Clear Off Shelves Challenge

Wrapping up the "Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge"!

It’s November 30 and the “Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge” hosted by Swapna must come to a close.  I think I bought more new books than old books I read but at least the batch I read are…  And done.  Obviously my ability write decently is currently on hiatus.

Moving on.  My challenge goal was fifty-percent; I could have gone higher but I was playing it safe.  Here’s what I read that counted toward the challenge:
The Link
The Oracle
The Invention of Air
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
The Other
The Film Club
The Best American Science Writing 2009
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009
The Mysteries of Udolpho
Harry Potter’s Bookshelf
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The Best American Essays 2009
The Post-American World
The Best American Essays 2008
And Then There Were None
A Beautiful Blue Death

I didn’t count these titles in the challnge (hey, I didn’t have many review copies so I had to make a delineation somewhere):
The Children’s Book (purchased after the challenge started)
Wolf Hall (purchased after the challenge started)
Hush, Hush (an ARC I’ve only had since August but wanted to be rid of)
The Mill on the Floss (review copy sent to me by BNBC)

So…17 out of 21 is 80.95%.  Yay!  I did very well.  Next time I’m going to raise my goal, particularly if I don’t have many review copies hanging about to be read.

Clear Off Shelves Challenge · stuff I read

A Beautiful Blue Death

I picked up A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch last year as part of a buy-2-get-1 deal (the “get 1” part was Interred With Their Bones and I thought that one was terrible).  Victorian mystery/Sherlock Holmes-type sleuth, poison, intrigue….I’m up for a bit of mystery reading.  It sounds like a nice cold-weather-warm-blanket-and-tea book.

To set up the story a bit, because there is a lot of exposition scattered throughout the book, Charles Lenox is the younger son of a baronet (who actually does have enough money to allow Charles a life of leisure) and spends much of his time as an amateur detective and archaeologist.  He lives next door to a childhood sweetheart, Lady Jane Gray (who isn’t quite the staid Victorian matron), has a very good relationship with his butler/valet, Graham, and has successfully solved several cases prior to the opening of A Beautiful Blue Death.  Lenox has an eccentric-ish brother, Edmund, a bumbling Scotland Yard inspector, Exeter, and a very good friend who happens to be an experienced physician, McConnel, married to a pretty woman, Toto (Victoria).  Lenox is also very observant, to the point of noting an MP would probably switch constituencies based on the change of pocket-watch displayed.  Can you see all the Sherlock parallels?  Watson, Mycroft, Mrs. Watson, Irene Adler, Lestraude?  Although the story is quite well-written and very enjoyable I probably would have quit reading if Lenox had turned out to both play the violin at all hours and go masquerading as an opium-den denzien (it is acknowledged that Lenox has disguised himself in prior cases but does not do so during this book).

Finch uses a deft hand to bring 1860s London to life as well as the politics of the day (politics and financial hanky-panky are very closely tied in this book).  There is also a considerable amount of musing on the problem of poverty and social class which was quite well-written and didn’t intrude on the storyline.  Lenox does fret a bit too much over his friend McConnell’s relationship with the gin bottle, in my opinion, but it at least doesn’t go too far into modern psychological thinking.

There is one grating scene about three chapters from the end of the novel.  Lenox receives a telegram update about one of the major players in the mystery and Finch suddenly follows this character through the rest of his lifetime in the next two pages.  The final meeting of this character and Lenox, about 30 years after the scene were Lenox receives the telegram, is even described.  It’s very wierd, makes very little practical sense, stops the falling action of the book, and then the next chapter opening doesn’t even resume the action smoothly.  Definitely needed more editing for that bit because it really set my teeth on edge.

I am still interested in the series so at some point I’ll pick up The September Society.

Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 17/21

BNBC · Clear Off Shelves Challenge

And Then There Were None

“Literature by Women” scheduled Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery, set on an isolated island, for November 2009 (meaning I scheduled it after the group voted because I’m the moderator).  This wasn’t the first read-through the novel for me; I read it in high school when we did Ten Little Indians in the play adaptation and I’ve read it a few times since then.  And Then There Were None is truly a masterwork in the mystery/thriller/crime genre.

Without spoiling too much of the plot I can say that I always puzzle over how the reader is supposed to figure out the identity of the murderer before the end of the story (and before the epilogue starts).  The prose is very spare and Christie does not allow the omniscient narrator to get inside the murderer’s head.  On this read through, actually, it was the final flip-through before returning the book to the shelf until next time, I think I might have caught onto Christie’s very small clue.  I think the ability of the reader to solve the puzzle rests on the amount and type of internal dialogue made available to the reader.  How one is supposed to catch it on a first read (or second or third, for that matter) I don’t know but I would need to read through the book again specifically to take note of the internal dialogue.

