Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (October 2004)

How are you on this lovely Sunday afternoon? Have you recovered from the read-a-thon? From all the posts in my Google Reader it looked like everyone who participated had a wonderful time. I haven't had the opportunity to participate in any of the read-a-thons as of yet, but maybe one day I will get the chance. Despite that, I did spend a good part of yesterday reading whenever I could. At about midnight, I finished reading Push by Sapphire. I wanted to read the book before the movie came out this next month. It is a heartbreaking but inspirational novel about a teen mother who has two children by her own father. Her mother is pure evil. It was a difficult novel to read subject matter wise, but, oh, so worth it. I will be posting my review along with my thoughts on the movie later next month.

I am about to start reading Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon. After a good dose of reality, I am in desperate need of a taste of fantasy. Kelly (Kailana) from The Written World and I are reading the book together, and I cannot wait to get her take on the novel.

As I do on the last weekend of every month now, I like to revisit my old reading journal to see what I was reading five years ago at this time. I began blogging in the summer of 2006, and so many of my thoughts about the books I read before then were kept to myself. Reflecting on my past reading each month has been a worthwhile experience. I hope you have found it interesting as well.

October of 2004 was an especially challenging month for me on the work front. Lots of changes were afoot and there did not seem to be an end to them. My husband had gotten back into painting miniatures after taking a hiatus and I was reading up a storm in my spare time. As a result, I read quite a variety during October 2004. Care to travel down memory lane with me?

I started October 2004 off by finishing R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton. R is for Ricochet was a bit different from the previous books in the series. Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone is hired to transport a wealthy man's daughter home after her release from prison and to is help make sure she settles back into the "real" world. In this particular installment, Kinsey is more of a passenger throughout the story, being led along by the various characters and the crime and mystery unravel.

One of my favorite complaints that gets my eyes rolling about Sue Grafton's novels is that she is stuck in the 1980's. Well, of course the series is! The author purposefully chose that time period, a time before people were completely reliant on computers and cell phones. A private investigator was forced to do much more research out on the streets rather than in an office behind a computer. I also love that the series is well grounded in reality. So much of crime fiction today includes over the top crimes (which I very much enjoy too, don't get me wrong). Sue Grafton's series provides the readers with a more down to earth realistic mystery. It's a refreshing change now and then. Besides, I'm quite fond of Kinsey Millhone. She's an intelligent and resourceful private detective. I enjoy spending time in her company.

Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West has garnered much in the way of praise and criticism over the years. I went into the book not really sure what to expect--something light and fun, perhaps. What I found was something completely different. And I loved it. The novel is part drama and part social commentary, touching on a variety of political issues. It was even more about friendship, acceptance, faith and forgiveness, however. Since reading Wicked, I have never been able to look at the Wicked Witch of the West the same again.

October of 2004 was be the month I read my last Patricia Cornwell book. Trace is the 13th book in the series featuring chief medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. I read Trace hoping it would revive the series for me, and instead it was the final nail in the coffin. The writing made me cringe, and I finally accepted that I no longer was interested in the characters or what direction their lives would take them. I expected it to be hard to let the series go, but it was surprisingly easy. It would be the first series I ever gave up on but certainly not my last.

Fortunately, the bad taste left behind after reading Cornwell's novel did not last long. One of my online book groups selected M.J. Rose's The Halo Effect as the monthly read and I was eager to try out this new-to-me author. I was intrigued by the fact that the protagonist was a sex therapist and curious to see how the author would weave a mystery around that fact. I was not disappointed. I was captivated right from the start. I may have given up on a favorite series that month five years ago, but I also discovered a new one.

By far, one of the best books I read in all of 2004 was Khaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner. I read the book all in one day, sitting in the sun room. My husband spent most of the day reading by my side (although I couldn't tell you what he was reading). I was blown away by the writing and the story. My heart ached for the characters. It was one of those books that made me say, "Wow!" upon completion.

