readerly rambles

Readerly Rambles: Looking to 2015 and the TBR Challenge

readerly rambles

Heavens to Betsy, it is after 10am and I’ve been intending on blogging all morning. I’m on my third cup of coffee, so I suppose I am finally caffeinated enough to write something. First a brief word on this year’s reading. I’m three books away from meeting my goal of 40 books in 2014. My original goal was to read 50 books, but then I decided to be realistic. This has been my year of chunksters equally a high page count despite the low “book” numbers. Whatev. I plan on finishing The Luminaries and then reading a short Christmas novella and a short non-fiction book. Boom. Done. Now onto 2015.

I’ve considered signing up for some reading challenges and there are some fantastic ones out there, but I will have to pass. I’m going to do Adam’s TBR challenge, but that book list is coming straight from my Virago Project list. Instead I’m going to focus on readalongs, monthly events, and other short-term “challenges.”

And now for my 2015 TBR List!

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  1. The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detatched House by Emily Eden
  2. Frost in May by Antonia White
  3. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  4. The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  5. Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead
  6. For Love Alone by Christina Stead
  7. Precious Bane by Mary Webb
  8. The Holiday by Stevie Smith
  9. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
  10. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley
  11. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
  12. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F. Tennyson Jesse
  13. (alternate) The Lacquer Lady by F. Tennyson Jesse
  14. (alternate) Gone to Earth by Mary Webb

I am excited about the 2015 reading year!

#AMonthofFaves: An Introduction

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This month Estella’s Revenge, Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T are hosting a month of bookish – and sometimes not – favorites. Check out this intro post to learn more. The task for today is to introduce our reading year. How has this year “shaped up” and a basic snapshot of our year in reading.

If you look at straight up numbers my reading year has been dismal. My original GoodReads goal of reading 50 books was soon ditched for the far more realistic 40 books. Looks can be deceiving; although my numbers are low I have read so. many. chunksters. I’ve read five books well over 500 pages — Middlemarch, The Woman in White, Alias Grace, A Game of Thrones, and Doctor Thorne — and when I finish Framley Parsonage that will be six chunksters in the bag. I’ve also read ten classics which, if I make it to 40 books read and read the other classics on the docket for the month, will be about a third of my reading for the year.

I have to remember that my life is in a different season right now and it is not a reading intense series. This year we’ve endured two bouts of the kids having a stomach flu of lasting over the week, I’ve had strep throat four times, Sam switched jobs and ramped up his college courses, and we moved amidst less than ideal circumstances. Life has been busy.

I think I have successfully met my goal of making this year a year infused with the written word despite my low numbers. I wanted to write in addition to read and I’ve done that. Nanowrimo didn’t happen but I’ve written more letters, journaled with more depth, and my blog writing has been more consistent. Mischief managed.

I have decided that I am not an e-reader fan. While useful for traveling and late nights with the kids I find my attention wanders with e-readers and I don’t have the same rich reading experience. I’m certainly an old fashioned girl when it comes to books. Having said that I am no longer purchasing electronic books DESPITE the cheap-o deals. I use the app on my Android WAY more than my actual Kindle as it makes reading easier for when I am stuck. I always have my phone, but I don’t bother to carry the Kindle. Long live the printed word!

 

Readerly Rambles: Wrapping up RIPIX and a New Classics Spin

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I rocked Carl’s RIP challenge this year. My goal was to complete at least four books and I finished seven.

  1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  2. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  3. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. I haven’t reviewed this yet, but I adored it. It was deeply troubling, beautiful, and frightening. It made me think about family, racism, gender, and all the while I was terrified. The writing is gorgeous and I think it expresses that sometimes it is our perceived “inheritances” that can be the most frightening. I will certainly revisit this novel again.
  4. Dark Shadows, vol 1 by Stuart Manning. Meh
  5. The War of the Worlds by H G Wells
  6. Amphigorey by Edward Gorey
  7. Locke and Key, vol. 6 by Joe Hill

I love RIP season as September and October are perfect for ghastly and ghoulish books. Now it is November and I’ve done my post-RIP routine of determining my reads for the rest of the year. I’ve fiddled with my GoodReads goal (which feels like cheating) and I hope to finish 48 books by the end of the year. Will I make it? Seeing that I’m only at 35 probably not. But I’m willing to try. Here are my books to be read by the end of the year.