Project for next time.  Haha.

Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 16/20

Booker Project

Complete Booker 2010 Challenge: Hit me!

The Complete Booker blog is hosting a challenge for 2010!  I want to read all the Booker winners eventually and this will be soooo up my alley.  The challenge runs from January 1 – December 31, 2010 so I think I’ll aim for the “Winners’ Circle” level (read six Booker Prize-winning novels) and mix in a little “Booker Devotee” if I have time (read all six shortlisted novels from a single year).  This might even be a good excuse to re-read Possession so I can get a blog post out of it (haha) but I know that I’ll probably read Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, The Sea, and The Sea, the Sea.


‘Tis the Season: Part 2

I survived Black Friday and Saturday and lived to tell about it (more or less because I came in at 2pm and closed – the major shopping rushes were finished by then).  I actually had a lot of really nice customers – a blessing for a change – but there were a few amusing incidents:

  • a customer asked if we sell scarves….we do sell book-themed umbrellas but no scarves (we did have some Harry Potter-themed ties when the seventh book came out 2 1/2 years ago)
  • a customer complained because we didn’t have Sarah Palin’s book displayed prominently (it’s #1 on the bestseller list for non-fiction, do we need to wrap it in fairy-lights or something?)
  • later, another customer complained because we were actually selling the Sarah Palin book and we shouldn’t sell crap (hey dude, I only find the books and take the money, I don’t particularly care about anyone’s politics, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it; I know I won’t buy it and, by-the-way, we sell a lot of “crap” in varying degrees of taste, just fyi)
  • a tweener walked all the way around the Twilight Saga display (aka “the shrine”), picked up a few items, looked at them, and then came over to me to ask where Eclipse was….she had actually picked up the book and looked at it before coming to ask me for it (I fear for the future of our country)
  • helped a very nice grandma find books for all her grandkids; she was doing pretty good until she couldn’t remember how old the last one was (I got her to narrow it down to “middle school girl” who “seems to read pretty good” – I suggested The Westing Game and Redwall with gift receipts just in case)

And, once again, we have some students among the contributors:

  • at least two students/cafe-table-hogs-with-laptops complained about the lack of outlets (gee, this store was built before Wi-Fi networks were even a thought…if you’d like to contribute to the Capital Improvements fund for the store – aka BUY SOMETHING YOU LITTLE BRAT – we might be able to upgrade the wiring sometime in the next 15 years)
  • an undergrad needed a copy of The Pilgrim Hawk so she could finish her homework (we don’t have a copy onhand because her professor ordered all the course books through the local indie bookstore, which is closed by 9pm on Saturday nights); when I informed her that we would need to order it, she bugged out her eyes and asked (incredulously) “But how will I get my homework done?” – I suggested she hit the library as soon as it opened on Sunday, but she didn’t quite like that answer (this falls back under the categories of either a) I am not even remotely responsible for your homework or b) maybe you should get your act together before you fail out of school)
Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: Best Nonrequired Reading 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
– Grab your current read
– Open to a random page
– Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
– BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
– Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

Roy.  Taking a wild berry candy from my pocket I resolve again to focus on a candy under my tongue instead of on him.
~ Rivka Galchen, “Wild Berry Blue”, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers

Weekly Geeks

Weekly Geeks: The Top Ten Books of 2009

Weekly Geeks is compiling it’s “Top Ten Books of 2009” list and I think I’ll toss in my two cents.  I’m not really waiting on any books due out in December so I think I can safely say that I can make-up my list. 

The WG staff will compile a master list to vote from after December 4; if you’d like to participate in the Top Ten list-making go to the sign-up page, read the instructions, make your list, and submit it to Mr. Linky.

Happy Thinking!  Here are my Top Ten books of 2009 (I guess they’re sort-of in order):

  1. The Children’s Book by AS Byatt (literary fiction)
  2. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (crime/thriller)
  3. The Best American Essays 2009 edited by Mary Oliver (essay)
  4. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (literary fiction)
  5. Drood by Dan Simmons (fiction)
  6. Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell (fiction)
  7. The Big Rewind by Nathan Rabin (biography)
  8. Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir (history)
  9. Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float by Sarah Schmelling (humor)
  10. Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan (lit crit/theory)

Obviously, this is composed of stuff I read that was pubbed for the first time in 2009; I’m sure there are a few good books I missed simply because I haven’t read them, yet.