I plan on grabbing one of my books and cozying up in a chair to spend some time with my favorite characters. And I’ll be hopping around the blogosphere hanging out with my fave book bloggers.
I’ve got a few more titles on my To Be Read Pile Challenge completed, but need to do my reviews. So here’s what I’ve recently been reading!
Read this one for my book club and we had a great discussion with it. It’s about a young man with the world before him who befriends a rather poor influence. By making just a few despicable choices, he alters the path of his life forever.
If you’re familiar with the paranormal aspect of the book, you know that Dorian never ages. He remains a beautiful and suave gentleman, while a portrait of him takes on every crooked and cruel act he does, displaying his true nature.
I thought this was a great eerie read and a classic I would recommend. When Wilde describes the portrait, hidden away in the attic, it left me cold!
I would also recommend the 1940’s film version of this story. The special effects of the times for the final view of his portrait are seriously terrifying! It’s one of the American Film Institutes Top 100 Thrillers.
Fans of Wilde’s work will be surprised by the artsy, dramatic voice in Dorian Gray as its very different from his other works like The Importance of Being Earnest. And I would recommend it for book clubs as we did have a rich discussion about Wilde and his book.
The last book I had to read in order to complete Austen’s six main novels. I hope to start in on her novellas this year and read Sanditon.
Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, a woman who abides by duty and what others desire of her before her own heart. As such, she refused the hand of the only man she has ever loved. But when chance propels them into each other’s lives again, will she have the gumption to share her true feelings? And will he have the heart to forgive her all these years later?
I am always delighted by the works of Jane Austen. Each one is a treat to read bringing lovable and not-so-lovable *cough* (Anne’s sister, Mary Musgrove) *cough* to life! Persuasion is one of her best. It has overbearing family members, silly schoolgirl crushes, a family feud, a mysterious cousin, hidden affairs and agreements, and oh yes – a romantic sea captain, Frederick Wentworth!
Persuasion is a tale about second chances and trusting one’s own mind. True to many of Austen’s works, the reader must know that not everyone can be trusted based on their first impression. Cold and stoic personages can be caring and charming, gentlemanly characters may be downright scoundrels. But that’s why you have to keep reading!
Even if you watched the BBC miniseries, you really ought to read the book. There’s much more to the story and you learn a lot of details about what became of each of the Bennett sisters. For example, it is Kitty who remains at Longbourn taking care of their mother, not Mary!
The book picks up a few years after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. The household is preparing for a ball when suddenly Lydia, Elizabeth’s ill-mannered, flirtatious sister shows up announced and screaming that her husband is dead!
Fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice know that Lydia marries the scoundrel, George Wickham, and he is no less changed in this fan mystery. It is not Wickham who is found dead in the woods behind Pemberley, but his best friend Captain Denny. Wickham is however, the prime murder suspect!
The author, P.D. James is one of Britain’s foremost mystery writers and she captures Austen’s voice meticulously. The last thing Darcy wants to do is save Wickham yet again, but save him he must if he wants to keep scandal away from his home and family.
I listened to this book on audio and it was a delightful mystery to get swept up in. And of course be reunited with all the best characters in Pride and Prejudice. Even Mr. Collins!
That leaves just five more titles to complete for the TBR Pile Challenge. How are the rest of you doing?
What are you currently reading right now?
Any fun plans to celebrate Book Lovers Day?
We’re three months in on the To Be Read Pile Challenge. How’s everybody doing?
The TBR Pile Challenge is hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader as a way to join all bibliophiles together! You select 12 books that have been gathering dust on your bookshelf for one year or longer and vow to read those books in 12 months time!
I love this challenge and how it focuses me on reading some of the books I already own. (We won’t discuss the rate at which I buy and/or borrow new ones, especially when returning from a writers conference where there’s a book fair.)
I’ve actually been ahead of the game with this year’s challenge, finishing book #5! However, I’ve been very poor in writing reviews. So to catch up for the third check-in of the year, here’s what I’ve been reading and what I thought of the books.
