March Reading Challenge Update

March?!?!!! Oh well.

The writing muse hasn’t been calling me, but the reading muse has been fairly active.  I set my goodreads challenge at 40 books this year, the one book a week thing just was never going to happen. I’ve read 10 so far, 25% done, 4 books ahead of schedule. Much more satisfying (nb that we are only on week 9  of 2014, but I know it is a pace I can not sustain.)

Anyone out there trying my reading challenge? I didn’t think so, but I have enjoyed stretching my reading comfort zone a bit and am on my last book of the second lap. Here’s what I read:

Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. TraversMary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson. This is the story of PL Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books. There were a few interesting tidbits about Travers’ life, like her involvement with Gurdjieff, but overall I found it incomplete and unfullfilling. Category: Biography

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Absolutely fascinating recounting of the Chicago World’s Fair entwined with the story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who lived and murdered in Chicago at the same time. Holmes’ story was horrifying yet totally compelling. The background on Burnham and the other architects who made the fair happen was completely engrossing. Even tho I grew up in Chicago, I really didn’t know anything about either story line. Category: History

The Storied Life of A. J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Zevin is one of my favorite authors of young adult books, but I don’t always like her adult novels. Happily, I can report that this one is charming. AJ Fikry owns a small bookstore in a tourist town on the east coast. He has never really recovered from the death of his wife, and is struggling to make a go of the bookstore. But the power of love and the power of books ensure a happy ending. Not great literature, but a pleasant love story that is also an ode to the independent bookseller. How could this sappy former bookseller not love this one? Category: Fiction

The Apothecary (The Apothecary, #1)The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. At the height of the cold war, Janie is forced to move from LA to London when her writer parents are blacklisted for having communist sympathies. In England she gets tangled up with Russian spies and involved with a group of alchemists who are trying use their science to save humnaity from the effects of atomic bombs.  I didn’t think it was anything special as an adult reader, but for the intended audience it was great. Category: Children’s Novels

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden LifeThe Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik. This memoir was a very pleasant surprise, I would not have picked it up if it wasn’t a book club selection.  After the death of her father, Darznik happens upon a wedding picture of her mother and a man who is NOT her father. Although initially she refuses to talk about it, her mother eventually sends Darznik cassette tapes which the author then turns into this story about her mom’s life in Iran and the disasterous, arranged first marriage. The past is entwined with their story of coming to America and trying to fit in here as well. It was a fascinating cross-cultural read and made for a good book club discussion. Category: Non-fiction

Native Guard: PoemsNative Guard by Natasha Trethewey. It seemed to me to be a good idea to pick up something by the current US Poet Laureate; I was right. The Louisiana Native Guard was a black Union regiment in the Civil War. One of their wartime duties was to guard the POW prison that was located on Ship Island, just off the coast of Trethewey’s hometown of Gulfport, MS.   Trethewey grew up in a multiracial family and her poetry speaks to her own history as well as the history of the deep south, including the Louisiana Native Guard. Category: Poetry

Ender's GameEnder’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Young Ender Wiggins is recruited to be trained as a soldier with the hopes that he will be the leader who can save the Earth. Ender and the other kids are essentially trained by playing war games. It was OK, but I was expecting more. Category: Science Fiction

A Deadly Shade of Gold: A Travis McGee NovelDeadly Shade of Gold by John D. MacDonald. #5 in the Travis McGee series did not disappoint. This time McGee is off to Mexico to avenge the murder of a friend. Interesting observations on the Cuban exile issues of the 60’s, which seemed surpisingly relevent to today’s geo-political news. The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Thankfully, McGee never changes. Category: Mystery

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. A book like this would definitely not be in my normal reading repetoire. Using layman’s science, Duhigg explains the habit loop (cue-response-reward) and then uses lots of examples to illustrate how habits work and how they can be changed. There are examples for individuals, corporations, and even whole communities.  The information is parsed out evenly, it isn’t preachy, it isn’t a self help book, and I found it easy and worthwhile to read. Category: Business or Psychology (“Other” for the purposes of the Reading Challenge)

I’ve started my Young Adult book which will complete lap 2 of the reading challenge. Not sure if I’ll start another round or come up with a different challenge, but I’ll let you know here – eventually.

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