50/50 Reading Challenge: June Books

I apologize for the worrisome inactivity at Whimsey Pie.  Around the middle of June, circumstances around here conspired to create the perfect storm of chaos, ruining my chances of posting anything worth reading.  My daughter was preparing to leave for Europe with American Music Abroad at the same time my husband and I were heading to San Diego.  Because the boys weren’t traveling at all (much to their consternation), preparations for a long stay with cousins, involving electric guitars, scooters, roller blades, and numerous small fire crackers, was also required.  I imagine packing and organizing that many different trips would be enough to send even uber-organized Martha Stewart to the funny farm.  Dear readers, Martha Stewart (or any other organized maven for that matter) I am not.  Not that I can’t pack up my family like a pro.  I certainly can, as long as I don’t also have to contend with baseball tournaments and make-up games, a fender-bender causing $4000.00 dollars worth of damage to my Pathfinder, and the fall-out from serious health issues of a family member.  Yikes!  Even now, thinking about that week makes my eye start to twitch.

Of course, everything did eventually come together and I found myself in beautiful San Diego for nine glorious days.  Silly me, I thought I would actually blog on vacation.  To my surprise, I found that I was, well, on vacation, and wanted to do other things like go to the beach or take a hike rather than blog.  If you’ve ever been to that part of southern California, you will understand the unique synergism of weather and natural surroundings that pulls at the soul to be continually outside.  Sitting in my hotel room typing on a computer was the last thing in the world I felt like doing – and I love to write!

The only downer to traveling has been the acquisition of a rather nasty cough which settled in during the flight to California.  It is my firm belief that airplanes are cess pools of contagious germs.  I’ve been home for four days and all I want to do is chug gallons of cough syrup with codeine and sleep my life away.  Being awake  means attempting to cough up a lung.  This is driving me and anyone near me crazy.  I’m not looking for sympathy – well, maybe just a tiny little bit.  Really, I just wanted to state for the record that I’ve had my reasons (legitimate or not is yet to be decided) for neglecting this little corner of the Web.

My June reading has had its ups and downs and I’m rather disappointed I didn’t get more accomplished.  On the bright side, the group of books I chose offers a diversity of genres that might appeal to a variety of readers.  Without further delay (or whining), here are my June books for the 50/50 Reading Challenge.

June Books

The Secret History

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  In a nutshell, The Secret History is about  an exclusive group of very eccentric and wealthy college students studying Greek at a small private college in Vermont.  While attempting to recreate a bacchanal, they accidentally kill a man.  The rest of the story contains the various unexpected consequences that occur because of that murder.  I can’t decide whether I liked the book or not.  It was very well-written and imaginative, especially since this was the author’s first attempt. When I stopped focusing on the things that annoyed me, like the fact that some of the characters are so similar it’s hard to tell them apart, it was good – in a dark, twisted way.  It took me awhile to get into the story, but I ended up sacrificing many hours of sleep to finish the book.  Ms. Tartt paints a very disturbing portrait of life in a small, privileged New England college. (3.75/5 stars)

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.  This book was a library pick from a our first visit of the summer.  I thought it was a short, clever, and enjoyable read but that may be because I really didn’t exert myself trying to figure out the mystery. Instead, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.  This classic begins with ten strangers (eight guests and two servants) who arrive on Indian Island by special invitation from a mysteriously absent host.  It’s soon discovered that every guest has a murder in their past that for whatever reason isn’t punishable by the law.  Things rapidly unravel as, one by one, the guests begin to die.  Everyone on the island becomes a suspect.  And Then There Were None presents the perfect murder mystery with a completely satisfying ending.  Bonus – It’s tame enough for even my youngest, who is very into mysteries at the moment.  (4/5 stars)

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman.  I found this book in a list of the best fairy tales on Goodreads and knew I had to give it a try.  It didn’t disappoint.  The main character, Tristran, enters the fairy world on the other side of the village wall to find a fallen star for the girl of his dreams.  The star also turns out to be a beautiful girl with a broken leg, and Tristran turns out to be only one of several individuals looking for her.  Their adventures comprise the rest of the story.  Mr. Gaiman writes a thoroughly enchanting tale which expertly mixes dark and light so that no single character is utterly bad or completely good.  This is definitely an adult (or at least young adult) book.  It begins with a rather descriptive sexual encounter that would not make for the best bedtime reading – at least not for little ears.  For grown-ups, however, it is a very satisfying read of the fantastical kind.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  (4.5/5)

  • Humility True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney. The premise of this book is based on James 4:6:

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

C. J. Mahaney discusses the concepts of humility and pride, the perfect example of Jesus Christ, and real life practices that help Christians to be truly humble before God.  Humility is defined as “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness”.  Pride is viewed as the Christian’s greatest enemy, being the essence of all sin and defined as the situation “when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him”.  The book is written with self-awareness, humor, and a straight-forward style that is very easy to read.  Although it is a short book, it really requires time for meditation and digestion of all the excellent practice suggestions.  My personal struggle was that I found the contents to be so convicting I had to stop reading several times to give my conscience a break.  I recommend this book for all Christians, because each of us has pockets of pride in our lives that hinder us from fully experiencing God.  (4.5/5)

That brings the total to 21 books for the halfway mark of 2012.  Surprisingly, I’m only 3 books behind.  Perhaps July will be the month I give in and read several shorter books to pick up the pace.  At the moment, I’m reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco which is neither short (being over 400 pages) or easy reading (what with its many paragraphs written in Latin, its lengthy descriptions, and its endless discussions of the history of the different orders of monks).  I still haven’t decided if I’ll finish it because it is so cumbersome, but the story is beginning to get juicy with the unexplained deaths of two monks.  I’ll do my best to hang there.  I’m hoping it doesn’t require more fortitude than my codeine-befuddled brain can handle.  Then, I have a few suggestions from my kids, a few short classics, and some non-fiction lined up to help me pick up the pace.  As usual, I’m hopeful for the amount of reading I can accomplish in July.  We shall see…

2 thoughts on “50/50 Reading Challenge: June Books

  1. I have really enjoyed both (and the only) books that Donna Tartt has written. I did feel as though The Secret History went over my head a little though. I’m trying to teach myself a bit about Greek myths then I’ll try it again. The Little Friend is a pretty big book and hard going at times, but really worth a read. In fact, I’ll be reading that again soon, because I was quite young when I last read it and think I might appreciate parts of it more now.

    I’ve only read Gaiman’s short stories, but love the film of Stardust, so that’s on my list too! Thanks for your reviews!

    1. You’re very welcome. It’s funny, I appreciate the Secret History more the further away from reading it I get. The setting is so vivdly described and the characters so unique. I think about it often. After reading The Secret History, I searched out Donna Tartt’s other books and was surpised to find that she hadn’t become a very prolific writer. I’ll have to look into The Little Friend when I’m looking for another reading workout.

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