NaJuReMoNoMo2010

NaJuReMoNoMoI haven’t forgotten that January is National Just Read More Novels Month.  I did a warm up the last week of December reading Dick and Felix Francis’s Silks and Alan Bennett’s Uncommon Reader.  I reread Mum’s collection of Cadfael Mysteries by Ellis Peters – she has about ten of them.

On the journey home, I read Maeve Binchy’s Dublin 4, and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I have since read Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids; this was probably a reread rather than a new novel.

I still have a few days to go until the end of the month – most read more novels.  Like it’s hard.

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Fourth Annual NaJuReMoNoMo

I nearly forgot to mention this and claim my prize, these very cool icons:

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NaJuReMoNoMo
Every January Yellojkt at  FOMA holds this NaJuReMoNoMo (National Just Read More Novels Month) to challenge us to read new novels.  I haven’t done too well this year with just four under my belt and one of those was a very easy Debbie MacComber Christmas at Cedar Cove (Amazon) which took me just over an hour to read, so it  feels like cheating. But, hey, it was a new novel to me.

The other new novels I read were:

Rosamunde Pilcher Voices in the Summer (Amazon)

I love Pilcher’s books but this one seemed particularly dated

Joan London Gilgamesh (Amazon)

Weird, odd and I did not really get it

Tracy Chevalier Burning Bright (Amazon)

A typical Chevalier romp through William Blake’s London.

It is a very Chicklit kind of list.  I should get more serious with my reading but when I do, these days, I typically read nonfiction.

NaJuReMoNoMo Winner! Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

NaJuReMoNoMo

AKA The Golden Compass the title I assume refering to the Alethiometer which only Lyra can read, which predicts the future in a semi-mystical way. The Northern Lights title of the British edition refers to the Aurora borealis [which I have still yet to see] in which a city from another universe can be seen when photographed using certain emulsions and by Lyra. It is the alethiometer that fascinates me the most. The picture on Wikipedia does not satisfy me. I imagined it as a mixture of a chronometer and a sextant and I wasn’t quite sure how the different needles were set. Being more like a watch makes more sense both in terms of use and size for storage.

Considering how much is already written about this series of books I won’t add to it! Including an extensive discussion on Snopes’ urban legend pages of the anti-chrisitianity theme in the book.

I started this Sunday and finished it the same day. I was going to take my time and spread the reading of it over a few days but it was too gripping and I am unable to stop reading when I am enjoying a book. I am, however, in no hurry to read the rest of the series, savoring this one for a little while. I doubt it will be more than a month before I buy the next two, mind you.

NaJuReMoNoMo Winner! Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

One evening, last week I sat down and I read this book. It probably took me about four hours to finish – so probably about five or six hours in total. I was fascinated by the history of the circus together with the present day adventures of the old man narrating the story. Usually I dislike books that have two stories being told concurrently, but not this time. The sections about the old man helped form an image of the young man and vice versa. I’m not old, but Sara Gruen describes the indignities that I dread with being old, especially the loss of independence and privacy:

She pops a disposable cone on a thermometer and sticks it in my ear. I get poked and prodded like this every morning. I’m like a piece of meat unearthed from the back of the fridge, suspect until proven otherwise.

Young Jacob runs away from Cornell during his final exams and ends up jumping on a train that belongs to the Benzini Brothers’ circus. Fortunately, they do not turn him off before finding out that he was almost a vet and so has skills they need. At the circus, he makes friends with Marlena, the horse shower and her husband, August, who turns out to be manic depressive if not schizophrenic too. Not forgetting the animals. Jacob’s relationship with animals is one of respect and sympathy. He considers them his equals; equal but different. He did not know true animal love until the circus adopted Rosie, the elephant. The relationship between Jacob, Marlena, August, and Rosie forms the crux of the historical story. At one point, having decided that he hated August because of his abuse of the animals especially of Rosie, Jacob finds it hard to maintain his hatred because:

It’s only when I catch Rosie actually purring under August’s loving ministrations that my conviction starts to crumble. and what I’m left looking at in its place is a terrible thing.

Maybe it was me. Maybe I wanted to hate him because I’m in love with his wife, and if that’s the case, what kind of man does that make me?

The historical part of the novel is set in the heart of the 1930s Depression. Initially, the Depression appears and disappears. It only affects circus life on the periphery, for example pay day when everyone is worried about who will get paid. Gradually, it seeps into everyday life and starts taking over. Men disappear, with the fear that they were red-lighted which means they were kicked of the moving train in the middle of the night. This adds to the tension in the book, playing with some of the subplots.

The book, on the whole, is positive and forward looking; probably because the present day Jacob is remembering his past, so you know he survives. That also gives the impression that the book will end bittersweet, but with clever twists in the tale, the novel really ends mostly happily.

A great touch is archival photographs of circus life before each chapter.