Mission Accomplished

So I did it. I read 100 books in one year (actually, less than one year, as I finished Book 100 on Tuesday). I still have until October 4th to read, but I thought I would mark the occasion as it happened.

#95  Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Bynum
This book was really quirky, but I liked it a lot. It’s not exactly a novel, but also not exactly a collection of short stories. Each chapter features Ms. Hempel, a 8th grade school-teacher, who is still trying to figure herself out. She’s an okay teacher who the kids like, but doesn’t really seem to like teaching much. From chapter to chapter, there is little continuity except for the characters. Things happen unexpectedly – for example, Ms. Hempel is engaged, but there is no indication of that until the chapter where she has a bridal shower. Just as unexpectedly, she is single again. I actually really like the format. Ms. Hempel is a likable character and despite her misgivings about teaching, it is clear she cares about her kids. She’s delightfully naughty at times, with a nice balance of sweet and snark. While this is the only book by Bynum on Kindle, I believe that she has written others, which I may pick up someday from the library.

Grade: A

#96 The Wedding of Zein by Al-Tayyib Salih
Michael recommended this novella to me.  Written by a Sudanese writer in 1969, The Wedding of Zein is largely about the politics of a small town in Africa. There are different factions of men, separated by wealth and religion. In the mix is Zein, who, while popular in the town, is a bit of an ugly duckling. Often in love and often rejected, Zein finally becomes engaged to Nima, a beautiful, smart, and independent woman. No one can believe it, even Zein it seems. Not a lot happens in the novella, but it was short and the writing was quite lyrical. Plus, me reading it made Michael happy.

Grade: B

#97 The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Another quirky book, I really enjoyed this novel. It’s sweet and sad and funny. It takes place in London, at the Tower of England, in contemporary times. Balthazar Jones (he, like every character in the book, is always referred to by his first and last name) is a Beefeater at the Tower. He lives there with his wife and the ghost of his young son, who we know died, but we’re not sure how (until much later in the book). Balthazar and his wife, Hebe, are sad and lonely. The death of the son is like a wall between them. Hebe cannot accept that Balthazar grieves in a different way than she and Balthazar blames himself for his son’s death. Other characters include the Reverend Septimus Drew, the Tower chaplain, and Ruby Dare, the barkeeper at the Rack and Ruin (best name for a bar). The story mostly centers on Balthazar, who has been asked by the Queen to take charge of all the animals she’s been given as gifts over the years, as in times of old when there was a zoo at the Tower. In all, this book is really about love, forgiveness, and the unpredictability of life. It was lovely and I’d highly recommend it.

Grade: A

#98 The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
See, I was inspired to read another Philippa Gregory book. The Other Queen is about Mary, Queen of Scots, during her exile in England. I’ve read this book before and I think I enjoyed it more the first time. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good book, but I found it more repetitive and pedantic than the first reading. I would really like to learn more about Mary, Queen of Scots, because she seems like an interesting and misunderstood figure, but I think I’ll need to turn to non-fiction for that.

Grade: B

#99 Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, by Eoin Colfer
For some reason I took a break from Artemis some time ago. I’m glad to be back. These books are smart and funny and I just love that Artemis is a criminal mastermind who also happens to be a likable protagonist. Despite it being kid literature, the characters continue to evolve and the storylines stay fresh. This was the third book and I am currently reading the fourth.

Grade: A

And now … drumroll …#100 Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
Another book about the Watch. This one introduces golems into the mix. Golems (not the scary, freaky character from Lord of the Rings) are creatures made of clay, then given life by priest who blesses words in their heads. In Feet of Clay, it appears that a golem is somehow involved in murders. Vimes and the crew investigate, and of course, solve it. Another new Watchman makes an appearance, a dwarf by the name of Cheri Littlebottom, who is in fact a girl dwarf (usually you can’t really tell them apart) who is embracing her feminine side. I think it’s my favorite Watch book I’ve read so far.

Grade: B+

So, there it is. 100 books. I can’t even imagine the words. I’m going to publish a comprehensive list soon, along with a list of the books I started but didn’t finish. Even though Michael says I accomplished a lot, I still am a little disappointed the number wasn’t higher.

Oh well. Go reading!


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