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This is not a “Best of 2010” post. Every book blogger and their third cousin is posting one of those between the middle of December and the second week of January so I’m not going to add to the pile. If you’re looking for what books I liked best check out the “my highly recommended shelf on Goodreads" widget or go to the ‘categories’ and select 4.5 or 5 stars.
What I am going to do is look back at my reading and blogging year and look forward to my reading and blogging for 2011.
I read fewer books in 2010 than I did in 2009 and you know what? That’s just fine with me. The number of books, pages, and hours of audiobooks really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I liked most of what I read this year. I joined fewer challenges and spent more time reading what I wanted to read whenever I felt like reading it. I did find myself getting sucked into a couple of challenges I hadn’t planned on and what I learned from that experience is that I shouldn’t do that. I enjoy the idea of challenges and find that making reading lists for challenges much more enjoyable to me than actually reading the books once the lists are made. A couple of those unplanned challenges ended up making me feel more structured in my reading than I would prefer to be.
I set a couple of specific goals about books I wanted to read in 2010 and only partially completed those. I did read some of what I’d listed early in 2010, but not all of them. The good news is that some of the books I read instead were great! (Lonesome Dove is a perfect example).
So what are my plans for next year? I’m not setting ‘goals’ because even that is more structured than I want to be in my reading plans. I’m only joining one challenge (the What’s In a Name 4 Challenge) and that one is still on the table only because it’s my absolute favorite.
As for reading plans, I’m not specifying any numbers, hours, pages or even specific books. What I want to do in 2011 is read what I want, when I want, have fun with my blog and the people I've met (whether in person or virtually) because it exists.
In terms of blogging, one thing I am working on is a new template for my blog. I’ll be making that change tomorrow and will have the ‘new look’ up and public on January 1st. I do hope to get an index of books I’ve blogged about in place both by author and by title. I’m not setting a date for that, but I'd like to get that going sooner rather than later. There are a couple of changes with the new template that I’ll talk about when it goes live.
I also hope to be much more regular about my occasional feature “Confessions of a Serial Reader”. I’m still hesitant to call it a monthly feature, but that’s the interval I have in mind.
My bottom line is that this blog is something I do for fun, just like my reading. I want it to remain fun, because the minute it feels like work, I’ll stop.
>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010
>> Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I’m only doing one challenge in 2011 and I’m only doing this one because it’s been one of my very favorites for the past three years. Originally hosted by Annie, it was taken over last year by the lovely Beth Fish Reads. The reason I love this challenge is that it allows for such a variety of books and flexibility while at the same time requiring some thought and creativity to find books that fit all the categories.
Here's How It Works
Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
- A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
- A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
- A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
- A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
- A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
- A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.
Other Things to Know
- Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
- Books may overlap other challenges.
- Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
- Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
- You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
- You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.
I’m not going to commit to any specific books at this point, but here are some of the books I’m considering for each of the categories.
A book with a number in the title: Hostage Zero by John Gilstrap, 6th Target by James Patterson, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell
A book with a size in the title: Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
A book with travel or movement in the title: Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti
A book with evil in the title: A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava
A book with a life stage in the title: The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham
If you’re interested in participating, this is the link to the information and sign up post.
>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010
>> Friday, December 17, 2010
The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope
The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope
Translated by John Cullen
Publication Date: 2010
Source: eGalley provided by publisher through NetGalley
The Short Version:
In the Basque region of Spain at the time of the civil war, two women from markedly different backgrounds come together to help each other and keep a secret.
Why I Read It:
When I read about this book on the NetGalley site it sounded just so intriguing that I couldn’t resist.
The story takes place both at the time of the Spanish Civil war and many years later when the grandson of one of the two women returns to the family home to spend some time in quiet solitude to study for a legal examination. A lowly maid has inherited the home of her wealthy mistress and now plays host to the grandson.
At the same time that the events of the earlier time are revealed and the different circumstances of the two women plays out, the story of the grandson and his conversations with the friendly neighbor doctor are blended in.
To say much more about the plot would be difficult without giving away events that are better read in the way the author tells them.