First, the in progress reads:

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (audio)
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  • The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James

My goal is to continue reading the stories throughout November and December. I hope to finish Rebecca and Framley Parsonage  by Monday the 10th.

Now, the rest of my TBR:

  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen
  • The Quick by Lauren Owen
  • The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  • Mrs. DeWinter by Susan Hill
  • The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  • The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  • Classic Club Spin book

That’s right! It is time for another Classic Club spin challenge! I love these. I’m already thinking about my reading for next year because I am a nerd and I love lists (duh). I want to start a new reading project. Not a CHALLENGE with a DEADLINE, but a life-long project of reading all the Virago Modern Classics. I’m officially starting in January, but I thought I’d use this last Classic Club spin challenge of the year to get started. Here are my 20 Viragos:

  1. Frost in May by Antonia White
  2. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  3. The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  4. Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead
  5. For Love Alone by Christina Stead
  6. Precious Bane by Mary Webb
  7. The Holiday by Stevie Smith
  8. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
  9. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley
  10. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
  11. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F. Tennyson Jesse
  12. The Lacquer Lady by F. Tennyson Jesse
  13. The Semi-attached Couple and the Semi-detached House by Emily Eden
  14. Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
  15. Over the Frontier by Stevie Smith
  16. The Beth Book by Sarah Grand
  17. A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
  18. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  19. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
  20. The Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley

A small note, while I would love to own each of these books in their perfect, green-spine glory, I’m aware that I don’t need to spend money on books AND I cannot store all of them right now. Some of these books I may own in other editions or I may *gasp* use the library. The goal is to read the books, not fuss and fiddle with editions. Next Monday I’ll find out my spin number, but for now I’m going to focus on knocking out Trollope.

 

Happy Reading!

 

Readerly Rambles: The Read-a-thon mini-review edition

readerly rambles

Dark Shadows, volume 1 by Stuart Manning

Meh. I don’t know if this is the case, but it felt like cashing in on the movie. A whole lot happens in fewer than 100 pages with little character development, no plot tension and middle of the road illustrations.  (2 Stars)

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot

This is a fun little book of poems about cats. I adored it. The poems were clever and fresh and would be a treat for any cheeky cat lover. Illustrated by Edward Gorey. (4 Stars)

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

I hated this little book. It is 40 pages of stupidity. PLOT SPOILERS. Woman finds a bookmobile at night that contains everything she has ever read. She wants to work on this bookmobile that disappears magically for years at a time. She becomes a librarian and is upset that she is still unqualified to be a night bookmobile librarian. So she commits suicide and becomes the night bookmobile librarian for someone else. This “graphic novel” had no character development. I didn’t give two hoots she offs herself and I thought she was whiny and dumb the entire time. The idea is brilliant and this might have worked as a longer, more fleshed out work. (1 Star)

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Honestly, I did not think I would like this book. I chose to read it for read-a-thon because it was under 300 pages and was illustrated by Edward Gorey. It was amazing. I don’t know why I didn’t read it sooner. This tale of Martians annihilating the Victorians was fast-paced, beautifully written, and meaningful all while functioning as a badass Victorian Walking Dead with aliens instead of zombies. Read it. (4 Stars)

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey

This is a collection of 15 of Edward Gorey’s illustrated books. Because I read the book cover to cover in one sitting, the titles tend to run together, but it doesn’t matter. It is fun and macabre and beautifully illustrated. (4 Stars)

Fables: Snow White (v. 19) by Bill Willingham

Oh my gosh I love Fables and this collection is pretty exciting. I didn’t care much for the first quarter of the book that ties up loose ends with Buffkin the flying monkey and his pixie girlfriends. But the last 3/4 of the book is exciting and turns the plot and I cannot say more without spoiling everything. (4 Stars)

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Read-a-thon was terrific. I am getting closer to getting to where I want to be with reading. The rest of October will be finishing several books I have going right now (Quartet in Autumn, Framley Parsonage, M R James short stories, and Rebecca on audio).

