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 Dudley, Margery 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?