TBR Pile Challenge Book Reviews
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s creative nonfiction book about a mass murder in Kansas has long been on my ‘to read’ list. The book has a very eerie nature, and is exceptionally well written, bouncing back and forth between the investigation of the Clutter family murders and what the killers who doing leading up to the crime night.
Truman Capote spent much time with the killers while they were imprisoned and in limbo with court appeal processes. It’s very likely they thought he was a friend considering how much trust he gained and how he helped with their case. That makes the title of this book all the creepier to me.
For fans of suspense novels, true crime, and creative nonfiction, I highly recommend this book. I was on edge as the gory details unfolded and we learned more and more about the killers’ early lives, odd jobs, and how they befriended one another. The writing is so good, you almost root for them. And that’s what I found so interesting. When all we know in a murder case is who did it, it’s easy to write off the killer as a menace. But when you know more about their life and the troubles they overcame, does it make you understand more, even if you still accuse?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
After In Cold Blood, I needed something a bit lighter, so I dove into book 3 of the Harry Potter series.
Don’t shun me, I haven’t read the series yet. I’ve been slowly savoring it, reading one a year or so. But this title may make me speed up a bit. It has by far been my favorite and I enjoyed the first two.
In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts School, his life is in danger not just from “He Who Shall Not Be Named” but also from the most notorious prisoner in Azkaban, Sirius Black. And when you’re a teenager, it’s equally annoying that the biggest snob in school, Draco Malfoy, is picking on you and your friends.
Exceptional colorful characters and an action packed plot, I really enjoyed this one. There were so many characters coming into play throughout the book, but I loved every minute. Plus they’re distinct enough that it’s easy to distinguish who’s who. Made me really want to read book 4 right away.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle was always a title on the classics list we could choose from in school, so I was well familiar with the nature of its subject – the horrendous working conditions of early factories. It’s known for launching the creation and reform of many labor laws and unions. It rivals Uncle Tom’s Cabin for how much political influence it had!
I wanted to enjoy this book. And I did, parts of it. The book follows an immigrant family as they adapt to American ways and try to find work in the worst of conditions. The first half of the book I liked, and learned a lot about the life expectancy and injuries that happened in our workplace before labor rights acts. So many men and women died of blood disease from infections that began at work.
And this book will really make you want to be a vegetarian. It’s pretty disturbing. Sure, you’d expect that from a slaughterhouse, but it’s really the rats crawling over the meat that did me in. *shudder*
I would recommend this book for historical purposes or for those who like to read a classic now and again. But be forewarned, it gets very long, and I wouldn’t say the book has a happy ending. After awhile, it was difficult to read about so much trauma in one family, though I’m absolutely sure it was common for immigrant workers and even in families today.
Have you read any of these?
Are you doing the TBR Pile Challenge? If so, how’s it going?
It can never hurt to add more titles. What are you reading right now?
The new year kicks off the start of many new year’s resolutions and challenges. Some of my favorites to participate in are reading challenges, and this will be my fourth year joining in the TBR Pile Challenge.
Here’s the Scoop:
The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2014 or later (any book published in the year 2013 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list”. This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). See THIS LINK for an idea of what I mean. Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2015.
4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2015 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!
5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2014!
Isn’t that the smartest idea for a book challenge? To finally read all those books I know you bibliophiles like me keep buying and don’t get to?
You have until January 15th to post your 2015 TBR Pile list. Books can be read in any order. I like to do a mix of genres so I always have something I’m “in the mood” to read.
And this year, you can also stay connected to others doing the challenge via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #TBR2015RBR.
My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
- Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1905)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (1999)
- Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012)
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
- Where’s My Wand? by Eric Poole (2010)
- The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (2011)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)
- Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2013)
- When Life Gives You Lemons…At Least You Won’t Get Scurvy! by Madge Madigan (2013)
- Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (2012)
Will you be participating? Do you do any other reading challenges?
What’s on your TBR pile list?
