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.


Other March Reading

A quick run-down on other books I’ve finished this month but hadn’t yet blogged…

3/23/15 Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles Book 1)by Jeffrey Archer. The author can always be counted on to tell a good story and keep it moving. Like so many of his other books, this one begins with an underprivileged but bright young person and follows them as they rise into the circles of the rich and famous. There are  four more books already published in this series, and I look forward to seeing Harry Clifton traverse the 20th century.

I finished The NIV Bible in 90 Daysand enjoyed this quick trip through the entire Bible. Now for some deeper reading of it during the rest of the year.

As the end of March loomed, I realized I hadn’t yet read anything for my literary birthday challenge (anything by a dead author who was born during this calendar month) so I found The Inspector-Generalby Nikolai Gogol. This is a comedy of misunderstandings in a small Russian village where absolutely everyone in office (major or minor) is corrupt. The rumor starts that someone is here from the government to inspect how they are performing their jobs and everyone tries to outdo the others in impressing the young man they are certain holds their fate in his hands. It was an amusing, quick read and will meet not only the literary birthday challenge but another task in the Read Harder challenge as well as one in the Back to the Classics challenge.

Finally, I finished the book I had begun before picking up A Little Life and becoming lost in it. A Separate Peaceis set at a boys’ academy just at the outset of WW2 and captures the last of their innocence before their world changes. Not what I expected, but a good read for time and place. This will also count toward the classics challenge as my choice for 20th century classic.


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodieis another of those classic titles that I’d never read. What I knew from the blurbs were that Miss Brodie is a “progressive” teacher at a girls’ school, and she probably unnerved administration and parents alike. What I did not expect was to find that she was manipulative and small-minded and selfish and a great admirer of Mussolini and Hitler. I’m glad the book is more of the novella length because I was very disappointed with it.

The well-known quote from this book, “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life” certainly characterized this manipulative teacher’s philosophy. She assumed that she could get girls to do her bidding for her own selfish ends if she had simply taken them under her wing at a young age. She kept telling them (and apparently the men in her life) that she was a woman “in her prime”, as if this should be how everyone thought of her without questioning her motives or doubting her methods.

The book did portray the small-time politics of such a school, but really just showed an amoral and narcissistic woman.

I was not impressed. Three stars, for being readable, and short. And because it qualifies toward two of my reading challenges this year: Back to the Classics (I’m using it to qualify as A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title), and the Birthday Month Reading Challenge, as Muriel Spark was born 2/1/1918.


Three more reads last week

i followed up my trail adventure with three more books last week, beginning with the reliably pleasant The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Caféfrom the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious Ramotswe always uses her common sense to sort out whatever challenge is put before her, and her considerable tact with both employees and clients. This is the first time in several books (for the series) that I have read rather than listened to the story. Because the author has the characters speaking slowly and repetitively, using my eyes allowed me to speed through passages that would have taken much longer if I had listened to them. That was a good choice. I am counting this one in my Read Harder challenge as a book written by an African author. McCall Smith was born in what is now called Zimbabwe. 3.5 stars.

Next I finished a classic play, A Doll’s Houseby Henrik Ibsen. I don’t know why I don’t read more plays; it works quite well on the page. I enjoyed this one all the more because Nora’s dilemma was on the leading edge of beginning awareness of women’s rights. She rebels against the completely fake role which she is expected to carry out, and by the end of this short read she has decided to figure out who she is and what she wants to do, regardless of society’s expectations. Good for her. I’m counting this on toward my Back to the Classics challenge, for which one requirement was to read a play. I enjoyed it so much I will seek out more to read in the future. 4 stars.

And finally, I finished off a real guilty pleasure, Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy. This series of mysteries centered around the White House chef don’t rely on plausibility to hold a reader’s interest. However, I love reading about how kitchens are run, and at least some idea of how the white house meal prep is done. Ollie Paras is a likable character, whether or not I believe the story arcs concerning her.  3.5 stars.