Read’N’Review Challenge

Reading is Fun!

Here we are, it’s almost the end of January, and I’ve finally gotten off the fence and decided to take a reading challenge this year.  I tried to muster some enthusiasm for it back in December, and I just couldn’t do it.  But I’m reading nonetheless, and I like having the list of book reviews over there on my sidebar, so I decided to sign up for the Read’n’Review Challenge, hosted by MizB, which is an easy challenge, because there’s no lists of award winners or particular genres that you have to look for.  Just list the books that you want to read, read them, and review them on your blog.  That’s it.  So, without further ado, here are 12 books that I’ll be reading this year.   I’m sure I’ll read and review others as well, and if I do, I’ll add them to the list.  The first group of books are written by authors who I’ve read before, while the last few are new to me.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote.  Cheating, I know, because I already read it and reviewed it.  But I read it very recently, like just last week, so it’s in.

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks.  I’ve read two other books by Ms. Brooks, Year of Wonders and March, and I loved them both.  So when I saw this newest novel, I had to give it a try.  I’m about 2/3 through right now, and I’m really enjoying it.  Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, has been offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war.  Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images.  When Hanna discoveries a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding – an insect fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair – she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries, ushering in its exquisite and atmospheric past, from its salvation back to its creation through centuries of exile and war.

Day After Night, by Anita Diamant.  Again, I’ve read another of Ms. Diamant’s books, The Red Tent, which I loved loved loved so much I gave it to several people as a gift, and I kinda think I might want to re-read it.  Since I read it before I had a blog, I’ve never reviewed it here.  Perhaps I’ll do that if I re-read it.  Anyway, here’s the blurb for Day After Night:

Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 erscue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for ‘illegal’ immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast north of Haifa.  The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp with profoundly different stories.  All of them survived the Holocaust:  Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor.  Haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, Shayndel, Leonie, Tedi, and Zorah find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shard experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.

The Bride’s Farewell, by Meg Rosoff.  I’ve loved Rosoff’s other works, How I Live Now and Just In Case, so when I saw this new release, I bought it for Maya for Christmas.  She hasn’t read it yet, but I know that I am definitely looking forward to reading it myself.

In Meg Rosoff’s fourth novel, a young woman in 1850s rural England runs away from home on horseback the day she’s to marry her childhood sweetheart. Pell is from a poor preacher’s family and she’s watched her mother suffer for years under the burden of caring for an ever-increasing number of children. Pell yearns to escape the inevitable repetition of such a life.

She understands horses better than people and sets off for Salisbury Fair, where horse trading takes place, in the hope of finding work and buying herself some time. But as she rides farther away from home, Pell’s feelings for her parents, her siblings, and her fiancé surprise her with their strength and alter the course of her travels. And her journey leads her to find love where she least expects it.

This World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeiffer.   I’ve read the other two books in this series, Life as We Knew It, and The Dead and the Gone, and I liked them both, though I liked Life As We Knew It more than The Dead and The Gone.  When I saw that Pfeiffer has a new book in the series coming out in April of 2010, and that it brings together the protagonist of the first two books, I knew I wanted to add it to my TBR list.  The blurb:

It’s been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. For Miranda Evans life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.
The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda’s complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
The Night Listener, by Armistead Maupin.  I think this book was also on another challenge last year, and got bumped.  But I do want to read it.  I read Maupin’s Tales of the City books back when I lived in San Francisco, and I really enjoyed them.  Here’s the blurb:
Gabriel Noone is a teller of tales, a writer whose cult-hit radio serial “Noone at Night” brought him into the homes of millions, including an ailing 13-year-old boy named Pete Lomax. Meeting through extraordinary circumstances, Noone develops a remarkable friendship with Pete, a connection that evolves into a profound mystery that will blur the lines between truth and illusion, and lead Noone to confront all of his relationships – familial, romantic, and erotic – knowledge that will alter his perception of himself and his life forever.

Now onto some new (to me) authors.

Breaking Her Fall, by Stephen Goodwin.  Autumn’s Mom and I were trolling around the local Borders on Sunday, and I came across this novel, of which I have never heard.  I decided that since I’m reading a couple of books by authors whose work I have read and enjoyed before, it might be nice to blindly pick up a book without reading any reviews, and give it a try.  Here’s the blurb.

Just before eleven on an ordinary summer night in Washington, D.C., Tucker Jones picks up the phone, expecting to hear that his teenage daughter, Kat, is back from the movies. But the caller is another parent, a man who tells Tucker that Kat was actually at a party– and makes a shocking allegation about what happened to her there. From that moment Breaking Her Fall sweeps irresistibly forward to it s wrenching, and redemptive, conclusion.

