I think the only reason I would ever have read The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, is because of the Reading Challenge; it’s really not my cup of tea. A 19th century British Who-Done-It describing the mysterious disappearance of a gem, the Moonstone, and the events which follow. While I enjoy a good mystery, this one exhibits some of the characteristics of mystery stories which annoy me most – too many narratives in many different voices; new characters being thrown in too late in the story; the disappearance of principal characters for a great deal of the narrative and then their sudden reintroduction for the obvious convenience of fixing a narrative problem. I’m afraid I also found the end(ings) unsatisfactory.

Completed 1/26/18, current balance 681.5 points

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. She paints quite a picture of family life in the early 20th century borough of Brooklyn; a patriarchal society where women’s power derived from cunning and smarts, where kids were raised by the streets and subject to any mother, aunt or grandmother within earshot and family meant everything. This book broke my heart in places, brought back memories, taught me things I hadn’t known and made me laugh right out loud over and over again!

Completed 1/25/18, current balance 647.5 points

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. What a powerful story of love and loss, and the words, oh the poetry of language, of feeling, of light and darkness painted into print, into prose. This author captures living and loving and light and song with her words and draws you in to the world of one woman, her memories, her life and the discovery of her self. Beautiful.

Completed 1/23/18, current balance 624.5 points

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is a classic, certainly…but I wasn’t fond of the writing style and I wavered between sometimes liking a character here and there and other times finding them overly simplistic and a bit idiotic. My biggest hang up with the novel was the absence of the key characters from chapters 51-59, which were devoted entirely to a secondary character who didn’t really need nine consecutive chapters of exposition. I think the story could easily have been told far more succinctly and with better characterization and have been more enjoyable on the whole.

Completed 1/21/18, current balance 614.5 points

Posted by: JulieAloha | January 18, 2018

The Great Admissions Reading Challenge 2: Book 36: Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken was a perfect book for a day when I was sick at home; I listened to it on audiobook while I recuperated. What a powerful story detailing the life and service of Olympian distance runner Louis “Louie” Zamperini. Very graphic descriptions of the trials and torture he suffered while lost at sea for over a month and years as a POW in WWII Japan, hard to hear but important to remember so such atrocities are never repeated. The story was compelling enough that I spent some time after finishing the book scanning the web for more information on Louie’s life and hit upon several very good documentaries and interviews with the man himself; I may have to rent the movie!

Completed 1/18/18, current balance 572.5 points

The line between worlds is mysterious and tenuous in Neil Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ve been careful in this challenge not to read a synopsis of the story ahead of time for the books not previously known to me; that made this story really enjoyable as I tried to figure out just what was going on along the way. I appreciate that everything is told from the point of view of a child, though for this reason some of the scenes are truly terrifying.

Completed 1/17/18: current balance 548.5 points

I’m still teary, this one was really emotional. Kristin Hannah’s novel The Nightingale is a tale of two sisters living in occupied France during WWII, one trying to survive passively while quietly protecting those she loves and the other seeking a far more active and dangerous path in the French resistance, but each exhibiting their heroism in their own way. Beautifully told, sometimes very graphically, and portraying characters written with great truth and the shadowed depth of real people nuanced with both ideals and failings, naivety and wisdom, strength and frailty. I felt as if I had been there and the end comes with a bit of time shock as I bring myself back to the present.

Completed 1/16/18, current balance 540.5 points

I first heard Sarah Vowell on “This American Life” and a friend clued me in that she was the voice of Violet in “The Incredibles”. I tried to listen to an audiobook of hers, but couldn’t get into it, so I read this one the old fashioned way and gave myself breathers between each chapter and enjoyed each story much better. My favorite chapter: Drive Through Please – I laughed right out loud, repeatedly, and read the chapter again and laughed all over again. Yes!

Completed 1/12/18, current balance 518.5 points

I must admit, I’ve never read Sherlock Holmes books before now (though I thoroughly enjoy Mr. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock), and I found this first foray into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective stories delightful. A Study in Scarlet is the introduction of Mr. Watson and Mr. Holmes, explaining the circumstances of their meeting and how their partnership began. This is what I think of when I want a mystery – enough hints to keep things interesting but not give away the ending, twists and turns to keep your mind engaged and both humor and frailty in the characters. Good read!

Completed 1/11/18, current balance 509.5 points

Posted by: JulieAloha | January 11, 2018

The Great Admissions Reading Challenge 2: Book 31: Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel’s award-winning historic novel Wolf Hall is a cracking good book; having an interest in English history, I found it entirely engaging and I may have to finish out the rest of series this year. The story is set in the time of King Henry VIII’s court as told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell. Though certainly fictional in the minute details, thoughts and personal life of Crowell, Mantel must have done a great deal of research to pull his story from historic documentation and she makes this strong, vital, intelligent character jump right off the page. Well done!

Completed 1/11/18, current balance 502.5 points

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