Tag Archives: Readathons

Christmas Spirit Reading, or, “We Need a Little Christmas…”

26 Nov

As I start to write this, the Jerry Herman song “We Need a Little Christmas” from the musical Mame popped into my head.  For this year’s Christmas Spirit Readathon and 2016 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge, both kindly hosted by Michelle (our favorite True Book Addict), I have song lyrics on my mind, probably because the title of my first Christmas-themed novel is a clever reworking of “Deck the Halls” and its famous chorus. Fa-La-Llama-La by Stephanie Dagg is a clever romantic comedy about a young woman named Noelle, who takes a last-minute pet-sitting job in France, a few days before Christmas, and the pets are twelve llamas!

fa-la-llama-la-cover

The romantic mix-up part comes in when she arrives at her job in a major snowstorm and must share an empty, unheated house with the new (rugged, good-looking) owner of same house, who arrives unexpectedly. His name is Nick and he’s Australian, and she wonders what he is doing buying a house in rural France. She has consternation over the lack of electricity and furniture; he has consternation over being swindled during the house transaction by the previous owner (who made off with all the furniture and left the llamas). He is also fuming that both the llamas and their pet-sitter are apparently staying for the duration of the holiday.  Their shared frustration slowly turns to amusement and shared problem solving, and then….well, you know  what comes next–this is a rom-com!  At least I think so, because I haven’t finished it yet. I will post my full review (with more about the llamas!) in December for Stephanie Dagg’s virtual tour with France Book Tours.

I am also reading A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes by Leah Guinn and Jaime N. Mahoney, who also write beautifully researched, wittily delivered pieces at their blogs, The Well-Read Sherlockian (Guinn) and Better Holmes and Gardens (Mahoney).

a-curious-collection-of-dates-cover

They have found something notable to write about for each day of the year, whether it be the publication of a story from the Conan Doyle canon, the premiere of a memorable adaptation for stage or screen, the birthday of a beloved actor who has portrayed Sherlock Holmes, or some event in the real world or the fictional world that bears on the life and times of the world’s most famous consulting detective. December 27 is devoted to “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” in which a valuable gem turns up unexpectedly in a Christmas goose on the table of one of Mr. Holmes’ many London friends. Finding out how it got there is a holiday mystery indeed. I watched the Granada adaptation of this story every year at Christmas on my VHS player until I no longer watched VHS tapes anymore! I will have more to say about this fantastic book later on, but let me suggest that it is a perfect gift for anyone who relishes the ‘infinite variety’ of Sherlock Holmes.

For young readers and adults too, The Nativity, with gorgeous illustrations by artist Ruth Sanderson is a treat for reading, or re-reading, the Christmas story, drawing from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I’m planning to leave this book open during the Christmas season and savor Sanderson’s paintings slowly day by day.

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Although the Readathon is nearly over, ending on Sunday night, the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge runs through January 6, so I will probably add some more holiday-themed books and watch even more Hallmark Channel holiday movies by then. What I love about these events hosted by Michelle–who loves Christmas and fosters the spirit so well–is the chance to (a) learn more about varied holiday customs around the world (check out her blog on her beautiful Christmas Spirit website!) and (b) discover more Christmas fiction from other readers. If you have favorite Christmas novels or authors to recommend, please suggest them in the comments!

Finally, let’s hear Angela Lansbury in the 1966 original Broadway cast of Mame, singing that song I mentioned:

My High Summer Read-a-thon Reading Menu #HSReadathon

19 Jul

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Summer truly feels like the time to choose some “reading for pleasure”–those books that we’ve been setting aside for prime reading time. Well, the time is now, thanks to Michelle’s High Summer Read-a-thon this week, hosted at her delightful Seasons of Reading blog, with lively participation on its corresponding Facebook group.  Here are the books on my summer menu for this week.

