New books…

I’ve picked up (and by that, read “ordered from Amazon”) three new books:  The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, Pere Goriot by Balzac, and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  And, if you want to be technical, I also grabbed a book for my Kindle–The Color of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett–because it was on sale for 99 cents and who can pass that up?

I am starting with the James Hogg book.  So far it has been pretty interesting and it reads easily–which, let’s face it, not all books written in 1824 do.  While I haven’t had a ton of time to read (mandatory work overtime is killing me), I try to grab a few minutes here and there.

Update later, gators.

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King Solomon’s Mines

I said I’d get around to writing about this.  Don’t hold your breath.

  • Book:  King Solomon’s Mines
  • Author:  H. Rider Haggard
  • Publication year:  1885

King Solomon Mine coverThis book is supposed to be the genesis of all “lost world” genre books.  But, to me, it screams bigoted colonialism which pisses me off in any genre.  I don’t like the view (especially when it is author driven and not just character driven) that anyone–no matter race, gender, or beliefs–should be written off as a simpleton just because of a difference in technology and customs.

Yes.  I could be diplomatic and say Haggard was a creature of his time and values.  Well, times change.  Novels don’t.

If you can get around the arrogant “white man is the superior being” language in the text, the tale isn’t dreadful.  It does feel a bit simple–more like a teenage adventure tale–but there are still twists and turns to be had:  a lost brother, a treasure hunt, treachery, tribal civil war, witches, almost certain death, and stalagmite-bodies of dead kings.  Oh, and–in case you forgot where you were–the obligatory great-white-hunter scene of wanton destruction of animals.

But, as is to be expected to generate hope for any adventuresome reader:

So we left it. Perhaps, in some remote unborn century, a more fortunate explorer may hit upon the “Open Sesame,” and flood the world with gems. But, myself, I doubt it. Somehow, I seem to feel that the tens of millions of pounds’ worth of jewels which lie in the three stone coffers will never shine round the neck of an earthly beauty. They and Foulata’s bones will keep cold company till the end of all things.

Here lies the adventure of King Solomon’s Mines.

  • Did I enjoy this book?  Not in any particular way.
  • Will I read this book again?  That is highly unlikely without a specific reason for doing so.
  • Will I attempt to read more H. Rider Haggard?  I may give it one more shot.

PS.  If you do go digging in to this novel, you might hear the echoes of other adventure stories as you go.  While this book’s attitudes may rub me the wrong way, I do think this book has made serious ripples in the literary pond…

Readathon…ummm…

Ok.  My performance was lackluster at best.

The Classics Club follow up:

What book(s) did I readTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

What book(s) did I finish:  None.  I managed about 150 pages in Verne and the first chapter of Tolkien.

What did I like about the event:  I love that it makes me make time for reading–even if I don’t actually get something completed, I do get further down the text than I might have done on a normal day.

I also like to see what others are reading and how they are progressing.  [This is how I ended up with The Hobbit on my reading schedule and how it snuck into the readathon!]

Suggestions for future readathons:  I like that the progress of the readathon is so relaxed and without pressure.  But I’d like to pitch in the idea for a themed readathon where people can look through their lists to find something that fits the theme and participate.  OR, perhaps choose a time period readathon where we can find a book written in a particular century or whatever.

Would I participate in future readathons:  Definitely.

//

I’m late, I’m late…!

So, today has not gone according to plan.  It is 3 pm and I am just now getting around to digging in for the readathon.

I’m gonna crack open my Kindle and read like the wind!  Fingers crossed that I can at least finish Verne today…!

For the Check In Post

  • Snack of choice:  homemade fresh guacamole on toasted french bread and a mini-thermos filled with iced tea
  • Where I park my reading carcass:  either the daybed in the office or a squishy chair in the living room–with a big red quilt for extra comfort
  • Book on tapTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • My goals for the readathon:  To relax and read without pressure

Book, here I come!

//

Counting up the reading year

I’ve been wretchedly lazy this year about reading, but I thought I’d take a look at what has been accomplished.

