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End of Read-a-Thon Book Reviews

October 24, 2011

During the Read-a-Thon, I finished three books:

The Lost Hero– Rick Riordan. Read on Kindle. This is the first volume of Riordan’s new series, Heroes of Olympus. You definitely need to read his earlier series, starting with The Lightning Thief, about Greek gods having demi-god children who all come to Camp Half-Blood and fight monsters, to get the most out of this book.

Jason comes to on a school field trip, with no memory except his name, and that Piper and Leo are his two best friends. He certainly doesn’t remember being the son of a god. Or how to fight monsters. The new series is off to a good start, adding new adventures to what Riordan already does right. Plenty of adventure, monsters, and nice touches of Greek and Roman myth getting infused into a modern world. Also, plenty of funny bits. Scratches the Harry Potter itch, with the added benefit of using actual mythology.

However: do not read this book’s sequel, Son of Neptune, right afterward, because it tells some of the same story from a different perspective. Wait a day or two, and then it will be a terrific read. I can’t wait to see more of this series. And the Egyptian one Riordan has going, called the Kane Chronicles.

My Life In France– Julia Child. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. I love foodie memoir. And this is a classic. I’d read about Child. I’d read Julie and Julia. It was past time to read the original.

Child’s book was even more fun than I expected. Reading about extravagant food is always a bit of a tease- since you can’t very well lick the pages. But the way Julia Child describes the flavors, from a perfectly cooked and sauced sole, to puff pastry; you practically can taste what she’s writing about. Her writing is goofy and fun, too, punctuated with conversational exclamations: “Whoops!” “Drat!” “Yum!” Beyond the food, it was a delight to read about her fondness for Paris, and the obvious depth of the love she shared with Paul Child. He supported her, even when learning to cook and write her cookbook were discouraging. The sheer number of kitchen remodelings they went through as they moved, was amazing. And it’s clear they were sweet to each other. An admirable union.

After reading two books I really liked, I hit kind of a wall, because I wanted to love a third book that much! I spent a couple of hours dithering around, reading bits and pieces of this and that. I initially had high hopes for Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage, by Kieran Kramer. I had read two of her previous Regency Romances. They were definitely cheesy, guilty pleasures. But they had a good blend of banter, history and, well… smut. Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage? Not so much. It felt more like a campy, typical romance. Not even a bookstore setting and a heroine who knew her mind (she gets called a bluestocking early on, i take that as a good sign) could smooth over the tacky, cringe-inducing bits of dialogue and description.

And then, I don’t know, I surrendered to it… Started giggling and rolling my eyes at the campy camp descriptions and the horrid dialogue. It had a decent plot around the romance- so I focused on that ensemble and did a good bit of ignoring Jilly and Captain Arrow’s love and romance nonsense. So… after a bit of a struggle, it started to work for me.

Books I browsed, seeking Book 3:

The Anglo Files- Sarah Lyall. A very funny riff about British culture. It was Dad’s library book. I read a chapter or two, and giggled, but it didn’t get me all the way.

Wildwood– Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis. A huge chunkster of a middle grade fairy tale. I was A) done with magic kid lit for the day and B) wary of getting into a book that big, even accounting for biggish print and illustrations. I sense it would make a nice audiobook, though.

Dorothy Sayers, on Kindle. I think I wanted a paper book.

An Arsonist’s Guide To Writers Homes in New England– Brock Clark. I read a few pages, and then… I have no idea. Maybe reading this during the readathon felt like an overdose on the literary world?

The Highwayman’s Footsteps– Nicola Morgan. A Scotland purchase, well-researched historical YA, but too dry to grab me.

Lessons learned: I could not survive an entire Read-a-Thon on a Kindle. The Kindle is a great thing to have for reading this and that, when you’re traveling and reading isn’t the primary focus. I don’t think I could have read 2 consecutive books, clicking away on the Kindle.

And, given the giant third-book slump, I don’t think I hit the right mix of good books for the Read-a-Thon. I should have brought The Westing Game along, and a couple short, cozy mysteries to whiz through.

In all other respects, it was perfect: I found lots of interesting book blogs in far-flung places, and there was a lively chat going on Twitter. I had delicious things to eat! (Thanks to Dad for providing encouragement, snacks, and famous awesome pasta sauce!) I made contact with readers in places like The Philippines, Sweden, Spain, a Francophone blogger,  and someone in New Jersey. I think there might also been someone in Hong Kong I said hi to… bit of a late night blur. I stayed awake just the right amount, and I dipped into several books- so even if I didn’t churn through novels nonstop, I’ve browsed several in my TBR pile, and I know what to expect when I do dig into them.

Will I do the April Read-a-Thon? I don’t think I’ll join for the whole day, but I certainly plan to say hello to the fun, international group of readers!

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