52-52-52 Challenge

Amanda at The Zen Leaf is hosting a 52-52-52 Challenge that starts on Wednesday. The challenge is to read 1 book a week and to lose 1 pound a week, adding up to 52 books read and 52 pounds lost by next June 1. I immediately signed on to the challenge because I need more structure to my reading and I also need to lose a considerable amount of weight. Truth be told, 52 pounds would not be enough weight for me to lose to be within the “healthy” range of the BMI. I’ve had no motivation of late to modify my eating habits or to exercise so I’m hoping that knowing I’m along for the ride with other book lovers will help me out. If you’d like more information about this challenge you can visit Amanda’s blog. I’ll occasionally post updates on my progress.

I’m also going to be participating in Karen’s Paris in July event. During the whole month of July I’ll read French literature and maybe watch some French films and cook a French recipe or two. I’m looking forward to it!

Are you participating in any challenges?

Chief YellowHorse Lives On! by Lisa Schnebly Heidinger

I bought a copy of this little book of essays from Lisa after I heard her speak last week in Flagstaff. It is a really informative collection on her favorite places in Arizona, barely known stories of  Arizona history, and a few essays on her family’s history in the state. It probably wouldn’t be of interest to anyone who doesn’t live here or who didn’t grow up here or have some stake in the area, but it is beautifully written and anyone would enjoy the quality of her observations.

I enjoyed the essays on Wupatki, the Arizona Trail and Lee’s Ferry. I now feel compelled to try to visit and explore these attractions during the late summer or fall. All of the essays are fascinating, but I liked the writings on specific places or traditions the best. Lisa really knows Arizona and her history lessons are enlightening.

This was a great way to kick off my Arizona 100 project!

My Arizona 100 Project

On February 14, 2012 (at 2:14 pm to be exact) my home state of Arizona will turn 100. This fact has been in the back of my mind for a while and I occasionally see articles and hear news about the plans being formulated for celebration across the state. Yesterday, however, it was brought to the forefront of my mind by Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, a native Arizonan, writer and ardent admirer of the state. I was in Flagstaff at a library forum and she was our afternoon speaker. She urged us all, as librarians, to take measures at our individual libraries to mark the centennial. Lisa serves on the centennial committee and related the struggles they’ve had in getting the celebration off the ground. The problem has been mostly economic as our state is broke and can’t really set aside much money to fund events.

Lisa’s passionate appeal has made me determined to host a celebration at my library (I’m sure I can talk my boss into it) and to celebrate on an individual level, as well. During the next 8 months I’m going to read books about Arizona history and visit towns and historical sites around the state. If you live in Arizona and would like to join me in celebrating our centennial, please do! If you don’t live in Arizona or anywhere near I hope you’ll indulge me as I read and travel my way to the centennial.

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

This Ian Rankin is a very clever guy. I’d forgotten how sly his plots are. I read the entire Rebus series a few years ago (all except for the last one – I couldn’t bear to see the end of Rebus) and loved the convoluted and complex plotting. This latest book, The Complaints, takes place in familiar territory for Rebus fans, the police force of Edinburgh, and also has so many twists  your head spins with the craziness of it.

Malcolm Fox is a middle-aged loner who works in the Complaints office of the police – I think the American version would be called internal affairs. They are charged with investigating rotten police officers and when the novel opens they’ve just closed a case against a corrupt officer who was in with all sorts of bad characters. Malcolm is almost immediatley after called on to investigate an officer who is suspected of being into child pornography. At the same time, his sister’s boyfriend is found murdered and he can’t help himself from butting into the investigation of his death. Before long, Malcolm is breaking many policies and rules himself and soon finds himself on the other end of the complaints office investigations.

With his usual humor and fast-pacing, Rankin has crafted another riveting and fascinating police thriller. He has a talent for creating atmosphere in this novels, making this Southwest US residing reader (who’s never been anywhere near Edinburgh) feel like I know the city and its people. That might be my favorite aspect of Rankin’s writing, yet I obviously also love his knack for plot.

This is another great story from Rankin and I hope he continues it as a series.

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

A co-worker and I are doing a genre study together – reading books from genres neither of us is particularly drawn to and then discussing them over lunch. This month we’re reading thrillers and since I’ve wanted to try Tess Gerritsen for a while, this seemed like the perfect time to pick up her latest.

Ice Cold is the eighth medical thriller Gerritsen has published that features Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, a police detective and medical examiner who live and work in Boston. This episode, however, takes place in the wintry mountains of Wyoming and centers on Maura who is attending a medical conference in Jackson Hole. Unhappy in love and looking for distraction she decides to accompany a colleague and his friends skiing when the conference ends. On their way to the ski resort they get lost and their vehicle becomes stuck in a ditch. They hike their way down into a valley and happen onto a deserted village. While waiting for rescue they realize that something is terribly wrong in the village and soon Jane gets word back in Boston that Maura and her friends have died in a horrific car accident.

When Jane arrives in Wyoming to identify Maura’s body she discovers that Maura is most likely still alive and there is collusion between the local police force and a nearby polygamist group. Could Maura’s disappearance be linked to the cult?

I sincerely enjoyed this crisply written and successfully suspenseful novel. Gerritsen is a pro at creating snappy dialogue, intriguing characters and a shocking and twisty plot. I can see why she is so beloved by readers and I was certainly tempted to become a fan myself. If it weren’t for my dislike of series (with a few exceptions) I would embark on reading all of the novels. For now, though, I think I will savor my brief experience with Gerritsen and recommend her without reservation.

The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin

After losing his wife in a freak accident, Nicholas Close  begins seeing ghosts. Not just ghosts; deaths. Anywhere he goes where there’s been an unexpected death, Nicholas is able to see it, over and over again. As he lives in England he constantly sees the deaths of centuries of people. So he decides to move back to Australia, the home of his youth.

The very night he returns strange happenings begin to occur. A young boy goes missing from the neighborhood where Nicholas is staying and is later found murdered, a childhood acquaintance commits suicide on his doorstep and he is more and more drawn into “the woods”, a eerie and thickly wooded area that lured him as a child, yet also naturally repels.

As he begins to explore the mysteries that surround him he realizes that true evil lurks in, not only the woods, but the city of Brisbane and has for 100 years. He’s joined by his sister and a reverend in discovering what has been kidnapping and killing children in Brisbane and why. Combining witchcraft, pagan beliefs, Christian doctrine and good old-fashioned horror tactics this novel delivers page-turning, chilling suspense. As with all horror novels the reader does have to buy into a bit of preposterousness,  but once you get beyond the slight silliness it is a great story.

The writing is dense and descriptive and calmly flows as it takes the reader through the story. I liked the incorporation of pagan rites and religion in the story and the addition of Nicholas’ sister, who is a witch. I liked that the story draws more on the idea of ancient evil than on gore or serial killers. I don’t know if horror fans would like this, but it is the perfect book for non-horror readers who want something spooky.