This story doesn’t jump back and forth between time frames so much as it swirls in and out and back and forth. Even in translation the writing is hypnotic and beautiful. The story seems a bit slow paced and the ending is fairly clear from early on.
Because of the way the story moves back and forth in time it took me a while to adapt to the way it is told. Although I thought it was good, it was also frustrating in the way the reveal was no surprise at all long before it happened. Yet at the same time the writing and the way the story is told is intriguing and poetic. It was a book I took a long time to read because I had to immerse myself in the story whenever I sat down to read it.
Days later I’m still having a difficult time putting my feelings for this book into a concise few words. I both liked and disliked it and found it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
I think this might be a good book club book because of the way my mixed feelings about it make me want to discuss it with someone else who has read it.
>> Wednesday, December 15, 2010
>> Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross
Series: #10 in the Miss Julia series
Publication Date: 2009
Read by: Cynthia Darlow
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #50
The Short Version:
Lighthearted antics of a Southern ‘woman of a certain age’ who gets herself into a mess while playing cupid and solving a crime.
Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to this series and enjoy the light humor and need to catch up with the most recent books.
This is a series so if you haven’t read the previous books, there might be spoilers of events prior to this one.
Miss Julia as usual manages to get herself all wrapped up in other people’s business while steadfastly declaring that she does no such thing. Miss Julia’s household consists of herself, her longtime housekeeper Lillian, Julia’s kind and charming second husband Sam, and single mother Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd. Hazel Marie is the former girlfriend of Miss Julia’s first husband and Lloyd is his son. If you want to find out how they all end up living happily together at Julia’s, then you’ll just have to read or listen to the earlier books.
After Hazel Marie admits to feeling ill and being concerned that it’s something serious, Miss Julia takes charge (as usual). The doctor’s diagnosis is a surprise to all. On top of that, Miss Julia is distressed to hear that Hazel Marie has broken off her relationship with Private Detective J.D. Pickens. As much as Mr. Pickens drives Miss Julia crazy, she does think he’s good for both Hazel Marie and Lloyd and she’s determined to get the them back together.
Then, Sam’s house that he uses for an office is broken into, vandalized, and burglarized. Julia convinces Sam to put Mr. Pickens on the job and of course, she can’t help getting involved herself.
These are just light enjoyable driving around listening for me. I probably wouldn’t read the books in paper format, but I enjoy listening to them in my short daily driving type of audiobook consumption. The Hazel Marie story is predictable and the outcome is really never in question. The minor mystery of the incident at Sam’s office is less predictable, and a good addition. I was less sure of how that one would play out.
As always I enjoy Miss Julia’s interactions with the other characters, particularly the ladies from her church. Her insistence that she’s not judgmental or a busy body is usually strongest when she is actually being one or the other. Nevertheless her devotion to Hazel Marie, Lloyd, Sam and Lillian show the true kindness in her heart.
Cynthia Darlow does a fairly good job with most of the characters, but I’m not fond of the way she reads Lillian’s character. I think Lillian is much smarter than Ms. Darlow’s vocal characterization makes her out to be.
>> Friday, December 10, 2010
I’ve said many times that I have a ton of series that I’ve either started or wanted to start. I do keep track of them on my “To Be Read Spreadsheet”. Yes, it’s a multipage spreadsheet and not a list – I’m THAT geek. I’ve hesitated to admit just how many series there are on that spreadsheet, but now I have a reason to tell you.
Thanks to Swapna at SKrishna’s Books I have found the most wonderful website for series reading addicts. It’s called FictFact. Registration is free and you can find and follow series easily.
Can't remember what book is next? Want to see how many more are in a series? Want to know when the next one is coming out? This is the site for you.
I bit the bullet and dove in. I have set my list to public so that I can share it. There are (gulp) 62 series that I have either started or wanted to start.
In case you missed that number - here it is - loud and proud
That's right - even if I read a book a week from a current series, I won't hit every series in one year. No wonder I feel like I've neglected some of them. Maybe that's a good subject for next month's 'Confessions'.
