Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Read 52 Books in 52 Week Challenge


Also the home of  Well Educated Mind, Nobel Prize Winners, Around the World  and various mini challenges.  
The rules are very simple and the goal is to read one book (at least) a week for 52 weeks.

  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014. 
  2. Our book weeks will begin on Sunday  
  3. Participants may join at any time.
  4. All books are acceptable except children books.**
  5. All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc.
  6. Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2014.
  7. Books may overlap other challenges.
  8. Create an entry post linking to this blog. 
  9. Come back and sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" below this post.
  10. You don't have a blog to participate.  Post your weekly book in the comments section of each weekly post.  
  11. Mr. Linky will be added to the bottom of the weekly post for you to link to reviews of your most current reads. 
All the mini challenges are optional. Mix it up anyway you like. The goal is to read 52 books. How you get there is up to you. 

**in reference to children books. If it is a child whose reading it and involved in the challenge, then that's okay.  If an adult is doing read aloud with kids, the book should be geared for the 9 - 12 age group and above and over 100 pages. If adult reading for own enjoyment, then a good rule of thumb to go by "is there some complexity to the story or is it too simple?"  If it's too simple, then doesn't count.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

BW43: Happy Birthday Ursula Le Guin

Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch

Tuesday, October 21st marks Ursula Le Guin's 85th birthday.  She has written over 21 novels of which, I think, she is best known for her EarthSea series.   As a matter of fact, Margaret Atwood proposed  A Wizard of Earthsea for the Wall Street Journal's latest bookclub read.

Le Guin's also published a number of short story collections, poetry as well as books for children.  She has also translated a few books including Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral and Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching; in addition to  essays about writing and life.  She has won numerous awards including the Hugo award in 1970 for The Left Hand of Darkness and in 1975 for The Dispossessed.

Yesterday I went on a book purge through my teetering stacks.  Decided if hadn't gotten around to actually reading a book in the past two or three years,  despite glancing through occasionally and returning to the pile, then it was time to go.  Unearthed The Left Hand of Darkness and it immediately called to me to read.



Synopsis:  When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue—a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But Genly is all too human. Unless he can overcome his ingrained prejudices about the significance of "male" and "female," he may destroy both his mission and himself.

Next month, she is being honored with the National Book Foundation's 2014 Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  

Happy Birthday to Ursula Le Guin. 

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Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.  


Sunday, October 12, 2014

BW42: Armchair traveling - Let's sail the ocean blue



We've been armchair traveling most of the year across the continents.  We've spent quite a bit of time land locked, meandering about from England to Africa to Europe.  It's time to have a bit of fun, wipe the dust off our feet and head out across the waters.   Are you ready for a bit of barefoot travel, with the wind at our backs, mist in our hair as we sail the ocean blue. 

I can't decide whether to head out into the Atlantic and go north of the equator up to Greenland, or sail down and around the cape of Africa into the Indian Ocean.  As I have the hankering to explore Mozambique as well as the barrier islands in the archipelago (a bit of book research, nudge nudge, wink wink)think I'll start there, before heading east to Indonesia. Then I'll have to decide whether to drop down to sail around Australia.  Or sail to Singapore through the strait to the Pacific Ocean which will bring me back to where I started, ending and beginning my year at the same spot. 

Currently in my backpack are Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander and Post Captain from his Aubrey/Maturin historical series, M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans and James Rollins' Deep Fathom.

If you've yet to read Melville's Moby Dick or C.S. Foresters Hornblower saga or Nordhoff and Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty, now may be a good time.  For more suggestions go to historical naval fiction, or Goodreads selection of Popular Naval Fiction, books set in the Atlantic and books set in the Pacific.  Check out Pinterest's eclectic list of Must Read Ocean Books.

Happy Sailing! 


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Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.  


  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

BW41: New York Times Best Sellers List



I'm always on the look out for unique or interesting book lists and periodically turn to Hawes Publications which lists every  New York Times Bestseller from the year 1950 until the present.  You can look up which fiction and non fictions books were published and on the best seller list for the year, month and week you were born. Or when your children were born or the year you got married.  So many ways to play with the list.   This time round I decided to go with every ten years and see what books are on the list that I already have read or have, but not yet read. 



1959

Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell


1969 

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

1979

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart 

1989

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

1999

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

2009

Heat Wave by Richard Castle 

I've read them all except for Eco's book which is sitting front and center on my bookshelf pleading to be read.  The rest may deserve a reread but I'll save that for next year. 