Finding a book to read after that proved difficult, but I finally settled on A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi. I had met the author in an online reading group and was curious about her books. I hadn't had the best experience with a previous book I'd read by an author I had met online, so I admit to being hesitant even still. However, my worries were for naught. A Breath of Fresh Air was the start of my love affair with India. It is a novel about facing the past, moving on and most especially about enduring love. I have since read more by the author and look forward to reading more by her in the future.

Needing something a bit less serious, I jumped immediately into P.D. James' crime fiction novel, A Mind to Murder. I was again reminded of how much I love P.D. James' ability to put the reader right into the minds of her characters without giving too much away. Next I dove into Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the first in a series featuring a blood spatter expert working for the Miami Police Department. The catch? Dexter is also a serial killer who only targets those who deserve the fate he metes out to them. The novel was funny at times. Jeff Lindsay never lets the reader forget that as likeable as Dexter may be, he is still a cold blooded killer. The book series has since become a television show which is quite popular in its own right.

After all that death, I thought I would spend a little time with Lynne Truss and her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves; The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It was both witty and educational. My favorite part was learning about the history of some of my favorite punctuation marks and how their uses have evolved over time.

It could have been worse. I begin my journal entry regarding Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton with the idea that sometimes it is important to know what to expect from a book going in. This is one of the reasons I like reading a negative review of a book that is highly regarded. Not that this book is (or was) praised all that much. Still, having read several other opinions of this book before reading it, I was prepared for less mystery and more relationship issues. Knowing that, I was better able to appreciate the book for what it was, rather than what I hoped it might be. Incubus Dreams is the 12th book in the series featuring Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It was perhaps my least favorite in the series up to that point. Unlike with Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, I still cared about Anita and her friends and I was interested in their lives. So even with my disappointment in the direction Hamilton had taken the series up to this point, I still liked it enough to hang on.

While October of 2004 would be remembered as the month I read my favorite book of the year (and one of my all-time favorite books), it did not end on the best of notes. One of my pen pal's husbands had written and published a novel and I decided to give it a try. The novel, The Pariah Stigma, by Howard Selden, is about a group of people who are exiled to another planet because of their religious beliefs. After several years, some of the old leaders of Earth are forced to flee to the planet to make a new living of their own. The two groups must find a way to live peacefully if they are to survive. The novel was optimistic and simple. I found it lacking in suspense and thought it rather anticlimactic in the end.

Looking back over my reading that October in 2004, I can only think of how rewarding it turned out to be. I was introduced to several new authors and revisited old favorites. Out of all the books I read, only two left me disappointed. Out of 11 books, I would say that is pretty good.

Some Discussion Questions:
  • I would love to know if you have read any of these books and what your thoughts are on them.
  • Are there any movies based on books coming out in the next couple of months that you are looking forward to?
  • If you are a series reader, have you ever given up on a series that you had once enjoyed? Or is there a series you continue to read because you are interested in the characters still, even if the story lines themselves aren't quite what you had hoped for?
  • What are you reading right now?

This Week In Reading Mews:
Reviews Posted:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
In the Wake of the Boatman by Jonathon Scott Fuqua

Reading Now:
Lion of Senet
by Jennifer Fallon

Posts of Interest This Week:

Animals as Teachers: A Guest Post by Ingrid King (& a Giveaway of her book, Buckley's Story)
Wordless Wednesday: A Day in the Life of Anya and Parker

I am taking a little break from my computer this week. My blog hopping will be down to a minimum, and I will not be posting to my blog. This will give you a chance to catch up on all your other blog reading and maybe read a book or two. I will be back before you know it. Have a great week everyone. Happy reading!

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I've read a couple of Grafton's books, but it has been a long time since I've read them. Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta is a series that I, too, have abandoned. Loved The Kite Runner, an excellent book. I like P.D. James, but the one Laurell K. Hamilton I read wasn't for me.

