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.

 

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!)

 

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)

 

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2020

Every year I do the Reading Challenge at Goodreads, an Amazon-owned website dedicated to tracking your books and reading. I challenge myself to read 52 books a year – one per week. Here’s my recent year stats (which are worse than I thought!):

2019 – 61/52
2018 – 60/52
2017 – 67/70
2016 – 66/65
2015 – 24/30
2014 – 31/50
2013 – 36/50

I joined Goodreads in 2012, so I couldn’t join the challenge that year (it’s open at the beginning of the year). A few years in there I made a goal, surpassed it, and upped the goal as I went (which is why I failed in 2017 … originally it was 50 books,I upped it then didn’t do more reading and failed lol).

The last two years I’ve also challenged myself to read at least 25 books fiction and 25 books non-fiction. I read both regularly, but I wanted to make sure I was splitting my reading for pleasure and for learning (although I also get a lot of pleasure out of learning reading).

So far this year I’ve just completed my 3rd book (1st non fic) and I’m two books ahead of schedule. I’ll be posting mini reviews of the books I read here on this blog.

I’m also doing the Shakespeare 2020 Project this year, which is a challenge to read all of Shakespeare’s works this year. There’s a very active Facebook group as well. So far we’ve completed Twelfth Night, and I’m on I Henry VI right now (and enjoying it, despite my limited knowledge of that era of history).