Thursday, March 1, 2012
52 books in 52 weeks - Jan & Feb
At the end of last year I wrote about my challenge to read 52 books in 52 weeks. It's always good to write about a challenge after it's completed, it certainly takes the pressure off! This year I thought I'd be more upfront and post as I go along. Several people wrote and said they liked the idea of a reading target, so maybe a monthly prompt will encourage a few more readers to tag along. If you haven't already started, there's nothing wrong with starting now - take the first of March as your kick off point and dive in!
I should note that I don't have a plan for what I will read. I find I get bogged down in lists of books I should read. My aim is simply to keep reading, because it's good for my writing and good for my soul. I tend to let books find me. As a result sometimes they're good, sometimes they're trash! My only rule is that I don't waste time on books I really dislike. I feel no obligation to finish a book once I've started. There are too many fabulous books in the world to waste time on ones I don't like.
Broken Music - Sting
Riding in cars with boys - Beverly Donofrio
Seer of Sevenwaters - Juliet Marillier
I don't normally read a lot of auto/biographies but somehow I've got four on the list already this year. Sting's autobiography is an interesting and enjoyable read. He comes across as an incredibly articulate person who is self deprecating about his short comings and honest about his pursuit of musical success. This was a great holiday season read.
The less said about Beverly Donofrio's book the better. Highlights: She writes well and it's a quick and easy read. Lowlights: It doesn't take long before you want to slap the girl/woman and tell her to stop wasting her life on deadbeat boys and drugs. I hung in there waiting for the moment of awakening. By the time it came the book was pretty much finished.
Juliet's book was like revisiting an old friend. I read it back in Perth in draft form as I had the great privilege of working in a writer's group with Juliet, but had never read the published version. It was a wonderful read and a reminder of what a beautiful writer she is. As always happens with Juliet's books, I lost sleep reading way past my intended bedtime.
Vital Signs - Tessa McWatt
Dead Until Dark: A Stookie Stackhouse Novel - Charlaine Harris
Paulo Coelho: A Warrior's Life - Fernando Morais
Cocktails Under the Tree of Forgetfulness - Alexandra Fuller
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Guyanese-born, Canadian-raised and now London-based author, Tessa McWatt has written a fascinating novel that explores the breakdown of a relationship in an incredibly poetic way. Her two main characters have retreated into very different forms of communication - he into the symbols that are the tools of his graphic design trade, she into illogical phrases that are the product of a brain aneurysm. It is at times both a harsh and very tender book. Definitely worth a read.
Despite my love of the Twilight series, I have somehow managed to avoid every other vampire novel and TV series - no Anne Rice, no Vampire Diaries, and, until now, no Stookie Stackhouse/True Blood. But yes, I've finally gone over to the dark side. Dead Until Dark was a very enjoyable easy read. I like too that it explores some of the weird questions that stories about vampires tend to raise, and which Twilight tends to gloss over. And no, I'm not going to go into detail about what those weird questions are - if you read vampire novels you'll know what I mean. If you don't, well, let's just move on...
I could write an entire blog on A Warrior's Life. As long time readers of my blog will know, I'm a huge Paulo Coelho fan, so I was really looking forward to reading this book. In retrospect I realise I had wanted to read about someone who could have been drawn from one of his novels - a noble, wise character who has a troubled life and then receives enlightenment and goes off to make the world a better place. The real Coelho, is, well, real. He's a hedonistic, obsessive drug taker, sometime satanist, wracked by depression and driven by an obsessive desire to become an internationally renowned writer. Wealth, women and fame are chewed through on his path to achieve that one goal. In the tales of his early life, it is hard to find much to like beyond his incredible commitment to his writing. When he reaches the turning point in his writing career - through a mystical encounter at the Dachau concentration camp - I was desperately hoping that this would be his road to Damascus moment, and Coelho would transform into the man of vision that his writing suggests he should be. I was left, however, with the niggling suspicion, that he had merely hit upon the way to achieve the commercial success he'd always dreamed of. Does it change the way I will read his novels? Possibly. I'm still processing this one. It's a well written book, but in many ways I wish I hadn't read it.
Despite feeling burned by the Coelho biography, I followed up with Alexandra Fuller's latest journey into her family history. Covering some of the territory of her first book - Don't Let's Go to the Dog's Tonight - Cocktail Hour seems to be in part an attempt to appease her mother who is less than impressed with the way she was painted in what she refers to as the "Awful Book". This book is a very tender exploration of her mother's turbulent life in Kenya, Rhodesia, Malawi and finally Zambia, that, while it doesn't shy away from her mother's shortcomings, shows the rocky path she's walked to reach that point.
And lastly for the month, I reread The Hunger Games, just to make sure I know what I'm talking about as we study it for homeschool English. This is a great story, well told, although second time round, without the desperate pull to read quickly and find out what happens, I found I kept noticing her tendency to write ungrammatical sentences. It's petty, but I wished she'd used a semi-colon here and there! It's a good example though of how grammatical rules are made to be broken!
So, eight books down, forty-four to go!
photo credit: Sarunyu_foto