Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Salon: Where I Am Today & Where I Was Five Years ago

I am going through a crime fiction phase at the moment, my attention turned especially to crime fiction set in countries other than my own. I recently read a novel set in Laos during the 1970's and now am enjoying one set in Sweden, 1999. Neither are first in the series books, although this is my first time reading either author.

With Colin Cotterill's novel, Anarchy and Old Dogs, I was especially taken with how the author captured the political climate of the the times. The protagonist, Dr. Siri Paiboun is the national coroner, and, at 73, he is still at the top of his game. As a young man, he had been a political activist full of ideals. Reality does not always live up to our dreams.

Sun and Shadow by Åke Edwardson is the third book in the series, but the first to be published in the U.S. in English. While I like the book so far, it's obvious I have jumped into a series already underway. The crime stands up by itself in the novel, but I do feel I have missed out on knowing a bit of the characters' histories. With some series books it does not matter, but it seems to with this one, at least for me. It makes me wonder why books like this cannot be translated and published in order. Even if I wanted to go back and read the first two books in the series, I wouldn't be able to at this time unless I suddenly developed the ability to read Swedish. I'm sure there's a good marketing reason behind it all or maybe copyright laws, but I still don't have to like it.

I usually do start series from the beginning, and I prefer to do so. At one time I was a big stickler about it. I discovered, however, that sometimes it just does not work out that way, and I have learned to be flexible.

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It was about a month ago that I came across a post by Michelle titled Ratings Retrospective. I knew then that I wanted to follow suit. And I did. I like the idea so much, that I am making it a monthly event on my blog. Towards the end of each month, I will be reviewing my reading journal from five years past and reminiscing about the books I read during the month corresponding the one we're in. I am going back five years more for convenience sake than anything else. I began keeping a reading journal five years ago, and so it seems the fitting place to start.

I am a little behind, and so you might have to suffer through two memory sessions this month. Blame it on the Thanksgiving Holiday and visiting relatives.

November of 2003 was my introduction to two new book series that would begin a love affair that would continue for years. Although my reading has taken me in different directions over the last couple of years, I am in no way done with either series. I am sure I will find my way back to them in time. I also took a chance on yet another series, for which my relationship is still in the beginning stages. And then there was the token nonfiction book I wanted to fit in because I needed a break from crime fiction if only for a short while.

I had been wanting to read something by mystery author Anne Perry for some time and finally settled on Cater Street Hangman, the first in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Series set in Victorian England. I was a bit surprised when I came across the following sentence in my review of the novel: "British novels have never been among my favorites." I had to laugh. Did I really feel that way five years ago? I don't remember that. I guess, a lot has changed since then. I did end up liking Cater Street Hangman. Quite a bit in fact. Enough for me to move on to other books in the series. I have not yet read them all, but that remains one of my reading goals.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures, the first book in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series, would be the second big hit of the month. I had not really read anything like it before, but as a fan of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and after hearing so many rave reviews from friends in an online book group, I decided to give it a try. The idea of a novel combining mystery and the paranormal was especially alluring to me. I am quite a fan of mysteries and fantasy. I have seen the series change over the years as the protagonist is affected by everything she has had to endure. I may not be quite as enamored with the series as I once was, but I still enjoy visiting with the characters now and then.

I started another series that November: Sarah Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, P.I. mystery series. Indemnity Only did not captivate me quite as much as the other two series' firsts I'd read that month, but I did enjoy it and hoped to read the next book in the series. I haven't quite managed that yet, unfortunately. This is one of those cases where I throw in my oft used comment, "I hope to one day though."

The other book I read that month was a nonfiction book, A Rock and Hard Place, written by a boy who had been severely abused by his biological parents and battled AIDS. After finishing the book, I went online to see what I could find out the fate of the author, Anthony Godby Johnson. There evidently is a controversy about whether the book was actually true or not.

November of 2003 may not have been my most prolific reading month, but it was a memorable one. It is interesting to see where I was then as compared to now. I am still starting new series and enjoying old ones. I have branched out in new directions and am enjoying it every step of the way.

Week in Review:
Tuesday Randomness: Monday Mailbox & Tuesday Teaser
Review of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (Both the book and the Movie)
TGIF: Tuesday Thingers, Booking Through Thursday and Friday Fill-Ins

Happy Reading!

