Tag Archives: Reading Challenges

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.

the-nativity-ruth-sanderson

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:

Advertisements

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

roots read along button

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

rsz_readnobels_ttwibrat

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

DEWEYs

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!

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.

Gooseberry Patch Christmas books.jpg

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.

1024px-Hauntedman_front_1848

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

 

 

 

 

Scotland Reading Challenge 2013

4 Apr

Scotland Reading Challenge 2013

I’m happy to be participating in the Scotland Reading Challenge 2013, created by Faith Hope and Cherrytea.  For my proposed reading list, I have pulled together some books already on my to-be-read stack (even if part of that stack is only on my Kindle!) and added some books that I’ve discovered via the Reading Challenge bookshelf on Goodreads.

  1. Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott — next on my list for this quintessential author of Scottish historical novels.
  2. Monarch of the Glen by Compton Mackenzie — I’m catching up here. This was a recent selection of the Reading Challenge group, and it looks good–I don’t want to miss it!
  3. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane — Macfarlane devotes one section, and therefore one of his walking journeys, to a long walk in Scotland. I’m there in spirit if not on foot.
  4. The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson– Kidnapped and Catriona are also on the menu, this year or next.  Two of Stevenson’s most influential characters, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Long John Silver, are on The Fictional 100, ranking 67 and 93, respectively.  Last year, I read James Pope-Hennessey’s excellent biography of Stevenson, along with a re-read of Treasure Island, for this post on Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion.
  5. The First Blast of the Trumpet (Knox Trilogy #1)  by Marie Macpherson — I just learned about this well-researched historical novel from the discussion boards, which featured a video about it. I am keenly interested in religious history and theology, so this story of the Scottish Reformation appeals greatly.
  6. The Highland Clans by Alistair Moffat — My history book club accumulated points may go toward this one!

I’m sure I will be lured by other Scottish-themed titles as the year progresses and I learn from others’ choices. Now is the point where I must wish myself luck! However much I am able to read, I appreciate the spur to goal-setting and the camaraderie of more book-obsessed friends!

Faith Hope & Cherrytea

inspiring and inspiriting ...

Myrtle Skete

Orthodox Gleanings

catholicismpure.wordpress.com/

Catholicism without compromise

Joan's Rome

by EWTN's Rome Bureau Chief Joan Lewis

Burning Hearts

A personal journey into sacred scripture

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings

So many books, so little time

heavenali

Book reviews by someone who loves books ...

Third Order Carmelites TOC

Ordo Fratrum Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ de Monte Carmelo

The Holy Ones

They are happy who live by the law of God.

The Victorian Librarian

This is the life you lead when you can't decide between librarianship and research

Paper Fury

read. write. world domination

Love Travelling

Travel diaries providing inspiration for planning the perfect trip

Dotty Anderson

CHILDREN'S STORIES TO ENTERTAIN AND EDUCATE

Literary ramblings etc

"Book collecting...is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it" (Jeanette Winterson).

Some of my best friends are fictional...

Life in Slow Motion

Where Life, Faith, and Chronic Pain Collide

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

The Fictional 100

Some of my best friends are fictional...

The Evolving Critic

Art and Culture