So check out the lists, find your birth date, one of your loved ones birth dates, or any special date you can devise and pick out one of the books to read.  Enjoy!

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

BW40: October Spooktacular





Welcome to our October Spooktacular -  Bwaaahaaahaaahaaaa!   

This is the month we read all things spectacularly spooky and sinister and shockingly thrilling and chilling.  If you aren't into blood and guts horror, like me, there is much fun to be had in reading spine tingling, nail biting, don't read in bed or alone psychological thrillers.  Or how about an out of this world, give me goose bumps, paranormal.   Even an tantalizing thriller should suffice.

If you haven't read the staples of the genre - Frankenstein or Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Grey or Something Wicked This Way Comes - now is your chance.  Put away your expectations, because you just may be surprised when they don't turn out how you suspect they will.

I have a few chiller thrillers in my stacks for this month including Mr. Wicker, a new book recently released by an old roommate and friend, Maria Alexander.  She has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award numerous times for her short stories. 

Mr. Wicker by Maria Alexander

Synopsis:  Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory. Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. The Librarian is Mr. Wicker--a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as lethal. After committing suicide, Alicia finds herself before the Librarian, who informs her that her lost memory is not only the reason she took her life, but the cause of every bad thing that has happened to her.

Alicia spurns Mr. Wicker and attempts to enter the hereafter without the Book that would make her spirit whole. But instead of the oblivion she craves, she finds herself in a psychiatric hold at Bayford Hospital, where the staff is more pernicious than its patients. Child psychiatrist Dr. James Farron is researching an unusual phenomenon: traumatized children whisper to a mysterious figure in their sleep. When they awaken, they forget both the traumatic event and the character that kept them company in their dreams -- someone they call "Mr. Wicker."

 During an emergency room shift, Dr. Farron hears an unconscious Alicia talking to Mr. Wicker--the first time he's heard of an adult speaking to the presence. Drawn to the mystery, and then to each other, they team up to find the memory before it annihilates Alicia for good. To do so they must struggle not only against Mr. Wicker's passions, but also a powerful attraction that threatens to derail her search, ruin Dr. Farron's career, and inflame the Librarian's fury.

After all, Mr. Wicker wants Alicia to himself, and will destroy anyone to get what he wants. Even Alicia herself.


 I've fallen in love with Dean Koontz and his Odd Thomas series so I am happy to say he wrote a series in which he reworked the Frankenstein theme.  I'm currently on book two 

City of Night by Dean Koontz
I also have two paranormal thrillers by new to me authors on tap for this month 

Sixty-one Nails by Mike Shevdon


In Shade and Shadow by Barb and J.C. Hendee

What spooktacular books will you be reading this month?

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

BW39: Happy Autumn

Japanese Maple,  North Carolina by Melissa Farlow 

~Happy Happy Autumn~   As of Tuesday, September 23nd, Autumn officially begins for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and for our brother and sister readers in the Southern Hemisphere, it is officially Spring.  Fall with the cooler weather and colorful leaves always rejuvenates me for some reason.  I get in the mood for baking, strolling through the park through crackling leaves then nesting in my house in a comfy chair and reading.  

So what do you think of when you hear the words Autumn or Fall?  Leaves, of course, but what else?   Trees, falling, breeze, apples, football, corn, Halloween, harvest, orange, yellow, brown and crisp to name a few.   I bet you see where this is going.  Yep, read a book with a title that is associated with the season.  Or you can even read a book that is set during the autumn season. That one may be a bit trickier to find.

In my meandering about the interwebz, found the following offers:


Red Harvest by Dashiell Hamment


Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule


Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman 




Hmmm, they all look a bit serious and dark, but intriguing. Will have to look for some fun reads as well. Have fun searching out some titles and if you can find them already in your stacks, that will be a bonus. 

Happy Fall!


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

BW38: Armchair Traveling through the 20th Century






The 20th Century, 1901 to 2000, was dominated by war and strife including The Great Depression, World War I and II,  the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. But it also was a period of great achievement with the Wright brother's first airplane flight, the production of the model-T, the roaring 20's, Babe Ruth, Golden Age of television, the first space flight, the beginning of the movie series, Star Wars and the creation of the world wide web.  