Defying my prior belief that I didn’t care for Ursula LeGuin, I have become enthralled with her Earthsea books. They are such seminal works for the fantasy genre, quietly but confidently telling the story of winning through trials by virtue and character, as much as by magic. We are reading the first three in our TuesBookTalk Read-Alongs. So far, I have read A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan. I’m now reading The Farthest Shore and I plan to read the fourth book Tehanu as well.

 

For Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge (#TTWIB) in July, I am getting immersed in two different family sagas, The Makioka Sisters and My Brilliant Friend. I hope I can finish them both this summer, but I’d better focus on one of them for this Read-a-thon! Have you ever seen the film The Competition, starring Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss? Both are entered in a world-class piano competition, and despite the romantic complications, it was the music and its role in their lives that stayed with me. In the climactic scene, Amy Irving’s character, Heidi, is rattled by a broken piano string and switches her piano concerto at the last moment: from Chopin to a more daring and modern selection, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major. For me, The Makioka Sisters is like the Chopin, an exquisitely controlled virtuoso novel; My Brilliant Friend is a daring and yet equally virtuoso performance by Elena Ferrante.  In this “high summer” week, I am probably craving more the bare-knuckle glissandos of Prokofiev, and therefore the free-wheeling brilliance of Ferrante.

 

I have one more item on my menu, a new book that arrived in the mail just today. It is M. K. Tod‘s new historical novel Time and Regret.

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Her WWI novel Lies Told in Silence was so excellent that I am really delighted to be reading Time and Regret for an upcoming France Book Tour.  Although I am planning a review, this book definitely qualifies as “reading for pleasure” since I can count on Tod for historical fiction that is splendidly researched and deeply felt.

That’s my reading menu and, as usual, my plate is full. I wish everyone a week of great summer reading!

#BookBuddyAthon this week! What I’m Reading (#TBR Stack)

7 May

I’m so happy to be joining fellow blogger and friend, Sharon, of Faith Hope & Cherrytea (@_eHope) for a #BookBuddyAthon this week (May 7-13).  We are long-distance buddies in miles (or kilometers–she’s Canadian) but close in kindred spirits and many shared interests.  I can always count on FHC for lovely new recommendations of nourishing fiction, faith & inspiration, as well as soul stirring music–all presented with her specially chosen and delightful images. Visit her page for all the particulars on the #BookBuddyAthon, which is being hosted by @robertson_elena and @ColdTeaCrumbs (their Twitter handles) at a special YouTube channel, since they are both BookTubers too! Elena has posted a Giveaway, open internationally, of a gift certificate for the Book Depository. (You can also find the Giveaway at ColdTeaAndCrumbs’ video). Now on to my #TBRs!

As our Buddy Read, FHC and I are reading Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery. (I have to write out the L. M., being another Lucy myself!) The story of Anne and her true love Gilbert Blythe starting off married life in their first home together still beckons readers after nearly 100 years (published in 1919). It still uplifts the heart, even when their move away from Avonlea presents new challenges for Anne and Gilbert.

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The #BookBuddyAthon also asks us to choose a book whose cover displays our buddy’s favorite color (for FHCthat would be purple or periwinkle), and one whose title includes one of her initials. I settled on a book she suggested (a bonus buddy read!), Rules for a Successful Book Club by Victoria Connelly, that fulfills both of these.  From the title, I expected a nonfiction guide to starting your own book club! My literal thinking…  In any case, it looks like a very engaging story about people who happen to be in a book club together. Isn’t this a stylish cover?

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During the week, I hope to polish off a free-choice read called I Promise You This by Patricia Sands. It is the third and final book of her Love in Provence series, and I will be reviewing it later this month for France Book Tours.  I discovered that FHC has also read this one, so clearly  we have caught the true #BookBuddyAthon spirit!  See the rest of her choices, including Stardust by Carla Stewart, whose cover features my favorite color, yellow!

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To see what others are reading, visit the YouTube channel or follow along with hashtag #BookBuddyAthon on Twitter or Instagram. I’m going to start off my reading with Anne’s House of Dreams!

