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?
Note that this link to Amazon Canada will let you read the book for free if you have Kindle Unlimited!

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 2014 avalanche and 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.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster (Jon Krakauer)
This book chronicles the same expedition as The Climb, but from journalist/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 could’ve done without the tiresome back and forth antagonism post-Everest via all the supplemental material detailing Krakauer and Boukreev’s “feud” that appeared in both books. I wish they could have let their books stand on their own like adults.

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. I’m not even linking to buy it.

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.

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 Amazon Canada. 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!)

 

Grandma’s Breadmaker White Bread Recipe

I feel like sharing a recipe, so here’s one my maternal grandma came up with for bread in the breadmaker. You can either do the whole thing in the breadmaker or use the dough setting and then bake it yourself in pans or different shapes. Instructions for both. Also, not a long, involved story because no one cares about me romping with my school chums in the fens and the spinneys.

Grandma’s Breadmaker Recipe

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup water plus 2 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups bread flour (trust me, it’s better than all purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp bread machine yeast

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to bread machine pan in the order printed. (Then put the machine pan in the breadmaker … I assume this is obvious, but … )
  2. Set for a 1.5 lb loaf, medium or dark crust. I use setting 1 on my Black and Decker for white bread.
  3. If you want to make other forms (rolls, smaller loaves etc), set it to dough stage. If not, let the breadmaker do all the work.
  4. If you’re doing it to the dough state, remove dough at end of stage and knead. If the machine did two rises (check your manual), go to step 5. If the machine does only one rise, allow the dough to rise in a bowl for 1.5 hours before continuing to step 5.
  5. Form dough into rolls, a braid, or set in pan(s). I have small bread pans and can make two small loaves. You do you.
  6. Allow to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours in a warm area. Not on the “keep warm” burner like I did once, because it cooked the bottom of the dough. Live and learn.
  7. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 375 F and continue to bake for 35 minutes.

I like to brush the loaf with melted butter when it’s just out of the oven. Butter crust = life.

Here’s a totally unprofessional photo of what you get (without the butter crust here, because I guess I was lazy).

You can switch up your bread type with different flour. Sometimes I do 2 cups of white bread flour and 1 cup of brown. Sometimes multigrain. This recipe works best with the white bread flour or a mix, it’s a bit denser with all brown or multigrain bread flour.

I’ve never tried to make this without a bread maker. Someone give it a whirl and let me know what happens.

Anyway, there you go. A no bullshit bread recipe just the way grandma likes it.

Reading Pandemic

I’m not a big reader of novels that involve killer illnesses, and that was before SARS, MERS and COVID-19 invaded our consciousness. No, me and my health anxiety were happy to avoid reading about any kind of illness because if I read about it, I’d think about it, and if I thought about it too much, I’d probably get it. Yeah, I know. Logic. But with bad anxiety, I was happy to pick up some serial killer book instead.

Even though I haven’t read a ton of pandemic novels, here’s a few I have read and actually enjoyed. Links lead you to Goodreads. If you’re self isolating, download the Libby app and connect with your library online. Oh, and wash your hands.

The Stand (Stephen King)
Pretty much the granddaddy of them all, King’s novel focuses on a man-made illness (Captain Trips … no, not a Jerry Garcia reference) that kills 99% of the human population. Two different groups of survivors begin to form with very different goals. Much of the book deals with the pandemic and the aftermath, how the survivors find each other and begin to try to rebuild society. I really enjoyed this book, but I was smart and didn’t read it during an actual global pandemic lol. I still haven’t seen the 1990s mini series (with Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe), but they’re currently filming a new version here … well, until that gets shut down due to COVID.

Pandemic (Daniel Kalla)
Kalla is an ER doc here in Vancouver, and I once got his book out of the library, started to read it and promptly got sick. Back to the library it went until a few years later when I wasn’t so superstitious lol. Pandemic starts in China with a zoonotic flu (sound familiar?) that someone begins spreading on purpose and it’s up to Dr. Noah Haldane and his colleagues to stop it. Noah Haldane also features in his second book Cold Plague. Guess what it’s about?

Outbreak (Robin Cook)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read this one, which was also made into a film.  Outbreak is the first in the Marissa Blumenthal books. She works for the CDC and a plague begins to sweep across the country – but it’s only affecting doctors and patients at low-cost clinics. This book isn’t as medically oriented as you might think and is more of a conspiracy novel than a plague novel.