With December here, the 2014 To Be Read Pile Challenge is coming to a close. This is my favorite reading challenge as it stresses reading books you already own. Like so many writers, I have a book buying problem. I love bookstores and even when I’m shopping in a place like Target, I have to peruse the book aisles. I just love books!
What that leads to is multiple shelves of books that I haven’t read yet because I’m always buying more or renting some from the library or listening to ones on audiobook.
The To Be Read Pile Challenge focuses on reading 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for more than a year in one year’s time. You’re also allowed to pick 2 alternates in case one of the books you choose is impossible to get through.
This year I read all my 12 and one alternate! (And I just looked at my Goodreads shelves – I read 40 books total this year! Hoping to finish the two in my sidebar before 2015 as well.)
What were the final 2 books I completed for the TBR Pile?
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
I hate to admit I did not really like this one. But here’s the honest scoop. I think Jen Lancaster is a great writer! She is funny and witty and has a great writer’s voice.
I think the problem for me was that I could not identify with her in this book. Bitter is the New Black is Jen’s memoir about having it all – six figure salary, name brand clothes, posh apartment, all the witty comebacks and snide comments one can muster. Then she loses everything, and has to learn how to budget, shop less, and live less extravagantly.
I didn’t grow up or ever achieve a six figure lifestyle, so I’ll be honest and say the most bitter person in this book, was ME, the reader. I had a poor attitude reading Jen’s story because I couldn’t handle her complaining about loss when it seemed she didn’t appreciate what she had for so long.
Bitter party of one! I admit I wasn’t in a mindset to appreciate this book like I could. Sorry Jen!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Bookworms will love this paranormal read by Deborah Harkness! Diana Bishop is a researcher at Oxford, who haphazardly uncovers a book that is filled with all the secrets of the magic world – vampires, demons, and witches. Now, all those creatures are showing up in the library and everywhere else Diana roams.
With the help of a tall, dark and handsome vampire named Matthew, Diana must discover the secrets of the book before the others do.
I liked this one. It’s an interesting spin on how the worlds of paranormal creatures intertwine. And there’s a historical element to it because Diana is descendant from Elizabeth Bishop of the Salem Witch Trials.
Anyone read the next one in this series?
I want to know what your favorite book(s) you read this year was!
When I look back at my list, I had books that I hated (One Thousand White Women), I had a few classics I completed (Anne of Green Gables, Mansfield Park, Rebecca), and I had books I loved (The Night Circus, Official Book Club Selection, Love With a Chance of Drowning).
But my favorite book I read this year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
A young adult novel by genre, this book is phenomenal for any audience. It won the National Book Award – and BONUS* it’s one of the most banned books of all time! (Shhh – it talks about masturbation. hehehehe)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of Junior, an American Indian growing up on a reservation who takes a risk and attends the all white school in the next town.
I learned so much from this book. I think it should be required reading for students. It talks about race – yes – but it does it from the voice of a high school student – with honesty about both sides.
It talks about poverty and the downward spirals that poverty fosters – alcoholism, abuse, depression. Still, Junior is able to show us these things with some sense of humor and humility.
Get the book if you can. I read this one via audiobook which I loved, because the author reads it and I so appreciate hearing any story about a different culture in the voice of a native speaker, but if you get the book there are really fun cartoon drawings in it because that’s how Junior makes sense of his world, through drawing.
I cannot speak highly enough about this book. I didn’t want it to end. It was so good. And I learned so much.
What was the best book(s) you read in 2014?
What titles will you be putting on your 2015 To Read Pile list?
Exciting news! Adam from Roof Beam Reader has kicked off the sign up for the 6th annual To Be Read Pile Challenge this 2015, so be sure to create your must read list and sign up!
I grew up watching all the Anne of the Green Gables movies.
I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables.
I kind of dressed like her.
If I’d have had access to a dory, you would’ve seen my Lady of Shalott corpse impersonation floating down the Rock River.
So can you believe I had never actually read the book?!
I know. I chastised myself.
So for this year’s To Be Read Pile Challenge I picked up the beautifully illustrated, hardcover edition my mother had purchased for me many years ago.