You can see my list at this link:
FictFact has some wonderful features. I can get notification of upcoming books for those series where I’m waiting for the next one to be published. I can go to one page and see the list of the ‘next book’ in all my series. There isn’t an iphone app, but I can easily bring this page up when I’m at the bookstore. They're also very responsive. I emailed them yesterday afternoon with a couple of questions and suggestions. I heard back by last night and it turns out that one feature I'd asked about is already in the works and that my other suggestion is under consideration.
Another great future is that I’ve been able to connect with a few of my fellow blogging serial readers and can see what series they are reading or have read. This is great because after all, more series to read is just what I need, right?
What about you? Have you added up your current series? Are you willing to admit to a number?
>> Wednesday, December 8, 2010
>> Friday, December 3, 2010
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Western
Publication Date: 1985
Source: Purchased ebook
The Short Version:
An epic cattle drive from south Texas to Montana, but so very much more.
Why I Read It:
I’ve sort of wanted to maybe sometime read this book for ages and when a readalong with a pace of about 100 pages a week came along I decided to finally take the plunge.
The central story is of two former Texas Rangers who decide to drive a herd of cattle from their little town of Lonesome Dove in the south of Texas to Montana in order to start a ranch in what may be the last untouched frontier in the country.
But oh, the book is so much more than that.
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have been friends, co-workers and business partners for thirty years. They’ve got a small group of men who work for them and the group is pretty much family for all of them. When Jake Spoon (another former Ranger) shows up, he’s on the run after accidentally killing a man in Arkansas. His tales of the beauty of mainly unsettled Montana pique Call’s interest and before long their Hat Creek Cattle Company is hiring more men and heading north with a herd of cattle.
Along with the story of the cattle drive are several additional plot lines. Lorena is the local prostitute who just wants to get out of Lonesome Dove and to San Francisco and when Jake Spoon says he’ll take her there, she finds herself trailing along with the cattle drive. July Johnson is a young idealistic sheriff from Arkansas who is chasing Jake because of the man he killed in Little Rock. July’s unhappy wife is searching for her own path to happiness which may or may not include her husband and child. Clara Allen (Gus McCrae’s former love) is now in Nebraska running a horse ranch with her husband.
All of these stories progress individually and intertwined as this magnificent story unfolds.
Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this book? Now, I can’t wait for The Hubster to read it because I have no doubt he’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
If you have avoided this book because you don’t like “westerns” toss that thought right out of your head. This book is an epic historical fiction story of a time and place that hasn’t existed for a long time. It captured me fairly quickly and even though there were a couple of points where I was ready to move along before the author was, it was truly a wonderful experience to read. It’s part adventure, part love story, part western, part heroic myth, part coming of age story and both funnier and sadder than I’d ever anticipated.
There are so many great characters in this book. Both the heroes and the villains are wonderfully written and there are a few who land in both of those categories. The women characters are obviously limited by the real roles of women in the American west at the time of the story. Yes there is the good hearted prostitute, the outlaw, the naïve young boy, the rancher’s wife, as well as the good and bad among both the Indians and the White men.
Gus and Call are like an old married couple. After being friends and partners for thirty years it fits and feels genuine. Call is quiet and a loner, but Gus is quick witted and cares deeply for those he loves. Many of the supporting characters are just wonderfully written and will stick around in my brain and my heart for a long time.
If you like sweeping historical fiction with a bit of danger and adventure as well as a bit of fun, then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book. It’s totally worth the time. Yes, there are some brutal parts, but life on the frontier was brutal at times. There are also parts that are incredibly beautiful, tender and heartwarming too.
Just read it. Trust me on this.
>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010
>> Monday, November 29, 2010
Thanksgiving weekend is always a blend of busy and fun at our house.
What I did:
Spent time with my family: Had a great time on Thanksgiving Day with family at my Sister-in-Law's house. We pretty much do the same thing every year and keep it pretty simple and stress free. The important part of the day is spending time together.
