Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mid-Year Review - 2012

I was updating one of my lists (yes, yes, I love lists... lol) in goodreads, going through what books I read in Jun and it kind of hit me; my goodness, we're half way through 2012. What a fast year! Or maybe years just seem to go quicker nowadays. So I thought it was the perfect time, as I sit here drinking my coffee, watching the rain out my den window and enjoying the cool breeze, to look back, not in anger (homage to John Osborne there), but, with enjoyment, to my reading accomplishments so far in 2012.

Statistically, I've finished 46 books so far this year. My Goodreads challenge was to read 75 books. I still think that's a realistic goal and I'm ahead of the game somewhat, so I don't think I'll change it. According to the stats wizard in goodreads, those 46 books represent 14140 pages. However, that's based on the book editions I have highlighted in goodreads and sometimes I've had to pick copies that are slightly different from the actual ones I've got on my shelf and sometimes the editions I have, don't provide total pages. So 46 books finished, around 14,000 pages and I've got two new books on the go as we end Jun... Now at the start of the year, I indicated I would try not to buy too many new/ used books so I could whittle down my TBR bookshelf. Well, that hasn't worked out quite as well as I'd expected. Ha Ha! I have vetted my bookshelves and returned quite a few books to my local used book stores, but at the same time, as I scroll through one of my book lists, I see that since January, I have also purchased roughly 100.. Now some of those were presents for the missus and there was a big book sale by the Rotary Club, where great deals were to be found and one of my local used book stores closes today so I did buy a few there as there were going out of business sales.. OK, OK, they are all excuses, I love to buy books, I can't deny it. Currently my To-be-read (TBR) list sits at about 400 books. But I will read them all, I swear. :0)

Well, enough rambling, now down to business. An update on my various reading challenges and how they are progressing..

Reading Group Challenge (12 + 2). I had picked 12 books plus 2 alternatives back last December of books that I would like to read this year. As of end Jun, I've read 11 of the books and am just starting my 12th selection, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Enjoying so far. I like how the story is being told from the perspective of the 4 sisters; each has her own point-of-view and sees things differently. Just started so time will tell how the story develops. But I do like it so far. As to my other selections, I've enjoyed mostly. Below is my list and how I rated them.

1. Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (finished 24 Jun 12, 3 stars);
2. Sergei Lukyanenko - The Nightwatch (finished 5 May 12, 4 stars)
3. Scott Westerfield - Leviathan (finished 7 Feb 12, 4 stars)
4. Bill Bryson - At Home: A Short History of Private Life (finished 28 May 12, 4 stars)
5. Deborah Cadbury - Chocolate Wars: The 150-year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers (finished 18 Feb 12, 5 stars)
6. Barbara Tuchman - The Zimmermann Telegram - (finished 9 Jan 2012, 3 stars)
7. Jack Whyte - Knights of the Black and White (finished 26 Jan 2012, 3 stars)
8. Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory (finished 5 Jan 2012, 3 stars)
9. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange (finished 11 Mar 2012, 3 stars)
10. Robertson Davies - The Rebel Angels (finished 17 Mar 12, 5 stars)
11. Ken Follett - The Pillars of the Earth (finished 20 Apr 12, 4 stars)
12. Barbara Kingsolver - The Poisonwood Bible (started 28 Jun 12)

1. Vikas Swarup - Six Suspects, and
2. Trevor Elleston - The Flight of the Phoenix

Personal favourites of those completed were Deborah Cadbury's look at the Chocolate industry, which was fascinating; a story of the Cadbury family and their Quaker outlook, plus the history of the manufacture of chocolate, highlighting all of the various individuals who made it the industry it is today. The other favourite was Robertson Davies' first book in the Cornish trilogy, The Rebel Angels. I had read the Deptford trilogy many years ago back in university. It was refreshing to read a Davies' novel again, for its intelligence, wit and excellent characters. I still have 3 books to finish and I'm looking forward to reading all of them.

Individual Reading Challenge Books. The other challenge I gave myself in one of my goodreads groups was to read as many mystery/ thriller/ spy/ adventure novels as I could, working from A to however far I could go this year. That meant one book per author. So far, I've made my way up to D, having just finished Elizabeth Daly's Arrow Pointing Nowhere. One of the nice things about this challenge is that it's provided me with the opportunity to read authors I've not experienced before. Colin Cotterill's The Coroner's Lunch is one such author/ book. I don't know who recommended him, but he is a new writer for me and The Coroner's Lunch, which introduces Laos' only coroner, Dr Siri Paiboun, has been one of the highlights for me this past year. So far in this challenge I've read 24 books and for the most part have enjoyed all of the stories. Below is my listing of books thus far.