Breakdown

Total books:  40 (+1 that will be finished before the New Year)

Rereads:  17

Classification:

  • Classics from my list:  8
  • Scifi:  31
  • YA:  12

Total pages read:  18,676 + 759 = 19,435

Average book length:  474 pages

  • books above: 17
  • books below:  24
  • longest book:  The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time #4) by Robert Jordan
  • shortest book:  Why Read? by Mark Edmundson

Books begun in 2012 and not yet completed:

  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
  • A Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
  • Letters by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Red and the Black by Stendhal
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • A Scream Goes Through the House by Arnold Weinstein

Why were these books not completed?  Mostly the problem stems from sheer laziness on my part.    Two are not complete because I have a bee in my bonnet about them and am irritated with the writing and the content.  Two are not finished because I had to return the book to the library for another patron and have not checked it out again.

What am I most pleased about?  Nothing really.  I didn’t manage to get through all of Austen this year.  I can’t seem to finish Sense and Sensibility and I haven’t begun Mansfield Park.  I’m mad that my list for “not finished this year” is ten books long!  I am a bit grumbly about only finishing 41 novels…and 17 of those are re-reads!  Geez.  My 2012 was not a year for books.

What do I hope for 2013?  I really want to get on with my Classics Club list.  I am going to make a tentative goal to complete at least 30 classics next year.  No more waffling!

A New Year’s Readathon for the Classics Club!

classics-club-readathon-january-2013Hey everyone–

The Classics Club is going to kickstart the new year with a big 24-hour readathon on Saturday, January 5th.  Woohoo!  Since that will be my last Saturday before school starts back up again, I thought it was excellent timing!

[Click the pic for more information…]

Since I still have plenty of books on my list of potentials for the Classics Club challenge, I think this will be the shortlist of choices for the readathon:

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  • Maybe a few chapters out of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

We shall see.  Who knows…it may be something entirely different!

The swing of things (or, handling the classics)

The November meme over at The Classics Club is this:

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

And, here’s what I have to say:

Books, in general, rarely intimidate me.  I don’t fuss about length or worry that it might be “too smart” for me.  I am more concerned about two things:  is the writing style approachable? and is it a good story?

That first question is why I refuse to read more Melville.  Any time I approach his writing I wish someone would have slapped him upside the head with a wood plank.  He is pretentious and needlessly verbose.  I can’t make it past the language to even glimpse the story; it’s very annoying.

What can be intimidating for me are the reactions I have to what is happening in the story.  For example, I had to break from reading Clarissa because of the emotional turmoil.  The story is told in letters–most of them from Clarissa–about the situation occurring in her family and how they are trying to force her into a marriage she does not want.  What bothers me is the frustration and cruelty.  Now, in a modern novel, the stressful scenario would have been ameliorated by interactions with others and changing scenes/viewpoints, but in Clarissa there is no relief from the ongoing stress–it continually piles on.  I couldn’t hack it…particularly as she makes no attempt to do anything about it; damsel-in-distress rubs my modern sensiblities the wrong way, but so do the people who are cruel or ambivalent.

Not knowing how hard an author will slap my emotional buttons can be a bit of a gamble when reading.  However, severe reactions to something fall relatively few and far between.

Books on my potentially-emotionally-nervewracking list:

  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I guess there could be others and these could be not as bad as I think, so we shall have to wait and see!

Life in the way

Plans.  They all go awry at the last minute.

Due to a sudden convergence circumstances, my reading has gone off the rails:  even my finishing up Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy hasn’t happened yet!  However, back at the beginning of September, I thought I could plot out the remainder of my reading for this year.  The October plan:

October reading:  the spooky!

Sometimes it is fun to read spooky things.  Ghosties and goblins and weird kinds of beasties!  Witches and murder and potions by the gallon!

I don’t know if I’ll manage all of them, but I’d like to get through at least three–as it will start ticking books from my Classics Club list.  [Although, in the case of the plays, it will just get me closer to finishing the compiled works.]

