Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #7

So. I haven’t gotten to the last six books for the Book Riot Challenge just yet. Reading has been going a bit more slowly this week, as I have been a bit under the weather. Also, the book I am working my way through actually requires you to think, so it’s taking a bit longer than lighter fare.

Book #32 (Goodreads Challenge): The Last Stand, by Mickey Spillane is the last novel that Spillane completed before his death. It’s packaged with one of Spillane’s early novellas that has not been published before, “A Bullet for Satisfaction.” This volume is being released by Hard Case Crime, who kindly sent me an ARC, to celebrate what would have been Spillane’s 100th birthday and begins a year of events and releases. Neither story is a “Mike Hammer,” so if you are looking for Spillane’s most famous character you will be slightly disappointed. The title story is one of the best I’ve ever read, and the characters will definitely stay with me. It’s clear that no matter how old Spillane was when he wrote it, his abilities were still top drawer. This is funny, scary, tense, and delightful in general – all at the same time. There is some stereotyping of Native Americans here, but it’s made clear early on that the author has contempt for those stereotypes. The earlier piece has a lot of violence and also has some stereotyping, mostly to the tropes of the characters – the hard-boiled ex-cop turned investigator, etc. If you can remember that this piece was written in the late 1940s/early 1950s, you can keep in mind that those were how the reading public of that era wanted that particular sort of protagonist. Still, this is one volume that I am delighted I had a chance to read, and I hope you love it as much as I did, even with its obvious faults.

Book #33 (Goodreads Challenge):My friend Marie recommended that I read Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. I ordered it for my Kindle, and there it stayed – at the bottom of my reading queue until she asked me during this past week if I had read it yet. I’ve been working my way through a different book, so I sheepishly admitted I hadn’t. I then bumped it all the way up to “Read Now” status. I’m glad I did. It’s set primarily in New York in the late 19th century. The mix of characters is intriguing: a female golem, a jinni, a wizard reborn as an amoral rabbi, an apostate Jew, an Orthodox rabbi, a Syrian tinsmith, a pretty heiress, a possessed doctor, and various immigrants that helped make up the melting pot we know as the Lower East Side. The story starts out in a fairly straightforward manner: a man in Danzig wants a wife, so he pays an amoral rabbi to create a golem for him, which he then attempts to take to America. Having been cautioned not to wake her before the boat docks, he does so anyway, then dies from appendicitis, leaving the golem masterless. Meanwhile, in the Syrian quarter of New York City, a tinsmith is given a flask to fix. When he unstoppers it, he releases a jinni – who has no memory of how he ended up in the flask, just that a wizard put him there. Both golem and jinni have to learn to adjust to living with humans. This not only puts restrictions on their natural abilities so that they are not discovered, but it requires them learning how humans think and feel. The tinsmith becomes the jinni’s protector, while an Orthodox rabbi becomes the golem’s. Like all the best books, this one can be read on many levels. First, there is the story itself, entertaining as is. Next, it can be read as a tale about the human condition: what are feelings, what is duty, what is faith, what is our obligation to our fellow person. Finally, it can be read as a quest to fully realize oneself. It’s not preachy, however, and is – in fact – quite an enjoyable way to pass a weekend day. Give this one a shot – you may enjoy it as much as I did, if not more.

Books #34 through 49 (Goodreads Challenge): My friend Kathy recommended the first book in the series, Murder with Peacocks, to me when I asked for recommendations as part of one task in the 101 in 1001 Challenge I’m doing elsewhere. She negelcted to tell me it was part of a series though. I’m up to the 11th book in the series, Swan for the Money. The series is delightful, if a touch formulaic. It has memorabe characters, titles that are all bird-related, puns, literary allusions, and the books are short enough that a fast reader could get in two per evening if he/she tried. The titles in order (of the ones I’ve read so far) are:

Murder with Peacocks
Murder with Puffins
Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos
Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon
We’ll Always Have Parrots
Owls Well That Ends Well
No Nest for the Wicket
The Penguin Who Knew Too Much
Cockatiels at Seven
Six Geese A-Slaying
Swan for the Money
Stork Raving Mad
The Real Macaw
Some Like It Hawk
The Hen of the Baskervilles

and the one I am currently reading: Duck the Halls.

Book #50 (Goodreads Challenge): Killing Town, by Mickey Spillane and Max Collins. It’s a wonderful thing that Spillane hand-chose Collins to be his literary executor. When Collins finishes a Spillane manuscript, it’s virtually impossible to tell where Spillane left off writing and where Collins began it. This book is no exception. I do note that I received the book as an ARC, but all opinions of it are mine and are in no way influenced by its receipt. This is the very first appearance of Mike Hammer – yes, before even I, the Jury. It has all the hallmarks of Hammer to come: it’s gritty, there’s violence, there are beautiful women and plot twists within plot twists. Overall, it was a highly satisfying way to spend an evening.

Book #51 (Goodreads Challenge): Steve Allen’s “Dumbth”: The Lost Art of Thinking With 101 Ways to Reason Better & Improve Your Mind requires some thinking. This is not the first time I have read it, nor will it be the last. It’s one of those books that works best with several re-readings because you will concentrate on different suggestions by Mr. Allen on how to improve the use of your brain. Even better, there is finally a Kindle version of it. Now if I can only get the four books of the MEETING OF MINDS series for my Kindle….

Anyway, that’s it for this time. I am hoping to get back to reading a bit more in the near future. I just don’t feel right if I can’t read for an hour a day.

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One thought on “Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #7

  1. Gary E on said:

    I second the recommendation for The Golem and the Jinni. I also enjoyed it, as did the book club at $EMPLOYER.

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