27 comments:

  1. I wish I'd kept a reading journal... but now with the blog, I don't feel compelled to keep one. But I read sooo much during Elementary School because I was a geek (aka Library Monitor).... so I can't remember the names of half the stories, but I remember the stories.

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  2. I've really enjoyed the Cotterrill's that I've read. have you visited his website? It has wonderful cartoons
    http://www.colincotterill.com/

    I've been participating on a weekly basis in Patti Abbott's (Pattinase) Forgotten Books drawing titles from my earliest records (kept since 1975)
    It has meant research but I've really enjoyed doing it.

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  3. What a great idea!

    When I revisit books I've read and previously reviewed, sometimes I'm surprised by the rating I'd assigned it. I wish I'd been keeping a reading log longer than I have been, since I read some great stuff the couple years before starting my blog.

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda... :)

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  4. what a nice idea, to revisit reading from years ago. :-) I like that a lot. and it would help me remember all those books I read and love and now have forgotten!

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  5. I love Anita Blake. LKH was my introduction to paranormal romance.

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  6. Don't you love reading something you wrote a few years ago and thinking, I said that??? I THOUGHT that???

    I happen to love British writers :)

    Shana
    Literarily

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  7. It's funny, because over Thanksgiving I was at my parents' house, and I went back into my old reading journals from middle school, just for fun. It's always interesting to see where you were in your reading and how far you've come since then. As for five years ago in my reading habits, I do remember reading and liking the Thursday Next series. I also went on a Bill Bryson binge, and I was introduced to Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage.

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  8. I found what you said about the Anita Blake books interesting. I'm still in the very beginning of the series and haven't seen much in the way of character evolution yet. I'm curious to know if you've read LKH's Merry series and if you have, what you thought of them.

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  9. What a super idea, I wish I had kept a journal...:( I can't possibly remember this date 5 years ago by heart. am sure I would be very surprised at how I changed or Not??? :P

    Have a nice week ahead Wendy, if you do not know it yet, I am not gong to court on the 8th, the 2nd judge steped down??? My ex's girlfriend is married to a man who has to many friends among judges and they are angry at my ex for stealing their friend's wife so I will need an unpartial judge. This is what happens when you live in a small area...I was so ready.

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  10. Monica - I still keep both. Sometimes I write things in my reading journal that do not make it onto my blog for personal reasons. I also keep little stats about the books in my journal that I don't think anyone cares about but me.

    Kerrie - I haven't visited Cotterill's website yet--thanks for the link!

    I wish I had started keeping records of what I've read sooner than I did. It would have been even more intriguing to see what I'd been reading 10 or 15 years ago. Even 20 years ago.

    Bibliolatrist - Thank you! I haven't been too surprised by my ratings yet, but I imagine that I will be at some point.

    Marie - It definitely is bringing back memories! :-)

    Jen - She was pretty much my introduction to that world too, although fortunately, no one used the word romance around me or else I would have turned tail and run. LOL I liked the mystery aspect of the early books, that being the main draw for me.

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  11. Shana - It was such a surprise to find out I actually didn't care for them back then. As far as I knew, I'd always loved British writers. Go figure! Haha

    Katherine - I bet that was interesting! I wish I had started keeping a reading journal then.

    I really enjoyed the first book in the Thursday Next series. I need to read the rest of it.

    Trisha - Anita's "evolution" is quite controversial among fans of the series, I'll tell you that much. :-) I haven't read the Merry series, and I'm really hesitant to do so. I go back and forth about whether I should bother. It's really not my cup of tea from what I've heard about it. There was a time when I was really curious about the books and thought I might, but once I reached the turning point in the Anita Blake series, doubts crept in and I'm back on the fence about it.

    Sylvie - I wish I had started earlier than I did.

    I hope you have a good week too. I am sorry your court date has been postponed yet again. It must be so nerve-wracking for you, especially since you'll have to testify. :-( If there's one thing that's consistent about the court system, it's that you can always expect delays. Hopefully you can get this mess finished before Christmas.

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  12. I've been wanting to read the Laurell K. Hamilton series, but haven't gotten around to it yet. It seems like a series I'd enjoy.

    Happy Sunday!

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  13. I've only read the first two books in the Hamilton series but plan on continuing with it. I love how you have a reading journal from years ago. I just started one from this past year but look forward to doing one every year.

