cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

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Reading Round up: February


February briefly held the promise of winter ending and spring arriving. I even had grass in the backyard. Lilac buds. I felt victorious.

Twelve inches of snow later, winter is rebooted. Pardon me while I emit a primal yawp. *YErrrgggh*

My go to option for dealing with this surfeit of snow is to make frequent dashes to the library. Much more fulfilling than dark chocolate. Well, a book lasts longer.

Once again, a fair mix of TBR, recommends, reviews, and discoveries.

First love sometimes feels like it will be the only love. Ever. Rainbow Rowell describes the intensity of that special love through the wondrous tale of Eleanor and Park, two misfits who are perfect fits for each other.

The teaser beginning serves to entice readers to continue reading because there are hints of a tragedy brewing, and as the plot heats up, along with Park and Eleanor’s relationship, a person just has to know how it will all turn out. That makes this a gotta-read -it-in-one-sitting book.

And that’s good writing.

Would have been a fiver, yet the cruelty seemed too much at times for believability.

Reminiscent of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, without the profanity and drama.

I remember the drop under the desk drills in elementary schools. We shivered, crouched like little frogs, not understanding the why of it. As we grew older we felt that nudging threat of the Cold War. Pat Frank’s post apocalyptic novel tentatively answers that concern.

Published in 1959, Frank’s novel prepared readers what happens to civilization after the bomb, in this case, the bombs have dropped. The author’s varied background as government consultant and journalist provides a verisimilitude that is more than believable, it is at times dismaying, yet mostly inspiring. He provides a clear-sighted hopefulness that the human race will continue even when faced with having to start over.

Even though the story takes place in the fifties, it rings too close to the present to be dismissed as being anachronistic. Alas, Babylon is a guidebook to keep on the shelf.

Major Pettigrew, full of old English practicalities at the spry age of 68, contends with several inconveniences as he contemplates his remaining days. One irritant is dealing with the village’s gossipy ladies as his friendship with the attractive widow Mrs Ali changes course. For all their supposed openness the people in his life, including his son Roger, can’t fathom how the major could possibly be interested in this foreign shop keeper.

An endearing character, Major Pettigrew is full of wry quips and commentary as he deals with breaking from expectations and unexpectedly finds love. For those who loved A Man Called Ove, make room for another lovable git.

Hollywood portrays CIA agents as full of action, intense swagger, and having a dedicated skill set. CIA agent Michele Rigby Assad provides a truer portrait in her memoir, Breaking Cover. Her frank, engaging story emphasizes how much time is spent gathering reliable intel and creating a trustworthy network. Car chases and fiery shootouts aren’t mentioned, although trying to survive searing desert heat and daily bombings lend a gritty authenticity. Assad outlines the process of becoming an agent as well as highlights some of her tours in the Middle East. While her tours might not be the stuff of Hollywood, she relates plenty of intense episodes of needing to be the best of her abilities. The fact that she and her husband both worked as agents and are dedicated Christians heightened the overall interest of her time spent in counterterrorism.

The second half of her book brings in the subtitle: My Life in the CIA and What It Taught Me about What’s Worth Fighting For. Having left the CIA, Michele and her Egyptian immigrant husband Joseph became international security consultants. The larger part of this section involves their work with relocating displaced Iraqi Christians (featured as an ABC 20/20 special). Assad’s passion and faith especially comes through as she fought to find a safe refuge for a people under persecution.

Overall, the memoir comes across as genuine and inspiring, and while it’s understandable there might have been restrictions on how much detail she could divulge of her CIA experience, it would have added more to her memoir to have further experiences about being married agents, definitely a unique perspective.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What titles are keeping you warm this winter?

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Reading Challenge Met!


2015 Reading Challenge

I signed on with GoodReads mainly to keep track of my books. I so enjoy being spared of the agonizing “Okay, it had a yellow cover and the author only published this one novel…” or some such scenario of “which one and who wrote it.” GR has become my tidy little techno Rolodex of titles.

While keeping track of my books is indeed a boon for this Book Booster, I realized after reading other people’s blogs I was missing out on one other amazing feature (there are still quite a few I’m discovering): The Reading Challenge.

This feature has completely revved up my reading habits. Even though I am voracious reader, I am usually unaware of my volume. Not that it matters, but I would like to know how many books I go through in the course of a year, just because. It’s not that I’m addicted to reading, yet I notice when I don’t have a book to read I’m not feeling quite aligned. For instance, I paced myself and read a long book on my trip (North and Southt) and on Sunday found myself book less because I hadn’t gone to the library to stock up for my return reading afterwards. The reason? I do this odd thing of returning all library books, whether or not I’ve read them, before going on a trip. Even if it’s a just for a few days. I suppose my imagination believes I will fall into a black hole before my return and I don’t want to inconvenience the library of harboring missing books. As a result of my odd ritual of travel preps, I ended up with no book for my usual Sunday nap and read session. Ghastly, I know. On the positive side, it did free up some reflection time for books I have read this year because…

I have met my reading challenge of 50 books way before expected. 

Going through the list I created these stats for myself-I wonder if WordPress would consider loaning their stat monkeys out to GoodReads…

Total pages read:14, 288–I’m not sure if that is profound or pathetic

Average pages: 285–this balances fairly well, since I eclectically read books like The Little Prince, which is 11 pages, and then sit down with books like North and South, weighing in at around 500.

Most popular genre: this surprised me–I consider myself one who favors fiction and read non-fiction sparingly, yet I came up 11 non-fiction books! That’s getting upwards on my list. Gobstoppers! The other genres are 16 historical fiction/classics; Juvie/YA 13; and 12 for contemporary/popular. The numbers add up to 52, so obviously I counted one for two categories–no doubt those Darcy-type books snuck into the historical popular categories.

Fastest cover-to-cover: Little Prince–yet it’s not really a quick read, especially when I stop to investigate and reference all the lovely information found on so many LP dedicated sites.

Longest to read: those 500 page books do drag a bit, yet if they can keep the pace they go by quickly. Ink heart needed a firm editing in parts, considering it’s a Juvie, the pace moored down to boots in molasses at times–don’t kids prefer snap, crackle, action?

Most attractive cover:this is a toughie because attractive is so subjective, and there is that emotional aspect of expectancy involved–for now I’ll say Go Set a Watchman, due to it hearkening back to the original cover of TKAM, of which I am so fond.

Best jacket blurb: Slight Trick of the Mind–what would Sherlock be like in his waning years? I had to know.

Worst jacket blurb: this is actually my 51st book but it should have been the 50th (I won’t bother you with the details). The Guersney Literary and Potato Pie Society sounded like a quaint, character-driven epistolary novel about a quirky group of book boosters. However, as I became more involved in it, it became clear it was more of a historical reference on the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. I tend to shy away from these books having helped edit my mother’s own wartime memoir, and am now over-saturated with the destruction and sadness of this war. Light-hearted is what seemed promised, and what I really needed at that point in my schedule, and I end up crying upon learning about the further cruelty of WWII victims. It had lighter moments, but became too heavy in horrendous wartime details for my comfort.

Top five favorites:

  • The Great Gatsby–a reread and I truly appreciate the symbols and metaphors so much more now that I teach AP Literature. This time around it was on audio tape, although a newer version is needed (pops and skips *grr*)
  • A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mr Holmes)–Cullin truly treated Sherlock with dignity and the plot is quite plausible
  • The Bookseller–not a raging favorite read, but the premise is fascinating and a page-flipper
  • My Salinger Year–a lovely memoir of the yesteryear of publishing
  • The Little Prince–so charming, so profoundly simple

Anyone else in the midst of a Reading Challenge?

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