Virals (Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs)
The most fun of the bunch, this YA series focuses on a group of friends that get infected by a type of parvovirus which gives them unique side effects. It’s a great series, and not as life or death panic inducing as some of the others on this list.I highly recommend this series, even if you’re not into YA books.

Girlfriend In A Coma (Douglas Coupland)
You’d think a book about a pregnant girl who falls into a coma and wakes up 18 years later wouldn’t involve a pandemic, but you’d be wrong! In this case, people just … fall asleep and die without warning. This book is more about the characters and their relationships with each other, with the last half against the backdrop of the apocalypse.

Gravity (Tess Gerritsen)
Astronaut Emma Watson (yes, really, this was pre-Harry Potter) is aboard the ISS when a virus begins to wreak havoc on the crew. As it turns deadly, Emma’s husband is trying to work with NASA to get them home, but the unknown virus is a threat to earth, so they are stranded in space with time running out.

If you are reading this and thinking “Yeah, I think I’ll pass on pandemic books” then check out:

I Am Maru (Mugumogu) If you like cats
Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris) If you like funny
Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh) If you really love laughing and fun cartoons

Also check out washing your hands.

February 2020 Reads

I’m ten books ahead of schedule as of today. Woo! I am positive it’s due to the Shakespeare 2020 Project.

Here’s what I’ve read since the last update:

Fiction

The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare)
I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would – I know a lot of people love it. It was a quick read, fun, and a nice break from the War of the Roses.

Titus Andronicus (William Shakespeare)
I didn’t know anything about this one going in. I learned part way through it’s considered one of the most violent and bloody Shakespeare plays … and I really liked it. I was all in for the revenge and backstabbing. It just never stopped. So far, along with Twelfth Night, this has been one of my favourites.

Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)
In school, I read three Shakespeare plays – Julius Caesar, Hamlet and MacBeth. Grade 9 was our first intro to Shakespeare, and I remember hoping I’d get the class doing Romeo and Juliet instead of Julius Caesar (nope!). I ended up reading Romeo and Juliet a few years later because we had an old paperback from my mom’s school days, and I remember thinking “meh”. I actually enjoyed it so much more now. I’m not sure what changed for me, but I felt like the Nurse stood out so much more, and there was a lot more political overtones. I really liked it second time around.

Yours In The Bond (Rashid Darden)
This was a re-read for me. Darden writes books focusing on black gay relationships and experiences, so you figure a white Canadian woman wouldn’t feel very connected to the material. (Spoiler alert: You’d be wrong). This book is related to his Potomac University series as some characters appear from that series, and the fraternity the characters are in is the same one featured in Lazarus, Covenant and Epiphany. The relationship between Eustace and JJ dominates the story, but there’s also a lot of story regarding Beta Chi Phi and who came after Adrian. The complicated Eustace/JJ story really resonated, and there are lines in there that will make anyone in a difficult relationship go “OMG, yes!”

The Coffin Dancer (Jeffery Deaver)
I am loving this series. Now, I know in both the movie and TV series Lincoln Rhyme is portrayed as black, while he isn’t in the books. Somehow my brain has decided he’s Morgan Freeman. My brain has also cast Riann Steele as Amelia Sachs. And … Sammy Davis, Jr. as Fred Dellray. I KNOW. I can’t explain my brain. Anyway, this book follows the team as they go after a hired assassin. The book really got me – I was surprised the whole way through. I also love that Deaver makes you feel different ways about the same character. I hated Percey so much. Hatred. But by the end of the book, I felt like I understood her, and I definitely changed my perspective. It reminded me of how I started out hating Lt. Cruz on Third Watch and the writers managed to turn that on its head and make me feel bad for her lol. I can’t wait to get to more books in this series. I’m really enjoying a lead character like Rhyme who is not about physical things. It’s really refreshing.

Richard III (William Shakespeare)
I know this is considered one of his best, and I did enjoy it. But I think I’m getting overwhelmed with Shakespeare at this point. I feel like I’m rushing to finish so I can get to a book I really want to read. I think that’s the danger of trying to read all of Shakespeare in a year. The play itself is full of intrigue – Richard is so manipulative and cunning it’s enjoyable to read, and seeing his demise is not as welcome as you’d think by the end.

