my street, and I loved that. The story was not at all what I had expected, but I enjoyed it, and I suspect there will be a series of books with these characters and I will definitely read them. I very much enjoyed this book and I believe I would have loved it as a young adult as well. Recommended.

Culture and Customs of the Central African Republic - Jacqueline Woodfork

When I thought up the Around the World Challenge for myself, I didn't think it would be that hard to find a book set in every country on Earth. I pictured myself reading a lot of novels, with most (I hoped) written by authors from the countries I chose at random. Well, that is not how things have happened - it's a LOT harder to find books set in smaller countries than I would have thought!

Which brings me to this book. I was lucky enough to get this book through the library, and although initially I was hoping for a novel, this book turned out to be interesting. I enjoyed learning about a country I previously knew nothing about (except that it was in Africa). Apparently it is part of a series of similar books, but unfortunately none of the other books in the series are about any of the other countries on my list. Although I did enjoy this book, I have to say I was surprised that the main city in the CAR, Bangui, which is mentioned a lot throughout the book, is not pictured on the map of the CAR that is included in the book - ? I had to look it up on Google Maps to see where it is located. Also, I would have liked to know a little about the author - is she from the CAR? Has she lived there? Studied the country extensively? The book doesn't say. Overall though I am glad to make some progress with my challenge and to learn about a country that is not much talked about it seems.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Further Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin

I meant to sneak this book in last month since it's not technically for any challenges, but didn't quite make it. Another entertaining book about characters I like. Yes, there are still really far-fetched things that happen, and everyone is always smoking dope (although if that is accurate, it explains a lot of the entertainment produced in the late 1970s - early 1980s), but it's a fun, fast read. Also, I snagged the most recent book in this series at Borders so I need to read the other books so I can read that one from the TBR pile. Recommended.