Reading challenge fail

I signed up for a reading challenge on Goodreads last year- 100 books.  That should have been easy- i read so much, or so i thought. I ended the year at 75 books or so.  Some of this is the fact that i don’t instinctively track on good reads, but maybe i am not reading as much.

So this year, i will try again, but i will also try to track my reading here.  Maybe that will help? I have already read a number of books- vacation plus train travel does that. Maybe a post for tomorrow.



You may remember that I talked about a 100 book reading challenge for this year.  I have been working my way through books, I just haven’t been updating as much as I should.  My book reviews are linked under the Books, Glorious Books option in the site, but to make things easier, here are some links to the reviews so far.

Book1 -Skinny Dip

Book 2 – Under Orders

Book 3 Excellent Women

Book 4 – The 7 Professors of the Far North

Book 5 – Muse and Reverie

Book 6 Hector and the search for Happiness

Book 10 – LionBoy:The Chase

Book 11 – WitchFire

Book 12 -Tortall and other lands: A collection of Tales

Book 9: Dead Center

I have actually been reading quite a bit, but the books are all on my Kindle, so I need to sit down and work through the various folders.  Until then, hard copy books I have read.

Dead Center, by Shiya Ribowsky is a non-fiction account of the New York City medical office, and the process of identifying bodies after 9/11.  It is interesting, starting with an account of how the author ended up in the office.

He started off as a medical practitioner between a nurse and a doctor- more medical school training than a nurse, less than a doctor.  Able to do some physician duties, but under supervision.  Apparently most of the medical examiners in NYC fit into this slot- physician assistant.  They have the medical background, but not the pay scale of the doctor.

He writes about the gradual professionalism of the medical examiners office through the 1980s and 1990s and what it means to be a examining bodies at potential crime scenes.  The book actually is at its most boring when he is talking about identifying of the 9/11 victims.  He talks about the processes they went through, and the various support groups. I think he is still to close to the action- the bigger picture is not apparent.

Interesting read, but once it’s written up, on the sale pile.

Book 5: Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is an author I have been reading off and on for the last 15 years or so.  His books usually center around the fictional Canadian town of Newford.  Muse and Reverie is a book of short stories set in and around Newford, including many of the minor and incidental characters from his books, as well as some of the major ones.

It is nice to get a glimpse of the stories that belong to characters that might only get a brief mention in one of the other books.  He blends old Celtic fairy tale figures with North American legends and mixes his own ideas in, so there is familiar and unfamiliar elements in these.  It’s hard to describe any other stories, they are better read than experienced through a summary.  A whole world in these stories, and enjoyable whether or not you have read any of his other books.

Book 4: The 7 Professors of the Far North

It’s been a while since I updated this, but I have actually been reading quite a bit (thank you Kindle, and flooded car park).  This book was read at some point before the flooding though, and is an actual hard copy book.  Not quite sure where it came from, as it doesn’t have the standard remainder bookshop marker on the page, but it is a very random children’s book.  Perhaps the Mary Ryan’s sale table- they just put stickers on.  Oh yes, my bargain book table habits.

Anyway, the book is titled The 7 Professors of the Far North, and it is written by John Fardell.  It is the kind of book I would have loved to find in my childhood.  Unfortunately back then he publishers were all about realism for kids, writing books about kids with bullies, drugs and family issues.  Because what a child with those kinds of problems needs is escape into exactly the same world.  Not.  Books can be a form of escape.  Yes, it can be interesting to read if you are not experiencing it (hello Flowers in the Attic), but a lot of the books tried to be about average kids, in the worst ways.  And they were not amusing.  Diary of a wimpy kid does it pretty well, but it is probably an exception.  All I can say is I am thankful for the writers who kept writing adventure and fantasy and to JK Rowling for forcing the publisher to realise that people want it.  Of course, now it has swung too far the other way.

Anyway, this book starts with a averagish kid, Sam, (with a bent towards science and adventure) bemoaning the fact he has to stay with a boring relative while his scientist parents attend a conference over the Easter holidays. But they surprise him by sending him off with an old professor of theirs who invents things.  He has two wards that are around Sam’s age, so he is a perfect person to stay with.  It looks like it is going to be a great holiday, the Professor invents wonderful things, two other kids to hang out with.  Then, the first night there, a stranger staggers in, he is an old friend of the professor and he warns that Murdo has returned!.  This is all very strange, so the professor explains.  Many years ago, he and six other professors were invited to start a university in a small island/country in the Artic Circle.  All was going well, but one of the professors, Murdo, had strange ideas  He was kidnapping people and experimenting.

The other professors confronted him, and he tried to kill them.  The university was abandoned, and the island was as well.  Years later, Murdo has returned to his old lab and strange things are happening.  The other professors are all summoned to the house so they can prepare to confront him again, but as they are getting ready to leave, they are kidnapped by Murdo.  It is up to the three kids to find them, rescue them, and help defeat Murdo.  It is decent adventure story, the kids have some assistance from adults, but circumstances force them to be the ones taking action or working things out.  People are nice, or helpful but also have flaws.

It is a decent read, nice balance.  Not a totally engrossing one though (although I am an adult, kids may find it better).

Book 3: Excellent Women

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym is not the sort of book I usually pick up.  It is entertaining.  The central character , Mildred Lathbury, is apparently one of those excellent women who are taken for granted.  The ones who organise jumble sales and make sure things keep running.

Anyway, she lives on her own in a flat somewhere in London, in a converted house (she must share a bathroom).  A young married couple, the Napiers, move in.  They don’t seem to be particularly happy.  Mildred is also heavily involved with her local parish, the vicar and his sister.  The book is primarily a series of interactions with Mildred, the Napiers, an anthropologist called Everard Bone, various members of the parish and her circle of friends.

The Napiers separate, the vicar becomes engaged to an unsuitable widow, she lunches with an old friend, she lunches with Everard Bone, the Napiers reunite, the vicar becomes unengaged and at the very end she agrees to edit a manuscript (and possibly marry Mr Bone, it is all very confusing).  A very British observation of society novel.

Apparently this is a great classic, and is much appreciated.  I think finally understand how the people who don’t love Pride and Prejudice feel.  I just don’t get it.  It is entertaining, but there is a whole subtext that is way too sub for me.

Book 2: Under Orders

Yes, I really did read a Dick Francis book.  Under Orders is fairly typical Dick Francis.  Someone connected with the racing world (in this case Sid Halley, featured in previous novels) investigates seemingly innocuous details that turn out to be much bigger than thought.  He has a formula, he sticks to it, it is reasonably entertaining.  I even occasionally learn something.

In this case Sid is at Cheltenham Gold Cup Day and there are three deaths, including that of a winning jockey.  Sid is asked to investigate whether horses are being deliberately pushed to lose and an online betting process by two very different people.  As part of these investigations he starts to discover deeper mysteries.

In his sleuthing he is assisted by girlfriend of the moment, who is also a scientist working with DNA. Yep, somewhat up to date here.  In the course o the investigation she is threatened, shot and nearly dies.  This nearly cases Sid to stop investigating, but she pushes him to keep going.

Good light read, but not exactly earth shatteringly good literature or writing.  It entertains, but definitely following a formula.