November 2020 Reads

So I hit 87 books read in October and I finished the Shakespeare 2020 project early.

Fiction

I didn’t read any this month. I set a goal to read at least 25 non fiction and 25 fiction books this year. Thanks to Shakespeare the fiction part was easy, but I was a few books short of non fic, so I focused on that this month.

Non Fiction

Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men (Alexandra Robbins)
Since I read her sorority book, Pledged, I thought I may as well try the other side. The title leaves much to be desired because I don’t think any men were formed in this book, but the book held my interest. I found Pledged to have a lot of ridiculous claims (bulimia and plumbing … visit Snopes maybe? lol), but overall showed some negative sides of sorority life that don’t get talked about. Since I can’t speak to accuracy about fraternity life, I am assuming it’s similar to the previous book as far as accuracy goes. I liked that we followed a small number of characters so it wasn’t confusing.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystals, Gems, and Metal Magic (Scott Cunningham)
This was a great overview of  crystals, gems and metals and their use in magic. There’s a lot of information on each type of gem and photos of them as well. Overall, I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more of Cunningham’s books.

Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds (D. Caroline Coile)
I am not a dog person (in terms of having one), but I love reading about different breeds, their history and conformation. I have no idea why. This book had a great overview of practically every breed – including many rare ones I’d never heard of. There were good pictures, illustrations and histories. Overall a great place to warm up for the National Dog Show.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X)
I am, and should be, embarrassed to say my only previous knowledge of Malcolm X was he was a black leader who was assassinated. While I agree with most of his beliefs and ideas, there were many moments when reading that I felt myself pushing against his ideas. I realized it was that feeling, as a white person, of “I’m not like this!” – but the reality is the system is, and I’m part of the system. I control the system. Once I realized this and got over the feeling of being accused, I could acknowledge that the root of my discomfort was the truth.

I don’t agree with him that religion was going to be the way people come together. From the first appearance of the Nation of Islam, I was skeptical. Part of that is I’m agnostic on a good day and just don’t see religion as a uniting force. The other part was that from the beginning, the Nation of Islam reminded me of Scientology. Maybe it was the origin story, the living founder, the divine claims, but all that was missing was a DC-8. I wasn’t surprised to find that the modern day Farrakhan Nation of Islam is very closely intertwined with the cult of Scientology.

One of my favourite things about Malcolm X is he is very willing to share his mistakes, admit them, analyze them, change them. He doesn’t shy away from discussing his past, discussing his shift away from the Nation of Islam, his changing beliefs, any negative things about himself and his life. I found that very refreshing.  He was evolving and changing as a person, and acknowledging that he was on this journey to find what he believed. His political takes are bang-on and even more relevant now. It’s scary how much has not changed.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book so much. It left me angry because his death was such a loss, and not just for the black community. I wish we could have known what he would have ultimately become. Why the book is not taught in every school I’ll never know – actually, thanks to this book, I do know.

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 91/52

I was a bit slow reading this month. I’ve realized that non fic takes me longer to read sometimes. With Malcolm X I found I had to stop reading to think about what he was saying, turn it all over in my mind and sit with things, so it took quite a bit longer to read.

October 2020 Reads

I’ve already flew past my previous most books read and I’m focused on getting my page reads up. So much Shakespeare has resulted in high book reads, but lower page reads.

Fiction

Thunder Rolls: A Dark Nation Story (Dark Nation, #3.1) (Rashid Darden)
A short story from the Dark Nation series, this occurs after the events of Children of Fury and focuses on the coronavirus epidemic. I wasn’t sure about reading something about it (I’ve been avoiding), but I really like what Darden did here. It’s the kind of thing you want to read about if you’ve been avoiding any ‘rona art and literature as of late.

Plays

Henry IV Part I (William Shakespeare)
Here we are, back to the War of the Roses. I kind of wish Shakespeare 2020 had done them all in order (as hard reading as it would’ve been) because I have forgotten about what came first and what came after by now. I did really enjoy this one. From Falstaff to Harry’s redemption in his father’s eyes (and the reader’s), I think it was one of the good ones. I am going to skip Merry Wives of Windsor until after I read Part 2, only because I want everything fresh for Part 2.

