Friday, 28 June 2013

2013 - Looking Back... So Far

It's not quite July 1st yet, but while I've got a bit of time; i.e. the puppies are having their mid-morning nap and for the moment, peace reigns, I thought I'd take a look back at my reading habits for the first half of 2013.

To start off with, I'm currently reading three books, one from each of three of my various challenges and I hope to have at least one completed by end Jun -

Focus Author for Jun - C.S. Forester - Flying Colours (the third of C.S. Forester's published Horatio Hornblower novels, chronologically in the sequence of Hornblower's life, number 11 chronologically in Hornblower's life);

Alphabetical Mystery Writers - Ian Hamilton's The Water Rat of Wanchai; and

12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge - Tim Maltin's Titanic; First Accounts.

Now to get the stats out of the way. I have so far completed 50 books out of my Goodread's Challenge of trying to complete 80 books in 2013 (63%). I do have some challenging books for the rest of the year, but I think I've got a pretty good chance of reading more than 80, which would be an improvement on 2012, when I completed 81. Total pages completed so far - roughly 13,800.

Specific Challenges -

12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge - As of today, I've completed 7 out of 12 of my Reading Group Challenge. I don't think I'll manage to complete Titanic by end Jun, but you never know. My favourite book of the 7 is Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, an excellent mystery that I discovered through the also excellent TV series, starring Jason Isaacs. I still have 5 books to read (7 if you count the +2 alternates) and I will try to get them completed. I do have some challenging reads in this particular challenge, including Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence and Daniel Deronda by George Elliot, but these books might fit in with some of my other challenges. Also remaining in this group are Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, Murder in the Central Committee by Manuel Vasquez Montalban, Rin Tin Tin, the Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean and The Far Country  by Nevil Shute.

Alphabetical Mystery Writers. I started this challenge in 2012 in an effort to try and read at least one book on my To-Be-Read bookshelves by a mystery author, starting with the authors last name and beginning alphabetically with 'A' of course. At the end of 2013, I had reached 'F'. So far in 2013, I've completed 9 in this challenge and have reached the letter 'H' with the above-mentioned book by Ian Hamilton. I have been introduced to new authors such as Michael Gilbert, Kerry Greenwood and Tarquin Hall and also revisited some favourites such as Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Caroline Graham, Martha Grimes and Jane Haddam. I think my favourite story so far was Winston Graham's Marnie, the psychological thriller on which Alfred Hitchcock based his excellent movie. Honourable mentions also to Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries and Caroline Graham's Midsomer Mystery, The Killing at Badger's Drift. I am currently reading a new author for me, as mentioned, Ian Hamilton's The Water Rat of Wanchai and enjoying thus far.

Monthly Focus Author - One of my favourite challenges this year has been my attempt each month to focus on a different author (using one author's writings as my bed-time reading. The reason is that I've started so many series and have been unable for the most part to complete them due to the congestion of books on my TBR shelves. (Don't tell my wife.. lol.. I think she knows). While I've focused on one author each month (besides my other reading), some have been a revisiting of old favourites, rather than necessarily books I haven't read before. I put in that category, the books of Philip K. Dick and Ian Fleming. I read both many years ago and while choosing authors for this challenge, felt it would be great to read some of their stories again to remind myself why I enjoyed them so much before. I found Dick's unique SciFi stories interesting again and the adventures of James Bond a guilty pleasure once again. Also featured since January were mysteries by Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Alleyn) and Jane Haddam (ex-FBI profiler, Gregor Demarkian), the varies mysteries and fantasies of Charlaine Harris and this months visit to the high seas adventures of C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower stories. It's been great fun so far and I'm looking forward to reading Edgar Rice Burroughs in July.

Genre Challenges - This has been a continuation of an ongoing challenge that we started over again due to its popularity. Since January we've covered respectively Historical stories, Crime/ Detective/ True Crime, Modern British Classics (20th Century), War & Revolution, Award Winning and Fantasy. I enjoyed all of the books that I read for these challenges, including The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves, Bridge on River Kwai by Pierre Boulle, The Ship by C.S. Forester, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley and Puck on Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling. My favourite of this challenge was The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham for the Modern British Classics genre. This was my first exposure to Maugham and I loved his ability to develop and progress his story. It was just excellent. Next month looks to be Short Stories and I already have a few choices in mind if that ends up being the genre chosen.

The Time Traveller's Challenge. This is the newest challenge I've participated in. Basically, we'll visit various eras in history and read books set in those eras. We started with Ancient Times, e.g. the Roman Empire and others around the same time frame. I chose a book I'd read as a youngster, The Eagle of the Ninth, this time the complete trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff. It was most enjoyable to read it again. I had no recollections of the story and it was very interesting. Next month we move on to the Middle Ages; The 100 Years War, The Crusades, etc. Once again, I've a few books in mind. The nice thing about this challenge is that it lasts for 3 months so you tend to have a nice amount of time to read one or two books covering the particular period. And I need the time.. lol

Also I've managed to squeeze a couple of freebies in between all of the challenges. All in all, it's been a great six months so far. So let's see, what are my Top Ten favourites for the first half of the year?

Top Ten So Far

10. Puck on Pook's Hill - Rudyard Kipling (4*)
9.   Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles - Rosemary Sutcliff (4*)
8.   The Spy Who Loved Me - Ian Fleming (4*)
7.   Bangkok 8 - John Burdett (4*)
6.   Marnie - Winston Graham (4*)
5.   The Woman in Black - Susan Hill (4*)
4.   Cast Histories - Kate Atkinson (5)
3.   The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick (5*)
2.   The Ship - C.S. Forester (5*)
1.   The Razor's Edge - W. Somerset Maugham (5*)

Next BLog I'll try to take a look at my plans for July. :0)

Keep on reading!

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