Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

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Archive for the category “Goodreads Reading Challenge”

Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #3

Hi all. I’m doing this as a running draft again, since I like the format.

Book #10 (Goodreads Challenge): I finally finished Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. I lived through the integration struggles of the 60’s and the Vietnam War (I know – it was technically a conflict) and Watergate, and I have never seen anything as scary as the goings-on described in this book. I note that GQ Magazine did an article on this book in which they noted that:

“As much as I wanna discredit Wolff, he got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.”

They further note that,

“If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn’t even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own? They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.”

What I kept thinking, while reading the book, was that I had never thought I would live to see a President who would make me miss Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes. Further, it took a lot longer to read than I had anticipated. The problem was not the book’s length, but that I kept getting so disgusted at the events depicted therein that I had to keep putting the book down.

I think it is a must-read, but only if you have the stomach for it.

Book #11 (Both Challenges): Courage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to be Grateful for Michelle Obama is a collection of essays from both famous and non-famous people about Michelle Obama and what they perceive her contributions to the country, The White House, and the role of First Lady were. It’s a very quick read and a very enjoyable one. I only wish the book had been longer.

Book #12 (Both Challenges): Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, by Sheri S. Tepper was definitely a page-turner. I read until I literally fell asleep way too late, with my Kindle still in my hand. I woke up this morning and had to finish it, even before my coffee and breakfast. It’s not a happy book; in fact, it is one of the scariest books I have ever rear, right up on a par with Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale or Eugene Wheeler and Harvey Burdick’s Fail-Safe. But it is beyond well-written, and well-worth the time it takes to read it.

Book #13 (Goodreads Challenge): “A City’s Favor,” by Racheline Maltese, with Joel Derfner, Tessa Gratton, and Karen Lord, which is the thirteenth chapter of Tremontaine Season 3, over on the Serial Box website. As I’ve noted before, I’ve been following this series from the beginning because it takes place in the same world as Ellen Kushner’s “Swords of Riverside” series. It’s a wonderful fantasy series, with several major female characters: Diane (Duchess Tremontaine), Ixkaab, Micah, and Tess the Hand all jump to mind immediately. Ellen has woven a complex society, with two very distinct classes – the nobility, and the Riversiders. You might want to read her trilogy, Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings before plunging into Tremontaine. Since it leaves us with something of a cliffhanger, I am sincerely hoping that there will be a Season 4. Whether there is another season ahead or not, I promise you, it’s well worth the time invested.

Book #14 (Both Challenges): The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. The task was to read a children’s classic published before 1980. Several folks in the challenge forum suggested this book, originally published in 1978. When I looked it up, it sounded interesting, so I figured I’d give it a try. I am very glad I did. For one thing, it was not written “down” to some imagined kids’ level. It was written as if the author was writing for people with brains. Two, there were enough twista and turns that it held my interest all the way through, and had an ending that seemed both natural, inevitable, and totally satisfying. One thing I can tell you: Once this challenge is completed, I intend to look up Ms. Raskin’s other books and read them.

Book #15 (Both Challenges): Daytripper, by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Craig Thompson (Introduction), Dave Stewart (Colours), Sean Konot (Lettering) was much more than I expected it to be. I’ve been a fan of comics since I picked up my first Adventure Comic back when comics were $.12 each. And I am certainly no stranger to comics that ponder deeper questions. But this was one of the more unusual comics I have ever read. For one thing, it was not meant to be comfortable. Relatable, yes; thought-provoking, yes; well-written, yes; comfortable, not so much. It’s about the choices one makes in life, and when and how we discover the meaning of life for ourselves. I highly recommend this. NOTE for the Unwary: There are several depictions of death in the book – partly because the protagonist is an obituary writer, partly because death is the capstone of life, and partly because in some ways our deaths tell us about how we lived. As I said, this was not a comfortable book, but I found it to be very worth my time.

Book #16 (Goodreads Challenge): The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. There are some books that not only resonate with you, they inflame your love for reading. Between the descriptions of books that Mr. Fikry writes for his daughter, Maya, and the books mentioned in the book itself, my reading list has grown. Many of the books this book has caused me to look up are books that I probably should have read long ago but didn’t. Others are totally new to me (kind of like the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge stuff). This book is really about the power both books and people have in our lives, and it should not be missed.

So I think I have rambled on long enough about books for now. Whatever you are reading this week, may you find joy in it as great as I have.

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Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #2

Okay, I’m going to do this post as a running draft until I have a number of books reviewed.

Book #6 (Goodreads Challenge): I came across Philip Gourevitch’s Cold Case through an article in The New Yorker recommending books/stories to read during the current cold snap. It’s a bit slow-moving but is a fascinating look at how a 27-year-old crime was solved. If you like crime stories (as opposed to mysteries), you will enjoy this one, especially as it can be read in one sitting.

