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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Six Months Later…

Well, I’ve finally finished the Amelia Peabody series. It’s all I’ve been reading for the last six months. I started re-reading all of the tales of the intrepid Amelia Peabody, a crime-solving Egyptologist, just after I finished Team of Rivals at the beginning of February. I snuck in Atonement at some point, but that was a pretty quick read.

And while it will feel weird to move on to something else, I’m glad I’m finished. The books have changed a lot since the first one was written in 1975. The first few were fairly light mysteries, with a ton of engaging characters. As the series progressed, the plot lines became more complex and much darker. Frankly, there wasn’t a lot of humor in the last few books, which I think was lacking.

On the whole, though, a great read and kudos to Elizabeth Peters for keeping the saga going. I can’t find any evidence of the next book, but I’m sure Amelia isn’t done with solving crimes yet.

Now the big question — What to read next?

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Reading Update

It’s been months since I posted about reading. And while I spent a lot of time on one book, I’ve read a bunch since then.

Team of Rivals was a wonderful book. Doris Kearns Goodwin writes about Abraham Lincoln and the cabinet he created, including several men who were ostensibly his enemies. Lincoln had a rare gift that politicians today don’t seem to have: He didn’t take things personally and he really didn’t hold any grudges. He looked at the ability of someone to do the job he wanted — not whether the person liked him or would be useful at some point. Salmon Chase was a perfect example. After years of trying (not very successfully) to undermine Lincoln in a variety of ways, Chase finally decided to leave his position in the White House (he threatened quitting a number of times to get what he wanted and Lincoln always took him back). By this time, Lincoln was done with Chase and agreed with him that leaving was best. But despite everything Chase had done over the years, Lincoln felt Chase was the best man to lead the Supreme Court and quite cheerfully nominated him for the position. I think that’s why I’m so apathetic about politics today; we don’t have people of that caliber running for the White House.

My interest in the Civil War having been renewed with this book, I had plans to read Shelby Foote’s well-regarded three-volume history of the Civil War. But Team of Rivals took me a month to read, and I found I really needed a break after all that death and destruction. So I started re-reading the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries. The books, by Elizabeth Peters, follow Amelia Peabody, her archaeologist husband Emerson and their rambunctious son Ramses; the stories begin in the late 19th century. There are now 18 books in the series, and I happily discovered I’m three books behind. A great excuse to buy more books! They are easy reads; it’s like comfort food for my brain.

It’s going to take me awhile to get through all those and I may take some quick breaks for other things. I snuck in Atonement a couple of weeks ago, which I really enjoyed. And I’m glad I read the book; the movie can’t possibly be as good.

So — what are you reading?

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Reading Year in Review

I had all sorts of ideas about pithy end-of-year thoughts and New Year’s resolutions to post over the last couple of days — only to be felled by a nasty head cold that kept me in bed for the last four days of my break. And today I’m back at work. Where did those two weeks ago?

I did want to do a quick recap of my reading in 2007. Last year was the first year that I started keeping track of what I read and I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t have remembered half of them if I hadn’t written them down.

I read 47 books (the list currently has 46, but I’m going to count Reading Lolita in Tehran as my 47th, as the bulk was read in 2007). Since I’ve never kept track before, I don’t know if that’s a lot or not. Judging from other book blogs I read, I think it’s a little on the low side. Too much TV!

I read all seven of the Harry Potter novels last year. I had been avoiding them for years simply because of the hype. But I suddenly decided they needed more attention, especially when my sister kept talking about them. She doesn’t read much fiction, so I know these had to be good to keep her attention. I enjoyed them very much and know that they will definitely stand up to re-reading many times.

Probably the most eye-opening one was The Introvert Advantage. If you are an introvert, you really do need to read this book. It makes so many things much more clear about why we behave they way we do (note: it’s all perfectly normal).

I took a little trip back in time with some of Stephen King’s early writing. His first novels and short stories were some of my earliest “adult” reading, and it was interesting to read them again more than 20 years later.

With some foot dragging, I also read some more modern fiction. Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy were all new authors for me in 2007.

Is there some grand statement here? I don’t think so. My tastes are pretty eclectic. In addition to the above, I also read two books about the Mafia, a biography of Chairman Mao, a couple of chick lit titles and a local author who actually reads my blog (Colleen Gleason’s The Rest Falls Away).

I have no doubt that 2008 will be equally as all over the map. Do I have any plans? Not really, although the more I think about it, the idea is tempting. I am planning on a group read of Team of Rivals, which I’m really looking forward to. And I think I need to read another Dickens title this year. I haven’t read him in years and I’ve got a significant way to go to get through the rest of them. They are always a major investment in time, but well worth it in the end.

More later on some of those New Year’s resolutions.

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Slogging

That’s the only word I can use to describe working my way through The First Man in Rome. It’s not bad, it’s just…well, a lot of work.

