Updates (mea culpa)

Clearly, letting even one self-imposed deadline fall by the wayside encourages me to let more slide. And then the backlog is daunting so I just say, “I’ll have more time tomorrow; I’ll do it then.” So today is the cliff: one more postponement and I’ll crash over the edge. Don’t want to do that, so we’ll have a quick rundown of recent reads…

I had fun re-reading a book from childhood, The Little Prince and noticing once again how well the illustrations enhance the story.

I raced through the first five books in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles series. I mentioned the first one in an earlier post, but this time I consumed volumes 2-5 without a break.

In nonfiction I enjoyed Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home but then I always like books about books. I wish the author had given us a few more of her impressions from her “year of reading from home” rather than mostly a listing of books she had on her shelves. I also read (or listened to) Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century because although I used to love Perry’s historical mysteries, I’ve categorically refused to read any more of them since learning she herself is a convicted murderer. I have no problem with someone living a productive life after serving one’s time, but I think it’s the height of poor taste to choose murder mysteries to make her (very good) living. After reading this book, I have more complicated feelings toward her and I’m not sure if I’ll stick with my ban forever. Please note, however, that the narrator for this audiobook is really annoying and I will definitely not listen to any others she may have narrated.

A much better nonfiction read is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and this one I highly recommend. Thought-provoking, discouraging and hopeful all at once. I need to come back and add more thoughts on this one, but I must get this post up, so for now I suggest you go find the book and read it.

I also recommend David McCullough’s latest book The Wright Brothers, who are probably my hometown’s most famous local boys.

In general fiction I’ve read Aquarium, The Bone Tree, The People in the Trees, and All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed all, but am not sure that any will make my top ten list for 2015.

A quick trip through At Bertram’s Hotel was an easy reminder that Agatha Christie can be relied upon for a good read. Casino Royale was my first time to actually dive into one of the books behind the James Bond film series. It also qualifies in two challenges: my TBR one and the Literary Birthday one. And I finally read Anna Karenina from start to finish, and thoroughly enjoyed it! (this one counts in my Back to the Classics challenge.)

There have been a few other books, but as I’ve already lost the draft for this post TWICE, I’m going to post as is and come back to add the rest of the links and perhaps a few more thoughts.

Currently I’m working my way through the shortlist for this years Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize, but those will be covered in another post.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy

I read this because a group of friends decided to tackle a classic together, and this was the title that came up. The plan was to spend the month of January on it, and as there are 31 chapters in the book, it seemed simple enough. Then one after another of the group confessed that they had been unable to stop so had gone ahead and finished the book. That made discussion more challenging because spoilers had to be avoided for the sake of those still on schedule, and those who had finished couldn’t discuss the things which interested those who hadn’t. So after about ten days I decided to break with the plan as well.

As with most classics, it only took me a few pages before the older language patterns were unnoticed. I found the storyline amusing though I kept finding myself annoyed with Marguerite, the main female character. She prided herself on being so clever, and had always been told that she was, yet she was so witless and clueless and I found it very hard to root for her.

I’m glad I read the book, but have little interest in reading the other titles in the series. Amusing, but not profound or moving. I’d say 3.5 stars as it wasn’t a waste of time.

Available in the public domain, but the version I read was nicely formatted and worth the $1.99 it would cost if you want to pick up your own copy at  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000TZB8TI/dsmallc.

Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift

Monday, 7 January 2013

Although I had never read this book, I did know that it was supposed to be at least partly a political commentary aimed at the government of Swift’s time. I also knew that a traveler wandered into a country where everyone around him was much, much smaller than he was. I knew the term Lilliputians. What I didn’t know was that this was simply the opening chapter of what wound up feeling like a v-e-r-y long set of chapters, each with a different twist on what “different” looks like.

The second chapter (where Gulliver was the little one) was actually my favorite. But pretty soon the whole thing just wound up feeling like a political rant on how stupid government is and eventually, how stupid people are, and it stopped feeling like a story. I can’t stand much of Fox News either, or implicitly left-oriented news. I don’t like to be battered over the head with what I should think, and I don’t like my stories to be left in the dust by an author’s rant.

So I didn’t enjoy the book. If it weren’t a Classic, I would have given up on it before finishing, but I do like to know what the classics are about and be able to understand references to them in the future. I seriously doubt I will be revisiting this during my lifetime, however.

For expanding my literary background, I give it 3 stars. I was never happy with a C in school and I don’t consider 3 stars to be a compliment, but I finished it!

To pick up this free, public domain classic, click http://www.amazon.com/Gullivers-Travels-Timeless-Classics-ebook/dp/B0082ZJGSW/dsmallc