Happy Reading!

Welcome to the Sausage Fest: A Review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

readerly rambles

A few weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with posts bemoaning blog malaise. Folks were exhausted, bored, and frustrated with blogging. I made my peace with blogging several years ago, but I still struggle with self-doubt and feeling like I could always be doing more. I have so many ideas and very little time to write. Also, I need to be doing things to write about: reading, baking, crafting, going places. If I spend all my free time writing or blogging then I run out of material or resort to bored naval-gazing and no one wants that. How in heavens name do people find the time to create?

Enter Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book is comprised of brief entries about the daily and creative habits of famous writers, artists, dancers, scientists and inventors. Gleaned from biographies, letters, and diaries this book offers an inspiring look at how people make the time to create. Some have firm schedules (W.H. Auden), others superstitions habits (Truman Capote), and still others are decidedly weird (Thomas Wolfe liked to diddle himself before writing…ewww). I started tabbing the book when I noticed three recurring things with many of the subjects: waking early, daily exercise, and coffee. The green tabs are exercise, yellow is coffee, and pink/purple represent waking early. Blue tabs are just my favorite interesting quirks and facts.

wpid-wp-1412600249026.jpgI certainly give this book five stars for how interesting it is and the level of research it must have taken to assemble the over 150 different “daily rituals” into one volume.

HOWEVER…

This book absolutely pissed me off and I haven’t sworn at a book in quite a long time. This book is a freaking sausage fest. There are over 150 creators profiled in this book and only 26 women are represented. What. the. f*ck? There are also very few people of color or from non-American/European countries and nearly everyone in the book is well-off. Thanks for letting me know how hard it is to be a white, privileged, American man and I am so glad you found the time to create.

You will see loads of women on the pages of Daily Rituals. They’re fixing bowls of cornflakes, reading aloud to frustrated authors, editing shit drafts, typing entire novels written on index cards (hello, Mrs. Nabokov), tending children, or simply working to pay the bills. The interesting nature of the entries was marred by the exclusiveness of the artists and creators featured.

Mr. Currey could have saved this book in one of two ways:

  1. My least favorite way would be to talk about it. I just re-read the introduction and he states he, “…tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges [finding time to create]”. A simple paragraph recognizing the book was skewed towards men would have gone a long way. He could have talked about class, gender, and race — even briefly — and detailed how it was easier to find privileged or male examples in diaries, letters, and biographies.
  2. The best remedy would have been for Mr. Currey to work a bit harder and find more women, people of color, and working class examples. The stuff is out there if only one would look. I would have especially liked some mothers featured. I know that everyone doesn’t chose to be a mother, but out of the women represented I think less than five mentioned children or household duties.

For inclusiveness I give this book one star meaning the book averages about three stars. In his introduction Currey hopes “that readers will find it [the book] encouraging rather than depressing”. Alas, I left this book depressed at the short-sightedness of the work and angry it was a catalog of the “struggles” wealthy, white men face. Boo, freaking, hoo.

Readerly Rambles: The Read-a-thon Sign-up Post!

 

I’m really looking forward to Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon this October. I love the April Read-a-thon, but the October Read-a-thon is my absolute favorite. Autumn finds me gravitating towards classics, mysteries, and gothic-themed novels and my read-a-thon pile always reflects my current reading mood. Pouring a mug of cocoa and losing myself in a ghost story collection for the day is my idea of bliss.

In fact, I’ve hit on a brilliant idea. I’m going to theme each read-a-thon. The one downside to read-a-thon — and it is a monster of my own making — is that I get overwhelmed by choices. I make piles of short books and graphic novels. I promise to chip away at that Victorian chunkster. I swear that I will spend less time deciding what to read and more time reading. Fail. Fail. Fail. At the end I usually end up slightly disappointed in my progress and wishing I had a way to tie everything together.