Frankly, I think the book could have used a bit more editing. It’s like the author took every fact she learned (and there’s no doubt she did extensive, exhaustive research on ancient Rome) and put it into the book. Then there are the character names. Most of the men have at least three; some have as many as five. And family names tend to make them all sound similar. So anytime one is referred to, his whole name is used. And the cast of characters is astoundingly large. Half the time, I don’t even know who I’m reading about.

I’ve actually found myself (horrors!) skipping pages. Last night, I skipped about ten. That’s a lot for me. In my entire life, there’s literally only been a handful of books I’ve never finished. And I never skip pages. It feels like cheating.

But I’m well over halfway done (which is an accomplishment in itself, as the book is over 900 pages). Do I stick it out? I’m afraid if I put it down and pick up something else, I’ll never go back. I was so excited when I started reading the book because it’s the first in a series of six. I was looking forward to being caught up in them for months. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t buy any of the rest yet. I don’t think I’ll be adding them to my wish list.

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The Book is Always Better

ATTENTION: Beowulf spoilers ahead, so beware.

I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to the new movie Beowulf, but after a while, all the commercials got me thinking about what exactly was going on. And I remember that I had a stripped cover copy of Beowulf in my library. (Oh, stripped books, how I love you!). So I pulled it out and read it over a couple of nights.

Rather short as epic poems go, I think, only about 3,100 lines. But here’s what I can’t understand about the movie: Beowulf kills Grendel within the first 1,000 lines. And it’s not a huge battle or anything; the whole thing happens in a handful of lines. Then Grendel’s mother gets axed even before the halfway point. I sort of thought that was the conclusion of the poem, not the opening. There is another monster near the end, but that’s a bit of an anti-climax. So now I’m very curious about the movie, because I can’t quite figure out how they’re going to plot it.

In other news, I’m doing my first group read after the start of the new year. A couple of colleagues and I will be reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. I’m always up for a history lesson and I’ve never read Doris Kearns Goodwin, so I’m looking forward to it. And these are really smart colleagues, so I’ll know they’ll get me to think about things I might have missed.

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Where Does the Time Go?

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post. Where does the time go? And why does it seem to move soooo much faster at the holidays?!

I had a very nice Thanksgiving with my family — but now it seems so far away as to not be worth mentioning.

Work has been crazy this week, which it usually isn’t. Started off horrible but has gotten marginally better. I’m still incredibly thankful it’s Friday, however.

I finished We Were The Mulvaneys over the holiday weekend. I can’t believe I’ve never read Joyce Carol Oates before. Probably because I tend to read authors who have been dead for about 50 years minimum. My boss is always trying to get me to read more modern fiction and this was another recommendation from her. I enjoyed it very much. It’s an engaging, though sad, story. I loved the narrator and how he did (and didn’t) fit into the story of the Mulvaney family. Highly recommended.

I’ve now moved on to The First Man in Rome, which I bought second-hand many months ago. It’s one of a series of books that Colleen McCullough has written about ancient Rome. A little slow getting started, but interesting reading. I always like a little history with my fiction.

My fave Heather was kicked off America’s Next Top Model this week. She was the only one I was really rooting for, so I don’t even know if I’ll watch the rest. It’s a pretty bland group.

And I should have been paying more attention to Survivor last night instead of multitasking with the laptop. Somehow I still haven’t figured out, James, with both immunity idols, got voted off last night. It was a brilliant strategic move — one I didn’t think any of the current players was capable of. This might be worth watching the last few episodes.

I’ve also started watching Project Runway. An interesting group of designers, but too early to tell who I like or don’t like.

I’ve bought one Christmas present so far. I am seriously behind.

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Another Week

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. No specific reason. I hate that it’s dark at the end of the day when I leave work. It feels like all I want to do is go home, put on my PJs and go to bed.

I have been watching the last season of The Sopranos on DVD finally. It’s still some of the best television ever produced; it’s one of those shows that isn’t predictable, so you never know what’s going to happen. But Tony seems especially cruel in these episodes; he’s less the anti-hero or more just the villain. Simple evil needs to have something added to it to make it interesting to watch. At any rate, I’m giving up ANTM and Survivor so I can finish it up.

I finished The Blush* well over a week ago. It was an interesting collection of short stories, which I don’t normally read. And I don’t know why, because there is something alluring about getting sucked into just part of the whole. I’m so anal I usually like to start at Point A and finish at Point Z. You can’t do that in short stories — you maybe get to see part of Point M and a little bit of Point N. I’d like to read more of Elizabeth Taylor now that I know her.

I also decided to read Northanger Abbey*. I’ve read it before but it’s been years. Although I finished up the bulk of my non-fiction reading on the Gothic a couple of weeks ago, Danielle mentioned that she would be reading it and I thought I’d pick it up again. Austen was poking a bit of fun at the Gothic genre and there are several times I’ve found myself with a smile on my face as she skewers an overworked motif. It’s quite enjoyable.

*I’d do links, but LibraryThing seems to be down at the moment.

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