Henry IV Part 2 (William Shakespeare)
I didn’t enjoy this as much as Part I unfortunately. I feel like I’m in the minority, but I don’t enjoy Falstaff that much. I prefer Hal and his journey and found the Falstaff sections tedious. Doesn’t bode well for Merry Wives next.

The Merry Wives of Windsor (William Shakespeare)
I really wasn’t sure about this one at first, but as the play went on, I found myself really enjoying it. I can see how this would be fantastic on stage – so much of the action is what would bring the laughter. Overall, some of the plot was thin (Anne Page), but the women and their plan against Falstaff made up for it.

Henry V (William Shakespeare)
I didn’t enjoy this as much as the others, but I did appreciate being able to follow Prince Hal becoming King. I’m very burnt out with English kings right now though!

Henry VIII (William Shakespeare)
I am probably one of the few people unfamiliar with much of the life of Henry the Eighth. This play covers his marriage to Catherine or Aragon and then to Anne Boleyn, but focuses more on the advisors to the king, especially the Catholic advisors. It was okay.

Edward III (William Shakespeare)
As might be obvious, I’m reading ahead. This isn’t scheduled until November, but I really want to get done sooner. I didn’t mind this play, but I am really, REALLY burnt out reading about English monarchy. I was surprised to find this was not considered canon until recently, which surprised me because I felt there was a lot more “traditional” Shakespeare here, especially with rhyming couplets and the actual construction of the play.

Timon of Athens (William Shakespeare)
I had high hopes for this, but man, was it depressing. Timon is a generous man who overspends treating his friends. His creditors bleed him dry and then his “friends” refuse to cover his debts. He finally sees they’re all users and leaves the city to live in a cave, angry and hating all mankind. I was hoping for some revenge, but nope. He dies. Depressing.

The Winter’s Tale (William Shakespeare)
I think this has been one of my favourites in the last half of the Shakespeare 2020 project. I enjoyed the storyline, the characters. It was just a fun read – although I honestly don’t get the title in relation to the story. All these years I thought it had something to do with winter and Christmas lol.

The Tempest (William Shakespeare)
I didn’t mind this one, but I feel like it would’ve had a lot more impact on stage. I like the fact this is much more of a supernatural play compared to others. I get annoyed that Shakespeare has wronged characters ultimately forgive and the person in question quickly repents (although Antonio has potential blackmail over his head lol). I sometimes wish for more realistic endings.

Two Noble Kinsmen (William Shakespeare)
This was a tough one to get through. The version on Project Gutenberg is written in more archaic English than everything else I read, so it was hard reading. I also wasn’t engaged with the plot. It was the last Shakespeare work I had to read, and completed my Shakespeare 2020 Project.

Non Fiction

Rampage: Canadian Mass Murder and Spree Killing (Lee Mellor)
Overall a good look at Canadian mass murderers and spree killers. It bothered me that there were cases showing the reader what the killer saw/felt when there was no record of this. There was a lot of purple prose in regards to the blood and murders that pushed it into tabloid territory rather than journalism.

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 87/52

So far the most books I’ve ever read, I finished all of Shakespeare and I still have two full months to go.

September 2020 Reads

With the cooler weather arriving, it’s now blanket, tea and a good book season!

I’ve switched the links in my past reviews so all of them go to Goodreads or Project Gutenberg to allow you to choose where you buy from.

Fiction

Coriolanus (William Shakespeare)
So I hated this. Maybe it’s my dislike of political things, but I just found this play so tedious. Coriolanus is a tough person to read about, very unlikable. I did enjoy the fact it was the women, in particular his mother, that saves the day.

All’s Well That Ends Well (William Shakespeare)
Oh Bertram. I have no idea what Helena sees in him. I suspect she won’t after spending more time with him. I didn’t enjoy this play as much as I’d hoped. I hated Bertram, and honestly, tricking people into sex to trap them is just icky, Shakespearean times or not. It’s hard with modern sensibilities to look past that in so many of these plays. I do enjoy Helena for her pluck, but man does she have shit taste in men.

Headhunter (CSI, #11) (Greg Cox)
This is a novelization of the TV show CSI. This is an original novel (not based on a TV episode). Overall it was interesting to learn about headhunting and tsantsas since the case revolves around them. The plot was decent, the characterization was on point, and it felt authentic to the show.