Football: The Oregon Ducks played a home football game on Friday. This year our Thanksgiving Friday was all about football. We went down to Eugene and despite the cold and wet weather enjoyed cheering the Ducks to a win. We also spent much of Saturday watching college football.
Holiday Decorating: We usually spend much of the Thanksgiving weekend getting our house decorated inside and out for Christmas. Because of the football focus to Friday and Saturday, we didn't finish up the decorating until after dark on Sunday, but it's all done.
What I did not do:
Shop: the very thought of heading to a mall or high traffic store at any time over Thanksgiving weekend, much less on Black Friday just gives me the heebie jeebies. I so do not have the shopping gene.
Read: yup you read that right. I did very little reading over the long weekend. There was just too much other stuff we were doing. This is why I never sign up for the Thankfully Reading event over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I never have much reading time on Thanksgiving weekend.
I maybe read 3 or 4 chapters of Lonesome Dove all weekend. Speaking of Lonesome Dove, I've decided to abandon the Readalong schedule and just focus on that book until I'm done with it. I'm at the point where I don't want to put it aside to read anything else until I'm done with it. Expect a full on gushing review soon. I'm loving it.
>> Thursday, November 25, 2010
>> Wednesday, November 24, 2010
>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Free Fall by Robert Crais
Series: #4 in Elvis Cole series
Publication Date: 1993
Source: Purchased new
The Short Version:
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike take on pretty much everyone in a great combination of humor and action.
Why I Read It:
This is what I consider one of my ‘fun’ detective series and I’m trying to catch up.
Elvis Cole is hired by a young woman to find out what is going on with her fiancé. Mark Thurman is an LA cop and she thinks he’s in some sort of trouble. When Thurman himself shows up in Elvis’ office and basically says ‘go away I’m involved with another woman’, Elvis figures his work is done. Jennifer Sheridan, however refuses to believe it and convinces Elvis to keep digging.
Thurman is part of an elite undercover unit of the LAPD working in the notorious South Central area fresh out of the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. As Elvis keeps digging he finds some things about this unit that just don’t seem to add up to honest police work.
Possible crooked cops, gangs and a wrongful death suit against the unit that was mysteriously dropped all indicate that something isn’t right.
Elvis and his partner, the wonderfully scary but fun Joe Pike, take on both the cops and the gangs in search of the truth while trying keep themselves and their client alive.
I just love Elvis Cole. He’s a great mix of smart detective who genuinely cares about people and has no patience for nonsense. He’s got a great sarcastic wit which makes the books a perfect blend of interesting mystery and action with moments that make me laugh. Joe Pike is just awesomely scary and cool and definitely the man I’d want looking out for me. Yes, they’re tough guys who can banter with the best of them (Ok, Elvis banters, and Joe makes profound statements with either a single word or look), but they have a great sense of justice and want to see the right result to any situation.
This one takes place in LA with the Rodney King incident and riots still fresh in everyone’s mind. When Elvis and Joe discover that there’s some sort of police corruption mixed up with dangerous gang leaders they can’t let it go. Going against both street gangs and an LAPD unit straight out of FX’s The Shield? Of course I’d bet on Elvis and Joe.
I’m kind of glad I didn’t discover this series fairly recently because I have a lot of backlist to work my way through before I’m in that awful position of having to wait for the next book to be published. The series is just getting better with every book.
>> Monday, November 22, 2010
When I did my first “Confessions of a Serial Reader” post, I said it was going to be an occasional feature here, but looking back it appears that it’s been far more occasional than I originally intended. I never wanted to be too strict about scheduling the posts, but I didn’t intend it to be quite so long between posts. Maybe I can shoot for at least monthly in the future? We’ll see.
I spent some time last week updating my To Be Read Spreadsheet and making sure that my spreadsheet, my current books and ebooks, my library wish list and my Goodreads “To Read” list were all in sync. It was a time consuming project because I had been hit and miss lately on keeping everything up to date.
Part of the process was to update the sheet in my TBR spreadsheet where I track all my current series and where I am in the series and the title of the next book. This is the page I rely on when I’m at the library or the bookstore and it’s also the one that’s a bit overwhelming when I see how many series I’ve started.
