Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective, May 2004

Five years seems like such a long time ago on one hand, and yet on the other, it seems just like yesterday. May of 2004 was a month of transition for me on the work front. I took over a new position and moved into a new office. I distinctly remember the mess I walked into when I first stepped into that new office. Coffee stains all over the desk and all sorts of miscellaneous stuff, junk really, filled the drawers. I had a lot of cleaning to do before I could settle in and unpack my own boxes. I had trainings to attend and a new physical to undergo. It was a busy month, and I had more on my plate than I ever had before. My husband was especially patient with my long hours and late nights.

During my spare time, I spent quite a bit of time with Charlotte and Inspector Thomas Pitt that month, five years ago. Stepping back into Victorian England, I found comfort in the steady rhythm of Anne Perry's fictional world. Perry is an author who pays close attention to the minor details in her novels, trying to make them as accurate to the time period as possible. It was in that same way that she attacked the social issues of the day, which were interwoven with the mysteries. It was easy to get swept up in the series, and I ended up reading seven books back to back, the most I had ever read in order, one right after the other.

I also made a new friend, Thursday Next. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde was unlike most of the other books I had read up until that point, and I was quite delighted after having read it.
A lighthearted novel filled with mystery, suspense, romance, and science fiction, this is a humorous tale of Special Operative Thursday Next (of the literary detection division) who is on the trail of a dangerous criminal, a man who has the ability to pull out characters from literature, risking the very stories booklovers have come to treasure. In a world where the debate of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays is a common argument and time travel is not impossible, Mr. Fforde introduces readers to colorful characters, both real and imagined. [excerpt from reading journal, May 2004]
I rounded out May 2004 with another, very different sort of mystery, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:
Written from the perspective of an autistic 15 year old living in Swindon, England, the main character, Christopher sets out to investigate the murder of his neighbor's dog. However, this novel is about more than just solving a neighborhood crime. Mark Haddon weaves a complex tale about family, betrayal, trust, and courage, while allowing the reader into the mind of someone with autism. [excerpt from reading journal, May 2004]
Mark Haddon took quite a chance in writing the novel the way he did. I appreciated the perspective from which this book was written, portraying the nuances of a teenage boy with autism.

Looking back over my reading five years ago this month, I just realized I spent the entire month in Great Britain. I am fairly certain I hadn't planned it that way.

My reading this month was much different not only in the types of books I read, but also in the settings. I took up residence in small town Pennsylvania, where a family's bonds were tested, hope faltered, and innocence was lost (Precious by Sandra Novack). As a British journalist, I traveled to a West African country scarred by civil war, a place where murder and secrets are well hidden (The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris). I shared in the grief and sadness of lost love, of a people persecuted because of their ethnicity, and that of family disappointments in Seattle, Washington during World War II (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford). In San Francisco, my life was turned upside down when everything I thought I knew suddenly may not have been true at all; the death of a sister, a wrongful accusation, and the rewriting of a story (No One You Know by Michelle Richmond). And then there was the time I inherited a law practice in the beautiful and haunted Savannah, Georgia; only my clients turned out to be an unusual sort: they were ghosts; and I was to defend them in the Celestial Court (Defending Angels by Mary Stanton and Angel's Advocate by Mary Stanton).

Where did your reading take you this month?

June is looking promising in the book department and I cannot wait to share my thoughts about my reading with you. This week be on the look out for my interview with author Mary Stanton and my thoughts on two of her novels, Defending Angels and Angel's Advocate!

Week in Review:
Monday at the Movies: Burn After Reading
Review: No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
Guest Appearance: Michelle Richmond (There is still time to enter the giveaway!)
Friday Fun: Fill-Ins, Poll Results & Mailbag

Please join me in congratulating Book Lady on winning a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford!


  1. Ahhhh... Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Love them but I think I've grown to appreciate William and Harriet Monk more. But you're absolutely right about the detail.


  2. I love your flashbacks. When I think back to 2004, I think that this was the year I quit working to stay home with my kids. I also think that this was the summer when Orlando experienced three major hurricanes that nearly caused us to lose our house and property. Very traumatic! I don't think I was reading anything during all of that! You definitely have been reviewing some great books here lately, and I am so envious of the Book Lady! Actually, I have Bitter and Sweet coming in audio from the library. I can't wait!

  3. I love your reading retrospectives! 2004 feels like another lifetime to me. Giving away my youth here, I was a month away from graduating high school. I feel like a completely different person now than I was then. I did meet my fiance just a couple of months later, though, so I guess not everything has changed. =)

  4. I really enjoy your retrospectives, Wendy - it is interesting to see how our reading parallels where we are in our lives and can bring us comfort.

    This month I spent a lot of time with mysteries - a genre I love but have not been reading much of in the last year. I was finding myself a little burnt out with some of the literary genre - too serious...I need something fun and light right now. I'm eager to read some women's fiction and more mysteries this summer.

    In May I spent a lot of time in Ireland (three books worth!) and really enjoyed my time on San Miguel Island with Sunny Cooper from The Laws of Harmony!

    Have a great week, Wendy :)

  5. I loved reading this post! I like to look back and see how my reading interests have changed too.

  6. I've only had my reading blog for a year but, already, I'm enjoying going back to see what I read.

    I enjoyed this post!

  7. Well, I see I'm not the only one who enjoys your retrospectives. I have no idea what I was reading 5 years ago, but I do know what I was doing: I was about to move back to the US after 4 years in the UK. I think we left on June 5, so on May 31 we were probably in a frenzy of packing. Ugh!

