A Glance at 2013…

I managed to read 22 books this year … over 7,700 pages. This might not seem like a very respectable number to some of you, but considering I am in the midst of raising toddler twins and a teenager, I consider it a win. I didn’t accomplish much as far as my “classics” and related projects are concerned, but I feel like I stepped outside of my box as a reader and that was just as valuable an experience. Some highlights:

1. I discovered that although I love to make reading plans and lists, I cannot stick to them because I am too often drawn to a book not on my list. And so, I only read 5 of the 12 books on my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge List (hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader). I seem to be more suited for the random read along rather than the more structured challenges.

2. I read and enjoyed my first graphic novel … The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

3. I read some great YA titles like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Perks was so good I actually read it twice this year!

4. I dipped into the “Jazz Age” with books like Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night along with Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I discovered I am fascinated by Zelda Fitzgerald. Tender is the Night comes in as my least favorite book of 2013, but The Great Gatsby was a different story. Although I wasn’t necessarily blown away at first, I still find myself thinking about that novel … it sort of haunts me. It becomes greater and greater in my mind as time goes on and I will probably re-read it at some point.

5. I re-read A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. And this, my friends, is of course my favorite book of 2013. If you haven’t read it, you must. It can be slow in places, but it is so, so worth it in the end. There is no other character in literature like OWEN MEANY! He will get into your head. He will make you feel things that you weren’t expecting. He will stay with you for weeks and months to come.

6. I started Rowling’s Harry Potter series for the first time. I understand I may be the only book nerd left on earth who has not read this series, but I had some sort of unexplainable aversion to these books for as long as I can remember. And then, after all these years, they called to me for some reason and I am really enjoying it so far. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will be seeing me into the new year.

Cheers to 2014!

The Future of Blogging and Some Free Books For You…

IMG_20130803_210346The twins have changed my life in many ways. One of those ways involves reading and this blog. I am still reading, but not nearly as much. I no longer have the luxury of staying up late to read. Sleep is a necessity for my survival. I am also reading more on my Nook because it is easier, but most of my classics are paperback books. So, my reading has become more varied. Finding time to blog has been difficult, but I would like to begin getting back in the blogging routine. I will continue to read and journal about the classics on my list, but you may also find some posts about more contemporary selections. Along with my TBR pile, I am growing and changing as a reader, in large part due to the network of other amazing readers I have found through Twitter. I recently participated in two read-alongs for Stephen King’s Under the Dome and John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany. Owen Meany was a re-read for me, but remains one of my favorite books of all time.  In fact, I have been having a hard time starting another book as Owen is still running around in my head. Under the Dome was my second experience with Stephen King…11/22/63 being the first. I had always avoided Stephen King in the past, but I ended up really liking both novels. I would have liked to have put up posts for both of these read-alongs, but I just didn’t get to it. In the future, I hope to be better at this read-along component.

 I recently updated my copy of The Scarlet Letter and Jane Eyre with Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions and my copy of The Great Gatsby with a Penguin Modern ClassicsIMG_20130804_114022 Edition. So, if anyone is interested, I would be happy to send you my original copies of these books. They have each been read once and then sat on my shelves. First come first serve…leave me your email address so I can get your mailing information.

Hello Out There…

I am still here. I have been reading, but not from my project list. Why? Well, because the last 8 months with the twins have been, uh, busy and I didn’t want what happened with Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to happen with other project selections. I read the book, but by the time I had a chance to actually write a blog post I had nothing to say. Too much time had passed. My mind was blank. I keep a reading journal via my blog so that I can record my thoughts while they are fresh and then remember the books in the future by rereading posts. People keep telling me this raising twins thing gets easier, but I am not so sure. In the mean time, I will read when I can, blog when I can and check in when I can. Happy Holidays All!

P.S.

Here is what I have downloaded to my Nook since we last chatted:

1984, George Orwell

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, J Randy Taraborrelli

Walking in the Shade, Doris Lessing

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, Bob Spitz

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan

Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman

Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

Moranthology, Caitlin Moran

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling

Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan

 

 

I miss reading. *sigh*

So tired, just like her mommy!

The twins are almost 7 weeks old. The weeks have flown by in a sleep deprived blur. I miss sleep. I miss reading. I am not sure why I had imagined that I would be able to read a little when they are napping. I am home alone with them during the week days. When they do nap at the same time, I run around like a lunatic taking the dogs out, grabbing some food, and getting daily chores done. And when they go down at night, I go to bed too so I can get a few hours sleep before they wake to eat. I am really looking forward to when they both start sleeping through the night … or at least both sleep in a nice 7 hour stretch at the same time! I think then I will be able to read for an hour or so before bed.

