I have been reading some fine books of late, and as we are now in July and at the half-way point of my summer reading challenge, I think it is time for an update.
First the bad news, I am woefully behind on my Goodreads challenge to read one book a week. I have read 17 books which puts me 9 books behind schedule. I evidently need some serious waiting time, when I don’t have my ipad on a wireless network.
Now the good news, I have completed 5/10 tasks on the TFTB challenge so I am actually on track to a successful completion. Here’s how it’s going:
Task #5 – Read a book with a title that could be a line in a c&w song. I read Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. This is the book that was chosen for our first, irregularly scheduled, required participation, Blue Willow staff book club. I have to say that I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the book, but I really appreciated it after I finished it and the discussion was illuminating and very satisfying. It is the story of the one thing that has ever happened in the small town of Brownsburg, VA. A loner named Charlie Beale shows up in town, becomes accepted by the townsfolk and truly befriended by some of them, and becomes obsessed with the wife of the most powerful man in town. The title might sound bucolic, but you know from the beginning that something far less than wonderful will be the outcome of this book. Goolrick’s writing is, however, very wonderful. This book isn’t for everyone, the plot is slow-moving and straight forward and the character development is intentionally ambiguous, but this book has really stuck with me and will be great for book clubs.
Task #6 – Read a book that takes place in one of the 13 original colonies. I read Because It Is My Blood, the second in the Birthright
series by Gabrielle Zevin. Whatever taste I might have had for teen fantasy/futuristic/dystopian novels (and especially SERIES) has definitely been soured, mostly by the glut of stuff being published. Yup, even the Hunger Games didn’t hold my interest enough for me to want to read books 2 or 3 of the trilogy. So you may be surprised to hear me rave about Zevin’s series, which started with All These Things I’ve Done. Anya Balanchine lives in a future, but not so futuristic, New York City.
She is the heir to the Balanchine Chocolate business. Chocolate, and caffeine, are currently illegal in the United States during this period of time referred to as the Second Prohibition. Anya is embroiled in many sides of the chocolate business, including international cartels, politics, and the black market. Plus, in this second novel, she is just being released from juvenile detention, trying to figure out how she can finish high school and wondering if there is any future with the boy she has fallen for, who just happens to be the son of NYC District Attorney. Zevin is a smart writer and she writes for smart readers. There is plenty to be gleaned about both history and today’s world affairs while reading about Anya, the first YA protagonist I’ve wanted to read more about in a long time. (Yes, way more compelling than Katniss.) Too bad they messed with the covers.
Task #7 – Read a non-fiction book. I read Houston Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Bayou City by Ronnie Crocker. Crocker’s byline is usually found in the business section of the Houston Chronicle, but he also writes a beer blog for the paper. That gig led him to be approached by the History Press to write a book about the history of Houston brewing, based on the success of similar projects in a few other cities around the country. Crocker does a nice job of it, giving just enough history of the city itself to provide the proper context.
Task #8 – Read anything. The book I’m counting here is the first book I read that didn’t fit any other task, Lisa Lutz’s latest installment in the life of Izzy Spellman, Trail of the Spellmans. More of the same, a delightful romp with the quirky, sometimes dysfunctional, young private detective and the usual assortment of quirky relatives and friends and clients. My taste for the Spellmans has NOT soured.
Task #10 – Read a book where a word in the title is also a profession. Doc by Mary Doria Russell fit this task. Russell is one of my favorite authors. Every book she writes is very different and I have enjoyed them all. Doc is the fictionalized story of John Henry ‘Doc’ Hollilday, the old-west dentist famous for his participation in the gunfight at the OK Corral. Russell writes about Doc before the OK Corral, how the southern gentleman from Georgia finds himself in Dodge City, Kansas in the company of a Hungarian aristocrat turned prostitute and the lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers. A fabulous blend of Russell’s researching and writing skills.
So that’s my Reading Challenge Update. I’ve read a few other titles worth reviewing, but I’ll save those for another post. Anybody out there working on the challenge this summer?