Literature wise, we had the beginnings of literary modernism influenced by poets T.E. Hulme and Ezra Pound. Their usage of plain speech, free verse and vivid imagery helped shaped modern imagery. As modernism developed, T.S. Elliot's Wasteland and James Joyce Ulysses were seen, not only as controversial, but innovative and transformed the image of modernism.  

With the advances of technology during the 20th century, books became easier to produce and gave rise to popular literature.  With the rise of popularity, we had the birth of literary criticism and awards including The Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, the Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards.  

Such a wide variety of authors including Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Joseph Conrad to J.R.R. Tolkein, Jean Paul Satre, Graham Greene, and Daphne Du Maurier to Philip Dick, Robert Heinlein, to Sylvia Plath and Thomas Pynchon to Orhan Pamuk, Umberto Eco and J.K. Rowling. 

Too many resources to list so check out the ever helpful Historical Novels and Goodreads Popular 20th Century Literature


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

BW37: Banned Books Month





Banned Books Week is September 21 through 27th.  I thought we'd get a head start and declare the rest of the month - Banned Books Month. The most frequently challenged books in the past year due to offensive language, violence, sexually explicit, unsuitable for certain age groups and drugs or alcohol are:  


  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey 
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
This year, the banned books committee will highlight graphic novels since Captain Underpants and Smith's Bone series are in the top ten.

Many events will be taking place across the nation and also the blogosphere as people take to the internet for a virtual read in of banned books.

Check out the American Library Associations website for all activities and lists relating to most challenged books, including classics such as The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ulysses and All the Kings Men to name a few.

Join me in reading a banned book or two or three this month. 


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Sunday, August 31, 2014

BW36: Native Son by Richard Wright





The 22nd  novel in Susan Wise Bauer's list of fiction reads from her book The Well-Educated Mind is The Native Son by Richard Wright.  Written in 1940, The Native Son is  set in 1930's and tells the story of  a 20 year old poor black man, Bigger Thomas, who kills a young white girl.  Wright was determined to portray racism in its grittiest form and his book shocked both the White and African American communities when it was released. 


Amazon Review: 


Bigger Thomas is doomed, trapped in a downward spiral that will lead to arrest, prison, or death, driven by despair, frustration, poverty, and incomprehension. As a young black man in the Chicago of the '30s, he has no way out of the walls of poverty and racism that surround him, and after he murders a young white woman in a moment of panic, these walls begin to close in. There is no help for him--not from his hapless family; not from liberal do-gooders or from his well-meaning yet naive friend Jan; certainly not from the police, prosecutors, or judges. Bigger is debased, aggressive, dangerous, and a violent criminal. As such, he has no claim upon our compassion or sympathy. And yet...

A more compelling story than Native Son has not been written in the 20th century by an American writer. That is not to say that Richard Wright created a novel free of flaws, but that he wrote the first novel that successfully told the most painful and unvarnished truth about American social and class relations. As Irving Howe asserted in 1963, "The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever. It made impossible a repetition of the old lies [and] brought out into the open, as no one ever had before, the hatred, fear and violence that have crippled and may yet destroy our culture."
Other books had focused on the experience of growing up black in America--including Wright's own highly successful Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of five stories that focused on the victimization of blacks who transgressed the code of racial segregation. But they suffered from what he saw as a kind of lyrical idealism, setting up sympathetic black characters in oppressive situations and evoking the reader's pity. In Native Son, Wright was aiming at something more. In Bigger, he created a character so damaged by racism and poverty, with dreams so perverted, and with human sensibilities so eroded, that he has no claim on the reader's compassion:
"I didn't want to kill," Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill! I must have felt it awful hard to murder.... What I killed for must've been good!" Bigger's voice was full of frenzied anguish. "It must have been good! When a man kills, it's for something... I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em. It's the truth..."
Wright's genius was that, in preventing us from feeling pity for Bigger, he forced us to confront the hopelessness, misery, and injustice of the society that gave birth to him. --Andrew Himes

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

BW35: Ray Bradbury

August 22, 1920 to June 5, 2012

I have been in a creative writing mood lately so was fascinated when I came across Ray Bradbury's speech from a 2001 writing symposium.   He talks about ways for writers to improve their craft by reading one short story, one poem and one essay every night for a 1000 nights.  In particular,  quality short stories from authors such as Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. And one should read a wide variety of essays from areas including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature.  By the end of that period, your mind will be full of ideas and images to use in your writing.  Stuff your head with literature, good literature, not the modern stuff,  and you'll never run out of ideas. He also suggests writers write one short story a week for a full year instead of working on one novel as a way to practice your craft. Maybe I'll take him up on that...next year. *grin*

Seems to me his idea to read one short story, poem and a essay a night could apply for readers as well. You know me and my rabbit trails.  Just think of all the directions our reading could take. And who knows, a few of you may even be inspired to write.  I may just have to come up with a Ray Bradbury mini challenge for next year.  Who knows where it will lead.