Measure for Measure (William Shakespeare)
Yet another “trick a man into sleeping with someone he thinks is someone else” in this play. I honestly don’t get the trope. That being said, I did enjoy the play because of the fun of seeing Angelo called out for saying one thing and doing another. Overall, it was okay, not my favourite, but not in my list of “not reading this again” either.

The Twelfth Card (Jeffery Deaver)
The sixth book in the Lincoln Rhyme series. After the attempted murder of a sixteen-year-old black high school student researching her ancestor (a freed slave accused of stealing), Rhyme and Sachs have to figure out who is after her and why they want her dead. I still really love the twists and turns Deaver writes – there are so many tiny one-off mentions that come back to mean something later, and it’s really fun to look back and go “Oh!” when you realize it was important. I am still all in on this series. One thing about this book. It was published in 2005 and the black characters use a lot of AAVE which comes off strangely. Some of it is the passage of time–some words are just not used anymore so it really sticks out and feels dated. In other places I wondered if it was accurate AAVE (although there are a few sections where some of the intricacies are explained so I have to assume he had people verifying the authenticity). So to some, it may seem offensive, but I can’t say whether that’s inadvertent due to the passage of time or a white guy just getting it wrong.

Poetry

The Phoenix and the Turtle (William Shakespeare)
I read this poem early (it’s due for a December read) because I need to clear the decks in December. It’s a short poem, and honestly, I thought turtle meant has a shell kind of turtle, but it’s the turtle dove. A nice poem, nothing too interesting to me though.

A Funeral Elegy (William Shakespeare … maybe)
I’m in the camp that he didn’t write this, but I read it anyway. It’s a long poem for “Master William Peter” and basically waxes poetic about a man who died young. The poem was sent to his brother and signed W.S. and so attributed to Shakespeare occasionally.

Non Fiction

Irish Trees: Myths, Legends and Folklore (Niall Mac Coitir)
I was hoping this was more of a book about Celtic tree birthday stuff (like this is your tree and how it colours your personality) but it was more of a history of specific trees in Ireland, in relation to folklore, ogham and more. Interesting, dense, but not what I thought going in.

A Day To Die For: 1996: Everest’s Worst Disaster – One Survivor’s Personal Journey to Uncover the Truth (Graham Ratcliffe)
Yep, back to the 1996 Everest disaster. Ratcliffe is a British climber who was not in the two parties most affected, but was on the South Col when things unfolded. His team was scheduled to summit a day later (the 12th). After the disaster, he realizes some of the teams had access to weather forecasts predicting the conditions and went ahead regardless. While interesting to know (as this wasn’t covered in other books), I felt like that journey for answers was more for the author to come to terms with what happened. Knowing Hall and Fischer may have had knowledge about dangerous weather is just another in a long list of baffling decisions made by both team leaders and doesn’t answer any questions about what happened. Overall, I enjoyed a lot of the mountain climbing aspects and appreciated that it wasn’t just an autobiography using the disaster as a selling point.

Escaped Killer: True Story of Serial Killer Allan Legere (R.J. Parker)
This purports to be a book about Canadian serial killer Allan Legere, but at 78 pages (a good 20 of them front/back matter), this is really more of a Wikipedia article.  You can tell this was literally cobbled together from multiple, better sources to sell quickly on Amazon. There are no quotes from interviewed people, because no one was interviewed. There is no firsthand information. It was a big letdown with some errors in it as well.


Goodreads Reading Challenge
– 75/52

I’ve officially read more books this year than I ever have. I have a personal goal to read at least 25 fiction and 25 non-fiction. I accomplished it on the fiction side ages ago, but I’m at 19 for non-fiction so far.

One thing I have noticed is that my page reads are lower than I figured they’d be, then realized it’s because I’m reading lots of books, but many of them are Shakespeare plays that will have a much smaller word count than normal books.

My previous highest book count was 67 with 19,026 pages, then 66 books with 24,920 pages (!). This year I only have 14,521 pages but I have 75 books read.

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August 2020 Reads

I’ve been having a hard time reading so far in August. Not sure why. I’m definitely getting burnt out on Shakespeare. I’m finding it really hard to want to read more.

