February has been an incredibly productive month for reading in my life! I wish I could say that there were more pleasure-reads on the list; this month was very much about school-assigned texts. The wonderful thing is that I have been exposed to novels and authors that I might not otherwise ever have read and have found some real gems among them.
For those of you who missed my initial post on this topic, I have decided to embark on a most enjoyable challenge to read 52 books in 2013. I have chosen to participate in the Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge in which I select my own goal, and a book a week is what I came up with as truly doable this year. Each month I will give you an update on where I am in the challenge and what books I was lucky enough to indulge in. I’ll also include a link to Amazon.com for each book in case you would like to pick a read up for yourself.
In the month of February I have read nine books and according to the graph on Goodreads, I am at 23% of my goal, which is four books (7%) ahead of schedule. In the two years I have participated in this challenge, this is the first time I have been ahead of schedule! Since I have so many books to review this month I will be splitting this challenge update into two posts. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the rest!
Without further ado, here are my reviews for the first five books of this month’s Book Challenge reads.
Timeless by Gail Carriger- Completed February 1st
I could not be any happier with the final installment of GailCarriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I’ve been a fan since I read the opening line of Soulless and read each book in succession with unwavering enthusiasm. Timeless takes our heroine Alexia to Egypt where all sorts of drama unfolds. Secrets long hidden come to light and questions are answered. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough through the last three chapters to get through some of the greatest action I’ve read in a long time.
I can’t say much more without ruining the plot because having the mystery unfold is the greatest part. I can say that I’m sad to end this series and would pick up any other book written by Gail Carriger. She writes a smart, witty, and altogether likable cast if characters that I fell in live with from book one. I highly recommend this series!
A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca – Completed February 2nd
In A Place to Stand Jimmy Santiago Baca chronicles a life begun with an acute awareness of lack, plummeting into a world of punishment for a life he didn’t know better than to lead. I’m both heartbroken and uplifted by Baca’s story. I found myself wanting at some times to comfort him and tell him that there is more to life than he realizes, while other times I wanted to smack him for making what he knew in his heart to be clearly wrong decisions.
In his early days gallivanting with Marcos and falling in love with Lonnie I had a sense that Baca could pull his life together and that he would find a clean escape from the world of drugs and dealing he had been drawn into. I believe he lost the battle in the moment he sat in the car with the nine millimeter and a marijuana stalk between him and the enemy. All of a sudden his life was changed for good and he was drawn into a violent world with no escape.
While in prison Baca undergoes many transformations. He finds himself at different times a violent criminal, a lost and desperate man in the insane ward, and a dedicated student. It is within this time that I am overcome with sadness for his predicament. In many ways I see why he is in prison and agree that he made many terrible mistakes along the way, yet here is a man with a clear longing to make things right. It is in his search for education that I see true hope.
Baca finds his way within the pages of letters and finds his voice in learning to read and write. All of a sudden he has an outlet for his anger, frustration, humiliation, and sadness. This part of Baca’s story uplifts me and brings me great joy. I identify with the need to write out my emotion and am thankful that Baca found the strength to learn what he needed to be successful.
In the end Baca comes out on top, building a life for himself. Even in the face of endless tragedy that befalls his family after his release from prison, Baca is able to find comfort in his writing. I’m touched by the sentiment and clear understanding of human nature that flows from Baca’s writing. What results is an incredibly eloquent, beautifully written memoir of his journey.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe- Completed February 4th
This was another novel that I only picked up because it was assigned for class, but also another book that I’m glad I read. Stowe paints a realistic picture of the lives of slaves and has a very sympathetic tone. Uncle Tom is a wonderful character with whom the reader identifies with right away. I found myself in tears several times as I read his story. The novel tugs at the reader’s heart strings from start to finish and reminds me how lucky I am to live in a time when people of color are treated equally. It is hard for me to imagine the prejudices that occur in Stowe’s novel as being the prevalent state of mind. I would recommend this novel for both its historical significance as well as its well-told story.
Ten Girls to Watch by Charity Shumway- Completed February 6th
Dawn West is twenty-three and struggling to make her way in New York City. She’s barely hanging on as a lawn care column writer when a chance meeting sets her up with an amazing opportunity. Soon Dawn is gathering information for Charm magazine’s past winners of the Ten Girls to Watch contest. Along the way Dawn finds wisdom and hope in the stories of these successful and diverse women and begins to forge a place in the world for herself.
I loved this book. Shumway has created a very likeable heroine in Dawn and the cast of supporting characters are people you want to meet. As Dawn interviewed the women and uncovered their words of wisdom I found myself jotting them down for my own inspiration. Each story reminded me that it is the sum of our life moments that make us who we are and that anything is possible if you put your heart in it.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare- Completed February 7th
Since Shakespeare is so well known and extensively studied, I’ll spare you my analysis and just give my general reactions to this classic play. Revolving around central themes of revenge, betrayal, and madness, Hamlet is dramatic and entertaining. Shakespeare does such a wonderful job of injecting small bits of wry humor into what is otherwise very heavy drama. My favorite scene comes in Act V of the play where the merry gravedigger is taunting Hamlet’s finer sensibilities while going about his business with a smile and a song. The more I read and study Shakespeare, the more his works appeal to me. One last note- edition is critical in reading Shakespeare. I highly recommend the Norton Critical editions for their excellent scholarly approach and annotations.
Be sure to check back in tomorrow for the rest of my reviews!
Happy reading, everyone!