Tuesday, February 02, 2016

January Reads in Review (2016) and How Those Goals are Shaping Up

Last year, I didn't manage to keep up with monthly roundups, so one of my goals for the year is to review each month's reading in brief, as I used to do, and update on how other goals are shaping up.

January reads:

1. Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy - I am always impressed with Simon's writing. It's melodic and confident, startling, humorous, gentle, and so deeply human. I'm also usually so blown away that I don't know what to say. So, I'll be rereading this collection of short stories (and one novella), soon. I have to read all of his books twice before I feel like I can say something coherent. If you've missed out on his writing, please don't waste another moment.

2. Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson - The story of a young woman who has survived a deadly illness, living as a pariah in 1920s English society, and the knowledge that she will probably remain single, forever. With fresh determination to live her life fully after her close call, she heads to France to stay with her aunt and take painting lessons. I had trouble buying into the romance so this was not a favorite but it's competently written.

3. Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall - One of those books that I admire so much I'm having trouble knowing where to begin. It's about a topic most people don't want to discuss (climate change) and goes into the reasoning behind denial and dismissal. Absolutely fascinating analysis gleaned from the author's many years of activism and discussions with both scientists and vocal deniers of climate change.

4. My Story That I Like Best, ed. by Ray Long - A marvelous anthology of short stories gathered by the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine during its literary years, in 1925. Tied with Tales of Accidental Genius for favorite of the month.

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - This month's classic selection, Nabokov's disturbing and discussion-worthy tale, the story of a pedophile who is able to get his mitts on the step-daughter from his short-lived marriage and exploit her to his heart's content. Exhausting, brilliant, uncomfortable, and absolutely fascinating.

6. Front Lines by Michael Grant - Alternate WWII young adult history in which women go to war. With focus on four girls who join up, their training, and their first action on the front lines in Africa. First in a series, stands alone fine. After a slow start, I thought the author did an admirable job of picking up the pace and showing character growth.

7. Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant - Part memoir, part social commentary about life in Mississippi's Delta region. Contains some very interesting anecdotes but having lived in Mississippi for quite some time, I really did not enjoy reading about its problems and I thought the author's heavy drinking was tiresome. Loved the story about golfing with Morgan Freeman and the tale of his Delta wedding.

8. From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus (translation) - The story of a Sicilian woman who believes love runs away from her until she goes to a facility for treatment of kidney stones, where she meets a veteran of WWII and falls madly in love. The ending is a puzzler. I will likely reread this one to try to figure out just what the heck the author did to me.

Update on goals:

1. Teaching myself Latin - I started with Wheelock's Latin but when I reached the first exercise and could neither translate any of the sentences nor find a solution key, I bought a different book that is made specifically for homeschooling or self-study. So far, it's going well. I'm enjoying myself and feel like I'm making decent progress.

2. Returning to painting - Way back in the years between children, I used to paint with oils. I stopped when I became pregnant with my second child because I was concerned about using chemicals while expecting and, as it turned out, he was such a hellion that the paints stayed in the closet for 20 years. I haven't pulled out the oil paint because I don't remember a thing about it and I know I'd have to replace many items (plus, I only have a table-top easel and can easily visualize the cats sticking a paw on a canvas then licking toxic paints). Instead, I bought an inexpensive set of acrylics and have set up a painting spot in the breakfast nook. The texture is so different from oils! It's going to take some getting used to and I am terrible -- my first painting looked like something a 5-year-old would come up with but without the visible joy and inhibition of a child. It's a very meditative, relaxing hobby, though, and I'm going to keep it up.

3.  Writing - Started well, went splat. This happens to me a lot since the years when I suddenly found that my muse had been mercilessly stabbed and gone into a coma; it's not unexpected. However, I still cannot bear not writing and need this mode of expression. So, February 1 it was back to Square 1, challenging myself to write daily. Fingers crossed this month will be an improvement. I will always have the longing to write fiction; I just have to kick up the motivation to practice.

4. Reading classics (one per month) - So far, so good. I have quite an extensive collection of classics so this also feeds into the decision to work harder at reading the books I already own (in loose association with Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, which is otherwise going well). I loved and hated Lolita and am thrilled to have finally read it after many years of walking past the book, sighing and thinking, "Someday."

How was your reading month?

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  1. I have often considered reading Lolita, but never have. I don't own a copy, so until I move past my goal of reading from my own stacks, I probably won't. It's one of those classics, that I'll probably be happy to have read it, but not enjoy reading it, if that makes sense. :)

    1. Yes, that makes sense. I think that's actually how most people feel about Lolita. It's such a disturbing read and yet so brilliantly written that there is much to think about and discuss.

  2. You had a great month it looks like! I'm impressed you're teaching yourself Latin. That's awesome! Good luck!

    1. Thanks! I'm hapy with my month. It'll probably take me years before I really can say I've learned Latin but I'm enjoying it. Don't be impressed, yet. ;)


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