At the start of 2017 I set a goal to read 40 books by the end of the year. In February I hit 20 so I increased my goal to 65 with hopes to reach 100 by the end of December. This a record of what I’m reading.
I love a well-written, fast-paced mystery and am always on the lookout for new page-turners in that genre.
On the prowl for a great new thriller, I picked up Snowblind, a police procedural set in a remote town in Iceland. It garnered praise from other crime writers, Ann Cleeves called it “seductive,” and Peter James said Jonasson writes with “a chilling, poetic beauty” and that the book is “a must-read.” While the description of the book made it sound thrilling, I found it rather boring.
It’s the first in Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series featuring rookie policeman Ari Thór Arason; the plot was slow, the dialogue between characters stilted and mechanical (I chalk this up to the translation), and Arason’s emotional life and decisions bordered on baffling. A solid meh.
I haven’t read Philip Pullman’s bestselling His Dark Materials YA trilogy, nor have I seen the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, so when I cracked open Pullman’s newest, La Belle Sauvage, it was with fresh, unknowing eyes. La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in The Book of Dust trilogy, is actually a precursor to The Golden Compass and is set 10 years before the plot lines at the start of that series take place.
This first book follows eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead, the son of Oxford innkeepers, and his daemon Asta, on various adventures as he attempts to parse good from evil in the complex world around him, all the while shielding an orphaned infant, a baby named Lyra, from harm with the help of a girl named Alice.
While I was entertained by La Belle Sauvage and enjoyed reading it, I couldn’t help feeling that, from page one, I’d been dropped into this world, this Pullman universe, without a guide map. Perhaps all the big world building took place in His Dark Materials. Perhaps my view of this world, so like our own but also different, was small because I saw it solely through the eyes of the young protagonist and have no vision for what comes after. The story was interesting, engaging even, but felt slightly limited in scope. Also, while clearly setting the scene for the next book, the ending felt very rushed and haphazard, a sloppily tied bow at the end of a finely-plotted book.
When I set a goal last January to read 40 books, I never imagined that I’d end the year having read 105 and with a blog full of reviews. I started Brief Book Reviews in 2017 to track my progress, and to share my thoughts on all those books because that’s one thing I miss from my days as an indie bookseller: recommending books. With the blog came an Instagram account and a connection to a lively community of avid readers. That initial goal gave me focus, and I was able to reinfuse my life with the intense habit of reading that I’d seemingly lost after having kids.
I love a goal. So this year I’m challenging myself to read 75 books. Less than 100. More than 50. I think it’s doable.
And book reviews! I may not review every book, as I attempted to do last year (until I hit #89 and came down with a serious case of blog avoidance), but I will be posting reviews of what I’m reading regularly. I’ve already finished 3 books in 2018, so stay tuned…
Did you set reading goals this year? What’s at the top of your to-read stack?