Saturday, November 29, 2008

Reading Log, October and November 2008

Oh. Dear.

How many times this year have I doubled up these lists and posted two months together? It seems rather sad that I can't manage even one little blog post per month, but perhaps I'll be changing that...

In any case, here is the latest peek into my eclectic, not to say voracious, reading world.

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers--I don't know what possessed me to read another McCullers novel so soon after reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This is another dark, coming-of-age-in-a-depressing-way kind of book. I don't really "enjoy" McCullers, but her voice is very powerful.

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (audiobook)--This is a vintage vampire story that predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 20 years. I listened to it at by Elizabeth Klett, who is an excellent reader (one of my favorites). Imagine living in a lonely castle deep in the forest when a chance accident brings a guest to your very welcome! It is my understanding that "vampire" fiction is a popular emerging genre. Maybe the craze will lead to some folks digging up and reading these old books and realizing there is nothing new under the sun...(but I have no plans to read more vampire-themed books anytime in the foreseeable future).

El Dorado by Baroness Emmuska Orczy (audiobook)--This is one of the sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I listened to earlier this year. The author is fantastic at "putting you in the moment"--giving you just the right details to give you a sense of place, suspense, timing. The characters are pretty two-dimensional, but they're good 2D characters, so it's forgivable. The plots are a little transparent to me, but the writing is good enough to keep the sense of suspense and danger going. Also, the reader for all the Pimpernel books at Librivox is top-notch.

The Swoop by P.G. Wodehouse (audiobook)--A hilarious book, which is kind of what you expect from Wodehouse. England is invaded, simultaneously, by nine separate armies. I could envision a modern spoof of this spoof, featuring video games and appearances on Oprah. That won't make sense if you haven't read the book, but you can tell it isn't all that frightening or serious. My favorite bit was the diplomatic-speak. Very funny and only two hours of listening time.

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun (reread)--not much to say about this one. I can't stand the newest books coming out in this series. They are not written by the original author and the last two or three I read (and I haven't even read the most recent ones) were awful. Nothing for it but to read the old ones from time to time...

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult-- I know, I know. I wasn't sure whether I was going to read any more books by Picoult. But I found this one at a second-hand store for about a dollar, and mass-market paperbacks here sometimes cost as much as $15, so how could I resist? In this story, a woman discovers that her father, who has always told her that her mother died in a car accident, actually ran away with her when she was a tiny girl. He is arrested and she has to face both her unknown past and the re-arranging of the present.

In some ways this was a good story, but there were aspects of it I didn't like. The whole situation and the way the characters behaved was just a little bit beyond belief. Could I imagine people behaving in this way? Not entirely, so the story didn't ring true, but it was an enjoyable read anyway. Part of the problem, I think, is that this story had A Message. I have no problem with deeper meanings in fiction, but the story shouldn't suffer because of it, and in this case, I think it did. I really don't think I'll be searching out further books by this author. However, if one sort of falls in my way, as this one did, I wouldn't mind reading it.

The Partners by Louis Auchincloss--While reading Norms and Nobility by David Hicks, I learned about The Rector of Justin by Auchincloss, and was pleased to be able to read it some years ago. When I ran across this title at the library, I had to give it a try. Since most of the "lawyer" novels I've read have been written by John Grisham, this was definitely different.

It was a character-driven novel centered around a law firm. No Grisham action or convoluted plot, but a good hard look at what principles or the lack thereof can mean in the lives and jobs of the characters.

The Latecomers by Anita Brookner--I read this one back-to-back with The Partners, and it was another character-driven novel in which virtually nothing happens--nothing that seems like a story or a plot, I mean. It's all about people--who they are, why they behave as they do, and how it affects those close to them. I especially liked that premise of the book's title--that maturity, or the later years in life, may be better than youth.

The Van Dreisen Affair by Holly Roth--After two heavy-duty character-driven novels with no action, I was ready for some...action, that is. This is a spy novel written during the height of the Cold War. I enjoyed the story, and its vintage character (which means no four-letter words or graphic intervals).

Middlemarch by George Eliot (audiobook, partially)--I started listened to this massive classic at Librivox (over 30 hours long!!), and I did get about 3/4 of the way through it that way. However, some of the readers were atrocious, and I finally got too involved in the story to be patient, and I read the last 20 chapters for myself. Good book! I read somewhere (Wikipedia?) that some readers are dissatisfied with Dorothea's fate, but for the life of me I can't think why. I thought Rosamund got off way too easy!

The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley (audiobook) -- Look, a sci-fi story at Librivox! Vintage sci-fi--How could I pass that up? It was a little funny, but fun.

Mary Emma & Company by Ralph Moody--This is part of the "Little Britches" series--kind of like "Little House" for boys. You really have to admire a woman like Ralph's mother--widowed and left alone in the far west with 6 kids to care fore (age 14 down to infant). In this book, they move back east to be closer to family, but they energetically stand on their own feet, take of themselves and each other, and have some fun at the same time. But oh MY--it wasn't easy!

I think that's all--twelve books across two months, and five (well, four and 3/4) were audiobooks. I seemed to have slacked off a bit in my reading, but there's been a lot going on about the house.

I'm in the middle of a long book I hope will be finished in December (I've already renewed it from the library once); I was halfway through another library book which I appear to have permanently lost (oh woe!), and so probably won't finish; I'm listening to a brand-new audio book being written week by week, and a chapter a day being posted serially, much as Dickens wrote some of his novels (but that book won't be complete until February); and I'm not in the mood to start any serious reading in December.

However, I do plan to gather my reading and book statistics for 2008, post them, categorize them, and analyze them, and then...

Well, I said I wasn't going to plan any reading for 2008 and I didn't. I read an inordinate number of books (more than last year, already), but I am not satisfied. So, 2009 will be different. I will plan (not everything, of course), and I will see if I can get some of the heavier reading done that I really want to do.