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Macbeth by Shakespeare
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Whether I manage to get through any of the books I planned to read remains to be seen.  I started Udolpho, but am in the middle of cleaning the house and rearranging for a housemate, handling a very old Great Dane who will probably need to be put down in the next few weeks, taking a mandatory faculty intensive workshop detailing new guidelines, plotting my Nanowrimo novel, and trying to get rid of a cold.  All in all this does not make for a promising month of reading!  Most of my spare time is spent on sleep.

I am hoping that the last weekend of the month and beyond will be much better for reading, but Nano starts that Thursday!  Can I manage to squeeze in a book or two in a spurt of reading madness?  Maybe I’ll sit at the end of the driveway in a comfy chair with my Kindle handing out Halloween candy…

Plucking out a new path

With my current plan for The Classics Club, I should be making it through twenty five books per year for three years (ending March 15, 2015).  Right now that feels like a LOT–especially when there are more modern books that I also want to read.  So, I think I am going to push out my “due date” from three years to five.  It gives me a bit of breathing room.

  • New end date:  March 15, 2017
  • Goal:  15 classics from list per year

Am I on track for this first year?  Definitely.  I am just past the six month mark (September 15) and I have completed 8 novels: 4 Austen, 1 Hardy, 2 Montgomery, 1 Lawrence.  **I will have a 5th Austen finished by tomorrow to make 9 novels!**

What book do I feel compelled to complete in the first year?  Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.  I stopped reading it because it upset me; there was no available break to the tension.  I will pick it up and begin plugging back through soon–a set of goals will be required (and incentives!)

What would I like to read?  Austen’s Mansfield Park.  It will be my first read through of the novel and I’d like to have it completed by the end of 2012.  Completing all of Austen’s major works this year would make me feel like this project is actually accomplishing things I’ve never done before.

What am I anticipating in my plans?  Spooky novels this October and mysteries for my Nanowrimo November.

The Classics Club: Northanger Abbey

This is an absolute must read!  I laughed all the way through.

Catherine Morland is a young girl with a very active imagination who is taken to Bath by friends of the family.  She meets all kinds of new people and, being a sheltered girl, doesn’t have any experience in dealing with fly-by-night friends or pushy would-be-suitors.  And, Mrs. Allen–the lady whom she is accompanying–really doesn’t offer guidance as she is more concerned with her own self and pleasure; however, Mr. Allen–when he makes any appearance at all–generally has his head screwed on tight.

Isabella Thorpe is a shallow young girl who befriends Catherine and drags her about from place to place so she (Isabella) can be admired.  First she sets after James Morland, Catherine’s elder brother, becomes engaged and then dumps him when she lands the stronger financial candidate, Captain Tilney, the heir and oldest Tilney sibling–but is eventually dumped by him.

John Thorpe, Isabella’s brother, is a school friend of James Morland.  The arrogant Thorpe is very heavy-handed about separating Catherine from anyone but himself; he changes her plans without her consent several times.

Henry Tilney is the one young person who talks sense to Catherine most of the time.  She actually develops feelings for him and wants to know him better (when not being thwarted by circumstance or Thorpe).

Eleanor Tilney, Henry’s sister, becomes a friend to Catherine.  She is kind and a bit shy.

General Tilney is quite overbearing to his children and exhibits many of the same characteristics of John Thorpe.  He is at the center of the dramas at the end of the book–and only one turns out to be an actual problem that didn’t stem from Catherine’s wild imagination.

Is this a typical Austen romance?  Yes, but we are treated to every wild imagining generated out of gothic tales which cause the “typical” to be hidden.  The imagination can easily swamp reality for Catherine–and the reader.

Will I read this again?  Absolutely!

I wish I had read this novel when I was fifteen or sixteen:  I adored horror novels–being scared was fun.  But, because of this, I still think twice (even after all these years) about walking over storm drains.  This novel might have made me take a look at my need for excitement and try to find an alternative path for it.  I probably wouldn’t have stopped reading horror novels, but I might have found something else to read in between to give myself a break!

  • Started:  end of August
  • Finished:  20 September, 2012