I had hoped to participate in a read along of The Color Purple this month, but that didn’t work out. I am still hoping to participate in Allie’s Victorian event in June and July. Perhaps I can at least get Wuthering Heights read.

After delivery, I treated myself to a few new books. While I love my selections, I wish I had treated myself to the Nook instead. A few years ago, I purchased a Kindle. I ended up returning it, though, because I found that I still much preferred the paper book and so I could not justify spending the money for it. At the time they were new and much more expensive than they are now. I didn’t think I would ever consider an e-reader again, but I am now. I can’t hold a book to read and feed at the same time, but I could do it with a Nook. It would be no different from how I sometimes use my phone to read blogs while I am feeding. Has anyone else found an e-reader useful in this capacity?

The new selections (that I will hopefully read one day…lol!):

Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind by Marianne Walker, The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

    

Checkin In…after Checkin Out…

One would think that I would have been doing a lot of reading while sitting around pregnant, but the opposite has been true. First it was the nausea that kept me from reading. Once that had finally passed, it seemed like a pregnancy fog set in. I have been unable to focus on anything for any extended period of time, including reading. I am restless. I have little patience. At times, I tried to ease back into the classics by first reading some “lighter” contemporary selections, but these books were simply unsatisfying. Have any of you found that the classics have in some way ruined you for most contemporary fiction? Not all, but most?

I did continue to browse all of your blogs, so even though I have not been present I feel as though I was never really gone. I even found some new blogs to follow and have updated my blogroll. My twins (a boy and a girl!!) will be arriving within the next 18 days. I am excited. I am nervous. I am looking forward to perhaps feeling more like myself in the upcoming weeks and months as I shed the cloak of pregnancy. I am hoping to fit in some reading and blogging in between changing, feeding, changing, feeding, playing, and loving.

With this in mind, I have joined Jillian’s Classics Club along with Allie’s Victorian Celebration as a sort of motivation to get back to my “classics” reading project. For the Classics Club I am committed to trying to finish the (about) 60 titles I have left on my project list over the next 5 years. Of course, I may add to or change that list at any time. I have not yet made my final selections for the Victorian Celebration in June and July, but I am thinking about Wuthering Heights and a Dickens selection…Great Expectations or Bleak House?

When the big day arrives, I will be sure to share the news. In the meantime, happy reading friends!

Checkin In … You Don’t Want to Miss This …

A lot has been going on this week. After returning home Tuesday from a hospital stay due to some Crohn’s issues, I have been busy reading Vanity Fair like a maniac in order to finish by June 30th for Allie’s read-along. I have about 200 pages to go. My first post for the read-along can be found here. I also spent a portion of the week helping Alexa study for finals, but now she is officially done with school!

This week I also stumbled on some great book related finds online. First, the awesome Literary Give-Away Blog Hop! Until June 29th, you have the opportunity to check out over 70 great blogs that are also offering book give-aways in the literary fiction genre. There are some great classic selections up for grabs!! Click on the button on the right to get started. If I had known about this in time, I would have participated, but since I didn’t, I am going to be participating in another Give-Away Hop in July: The Freedom Give-Away Hop. This one has over 200 blogs participating with a more varied selection of book genres. I will have two “classic” selections up for grabs for one lucky winner, so be sure to check back here on July 1st! And, if you are interested in participating, you still have until tomorrow to sign up! I think it would be great if we could get some more classic selections in the mix! Just click on the button on the left to be re-directed to the site for sign-up.

Finally, I wanted to share that The Classics Circuit will be starting a John Steinbeck tour in July! I plan to participate in this and hope you do too. Just click on the button below for more info. Hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!

Checkin In … and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I’ve been busy … thinking … thinking about reading rather than actually reading. The problem is that there are just so many books out there that I want to read that I have been having a hard time focusing on any one selection. I need to finish that Anne Sexton biography, but I suddenly couldn’t help myself and decided to join Allie’s (all ready in progress) read-along of Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray. (I did not have a copy of this selection, so I checked it out from my local library. The original library card was still in the back of the book, although check-out is now computerized. The book was first checked out on July 27 1963! Suddenly, I was wondering what brave souls in my town had checked this out before me … before I was even born?) I am craving a look at Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma, and Breaking Night by Liz Murray. Apparently, the memoir addict in me needs a hit.

I did finish Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, published in 1934, last night. Although I like mysteries, this was my first go round with Ms. Christie – the most widely published mystery author of all time. I put this selection on my project reading list because I felt that Agatha Christie was the definition of “classic” as far as women mystery writers go. Set on a passenger train, the story held my attention, but by the end I couldn’t help but think that much of what was happening was highly improbable, including Hercule Poirot’s incredible detective skills, and this was a bit of a turn-off for me. Then again, I have never been much of a detective myself (although I can play a mean game of Clue) so who I am to judge the probability of his skills? I was also not impressed with the ethnic stereotyping that I felt was present in the writing.