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  14. What a nifty idea. . .I too wish I'd kept a book journal, although five years ago, I probably on read about ten books the whole year, not counting text books.

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  15. Ooh, I'm looking forward to reading your journals of reviews past. Great idea!

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  16. I like this reading retrospection idea. I have kept a reading journal dated from college so I should dig them out and see. :) I was probably not reading as much then.

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  17. I think it's great that you're reviewing your previous reads - it can be interesting to see whether your opinion of a book has changed over time, or if you even remember having read it! I wish I had reading journals like yours to go back to; thanks to blogging, eventually I will. Thanks for sharing, Wendy, and have a great week!

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  18. LOL--I haven't heard of any of these books! If I remember back 5 years--I was probably studying for my undergrad finals, but that is also the month that I discovered Atwood (read The Handmaid's Tale)--must have been a good month!

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  19. I love Michelle's idea too, and may have the copy the two of you in the new year. I started keeping track of my reads in 2002 and I so wish I'd started sooner but oh well, not much I can do about that now.
    I think it's funny how you said you didn't like British novels 5 years ago. :P

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  20. I've always kept reading journals and lists. Unfortunately, five years ago my bookish activity had fallen into a real slump, so there's not much to review! Book blogging has renewed my passion for reading. I'll be looking forward to your reminiscing.

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  21. Wow, I didn't know those books except Laurell K. Hamilton's and Sarah Paretsky's. I don't keep journals but that's why I started my blog two years ago - to keep track of the books I read. I think it's always better to be late than never, eh? ;)

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  22. Well, that was awfully fun reading!!! What a great idea! I didn't keep reading journals till recently, but I do have my old calendars, upon which I wrote the titles and authors of books finished, back to about 1997. It's fun to look back. During my obsessive mystery-reading years, I was a big, big fan of Anne Perry.

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  23. Guilty Pleasures hit me like a ton of bricks. I love it SO MUCH. I am sad that I don't like the last few as much. It's not the sex, it's that it's ONLY sex. Ah well.

    I love my journals. I have to remember to look for the misplaced (NOT LOST) one soon.

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  24. I love what you're doing with your reading journal. I need to be more disciplined in this aspect. Writing them in the book themselves (for non-fictions) is one thing, but having them all in one place in a journal definitely makes referring back a lot easier. You're a fine example, Wendy!

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  25. Yvonne - You should give Hamilton a try when you get the chance. It's a fun series and Anita is such a great character. I love her dry sense of humor.

    Samantha - Journaling what I read has become second nature to me. I love it. I really think it's enriched my reading experience.

    Janssen - It's too bad we think of these things too late. But then, I suppose it's never too late to start once we think of it. :-)

    Karen - I think it will be a fun project. And maybe even enlightening.

    Matt - College does seem to put a damper on pleasure reading sometimes. At least it did for me.

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  26. Florinda - My review writing has changed quite a bit too over the years. Mostly because now I write for an audience and not just myself. I think I'll enjoy this little project.

    Trish - They're all older books, that's for sure. :-) I really need to read an Atwood book this next year. It's not right that I haven't.

    Nat - It's a great idea! I'm so glad she thought of it. It would be interesting to read about your reading history as well. I hope you will join in!

    Joy - I really do wish I had started journalling earlier in my life. Oh well. At least I started somewhere, right?

    Melody - Exactly! It's better to be late than not do it at all. :-) My book blog is an extension of my reading journal really. I still keep a separate journal (two actually, now that I also keep one for notes as I read), especially for those stray thoughts that don't make it to my blog because they are too personal.

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  27. Nancy - Did you have a preference between the Pitts and Monk? I want to read the Monk series once I catch up with the Pitts.

    Maybe you could share some of the titles from your calendar! That would be fun to read about. :-)

    Lisa - I hope you are able to find your misplaced journal soon. I know you've been looking for it for awhile now. :-S

    I really like the Anita Blake series. Like you, I haven't been too enamored with the recent books, but I know the author has said she has a bigger picture and so I keep going to see where she'll take me. And besides, I do love many of the characters. :-)

    Alice - I've really come to enjoy keeping a reading journal. I've tried keeping other types of journals, but I am not faithful to them, unfortunately. My reading seems to be about the only consistent thing I like writing about. :-)

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