It felt wonderful to get sucked back into the world of Anne Shirley, a redheaded little girl whose imagination rivals my own.
The whole book, to me, feels like it’s written in Anne’s flowery way of speaking. I was often laughing out loud. I love when she is asked to introduce herself and she says, “Won’t you call me Cordelia?” At this, everyone always questions her, for they’ve been told her name is Anne. Plain and simple, Anne Shirley.
Admitting defeat, she adds, “But if you must call me Anne, please spell it Anne with an ‘E’. It sounds so much nicer, don’t you think? I can always tell when someone spells it just A-N-N and it’s positively dreadful!”
Even the Chapter titles are fantastic.
At its heart, the story of Anne of Green Gables is about finding one’s home. Anne starts out as an orphan, and with her imagination creates a home with family and friends she dreams of every night. Then through a fortunate accident, she finds herself in a new, real home with people who love her and push her to be her best more than any dream she could have imagined. She is definitely a perseverance expert! Some might say, “a kindred spirit.”
Who are the characters in books you loved growing up?
Why did they inspire you?
Is there a classic still on your list you’ve been meaning to read?
Love and Green Gables,
So begins Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus. It’s a short, simple line, but I was intrigued.
Well that, and we know I have a soft spot (read: scar) for circuses. 😉
The Night Circus is the story of two illusionists who must compete to the death inside an arena of circus tents. But neither of them knows that. All they know is that they’ve been raised to perfect their skills for a competition they know nothing about, and that they’re falling madly in love with each other.
The book can be classified as magical realism, which is a growing genre trend that involves magic, but in a way where it is unmentionable. To clarify, for example with this story, both of the main characters have the ability to create things and distort reality with their illusions, but it’s never said outright that they are magic. The setting is considered normal world. And it’s believable.
I did an exercise at the writers conference I just attended for a class on setting. We took the idea of ‘home’ and wrote a scene that was detailed both in the senses and feelings. The activity was captivating. Everyone who attended the class was talking about it the whole weekend, because as we shared examples the scenes were so varied yet we each created a picture of a place and an emotion that emanated there. Where Morgenstern succeeds in this novel is that the world of the circus is very astutely described.
I have a confession. Place has never drawn me into a book. When I read Wuthering Heights, I skimmed over the moors. When I read The Thorn Birds, I flipped the pages right past Drogheda. But the Night Circus?
I wanted to know more.
My Favorite Setting Stand Outs in The Night Circus:
- Colors – Everything in the circus is decorated in black and white. The tents, the walls, the costumes. They are only ever black and white. So, when you have a scene where a character very deliberately changes her gown from emerald green to black to green again – the visual becomes more intense. The color stands out a little brighter. The “Revers” (meaning ‘dreamers’, AKA: circus folk) all wear red scarves so they know one another. In a crowd of black and white, the red pops.
- Clocks – A fascinating side character is a clock maker who works closely with Celia, the female illusionist. The main clock over the circus tent is described as transforming from day to night as the hours pass with dancing scenes floating by like the most elaborately created cuckoo clock your imagination could describe.
- Circus Tents – Of course the circus itself is described in great detail. There are rooms of mirrors in which you only see yourself, but when glancing over your shoulder, there is a crowd behind you. Another room is all white – floors, walls, and ceiling – and it snows there, but there is a great bonfire inside.
If you haven’t read The Night Circus, I highly recommend it.
Its world and its story are rich. A very good read indeed.
Have you read it? What did you think?
What’s your favorite book that highlights a place – fictional or not?
I adore Sloane Crosley. She’s been recognized as the female David Sedaris, which is high praise for comedy writers. I read her first memoir, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, last summer and LOVED it. Ms. Crosley and I share quite a bit of humorous childhood experiences and her essays – particularly the one about the atlas moth – had me laughing out loud. You see, I do not do bugs.
Working on a humorous non-fiction book myself, I’ve been guzzling down comedy books to get a sense of voice and see what works and what doesn’t. I was ready to check out more Sloane Crosley!
