Thursday, January 1, 2015

BINGO! Reading Review 2014

(I started this on Dec. 31, thus the "this year" refers to 2014.)

At the beginning of this year, I signed up for a reading challenge put out by Random House publishers, "Reading Bingo." (I guess I didn't actually "sign up" - I just printed out the sheet.) I'm proud to say I BINGO'ed two different directions, although I didn't make my original goal, which was to fill in the whole sheet.

Instead of listing the books for each BINGO, I'm going to go back to my standard categories for the year-end review.

Best Discovery - It's hard for me to choose a book for this category this year. I guess I would say my best discovery was The Public's Health by Sam Taggart, not because I particularly enjoyed reading it (it was OK), but because I learned so much from it that ought to be helpful in my writing (who knew syphilis was such a killer in the 19th century? And people died from mumps!) . The book was a history of the public health service in Arkansas from the Territorial days to now, which was truly interesting. The book, however, really needed a good, stiff edit.

Saddest Disappointment - Hands down, the book that disappointed me most this year was Morning Is a Long Time Coming by Bette Greene. This is the sequel to Summer of My German Soldier, which is so, so good. The sequel, however, was draggy and whiny (in my opinion) and the climax was a real let-down. Really disappointing.

Biggest Reading Accomplishment - This was the year I finally read We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman. My sister has been recommending this book for years, but I've always been a little afraid to start it because it is a mighty hefty book (it was the "book with more than 500 pages" entry in my BINGO sheet). I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but it took me about five months to read this book. But I did finish it!

Once Is Enough (Books I Probably Won't Ever Read Again) - There were several books that fall into this category for me this year. I definitely don't want to read Ethan Frome (by Edith Wharton) again, or The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois. I also don't want to re-read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (I know, I know....people think that one is a classic, but I just didn't care for it). I read a book recommended by my new boss, How College Works by Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs, that I doubt I ever read again. But the definite winner in this competition is, again, Morning Is a Long Time Coming. That was just painful reading.

Books I Thought Would Be Amazing But Were Just So-So - I had really looked forward to reading True Grit by Charles Portis, but the actual reading experience was not as enthralling as I had anticipated. Maybe the problem was that I had seen the (original) movie and already knew what was going to happen. I also had great expectations for The Book Thief, and instead found it to be rather self-consciously "precious," if that makes any sense.

Favorite Re-Read - Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene is the only book I read this year that I had read before, but it would have won this category anyway. It was really interesting to read this book as a grown woman, not having read it since I was a teenager. It meant something entirely different to me this time.

Favorite Historical Fiction - Oddly enough, I read two books about Richard III this year, with rather similar premises (that an unknown young woman had a love affair with Richard and bore him a child). The two were Roan Rose by Juliet Waldron and We Speak No Treason. Of the two, I much preferred We Speak No Treason; it was interesting to read this book, published in the 1970s, that anticipated the discoveries from just a year or so ago when Richard's skeleton was found.

Biggest Reading Failure - The biggest failure this year is that I didn't find anything that I really loved reading. There were some pleasant reading experiences; I enjoyed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. I'm glad to have read On the Rez by Ian Frazier. But the only book that truly moved me this year was one I had already read years ago, and that's kind of sad.

Maybe 2015 will have better results - I definitely hope to read more books this year (only 14 in 2014 - pretty sad). The BINGO idea was kind of fun, so I hunted up another reading challenge to guide my reading in the coming year. I found one on Bookmark to Blog that I plan to participate in, called the Monthly Motif challenge. The motif for January is Book to Movie - any good suggestions? I was thinking Alan Turing: The Enigma since the movie version stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who my friend Carol says is the best. But I just saw it has 768 pages....not sure that would be the smartest way to start my new year of reading, ha ha.....

1 comment:

Janet, said...

Wow, you've read quite a few books. I have too, but I read children's books (picture books and middle grade), because that is what I like to write. Like you, I also love historical fiction. My 2 MG manuscripts are historical fiction and I have written a couple of novella's - one takes place in the early 1900s and one in the 1940s. Good luck with your manuscripts.