Monday, January 24, 2011

Reading Challenge Update

My two reading challenges are off to a great start, and already I'm having so much fun. I'll periodically post about what I'm reading, and I'll keep an updated list on my separate 2011 Reading Challenges page if you want to check in between posts. So far, here's what I've read: 


Off the Shelf Challenge (Goal: 15)

A Pelican at Blandings, P.G. Wodehouse (fiction). I love P.G. Wodehouse and his gentle, goofy humor. This book cost me 50 cents at my library's "Friends of the Library" bookstore and it was delightful from start to finish.  The first paragraph reads: "The summer day was drawing to a close and dusk had fallen on Blandings Castle, shrouding from view the ancient battlements, dulling the silver surface of the lake and causing Lord Emsworth's supreme Berkshire sow Empress of Blandings to leave the open air portion of her sty and withdraw into the covered shed where she did her sleeping. A dedicated believer in the maxim of early to bed and early to rise, she always turned in at about this time. Only by getting its regular eight hours can a pig keep up to the mark and preserve that schoolgirl complexion."

Drinking the Rain, Alix Kates Shulman (memoir). When she turned 50, Shulman, a novelist, began spending her summers alone at her family's cabin on an island off the coast of Maine. Sound romantic? The cabin had no indoor plumbing or heat! Shulman read, wrote, even foraged for food in the tidal pools (particularly mussels) and the area surrounding her cabin. Alone, she discovered the interconnectedness of all life.

A favorite quote: "For years, I avidly read books and eagerly wrote them, systematically trying to stuff my head with all the thoughts of mankind, but always so determined to master a subject or pursue a goal that I seldom practiced the simple pleasures of reading whatever caught my fancy or following a thought wherever it happened to lead. My plans and projects were usually so backed up that no matter what work I was engaged in at any moment, I suspected it ought to be something else." (I know just how she felt.)

The Shadowy Horses, Susanna Kearsley (fiction). A new author for me, thanks to Danielle at A Work in Progress. Kearsley's been compared to vintage Mary Stewart (Madame, Will You Talk? My Brother Michael, etc.), and I found her writing very similar. I'm thrilled because I love vintage Mary Stewart!

Verity Grey, Kearsley's protagonist, comes to Scotland to work on an archaeolgical dig searching for remains of a Roman marching camp. "I woke in the darkness, listening. The sound that wrenched me from my sleep had been strange to by city-bred ears. Train-like, yet not a train...the rhythm was too wild, too random. A horse, I thought. A horse in the next field over, galloping endlessly around and around, galloping, galloping...." There are no horses anywhere near the house Verity is staying in--why does she hear them running every night? What other ghostly presences haunt Rosehill?

The Summer Book--Tove Jansson (fiction). Jansson is a Swedish writer, who is known mostly for her children's books. I also discovered her through Danielle. (I've gotten tons of great book recommendations from Danielle's blog--you should check it out!) Reading this book felt like being wrapped in a warm summer day--pleasant in chilly January. It tells the story of a 6-year-old girl and her grandmother spending the summer on an island off the coast of Finland (I must have a thing for summer island books!). It's more like a series of vignettes than a true novel, but each story is quietly beautiful. From page 36: "[Grandmother] turned on her side and put her arm over her head. Between the arm of her sweater, her hat, and the white reeds, she could see a triangle of sky, sea and sand--quite a small triangle. There was a blade of grass in the sand beside her, and between its sawtoothed leaves it held a piece of seabird down--the taut white rib in the middle, surrounded by the down itself, which was pale brown and lighter than the air, and then darker and shiny towards the tip, which ended in a tiny but spirited curve. The down moved in a draft of air too slight for her to feel."


Vintage Mystery Challenge (Goal: 4-6)

The Crime at Black DudleyMargery Allingham. This is her first "Albert Campion" mystery, and a pure delight. I found Allingham's writing flowed easily and made me want to keep reading. I also enjoyed the characters in this story, and I will be reading more of her work. (Sorry I don't have a quote for this one--I returned it to the library before I wrote this post!)

