Embarrassment of Riches TBR: June Check-In

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in the Embarrassment of Riches reading challenge hosted by author Patricia Burroughs.   The goal of the challenge is to make a dent in that stack of books I have intended to read, but never got around to picking up.

Given the size of the pile I have amassed, I aim to get through 24 of them before the end of the year – a silver level accomplishment.

So what have I read this month?

The Unlikely Spy – Daniel Silva:  As I said in last month’s TBR blog entry, this is Silva’s first novel and a bit of a departure from his later work.  Set during WWII and based loosely on actual events, Unlikely chronicles a German spy’s mission to obtain intelligence regarding the anticipated Allied invasion of France (D-Day), and British efforts to thwart such an effort by leaking false information through a network of double agents.  It’s a complex story with a great many players told from numerous perspectives.  So many, in fact, it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the characters and their motivations.  The female antagonist – aka the German spy – was the most interesting character in the entire novel.  She was strong, resilient, and sympathetic.  Her motivations were clear, and even though she did kill a few innocent Brits when her back was to the wall, I found myself rooting for her success.  Then Silva killed her.  In the most blasé fashion, as if it were an afterthought, he eliminated her and moved on without a backward glance.  The story went to shit for me after that, and was topped off by an ending that was a real blow to my intelligence as a reader.  I hate that.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie:  I have read my fair share of Agatha Christie over the years.  My favorite, and one of my top five favorite books of all time, is Murder in Mesopotamia.  So, it’s a little shocking that Murder on the Orient Express, arguably Christie’s most notable effort, remained steadfast on my TBR list.  Until now.  As always, the queen of murder weaves a riveting story complete with an impossible crime, an eclectic cast of characters (though they have more in common than one might think), and an improbable conclusion.  And she makes it work.  Brilliantly.

Inferno – Dan BrownInferno is by far the worst book I’ve read since…well…the Lost Symbol.   It started out promising.  I like a novel that drops the reader right into the action and Brown certainly accomplished that, but once you get past the initial  flash and bang, the story becomes heavy on tell and light show.  I know what you’re thinking:  It’s a Dan Brown novel – telling is part of the equation.  I get that, but in this case it’s boring, poorly written, and redundant.  How many times does Brown recount – frame by frame, word for word – the contents of the mysterious video sent by the bad guy to the unknowing accomplice?  Four.  It’s almost as if he has no faith in the reader’s intelligence.  That pisses me off.  Do you know what else pisses me off?  Making the reader (me) believe one thing then revealing it was all an orchestrated illusion thereby voiding the entire beginning of the story – the only interesting part of the entire book.

On a side note:  Dan Brown could do with a stint in adverb rehab; and it should be a crime to use the word ubiquitous and the phrase “sea of humanity” more than once per novel.

Just a thought.

Another note:  Inferno is a new publication and doesn’t count toward my goal in this challenge.  Bummer.  Such suckage should count for something.

Progress toward goal:  11 of 24. 

What’s next?

A Study in Scarlet – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What’s on your TBR list?

To read or not to read?

As I wrote in my last blog entry, I’ve just finished reading John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.  Prior to that I read a few –  okay, eight – Daniel Silva novels in a row.  As much as it pains me to say, I think I am a little spied out at the moment.

So, this bears the question:  What do I read next?  What am I in the mood for?

I have no idea.

I’ve been engulfed in academic reading for so long I’ve scarcely paid attention to what’s trending on the bestseller list.  I suppose I could pursue my nightstand for something.  On second thought, it seems my choices are limited:  Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, Lawrence Schiffman’s Qumran and Jerusalem:  Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism, Elaine Pagels’ Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon books 9-11.

Doesn’t excite you either?

I’ve read the Agatha Christie a dozen times.  I know who killed poor Mrs. Leidner and Miss Johnson, and how Hercules Poirot brilliantly deduces the crimes.  After the semester I’ve had the last thing I want to read is scholarly works – Schiffman and Pagels are out.  And as I said above, I’m a little sick of the spy game right now.  I want something a bit more frivolous.  Something that doesn’t require too much thought.

So, what are the hip kids reading these days?

Fifty Shade of Grey.  Paranormal…everything.  Vampires and zombies and werewolves.

Oh my.

I’m going to take a pass on those for right now, because just the thought makes me want to put an ice pick in my brain.

I think it would be best to consult the experts over at Goodreads.

Here are a few on my recommendation page:

1.  Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn:  A psychological thriller with a missing wife and a suspicious husband.  Hmmm…this might have potential, though I am not sure I am in the mood for something so heavy.

2.  The Seventh Scroll – Wilbur Smith:  An archaeological adventure story set in Egypt – sort of an Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.  Definitely different from my usual fare these days.

3.  Crocodile on the Sandbank (An Amelia Peabody adventure) – Elizabeth Peters:  I was skeptical about this Goodreads choice, but the consensus labels it a fun read.  Brain candy.  I could use a little brain candy.

4.  Cleopatra: A Life – Stacy Schiff:  Hmmm…I see a pattern evolving.  Goodreads thinks I need to go to Egypt.

5.  Gorky Park – Martin Cruz Smith:  I’ve seen the movie.  Loved it.  I count it as one of my favorite Cold War murder mysteries.  But, it is a little on the dark side.

Not recommended by Goodreads, but a book I downloaded to my Kindle a couple of weeks ago:

6.  Bound:  J. Elizabeth Hill:  I am actually in the process of reading this novel.  It comes from my WP friend over at Word Flows.  It’s her first publication and has received some great reviews.  I’ll be the first to admit magic and fantasy aren’t something I gravitate to when choosing reading material, but so far it’s a captivating and intriguing story.  Go check this one out for yourself.

So, what are you reading?  I’m open to suggestions.