  8. Oooh, Victorian mysteries! Anne Perry sounds like an author I should try.

    Have a great week, Wendy!

  9. PS: I was just looking her up, and wow, she's certainly had an unusual life. I have seen Heavenly Creature, but I didn't remember it was based on a true story, let alone the life story of an author!

  10. Your post has me trying to remember when I met Thursday Next. I want to say it was in 2003, shortly after reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; I do know that I read almost all of The Eyre Affair during a day of jury duty (I didn't get called to a courtroom that day :-)).

    My book club read The Curious Incident... a few years back, and it gave us a lot to talk about.

    I enjoy looking back over your reading with you, Wendy - and now I'm looking forward to June!

  11. Like Florinda, your post made me curious when I discovered Jasper Fforde's series, and it looks like I first met Thursday Next in July 2002 when I read both The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. So I guess I'll be mentioning them when I do my retrospective in July.

    In May I spent a fair bit of time in Canada. Small town Quebec, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. As well as boarding school in the US, and an unidentified town in Europe.

    Hope June sees you reading lots of good books!

  12. Thats a lovely wrap up post Wendy. Looks like you've read a lot of great books .This post also reminds me to push my 'A curious incident...' book at the top of the TBR pile.

  13. Wendy...I loved reading your blog about your travels through books this month. I think I am going to answer your question on my blog this evening. PS....and I added a reading log to my writing log...thanks to you. :)

  14. I'm like you, Wendy. I'm not too worried about the needle or blood but being a fickle-minded person I am, I might get sick of the image but the worse thing is having to regret it in future! :P

    Looks like you've read some great books there! Hope you had a good weekend! :)

  15. It sounds like a fun time, your bookish trip to Britain. I do this too when I am on a roll, reading the same author, or those in the same time and place. I have been reading alot of American books lately although the genres are all over the place.

  16. I discovered a new to me author in May: Louise Penny. Her books set in Quebec with Police Inspector Armand Gamache are beautifully written and the mysteries are intricately plotted. I've read her first two, STILL LIFE and A FATAL GRACE, and will definitely continue with the next in the series.

  17. I love these retrospectives :) And thanks for reminding me of The Eyre AFfair...I've read and really enjoyed it. I need to pick the 2nd book up soon.

  18. This book and cat enthusiast is happy to learn that Literary Feline is not eating books. My goodness.
    I am happy to have found you.
    Terra writer, reader and librarian

  19. I love these looking back posts. I should try it more often. Very fun.

  20. I loved Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's one of my favourite books.

    I also enjoyed the interview with Mary Stanton. Great job, Wendy!

  21. What a lovely post to wrap up the month. Unfortunately I didn't get on too well with the Anne Perry series but I know she's got another and would like to try it. It very could well have been just the timing that was off you know.

    Hope June reading takes you to wonderful places!

  22. CJ - I haven't yet tried the William and Harriet Monk series. I have the first few books of that series though waiting their turn to be read. I've heard that it's even better.

    Sandy - Sounds like 2004 was a pivotal year in your life. The hurricanes must have been awful! I can't even imagine.

    I have read several real winners recently. I am waiting for that crash though--I hope it doesn't come soon!

    Enjoy Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet!

    Meghan - Thank you. 2004 was a lifetime away for me too. I know I have changed a lot since then. I'm much happier than I was then, for one.

    Wendy - Thanks, Wendy. I definitely was reading much more genre fiction back then. I think I read more of a variety now than I did then.

    I know what you mean about needing to mix things up. I need a break from the literary fiction too. Mysteries are the most handy since I enjoy the genre so much. :-)

    Yvonne - It is interesting to see the change between then and now, isn't it?

    Linda - I started journaling six years ago, but I've only been blogging for coming on three years. I do wish I'd started keeping track of my reading before then.

    Laura - That's quite a change. I hate packing. And moving. At least it is behind you now. :-)

  23. Nymeth - She does have an interesting past. It's stopped a few people from reading her books, unfortunately.

    Florinda - I love those days--the ones when you sit in the jury room and just read the entire time. :-)

    Nat - It sounds like your reading took you to many interesting places. :-) Here's hoping for a adventure filled June!

    Violet - Thank you! I did read a number of great books last month. I enjoyed every one of them so much.

    I hope you enjoy Haddon's book!

    Donna - Thank you so much! Hopefully you will find the reading long helpful. :-)

    Melody - Exactly! I don't want to grow tired of something I can't undo or change.

    Jaimie - I did have fun in Britain. :-) I stopped after reading those seven books because I could feel myself growing weary of them. I didn't want to spoil the rest of the series by burning myself out on them. I remember being so proud of myself for knowing just when to stop. :-)

  24. Karen - I've been wanting to read something by Louise Penny. I believe I have her first book around here somewhere. I am glad you enjoyed her first two books!

    Samantha - Thanks! I haven't yet read book two either in the Jasper Fforde series. We need to remedy that!

    Terra - Books don't taste very good. But then, my cat might disagree. ;-) Thanks for stopping by, Terra!

    Suey - It is fun to look back on what I was reading all those years ago. I wish I could go back farther. Ten years would be especially interesting.

    Alice - Haddon's book was so good, wasn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. :-)

    Iliana - Thank you! I know some people prefer Perry's other Victorian series. I really want to try her WWI books. I hear they are good.

  25. I just checked to see when I read Curious Incident and it was exactly 5 years ago today! I'd love to revisit that one sometime. I recently discovered Tuesday Next and can't wait for her next adventure--what's better than literary fun?

  26. Trish - What a coincidence! I wouldn't mind revisiting that book again one day either.


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