Book 7 (Goodreads Challenge): “Dragon Rampant,” by Karen Lord, which is the eleventh chapter of Tremontaine Season 3, over on the Serial Box website. I’ve been following this series from the beginning because it takes place in the same world as Ellen Kushner’s “Swords of Riverside” series. It’s a wonderful fantasy series, with several major female characters: Diane (Duchess Tremontaine), Ixkaab, Micah, and Tess the Hand all jump to mind immediately. Ellen has woven a complex society, with two very distinct classes – the nobility, and the Riversiders. You might want to read her trilogy, Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings before plunging into Tremontaine. I promise you, it’s well worth the time invested.

Book 8 (Goodreads Challenge): “Surrounded,” by Joel Derfner, which is the twelfth chapter of Tremontaine Season 3, over on the Serial Box website. Again, this is a wonderful serial, which I highly recommend to anyone who likes fantasy/adventure/dynasty/political books. In this installment, Duchess Tremontaine has a funeral for her husband, and the school Rafe Fenton has founded is attacked. As always, the writing is excellent, and the story compelling.

And a note – new chapters of Tremontaine are introduced on Wednesdays, although the next chapter will be the finale for the third season. OTOH, if you want to do some catching up before the fourth season (assuming there will be one), this will give you a good chance to do so.

Book 9 (Both Challenges): “I met Catheryyne M. Valente back when she was an NYU student, and I have been meaning to read some of her stuff ever since she sold her first story. Life intervened until now, but I finally got to read Tremontaine Season 3, over on the Six-Gun Snow White. It’s a version of Snow White set in the Old West, with a radically different scenario – instead of being poisoned with an apple, Snow takes off after years of being emotionally abused by her step-mother. One thing I like very much – this Snow is no-one’s patsy. She can, and does, take care of herself.

So, that’s it for this week. I’ve been slowly making my way through Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. It’s been slow going, not because of the writing, but because the subject matter is so appalling to me that I have to read it in short pieces. I’ll have a report when I’m done with it.

‘Til next time!

Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #1

Okay, I’m six days into both challenges. I am not reading quite as fast as I’d like to be, but I have noticed that age and life have slowed me down a bit. Still, the Goodreads tracker says I am one book ahead of schedule, so I can’t be doing all that badly.

While I will not double-dip (use one book for multiple tasks) in the Read Harder Challenge, I will let books read count for both challenges where applicable.

Book 1 (Both Challenges): The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Task #2 (a book of true crime) was easy to pick – I had just downloaded this book because it was not only true crime but about books – rare books – something I have been interested in since I first read 84, Charing Cross Road, by Hannah Hanff and its follow-ups.I was not disappointed. Not the fastest read, but one to savor, as the author learns more and more about the world of rare book dealing, independent bookshops, and about John Gilkey and how (and – to some degree – why) Gilkey acquired the books he was so obsessed with.

Book 2 Both Challenges: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. It’s a damned good thing I had been introduced to Austen back in high school. If this book had been my introduction to her, I’d probably never have picked up another book by her. Mostly, I wanted to slap the heroine all through the book. She is spectacularly naive – misses cues all over the place – some so broad that they should have been like getting hit with a two by four. Still, it solved the task for the Book Riot challenge handily (Task #1, a book published posthumously).

Book 3 (Both Challenges): Familiar Things, by Hwang Sok-yong translated by Sora Kim-Russell. I had already downloaded this because one of the writers I know had marveled about having read a Korean Sf/fantasy novel, and the idea intrigued me. It handily fulfilled Book Riot’s Task 19 (a book of genre fiction in translation). Again, while it was definitely not something in my comfort zone, it was well worth reading. I found it easy to empathize with Bugeye (the protagonist) and his friend Baldspot. I found it very realistic when it came to portraying how resilient kids can be, even under the most radical of changes. This was definitely worth the time spent.

Book 4 (Both Challenges): The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I am not sure how I managed to miss this one over the decades, but I have now made up for that lack. These stories are about how man kept trying to colonize Mars, and what happened to each expedition. Some of the stories feel complete in themselves, some feel like cliff-hangers, but all of them are good short reads. It was a wonderful choice for Book Riot’s Task 5 (a classic of genre fiction {i.e. mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, romance}).

Book 5 (Both Challenges): Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley. This is not a book I would have picked up on my own. However, since I do not know much about graphic novels/comics, I looked for recommendations in the discussion group for this task (Task #4: a comic written and illustrated by the same person). I am so glad I did pick it, though. The writer brings to life what it’s like to be the child of two foodies with different outlooks on almost everything. This is not only a really fun comic, but it lovely and sweet. One of the best parts of it is that it isn’t about blowing things up or catching bad guys, or any of the tropes of action-type comics, which I got bored with decades ago.

So, those are what I’ve read so far this year. My next book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, will only work for the Goodreads challenge, but I want to read it now for several reasons. For one thing, any book that Trump tries to suppress should be very interesting to those of us who did not vote for him. For another, GQ Magazine noted:

“If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn’t even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own? They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.”

They further note that while his ways of obtaining information may border on sleazy, he “got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.” To me, this sounds like the book is going to be just as fascinating as Woodward and Bernstein’s article about Watergate. I can’t wait to dig into this one.

So that’s my reading challenge update for the first six days of January. See you soon.

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