April Showers! It’s Raining Reading Challenges, Readalongs, and Readathons!

3 Apr

For most people, “spring fever” suggests the urge to open the windows for some fresh blossom-scented air and head outside for a walk. Bookish people do this too, but usually with one or more books in hand. This year, spring fever among the book obsessed corresponds with a glorious shower of new reading events. Let’s list a few I know about:

Roots Readalong @True Book Addict

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Michelle of the True Book Addict had the idea to host this readalong, in connection with the new televised mini-series adaptation of Alex Haley’s novel, to begin on May 30 at the History Channel. Since Roots is such a long book, this readalong will continue throughout May, so plenty of time to get the schedule and sign up. I am reading the 30th Anniversary edition, with an introduction by Michael Dyson, and looking forward to the discussions Michelle has planned to host at her blog.

Roots cover

 

Spring Into Horror @ Seasons of Reading

spring into horror 2016

Michelle is also hosting her Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon at her site for recurring seasonal readathons, Seasons of Reading. I have two books picked out for the week: Painting the Darkness by Robert Goddard and Broken by Karin Fossum.

Painting the Darkness is a darkly threatening Victorian mystery, about a man confronted by a stranger who claims to be his wife’s first fiancé, long believed to be dead.  Is this man an impostor or the real thing?  What will his wife do, and what does she believe? What secrets has she been keeping? I’ve already started this one, and I really like Robert Goddard’s writing–a new find for me!  In Karin Fossum’s novel, one of her writer-protagonist’s characters has come calling on her at night, angry about the way his life is going.  I plan to review this Norwegian writer’s boundary-breaking story at my Northern Lights Reading Project.

#ReadNobels for Travel the World in Books  in April @ Guiltless Reading

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My esteemed co-host, Aloi of Guiltless Reading, is hosting our Travel the World in Books (#TTWIB) event for April, combining this ongoing challenge–to read our way around the world with diverse books–with her own fabulous challenge to read books by Nobel prize-winning authors. Her announcement post for April’s combined challenge has all the details, including numerous helpful links to reviews and resources for finding books to choose from. The main thing is to pick ONE BOOK for April, something by an author who garnered the Nobel Prize in Literature. I will be reading Independent People, the most important book by Iceland’s 1955 Nobelist, Halldór Laxness. James Anderson Thompson is the translator of this beautiful paperback in English.

Independent People cover

That’s the lovely thing about the Nobel prize–it tends to motivate skilled translators to take up that author’s works and make them available to more readers worldwide. As another example, Emma of Words and Peace, herself a translator, reviewed 2014 Nobelist Patrick Modiano’s So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood (in English translation) last year for our October #TTWIB Readathon.  I’m looking forward to answering Guiltless Reader’s fun and stimulating questions slated to chart each week’s progress and cheer on our exploration of Nobel writers.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

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This overlaps conveniently with Spring Into Horror, so I will probably sign on, though I never go for the full 24 hours. Or keep up with all the mini-challenges. But it is nice to be part of this blogger favorite to see what everyone is reading and how they make room in their lives for our mutual favorite pastime. Signups are open!

And There’s More!

Besides books I am reading for upcoming reviews, I am also looking forward to my Goodreads book club reads:

Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte cover

  • Three books by Jane Smiley are set for our Lit Collective: An Online Reading Retreat. Beginning in April, this will run through August when Michelle (that generous, and very busy girl!) will help get us going with Discussion Board questions on this author.

 

Will I get all this reading done in April? Probably not! But I love trying, and I love making a start on great books that carry over into the coming months. The best ones bear tremendous fruit–not just another review (although I love writing them!), but something new to think about or understand better about the multifaceted human life all around us.

If you know of other April Reading events you’d like to share, please leave a comment about them!

#WintersRespite Read-a-thon Wrapup!

