Sunday, February 02, 2014

Six down, eighty-some to go

Back at the beginning of the year, I said I'd post every so often the books I'd been reading. It's not that I'm reading All The Great Books In The World (in fact, you will find over time that I've a voracious appetite for mystery fiction). It's not out of hubris that I want to post the list. Rather, it's a way of shaming myself into picking up my reading consistency and whittling down the incredibly long list of books in the "new" folder on the Kindle.

I think there are just over eighty in that folder at the moment, or at least more than seventy. It's hard to pass up an interesting book when it is only $3.99 and you have to make almost no effort to get it. Not to mention that I don't have to shelve and dust it until I get around to reading it.

So - here are the books I've finished* since January 1st.

Dead Extra, by Michael Saucedo
What I didn't realize when I bought this one is that it is a serialized novel; this is just the first "episode". It takes place in the world of soap operas, and is indeed coauthored by an actor who has appeared in a number of daytime dramas.

He should stick to acting.

The forty-one four- and five-star ratings are wrong. It's not that well written, with what we get of character and plot development in this first episode confusing and weak.

But hey, I passed a pleasant hour at Starbucks reading it.

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
Information about the enemy is stuff on which successful wars are waged. The Culper spy ring operated mostly out of Long Island, gathering intelligence on operations in British-occupied New York City.

History isn't something I've picked up much since my last history class in college. I've no idea what spurred me to pick this up (um, that happens a lot, but in my defense, I almost never don't read a book once I have may take a year or so before I get to it, but it will be read), but it was worth the time. The authors do take a bit of liberty in setting up some "scenes"; they freely admit they do this, and that the intent is to make the book a bit more readable by non-history buffs like me. It worked.

Maybe not enough to get me to regularly dust off the history tomes, but enough to keep me engaged until the end.

One Tuesday Morning, by Karen Kingsbury
Karen Kingsbury is a well known name in the area of Christian Fiction.

I avoid Christian Fiction like the plague, as I'll explain in the next entry.

But Ms. Kingsbury is well respected as a writer in general as well. I've read bits and pieces of her stuff on line, so thought I'd take the plunge. I wasn't disappointed. One Tuesday Morning deals with two families on the day of and months following the 9/11 terror attacks. It's well thought out, thought provoking and sensitive to all the emotions that any treatment of those events will evoke.

It is, as I found out when I finished it, the first in a series. Not sure I'll pick up the subsequent books; this one easily reads as a stand-alone.

The Shunning, by Beverly Lewis
What was I thinking? I must have gotten this one nearly free, and I must have been running a fever when I bought it. While the writing is fairly good, this book is an example of some of the worst trends in Christian Fiction. It's part one of a series, and the ending to the book leaves the reader with at least half a dozen unresolved plot points in addition to throwing in a revelation that truly leaves you frustrated.

It's Amish fiction. For some reason, CF has had a love affair with the Amish for the last several years. Maybe I bought this one because I wanted to see what the fuss was about? The author's grandmother left the Amish, so Ms. Lewis has a great source for background material. Still, it really wasn't my style.

Simplify, by Joshua Becker
Another piece of nonfiction. Mr. Becker describes the process he promotes as "rational minimalism". The idea is to celebrate life by owning less and living more.

The seven principles he outlines aren't anything you haven't heard before, and for the most part, are plain common sense. Still, it does help to hear about his family of four who've gone through and made a lifestyle of keeping things simplified, and the benefits they've reaped as a result. I'll need to reread this as I work on  another of the 2014 goals, decluttering my own house.

Wool, the Omnibus Edition (Wool 1-5)(The Silo Saga), by Hugh Howey
This one, I couldn't put down. Back in the dark ages when I was in high school, I took an English class on Science Fiction and Fantasy (don't worry that I was one of those slackers; as a junior I took (and aced) the English class taught on a college freshman level by the teacher everyone loved to hate - my favorite class ever)(in spite of appearances here on the blog), where we read Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury and others. I've a bit of a soft spot for science fiction.

This book kept popping up on blogs I read. They were initially published as short stories, starting in July 2011. They did well enough, and were well reviewed enough, to earn Amazon's Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book of 2012 honors.

The sub-genre Wool falls into is dystopian worlds. Rather than creating a new world from scratch as in mainstream sci-fi, Wool takes our world and...twists it. In the words of the author:

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

It was so good, I've already started the next in the series, Shift, which (in time, anyway) is the precursor to the events in Wool.

It's even better.

*By finished, I mean just that: I finished reading the book in January. At any given time it seems I have several books in process. Every so often, I hit a book that slows the whole process down. It may be one I need to think through as I read, or one that isn't necessarily on my favorite subject. If I wait until I'm done with that type of book before I start anything else, it may well be months before I pick up something else. So in the interest of keeping things moving along, I simply move on, and make sure I come back to that difficult one every third time or so I sit down to read. It works for me.

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