Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Reading Log, April 2007

I didn't think I'd have a lot of time to read in April, considering how much I had to do and prepare for. However, my addiction to the printed word proved strong enough to withstand the claims of mere responsibility and obligation.

Year In, Year Out by A.A. Milne--As this book of miscellaneous essays is divided by the months of the year, I'm just reading a little bit each month. A good bit of April was devoted to Shakespeare, in honor of his birthday. The good part is, now that it's May, I get to pick this up again and read a bit more. Milne sometimes makes me laugh out loud, and sometimes he irritates me, but he never bores me.

From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun--My other book that I am stretching out across the whole year. I've fallen behind in my reading schedule, however, so I either need to make a new reading plan which takes into account how much I actually have to finish, or plan to catch up during the summer. We shall see, but in the mean time let me say that Barzun never bores me, either.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy--I am SO happy to report that this book is finally complete. It shall appear on my monthly lists no longer. I will read more Tolstoy in the future (probably Anna Karenina next), but not this year. One reason I've shied away from Tolstoy in the past is that I always heard it was hard to follow his stories, because the characters have so many names. I'm so accustomed to the Polish method of nicknames that the Russian ones were no trouble to follow. It wasn't even an issue.

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham--I was finally in the mood for a bit of a mystery again, and this author was recommended by the Deputy Headmistress at the Common Room, whose taste in books I share very closely, although our taste in decorating is worlds apart (no pink roses for me). As might be expected, she did not recommend amiss, and this was a fun mystery, liberally sprinkled with that sort of British humor that just makes me shake my head. Are these people for real? (Note: I don't think the Deputy Headmistress has bad taste in any area at all--it's just different from mine in the decorating realm. Except for the shelves full of books.)

The Charmers by Stella Gibbons--This one goes down as the second-worst read of 2007, the worst being Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond. I did, however, finish the book, which is more than I did for poor William Makepeace.

Thirteen Steps Down by Ruth Rendell--Okay, this one probably comes in as a close third for "worst book of 2007." I have enjoyed some of Ruth Rendell's mysteries in the past, psychological thrillers being an occasional indulgence of mine; however, this story didn't have much to offer. It all seemed so foolish and pointless--the main character murders a girl because she makes an offhand comment about a celebrity for whom he has a crush/obsession? Not very convincing to me. I think the story would have been better if his fascination for the local historical serial murderer had been more fully explored, rather than having him commit an off-hand murder with no real motive. This gets a thumbs-down from me, and I listed my copy at Bookmooch if anyone wants it. (Although who will, now that I've just given you no reason at all to desire to read it?)

The Approaching Storm by Nora Waln--Yes, that would be the same Nora Waln who wrote House of Exile. Ever since I read that book, I've wanted to read this one, about her life in Nazi Germany between 1935-1939. One of the most interesting things about this book is that it was published in 1939, long before much was known about Hitler's Germany. She was one of the early voices who spoke up with a warning, although it was much too late to do anything about it by then. I'm about 1/4 of the way into the book, appreciating again her calm, rational voice. How I wish there were journalists like Nora Waln around today! Incidentally, I was terribly curious to know how she ended up in Germany after so many years in China, where her English husband was an ambassador of sorts. He retired from his public service, and wanted to pursue a lifelong dream of studying music, and that was what he was doing in Germany. Nora almost refused to live there with him because she disliked what she knew of Nazism, but concluded that she ought to make a home for her husband wherever he was, and so she went. And we have this book, about which I promise to share more later.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak--Another book I've started and am about 1/4 of the way through. This was one of those books that everyone was reading and blogging about last year, and I finally gave in and got a copy to read for myself. I've read good reviews and bad, but I'm holding my own judgment in abeyance for the present.

Christmas at Candleshoe by Michael Innes--Another Common Room recommendation in the mystery category. I didn't quite get this one finished, although I'm 3/4 of the way through it. I found this one a bit harder to get into, but the Shakespeare references are fun, and the 18th century diary excerpts had me laughing out loud. It's worth reading the book just for that bit.

For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George--I picked this up on a whim, because I always enjoy the Thomas Lynley mysteries, although I sometimes wish Elizabeth George would make things come out a bit differently for her characters. (It's too much like real life--nothing works out the way you want it too, and there are always loose ends.) As it happens, this ended up being one I've read before, so it is technically a reread--the only one this month. (Something must be wrong with me!) I've heard unpleasant things about the most recent books in this series (=a major character is murdered), and although I'm sure I'll pick it up sometime, I'm not in any hurry.

Candide by Voltaire--this is my current Librivox "read," although I've only listened to the first eight chapters (which are very short) so far. I've spent more of my crochet time listening to these programs, which are terribly fun, even though I haven't heard of half the books and authors mentioned, and read very little of the poetry.

Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman--I sort of hated to finish this one, as I have nothing more to read by the author, and no prospects of getting hold of her books any time soon. Her Polish roots, her immigrant experience, her love of words, and her eloquent "voice" as she writes all strike at the very center of things that matter to me. I want very much to read more of her work, but this is it for now.

And that is the end of the list for April (notice the glaring absence of any Polish books)--a much more productive reading month than I would have supposed, considering how much we've had going on. Tomorrow is the last big planned event (a gathering of some 5 or 6 American families at my house for food, fellowship, fun, and prayer), and then I see of streak of quiet days, gardening afternoons, and hours of sitting on the swing with a book and sipping iced tea in my future.

Yeah, sure. I can dream, right?


At 1:16 AM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

I've never read Mystery Mile in book form, but Mr. Fixit and I watched it years ago as part of BBC's Mystery series, with Peter Davison.



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