24 Jan

A Winters Respite button 2016

The sounds of snow plows and shovels hitting the pavement fill the air as I sit in my office contemplating this week’s read-a-thon harvest. Being snowbound and reading are a perfect pairing, especially since the power stayed on! I finished the two books I planned on reading–an unusual occurrence since I often end up sampling several books at a time to get future reading underway.  But the entertaining update posts on our Seasons of Reading Facebook group, also thoughtfully hosted by Michelle of True Book Addict,  helped keep me on track as I read about the many books being read and finished.

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First, I read In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is our January non-fiction read for TuesBookTalk, and I plunged in because of this and because of its connection to Moby-Dick, whose Captain Ahab is a character (ranked 62nd) on The Fictional 100. It is a compelling, well-researched true story, but an emotionally grueling read as one follows the long ordeal of the few survivors of the whaling ship Essex, shipwrecked far out in the Pacific, as they attempt to reach the South American coast. It was tremendously ironic to learn that had they chanced a landing on the mostly unknown “Society Islands,” which were a week’s sail away, they could have recuperated on the now-famous island paradise of Tahiti. Fears of cannibals made the crew overrule their captain’s plan to go there, and instead they became the cannibals themselves. Truly horrible. Captain Ahab is not a simple portrait of any of the men on the Essex, but news of the disaster inspired young Herman Melville to begin work on the greatest novel of his career–to many the greatest in American literature. Philbrick’s account of the whaling industry is unsparing and brutal, and it made me admire all the more the way Melville could convey the same facts but transform them into high literary art.  If Ahab resembles any of the crew, it may be Owen Chase, the First Mate (played by Chris Hemsworth in the recent film adaptation). As one of the survivors who returned to Nantucket, he continued to pursue the giant whales in the Pacific; some said he hoped to find and kill the one who wrecked the Essex.

Second, I read The Keys of the Watchmen by Kathleen C. Perrin. What an enchanting book!  You can see its beautiful cover, which shows the island fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy. Perrin’s heroine, 17-year-old American teen Katelyn Michaels, is visiting the Mount as a tourist with her younger brother Jackson, when she becomes enmeshed in a centuries-long fight to destroy Mont-Saint-Michel and its place in history: both as guardian of France at a crucial time and as bulwark again Satan and his fallen angels. She is attacked by one of those demonic figures, called Abdon, inhabiting someone in her time. She is also given a key by a “Watchman” from the past, and to escape Lucifer’s henchman–her personal adversary–she must use the key to go . . . she knows not where. She wakes up in 1424 to discover that she herself is a Watchman. How will she react to this news? How would we? Kathleen Perrin’s instincts for portraying a 21st-century teenager’s speech and emotions are unerring, and she has created one of the most engaging, instantly involving characters I have read in quite a while.  She is confronted with a venerable mentor, Jean le Vieux, who teaches her to live and function in medieval France, and the 19-year-old Nicolas le Breton, who finds her exasperating and then, as you might guess, irresistible.  Together they must try to defend Mont-Saint-Michel, weakened after a long siege by the English, from an impending attack. Her wits, courage, and modern-day know-how will be tested to the utmost.  I am eager to begin on Book II of The Watchmen Saga, The Sword of the Maiden, which I will be reviewing for France Book Tours in March.

Sword of the Maiden cover

Thanks again to Michelle Miller whose Seasons of Reading blog is a welcome gathering place all year!

2015 Christmas Spirit Readathon and Reading Challenge

22 Nov

xmas spirit read-a-thon 2015

xmas spirit reading challenge 2015

Aren’t these beautiful banners? They were created by Michelle Miller for these events which she graciously hosts for us at her lovely blogs, Seasons of Reading and The Christmas Spirit.

My focus for this year’s Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon and Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge will be Christmas traditions.  First, I am reading from three books which describe Christmas traditions in Scandinavia. For the Read-a-thon my first goal will be to read Sigrid Undset’s book, Happy Times in Norway, the first third of which is devoted to her memories of a Norwegian Christmas before the Second World War. Undset, best known for her masterpiece trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, wrote this memoir of the prewar years while living in New York, having fled the Nazi invasion and occupation of Norway.