    :) What I'm reading right now: R. F. Delderfield's To Serve Them All Their Days and one of your recent recommendations, Haunting Bombay -- I'm enjoying both of them!

  2. I wish I had the forethought to keep a reading journal. Unfortunately the start of my blog (12.08) is the start of my reading thoughts and insights.

    Only because curious minds want to know .... How far back do your reading journals go? What inspired you to begin a reading journal in the first place?

  3. I always enjoy your reading retrospectives, Wendy. I think I read Wicked around that same time, along with my book club - and I was the only one who didn't hate it, although I agree it wasn't quite what I expected. (And the musical is still different from the book - loved that!)

    I don't have your self-restraint when it comes to taking blog breaks, I'm afraid - I might try to work on that next year. I'd get more book-reading done :-). Have a good break, Wendy, and see you soon!

  4. I'm pretty sure that I say this every time but I love when you do these posts and share what you've read in the past with us. I've read Darkly Dreaming Dexter and am still unsure if I am going to continue on with the series or not. The Kite Runner is an amazing book yet I've still not read the other book that this author has written. Have a great week and keep these posts coming! :)

  5. You had a wonderful reading month back in 2004! It must be wonderful to be able to look back and see what you read in the past and what your thoughts were.

    I have read Wicked (loved it), Eats, Shoots & Leaves (so funny!) and A Mind to Murder (James is a favorite author of mine). It's also been quite a while since I read a Cornwell book - I gave up on the Scarpetti series well before the one you read, though. I haven't read any MJ Rose - she's on my list, though.

    Great retrospective! And have a good break this week!

  6. I didn't realize that's what Push was about...I think I'll try to read it as well if you recommend it.

    I am looking forward to The Box which is based on a short story and A Christmas Carol because I love that story so much I enjoy it's many different versions.

  7. Three summers ago I read from A to Q in the Kinsey Milhone series - it was perfect lakeside reading. I agree - I like that it's set in the 80s and that Kinsey is a more realistic P.I.

    Have a great week, Wendy!

  8. I haven't started the alphabet series by Sue Grafton, though I think I have the first few books in my pile! Maybe that explains why I prefer stand alone books than series, because I'm always behind! ;)

    I enjoyed reading The Kite Runner. I think it's a great story and it's thought-provoking.

    I hope you have a good break, Wendy! :)

  9. Jenclair - It seems like quite a few of us gave up on Cornwell's series. She's still on the best seller's lists so someone must be reading her novels, even if it isn't us.

    Laurell K. Hamilton's books are definitely not for everyone. I am behind in the series--I think the one right after Incubus Dreams, Micah, was the last one I read although I have her next two in my TBR collection to read. I haven't liked the direction she's taken her books, but there's just something about them that keeps me interested.

    I am glad to hear you are enjoying Haunting Bombay. Hopefully you will continue to!

    Molly - My reading journals only go back six years, I'm afraid. I wish I'd thought to start keeping them earlier than that.

    I started my reading journal in order to keep track of what I was reading. I figured it would be a good way to jump start my memory about the books I read if I wrote little reviews and I was curious to see if I could track a pattern in what and how much I was reading at any given time. Since I was involved in quite a few reading groups online where I members shared their thoughts about what they read, it wasn't too difficult to start keeping my thoughts in one place.

    I discovered that keeping the reading journal was actually quite cathartic in some respects. Not only did it help me remember better, but it also was a good way to debrief after finishing a book. I think of it my way of bringing closure to my reading experience with each book.

    Florinda - Thanks so much! The musical Wicked is awesome. You can sometimes catch me singing the songs from it. :-)

    I love how you put a positive spin on my blogging break. LOL The truth is I'm all blogged out right now and need some time to regroup.

    Samantha - Thank you, Sam! It really is fun looking back over my past reading and I'm glad you don't mind. :-)

    The Dexter series is a bit odd. I've read three (?) books in the series far and I admit that I'm struggling with whether to continue. There's a particular story line that really bugs me and I understand the author took it where I hoped he wouldn't. We'll see.

