October Readathon

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Well, I fell asleep at about 10pm EST, so…
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I didn’t have any ready this year, but I do like to read graphic novels during a readathon. The “Aya” series by Marguerite Abouet are a good go-to.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope! I was a pretty casual participant this year, and I can’t think of anything I could add to the pros that put it together.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
  5. How many books did you read? No entire books, but I finished one and made progress with three others.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? I finished “Ready Play One” on audio, started the audio of “The Maze Runner,” got over halfway through the ebook edition of “This is Where it Ends” and made progress with “Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? “Eileen” is definitely the book that’s most “me.” I get most of my audiobooks and ebooks from the library, and a lot of the time they aren’t my first choice, but I read what’s available. That means that often I’m not in love with the books I get.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? Probably “This is Where it Ends.” The depressing subject matter and jumping perspectives mean it’s not my favorite. Although I do often read pretty dark books. I don’t know. It’s just not really working for me. Though I will say it’s a pretty quick read.
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’m sure I will participate again, probably as a reader and cheerleader. I did some cheering this time, but I didn’t sign up for it in an official capacity.


1pm Update:
Still listening to Ready Player One. I’m on Chapter 37 of 39, so I should have my first book completed soon. I am going to be taking a bit of a break to go for a walk with a friend soon, so we’ll see. I’ve also been doing a little bit of cheerleading, mostly on twitter.

Starting! Well, actually, I was already reading before 8am, as I had “Ready Player One” playing on my phone. I was supposed to be in yoga at 8:30, but it was cancelled. So I went to breakfast, where I downloaded “This is Where it Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp. It’s available from my library as the current Big Library Read. Now, I’m back home, putting up this blog post and listening to Ready Player One.

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? East Coast of Florida
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I’d like to finish “The Professor and the Madman.”
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I’ll probably be breaking into some Halloween candy. Oh well!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Lawyer, feminist, rescue-dog mama.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’ve participated once before. I don’t know that I’ll do much different today. Read, listen, do some mini challenges. Breaks as necessary.

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My Year in Review

2014 was quite a year for me, in many respects. My reading patterns reflect this in many ways. The first part of the year was incredibly stressful. When I was reading, I was drawn to comfort type books that didn’t require much work on my part. I finally read the Harry Potter books – well, 2-7, as I did read the first one a couple years ago. Then there was Tamora Pierce, who I pretty much always love. The middle of the year found many middling type books, and it wasn’t until September and my discovery of Alison Lurie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Foreign Affairs” that I found myself excited about reading. Of course, that was just in time for me to give my notice at work and start a new business. So there really wasn’t much reading from October through the end of the year. When goodreads told me I’d ended the year only 8 short of my 100 book goal, I was shocked.

Another shocking aspect of my reading in 2014: I read more books on audio and in ebook form than I did physical books. I’m still not a huge audiobook fan in general. I think some books really work in that format, while others might not.

One that worked great as an audiobook was “Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue. I’m certainly no expert, but I thought the accents were great – very fitting for the characters. And the songs were so lovely! I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much out of it as I would have had I read it in print. 

 

year in books
On to the stats!

92 books total

Audio:                           17     18%
Ebook:                          41     45%
Fiction:                         78     85%
Non-fiction:                 14    15%
Female authors:         70     76%
Male authors:              22    24%
Authors of color:         22    24%
Books in translation:    1       1%

Obviously some of these categories are overlapping. The one stat I knew was going to be bad was my books in translation. I usually read a lot more than one a year, but not this year. One of the things about translated books is that they take more effort to seek out, and my efforts this year went places besides my reading.

Despite the upheaval in my personal life I still managed to keep reading and read a lot of good books. Here’s to 2015!

Three Audiobooks: Brief Thoughts

I listened to all these books! I’m getting to be a regular audiobookphile. Or something. Maybe that’s more appropriate for people who actually, you know, love audiobooks. I’m more at the casual dating, let’s keep it fun stage. But if you want to introduce me to a lifelong love, I’m open to the possibility.
Book cover of Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Caleb’s Crossing
Geraldine Brooks
Narrated by Jennifer Ehle

It’s 1660 on Martha’s Vineyard. The native Wampanoags are in an uneasy coexistence with a small, breakaway Puritan community.  One of the young Wampanoag, Cheeshahteaumauck, son of the local tribal leader and nephew of the most powerful healer in the area,  meets Bethia, the daughter of the town preacher, granddaughter of the town leader.

