Done!

I started 2011 with the goal to blog about 52 books in 52 weeks. I’ve just finished my promised 52 books, and it looks like I still have a few weeks left in the year.

I seriously thought about quitting the project at this point. After all, I did complete my goal, but what’s a year’s challenge without finishing the year? I also considered bumping my goal number up slightly, to say 75 or something that would be easy to reach before December. Again, what’s the challenge in easy?

With that in mind, I’ve just bumped up my official goal on Goodreads to 100 books for the year. I kind of doubt I will get that far. I’ll probably read that many books, but I’m not sure how much time I’ll find for blogging once school starts back full time for the fall. And that uncertainty, my friends, is what makes it a challenge.

This morning I was 20-something books ahead on my Goodreads schedule. I added two new books today, but I am now one book behind due to bumping the goal up. I’ve decided not to let that worry me. Maybe I’ll get to 100. Maybe I won’t. It’s okay either way because I already met my original goal. Keeping the goal up to a number than is possible but uncertain will just give me something to wonder about for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking my January 4 post in which I issued this challenge to myself is pretty funny in that I’ve basically completely ignored the list of books I said I was about to read next. It seems I’m easily distracted even when I’m remaining focused on a goal.

I don’t think there’s any point in saying what I will read next. I might read anything. I will say what I think I’m interested in reading soon, though.

Here are a few items on my current list —

Game of Thrones — This is the fantasy novel everyone is talking about this summer since there is now an HBO series based on it.

A Visit from the Good Squad — It won the Pulitzer Prize.

Absalom, Absalom! — Several people told me this was their favorite Faulkner book, and my friend Andrea said she was going to read it this month, so it’s on my list too.

Swamplandia — Somebody suggested this book. I don’t remember who, but I think it was someone I trust.

Eating Animals — I’m not sure how much I want to read this, but I do want to read other books by the same author, and this one happens to be the only one of his that I own. It was given to me at a book fair. In an effort to keep myself from purchasing too many books too quickly, I’ve made a rule that I can’t buy a book if I already have one by the same author that I’ve never read. That’s a sensible rule, don’t you think?

The Girl in the Blue Beret — I loved Bobbie Ann Mason’s novel about the aftermath of Vietnam. Now years later she’s back with a World War II story. I expect it will be spectacular.

Wolf Hall — I started this book in January and never finished it. I still want to read it, though. It won the Booker Prize, and that’s a prize that hardly ever steers me wrong. When I started this, though, I was listening to the audio version. I’ve decided the audio is just not for me. My attention kept drifting off, and I’d lose the thread of the plot. I generally love audio books, but I can also read quicker and more attentively when I just read the book. Also, some audio narrators are harder to stick with than others. This one, I think, is one I’m going to have to just read.

I’d be extraordinarily surprised if these are actually the books I read next. I change my mind on a daily basis about what comes next. Sometimes I change my mind in the middle of a page. Still, this is a sampling of my current wish list, and I hope I do read most of them by the end of the year. If not, oh well. There’s always next year or the year after.

All I know for sure is that if I’m conscious, I’ll be reading something, and if I want to catch up on my new goal, I guess I’d better get to it.

America Pacifica by Anna North

52 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

America Pacifica is yet another disappointment. It’s the tale of a young woman living in an apocalyptic, dystopian world in which North America has been frozen out by an ice age, and a group of refugees has built up a society on a volcanic island somewhere out in the Pacific. It came across to me as a book that was trying too hard to be another Hunger Games, but it didn’t quite make the grade.

This is why it doesn’t work for me. The writing style is good. The story idea is good. The characters are interesting. It has a lot of potential. The plot, however, is just not well developed, not for a book of this nature.

I find that very disappointing. I wish Anna North would get together with her fellow Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate, Justin Cronin, and find a happy medium. His book, The Passage, is far and away better than America Pacifica. I look forward to reading the sequel to it, and I doubt I will touch the sequel to this one. However, I thought he overdeveloped his plot line to the point of near tedium. Now I find this writer from the same graduate program who seemed to forget she even needed a plot halfway through the book. I give up. I don’t know what they are teaching people in Iowa these days.

Nonetheless, I think America Pacifica is too rushed to hold together. Some plot twists just aren’t even believable because they haven’t been set up enough. There’s a reason most books that create fantasy worlds are epically long. It takes time to build that kind of world and to establish the foundations of a believable story within it. Anna North just did not take that time with this book.

If you liked The Hunger Games, you might like this book, but I wouldn’t make any promises. Maybe I’m just being a crabby reader this week. Maybe what didn’t strike me as interesting will strike you. Regardless, my assessment stands that Anna North should have worked on this one some more before she went to print. It could have been a lot better than it was.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

51 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was disappointing. I say that because I loved the concept of the book so much I expected to be blown away. I wasn’t. I thought this was a brilliant idea told with average delivery.

Jacob is a young man who spends his days mostly trying to get fired from his family’s drug store when his grandfather is killed by a monster. The tragedy sends Jacob into a magical world he had only known about before from what he thought were his grandfather’s own peculiar fairy tales.

He’s seen pictures of “peculiar children,” those born with special magical abilities, but he believes the proof of their peculiarity to be merely the result of clever photography tricks. This is where we see the brilliance of the concept here. The book is filled with photographs that are actually trick pics from darkroom days gone by. A number of them are from the Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Jackson. They are wonderful. They make the book.

We experience the story from Jacob’s point of view, and Jacob’s narrating voice has a whole lot of potential. I started the book thinking that between the award-winning photos and the strong voice, I couldn’t possibly go wrong. That voice was inconsistent, though. The strength and energy that was Jacob’s personality in the first chapter just was not fully sustained throughout the book. It began to disappoint me somewhere along the way until finally I was just ready for it to end. I mean I was ready for it to be over when I was at the parts that should have been the most intense scenes in the book.

Jacob’s story ends at a point that clearly sets us up for a sequel. I don’t think I’ll read the next book. This one had me and lost me. It could have been one of my favorite books of the year, but something was missing. I hope Ransom Riggs finds that something in the future. Anyone who has it in him to come up with such a remarkable concept out to have it in him to improve over time. Here’s hoping…

Also, out of fairness, I believe I should mention that I alternated reading chapters from this book with reading chapters from William Faulkner books. It’s a crazy thing I do, keeping multiple books going at once, and it’s quite possible that nearly anyone would have disappointed me by comparison to Uncle Bill. It’s very possible indeed.

The End (Sort of) of an Era #photoaday #project365

Day 197:  End of an Era

197 of 365.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” ~Albus Dumbledore to Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling.

I saw the last Harry Potter movie today, thus ending my summertime tradition of awaiting the next treat from JK Rowling. I have a feeling that’s not really over. She’ll give us something else to adore at some point. Maybe not another trip to Hogwarts, but something we’ll love.

It’s also not over for me because I still have young nieces and nephews. I was introduced to Harry by a nephew who has grown up with Harry. I’m still buying copies for the younger children who are now the age he was then. I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up. I’ll always be ready to start all over again with Harry as a first year, each time a new child says, “Will you read this, please?”

Most of all, this is not really the end because Harry will continue to live inside my imagination. If he’s taught us nothing else, he’s taught us that the most powerful magic of all is what we hold inside, in our hearts and in our imaginations.