Fiction

Macbeth (William Shakespeare)
This is the last of the Shakespeare 2020 Project that I’ve read previously, so from here on out everything is new to me. I studied Macbeth in high school and hadn’t read it since. I actually forgot a lot about it. I enjoyed Lady Macbeth most, although I’ve always felt her off screen suicide was really something that should have been shown.

The Vanished Man (Jeffery Deaver)
This was a really interesting Lincoln Rhyme book. It dealt with an illusionist who was murdering people around New York City. I have no experience with magic or illusions, so learning about that via the book was really interesting. I found the plot kept my attention and kept me guessing. I like that each book is also forwarding the relationship between Sachs and Rhyme in believable ways.

Troilus and Cressida (William Shakespeare)
I really found this super boring. Not just boring, but I didn’t really feel connected to the characters. Cressida is barely involved. Overall not one of my favourites. It dragged so much and I’m really, really burnt out on Shakespeare right now.

Daughter of Earth and Fire: The Fledgling (Sandra A. Hunter)
This is a fantasy, and book one in a new series. Fantasy is not a genre I normally read, especially fantasy that contains (in this case) dragons.  The writing is very good, the characters well drawn, and there was a lot of interesting details about flying, airports, animals and dragon-lore. Overall though, it’s not a book that I would normally gravitate to, but I think that fantasy readers will really enjoy it, especially those that are into dragon-lore.

Antony and Cleopatra (William Shakespeare)
Again, I’m burnt out. I didn’t mind this one, but as someone with little knowledge of Antony and Cleopatra, I felt like I would have enjoyed it more if I had a historical base. I think that’s true for me of a lot of Shakespeare’s works that have basis in history. I liked it more than Troilus and Cressida, although I’ve learned I really don’t like the Roman era at all.

Non Fiction

Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai (Jim Colucci)
If you’re a fan of the Golden Girls, this book is a must read. Lots of behind-the-scenes info, including quotes and stories from writers, producers, the main actresses and guest actors on the show. Lots of great photos as well. I learned so much I didn’t know about the show and I really wish it was streaming somewhere, because I want to watch the entire thing again.

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 65/52

Two more books and I beat my all-time record. I’m pretty sure with all the months left in the year I’ll get it, but you never know … it is 2020 after all.

July 2020 Reads

So in June I managed to complete my 2020 reading challenge – I guess the pandemic has been good for something after all. I won’t be raising my goal, but I’m continuing to beat it. Here’s hoping I’ll surpass my all time best (67!).

For July I read …

Fiction

The Empty Chair (Jeffery Deaver)
I am continuing to enjoy the Lincoln Rhyme books SO much. I love the forensic detail, the details of Lincoln’s disability and how people see him, Amelia and her concerns – it’s all so good. The case itself had a lot of twists which I also appreciate. One thing I notice Deaver is very good at is making me hate a character (usually because of how they feel about the main characters or actions they take that seem annoying/frustrating), but then doing a 180 and making me come back around on them again. It makes for a real rollercoaster ride and reminds me of how the writers of Third Watch had me hating Sgt. Cruz so badly, only to reverse it and make me feel bad for her lol.
Note that this link to Amazon Canada will let you read the book for free if you have Kindle Unlimited!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)
I forgot how much I loved this play. I read it probably 20 years ago, and I’d forgotten how funny it was. I don’t remember coming out of it thinking Oberon was a giant dick, so times have changed. I really was annoyed at how much Titania was shafted here – I’m ready for some Titania revenge fic – anyone? My favourite part had to be the play put on by Bottom and the others. I actually laughed out loud at parts.

The Stone Monkey (Jeffery Deaver)
This is the fourth book in the Lincoln Rhyme series. It involves human trafficking of Chinese nationals into the US and trying to catch the snakehead who is trying to kill them all after their boat sinks. This is the first time I figured out one of the twists in his books early on, so in that respect it was a little disappointing. In the end, I did enjoy the book a lot, and I really liked the place Lincoln came to in the end.

The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)
I really didn’t like this play. It was a combo of Shylock being treated like crap, Shylock being a terrible stereotype, and basically everyone in the play sucking. Portia’s scene as the lawyer was good, but the outcome wasn’t so it’s hard to cheer for her. Overall, this play just really annoyed me.