I've requested my next book from the library: The Norths Meet Murder, by Frances and Richard Lockridge.

What are you reading right now?

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18 comments:

Bev Hankins said...

Oh, oh, oh! Can't wait to hear what you think of The North books. I love them. This is a grand beginning to a funny, madcap mystery series.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Bev--I haven't read any of the North books (or the Campion books) before. I'm using this challenge to branch out in my choice of mystery authors. I loved the Campion book, and after your description, I fully expect to love the North books, too. Thanks for commenting!

Cheryl Gebhart said...

Wow Kathy - I'm so impressed that you've already read 5 books. I'm only on my second book for this year, which is Little Women.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Cheryl--Well, you'll notice in the photo a couple of the books are fairly slim. And the Wodehouse and Kearsley were both exceptionally easy to read! Reading is my favorite activity, and I do it every chance I get!

I haven't read Little Women since childhood--are you enjoying it? I like a lot of LMA's work and would like to read more of it. Did you see the PBS special on her life a while back? Very interesting woman.

Teresa said...

Great post, Kathy! Really enjoyed your summaries, and quotes from, books I'm not familiar with. I especially like the sound of A Pelican at Blandings and Drinking the Rain. Off to Amazon to put them on my wish list!

Laure Ferlita said...

Go, girl, go! I will live vicariously through your reading as I don't do nearly as much of it as you. Or as I would like!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Teresa--Thanks! I highly recommend both the books you mentioned. Hope you like them!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Laure--I probably do enough reading for the both of us...I can't help myself.

Meredith said...

Wow, you are doing great, Kathy! Four books already. I think I've got to read Drinking the Rain -- it sounds like my kind of book. The ghost horses one is tempting me, as well. And I love P.G. Wodehouse, too! Only discovered him last year, though, and I might have o.d.ed on his work in the fall. :)

Thanks for checking in. I've had a back injury that prevents me from doing just about everything I usually do, including spending time on the computer. It's slowly improving, though, and I wanted you to know I really appreciated your thoughtfulness.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Meredith--I'm sorry to hear you've been injured and I'm glad you're on the mend. I've missed your blog posts and comments. Did you at least get to read some while you were laid up?

Meredith said...

That's exactly what I did, Kathy -- although at first even that was difficult, because of the angle I had to lift my arm to hold a book while laying at the doctor-prescribed angle. F. figured out a pillow-prop solution, though. ;)

Jacqueline said...

I just started the 19th Wife. Very interested! I am a slow reader so it may take me awhile to get through it as I would rather be painting than reading.
Kathy, I love your banner. It is enough to make anyone happy just seeing it!

Jacqueline said...

Oh I also meant to tell you that I have 2 Jack Russells! They make me laugh.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Meredith--thank goodness for loving husbands, eh?

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Jacqueline--I had to go look up the 19th Wife on Amazon to see what it was about (it sounded vaguely familiar). Sounds very intriguing!

After seeing your blog, I can certainly see why painting would be your first love! Your work must keep you very busy, but what fun to go all over the world to paint!

Don't you just love those Jack Russells? They have so much energy and personality!

Jacqueline said...

Yes it is interesting and I guess falls under historical/fiction. It is bouncing back and forth between modern day and the history of the Mormons from the 1800s. Our bookclub is reading it. The one we just finished was the Liar's Club and I really enjoyed that.
I lOVE my JRs. Even ole Pepper who snores loudly while we watch tv and has a mind of her own. Mischa is my painting buddy and curls up in front of the heater while I am painting in my studio and getting for classes.

"JeanneG" said...

I have read about a book a week this year. Maybe more. I am reading a book called "Gone Tomorrow" by Lee Child. It is the Jack Reacher series. I didn't read them in order but there are 15 and this is my last to read. I have been reading some on my IPad and some in paperback.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Jeanne--It feels both good and bad to finish a series, doesn't it? I like the feeling of accomplishment, but if I've been enjoying the series, I don't want it to end. But maybe Lee Child is still writing the Reacher series and you'll be able to read more as they come out.