In a blind rage, Tucker races to the part to find Kat already departed, but his full-boil interrogation of the boys still present spills over into a confrontation– and ends with one of the boys crashing into a glass tabletop. In a second, his rage turns to remorse, and he soon finds himself under arrest. Tucker could easily lose his home and his business, but he is most concerned about losing his daughter.

The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser.  This is another book I came across while snooping around Borders on Sunday.  It looks intriguing, and was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year, and the Christiana Stead Prize for Fiction.  I just looked it up on Amazon, and the readers there seem to hate it.  I’m not going to read what they said, though, until I’ve read it myself.  Don’t want to taint my judgment going in.

Tom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush.

Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn’t sure if he should trust this new friend.

Tom has preoccupations other than his book and Nelly and his missing dog, mainly concerning his mother, who is suffering from the various indignities of old age. He is constantly drawn from the cerebral to the primitive–by his mother’s infirmities, as well as by Nelly’s attractions. THE LOST DOG makes brilliant use of the conventions of suspense and atmosphere while leading us to see anew the ever-present conflicts between our bodies and our minds, the present and the past, the primal and the civilized.

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  I was given this book twice a couple of years ago, by my dad and stepmom, and by a very good friend.  I keep meaning to read it, and I think it’s been bumped from a challenge or two before.  This year I intend to read it.  Here’s the blurb from

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan’s Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time — Greg Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti.  I picked this book up on another trip to the bookstore, because I liked the cover.  After reading the back, I decided I was in, and I brought it home.  But I had a lot of books to read before the end of 2009, so I put it on the back burner.

Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys.

When a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is?

As Ren is introduced to a life of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves, he begins to suspect that Benjamin not only holds the key to his future, but to his past as well…

Sprout, by Dale Peck.  I picked this book because it was a listed as a top 5 of 2009 on the staff page.  Looks like it might be really good.

Sprout Bradford has a secret. It’s not what you think — he’ll tell you he’s gay. He’ll tell you about his dad’s drinking and his mother’s death. The green fingerprints everywhere tell you when he last dyed his hair. But neither the reader nor Sprout are prepared for what happens when Sprout suddenly finds hes had a more profound effect on the lives around him than he ever thought possible. Sprout is both hilarious and gripping; a story of one boy at odds with the expected.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.  I’ve not actually read any Dickens before, though I tried to read Little Dorrit, and was completely overwhelmed.   I assume you all know the story of A Christmas Carol, so instead I’ll put the bio from on Dickens, which you might find interesting.

Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7th, 1812. At the age of eleven, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work in a London blacking warehouse, where his job was to paste labels on bottles for six shillings a week. When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter, and finally an author. With Pickwick Papers (1836-7) he achieved immediate fame; in a few years he was easily the most popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickelby (1838-9), and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) were huge successes. Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable A Christmas Carol (1843). Bleak House (1852-3), Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit (1855-7) reveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British society. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-61) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) complete his major works.

4 thoughts on “Read’N’Review Challenge

  1. Hey J, my missus has been going through a big Dickens phase of late, loves Little Dorritt, and has been enjoying that PBS broadcast on Tuesday nights, too. (KTEH here in the bay area, I think).

    Kudos to you both on your reading program and for being so good about the reviews. I’ve been terrible about it. My favorite Dickens is probably Tale of Two Cities; I got a lot of that Great Expectations & Bleak House stuff in school/college.

    I look forward to your reviews.

    p.s. for whatteveritsworth, I tried to comment yesterday from my office at lunchtime, but couldn’t get into your comments section. Might be the bandwidth at my workplace gets clogged, but even loading your site was slow.

  2. Hi J,

    Thanks for stopping by to visit the other day. I was glad to be led back to your review of Cloud Atlas; it is a fascinating read, and I admire the venturesome coincidence that brought it to your hands. I’m excited to see that you will be reading Three Cups of Tea for the Read ‘n’ Review. If you’d like, drop me a line when you are starting it and we can read it together. I find that we book bloggers often have the pleasure of exchanging our overall opinions and thoughts on a book, but rarely have the chance to get into the details that arise along the way.


  3. Do read Three Cups of Tea. The “countering extremism” angle was an afterthought for him that the publishers tacked on to sell books. Mostly it’s about a man whose life takes an extraordinary turn, who falls in love with these isolated people, and how determination and luck seem to go hand in hand.

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