21 December 2012

Achievement Unlocked: 35 books read in a year!

Okay guys. I have to confess. When I finished Ice Cold I thought, "If I can get my hands on The Silent Girl, I will have my reading challenge finished in a matter of days!" I confess this to you because, well, it feels like cheating. The whole point of the 35 book challenge was just that--it was supposed to be a CHALLENGE. To me, starting a book I know I could finish in two days in order to complete my goal was NOT a challenge. 

But that didn't stop me. 

So maybe I'm only half sorry?

Whichever side you take with the issue, the fact of the matter is that I finished The Silent Girl in three days (well, maybe four) and it was the 35th book I read this year! So I will claim that as a "win" and just move on with my life. 

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
After the problems I had reading Ice Cold & Last to Die out of order, things felt right reading The Silent Girl. There wasn't too much of the story that was ruined for me from previous books so I didn't feel like it was old hat in any way.
After a rather gruesome murder in Chinatown, that is somehow tied to a 19 year old case, Jane and Maura do there best to get to the bottom of the mystery without ending up on the morgue slab themselves. Maura gets to spend some time with Rat, which is great especially after the last book where I finally met him and can now piece together their story. Anthony Sansone is kind enough to drive Rat from Evensong to Maura's house in Boston. Later, Rat alludes to an interesting conversation he has with Anthony about Maura...unfortunately Rat doesn't divulge the particulars.  Drat. It is of course, one thing to think Anthony likes Maura; it is another thing entirely to know that he has confessed it. Another mystery for another book, I suppose. 

One thing I really loved about this book is that it introduces the reader to Chinese myth and folklore as well as the culture of tradition and honor. After hearing Tess Gerritsen speak about her writing and reading the afterward in the book, it is really nice to see her use her history and her family's history to tell her story. 

And that makes 35 books! I must admit that for a second there, I didn't think I was going to make it! I mean, I didn't make most of the books off the list I started the year with, but I DO own those, so I figure I have all the time in the world for them.
I'm already working out a game plan for this year. Every time I talk to Rachel (who is doing the reading challenges with me) we come up with a different number for next year. Sometimes it is 45; sometimes it is 50. Whatever. We've just decided to read through Jane Austen together, so you can look forward to plenty of dreamy posts about Mr. Darcy and Col. Brandon. Le Sigh.
As I mentioned in November, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis and my other friend and I talked about reading through his work this year too. So, that will be on the agenda. And if you give this mouse a Lewis cookie, she will probably ask for a side of J.R.R. Tolkien to go with it :)

Did you make reading goals for 2012? Did you complete them? Are you going to make a goal for 2013? I'd love to hear what you are planning on reading!

18 December 2012

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

I was in such a rush to read a new Tess Gerritsen book before I got to see her in person (which I did. Update with pictures should be up later this month!) that I did something completely unlike me and rather rash: I read her books out of order. Gasp! 
To some, this really isn't a problem. I don't know that I've ever done it before and having tried it I can whole heartedly say that I do NOT like reading books out of order. It had been probably 3 years since I had last read a Gerritsen novel and was counting myself lucky that I could remember who Jane & Maura were, let alone that Jane was married with a daughter. And Maura & Daniel? Yeah I did not remember that. Anyway...
I read Last to Die and loved it, but needed to know what had happened in the two books before it. I had missed Ice Cold & The Silent Girl, in that order. And so, in that order, I picked up where I left off, many years ago. 

Maura Isles makes a very un-Maura choice when she decides to go skiing with an old friend from college, his teenage daughter and two friends. Everything goes pear shaped when they find themselves stuck in the snow near Kingdom Come, home to a cult known as The Gathering. It would not have been too bad(well, maybe not)...except the small town/development has been abandoned for no apparent reason. What would cause families to leave windows open, serve dinner and then just disappear?   

I'm not gonna lie. Something just felt "off" in Ice Cold. Maybe it was because the whole "will Maura survive??" mystery just wasn't a mystery for me. Last to Die relies heavily on a story line that started in Ice Cold. About midway through Ice Cold we meet 16 year old named Julian Perkins who prefers to be called Rat. However, he features as more of a main character in Last to Die...so I kind of felt like I knew him already. (SPOILER) I knew they both survived the snow bound mountains of Wyoming. 
It was good Gerritsen, like always, but I think I will read them in order for always...too much gets spoiled when you ignore the plot order! 

With a little over one week left to the month, I am almost done with my challenge! I just need one more book to make my goal of 35 books in a year. I am super excited about this and almost even more excited to get started on my reading goal for next year. But one thing at a time! What will be the last book on my list? I guess I'll find out soon! What about you? What's the last book YOU will read in 2012?

13 December 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever."

So begins The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. In the author's own words, it is "a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don't just illustrate the story; they help tell it." He goes on to say that he has created "something that is not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

I've known about this book for a few years and was reminded of it again when I saw that my library owned the movie. I rented the movie and book on the same day and put both away. The book is a bit daunting looking and I was sure I would end up seeing the movie before reading the book. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Rachel about our Goodreads book challenge and mentioned that it was on my "to-read" list still. Having just finished Phantom on the Bookshelves, I was suffering a little bit of a book-hangover and wasn't quite sure what I wanted to read next. Nothing too emotionally demanding, nothing too scholarly. Young Adult book? Perfection. 
I took it to dinner with me and started it while I was waiting for my food to heat up in the microwave. I read the first page, where the quote above is from, while standing up. As soon as I got through the first page, it turned into about 40 pages of illustration that not only followed what was on that first page of text (the introduction of Hugo Cabret) but continued telling the story wordlessly. There's only so much you can take in when you are standing, waiting by the microwave as I was. So as soon as my timer beeped I was sitting at the table, warmed food mostly ignored, engrossed in the drawings that were telling me a story. I think I finally took a breath when I got to the next installment of text. 
I worked my way through over 300 pages in one sitting. I hazard a guess that at least 50% of those pages were illustrations, but that didn't matter. Black and white though they were, they were riveting and thought provoking. As I read it I thought, "I would love to buy this for my niece (who is just 13 weeks old) and my girls (that I babysit, 8 & 6) and their brother (2) and..." Seriously, this is a book that all ages can enjoy. 
I love that it does incorporate illustrations and pictures into the story. They aren't just to help the story (as in the case of "Why We Broke Up); rather, they are part OF the story. And I love that. 