A friendship ensues, they teach each other their languages, Bethia teaches  Cheeshahteaumauck, now called Caleb, to read and write, they part when Caleb has to go on a ritual quest to learn more about becoming a healer.

I really liked a lot about this book. I liked Bethia. She illustrated so well that women in her time could wonder about their existence as fully capable humans, and how that fit into a worldview that kept them from so many opportunities.

I also really didn’t like a lot about this book. First, the title. Caleb’s Crossing. But this seems so much to be Bethia’s story. Caleb is the one who is the first Native American graduate from Harvard. He’s the historical scrap that Brooks weaves her story around. This just made me uncomfortable. He’s not a book, like the Sarajevo Haggadah. He’s a person. From a group of people that we all but wiped out. (Side note: it took 346 years for another Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard.)

Also, on Bethia: omg I found the scenes with one of her suitors SO INFURIATING. After I found them sickening. She is with her suitor discussing the miscarriage of a young woman, where the pregnancy was very likely the product of a rape. Moments later they are arguing, and he viciously grabs her and forcibly kisses her. And she finds this very sexy.  Look, I am not going to audit people’s sexual preferences. But again, telling me that a sexual act done to someone without their is something that they will enjoy and will get you a lasting relationship with them is something I’m just not cool with. (See Damned, below.)

Book cover of Trapeze by Simon Mawer.

Trapeze
Simon Mawer
Narrated by Kate Reading

A twentysomething English-Swiss girl is recruited to be a spy during World War II. Along the way, she creates alternate identities that allow her to act in ways that Marian Sutro, Geneva schoolgirl, would never have been able to.

She excels at her training, learning her way around simple explosives, a variety of firearms, stealth skydiving, and more. During “piano lessons” aka learning coded radio transmission, her personal key is a love poem she wrote about family friend and nuclear physicist Clement Pelltier.

She wonders about Clement, who she learns is still working in Paris. When she’s sent to France, will she see him? (Well, it’s a book, so, yeah.) Her interactions with him show her struggle to break free of the giggly teen she was the last time she saw him, and the confident, courageous woman she is today.

Overall, I liked the book, though the extended allusion to Alice in Wonderland got a bit old. Marian/Alice/whatevershe’sgoingby is falling down the rabbit hole, learning how to survive in an environment teeming with danger around every corner. We get it.

I did like how Marian fumbled around with taking ownership of her sexuality. It felt very real in the context of her situation.

Book cover of Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Damned
Chuck Palahniuck

Thirteen year old Madison Spenser dies and goes to hell where she works a a telemarketer convincing dying mortals that they should make hell their afterlife choice. It’ really not bad! Come see!

Sounds like a fun concept, but unfortunately it went downhill from there.

I mentioned in a Sunday Salon post that I was not in love with this book when I first started listening to it. It didn’t get any better for me. There was that sexual assault scene that still pisses me off. I don’t need to read this shit that tells me that women like getting raped, without even recognizing that it is, in fact, rape.

Beyond that, there were some logical inconsistencies that just did not make sense. One involves using a string of condoms as a rope. Any strip of condoms I’ve ever seen has perforations between the individual condoms, so if you pulled on the strip with any amount of force it is going to rip the strip apart. This may seem really random but it’s key to a major plot point.

And if Madison likes Rebecca so much, she would know that Rebecca was the FIRST WIFE WHO IS DEAD. Fin.

In which I try another audiobook with Come In and Cover Me

Come In and Cover Me

Come In and Cover Me
Gin Phillips
Narrated by Angela Brazil

I remember buying Gin Phillips’s first book, The Well and the Mine, back when I was in college.* My roommate and I liked to go down to the local Barnes & Noble and wander around, looking for books to read. We didn’t always buy something, but we always had fun. Ever since them I’ve been waiting for her to come out with another book. Well, she finally has.

Come In and Cover Me is the story of Ren, a talented and respected archaeologist who made an important discovery of Mimbres pottery early in her career. She has a secret, though – her discovery was made with the help of the spirit of a young Mimbres woman, the artist herself. Or so Ren thinks.

When she’s called away from her desk job at a museum to evaluate pottery at a new dig site, Ren is eager to see if more of “her” artist’s work has been uncovered. She finds more than just sherds of pottery, though. She finds Silas, another archaeologist, who seems to know that Ren’s hiding something about who she makes her discoveries.  Will she reveal her secret? If she does, will he believe her just think she’s imagining things and turn away?