Much Ado About Nothing (William Shakespeare)
I wasn’t sure in the beginning that I’d like this play at all, but I think what redeems it for me is Beatrice and Benedick and their quick-witted fights and eventual love for one another. She’s a very fun heroine, and he jumps right in to defend Hero alongside Beatrice. I hate that the trick on Hero doesn’t really amount to much punishment. Claudio is a jerk and it annoys me he still gets the girl.

As You Like It (William Shakespeare)
I read this years ago and remember liking it, but for some reason it really did do anything for me this time around. Maybe it’s the focus on love and the fact it all seems so ridiculous. I know it was probably expected for redemption arcs and off screen problem solving in Shakespeare’s day, but I’m finding it really annoying now. Oliver is redeemed off screen, the Duke becomes religious and changes his mind about everything off screen. The deus ex machina is infuriating, and the more Shakespeare I read, then less I can stand it.

Non Fiction

If You Ain’t a Pilot … (Ray Wright)
This is a book that covers Wright’s time in UPT, Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1987/88 for the USAF. This was before UPT was specialized. Back then you learned on the T-37 then the T-38 no matter what air frame you were going to. When specialization occurred, you’d train in the T-37, then track select for heavies (T-1) or fighter/bomber (T-38) (the first trainer is upgraded now – you train in the T-6 and go to T-1 or T-38s). I really enjoyed a lot of the stories and the struggles of UPT. I just wish there was a bit more follow up of what happened after Wright’s first assignment. Another book, perhaps?

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 59/52

June 2020 Reads

In May I hit 45/52 in my Goodreads challenge thanks to a lot of good weather for outside reading. Here are my June reads:

Fiction

Pericles (William Shakespeare)
I found this one kind of boring. I just found it sort of aimless. I wasn’t very interested in Pericles as a character – he was sort of a boring, average person. I liked Marina, but found her storyline fairly ridiculous. There wasn’t anything wrong with this play, per se, just no connection.

Cymbeline (William Shakespeare)
Okay, I will confess I always assumed this was about a woman. The name Cymbeline sounded so feminine I was shocked to find out Cymbeline was a king. As I read I couldn’t understand why this play was named for him at all. It really should’ve been called Imogen, as she is the heroine, and a great one at that. Definitely one of my favourite characters so far in this Shakespeare 2020 journey. I was actually hoping Iachimo would get his in the end, so I was disappointed in that. The “found sons” plot was predictable, but Imogen really steals the show.

King Lear (William Shakespeare)
I’d always wanted to read this, but never got around to it. Despite the hopelessness, violence and betrayal, I really enjoyed this. It’s definitely a downer of a play, but I really love how Act V comes together with so much tension. Goneril and Regan are awful, and Cordelia almost too good to be true, but I was most interested in Lear and Kent and waiting for the evil sisters to get their due.

A Lover’s Complaint (William Shakespeare)
This poem reads fast, but I find I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare’s long poems that much. Maybe it’s the form, but I never feel that I connect with them. This was much the same – a nice poem, but I felt no way about it in the end.

The Passionate Pilgrim (William Shakespeare)
A collection of poems, this one I enjoyed a lot more. Ironic, considering most of these 20 poems are not attributed to Shakespeare. There are some sonnet form poems here, which I do enjoy a lot more than long form, and it’s kind of fun to try and pick out the ones you think are Shakespeare’s.

Non Fiction

Beggars and Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals (Mark S. Fleisher)
I got this book to help me with research for the book I’m writing/editing, as a lot of it deals with street criminals in Seattle close to the time my book is set. The actual stories of the author hanging with these street people and learning about them and their lives is really interesting, but the scientific ethnographic data is a bit dense. I wanted more of what these people did each day, where they went, who it was with, how they survived, but it was mostly analysis (which is expected, just not what I was most interested in).

Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City’s Nightlife (Aaron Chapman)
This library read focuses on some of the early and noteworthy nightclubs and venues in Vancouver throughout the years. While it didn’t really stretch into the era I was clubbing (for locals, the Johnny Loves/Wild Coyote/Big Bam Boo era lol), it was an interesting read and history buffs will enjoy it. My only question … why no Roxy??

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 52/52

So yeah … completed my goal of 52 books and it’s only the end of June. I’m hoping to beat my all time high – 67 books.

An update on my YA coming-of-age project

So it’s been a year since my last update, and I was going to post an update about where I’m at until I read that post. Yeah … same place.