And the movie? I can't WAIT to see it now!

08 December 2012

Phantoms on the Bookshelves

As some of you know, I have trouble walking in to a public library to return something and then leaving with...nothing. It hardly ever happens. It is one of the hardest things in life that I have to do. As is becoming a habit with me, since I now work in a library (where I don't get fines) I try to limit my public library use (where I do get fines). It's hard for me to remember that even though I am reading every night and racing like a mad thing to get the book finished, the public library frankly doesn't care and if they can't renew it (even if there isn't a hold on it for ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD) will not renew it for me. No matter how much I beg. It's even gotten to the point where I will no longer ask for a renewal for my inter-library loan books but rather, call the lending library directly to ask for more time. Oddly enough, they renew the book without any trouble. Who knew. Well, I do. Now.
Anyway, I was either returning something or picking something up and this book caught my eye: Phantoms on the Bookshelves. The first praise on the back says "Bibliomaniac Jacques Bonnet welcomes us...into a delightful, idiosyncratic world created by his 'monstrous' obsession with books." (Peter Stothard, Daily Beast) With a boast like that, how could I refuse? I think I picked it up, glanced at it, put it down and turned away...only to turn back round and snag it off the shelves. It is a thin volume, 9 chapters and only 123 pages with an almost 10 page bibliography in the back. I am so glad I turned back for this book. It made me think of something Lewis says about friendship. We realize it in the instant we say to someone, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” (A quote from Mere Christianity...I think? Google wasn't very forthcoming with information and I haven't my book in front of me...anyway. Forgive the lack of source, Jack. I still think you are the man.)
Maybe it is a book lover thing. Maybe it is a book owner thing. Whatever it is, I think M. Bonnet and I are made from the same stuff. Some of what he writes, even in translation, is hilariously funny. Some of it, you've known all your life but find comforting to see in print. Like the fact that he too keeps lists: "lists of books to read or re-read, or of the few indispensable books I would take to a desert island." (67)
M. Bonnet begins a chapter entitled "Organizing the Bookshelves" like this: "Any person who owns several tens of thousands of books its faced with an inescapable problem: their classification." (32) Ah. A man after my own heart. He presents many ways of classifying books but ultimately ends with the solution: "combine several of these orders, allowing some latitude to one's own rules. A principle you could extend, of course, to life in general." (40)
Seriously, I want to buy this man a coffee and just sit and listen to him talk. My lack of French doesn't bother me. I'm more concerned about looking the fool, as I haven't heard of half of the books he mentions. 
If I could, I would buy a copy of this book for all of my book loving friends. In fact, the month is still young...I just might do that... 

What book would you, if you could, buy and share with all of your friends? 

07 December 2012

November Fails

I've called it quits on two books I was reading for this month. Er, last month. Whatever.
The first is, as I'm sure you are all surprised to discover, The Amber Wizard. I was just about 100 pages from the end of the novel, the great battle had just started...and I really couldn't muster up anything close to caring about the characters or the fate of the kingdom. Even now, having just called it quits, I can't remember the name of the kingdom or even the great amber wizard. A slightly forgettable book, which is very unfortunate because I think there is true promise to the story. The writing was tiresome and felt overdone or perhaps, just under edited. There were a lot of details that were fleshed out (as if describing set design) that might have aided the story if they were used in a more descriptive way. Perhaps, I will find the time in the future to finish it. I shall not, however, read the rest of the series. 

The second book I quit is called Secret Smile by Nicci French. I will confess that I first heard about this because of a miniseries where one, David Tennant, plays the main character Brendan. I rented both the DVD and the book from the public library, but returned both before I finished them. The miniseries was a bit haunting, but not in the good way. In the, "wow, that was really really creepy" kind of way. Brendan dates Miranda, or "dates" her, for a mere 14 days. She finds him in her home (uninvited) one day reading through her diary. She kicks him out, breaks up with him and thinks no more of him...until her sister introduces him as her new boyfriend. Miranda is confused when she finds that Brendan has told her sister that he (Brendan) had broken up with her (Miranda) and hoped that there would be no hard feelings between them. No matter how many times Miranda tries to correct this, Brendan always seems to "win" to the point where he is driving Miranda absolutely crazy. 
I only saw the first half of the miniseries and I was starting to stress out about it. I was completely unnerved by how much control Brendan had in the situation and how he was able to manipulate everyone around him, except of course Miranda, though no one would believe her. 

In other, happier news, I am almost to my Goodreads goal of 35 books! I hate to prematurely congratulate myself, but so far I think I've only had 4 really bad books this year. Two things: (1) the year isn't out, so that number could go up and (2) four really isn't huge in the scheme of things. Oh well. 
How I will finish those three AND season 5 of Mad Men? No idea. I'll think of something. I always do...