I was and am still behind on my reading for July, but I did get some quality reading in for the High Summer Read-a-Thon (#HSreadathon) last week. This is a read-a-thon coordinated over at Seasons of Reading, and they also have a Facebook group for discussion.
The first books I finished were ones that I had already started. 2016 Fourth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest is a collection of finalist and honorable mention poems from the local library’s contest. (My entry is on page 14.) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is something like what you might get if you were to ask John le Carré to reboot Groundhog Day. Big Magic is a refreshing take on the “just do it” genre of self-help books for creatives and makes me want to read something else by Gilbert.
Later in the week I started Promises, Promises by L-J Baker and Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges. I have yet to finish either one. I’m not really in the right frame of mind for Baker’s screwball sense of humor right now, and reading Hedges during this election season, while a smart thing to do, is a scary and depressing thing to do. I really should find some middle literary ground right now. Maybe a nice cozy mystery or a fun steampunk adventure.
2016 Fourth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries by Poudre River Public Library District
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book #37 for 2016
Old Firehouse Summer Bingo Square: A book of poetry
PopSugar Challenge Task: A book of poetry
In the interests of full disclosure, yes, I contributed a poem to this collection. My honorable mention entry, “My Quantum Heart Entangled,” is on page 14. Hope you like it!
I was not able to attend the contest awards ceremony in April, so this was my first time reading most of these poems. I was pleased with the variety of styles and voices. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a musician for more than 40 years, but I did have a hard time with some of the poems simply because they didn’t adhere to meter very well, or I couldn’t settle myself into the flow of their language. I wonder how differently I would feel if I had been able to hear them read by their authors.
This anthology contains all of the finalists and honorable mentions in both the adult and teen categories, and I thought the six winning poems had been announced online after the ceremony, but I can’t locate the list now. So here are my picks:
1st – “Undocumented, Left in the Desert” by Bear Jack Gebhardt
2nd – “Dia de los Muertos” by Erik Hokanson
3rd – “The Haggis” by Daniel Harvey
1st – “Morning’s Numberless Skyline” by Kaili Schroeder
2nd – “She Who Cannot Love Herself” by Kaili Schroeder
3rd – “I am From” by Maggie Hubbeling
Yes, two of my teen picks are from the honorable mentions, not the finalists.
I would certainly recommend this to anybody looking for a small volume of poetry from multiple poets, and it is available for free download from the library’s website.
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Cat on the Hill by Michael Foreman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book #36 for 2016
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book with pictures
I received this book as a gift from another BookCrosser at a convention. It is a sweet, extremely brief story told from a cat’s perspective. The cat in question is a former ship’s cat, and he is adjusting to the life of a landlubber now that his ship and captain are both too old for the sea. The cat experiences the changing seasons, ending with Christmas, so this is a nice little Christmas book with beautiful illustrations.
The writing style is a bit odd, though. I suppose I’m glad it’s not all icky-sweet, but who uses the word “damned” in a kiddie book? Anyway, probably best to stick to sharing this with kids either not old enough to read (so you can substitute another word as you see fit) or old enough to appreciate the difference between “damned” and “darned” (or “silly” or “annoying” or whatever you may have selected as substitute text earlier).
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I had a potluck event this evening. So this morning I scrolled through Pinterest, looking for something quick and easy to make in the half-hour I had reserved for food prep in the afternoon. And I found a recipe for cowboy sushi. It seemed like a simple concept: Wrap a dill pickle in lunch meat and cream cheese and then chop it into maki maki. How hard could it be?
Well, I put the container on Gina’s counter and greeted everybody with, “This is a little something I call ‘Pinterest Fail.'” In all fairness to the recipe’s creator, I did not follow it exactly. I used garden vegetable soft cream cheese spread, which might have had a different consistency from what was required, and I didn’t do the additional wrapping, because that just seemed to compound the problem I was having with getting it to all hold together. I also used pastrami instead of beef, and it was slick, which made the application of the cream cheese tricky. That may have been my primary problem right there.
But they disappeared in a hurry, so apparently they taste good.
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book #34 for 2016
Habitica’s Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you’ve already read at least once
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book that’s been on your shelf for more than five years
Ah, Bundle and Battle, together again! This made me want to go read The Secret of Chimneys again. It’s a pity Christie didn’t do more with these characters. But given how this novel ended, I guess I’m not surprised.
I was expecting this to be a quick re-read, but I was amazed at how much time I spent chasing down odd vocabulary words and trying to figure out what kind of “automatic” pistol Stevens had managed to procure for Jimmy. I’m pretty sure it was an ACP .455, which appears to me to be a semi-automatic, despite its name. I’m also pretty sure that Christie was poking fun at pulp thriller writers of the day when Jimmy made it clear that he wanted a “blue-nosed,” fully automatic pistol. And I think it’s more than a little sad that a century or so after the ACP was introduced, so many people are still using “automatic” and “semi-automatic” interchangeably.
But I digress. I was also amazed at how little of the plot I remembered. The plot twist really got me, even though I avoided some of the red herrings and, really, I ought to have known better. Some of the explanations regarding the origins of the Seven Dials Club weren’t completely satisfying, but if not examined too closely, they make for some cleverly constructed clues.
I really enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout this book. There was a distinct P.G. Wodehouse influence, and Christie’s snarky asides and gift for snappy dialogue were delightfully evident. There’s even a fun little subplot of romance, complete with a proposal scene that puts Jane Austen to shame. I’d recommend this to anybody looking for a light-hearted mystery romp set in the late 1920s.
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Because I don’t have enough things to keep track of, I’m signing up for a Seasons of Reading read-a-thon later this month. The #HSreadathon takes place during the week of July 18th, and this is actually pretty good timing for me. I’ve signed on for summer reading challenges through my library and a local indie bookstore, so I’m trying to read something like 18 books between now and the middle of August. Totally do-able, but it wants a bit of planning.
My goal for the month of July is to finish at least 14 books, which works out to about 3 books per week. I’m a little bit behind at the moment, but I have some relatively short selections to zip through before the 18th. So likely candidates for the read-a-thon are Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges; I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai; and Wildcat Under Glass by Alki Zei.