Not really, in some ways. When I finished Book 1 and Book 2 last year, I thought I was ready for them to go out. I worked on editing them a little more and then worked on Book 3 during Nanowrimo 2019.

As I wrote, I came up with a lot of ideas and plots that would have to be mentioned/included in Books 1 and 2. So back to those I went. Then a few wonderful research books landed in my lap, and suddenly there were some other elements that needed to change.

As of now, Book 1 is about 90% finished. Book 2 is probably 75% – by “finished” I mean done with re-writing, editing, proofing and formatting for print.

Book 3 is still in the same state as it was at the end of Nano – just over 50K in words, and probably only one third finished.

The good news is I have a fairly good idea of how the rest of that book is going to go, which should hopefully make the other books easier to write. I also have had some great ideas for shorts and novellas, either as freebies, mailing list goodies or Patreon content. Some are pre-series stories about non-main characters, some are novellas that fall in between the main novels (eg. summers between college years), and some are alternate POV or missing scenes.

I also have an idea to spin off the series after book 7 into a new series that will eventually circle back around to conclude the entire thing.

COVID really knocked everything off track this year, but I had a lot of paid work that captured my attention, so I’m hoping to get back into the groove and work on things for Camp Nano in July this year – if I can finish the research book I’m reading!

May 2020 Reads

Here’s an overview of my May reads:

Fiction

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)
This Young Adult (YA) novel deals with a black girl, Starr, who witnesses her unarmed childhood friend gunned down by a cop after a traffic stop. Starr floats between two worlds – the inner city neighbourhood she grew up in, and the affluent majority white private school she attends. With tensions boiling over, she has to decide whether to speak out or remain silent about what happened. This is a great book for teens – especially those that aren’t into reading. There are some great parent/child relationships in the film – probably one of the most realistic parents I’ve seen in YA in awhile. This book, at its core, deals with relationships, and especially those that are impacted by race and socio-economics.

The Sonnets (William Shakespeare)
I had to read the first 80 sonnets for Shakespeare 2020, but the book I was using held them all, so I read them all. I studied quite a few of them during English classes in the past, so a handful (probably the most popular/common) were familiar to me. I admit I wasn’t riveted by the ones I hadn’t studied. Turns out in depth English Lit classes have stuck with me!

Push (Sapphire)
Push is the story of 16-year-old Precious who is pregnant for the second time by her father. Her attendance at an alternative school begins to change the direction of her life. This book was very graphic regarding the abuse, both physical and sexual, that Precious endured. It’s definitely not a book I can say I *like* but I definitely feel affected by it. Precious is functionally illiterate, and the book is written almost entirely with her colloquial speech, and you can really see the progression, both in the book and in the school work she shares. It was made into the film Precious a few years ago (which I have not yet seen).

Othello (William Shakespeare)
I wasn’t completely enthralled with this play. Maybe it’s because of how much it annoys me when characters are deceived about someone and no one believes them. It just makes me rage, and I can’t stand plots like that. So of course I wanted to punt Iago into a river. What a horrid character. Nothing redeemable whatsoever. It’s the women in this play that come out best.

Love’s Labour’s Lost (William Shakespeare)
This play really didn’t interest me or capture my imagination at all. I really can’t say why. Maybe I’m burning out on Shakespeare in general, or maybe I just didn’t find any of the characters or the premise engaging. There’s a lot of wordplay in this play, and I think I was just too overwhelmed to really enjoy it or want to examine it further.

Non Fiction

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest (Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt)
This book details Boukreev’s experience on Scott Fischer’s team during the May 11 1996 Everest climb that saw 8 climbers die, the deadliest day on Everest until the  2015 base camp avalanche. I really enjoyed this (as much as you can “enjoy” real-life disaster books). I thought it gave a balanced look at what happened, and I understood Boukreev’s actions and his attitude toward the danger of mountaineering. The team lost their leader during the expedition, but no clients, mostly because of the actions of Anatoli Boukreev, who was awarded for his heroics before his death a year later in an avalanche on Annapurna.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster (Jon Krakauer)
This book chronicles the same expedition as The Climb, but from client Jon Krakauer’s point of view of his time with Rob Hall’s team (although you wouldn’t know he was on Hall’s team since he spends so much time focusing on Scott Fischer’s team). I found the book irritating with how much Krakauer was trying to focus on the other expedition over his own. He had little interaction with them, but focused a lot on their team, rather than the confusing decisions and actions of his own expedition leader. I thought it rich that Krakauer was criticizing Boukreev, a man that went out multiple times to rescue others while Krakauer couldn’t muster the energy to bang a pot.

Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest (Beck Weathers)
I was SO angry at this book. It purports to be about the 1996 Everest disaster and Weathers’ miraculous survival after being left for dead. The Everest part of the book ends less than 30% in. The rest is about his crappy marriage, his family, his history, name dropping all the politicians they know … it’s gross. It was a horrible misrepresentation of the subject matter. I suspect the Everest portion was so short because he had no real business being up there at all. This book was infuriating. Do not read this.

After The Wind (Lou Kasischke)
Yet another book about the 1996 Everest tragedy. This one is also from a Rob Hall group climber. Kasischke doesn’t hold back regarding what he thinks went wrong, namely decisions made by Rob Hall. As uncomfortable as it is to read someone questioning the actions of a dead man … the man has a point. Hall’s decisions are baffling, especially considering his past. He is also critical of the influence a reporter (Krakauer) had on everyone on the expedition, something I was curious about and no one had really discussed before. I also appreciated that he wasn’t dragging the other team (Scott Fischer’s) into it like Krakauer did. It’s definitely a personal account, and I appreciated that.

Combat Ready: Lessons Learned in the Journey to Fighter Pilot (Taylor Fox)
Now this is the type of fighter pilot memoir I was looking for. The book focuses on Fox’s time in undergraduate pilot training (UPT) at ENJJPT, intro to fighter fundamentals (IFF) and the B course at Luke AFB to fly F-16s in the Air National Guard. It had great detail and information about what it takes to make it as a fighter pilot and is exactly the kind of book I wanted to read.

For June I’m starting Pericles for Shakespeare 2020, and I have some Jeffery Deaver I want to get to as well as another book focuses on UPT.

I really wish Stuart Hutchison wrote about his experience on Everest in 1996. He seemed to be very level-headed, involved in the rescue and is someone I’d like to hear an account from.

Goodreads Reading Challenge Total – 45/52 (24 books ahead of schedule)

The pace I’m reading this year is INSANE.

 

April 2020 Reads

April was a good month of reading. I got through a lot of books, all new to me but one play, and I’m on schedule to absolutely kill my reading challenge this year. Here’s some mini reviews of what I read.

Fiction

Richard II (William Shakespeare)
This is the first of the War of the Roses series. In the Shakespeare 2020 Project, they were read out of order, and I wish they’d been in order so it was more cohesive. I’m over the histories right now. I found this one kind of dull. Richard II especially seemed ineffectual as a leader, and I just didn’t enjoy much of the plot.

Venus and Adonis (William Shakespeare)
I really enjoyed this poem. Maybe because it wasn’t an historical play? At any rate, it tells the story of Venus trying to seduce Adonis, who is more interested in hunting.

Children of Fury by Rashid Darden book coverChildren of Fury – Dark Nation Volume III (Rashid Darden)
I got to read an ARC of this book which will be released on May 15, 2020. I really appreciate how real his characters act and sound. Darden has a great ear for language and I felt completely immersed in the world of these students at an alternative school who learn there is a coming war that could destroy the world, and only they can stop it. These characters will really become part of your heart, and the Washington, DC setting is so real you’ll feel like you’re there. Fans of mythology will love this. I know it says Volume III, but you don’t need to have read the previous book, Birth of a Dark Nation (Although you should! African vampires who can walk in the light!). Vol 2 is not out yet, and the books are meant to be read as standalones. Order it now!

Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
I read Hamlet eons ago in school, and so analyzed it to death. I find all of that intense work in school has really stuck with me, as I’ve enjoyed the plays I’ve studied a lot more now, probably because of the familiarity. The treachery, the standout lines – there really is so much to love about this play. I also highly recommend the 1996 film of Hamlet starring Kenneth Branagh.

The Rape of Lucrece (William Shakespeare)
This poem is the second long poem in the Shakespeare 2020 Project. It reminded me a lot of Titus Andronicus, as the rape and revenge theme are shared between them. It was okay, but I had no strong feelings toward it. Many people now refer to it as just Lucrece now.

