Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I've been reading: May 2012

Something about the start to longer days makes me want to read.  When dinner's over and the dishes are done and it's still nice and light out, that's my cue to enjoy the extra light with a book in hand.  I spent a little time earlier this month on vacation, and I'll be honest: the majority of the reading I did for 10 days happened in airports or on a plane.  So I've been making up for it since I've been back!  Here's what I've been reading over the past month...

Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James.  Yes, I caved and read the second book while on vacation.  It's a bit better written than the first, but not by a huge amount.  That said, I figured it was more than fluffy enough to qualify as vacation reading, and I was right.  Everything from hard limits to helicopter crashes are handled with an equal lack of gravity, and I'll be honest, in hindsight the whole thing just leaves me kind of underwhelmed.  Currently not feeling terribly compelled to read the final installment, and I don't know that I necessarily understand the ravings of so many readers that these books are so amazing.  The plots are scattered, the characters have little depth, there are earth-shattering "secrets" at every turn that floor the characters, but didn't make me so much as bat an eye.  I just don't quite get it, and I'm okay with that.  544 pages

The Wayfarer Redemption, by Sara Douglass.  This was a paperback of mine that I've been hoarding for a rainy day, or a flight, whichever came first.  The library does own other books in this series, and I've also ordered us a replacement copy of the title.  Douglass,  professor of English history at La Trobe University, Bendigo and one of Australia's most famous writers, is a master of epic fantasy fiction.  Here, she introduces a millenia-old prophecy and a land fractured by religion, where people believe the end is near.  One woman, Faraday, a nobleman's daughter, becomes a lynchpin in political and prophetical machinery far beyond her experience.  But she is the only one who can change the minds and hearts of her people, and unify the fractured peoples against their common foe.  672 pages

The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson.  Changing gears completely, I picked this up when I got home, ready to sink my teeth into something deep and challenging.  I chose wisely, and found myself following Pak Jun Do, son of a lost mother and a father who runs a work camp for orphans.  Jun Do, recognized for his loyalty and fierce instincts, moves up through the ranks of the "greatest nation in the world, The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea", becoming whatever role is set before him: tunnel rat, sailor, spy, diplomat, and finally, treacherous rival to leader Kim Jong Il.  This last role is an attempt to save the woman he loves, actress Sun Moon.  Full of innocence lost, stolen moments of love and beauty, and the harsh realities of cruelty and corruption, this really is a book to be savored.  I loved every minute.  464 pages

The Witness, by Nora Roberts.  Nora Roberts is one of my guilty pleasure readers.  Somehow, each one is just as engrossing and quick-moving as the last, and I enjoy them greatly.  Here, Roberts delves into the Russian mafia, witness protection and the life of a fugitive in fear for her life.  The one night that teenage prodigy Elizabeth defies her strict mother and goes out clubbing with a friend, she witnesses a double-murder, a hit by the Russian mob.  When she agrees to testify, her security team is compromised, and Elizabeth barely escapes with her life, doomed to live in hiding for more than a decade, changing her location and her identity frequently.  Finally, she meets police chief Brooks Gleason, and for once she feels safe enough to stop running and finish what was started so many years earlier.  Break-neck pace and very nicely done, as always.  496 pages

Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood, by Charlotte Silver.  Silver, who grew up in her mother's restaurant on Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding, waxes nostalgic and a bit melancholic over a rotation of eccentric staff, endless Shirley Temples, and her mother, nicknamed "Patton in Pumps", who managed to raise Charlotte and her older brother as well as run the restaurant after Charlotte's father left when Charlotte was six.  A tribute to a bygone era of presentation and good manners, as well as the sacrifices of one woman to keep everything and everyone moving forward in the face of financial uncertainty.  Wistful and charming.  272 pages

White Horse, by Alex Adams.  I reviewed this earlier this week--you can see the review here.  306 pages

Jeneration X: one reluctant adult's attempt to unarrest her arrested development,or why it's never too late for her dumb ass to learn why Froot Loops are not for dinner, by Jen Lancaster.  If you're new to Lancaster's work, I highly suggest starting with her first memoir, Bitter is the New Black.  In her latest work of humorous non-fiction, Lancaster is as scathing and sassy as ever as she challenges herself and her generation to do the unthinkable: act their age.  Finally embracing her new life as an investment-making, mortgage-paying adult, Lancaster finally tackles all things adult which she had resisted for years: volunteering, getting a mammogram, etc., with reluctant life-lessons taken from each incident or experience.  If you have read her other work, you'll be familiar with the over-the-top retelling, but it was just as funny and entertaining as I expected.  368 pages

Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots, by Deborah Feldman.  A curious child by nature, Deborah Feldman strained against the bonds of her upbringing in the strict world of Brooklyn's Satmar Hasidim.  Rules governed everything: what she could wear, what she was allowed to read, who she was permitted to speak to and when.  Denied a traditional education and married at 17 to a virtual stranger, Feldman's resulting, and crippling, anxiety was made all the worse by the shame associated with her inability to be a dutiful wife for her husband.  Feldman's secret and salvation, non-secular books obtained from a library far from her Williamsburg neighborhood, give her glimpses of a life outside the tradition in which she was raised.  Ultimately, when she becomes a mother at 19 and realizes her son's future is also at stake, she finally decides she must find a life for herself outside of her community.  Deeply moving.  272 pages

May's total is 8 titles, and 3,394 pages.

Year to date:
12,923/50,000 pages: 26%
30/100 titles: 30%

Anyone else doing a reading challenge?  How's it going?

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