    I haven't yet read Hosseini's other book either. Hopefully soon.

    Belle - Yes, it was definitely a very good reading month overall. I was surprised at just how much I read too!

    I really need to get back into P.D. James' novels. She's such a talented writer.

    I kept hoping the Scarpetta series would get better. I hung on longer than I should have really.

    Amy (My Friend) - I think there's a twitter read of the book, Push, starting tomorrow. I found out about it in a round about way, but I may check it out if I get the chance. It's a really hard book to read--what the main character, Precious, when through is horrific. It reminded me of Morrison's The Bluest Eye in some respects.

    I can't wait to see A Christmas Carol either. I watch a version of it every year just about. :-)

    Carrie - I really enjoy Grafton's novels. Henry's one of my favorite characters. :-) I'm a little behind right now. I still have T to read.

    Melody - LOL Yes, there are definite advantages to sticking to stand-alone novels. :-) Most mystery series books can be read as stand-alones, including Grafton's books though. It's just that there are often minor background stories that run continuously through the series, which makes it more appealing for me at least to start at the beginning. I don't always get that chance though.

    Thank you, Melody! I thought now would be a good time to take a little break.

  10. I look forward to seeing what you think of Lion of Senet! I have enjoyed one of Jennifer Fallon's trilogies, but never felt driven to read more by her. Not yet anyway!

    Of your retrospective this time, I've only read one complete book, The Kite Runner, which I similarly loved. What an eye-opening and stunning look at a culture I had little experience with, with all the proper hooks and feelings for the story and characters. Wonderful book. The other that I partially read, Wicked, was a DNF for me. I too expected something light and fun and when I found something political wasn't driven to move forward. I mean to give it another try soon, now that I've revised my expectations.

  11. You're so organized with reading journal!

    I've read Eats, Shoots & Leaves and I loved that book. I got it as a present from my former boss. Bless him!

    So far, I follow faithfully the series I've started reading. I think I'm the type that would continue to read a series because you are interested in despite the story lines.

    I'm currently reading J.T. Ellison's ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS. :)

  12. I've been meaning to read the Sue Grafton series forever! One day I actually will!

    It's so interesting to think about what we were reading 5 years ago!

  13. Kite Runner made me go wow too, it was just that good. Even A thousand splendid suns.

    Push is on my wishlist, I hope I get to read it soon.

    I saw a lot of Sue Graffton books in a sale but I didn't know where to start, so I didn't bother :)

    Although you didn't take part in the readathon you did cheer :)

  14. Oh my gosh, Push does sound like a heartbreaking story. The sad part is, I wondered if it was true story at first. I'm glad to see it's not.

  15. Meghan - This will be my first book by Jennifer Fallon. I can't wait to get more into it.

    Wicked does seem to be one of those books that has quite a few critics. Hopefully you'll like it more when you try it again, but if not, that's okay too.

    Alice - The reading journal does help keep me organized, that's for sure. :-) Eats, Shoots & Leaves is such a funny book, isn't it?

    I usually will continue a series if there's something holding me to it (like a favorite character), but with Cornwell's, there was nothing anymore.

    I've heard great things about Ellison's book. I hope you are enjoying it!

    Marg - LOL I'm right there with you, but with other books. There never seems to be enough time to get to every book we want to read, does there?

    Violet - Kite Runner was so good! I haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns yet, but I hope to soon.

    I'll be really interested in your take on Push when you read it, Violet.

    The good thing about Sue Grafton's books are that all the titles include an alphabet letter so it's really easy to know which book comes before which. :-)

    Yes, I did do a little cheering this weekend, at least early on. Everyone's enthusiasm was contagious!

    Kathy - Push was heartbreaking. The coworker who recommended it to me says it is based on a true story, but I haven't been able to find any evidence that it is.