Happy Times in Norway cover

For the Reading Challenge, I also  plan to cover the Christmas traditions in two books: Of Swedish Ways by Lilly Lorenzen and Of Finnish Ways by Aini Rajanen. Together, these three books will be part of the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, and I’ll write about them at my Northern Lights Reading Project.  These will also be some reading for my Nonfiction November!

One of my own Christmas traditions is to break out (and dust off) the cookbooks! Last year I tried a wonderful Scandinavian Christmas cookbook.  This year I have decided to browse through my two Gooseberry patch Christmas books, which have delightful reminiscences of family Christmas traditions submitted by readers and compiled by the authors over the years.  The recipes are very homey and festive; I usually get some new ideas for dressing up turkey leftovers (such as easy Turkey Tetrazzini) from these books.  They also have ideas for simple decorations and fun activities to do with kids during the holiday season.

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Another of my Christmas traditions is to read something by Dickens, and this year I will read his last Christmas ghost story, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

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Haunted Man frontispiece 1848 by Bradbury & Evans – Heritage Auction Galleries. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

He wrote it in 1848, interrupting his work on Dombey and Son.  Since I have just begun reading Dombey myself, I thought it was perfectly fitting that I too interrupt his novel to enjoy this Christmas novella! It can be found online at several places.

Finally, my last reading tradition is to gather some daily advent reflections. This year I am looking forward to one by Mother Mary Francis called Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting.

Advent readings

I wish everyone happy reading, Happy Thanksgiving, and many unexpected joys in the holiday season ahead.

Angel figurine

 

 

 

 

#TTWIBRAT 2015 Mini-Challenge Wrap-Up, Giveaway Winner, and Highlights!

3 Nov
Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The November issue of Real Simple magazine features as its lead story, “How to Make Time for What Matters.” That headline describes so well my feelings about the last two whirlwind weeks of time spent participating in our Travel the World in Books Readathon. I can’t say enough how much fun it was to make time to instagram daily, write posts, read posts, tackle mini-challenges, join in two Twitter chats, and see and share what everyone was doing to read widely and diversely.  I feel even more motivated to plan for further worldwide reading with the help of all the creative exchanges of book recommendations.  Doing this stuff really matters, and will affect my reading choices in months and years ahead. My thanks to hosts Tanya from Mom’s Small Victories, Becca from I’m Lost in Books, Savvy Working Gal, and Aloi from Guiltless Reading; I’m so glad to be among you, for this readathon and for the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, with more readalongs and other events (such as Nonfiction November going on now) planned for the coming year.

I was delighted to host a mini-challenge on Favorite Characters and Cover Art, with a Giveaway (by random drawing) of a book displaying some of my own favorite characters in fabulous cover designs. Here are the cover art entries:

Lory of The Emerald City Book Review (who was also the WINNER of this Giveaway!), submitted this beautiful cover depicting the March sisters from Little Women:

Susan at The Book Trail wrote a lovely post about four of her favorite characters, including a cover art collage of them:

Becca of I’m Lost in Books shared her amazing collage of favorite world lit characters on Instagram, which included:

1) Nefertari from The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
2) Mr. Darcy
3) Elizabeth Bennet
4) Sherlock Holmes
5) Miriam and Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
6) Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
7) Hermione Granger
8) Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

9) Midori Kobayashi from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Emma of Words and Peace shared this amazing cover art:

Aloi from Guiltless Reading also made a photo collage of four favorites:

Tanya from Mom’s Small Victories admired a cover I also found especially striking, from a very moving book about a mysterious little girl:

Isi of From Isi shared her lovely copy of a book about a favorite teddy-bear character, Henry Brown, who I definitely want to check out!

Sharon of Faith Hope and Cherrytea made this bold collage of one of her favorites, Drew Farthering, who appears in some pretty stylish cover art!

Thanks to all of you for sharing your favorite characters and the snappy, bold, and beautiful covers that display them!

