Tag Archives: Seasons of Reading

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!

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!

#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.

#FrightFall Read-a-thon 2015: Some (semi-scary) Fairy Tales!

27 Sep

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Fairy tales are just about the right level of “scary” for me.  I send big thanks to Michelle at Seasons of Reading for graciously hosting these delightful seasonal events (and for letting me go easy on the “fright” aspect in October)!  Here is my #FrightFall read-a-thon lineup for next week:

Deerskin by Robin McKinley is just gorgeously written. I’ve already started this one, and I hope to finish it during the read-a-thon.  It is a retelling of Charles Perrault’s “Donkeyskin” and it is considered a CINDERELLA variant–certainly a scarier version of that story, since it deals with the widowed father’s dark depression and misdirected attachment to his daughter. King Lear is another variant of the Donkeyskin tale.

White as Snow by Tanith Lee promises to be an especially chilling retelling of the Snow White story, with a twist, given my experience with every short story by Tanith Lee I’ve read. I’m looking forward to this full length fairy-tale novel of hers. And what stylish cover art by Thomas Canty! (The lovely Deerskin cover painting is by artist Dawn Wilson.)

Beauty by Robin McKinley is also on my list, if I can get to it. I will be reading this for our Lit Collective discussion in March on fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings.  (Visit our group page on Goodreads for more information about the Lit Collective and other books we’re reading for March. Michelle–aka, the True Book Addict–is also one of the moderators for this group, along with Heather of Between the Covers and Laura of Book Snob.)

Good luck to all the #FrightFall participants and may they be pleasantly scared by their eerie, mysterious, or truly frightening reads to kick off October. Sign-ups continue through Friday (11:59 CST) of the read-a-thon week, and there will be a very generous giveaway at the end, eligible to those who post a wrap-up by Tuesday after the read-a-thon.

Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon 2015: What I’m Reading

15 Apr

Spring into Horror Read-a-thon

Time for daffodils, tulips, and scary reading!  My selections for this year’s Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon are not primarily horror, but they do have their scary or mysterious elements. I am happy that Michelle makes her Seasons of Reading event flexible enough to welcome those who wish to read only around the edges of the horror genre. For this one, I’ve selected some books that may scare the wits out of me yet! We’ll see.

Today is April 15; not only is that tax filing day in the U.S., but it is also the birthday of novelist Henry James (he would be 172).  The Fifth Heart, Dan Simmon’s new literary mystery (just released in March), finds Henry James teaming up with Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of Clover Adams, the wife of writer Henry Adams. Their pairing is complicated by the existential crisis of Holmes who has deduced that he is a fictional character!

Fifth Heart cover

Another Dan Simmons novel, Drood, has been on my mental list for a while, since it combines biographical fiction about Charles Dickens with speculation about the intended ending of his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, whose horrible aspects are magnified by the lack of resolution.  This week I will continue reading A Tale of Two Cities, our Dickens selection for the TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs group at Goodreads.  Although it certainly has much sweetness in the relationship between Doctor Manette and his daughter Lucie, the Reign of Terror, which readers know will follow the French Revolution and endanger noble-hearted nobleman Charles Darney, casts an eerie shadow over the whole story.

Finally, I am reading The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Editiion, translated and edited by noted fairy-tale specialist Jack Zipes.  This illustrated collection brings together English translations of all the stories from the Grimms’ 1812 and 1815 first editions.  Zipes emphasizes that these versions are closer to the originals that the brothers recorded from traditional storytellers. They tend to be shorter, more clipped in style, and faithful to the scarier aspects of many of the tales. The illustrations by Andrea Dezsö are interesting: they are black-and-white and give the impression of being simple woodcuts (or paper cutouts), but their content and arrangement of elements looks impressionistic and modern. They are also reminiscent of Arthur Rackham’s silhouette illustration technique, such as he used for Cinderella, or “Aschenputtel” in the Grimms’ tales.

Original Brothers Grimm cover

Sign-ups for the Read-a-thon continue all week, until Friday (see Guidelines), and you don’t have to have a blog. You can join from Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter!  Look for discussion with hashtag #SpringHorrorRAT to find out what everyone is reading and to join the scheduled chat.  Only one scary or mysterious book needs to be on your reading menu for the week; whatever else you are reading is fine too.

A Winter’s Respite Read-A-Thon 2015: What Did I Read?

3 Feb

Winter's Respite Readathon 2015

I joined Michelle at Seasons of Reading and many friends for A Winter’s Respite Read-a-thon. I did get some reading done, mostly on the weekends. I’m usually snatching a chapter here and there, so it was nice to have a good reason to put aside my other “to-do’s” and just stay put and read.  I said to myself, “I could do that {laundry, writing, other work}, but hey, I’M ON A READ-A-THON; I think I’ll just sit here…” Among those I planned to read, I finished two books (one a monumental story of a family’s cultural education and transformation in the Congo, the other a historical romance of a French seamstress at the court of Imperial Russia):

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  2. To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker

And I started two others:

  1. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  2. Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

I also started The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell, the first book in her trilogy called “The Tiger and the Dove.”  I won this book in Michelle’s High Summer Read-a-thon in July–it’s about time for me to get into this dramatic historical novel set in Eastern Europe and Asia during the 13th century. I am especially interested in the way the clash of spiritual traditions seems to play a key role in the story.

The Grip of God cover

Since more snow and ice seems to be on the way every few days here for a while, more reading time may be in the forecast!  I’m grateful for this Read-a-thon and the camaraderie of delightful book-lovers; check out Seasons of Reading to see what seasonal reading events are coming up.

 

 

A Winter’s Respite Read-A-Thon: Reading as the Flakes Fall

26 Jan

Winter's Respite Readathon 2015With a blizzard on the way here in the northeast U.S., my respite from winter will indeed be in the form of cozy reading, with a fleece blanket in my lap and a cup of tea or coffee within easy reach! Here’s hoping the power stays on!  And that everyone has shelter and stays safe.

I’m happy to join Michelle at Seasons of Reading and many friends for A Winter’s Respite Read-a-thon. Here are some choices I’m lining up for the week:

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver — finishing this one up for Travel the World in Books Readalong Twitter chat on Wed., Jan 28.
  2. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery — a heartwarming story to take the chill off!
  3. To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker — French embroiderer Marguerite travels to Russia to the royal court of Empress Elisabeth to sew for her and her remarkable daughter-in-law, Catherine.
  4. Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd — for March’s Lit Collective reading retreat on Venice
  5. Stone Virgin by Barry Unsworth — also for Lit Collective theme
  6. Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen — historical romance by an author new to me
Myrtle Skete

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