Agatha Christie 1890-1976

In the end, all I can say is: Was it Mrs. White in the dining car with the fork? Well, you will just have to read it to find out!

Good Detective Advice: “If you confront anyone who has lied with the truth, he will usually admit it-often out of sheer surprise. It is only necessary to guess right to produce your effect.” – Hercule Poirot

Checkin In…Bookstore Adventures…

Well, the cold, hideous winter weather has returned. I am wondering if the weather could account for so many bloggers being in a reading rut…myself included. I know that my OCD need to finish one book before I begin another is playing a role for me. I was keeping a pretty good pace with War and Peace, but am having a really hard time finding the necessary motivation to finish the last section so I can officially move on. So, tonight I decided to move outside of my box and just go ahead and start something else…something lighter (at least compared to War and Peace) to get me back on smoother reading ground: Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I picked the play up today along with Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and East of Eden (I seem to have lost my other copy and I feel a re-read coming in my future…), The Color Purple by Alice Walker and a collection of short stories including The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I was thinking about reading a “non-classic” to bring me out of this slump, but that didn’t really appeal to me either. I am hoping that snuggling up with this play in my freshly cleaned bedroom (with my stylin new curtain rods) will do the trick.

Checkin In…Random Thoughts Related to Writing and Reading…

Hello there!

1. I am finished with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and am currently about 200 pages in with Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, both of which I am reading for Allie’s January read-alongs.

2. I have been busy receiving some interesting book loot from online purchases. I will be sharing the details soon. I am happy to report that I have purchased seven selections and have saved around $60 with the use of store coupons, member discounts, and store bucks! Yes, I am really excited about my savings…lol!

3. Something that bothers me about my writing: I cannot seem to ever fully master the proper use of punctuation, especially things like the comma and the semicolon. I took a grammar course in college, but am too lazy to refer to my notes while I am writing. I know that convention is important in the writing of academic papers, but is it really that important in creative writing or blogging? About the only thing I ever remember for sure is that a comma is required before the use of “but” in a sentence.

4. Something that bothers me about my reading: I have a horrible time with the proper or intended pronunciation of the names of people and places in books. This really aggravates me. It occurs to me that this is one situation where audio books really come in handy!

HELP! 🙂

Checkin In…Bookstore Adventures…

“The weather outside is frightful” in upstate NY! It was 12 degrees on the bank clock when I ran out to the library this morning. It is certainly a good time to curl up with a book! Tomorrow, I have to go for my third colonoscopy in four years so the specialists can take a closer look at the current status of my Crohn’s disease. As this procedure requires that my intestines be “cleaned out”, I will most likely be curled up near the bathroom! J At the library, I picked up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which I have been interested in reading for months now. Some of Henrietta’s cells, now known as HeLa cells, were taken from her cervix without her knowledge and continue to live on by the millions although she passed away almost sixty years ago. These cells have been used to research things such as the polio vaccine, cancer, viruses, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. Hopefully this book puts a real face to the famous cells and will be an interesting look at the value of ethics versus that of scientific research.
My thoughts about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love have finally been posted. I am not sure that I have done the book justice. I have always been a fast reader, but it seems that blogging about the books I read may force me to slow down and begin reading in a different way. However, I am still struggling a bit with remembering the thoughts I have while reading and then transferring those thoughts into words for the blog. I am also not a multi-tasker when it comes to reading and writing. I really almost never read more than one book at a time. I may have two books listed under my “currently reading” section, but that means I will be reading them back to back not reading from both at the same time. Posting on my blog may be at a slower pace than some are used to because I find that I have to read one book and post on it before I can move on to start reading the next. I have never understood how easy it is for some people to be reading two or three books simultaneously.
Hence, I am really nervous about my plans for January. I am going to be participating in Allie’s read-alongs over at A Literary Odyssey for War and Peace, The Woman in White, and Rebecca. Saturday, we had to travel about two hours for one of Alexa’s indoor soccer tournaments. On this town’s main street, I spotted a charming little bookstore and found a cheap copy of The Woman in White. Sunday, I popped into Borders because I had a 40% off coupon and $15 in free Border’s Bucks. I ended up getting two CDs that Alexa wanted for Christmas and a copy of Rebecca all for $10…what a deal!
I must confess that I have cheated a bit and read the first few chapters of Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, out of curiosity. Although I am sure that the writer is using a technique to build suspense, I find it troubling that we know so little about the narrator (Mr. de Winter’s second wife). We don’t even know her name and I am having a difficult time picturing her in my mind’s eye.
For the rest of December, my only other plans are to finish up Little Women. I hope you all are having a happy holiday season!