While I was updating my series page I did some weeding out and removed the series I’ve chosen to abandon as well as adding the new series I’ve started recently.
New Series I’ve added to my list:
Series I’ve started but abandoned:
What about you? What series have you added or abandoned recently?
>> Friday, November 19, 2010
A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta
Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Lincoln Perry series
Publication Date: 2007
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #49
The Short Version:
Private Investigator Lincoln Perry is hired to find the son of a recent murder victim and soon finds himself a suspect in multiple murders and a complex extortion plot.
Why I Read It:
I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series.
When Alex Jefferson is brutally tortured and murdered, his widow asks Lincoln Perry to find her husband’s long estranged son in order to let him know his father is dead and he is to inherit a large sum of money. Oh, and the widow? She was engaged to Perry before she met and married Jefferson. In addition, it was a knockout punch delivered to Jefferson by Perry that got Perry kicked off the Cleveland police force and into the PI business.
This makes what should be an easy missing person search start out with plenty of complications, but it gets worse. Before Perry can even tell Jefferson’s son about his inheritance, the kid is dead and Perry is in jail under suspicion for his murder.
Then it gets even worse. The more Perry and his partner Joe Pritchard work to find out what really happened to both Alex Jefferson and his son and why, the more twists and turns come along. At almost every step is a clue for Lincoln and Joe that is soon followed by apparent evidence leading the police to suspect Perry is behind the murders and extortion.
The story twists along with events from the past coming back to haunt people, revenge, extortion and a very scary Russian hit man who ended up being one of my favorite characters.
Like the first two in the series this was a fun to read thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Lincoln Perry is a character I like a lot. He’s smart and sharp tongued with little patience for the law enforcement authorities despite his previous career as a cop. He’s funny and devoted to his friends.
I enjoy the banter in Koryta’s books. He uses entertaining and quick witted dialog to progress the story, but there’s plenty of action too. The Russian hit man is scary, but he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book.
The story is complicated and despite the many twists and turns it takes along the way (some more plausible than others), it’s an entertaining read. The essential question of who murdered Alex Jefferson and why turns out to have a surprising and yet by the time you get there, not so surprising resolution.
I look forward to continuing with this series as well as Koryta’s standalone thrillers.
>> Wednesday, November 17, 2010
>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Audio)
Series: #11 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Publication Date: 2010
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #48
The Short Version:
Not much of a detective story, but an enjoyable visit with familiar characters in Bostwana
Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to all the previous books in this series and thoroughly enjoy listening to Lisette Lecat read them.
Precious Ramotswe only has a couple of minor detective agency related stories in this installment of the series. One of which ends up having both partners in a marriage ask her to find out if the other is having an affair. The other detective type storyline isn’t that complex and involves finding a safari guide who was kind enough to a visiting American woman that she left him some money in her will.
The more involved storyline in this one is that Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Grace Makutsi has some personal trauma to deal with. Her fiancé is injured and his aunt uses this as an opportunity to keep Mma Makutsi away from him whether out of jealousy or because she feels Grace is not worthy as a future member of the family.
Of course Mma Makutsi’s arch nemesis Violet Sepotho makes a reappearance too.
As always I absolutely enjoyed the heck out of listening to Lisette Lecat’s reading of this series. Her voices and and personalities she gives to the characters have made them feel like old friends by this point in the series. The running jokes are totally expected, yet they still make me laugh.
It’s a very slow paced and rather plot thin series and I’m sure that if I read the books I would not have continued with it, but the audio versions are just a complete delight. The gentle sensibility of Precious Ramotswe and her love for her homeland of Botswana make her a fictional character that I’d love to sit down with for a cup of tea (red bush tea, of course).
>> Thursday, November 11, 2010
Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #1 in the Tom Thorne series
Publication Date: 2001
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #47
The Short Version:
Detective Tom Thorne takes on the hunt for a serial killer whose goal isn’t killing his victims, but instead to leave them alert, but totally incapacitated.