Anyway, in honor of Ray Bradbury's birthday,  read one of his works this year.


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Sunday, August 17, 2014

BW34: Flufferton Abbey


April Lady
 The moonlight glinted on the pistol, and the hand that held it. Letty cried: "Don't, don't!" and tried with feverish haste to unclasp the single row of pearls from round her throat.
"Not you!" said the highwayman, even more ferociously.
"You!" The pistol was now pointing straight at Nell, but instead of shrinking away, or making hast (as Letty quaveringly implored her to do) to strip off her bracelets and rings and the large pendant that flashed on her breast, she was sitting bolt upright, her incredulous gaze fixed at first on the hand that grasped the pistol, and then lifting to the masked face.
"Quick!" commanded the highwaymen harshly. "If you don't want me to put a bullet through you!"
"Dysart!"
"Hell and the devil confound it!" ejaculated his lordship, adding,however, in a hasty attempt to cover this lapse: "None o' that! Hand over the gewgaws!"
"Take the pistol away!" ordered Nell. "How dare you try to frighten me like this? Of all the outrageous things to do -! It is a great deal too bad of you! What in the world possessed you?"
"Well, if you can't tell that you must be a bigger sapskull than I knew!" said his lordship disgustedly. He pulled off his mask, and called over his shoulder: "Bubbled, Corny!"
"There, what did I tell you?" said Mr Fancot, putting up the weapon with which he had been covering the coachman, and riding up to bow politely to the occupants of the carriage. "You ought to have let me do the trick, dear boy: I said her ladyship would recognise you!"
"Well, I don't know how the devil she should!" said the Viscount,considerably put-out.
"Oh, Dy, how absurd you are!" Nell exclaimed, trying not to laugh."The moonlight was shining on the ring Mama gave you when you came of age! And then you said Not you! to Letty! Of course I recognised you!"



One genre I didn't mention last week is the Regency Romance period which flourished between 1811 to 1820's during the shift from the aristocratic Age of Enlightenment to the artistic movement of Romanticism.  Since the period overlapped the Napoleonic wars, writers expanded on themes of the drama of wounded soldiers, mystery, adventure and of course, romance.  Regency romances are light and fluffy reads and since most are set in England, hence the term Flufferton Abbey. 

The queen of the Regency Romance is undoubtedly Georgette Heyer.  Although Jane Austen lived and wrote her books during the 1800's, Heyer created the Regency England genre of romance novels. Back when I was a teen in the 70's, Harlequin romances and historical romances were my favorite reads and I actually still have a few in my shelves, all yellowed and well read. 


Authors to check out,  besides Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer,  are Julie Quinn, Mary Balogh, and Loretta Chase to name a few.  Be sure to peruse  Goodreads list of  Popular Regency books.  And we can't forget the classic authors whose best known works were written during the Regency period: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Sir Walter Scott as well as poets Lord Byron, William Blake and John Keats.

Join me in flufferton abbey this month and read a book from the regency era. 

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

BW33: Armchair Traveling through the 19th century



The 19th century, from 1801 to 1900, brought us the continued development of the United States and Canada,  civil war between the north and the south and ending of slavery; the Victorian age with the reign of Queen Victoria, and the Golden Age of romanticism and poetry in Russia.

Alexander Puskin pushed Russian literature to a whole new level and influenced a new generation of poets including Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy (2nd cousin to Leo Tolstoy), Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov and Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov to name a few.

The Victoria period revolved around Queen Victoria and writers who were born and died during that period of time include Lord Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning,  Elizabeth Barrett Browning  Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens to name a few.

In the later half of the century, the United States saw the evolution of penny dreadfuls, later know as dime novels about the Old West with themes of gunslingers, outlaws, and lawmen.

Currently in my backpack are:  Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, Daughters of the Loom by Tracie Peterson, Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson and Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.

Be sure to check out Historical Novels online for their huge selection of 19th Century European, 19th  Century American and  Old West selection of books as well as Goodreads Popular 19th Century literature.


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