Saturday, August 02, 2008

Reading Log, July 2008

Deliquent blogger I may be, but I am determined to continue to track my reading here, because it is so fun and enlightening.

Take, for example, this month. If I weren't actually keeping track of all the books I read--and listen to--I might not be aware that something has happened that has never happened before. In the month of July 2008, I "read" more books by listening to them (at Librivox!) than I did by casting my eyes on black and white pages. I'm not sure what to make of this event. It remains to be seen if it becomes a trend. The good folks at Librivox probably can't keep up with my appetite for books, and of course, all the books I want to read are not available there. Yet.

So, here's how it all fell out.

Ink, paper, and glue books I read with my eyes:

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry -- This is the only book that got the proper review it deserved this month, and it ranks high as one of the most amazing books I've every read. As I said in my post on the book--this on will be among the best reads of 2008, no question.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon -- I got this as a Christmas present, and if I had known that it took place in the present, as well as the past, I'd have read it sooner. I'm sure all fans of the Mitford series have finished this far ahead of me, and already know how good it is.

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie---short story, which I read after hearing about it from a book-blogger. I thought I knew where I got the information, but I can't find it to link to now. It was interesting to me, because of recent interest I've developed in literature about Africa and by Africans, but this didn't read like a normal short story, probably because it covered so much time (a few years). It felt more like a very, very short novella. You can read it online (did I mention that the paper and ink for this one was virtual?), but I reveal my bad-blogger habits further by failing to find the link, let alone provide it for you. It seems that this is the title of a published novel as well, and I don't know if the short-story version I read is the whole thing, or if the novel develops things further. I may have to pursue this story further to find out.

Eve Green by Susan Fletcher -- This book won the 2004 Whitbread first novel award (in Great Britain). It was pretty well done--good characters, good setting, and the story is told in two time frames (present and past), and I always enjoy books that work that way. So, it was good in a lot of ways, but I didn't love it. I never could enter fully into sympathy with the main character (who was also the narrator of the novel). It was an interesting book, but not a great one. I'll be offering it on Bookmooch to any takers.

Story line--an 8yo girl living in the city with her single mother is sent to a remote farm in Wales when her mother unexpectedly dies. Her life in her grandparents' home is complicated by memories of the past and the tragic disappearance of one of the village children.


And these are the books I read with my ears, while my hands were busy doing that other thing I love to do--crocheting. I've been busy making gifts for various and sundry.

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne -- It was really fun to see a different aspect of Milne than the "Pooh" side. His sense of humor is awesome, and this was a good mystery. One or two, "oh come on, now, really..." moments, but for the most part quite believable, and funny to see him poking a bit of fun at Sherlock Holmes. There was a single reader for this book, and a good one, which makes the whole thing a pleasure.

Persuasion by Jane Austen -- A reread, of course, and I think I read it for myself during the winter already this year, but I couldn't resist listening to Elizabeth Klett (one of my favorite Librivox readers) do it justice. Now I'll have a new category to add to my end of year wrap up: "Books read more than once."

The Dark House by George Manville Fenn -- A mystery of sorts, although I had it all figured out from the get-go. This was early days for mystery stories, so I guess folks were easily deceived. Hardcore mystery fans in the 21st century will be underwhelmed by the plot, but the story is fairly well told. Kudos to Librivox for digging up these older mysteries in the public domain and making audio versions of them.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy -- There was a single, very excellent, reader for the Librivox version of this book. I recommend it highly. I've never read this classic adventure tale before, and again, it was too easy for me to guess who the Scarlet Pimpernel was, and I guessed the "surprise" ending long, long before the end. I should have read this a long time ago.

The Cinema Murder by E. Phillips Oppenheim -- Another mystery, and this one was really perplexing. For one thing, the title makes no sense. The murder, which takes place very early in the book (and we know who did it!) is as far removed from the the cinema as possible. Then, the story follows the life of the culprit, his friends, and his success on the other side of the ocean. The tension in the story is created by the suspense of wondering when and if his cover will be blown. I've said before that I do NOT like crime fiction which tries to make you root for the criminal to "get away with it," but this story had a satisfactory ending. There were 31 chapters, and about 5 chapters from the end, I was totally confused and had no idea where the story was going. So, as criminal and suspense fiction, I do recommend it. It keeps you guessing until the end--and very last bit is stunning and unexpected.

And that was July: Three "real" books and a long short story, and five audio books. I actually have a running total of the number of books I've read so far this year, and it is very possible that the number will reach 100. And that will be because of Librivox. Have I mentioned how much I like those folks over there? I wanted to send them a donation because I was using them so much, and they don't accept money. I may have to figure out a way to do some reading for them, because that's the only kind of donation they accept, and it might be fun.