Books I read in February

Continuing the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge, I’ve made pretty good progress in February. Of course, some of these are books I had started but not finished in January.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – this was my choice for “a book that is also a stage play or musical.” In high school we read some of Shakespeare’s tragedies (my favorite was Macbeth), but I had never read any of the comedies. From time to time over the years I have seen references to characters or scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and had decided I ought to read it sometime. Perhaps if I studied it in a literature class I would appreciate it more, but I have to admit I didn’t find it as interesting as the tragedies. But it was interesting, of course, to come across famous quotes that I had heard but did not know their source, such as “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” and “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton – one of the books I would not have heard of if it hadn’t been for the PopSugar reading challenge (which is of course its purpose, to get you to read books you would not otherwise), this was “a book involving a heist.” What makes it different is that the book is not really about the heists, it’s about the teenager who has discovered a talent for opening locks. He has not spoken since some tragedy killed his parents and nearly killed him, and he only expresses himself through art. Since he makes it clear from the start that he is in prison, I really did not look forward to finishing the book and finding out how he got there and how long he would be there, but the ending turned out to be more satisfying than I had expected.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – having to read “a book about time travel” was a welcome assignment. The only challenge was finding one I had not read before that sounded good. The reviews for Jodi Taylor’s books were very good, and the book was also. I’m just disappointed that none of the libraries in the area have any more books in the series. But I already got the second one through eBay, and am looking forward to continuing the story.

With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life edited by John Piper and David Mathis – I bought this last year as an “irregular” book at a discount, and thought it would be interesting to read for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. But with all the other books I was reading, I didn’t get to it, so it fit perfectly for “a book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to.” It was moderately interesting but seemed like too much of an overview. I guess the authors have to choose between a longer book that fewer people will be willing to read, and a shorter one that has more readers but less depth of content.

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley – I would have read this book anyway, apart from the reading challenge, but as soon as I saw that it was available from the library, I selected it for “a book that’s published in 2018.” Flavia de Luce is growing up, and while there are aspects of her younger self that I particularly enjoyed in the earlier books and are less present now, I think Bradley is doing a good job of having her mature somewhat in her thinking, while preserving much of what makes the series so enjoyable.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon – I had just finished the previous book in the series, so I was happy to see that I could continue with this one as “a past Goodreads Choice Awards winner.” (I had initially thought of it for a book about time travel, before I found the book by Jodi Taylor, so I was glad it turned out to fit another category.) Gabaldon is a great storyteller, and my only occasional unhappiness with the book was when she switched from one storyline/set of characters to another for several chapters, and initially I would feel annoyed that I had to wait to find out what happened next with one of the other sets of characters. They do all come together in the end, though how this happens is not explained, and as I have heard this may be the end of the series, I guess I may never find out. But it was a satisfying resolution, even if puzzling in one respect.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – this was another book I learned about from the reading challenge, trying to find “a book with a fruit or vegetable in the title.” It is indeed a charming book, even if there are too many coincidences to further the story. I like Arthur Pepper and enjoyed his journey, both geographically and in his mind/heart, to find the stories behind the mysterious charm bracelet he had found when cleaning out his deceased wife’s closet.

The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren Estleman – unlike the books by Jodi Taylor and Phaedra Patrick, I didn’t find this book selected specifically for the reading challenge (“a book with alliteration in the title”) one I was glad to have discovered. It was OK, somewhat interesting, but mostly I read it just because I could check it off this category for the reading challenge.

Camino Island by John Grisham – I have liked most of what I have read by Grisham. This certainly wasn’t my favorite, but “a book that involves a bookstore or library” always has some inherent appeal for me. It was no page-turner, but a good enough book to occupy me while eating my lunch (except on Mondays, when I do the Saturday puzzle from the Wall Street Journal, expect when it’s a cryptic puzzle).

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn – I had no trouble selecting “your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges.” I glanced through the books I read for the challenge in 2017, and picked “a book from a nonhuman perspective,” specifically the next in the series about Chet and Bernie. Chet’s is a particularly interesting nonhuman perspective, and while none of us knows what goes on in a dog’s head, Quinn’s portrayal of Chet strikes many dog lovers as spot on.

What Doesn’t Kill Her by Max Collins – I had once asked about the collection of books by Max Collins in one of the meetings rooms at the library, and learned he came from around here. So when I wanted to read “a book by a local author,” it made sense to select a Max Collins mystery. I chose a standalone novel, not part of a series, so I didn’t have to concern myself with finding the first one in the series. It was certainly an interesting novel, but I doubt I’ll read another anytime soon. Maybe it was the main character’s foul language, the brutal killings, or that the villain was just too creepy.

The Guilty by David Baldacci – this wasn’t for the reading challenge, just another suspenseful novel to help me get on the exercise bike every morning, along with the rowing machine and the elliptical machine two or three days a week at the Y. I’m not sure how satisfying I found the resolution to the mystery, but I like the character Will Robie, and wanting to hear more of the story (I listen to an MP3 version on my iPod) certainly helped motivate me to spend time exercising.

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