I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are a couple of my reviews from 2006:
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Random House, 2005
Fiction; 258 pgs
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story about the lives of two special friends in nineteenth-century China. The two girls are matched as laotongs, a rare friendship that is established between two girls specially chosen to be lifelong friends. They communicate through a secret language called nu shu. The descriptions and writing style of Lisa See, the author, brought to mind Arthur Golden with Memoirs of a Geisha. I found the historical and cultural aspects of the novel intriguing: the foot binding process, the role of women in society and within the family, for example. The chapter and description of the foot binding process was difficult to read at times. Foot binding was a big part of the Chinese culture during that time period and a reflection on the place of women in society. It was believed that foot binding was proof of personal discipline and an ability to endure the pain of child birth as well as whatever other misfortunes might come. Small feet were a sign of beauty. The smaller the feet, the better the wife. Lisa See painted a disturbing portrait of women’s roles in those days, where only having male offspring made a woman valuable and women were the property of their husband’s family. While this idea still exists today in one form or another in some cultures, it was even more widespread back then. The friendship and misunderstandings between Snow Flower and Lily brought to mind Hassan and Amir from Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Like it did for Amir, my heart ached for Lily and the poor choices she made, which ultimately caused a riff in her friendship with Snow Flower. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a powerful novel, not one that I will easily forget, and is by far the best novel I’ve read so far this year.
The Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller #1) by Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company, 2005
Crime Fiction; 404 pgs
Defense Attorney Michael Haller’s clientele are not always the most popular among society. He defends drug dealers, gang members, rapists, and murderers. His most recent client promises to bring in a paycheck. He’s a well-to-man accused of raping and brutalizing a woman he picked up in a night club. As he builds his defense, Haller suddenly finds himself in the middle of something even bigger than he expected. His friend and colleague turns up dead and Haller must put his wits to the test, possibly to save his own hyde. Author Michael Connelly lets readers into the backdoor of the defense attorney world. Michael Haller is a character whose ethics and morals raise eyebrows at almost every turn. As sleazy as he seems at times, it’s impossible not to be pulled in by his charm and root for him all the way. Michael Connelly has written a funny, suspenseful thriller that was difficult to put down and kept me up until the wee hours of the morning to finish. I did find the story was predictable in how it eventually played out. Trying to avoid any spoilers, I do have to say that I did smile at the very end of The Lincoln Lawyer. Michael Connelly knows how to be true to his characters.
And with this, the last of my journal entries pre-blogging days has been posted to my blog. I initially began keeping a reading journal the later half of 2003 in hopes of keeping track of the books I read. I thought it would be fun, not to mention a good way to help me remember what I read. I wrote a brief synopsis of each book and followed it up with my general thoughts, often just a line or two, sometimes more, depending on how inspired I was by the book or just how much I had to say. Kind of like how my reviews seem to work out today . . . I'd like to think I have gotten better and organizing my thoughts and explaining what it is I liked or did not like about a book a bit better since I began blogging, but I also know it will probably always be a work in progress.
I posted the first one on November 2, 2008, as part of my Sunday Salon posts, referring to them as my "Reading Retrospective" posts. In my first post, I featured the first three books I ever recorded in my reading journal in the fall of 2003: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, The Mindhunter by John Douglas, and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Eventually I came to post my pre-blog reviews independently as From the Archives posts.
Many of the books I remember, and revisiting my exact thoughts after I read them has been both entertaining and sometimes even surprising. It's amazing how our perceptions change over the years. There were books I barely remembered at all and wish I had written more about to help jog my memory. There are those books I remember liking more or even less than I actually did when I read them. A reflection of the books, a faulty memory, or perhaps just a changing perspective over time? Maybe a combination of some or all of those things. There were also many authors I just had to read more by and yet . . . And yet, it's impossible to get to all the books we want to read. I'm still working on it.
I have enjoyed revisiting my reading during the time I kept my journals. My only regret is that I didn't start writing down my thoughts about the books I read sooner. Thank you for taking this journey into the past with me.
Before Goodreads and LibraryThing and book blogging, did you keep track of your reading? Have you ever looked back on your reading over the years? What stands out for you when you look back?