Didn't quite finish the challenge last year, but I got pretty close, which was more than I expected with the heavy courseload and piling-up family obligations I had towards the end of the year. Catching up on reviewing them now. ;)
41. Richard III by William Shakespeare (play) - 29 Oct 2009
The foreword to my copy of this play talks about how it shows that this play is earlier than Macbeth, and how the latter is a much better play in every way. This may or may not be true when comparing stage performances of the two, but just reading the script, I personally enjoyed Richard III a lot more. There was something quite likeable about Richard shouldering the mantle of villain and speaking with a cloven tongue which lets the addressee hear what he wants to hear and the audience guess at what Richard's real plans are. If this play is crude compared to Macbeth, Macbeth is a crude villain compared to Richard.
42. The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, edited by Geoffrey Tillotson (poetry) - 8 Nov 2009
This epic poem interested me mostly for its backstory, as it is intended to highlight just how preposterous and blown out of proportion a certain court scandal at the time was. I think my favorite part was the absolutely epic description of a game of cards, complete with war metaphors piling up, as well as the classic line "where the Queen sometimes council takes, and sometimes tea" (or something along those lines).
43. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - 19 Nov 2009
Pip is an orphan raised by hand by his cruel older sister and her kind-but-not-too-bright husband Joe. His fortunes seem to be starting to turn when he gains the attention of the rich but tragic and eccentric Miss Havisham and falls in love with Estella, the girl Miss Havisham has raised as her own. These fortunes continue to turn up, and as they do he meets some amazingly unique characters as well as some truly sleazy individuals. Throughout, however, he's left guessing as to the nature of his benefactor, and this continues to bother him as he enjoys an easy life he never dreamed he would have.
I found Pip to be an unsympathetic character at times, though at other times he acted in a wonderfully kind-hearted manner. Some of the supporting cast, however, including Miss Havisham, are incredibly intriguing, and Joe is nothing if not heart-breakingly loyal to the boy he's raised as kindly as he's dared.
44. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - 23 Nov 2009
Another Dickens orphan, Oliver had a much harsher start in life than Pip, though their lives (and the natures of the people around them) still hold some minor similarities. Again there's a very eccentric cast of characters, and even those who seek to help rather than harm Oliver sometimes do so in the most roundabout and nonsensical manner imaginable. This book also has the rather interesting trait of containing several no-good characters, who are all bad in so distinctly dissimilar manners as to make it difficult to say who's the most rotten apple. Nice deep read.
45. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (detective) - 30 Nov 2009
I must admit I'm rather fond of Sayers's Lord Peter Wymsy. He's not a perfect man by any stretch, and sometimes his name seems to suit him a little too well, but he has a very special appeal to him, and seems for the most part to be aware of his failings, which is something that can't really be said for most story detectives. A very interesting mix between murder mystery and Lord Peter's struggles to deal with his family, all of which he's not terribly fond of. One of those characters that should be unlikeable but isn't. Also contains some pretty interesting literary references, both in works quoted by the lord himself and in the narrative.
46. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie (detective) - 9 Dec 2009
The only book I've read by Christie which I genuinely liked, without reservation, was And Then There Was None. This book was much better than the previous Poirot mysteries I've encountered, and I did enjoy most of it — until that stuck-up Belgian entered into the story. The family secrets and intrigue surrounding the murder are very engaging, but I just cannot stand that little man who's supposed to be the hero of the day. I still might re-read it, but I doubt Poirot will annoy me any less if I revisit the mystery. That said, it spawned some good discussions in the class I read it for, since this is one case where virtually all of the characters in the story might have a motive — including the victim.
47. Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English by Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad & Geoffrey Leech (textbook) - 10 Dec 2009
On the plus side, this book was a lot more comprehensive to me than the grammar book we used in first-level English. On the minus side, it was still a grammar textbook, and for those of us not terribly interested in theorethical grammar, it was still a bore.
White Night by JIm Butcher
Another outing for Harry Dresden. This time someone is killing female magic practitioners. The deaths are set up to look like suicides, but there are messages left with the bodies that only a wizard can interpret. Harry is determined to stop the killings, but as he digs deeper, clues start to implicate Thomas....
Another complex, neatly plotted adventure for Harry , with lots of familiar characters popping up and new developments in the ongoing plot.
I keep saying this, but it's true - this series just gets better and better as it builds on its mythology and history. Roll on the next installment!
I haven't been tracking this for a while now, so I am going to have to guesstimate reading since the beginning of the year, knowing that I am likely to underrate how much I have actually read.
I've made my page goals pretty easily in past years, so I'm doubling it this year, from 15,000 to 30,000 pages.
So, to begin again. . .
Shaman's Crossing - Robin Hobb
I have been completely in love with her work since reading Assassin's Apprentice (yay for free books on my Kindle) several months ago, and this book does not disappoint. Hobb continues to be one of the premiere wordsmiths in her genre, or in any genre for that matter. Her writing is, in a word, effortless. Her characters are, as always, fully-realized, three-dimensional, wonderfully flawed, and oh so gloriously human. And the world she creates? This is one of the most original and compelling fantasy world's I have ever encountered. No easy re-telling of Tolkien. No re-treads of one European mythos or another. No, what Hobb provides is utterly original and completely compelling.
Thematically, Hobb does not shy away from complexity, nor does she fall into the trap of pre-packaged morality plays peopled by Black Hats and White Hats. Varying shades of gray are the order of the day, and the end product is something truly marvelous.
Whether you read fantasy or not, give her books a try. She transcends genre.
Truly, I cannot recommend her work strongly enough.
Books Read: 1/50
Pages Read: 624/30,000
Forest Mage - Robin Hobb
Second books are either the best or worst in any trilogy, and I haven't decided yet which is the case of Forest Mage. It starts out far more slowly than Shaman's Crossing, or at least that is how it feels. In the first book, there was always something happening in the world-at-large, some kind of outside interaction propelling the store. The first half of Forest Mage is far more introspective, with deep character development being its principle concern. And the development is utterly fascinating. Nevare Burvelle is one of the more interesting characters I've encountered, and Hobb is merciless in putting him through the ringer. It is not suffering for its own sake, however. Every moment of pain advances the overall plot and takes the reader deeper into a world that is sometimes confusing, often troubling, but always compelling and thoroughly original.
And when the action does pick up, it picks up with a vengeance. For the last few hundred pages, I literally could not put the book down.
Not as good as Shaman's Crossing, but still an excellent book.
Books Read: 2/50
Pages Read: 1,376 / 30,