with -
1. John Bingham - Five Roundabouts to Heaven (finished 10 Jan 2012, 3 stars)
2. Rennie Airth - The Blood-Dimmed Tide (finished 12 Jan 2012, 3 stars) (DI John Madden mystery)
3. Margery Allingham - Black Plumes (finished 21 Jan 2012, 4 stars) (Albert Campion mystery)
4. Karin Alvtegen - Shadow (finished 28 Jan 2012, 4 stars) (a favourite Swedish writer)
5. Kingsley Amis - Riverside Villas Murder (finished 3 Feb 2012, 4 stars)
6. A.C. Baantjer - DeKok and the Death of a Clown (finished 12 Feb 201, 3 stars) (Inspector deKok of the Netherlands)
7. Nevada Barr - Track of the Cat (finished 19 Feb 12, 3 stars) (US Park Ranger Anna Pigeon mystery)
8. Mark Billingham - Buried (finished 25 Feb 2012, 4 stars) (DI Tom Thorne mystery)
9. Nicholas Blake - A Tangled Web (finished 03 Mar 2012, 4 stars)
10. M.C. Beaton - The Potted Gardener (finished 8 Mar 12, 3 stars) (Agatha Raisin mystery, new for me and very enjoyable)
11. Giles Blunt - By the Time You Read This (finished 12 Mar 12, 4 stars) (Detective John Cardinal mystery, set in Northern Ontario, a favourite of mine.)
12. John Buchan - Greenmantle (finished 24 Mar 12, 4 stars) (sequel to The 39 Steps)
13. Jan Burke - Sweet Dreams, Irene (finished 4 Apr 12, 3 stars) (Irene Kelly mystery, another favourite series)
14. W.J. Burley - Wycliffe and Death in a Salubrious Place (finished 10 Apr 12, 3 stars) (DS Wycliffe mystery)
15. John le Carré - The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (finished 15 Apr 12, 5 stars) (loved it)
16. G.K. Chesterton - The Secret of Father Brown (finished 22 Apr 12, 3 stars)
17. Lee Child - 61 Hours (finished 27 Apr 12, 3 stars) (my first Jack Reacher mystery/ thriller)
18. Agatha Christie - The Mysterious Affair at Styles (finished 17 May 12, 4 stars) (introducing Hercule Poirot)
19. Barbara Cleverly - The Damascened Blade (finished 21 May 12, 4 stars)
 (Joe Sandilands historical mystery)
20. Michael Connelly - City Of Bones (finished 25 May 12, three stars) (Harry Bosch mystery)
21. Joseph Conrad - The Secret Agent (finished 3 Jun 12, 4 stars)
22. Colin Cotterill - The Coroner's Lunch (finished 15 Jun 12, 5 stars) (loved it and will read more)
23. John Creasey - Death on the Move (finished 23 Jun 12, 2 stars)
24. Elizabeth Daly - Arrow Pointing Nowhere (finished 28 Jun 12, 3 stars)

A most enjoyable 6 months so far. Next on my list is Lionel Davidson's A Long Way to Shiloh, an adventure set in Israel. "The message on the Scroll is baffling, fragmented - and sensational! Buried somewhere in Israel is the True Menorah, the great golden symbol of Judaism, lost for 2000 years. The Israelis have a copy, the Jordanians have a copy, and both want the Menorah. the Jordanians have their infiltrators and their strong-arm men. The Israelis have Caspar Laing, a brilliant young Professor of Semitics with a genius for hunches and a most unprofessional libido." :0)

Genre Challenge . Not too much else to highlight. In my UK Book Club, we choose a genre each month and although I've duplicated books from the above lists in some of the challenges, there are others that haven't been listed above. These are the challenges we've taken up in 2012 so far.

January - Non-Fiction - The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman
February - Travel/ Exploration - Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewen MacGregor, and
Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire by Simon Winchester (much preferred, I very much enjoyed this book)
March - Romance/ Erotica - The Virgin and the Gypsy, D.H. Lawrence; and
Summer of '42, Herman Raucher (enjoyed as much as the movie);
April - Psychiatry/ Madness - Lolita,  Vladimir Nabokov (Definitely not a favourite)
May - War - HMS Ulysses, Alistair Maclean (one of my favourite books of the year)
June - Western - The Captive Witch, Dale van Every

Our genre challenge for July looks to be poetry. Not a favourite genre of mine, but I will probably work through a book of Emily Barrett Brownings poems. We bought at one of our antique stores here a few years back and it's at least an 1899 edition, from the inscription in the front cover. Remaining genres are Self-Help and Chemical Fiction and then, I think we'll start again, with probably some new genres.. :0)

Freebies. Finally, besides the challenge lists above, I've managed to squeeze in a few freebies that don't really relate to any particular challenge. If there is a rhyme or reason for the freebies, I've started working through my TBR shelf from the end of the alphabet, trying to avoid mysteries for the most part and just flesh out my reading for the year. These are the freebies that I've read this year so far..

John Wyndham - Plan for Chaos (3 stars)
Ian St John - Ian St John's Book of Soccer Lists (3 stars), a nice easy read, a Xmas prezzie
Jack Williamson - The Humanoids (SciFi) (4 stars)
Jack Whyte - Standard of Honor (Historical Fiction, the Templar trilogy, Bk 2) (4 stars)
T.H. White - The Sword in the Stone (Fiction/ Fantasy). Just started end of Jun and am enjoying very much so far.

So there you have it, my mid-year review. I'm very much looking forward to the next six months. I hope your year has been a good reading year too.. Enjoy yourselves! Keep on reading!
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