Why I Read It:
Mulholland Books was kind enough to send me a galley of the 8th book in this series (which they will be releasing in July) and I wanted to use the time between now and then to catch up on the earlier books in the series.
After several women are found to have died from induced strokes, the police are finally making the connections that there is a killer on the loose. When one of the women survives her attack, but is left incapacitated and uncommunicative, the authorities believe the killer has made a mistake that could lead to his capture.
When the lead detective, Tom Thorne finds a note from the killer on his car the motives of the killer turn out to be almost more sinister than previously thought. The women who died were his mistakes. The one who is still alive, but trapped in a body that cannot function is the one he considers his first success.
Tom Thorne is a dedicated detective with plenty of personal baggage. He’s haunted by an old case, he’s still mourning the deaths of his mother and his marriage, he doesn’t exactly follow the rules and he’s attracted to the victim’s doctor whose friend may or may not be the prime suspect.
Interspersed with Thorne’s investigation are sections where the killer is followed but not identified. Even more interesting are the sections where the still living but unable to communicate victim has the chance to tell what is going on from her viewpoint and in her mind from her hospital bed.
I enjoy many British crime stories and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new to me series about which I’ve heard good things turned out to be something I just couldn’t resist.
Tom Thorne is the kind of protagonist I find in many of my favorite series. He’s a dedicated detective who takes justice for victims seriously and the rules of authority in the police bureaucracy not quite so seriously. He’s got a past that haunts him for several reasons, and while he is at times someone I may not like, I find him fascinating.
The story is an interesting psychological mystery and crime procedural. The killer is clearly a very twisted person and the idea that the victim who lived is the success rather than the mistake is creepy. Thorne hones in and locks on early on a prime suspect, but the authorities disagree with him. I couldn’t tell if this was going to be one of those stories where the detective going against the grain was going to be right or wrong. The clues and twists kept coming and I changed my mind several times along the way.
It turned out that I was right in my guess as to the outcome, but I was left unsure about that guess long enough to just enjoy the mystery and suspense as they played out.
I liked the way Billingham let Allison (the victim in the hospital) tell her part of the story in her own words. It was an interesting and well done element in the narrative.
A well done first novel and I’m looking forward to continuing with this series in preparation for reading Bloodline next summer.
>> Wednesday, November 10, 2010
>> Sunday, November 7, 2010
It's not that I haven't been reading, but it's just that I haven't been reading as much as normal. There are book reviews coming eventually, but it requires me actually finishing a book or two.
It also has to do with the fact that I'm participating in a readalong of Lonesome Dove. Because of that, part of my normal reading routine is devoted to a book that I won't finish for several more weeks. I am absolutely loving Lonesome Dove, though. I've wanted to read this for years and I'm so glad the readalong has convinced me to actually start.
So, I'm still here, I'm busy, I'm reading and I'm still blogging, but just at a bit of a slower pace for a few weeks.
This is the time of year I relish the days that don't involve long To Do lists and allow me to just spend a few hours curled up with a book. I'm hoping today turns out to be one of those days. If all goes according to plan, I've got a couple of them on the way next weekend too.
11/8/10 Editing this post to add more - based on the initial comments people seem to be under the impression that I'm not finishing books and posting reviews because I'm reading books I don't want to read or books I feel like I have to read. Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. I love all the books I'm currently reading. None of them feel like a chore or homework. The reason I'm not posting more than one review a week these days is simply lack of reading TIME. Those pesky annoyances of work and sleeping and life in general are eating up my reading time.
>> Wednesday, November 3, 2010
>> Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fiction
Series: #1 in the Seeds of America series
Publication Date: 2008
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #46
The Short Version:
The beginnings of the American Revolutionary War as told from the viewpoint of a young slave girl in New York.
Why I Read It:
I’ve heard such good things about the author's books that I wanted to read them and decided to start with her historical fiction books first.
Taking place between May of 1776 and January of 1777, the beginnings of the American Revolution are experienced by a thirteen year old slave.