The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
I had seen the movie a few times, but never read the book, and set out to remedy that. Wow. I’m not sure I have the words to say how much I was invested in Celie. I finished the book in a day. I’m a fast reader, but that’s crazy for me. I just didn’t want to leave her until I was sure she was okay. The language of the story is heartbreaking at times, but Celie and the other women, are the living embodiment of Maya Angelou’s words – “Still, I rise”. Just do yourself a favour and read this.

Non Fiction

The Modern Viper Guide 2nd Edition: The F-16C/D Exposed (Jake Melampy)
This is the definitive guide to the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet. There are hundreds and hundreds of photos of the jet from every angle, with explanations on different builds, and details about various systems. If you’re an F-16 nut, this book is a must.

A Patriot’s Calling (Dan Rooney)
Rooney served as an F-16 fighter pilot and I picked up this memoir in hopes of some F-16 content. While there were a few stories about his time at UPT and serving as a pilot, the majority of the book was about a foundation he began, his golf career and other personal aspects that I wasn’t interested in since I went in looking for something else. The book is good, but it wasn’t the subject matter I was in search of.

The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities in America (Lawrence C. Ross, Jr.)
As member of an NPC sorority, my first knowledge of traditionally African American fraternal organizations came from the internet (specifically the folks at Greekchat.com). This book shares the history of the nine NPHC groups that have flourished in America since the first was founded in 1906. I enjoyed the book, but found I wanted more in depth knowledge of the founding of the organizations. I think it was directed more towards those already familiar with black Greek organizations, so those with no knowledge will probably have a lot of questions after reading. I was (luckily) familiar with a lot of terminology and details so I understood it, but I think those with no fraternity/sorority knowledge would struggle with this.

On deck for May, I’ve got another memoir of an F-16 pilot, which I’m hoping will have a lot more F-16 and UPT content. I’m also starting Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Shakespeares first 80 sonnets.

Goodreads Reading Challenge Total – 35/52 (18 books ahead of schedule)

 

March 2020 Reads

So last post I was ten books ahead of schedule and embarking on a read of a TV show novelization and heading into Julius Caesar. Links are to Project Gutenberg (for the Shakespeare) and Goodreads. Here’s what I read in March:

Fiction

Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)
I’d read this in high school and analyzed it to death (as you do), but honestly couldn’t remember very much about it. It’s a great example of turning someone against something and having them regret it. I enjoyed it, but honestly, I think I’m getting burnt out of tragedies and histories in my Shakespeare reading.

Grimm: The Icy Touch (John Shirley)
The TV show Grimm was one of my favourites for the six seasons it was on, and this book is an original novel based on and authorized by the show. The case fits between two episodes. I liked it, but I wasn’t wowed by it. Sometimes reading novelizations is annoying because they repeat things you already know because new readers might not have seen the show.

Two Gentlemen of Verona (William Shakespeare)
Honestly, I was fairly bored with this one too. I found the main characters annoying and I can see why people think it’s one of his weakest plays. The men are just annoying in this. It’s like he equates being in love to a tennis match … back and forth and back and forth. Ugh.

Grimm: The Chopping Block (John Passarella)
This book has a different author than the first one. I found this one more enjoyable with its plot – it was a lot more gruesome as well. I really enjoy Juliette more in these books. The authors seem to focus on the fact she’s a vet and actually use those skills, which I love. The show missed the boat there. Overall it was my favourite of the three novelizations.

King John (William Shakespeare)
Will the histories ever end (she asks, while reading Richard II)? At this point it’s all I can do to get through the histories. I found King John very dull. So much results on who was born to who and when, you want someone unrelated to come in and kill everyone so we don’t have to worry about it anymore. I think quarantine is getting to me lol.

Grimm: The Killing Time (Tim Waggoner)
Another Grimm book, the last of the releases. I didn’t mind this one, but wasn’t very attached to it. Again, another author that did a better job with Juliette than the writers for the TV show did. I really like her in these novelizations a lot, because she gets to show off her knowledge and skill as a veterinarian.

So that was my March.

I realized after finishing the last Grimm book that I hadn’t read any non fiction in awhile, so I’m going to make it a point to pick up some for April.

Goodreads Reading Challenge Total – 25/52 (12 books ahead of schedule!)