    Unfortunately, stories like the one in the book are not far off from true stories, however. It's something I've come across in my work over the years. So sad.

  16. I am looking forward to reading our book together, too! I hope I find time to start it soon. I must stop going to the library for a while so I can read all the books I have first... Hope you have a great week!

  17. I love reading the Kinsey books and am excited that the newest is due to be released in December. I love that the series is stuck in the 1980s, and I agree, there seems to be more "detective work" going on without all of the technology.

    I also enjoyed The Halo Effect and thought that the main character's job was something very different and interesting. I wish M.J. Rose would write more in this series!

    I love these look backs on your older journals. It gets me to thinking back to books I read and may have forgotten about! Have a great week!

  18. Thanks so much for cheering me on during the read-a-thon. I really did appreciate it.

    I read Wicked for a book group and loved it. The discussion it generated helped make this one of my all time faves.

    I promised myself that I would quit the Stephanie Plum series. We'll see what happens when the next one comes out :)

  19. I love the fact that you are posting about past years. I had an archive of 12 years worth of reading and reviews but geocities in all their wisdom deleted it without first contacting me to see if I wanted/needed anything out of it. Makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.

  20. I love when you do the reading retrospectives. I should do something like that as I have my journal dating back quite a few years.

  21. I always enjoy your reading retrospectives. It is nice to look back at what you were reading, where you were in your life, and ponder how it influenced your reaction to the books.

  22. Push sounds like the case in Europe about the respected business man and father who kept his daughter locked in the basement and impregnated her a couple times. Horrendous. I look forward to your review. I didn't know a movie was being made.

    It's a great idea to revisit your reading journal. I had no idea you have been blogging since 2006! That is fantastic!
    Do you find your writing about books has changed?

    I have never read a Sue Grafton novel and now I am very interested in doing so. Thanks! like I needed more books on my TBR list! lol Actually I am happy to know these are good reads and I loved the '80's!

    I was so disappointed when Patricia Cornwell's books took a turn for the worse. I really enjoyed them for a while.

    I haven't yet read the Kite Runner but I keep meaning to. I think I'm going to try to get to it before the end of the year. I've tried not to read any reviews or write-ups about it but I have read a lot of praise. And now that you are raving about it I know it's a must!

    I might use your 2004 summary here as a great place to find a book to read (if my TBR list ever dwindles down to nothing. It will!

    I have never read a series until now. I discovered Louise Penny because I was sent her ARC of Brutal Telling. I loved it! I just read the first in the series Still Life and it's fantastic so I am hooked and looking for the second book in her series.

    I will ponder your other questions and return!

  23. Hope you have a good, restful and productive week.

    Love looking back at what you read five years ago. It brings back reminders of some of those times and some of the same books I read.

  24. I'm one of those that can't read Sue Grafton anymore. It's like reading about an old girlfriend who is completely tied to the past. Maybe if I hadn't been reading her contemporaneously, it wouldn't feel so - stuck.

    You liked The Halo Effect? Oh noes! I was actually arguing with the book in pen before I tossed it out. It annoyed me so much that she would lecture on how sexuality was a normal thing and then be all "whee! I'm a bad girl!". Geez.

  25. I really liked Wicked. I wasn't quite expecting it to be so complex and serious, and certainly not the political aspect. But I ended up enjoying it so much.

  26. I couldn't put The Kite Runner down either but during so much of it I kept thinking 'I don't know if I can keep reading this." Some parts were so hard to read.

  27. Kelly - I'm so slow. I haven't made much progress. I've been really sick the last few days and can't focus on anything, not even a book. :-( Today's my first day on the computer and even now I'm feeling ready to go back to bed.

    Kristie - My husband's a little miffed that I haven't read "T" yet. :-) I'll have to try and get to it before "U" comes out. :-)

    I hope you are having a great week too!

