Wednesday, May 20, 2009

50 Books - The Conclusion

This year, I'm endeavoring to read 50 books in a year. I began in June of 2008, and as it's just a few weeks short of being June, 2009 we can all see that I've fallen woefully short.

That kind of bums me out, actually. For the first few months, I really had it in the bag. My pace was perfect. And then NaNoWriMo happened. And then the holidays. And then I traveled for two weeks. In between all of that, I was probably reading TV Guide, Glamour, Vogue, Reader's Digest, and maybe some sections of the newspaper. Oh yeah--and BLOGS. Yeesh. So that's where all of my reading time goes. Now that I'm ready to update again, I'm in the middle of the few books (more on that later) but nowhere near 50 books. Know what that means? Gotta start all over again in two weeks. For now, here's the updated list:

1) The Bostonians, Henry James
2) A Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane
3) Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane
4) Sacred, Dennis Lehane
5) Gone, Baby, Gone, Dennis Lehane
6) Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane
7) Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
8) The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, Elizabeth Berg
9) The Apprentice, Tess Gerritsen
10) Skin Deep, Gary Braver
11) Proof: A Play, David Auburn
12) The Exonerated, Jessica Blank
13) All My Sons, Arthur Miller
14) Black Sunday, Thomas Harris
15) Just One Look, Harlan Coben - I'm actually surprised to learn that this guy's kind of a well-known name in the thriller genre, because I've never picked up anything by him before. If you're familiar, I'd compare him to Steve Martini--you know, the easy-to-read beach book sort of thing. Just One Look is about a woman who finds a mysterious photo of her husband tucked into her recently developed pack of photos (ah, the days before digital cameras) and shows it to her husband, and he freaks out and runs away. So she begins to investigate, of course. And begins uncovering a lot of things about her own past, things which aren't always what they seem...yada, yada. I actually thought that the ending was pretty awesome with its reveals, it just took a lot of plodding around and turning corners to get there. I wasn't really sure if I cared about the heroine, and of course, there are a bunch of times that you're just like WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? but then again, there were some decent false leads and interesting characterizations, too. Anyway, if you want a decent easy read, check out this book and probably anything else by Coben. You can probably read this in like, a day.
16) Invasion (1997), Robin Cook


17) Shock (2001), Robin Cook

First of all, did you know that 'Robin Cook' is also a British politician? Well, now you do. Second of all, the thing with Robin Cook is that he is soooo hit-or-miss that I usually dread starting one of his novels. It takes about 2/3 of the book before I realize if it's any good or not, and by then I just have to finish it. And, if you've got a shelf of Cook's books in your house as I do, sometimes you can get 1/3 into them and then remember that you've read them before (or maybe you did; it's so hard to tell). If you read more than one at a time (as I did), the pacing and characterizations kind of blur together and wear on you. I think that Cook's strengths are in the science, plotting and social messages, but they lack individuality. In fact, if you've been reading his works for the past 30 years since he started publishing, I dare you to look at a list of his titles and correctly match the plots with the titles, describe what any of the books are about or name memorable traits about the protagonists. Try it!

Anyway, I read these two back-to-back before promptly burning out on Cook's writing. One was about aliens taking over the Earth, but I didn't really care for any of the characters and the premise wasn't exactly new. The other was about two reeeeeally dumb and frustrating girls who try to make money by selling their eggs and then start investigating the clinic for somewhat ambiguous reasons. Seriously, they're risking their lives without going to the authorities for reasons like they just have to know! Or: let's just gather more evidence to CONVINCE the authorities! Whatever. Shut up, heroines. I liked a few of the twists and turns of both novels, but the others were easy to spot. I do recall that I had to keep re-reading physical descriptions, because I just couldn't always picture buildings, rooms, people, landscapes or what-have-you. I guess that's another problem of Cook's writing. Sigh, anyway...I'm sure I'll finish all of his books one day--especially since I have a handful left on the shelf, and they're always like $.25 at thrift stores and libraries--but I'll need big breaks in between each novel, for sure.

So yeah, seriously, sadly, I think that's all I've finished so far. Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of a Ray Bradbury novel, a nonficton book about economics, a nonfiction book about blogging and this month's Glamour. The trick is to finish all of those by June and then...well, I'll have completed 20 books in a year. SO SAD. But I didn't quit, and now I'm prepared to hit it again with renewed vigor. I actually bought eight new books lately, not including the three I mentioned, so I have plenty of ammo and I'm ready to go.

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