OMG. Yes. Themed Read-a-thon. I decided that October will almost always be spooky, but this year I am whittling that theme down even more. My inspiration stuck when I was in the library stacks and saw this book:

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Yes, a juvenile spooky series illustrated by Edward Gorey. That triggered a few other ideas in my head related to Edward Gorey and literature and thus I arrived at the idea of having an Edward Gorey-themed Read-a-thon. Now, it won’t be ALL Edward Gorey as I have a delicious stack of graphic novels to read. The bulk of my reading, however, will some how tie into Edward Gorey and I am having so much fun creating the book list.

Other October ideas for the future include books with “owl” in the title or cover art, classics with movie adaptations, vampires or ghosts, or maybe vintage crime novels. In the spring I tend to gravitate towards fairy tales, myths, and children’s literature and that will be a fun list to create as well.

I’m super-excited about this year and I hope you all will join in. Details are here!

Readerly Rambles: 15 September 2014

readerly rambles

What I read: Earlier in the month I finished up The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was a re-read for me, but frankly I don’t remember finding the book so creepy and fascinating during the first read. I’ll hold off on my analysis until the Estella Society has their Hill House read-along discussion on October 1st. For a teaser let me just say, HOLY COW THE BELL JAR!!!

What I’m reading: I’m about halfway through Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper. The story centers around Laurel, an aging actress who is haunted by remembering a violent act concerning her mother. Almost s her mother is elderly and nearing death, Laurel feels pressure to discover the truth of what happened that day and to uncover her mother’s secretive past. The novel reminds me a bit of Sarah Water’s The Night Watch simply because it occurs during wartime and the timeline seems to move backwards and then forwards. I hope that makes sense. I’m really enjoying it for the plot and characters and but the crux of the novel focuses on the secret life of mothers and that is the most fascinating element. You know, the fact that we are completely human with passions, interests, faults, etc…. outside of being a mother even though society tends to sum up women based on their role as a mother (or lack of a role as a mother). Good Stuff.

I’m also dipping in to M R James’s Collected Ghost Stories on my Kindle. It is my lunch-break, waiting-in-line read. I adore M R James and he is a masterful storyteller. Thus far the most frightening story in the collect is “The Ash Tree” as it features my least favorite creature: SPIDERS.

What’s up Next: Once I’m done with The Secret Keeper I plan on cracking open Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I am completely determined to finish The Chronicles of Barsetshire series this year.

Reading Challenge Update: RIP IX is coming along marvelously. I’ll post more extensively on RIP at a later date, but suffice it to say that I am all over this challenge. I’ve read one book out of four (Hill House) and the James counts as my story collection. I also watched The Haunting, which is the film version of The Haunting of Hill House for the Peril of the Screen challenge. This is certainly my favorite challenge.

I’ll write extensively on my reading challenges as I wrap up the year in December / early January, but I did want to note how I’m doing on my goals:

Back to the Classics — 7 out of 10
Victorian Reading Challenge – 8 out of 2 (winning!!!!)
Chunksters – 5 out of 5 (yay!)

Bookshelf Issues: To wrap up this week’s Readerly Rambles I’d like to share my readerly conundrum — my books are still boxed up. We moved two weeks ago and I’ve yet to unpack my books because I don’t have shelves for them. I had two cheap-y Target bookshelves that pretty much fell apart during the move. With two little kids around and knowing these shelves will be full with books I didn’t want to risk cobbling particleboard back together. On one had I want to just buy more cheap shelves as we plan on buying a home in the next three years. I’d like to put built-in shelving when we buy OR make sure that our shelves go with the style of the house. On the other hand, it seems silly to waste money on items that will be used temporarily. And if I did buy some solid shelves they could probably go somewhere in our future home. So what’s it to be?

1). Cheap shelves for now

2). Pull a little savings and get sturdier shelves

I don’t know what to do; I just know I won’t be settled until the books are unpacked!