For Christmas, I added her next book, How Did You Get This Number, to my wish list and my sister obliged.
In this book, Sloane shares a love story, one of New York City and her own as well. Every gory detail about her relationship with the place she lives is there – from desiring to live in a haunted apartment complex that used to be a brothel to buying high class furniture that “fell off the back of a truck” from a guy named Doug. Along the way, this new adult finds a place for herself amidst the moments that shaped her life.
Frequently writing for The New York Times and GQ magazines, Sloane Crosley has a quick wit that burns off the page. She has a style of writing like your having a conversation with your bestie over coffee, and yet the comparisons she makes about life are so biting and enjoyable.
Travel buffs will also get a kick out of this read for her descriptions of things like hailing a New York taxi cab, getting lost in the streets of Turkey, bonding with fellow bridesmaids in the wilderness of Alaska, and trying to smuggle an antique thermometer out of France.
I read this book as part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge for 2014. I am now 2 books into the challenge, with 10 more to go. You can see my full reading list here.
What books are on your must read list this year?
How’s your reading going so far?
Got any recommendations for me?
Did you participate in a book challenge this year? There are so many fun ones it’s hard to choose, but I completed my first year with the To Be Read Pile Challenge. It’s a contest to complete 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for over a year. The prize for all those who complete their 12 books is a chance for a $50 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository. Pretty awesome, right?
To learn more about the To Be Read Pile Challenge click the 2013 link above and sign up for next year’s contest!
Part of the qualifier for the contest is to write up a review of each of the 12 books you read. It can be as elaborate or simple as you like. Check out my 2012 book list and past reviews at any of these links:
My TBR Pile Challenge Books:
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Little Bee by Chris Cleave
- Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
- Blessings by Anna Quindlen
- The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
- The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
- The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
- Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen
I have yet to do my final review of the last book, so I present…
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Geek Love is the story of the Binewski family, a bunch of circus freaks taking their act on the road.
That, and they actually create their act. Al and Lil Binewski willingly subject themselves to various mixtures of drugs in hopes of birthing the most wonderful freaks and geeks for their family show! There’s Arturo, the aqua boy. Iphy and Elly the siamese twins. Oly, the dwarf hunchback. And their newest member, Chick, who’s the most special of all.
The story actually jumps around a bit between the family’s early years on the road and where they ended up down the line.
The shining glory of the story is in its bizarre, twisted writing. It’s strange phrasing of words reminds me of my first encounter with A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
Sample the Writing:
Here’s a sample, one of my favorite descriptive paragraphs wherein the father is telling the children about his wife’s glory days in the ring as…the woman who bites heads off of chickens!
She fluttered around like a dainty bird, and when she caught those ugly squawking hens you couldn’t believe she’d actually do anything. When she went right ahead and geeked ’em that whole larruping crowd went bonzo wild. There never was such a snap and twist of the wrist, such a vampire flick of the jaws over a neck or such a champagne approach to the blood. She’d shake her star-white hair and the bitten-off chicken head would skew off into the corner while she dug her rosy little fingernails in and lifted the flopping, jittering carcass like a golden goblet, and sipped! Absolutely sipped at the wriggling guts! She was magnificent, a princess, a Cleopatra, an elfin queen! That was your mama in the geek pit.
It’s quite entrancing really. I loved the writing. But, the story did wane a bit for me. I would’ve been perfectly content reading more stories about them on the road together as youngsters. As the story unfolded to their later years, and the subsequent demise of the Binewski circle I began to hate many of these characters.
I do think this book would make for a fascinating movie. And if I were a make up artist/creature creator I’d so want in on the production! Visually, I love the book.
I am a big Goodreads fan and check out other reader reviews on there often. It seemed most readers were really divided. Cumulatively, Geek Love holds a solid 4.0 rating out of 5 stars, which is pretty dang high. But reader response was quite split between full on love and then other 2.0 ratings like myself where it was a lot of I really liked it, but… statements.
Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself! It’s certainly an interesting premise!
And 2013 is almost here! Sign up for the To Be Read Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader. See you there!