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.


Catching up

During the past week I have finished two books that probably fit into the thriller category, but they are so very different in tone and subject matter that it seems incongruous to call them the same genre.

First, I finally read a book that had been sitting on my TBR pile for a long time (since July of 2013) and one that I included when I wrote up my post for the TBR Reading Challenge.  But while I maintained a vague recollection that Marathon Man was a thriller, possibly even of the spy variety, I didn’t remember any specifics; and I never saw the movie made from the book. So I went into it pretty much blind. For the first few chapters I really didn’t understand what was going on, or how the different characters and story lines fit together. But pretty soon it all rolled together and from then on was compelling, and a quick read.

I never enjoy scenes of violence or torture (and honestly, I didn’t need more reason to fear a dentist’s drill) but I can generally hold my mental distance. Not so with the subject for the book I finished this afternoon…

I’ve read and enjoyed three other books in the Penn Cage series by author Greg Iles, and am looking forward to book 5 to be released in April. The Devil’s Punchbowl is equally well written and I enjoy the main characters and the increasing complexity of their relationships. Everything moves along well — except (and for me this is a deal-breaker EXCEPT) that when I encounter news stories or book treatments of child abuse or — in this case — animal abuse, it makes me literally sick to my stomach. That’s all I’m going to say about that, so the review will be short, but I never need to read one more word about the kind of vicious people who think it sport to watch or promote any kind of animal fighting. It takes a particular kind of soul sickness to think that’s entertainment and it destroys my faith in humanity.

I’m not sure what I will pick up to clean out my head after this book, but it will have to be something very different. And I need to find it soon.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I love travel and adventure memoirs and knew I was going to enjoy this book (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail). I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to reading it, as I’ve owned it since November of 2013. The recent release of the movie spurred me on, along with the fact that I chose this book as part of my TBR Challenge.

Cheryl Strayed was a mess when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and she knew that the rigors would help her to redefine her life and begin again. Her recent divorce was amicable but painful, and she’d fallen into heavy drug use and other self-destructive behaviors. The downturn had been triggered by her mother’s early death, but clearly Cheryl wasn’t handling things well at all. Her troubles were largely self-inflicted, but she decided to put everything on hold and go for a hike. She tried to prepare for the trail by sending ahead supplies and small amounts of cash to various planned stops, and loaded herself down with a huge variety of supplies from REI that were nearly too much for her to carry. But she fought through the hardships and found a certain beauty in the daily pain and work of hiking the trail, through desert and mountains and snow and withering heat. The solitude interspersed with the encounters she had with various other backpackers on the trail made for interesting reading, though I cringe with pain at the thought of what her feet went through.

She did indeed find herself and make peace with her life during the months of her hike, and writes ably of the transformation. I’m not sure what she could write next, but I will definitely pick it up when she does release another title. This was very enjoyable.

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

The official TBR Pile Challenge is back for its sixth year, hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader and I have decided to join in. I will also be using this as a chance to give blogging another try.

Here are the rules:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2014 or later (any book published in the year 2013 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below (in the main post) – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.

3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky must be to your “master list” (see my list below). This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge).  Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2015.

I’ve gone through my list of books I’ve owned for at least a year that I have not read, and chosen the following for my challenge:

1    Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island by Lawrence Durrell (2000)
2    Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon (1982)
3    How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (1939)
4    Marathon Man by William Goldman (1974)  2/27/15
5    The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (2009)
6    Topaz by Leon Uris (1967)
7    Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012)    1/22/15
8    Casino Royale by Ian Fleming  (1953)  5/4/15
9    The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne (2004)
10    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
11    The Boo by Pat Conroy (2010)
12    Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil (2011)

my alternate choices
Six Days of War by Michael Oren (2010)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012)

Update: as of 3/2/15 I have read two of the twelve challenge books