Read or Die!: First Quarter Update

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I intended on posting this update about the first quarter of Read of Die earlier this month, but between my April Fool's joke, Project Runway and the NHL Playoffs I was completely distracted. Anyway, I just wanted to give a little report on the reading progress I made so far this year. And if you've forgotten or aren't familiar with the Read or Die reading challenge you can read more about it here. I've developed a handy dandy spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I was inspired by Regina to do this, though my spreadsheet is not nearly as cool as hers (you should ask to see her spreadsheets, they're fully awesome). So here's the update through March 31:

  • 27 books read
  • 10540 pages read
  • 15 new books read (that's 55.55%)
I'm definitely well on pace to read 60 books this year, but I'm not quite on target for my goal of at least two-thirds new books.

Here is a list of the books I've read so far this year and a little bit of commentary (in case anyone is interested):

New Reads

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Several of my friends have also read this book and I find it interesting that we all thought the pretty much the same thing -- not the greatest book and certainly not a wholly original idea, but very exciting. I thought that Collins did a great job describing the action in a way that was very easy to picture. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire.

    The Host by Stephenie Meyer - Another post-apocolyptic pick (I had a theme going) that was very engaging. The premise (alien "souls" that overtake the "hosts" on a given planet) was very interesting. This book is a stand alone, but the story could easily be extended into a series. In this novel Meyer presented a love parallelogram, as opposed to the love triangle she gave us through the Twilight Saga. She ended the story with what I like to call a "pretty bow", meaning that the loose ends were tied in a satisfyingly happy way (which I realize not everyone is a fan of, but I find it refreshing sometimes).

    Inkheart, Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke - The Paige Turners read Inkheart in February and I found it enjoyable, so I decided to go ahead and read the other books in the series. There was not quite as much character development as I would have liked (they are children's books after all), but there were still some fantastic characters, like Dustfinger and the Black Prince. The whole idea of the story and the Inkworld itself was enchanting and I also appreciated that while most of the characters could be placed on either the "good side" or the "bad side", Funke clearly did not intend for the "good" characters to all be likeable. Funke is, in my opinion, a gifted storyteller and at some point I'd like to read some of her other works.

    What Would Walt Do? by D.M. Miller - Christine and Joe were super excited that they stumbled across this book (it was the title) and they were kind enough to give it to me for Christmas. I wish I had liked it. The title and introduction make you think that the book is going to be about Walt Disney's creative process and design ethic, but really it's just a rambling autobiography. It is poorly written and boring and I just wanted it to end.

    Edmund Bertram's Diary by Amanda Grange - I'm a big Austen fan, but I'm not usually keen on the spinoffs and continuing stories that are currently flooding the book market. That being said, I find Grange's retellings of Austen classic tales through the journals of the leading men to be rather charming. And while this one was my least favorite (probably because Mansfield Park is my least favorite of the major Austen novels) it was relatively enjoyable.

    Lady Susan, Sandition and The Watsons by Jane Austen - As an Austen fan I thought it was high time that I check out something other than her six major works. And while I didn't love any of these stories, I'm certainly glad I read them. These works are (with the exception of The Watsons) unlike any of Austen's well known stories and, quite frankly, they lack a lot of the charm of her other works, but when carefully read and considered they provide some great insight into Austen's life and the progression of her writing.

    Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis - Two of my good friends are quite possibly the biggest Narnia fans ever and so I've promised to read the series. I want so badly to like these books, but I'm finding it difficult. I like the idea of the books and when I read them I can see how they could be fleshed out and made into incredibly entertaining movies, but I just can't get passed the writing style. Some people (like James McAvoy) find the loosely woven narrative to be charming because it allows the reader to imagine the action and fill in the gaps themselves, but I don't like it. I didn't like it when I first started the series as a child and I don't care for it now. Sorry, Kristin and Christine. I tried. And I will finish them some day.

    Quiddith Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander and The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling - The Harry Potter series is my absolute favorite, so of course, I loved these books. The information in them was great, the notes written in by Harry, Ron and Hermione were hilarious and the introductions and commentaries by Albus Dumbledore were amazing. If you're even a casual Harry Potter fan you should check these books out. They are short, easy to read and totally worth the time.

    The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls - Wow! That's just about sums the book up. This was another Paige Turner reading and it sure did offer a lot to talk about. This memoir tells the story of one woman's life growing up with very unique (that's putting it mildly) parents. Parts of the story will make you laugh hysterically and parts will just make you angry. This one is crazy, but definitely worth the read.

    The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano - Is it just me, or is it a bit presumptuous to refer to your own life story as "interesting"? And isn't it especially presumptuous to use the word interesting in the title of your autobiography? Thoughts? Anyway, after watching Amazing Grace and reading a truly interesting (and funny) biography of one of my personal heroes, William Wilberforce, I decided that I wanted to read the works of some of his peers. So I started with the former slave, Olaudah Equiano. And don't get me wrong the narrative is fairly interesting and story of Equiano's salvation is very touching, but much of the book seems very repetitive.


    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - This was a selection for my other book club, the Book SMACKers. I had already read this novel, but that was back in high school and I didn't remember it that well. It's a bit long, but the story is still very engaging. I'm eager to check out Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is apparently the story of Mr. Rochester's first wife.

    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This was another selection for the Book SMACKers and another one that I had read in high school (actually I believe it was the assigned reading for the summer before senior year). Anyways, I actually really enjoyed this book. The story is, at times, really depressing and some of the characters (Heathcliff, Catherine and Hindley) are just about the worst people that I have ever encountered, but I can really appreciate how unique this story must have been when it was published. I'm not one of those people who will go back and reread this over and over (that probably wouldn't be fun), but I can see picking it up again in another 10 years or so.

    Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - I've mentioned my love for the Harry Potter series before, so I won't go on about it here. This time I'm listening to the audiobooks and they are amazing.

    The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - See my comments on Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader above

    Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - From some of my previous posts you may have been able to tell that I'm a fan of this series. They certainly don't break any literary ground, but they are thoroughly entertaining and as I said above, I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I reread them this time in celebration of our big Twilight DVD Release Party (pictures to come).

    Congratulations to you if you got all the way through this post. I realize it was a bit long and a bit wordy. In the future I'll try to update each month rather than quarterly.

    So, have you read any of these books? Any comments to share? And do you have any suggestions of books I should read? I'm always looking for something good.


    Regina said...

    You've inspired me in return...I think I should do a first quarter report.

    Do you have a favorite new read from your "Read or Die!" list?

    Mandy said...

    A favorite? Well, other than Harry Potter and the spinoff books (which we've already established that I love), I guess I most enjoyed Wuthering Heights, The Hunger Games and Inkspell.