I was so happy to participate myself in Tanya’s Instagram challenge all through the readathon, Isi’s bookmark pairing challenge, and Heather’s creative book photography challenge.  I also worked on my Fictional 100 book map for Aloi’s terrific book mapping challenge.  So far, I’ve finished 68 of 100 characters, with popup pictures and a description for each one. I WILL finish them all, I promise, one day, and I’ll post about it again, but for now, here it is:

Oh, yes, and since this was a Readathon, I did read some books!! I read about 100 pages in each of two of my planned books:

Although most of my recent traveling by way of books has taken me to Scandinavia, my reading during this readathon was clearly in Eastern Europe, specifically in Poland and Russia. Stories in these countries seem instantly to attract my interest lately, and that is one of the amazing fruits of this challenge: finding stories (fiction or nonfiction) from new places in the world that speak to one’s heart, mind, and spirit.

#TTWIBRAT Mini-Challenge + GIVEAWAY : Favorite Characters in Cover Art

25 Oct
Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I’m very happy to be hosting a mini-challenge for our Travel the World in Books Readathon. It’s about one of my very favorite things about reading–great characters! When a truly memorable character transports me to a different place and time, it’s even better, and speaks to my own longings to travel around the world and travel in time too.  A beautiful or striking book cover featuring the outstanding character I will meet in the story is sure to draw me in, whether the book is a favorite classic in a new edition or something totally new–a favorite in the making.

I’m sure you’ve had that experience too.  I like many kinds of covers featuring characters: original illustrations made just for the book cover; paintings or other art that suggests the character and gives me some notion of time, place, and personality (Penguin is a fan of this approach); or even photographs, modern or period photos of people who then become my mental image of the character as I read.

CHALLENGE

This challenge is meant to be easy, fun, and flexible. The goal is for us to share some favorite characters from around the world, especially those which have been depicted in memorable cover art. Your task is to select one or more book covers featuring any one of your favorite characters (they don’t have to be on my 100 list, of course), and post the result in the format of your choice.  Some details:

  1. You can share just ONE book cover that you especially like–that would be great.  Or, if you wish, create a COMPOSITE image, a COLLAGE, or GALLERY with several covers.
  2. Post your image on the social media of your choice. You can Tweet or Instagram it. You can post it in your blog. Whichever way you choose, be sure to include the hashtag #TTWIBRAT in your posting.
  3. Share the link with me by leaving a comment to this mini-challenge post.  Be sure that you use the specific link that will take me right to your post, tweet, or instagram page containing your submission.  I will be tweet-sharing your submissions @Fictional100, and I will feature as many as I can in a follow-up post at the end of the Readathon.
  4. This mini-challenge and giveaway will run throughout the second week of the readathon, from October 25 to 31.

GIVEAWAY

I am giving away a copy of one of the following books, featuring Fictional 100 characters on their gorgeous covers, to ONE lucky winner.  These are all chunksters, in acclaimed translations, and well worth adding to your personal library and your lifetime reading (or re-reading) plan.  Follow the links to Goodreads for more details about each one.

The GIVEAWAY is open to those who participate in the mini-challenge and share a fabulous character cover or covers! Because the prize is a print book, which I will ship to your doorstep, this print-book giveaway is open in the US/Canada only. International readers who enter will receive a Kindle version of one of these books if they win.

The winner will be selected by random drawing from those who ENTER using the link below. I will notify the winner by email and arrange to send your prize.

Entry-Form

I can’t wait to see and share your cover selections for favorite characters. If you are participating in the #TTWIBRAT Instagram Challenge, today’s theme is Favorite World Lit Characters, so feel free to share the same photo here if it is a book cover. Thank you for participating, and enjoy the rest of the Travel the World in Books Readathon!

And There’s More!

Also be sure to check out the main Travel the World in Books Readathon 2015 Giveaways Page and enter to win a book from among the 18 books generously offered there! See more details at Mom’s Small Victories.