Isabel and her younger sister Ruth were owned by a wealthy woman named Mary Finch in Rhode Island. Miss Finch had told Isabel that her will contained a provision that would grant Isabel and Ruth their freedom, but when Miss Finch’s nephew arrived to bury his aunt and settle her estate, he says there was no will and that Isabel and Ruth are now his property.
He takes the girls to New York where he and his wife live while supporting the British side in the revolution. The Locktons turn out to be the kind of owners who treat their slaves far worse than Miss Finch did. In fact, Mrs, Lockton is a rather cruel person. Isabel tries to cause no trouble out of fear that her younger sister will be unfairly punished. After a particularly awful turn of events, Isabel is desperate to get away from the Locktons and find a way to freedom.
While running errands as part of her duties, Isabel meets a young boy named Curzon who is a slave to a Patriot. Curzon encourages Isabel to share information she learns from the Tories at the Lockton home with the Patriots. In hopes that this will help her obtain her freedom (and Ruth’s) Isabel agrees to spy for the Patriots.
Caught between two sides of a revolution, Isabel seeks to gain freedom with the help of those seeking their own freedom from British rule.
Although I liked Anderson’s Fever 1793 well enough, it was targeted at a younger audience than I’d expected. This one is also targeted at a middle grade audience, but I found it to be more readable to an adult audience than Fever 1793.
I loved Isabel! She was a courageous, smart girl stuck in a situation with no clear way to find the best way out. Her previous owner had some unusual beliefs and so Isabel could read, but she was smart enough to not flaunt this ability.
The author did a wonderful job of portraying 1776 New York. Occupied by British Loyalists and the British army, the rebels both in and out of prison suffered. The conditions were terrible and even worse for slaves. Isabel had reason to believe promises from both British and Rebels that helping them could be her path to freedom, but she also had reason to mistrust both sides.
Ultimately it is her devotion to her sister and her sense of gratitude to Curzon that determine her actions.
I loved the way that the contradiction of the Americans fighting for their own freedom, yet denying that same right to their slaves is so well portrayed. Neither side could truly be trusted if you were a slave.
For a middle grade to YA book, I thought it was quite interesting and entertaining and I look forward to continuing with the planned trilogy. I’ll be requesting the second book (Forge) from my library soon.
>> Friday, October 29, 2010
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Publication Date: 2009
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #45
The Short Version:
Leaving, following, disappearing, and obsessing are all elements of the relationships in this story of several lives intertwined over many years.
Why I Read It:
I’d heard great praise for the author’s most recent book and this one was also highly recommended at S. Krishna’s Books.
Eli’s girlfriend Lilia leaves to get coffee and never returns. Eli admits that Lilia had some odd habits, but he never saw this disappearance coming at all. While he’s devastated, he also wonders where she is and if she’s safe. When he gets a mysterious postcard from Montreal saying “she’s here” he’d like to feel better, but he doesn’t know who this Michaela is who sent him the card, nor does he have any idea how she knew where to send it.
Eli’s trip to Montreal is interspersed with the story of Lilia’s past. She spent most of her life leaving and disappearing, beginning when she was a child and her father took her away from her mother’s home one snowy night. Pursued by a private detective they spend years on the move changing identities and never really forming long term relationships.
Also in the mix is the story of Michaela’s childhood and her connection to both Lilia and Eli.
I really don’t want to say more than that about the plot because it’s the questions of how it would all intersect and connect or not that kept me reading.
I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. While I thought the writing was beautiful at times, I never really felt any connection to the characters or story. I found myself easily distracted from the book while reading it and it took me longer than most books of this length to read.
Granted, part of the not feeling connected to the characters was that all of them were fairly disconnected from entanglements and relationships themselves, so to that extent the author did an excellent job of portraying them.
There are several minor mysteries that play out as the story progresses in terms of how all the characters became entangled and the truth about events in the past that both Lilia and Michaela are seeking. Some of the answers turned out to be fairly predictable, and while the ending wraps things up, it left me with an unsettled feeling.
The book is full of wonderful moments in writing and fabulous images, but I just never felt connected or invested in the story. I definitely remained detached. I did enjoy the writing enough that I plan to read more by this author.