    Stacy - I am glad you had such fun with the read-a-thon. :-)

    I think Wicked would be a great book club pick. There's so much to it!

    I haven't reached the end of my tolerance level with Stephanie Plum yet, but I can see it coming.

    Kristen - Oh, no! That would really have upset me too, to have lost all that work. Ugh. Most of my journal entries are on the computer, but I also keep a hard copy just in case. It's a lesson I learned the hard way.

    Yvonne - I would love to see what you were reading all those years ago, Yvonne!

    Kathleen - Thank you. I kept a regular journal at that time too (something I don't do anymore unfortunately), and reading through both journals at the same time has been enlightening.

  28. Amy (7 Tails) - That situation in Europe with the main who kept his daughter and her children imprisoned was horrific, wasn't it?

    I'm looking forward to the movie Precious based on the book Push. I've heard such great things about it. I know it's going to be a tear-jerker though. It won't be easy to watch, just as the book wasn't easy to read.

    My writing about books has changed, especially since I began blogging. I go into a lot more depth since I began blogging my reviews than I did when I kept my thoughts to myself in my journal.

    I hope you do get the chance to read The Kite Runner. It's hard sometimes to pick up and enjoy a book that has gotten so much high praise. And if you do read Sue Grafton's novels, I hope you will enjoy them!

    I haven't read anything by Louise Penny yet, but I've been wanting to. I am glad you enjoyed Still Life.

    Booklogged - Thank you. I love looking back on what I was reading years ago. :-)

    Carrie (Patience) - You aren't alone with Grafton's novels. I really enjoy reading historical fiction and so going back in time, even just back to the '80's is not something I have trouble with when it comes to reading. Besides, I'd rather the time line be more realistic as opposed to some other series I read in which the authors have been writing for decades and a year in the book spans 7 years in reality. That throws me off more than something that aims for accuracy.

    I've read a couple of books in Rose's series and I've enjoyed both books. I'm sorry you didn't care for them. I don't disagree with your complaint about the main character, but it didn't really bother me, I guess. I think it made her all the more human and real, actually.

    Jeane - Me too! I really appreciated the complexities of Wicked. It came across as original even based on an old story.

    Lisa - Yes, there definitely were some difficult moments to get through in The Kite Runner. It is such a good book.

  29. I love what you say about the 80s when talking about the Sue Grafton novels. The technology we use now sure does make the 80s seem like ancient history sometimes.

    I really liked The Kite Runner too. It's been awhile and I didn't take notes, but the book did leave quite an impression. I kept my copy and want to read it again.

    I'm currently reading: I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume, Tales of Moonlight and Rain, and The Hollow People by Brian Keaney.

  30. The book Push sounds really painful to read, but I'm glad it was worth it to you. I am also looking forward to your joint reading and thoughts on Lion of Senet- I never think of you as a fantasy reader, for some reason, so I'm interested to hear your thoughts.
    Hope you enjoyed your week off from blogging :-)

  31. Terri - It's amazing how fast technology has evolved in such a short time--and continues to do so.

    Aarti - Push was difficult to read, but also inspiring. Precious is such a great character.

    I love reading fantasy. I haven't read as much of it as I used to in the last couple of years, but it's still one of my favorite genres.

  32. I also liked The Kite Runner so much that I asked my department head to order a set so I can teach it to my World Literature students. It arrived last week and I can't wait to begin!

    I also agree with you about the Kay Scarpetta novels. I, too, stopped reading them, probably even before you did.

    Enjoy your computer break. I took one in June and it was great.

  33. Your reading journals are impressive. From the books you mentioned, I've only read The Kite Runner (which I loved).

    Sorry you were sick all week, but happy you are now well enough to venture out to Border's (that would make me feel better too):)

  34. Linda - What a great idea! I hope your students will get as much out of The Kite Runner as we did.

    Diane - Thanks, Diane. I am feeling much better, although still have some symptoms. I'll be glad when I'm feeling 100% again.


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