As much as I liked parts of the book, other parts just didn’t work. Like the characters. They seemed to act, well, out of character. Ren, in particular does things that don’t seem in keeping with an archaeologist who’s been working in the field for nearly twenty years. Nothing major, just little things here and there. And Silas – he’s like the all-knowing genius who knows everything. (Yes, I know that’s repetitive. So is the book.) Really, you have all the answers?

Speaking of Silas, I just really disliked him. He seems okay from Ren’s point of view, but once the point of view shifts and you hear from him more directly – wow, what a douchcanoe. There’s one instance where he’s thinking about the Mimbres people and wondering what they’d think of modern humans disturbing their burial grounds. He’s thinking of the usual reasons given – it’s for posterity, to gain knowledge. Then:

“He did not think the dead woman would know those words.”

Ugh. Okay, I get the point. The culture they’re digging up would not necessarily be happy with being dug up. But seriously, a modern educated white guy thinking that a long dead Native American woman would not “know those words” – posterity, knowledge – bugs me. Especially from Silas, who as I may have mentioned, knows all the things.

I did enjoy Phillips’ descriptions of the physical, tangible aspects of the novel. You could feel the dirt in your hands, the rocks under your feet, the sun beating down. I even thought the sexyparts were well done – and this comes from a reader who’d prefer those things be hidden under a blanket. At first, I thought someone reading those sexyparts to me would be weird and uncomfortable, but I liked how Angela Brazil was just very straightforward and matter of fact. It worked.

On the other hand, I wasn’t thrilled about the voices for the characters, particularly Ren. She sounds too delicate and precious. Also, the voices aren’t consistent throughout the novel. Sometimes the characters sound too much alike, which gets confusing.

Overall, while I wasn’t blown away, I enjoyed it, and was happy to have the chance to try another audiobook. I do hope that Gin Phillips doesn’t wait so long to write her next book.

*I just looked up the publication date for The Well and the Mine, and it seems like it actually came out in 2008, which would be after I graduated. I swear that I read this in college, though. Hmmm…

This copy graciously provided to me by AudioGO.

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Measure of a Man Doesn’t Measure Up

cover of The Measure of a Man Audiobook
The Measure of a Man

The Measure of a Man
Sidney Poitier

I listened to this on audio book last month, and have been hesitating to write the review ever since. I just really, really, disliked it – and I was hoping to enjoy it. I mean, it’s Sidney Poitier! Who doesn’t like Sidney Poitier?

I spent half the book wondering if I didn’t like it simply because it was an audio book. It was only the second audio book I’ve listened to, so I thought “well, maybe the format just isn’t my thing.” Nope. I’ve since listened to another audio book and loved it. Not the format.

Okay, so what was it that bothered me about this book? It starts off strong. Poitier is talking about how he doesn’t believe that we should look to other, less developed societies to find ways to be strong, upright people. That basically, your kid isn’t going to grow up to be a screw-up because zie has access to television. Makes sense. THEN he spends the rest of the book extolling the benefits of growing up on an undeveloped island in the Bahamas where there was no electricity, running water, etc. He comes back to this theme all the time. I guess that you could say he’s just explaining where he personally came from, but the impression is that this is the way all children should be raised and if they aren’t – if they’re raised in say, Miami, they’re going to be morally bankrupt by 16.

There’s also a lot of self congratulating going on. Poitier takes nearly all the credit for the success of the play A Raisin in the Sun. It was painful to listen to. His vision of the play may have been a better one – I’ll concede that – but wow, the ego involved was staggering. Of course, it takes quite a bit of ego to write a book about your life and be sure that many people would want to read it, and I’m sure most people in Hollywood probably have enormous egos, too.

I was interested in Poitier’s interactions with civil rights activists. He talks about how studios wanted to to sign contracts that he wouldn’t associate with certain people who were considered agitators, and he refused to do that. Again, this part of the book fell short. I don’t know if he had his reasons for not talking about these encounters in more detail – was he protecting someone? – but I wanted to know more.

I do want to read Harry Belafonte’s new memoir, My Song. He and Poitier were friends, and I heard him interviewed on NPR about the two of them splitting a theater ticket, one watching the first half of a play and the other going in to watch the end. Something about how Belafonte told the story was more engaging than anything that I heard from Poitier.

Have you read this? Did you like it? What am I missing?