Non Fiction

The Last Gang In Town (Aaron Chapman)
Chapman’s book looks into the exploits of the Clark Park Gang, which was a loosely organized gang of friends that frequented Vancouver’s Clark Park. Their exploits were so disruptive there was a police squad created and assigned to deal with them. The book is a great look at 1970s Vancouver.

Time (Rashid Darden)
I was lucky to get an advanced copy of this anthology. It contains personal essays, short fiction, some scenes from plays and poetry all by author Rashid Darden. First, the poetry made me really miss poetry. I used to write and read a lot of it, and somewhere along the line I lost my passion for it. This really got me motivated to dig out my own work, as Darden’s words really hit home. My favourite essays were Saditty, a reflection on Darden’s school days (a memoir-genre that I realized I live for lol), and an essay that talked about the development and change that his Potomac University series went through as it started as a play and morphed into a 3 book series. There’s a lot of great personal reflection and the sharing of letters and heartfelt emotion. The book will be released to the general public on May 15th, so I encourage everyone to pre-order.

I’m Down (Mishna Wolff)
Wolff grew up in a predominantly black area of Seattle with her white father who was all about being down with black folks in his neighbourhood. Little Mishna didn’t quite fit in, and this memoir is a great look at fitting in and standing out. From her local neighbourhood to the posh mostly-white private school culture shock she experiences, along with her complex relationship with her dad, his girlfriends, her mother and young sister, I’m Down deals with Mishna’s childhood with humour and reflection.

So I got a lot of reading done. But damn am I getting burnt out on Shakespeare. Luckily up next is Julius Caesar, which I’m very familiar with, so I may skim more than read lol.

Challenge Total – 19 (10 ahead of schedule)

 

 

 

January 2020 Reads

So here’s the list of books I read in January 2020, with some mini reviews and links to buy/read. The links are to Canadian Amazon, because I’m Canadian (no affiliate links), and to Project Gutenberg for Shakespeare.

Fiction

Nemesis (Brendan Reichs)
Min Wilder is killed every two years on her birthday and wakes up hours later like nothing happened. In the midst of turmoil regarding a meteor that could hit earth, she has to figure out why she’s being killed, and the answer is life changing.

Genesis and Chrysalis (Brendan Reichs)
These two books are the continuation of Nemesis. Genesis was interesting because of how Nemesis ended. (Spoilers!) The characters are now in this almost virtual reality. I think it was my favourite of the books. Chrysalis spun everything in an entirely new direction. Part of me wasn’t so thrilled because it wasn’t anything I’d imagined. I don’t know what I expected, to be honest. Overall the series was really good and gave me a lot to think about. (They also have really evocative covers)

Twelfth Night ( William Shakespeare)
One of his comedic plays featuring twins, mistaken identity and too many people falling in love too quickly. I enjoyed this, although it took awhile to get my Shakespeare sea-legs with the language.

Henry VI Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 (William Shakespeare)

This series was a lot more difficult (and also seemed the most disjointed of the Shakespeare I’ve read so far). It’s part of the series on the War of the Roses. I wasn’t familiar at all with this era of history, so it was all new to me. Honestly, it was only okay. I have read many other Shakespeare plays I prefer over this. I’m linking to the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, as the individual book files for this series are in a really old English version with some formatting issues.

The Bone Collector (Jeffery Deaver)

Kind of hard to believe I’d never read this series, as the material is up my alley. I decided to read this because I was interested in watching the new TV series “Lincoln Rhyme: The Hunt For The Bone Collector”. I really enjoyed this book. Deaver’s use of forensics has aged really well (which shocked me), and the knowledge of obscure New York was fascinating. I also really enjoyed Lincoln himself and the case. I watched the Denzel/Angelina movie after I finished the book and it annoyed me to no end that they changed so much from the book.

The Comedy of Errors (William Shakespeare)

Back to his comedies (and rhyming!) which I enjoy. This one was definitely a slapstick – try explaining to me how two sets of twins separated by a disaster each get named the exact same thing …). I enjoyed this for the mistaken identity, but as a story it felt thin for reading. I think it’d be much more enjoyable on stage.

Non Fiction

F-16 Fighting Falcon Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Steve Davies & Douglas C. Dildy)
I have an obsession with the F-16, so I read everything I can get my hands on about this fighter jet. This goes over details about the different F-16 units that served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, detailing their missions, jets and other info.

Challenge Total – 10 (5 ahead of schedule)