Thursday, June 28, 2012

What I've been reading: June 2012

Hope you've taken advantage of the weather, both good and bad, to enjoy some reading time.  With television mostly given over to baseball and reruns, most of my evenings are spent with a book in hand, at least for an hour or so.  Which means I've gotten quite a bit of reading done, including some non-fiction that made its way onto my reading list.  Speaking of lists, let's get to it.

The Perfect Husband, by Lisa Gardner.  I decided to take some time and go back to the beginnings of some series that I started reading in the middle.  For Lisa Gardner, that meant going back to the first in the Quincy/Rainie series, The Perfect Husband.  Tess thought that Jim Beckett would be her fairy-tale prince, and save her from her evil father.  Instead, she finds that she's married a monster.  Stashing her child in a safe place, knowing Jim will find her, Tess decides to fight back, and finds a burned-out ex-marine to help her learn to protect herself.  A super-fast thriller, if you didn't start the series at the beginning, I highly recommend you go back.  402 pages.

The American Way of Eating, by Tracie McMillan.  McMillan, a journalist by trade, decided to undertake a project to examine "What if you can't afford to pay for nine dollar tomatoes?"  As the debate over America's food was unfolding, she wondered if paying more, paying "true food costs" was really the answer.  She spent time undercover as a worker in California fields, Detroit Wal-Mart, and NYC Applebee's, trying to get to the heart of America's meals even as she tries to support herself and eat on her meager wages.  Really eye-opening.  319 pages.

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult.  This was my book club's pick for the June meeting, and I wasn't really looking forward to it.  I haven't read much of Picoult's work over the last few years, finding it to often be over-long and draggy.  I have mixed feelings about this one.  It was a faster read than I'd anticipated, but it felt preachy and repetitive.  Still, in a world where awareness of autism is steadily growing, I did find much of it eye-opening.  Just a word to the wise--fiction is still fiction, and Picoult's use of facts is pretty fast and loose in this work.  Jacob has Asperger's syndrome, and his mother has worked tirelessly to help him learn to mainstream.  But when a murder sets their small town on edge, do Jacob's quirks make him guilty, or just Jacob?  Interesting, but not highly recommended.  532 pages.

Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler.  Since I'd been late reading June's title, I decided to get a jump on my book club's selection for July.  Delia Grinstead has a husband, three nearly-grown children, and a job running the office for her husband's medical practice.  Yet she feels unnecessary, removed, and isolated: her children don't index her presence, her husband changes her childhood home without consulting her, and her sisters are convinced that Delia, the youngest, has it all.  So Delia knows exactly why she walks off during their beach vacation, even if no one else can say why.  And so begins her new life, unexpected and uplifting.  Hugely enjoyable.  325 pages.

Eat & Run, by Scott Jurek, with Steve Friedman.  I'm not a runner, but I have friends who run, and there's something fascinating in particular about ultra-runners, those who competitively run distances longer than the 26.2 miles of marathons.  Scott Jurek is one such ultra-runner, and here he talks about how he became such an athelete, the art and science of ultra-running, and the vegan diet he has found to be the key to his success.  Told by race event, with lots of flashbacks, I found the non-sequential chapters a little confusing.  Still, very interesting and deeply thoughtful.  260 pages

True Sisters, by Sandra Dallas. Based on the true story of the hardships suffered by a group of Mormons traveling on foot and pushing handcarts from Iowa City to Salt Lake City in 1856.  The Martin Handcart Company is the last to leave that year, following three other groups who left earlier and completed the 1,300 mile trip to Zion successfully.  For this last group, the weather is not in their favor and their brothers and sisters in Utah believe they're wintering over in Iowa City, so there are no supplies waiting for them along the way.  Told alternately through the personal struggles of four women from the British Isles, who survive hardship due to friendship, the journey is heartbreaking and inspiring.  341 pages.

Heading Out to Wonderful, by Robert Goolrick.  I loved Goolrick's first effort, A Reliable Wife, and came to his latest novel hopeful and eager, reading as fast as I could.  I was left haunted, mulling over the story, feeling the need to re-read after I'd finished it, now that I knew what I knew.  It's 1948 in a sleepy Virginia village, and Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, is a stranger in town with just his truck and two suitcases.  One suitcase contains all of his worldly possessions, including a fine set of German-made butcher's knives.  The other contains cash, and lots of it.  Charlie becomes part of the small community, well-liked and then well-loved.  But a town full of secrets is a dangerous place, no matter how small and sleepy, and the narrative is fraught with tension.  I won't ruin the ending, but I will say that this is one that will stick with me for a long time to come.  296 pages.

Equal of the Sun, by Anita Amirrezvani.  It's pure happenstance that I came to Equal of the Sun the same way I came to Heading Out to Wonderful, having loved Amirrezvani's earlier work, The Blood of Flowers and eager to see how the second novel held up.  Women of the sixteenth century helped shape history with their leadership: Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, etc.  Amirrezvani tells the story of one such woman, Iran's Princes Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi, starting in the year 1576, when the Shah dies suddenly without having named an heir.  Pari was the Shah's daughter and protegee, and uses her knowledge of the inner workings of state to steer the realm back to order with the help of her loyal adviser, Javaher.  Rich, chaotic, and ruthless, the story is absolutely captivating.  Amirrezvani is an amazing talent.  431 pages.

Okay, I'm at the midpoint of my challenge, let's see where I'm at.

For June: 8 titles, 2906 pages

For the year to date:

15,829/50,000 pages = 32%
38/100 titles = 38%

I'm thinking it's going to take a miracle to reach my goals this year, but we'll see how this goes.

I'll be back next week to start sharing the up-and-coming best-sellers being released in August!  In the meantime, stay cool and happy reading!

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