Giveaways page button

Travel the World in Books Readathon–Day 1 Intros and Photo Challenge #TTWIBRAT

18 Oct

Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The 2nd annual Travel the World in Books Readathon has begun! It’s a beautiful fall day here in NJ, crisp and sunny, and perfect for reading with the curtains open and some great music in the background. But first…

Time for Tanya’s delightful Photo Challenge which runs throughout the readathon. It gives us a chance to rummage through our bookshelves (boxes, bags, toppling piles, as the case may be!) and locate favorite books we’ve read or are planning to read that transport us to another place, and share a photo of them. The Photo Challenge also includes other fun book-related and travel-related items to hunt up.  I knew this challenge was coming, so I joined Instagram and posted my first picture–a selfie (naturally) with a favorite from world literature.

#TTWIB Photo challenge Day 1

#TTWIB Photo challenge Day 1

I have just begun Fortunata and Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós, but I think it is a favorite in the making. I already admire the rich character development and beautiful writing (through the gifts of translator Agnes Gullón), and the love triangle these two women endure for a very long time is likely to make a heart-wrenching and memorable story.  This book isn’t even on my posted Readathon plans, but these things are flexible, right? I may just pick this up and keep reading.

I don’t know what other introductions to add right now, except that I love to read world literature, especially when I discover classics from other countries, and I love blogging and keeping up with new sightings of the Fictional 100 characters (here is my ranked list of them).  I’m looking forward to checking out everyone’s photos and #TTWIBRAT postings!  Stop by Mom’s Small Victories to see the full schedule of events for the readathon, including discussion topics, guest posts, and mini-challenges.

#FrightFall Read-a-thon 2015: Wrap-up Thoughts

14 Oct

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I send big thanks to Michelle at Seasons of Reading for graciously hosting this year’s #FrightFall read-a-thon. As usual, readathons create some motivation to select something and try to finish it–something I am sometimes slow to do!

I ended up reading two of my planned fairy-tale retellings, Deerskin and White as Snow.

White as Snow by Tanith Lee was indeed a chilling retelling–more of a retooling–of the ‘Snow White’ story. It had flashes of insight certainly, and proved to be very involving, although quite shocking and painful to read. Half of the book was about the Queen and the brutal crime that had warped her spirit early in her life. The second half of the novel was about her daughter Snow White, but at this point her story merged with the Persephone myth and some fairly standard Celtic elements of the Beltaine stag figure. The span of time in which Snow White lived with the dwarfs was the most creative part of the book, and recaptured my attention.  The tone of this part reminded me of War of the Flowers by Tad Williams (which I liked better).

Deerskin, which I didn’t finish yet, also subjects its main character, Princess Lissla Lissar, to terrible violence and betrayal early in the story at the hand of her father the king. She is wholely sympathetic, though sometimes rather stuporous in her trauma.  She must flee for her life, and in the process of survival, suppresses her true identity, even from herself. She assumes the name Deerskin, after receiving a supernatural gift of a deerskin dress.  The chapters where she is living off the land with only her greyhound Ash for company are beautifully and tenderly written.  I will definitely keep reading this one to the end, and I look forward to reading both of McKinley’s retellings of ‘Beauty and the Beast’–Beauty and Rose Daughter.

I have to wonder why, in both these retellings, two such highly regarded writers as Tanith Lee and Robin McKinley chose to subject their main female characters to such brutal crimes, described so graphically.  Whereas often the ‘Grimmest’ of fairy tales only threatens a potential for crime or taboo-breaking in the story, while not enacting it, these tales are merciless and rescue does not come. In the aftermath, these women suffer, very realistically, a total deadening of spirit, a numbness and hollowing out of soul. The rest of the story offers opportunities, however slender, to find their way back to selfhood and a sense of wholeness.  It seems no accident then that fairy tales are one vehicle now, in our time, for holding up a mirror (a magical mirror in White as Snow) to the violence against women in our world, by no means a thing of some mythic or misty past.

Myrtle Skete

Orthodox Gleanings

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