Sunday, October 30, 2016

How about them goals?

I probably should have checked in earlier on my goals but, looking at my posts this past year, it's obvious that I lost my reading oomph. It's also obvious that I have it back. So let's check in, yes?

My initial goal for the year overall is to read 50 books. Goodreads informs me that I'm at 37 which isn't a terrible amount. Here's my current list of books for 2016. I will say, I've really enjoyed the books I've read. I've ended up reading things I normally wouldn't have picked out for myself thanks to the Postal Book Club started with the Books on the Nightstand podcast (now a defunct podcast which hurts my heart!). The current postal book club will be ending soon and I already signed up for the Before They Were Movies postal book club. I just need to find a good book to read and send on!

My next goal was to have 10% of my reading be classics. I was hoping to read 5 classics this year:

Wuthering Heights
The Handmaid's Tale (this technically could have fit in the re-reads but I moved it)
A Tale of Two Cities

I think I can knock 2 more classics out by the end of the year.

My other goal was to have 10% of my reading to be historical reading, either true stories or biographies.

Dead Wake
The Harlem Hellfighters

Looks like I need to beef this up a bit. Right now, I'm reading American Heiress so that will land nicely in the historical category!

I was also going to re-read 2 books. Because of the Dark Tower movie coming out, a friend and I are re-reading the entire Dark Tower series so that, including re-reading The Stand, covers my re-read goal (and more!).

I'm really not doing too badly here. Honestly, any year where I read this many books is a good year!

Escape Clause by John Sandford

Do you remember when Virgil Flowers aka That Fuckin' Flowers was just a bit player in the Lucas Davenport series? Flowers is already on his 9th book, y'all!

Lucas makes a VERY brief appearance in this, the rest is Flowers holding his own. I will admit that when I first realized, by Chapter 2, that this was about missing tigers from a zoo, I almost put it down. How exciting can that be?

Turns out, pretty damn exciting.

There are actually several things happening at the same time:

Missing Amur tigers from the Minnesota zoo

Frankie's sister coming to stay and wanting to interview migrant workers in a pickle factory

Pickle factory owner getting angry and sending out goons

Animal activists aiming to kill people.

Lots of folks dying

It started to get a little twisty and you have to remember which parts affect which case but I read this in a day and it was a pretty good ride. I really appreciate the Flower series. My only complaint with this book is that the characters seemed a little.....cartoony. Flowers was still awesome, but once Sparkle and Father Bill came into the picture, well, they were caricatures. If I want cartoony characters, I'll hit up the Stephanie Plum series (which I do, frequently). I just don't want them in my Sandford books.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Another entertaining book by Klosterman. He's a bit all over the place here, jumping from idea to idea, but the premise is good and he made very interesting points.  What if we are wrong about the things we know now? He's trying to think, and make us think, about the future using our present as the past. Got that? It can get a bit confusing.

Klosterman starts of questioning .... gravity. Bold move. But it is just a theory, right? And a fairly new one at that. Chuck tackles rock n roll music (would the Beatles be the epitome of rock 200 years from now??), whether sports will continue as a big money maker, or even at all, and the Constitution. Is democracy overrated? Keep reading, because it's all fair game for Chuck to question.

Klosterman has no real answers. He mainly presents all sides of the possibilities and leaves us to ponder the rest.

If you listen to the audiobook, you will get a lovely British lady reading to you. Apparently Klosterman thought that would sound better than his reading voice. Thanks, Chuck!

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

At first, this book annoyed me badly. Badly enough I almost quit reading it. I didn't realize I had a pet peeve against slang being used in books until this one bombarded me with slang (STOP with the "chillaxed"....seriously). I kept at it and ended up actually happy to have read it.

It's a brutal story, to be sure, but Lesley Holloway is introduced to us at 16 years old, having ran away from home and away from her rapist father and pathetic mother. She calls Social Services and, in England at least, they step in and help her out with boarding, food and school. This is a story of mental illness. Lesley turns to self-harm in order to cope with her new situation. When her mother turns against her, her dad ends up in prison, and she ends up alone, she attempts suicide. From there, we follow Lesley through psych wards, therapy and finding a surrogate family.

When Lesley is in her early 20's, she finally has consensual sex and ends up pregnant. The second part of the novel is Lesley trying to prove to Social Services that she is stable enough to be a single mother. This part was heartbreaking. I've never been in any situations like Lesley but the writing and the story feel very true.

This wasn't an easy read, outside of the terrible slang used, but in the end, it was worth reading.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

This is the second book in the Dark Tower series and it pulls together our main core of characters. Remember from the first book, The Gunslinger, Roland was told he must draw three. In this book, Roland comes across 3 doors that are portals into another world, our world, at different points in time. From those portals, he draws his three companions who will travel to the Dark Tower with Roland.

We start off with Roland where he ended in the first book, except he's aged quite a bit. He awakens on a beach and has an encounter with a lobstrosity ("Did-a-chick?") and that encounter leaves him minus some fingers and a toe. Naturally, these lobster-dohickeys are poisonous so Roland quickly gets very ill. Luckily, we come across the first door that leads us into Eddie Dean's world. Eddie is a heroin addict who initially, and later, fights against Roland.

Our next door brings us to Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker. She's a paralyzed woman with 2 distinct personalities and one of them, Detta, is a pretty terrible person. Roland doesn't have as much time with her to convince her to come to his world so he abruptly brings her over.

The third door, well, now, that's an interesting one. Mort is behind that door (The Pusher) but we don't want him. What happens behind this door brings us our third person. I love how this story plays out, even reading it the second time around made me happy.

Our band of merry (?) travelers continue on.......

Friday, October 14, 2016

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by JK Rowling

At 71 pages, this was a quick read and a nice little jump back into Harry Potter's world. I realize Rowling has to move on from Potter (and her Cormoran Strike series is a wonderful road to take) but I do appreciate that she came back for a few to give us 3 short e-books.

E-book number one covers the backgrounds of Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn. We also get sidenotes on Animagi, Werewolves and Naming Seers.

I've missed these characters so I was happy to get a little more background on them. Note that this isn't a story, just biographical information. I think Potter fans will be happy with it!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

A friend and I are tackling this series once again. We've both already read all 8 books but with the new movie coming out in February, we wanted a refresher. Plus, this is such a damn good series, how could we not??

I believe I read The Gunslinger first in either 8th or 9th grade and then I just eagerly awaited all the books as they came out. The first 3 books are paperbacks so I'm guessing I grabbed them all at once? Who knows. My mind has blotted out middle and high school for the most part.

Roland Deschain is our intrepid gunslinger. The first book introduces us to Roland as he crosses a desert in search of the Man in Black. The Man in Black is pure evil with the ability to bring the dead back to life. If you are a fan of King, the Man in Black appears in other books as well. The gunslinger was raised in a world that is no longer. Once his world, and those he loved, were destroyed, he set out for his destiny of destroying the Man in Black.

Along the way, Roland comes across Jake, a young boy of 9 who is mysteriously and suspiciously set in the middle of Roland's path. Jake was killed by the Man in Black in his world (basically OUR world) and ended up in Roland's world. The gunslinger comes to love the little boy but his pursuit of the Man in Black can't be stopped, even if it means the death of Jake.

Re-reading this book reminded again of King's lyrical storytelling. He's not being funny or creepy or disturbing here. There's bloodshed but not in the way King is known for. This is a story unfolding into another story with flashbacks into more stories. THIS is storytelling. This is amazing characters on an adventure in a world that is unlike any other. This reminds why I adore this series so much.