Reading Challenge Update

Happy August! Time for the monthly reading challenge update.

Goodreads is informing me that I have read 24 books this year, or 46% of my 52 books goal. I have made up some ground – I am now only(?) 6 books behind schedule. And have I read anything good? I already wrote about how much I liked The Magician King, here’s what else I’ve been reading:

I read the children’s book, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. This is a delightful romp about four Prince Charmings. There is Cinderella’s Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Charming, Rapunzel’s Prince Charming, and Snow White’s Prince Charming. Except that they all have real names and personalities that have been overlooked by the minstrels of the realm who focus their stories on the princesses. The four become an unlikely band on a quest to rescue their princesses and their kingdoms.

While on vacation in Delaware, we wandered into a bookstore (surprise!) I checked out the local interest section and picked up Great Storms of the Chesapeake by David Healey. It wasn’t the greatest thing I’d ever read, but it was interesting enough and definitely helped reinforce some of the history and geography that I was learning on the trip.

For the Blue Willow summer staff book club, I read Burial RItes by Hannah Kent. Kent is Australian, but when she was in high school, she spent some time in Iceland. While there, she heard the story of Anges Magnusdottir, the last person ever executed in Iceland. Years later, Kent turned this bit of historical fact into a fine historical fiction novel. In 1829, Agnes is convicted of murder and given the death sentence. Rather than keep her in a prison until her execution, she is placed on a family farm. She is a prisoner, but also a servant/farm hand. The full truth surrounding the murders is revealed as Agnes tells her life story to a young priest and to the family she is living with. It is hard to know how much of the story is factual and how much springs from Kent’s imagination, but the harshness of life in Iceland is richly portrayed and all of us felt sympathetic to and frustrated by Agnes’ plight.

Gabrielle Zevin is one of my favorite YA authors. I picked up one of her earliest novels, Elsewhere. Elsewhere is a land where you go after you die on earth. You age backwards until you become a baby and then you are sent back to earth to be born again. The book follows the afterlife of 15-yr old Liz who arrives in Elsewhere after a bike accident. It’s an interesting premise and a nice exploration of death, grief, and the afterlife for teens, but  I found it simplistic and predictable, especially compared to Zevin’s later work.

I just finished The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Daughter #2 recommended this one to me after she had to read it for a class a few years back. She REALLY recommended it to me, PERSISTENTLY. She was right, I loved it. This is the story of John Laroche, an orchid enthusiast who is on trial for illegally removing wild orchids from a swamp in Florida. Sometimes when I read non-fiction I finish and think, “Well, that would have been better as a long magazine article.” Interestingly enough, Orlean originally DID write about the orchid poaching case as an article. But there was so much more to the story that she spent the better part of two years spending time with Laroche and others learning about orchids and the incredible passion of orchid collectors. And there’s also the side stories of the Seminoles, who never signed a peace treaty with the US, and the development and settlement of Florida. The book seems at times rambling and disjointed, but I loved it and found it all both fascinating and crazy.

I have one more month to work on the Blue Willow Summer Reading Bingo Challenge. I’ll never complete all 24 tasks needed to blackout the board, but I’ll see how many I can cover by the September 1. I can at least fit books in enough categories to win a standard line of bingo. I’ll share my final results next month. Happy reading!

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