where the writers are
Resolutions,continued...the pedometer geek's August's reads (2011)

New Year's resolutions come...and (mostly) they go, but I have chosen resolutions that I am continuing to keep since my resolutions fit into two categories.  The first is concerning reading.  That is, to read more books this year than last year!  The second is concerning the tracking of my walking steps via my pedometer (I am a pedometer geek!). 

Usually I report my walking statistics last as that is the least significant resolution as far as the writing community is concerned, but it is not insignificant to me.  I had high hopes last month to finally break my record and manage to average 10,000 steps every day.  I started out with a strong showing in the first week or so, but I only managed a little over 215K for the month averaging a little over 6900 steps per day, and less than the previous month.  My Wii Fit time was down, too, although Rob and I frequently took bike rides around town, rather than walks. We did get some exercise in though even if it was biking.

However, in the reading department, I had better results and some excellent reads, too. I read a total of seven books, mostly fiction, but one non-fiction book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. With these seven books, I have now read fifty-six books this year.  Several of my books were books that are part of my SIY (set it yourself) bookcrossing challenge for this quarter. Some were bookcrossing book ring books, and some of the authors were new to me.

All in all, it was a diverse reading selection, and are as follows:

  The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly   *

  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  by Rebecca Skloot   *

  Shadow Puppets  by Orson Scott Card

  Swan for the Money  by Donna Andrews    *

  Stork Raving Mad  by Donna Andrews    *

 The Reading Group  by Elizabeth Noble

  The Book Thief   by Markus Zusak   *

Connolly's novel, considered YA, is a re-telling of many fairy stories with dark, twisted sides.  A young boy, who has recently lost his mother, is lured into a world in which fairy tales are the norm.  To return to his own world, he must make his way to the old king and battle the wolves and the Crooked Man.  Perilous adventures stalk him on his path to freedom.

Skloot's book is part biography and part science.  Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in the 1950s, is the focus of the biography.  Her family's (children, grandchildren, etc.) continued difficulties are also explored.  In counterpoint to this, some of Lacks' cancer cells were taken without consent and then grown; they are still growing today and can be found in nearly every lab in the world.  Her cells have been responsible for many of the medical breakthroughs we all have been able to take advantage of.  Yet, her family still lives in poverty, without health insurance, and in relatively poor health.  Other ethical issues are also discussed throughout the book.  It's a very enlightening book, and makes for compelling reading.

Shadow Puppets is one of a continuing series of novels by Card.  It follows the further exploits of Bean of Ender's Shadow.  While I don't consider science fiction a genre that I generally read, I have found all of these novels to be engrossing. I have a few more to read, and plan on doing so in the near future.  I have read them totally out of order, and yet it doesn't affect my enjoyment.  I still have the last of the "Shadow" series to read (Shadow of the Giant) as well as most of the sequels to Ender's Game to complete.

The two mysteries, Swan for the Money and Stark Raving Mad, by Donna Andrews continue the adventures of Meg Langslow, blacksmith-artist and amateur sleuth.  With each mystery, Langslow helps the chief of police solve murders while dealing with her somewhat wacky family and her husband Michael, a professor of drama at Caerphilly College.  The series always has an ornithological theme, and while they can be read out of order, I recommend starting with the first of the series, Murders with Peacocks, which also won quite a few prizes.  All of them are light reading, but generally, there is a laugh on every page.

The last two novels that I finished in August were The Reading Group and The Book Thief.  Noble's novel goes through a year of a book group made up of several women.  Although a few know each other to begin with, throughout the year all become increasingly involved with each other and the lives they are leading, becoming good friends. Each has their own issues to deal with; each has their own thoughts about the books they are reading, and all are supportive of each other. The books they are reading are actually novels, some old; some new.  The author bases the idea of the novel on a book group that she actually participates in although her characters are created and not based on any member of her group. I found it slow reading at first, trying to keep the characters straight in my mind**, but once into the story, it was an enjoyable read.  Fortunately, at the beginning of the novel, all the characters are laid out with their own favorite read, spouse and children, etc. so that it is easy enough to sort out who is who.

The other novel, The Book Thief, was another YA novel, but could be considered adult fiction for its themes and poignancy.  Narrated by Death, it is the story of a young girl Liesel Meminger who becomes a foster child in Germany during the time prior to and including World War II.  Death watches over and follows the exploits of her, her family, and her friends, both Jew and non-Jew alike.  She takes her first book when her brother dies, and from that time forward, it is books that link her to family and the power of words. The novel gives an unique interpretation of what it must have been like in Nazi Germany as Hitler came to power, and because of this, it is a powerful novel.

 

* SIY books chosen for the quarter

 

**In defense of the author, I have to say that the fact that I read this novel over several months in between about twenty books so that was most of the problem; the novel itself was very compelling and dealt with contemporary issues, and I already have plans to read others by this author.