Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

********  UPDATED HOUR 17 ********
I wasn't expecting to be able to join this readathon, woo hoo for unexpected reading time! This is my 14th readathon (see links below). Today I'm reading when I can, but also juggling a toddler. 

Here's a link for more info about the DeweyReadathonToday you can find me posting on Litsy and Instagram as @avidreader25 as well as here. 

Reading Stats
Pages Read: 1,016 
Currently Reading: The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Tales, Bridge of Clay
Books Finished: Sweet Bird of Youth, Bone: Treasure Hunters 8, Bone: Crown of Horns 9, Bone Handbook, You Can't Touch My Hair, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 
Snacks Eaten: Grapes, coffee & pie, turkey & avocado sandwich, broccoli and asparagus soup, Taco Bell (my husband got his pregnant wife tacos LOL). 

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? I'm reading a few Edgar Allan Poe short stories.  
2. How many books have you read so far?
I finished four. 
3. What book are you most looking forward to? I'm thinking I might tackle The Night of the Iguana. 
4. Have you had many interruptions? Not too bad this time considering I have a toddler. How did you deal with those? I have been reading books with my kiddo so she is involved. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How well it has gone! 

Introduction Quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Indianapolis, IN

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I'm excited to finished the Bone series. I only have two left! I'm also looking forward to reading more of Zusak's new book. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Because my plans just changed and I can participate at the last minute, I'm not as prepared as I usually am. My snacks might be a bit limited this time. 
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm pregnant with my second kiddo, so fatigue and nausea will be part of this readathon for me. 

5) If you participated in the last readathon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I'm breaking one of my only readathon rules this time around. I usually don't read from any books I've already started. I like picking up new books that I try to finish that day. This time though, I want to read more from Bridge of Clay. It's Zusak's first book in 16 years and I'm currently about 70 pages in.  

Seasons to Read
Love this challenge idea! The Night Circus is one of my favorites to reread in the winter. The chilly atmosphere and red, black, and white colors just seem to fit. For some reason Charles Dickens is always a winter read for me too. Spring is for the hope and optimism of Anne of Green Gables. It's all about new life! Since the Harry Potter books all start in the summer I'm always in the mood for those when it gets hot. Autumn is perfect for Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. It's a gothic mystery set in Barcelona and the creepy twists and turns are just right for October. 

Modern Classics

Halloween Story Swap  

I picked I Capture the Castle, turning it into a haunted house story.Monster Mash 
ROUS and Hunger Games Mutts!
Vague Recollections 

Book and a Snack
Popcorn and Pit and the Pendulum  (below)
Draw it Out 

I'm currently finishing the Bone series by Jeff Smith and so I decided to draw the main character. Here's my doodle next to the real thing. 
April and October 2011 / April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 April 2014 / April and October 2015 /April and October 2016  /  April and October 2017 / April 2018

Photos by me.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Labyrinth of the Spirits
by Carols Ruiz Zafón

This is the 4th and final book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.

To begin, The Shadow of the Wind will always be one of my favorite books. It is the first book in this series and a classic gothic novel. At this point, I've fallen so in love with Zafón's characters and his rich descriptions of Barcelona, that I have a hard time being objective about his work. I am more forgiving when there are plot hiccups because I'm already invested in the world he created. That being said let me dive into this latest installment.

The Labyrinth of Spirits picks up shortly after The Prisoner of Heaven ends. Our main protagonist is the troubled Alicia Gris. She's a bit of a femme fatale with her own troubled past and wounds, both physical and mental. The book pulls you in immediately with a scene from Fermin's past, but then we move forward in time and the middle has some pacing issues.

The plot is so convoluted with extra characters and layers upon layers of history that at times it’s hard to follow. I didn’t barrel through it as quickly as The Prisoner of Heaven or savor the atmosphere like The Shadow of the Wind. Instead I found that I enjoyed it most when I could sit and give it my full attention for a large chunk of time. Clocking in at over 800 pages (at least in ARC form), you need to sink into this world to juggle the different characters. Once you do, you are rewarded with slow but sure development. Obviously my favorite moments are when we return to the Sempere family. Once Alicia's path crossed with theirs I felt more connected.
***After this point my review assumes you’ve already read the whole series, but there are no spoilers for this book*** 

There's a moment in the book when Zafón actually explains the arch of the series. It's just perfect and gives an insider's wink to anyone who has read all four books. About The Labyrinth of Spirits he says,
 “The fourth installment, fierce and enormous, spiced with perfumes from all the earlier ones, would lead us at last to the center of the mystery, uncovering all the puzzles with the help of my favorite fallen angel of mist, Alicia Gris.”

It's a perfect summary. Despite the author's sometimes loquacious tendencies and a pile of characters that it's easy to confuse (Gris' detective partner Vargas, her mentor Leandro, Inspector Fumero's apprentice Hendaya, the banker Sanchís and his wife Victoria Ubach, the author Víctor Mataix and his daughter Ariadna, the fumbling stalker Rovira, the journalist Vilajuana, the missing political minister Mauricio Valls, the besotted Fernandito, Daniel's cousin Sofía, and on and on...), the book is still a delight. It's a bit of work, but it's worth it in the end because it ties the whole world together.

I'm so glad we get to know Isabella Sempere's character a little better. Often when we lose a parent at a young age, it's easy to turn them into an idealized saint. Seeing the real person, full of flaws and bad decisions, can be painful, but it's so much more real. We finally have a chance to meet her, full of fire and grit, and hear her story in her own voice. It’s always been a flaw out Zafón’s to paint women as either whores or saints instead of giving them depth. I felt like this book gave us a few that were more developed, although it's certainly still focused more on the men. I wish we'd had a chance to explore the world through Bea's eyes, but we never get that privilege. Instead, the story comes full circle with Daniel and Bea's son Julián. We also spend more time with Fermin, who I've grown to love in all his irreverent glory.

BOTTOM LINE: Heartbreaking and beautiful, the story brings all of his characters together, somehow turning all four books into one complete tale. It's a must for anyone who loves the series. If you're new to his work I’d recommend try The Shadow of the Wind first to see if it's for you.

“At the time I was just a kid and life was still a few sizes too big for me.”

“However many sorrows you drag along with you, you’ll only have walked a few steps before bumping into someone who will remind you that there’s always another person with a far worse set of cards then yours in the game of life.”

“Some would argue that no genre is more fictitious than a biography.”
“With the possible exception of an autobiography,” Mataix granted.

“Learning how to differentiate between why one does things and why one says one does them is the first step toward getting to know oneself.”

“The most sincere pain is experienced alone.”

Henry IV Part 1 and 2 and King John

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Henry IV Part 1 and 2
By William Shakespeare

Before he was urging on his troops with words like “band of brothers”, Henry V was just Hal. He liked to drink and carouse and ignore his father’s wishes. He was not yet the warrior king he would become. I loved watching him start to transform in this play. These plays are part of the eight that make up Shakespeare’s War of the Roses histories.

There are a few stand out characters including the clever and charismatic Hotspur (Henry Percy). Although he is technically our hero’s foe, this plot actually makes him a more sympathetic character than Hal. He fights for what he wants. He’s quick to anger, but he’s also willing to put himself in danger to protect what he loves. While Hal is leisurely screwing around in taverns, Hotspur is taking things seriously. 

Sir John Falstaff is another great one. He is the epitome of the classic fool. He is constantly looking for a new way to get out of work and cheat someone. He is the butt of Hal’s jokes and his drinking buddy, but nothing ever seems to faze the corpulent coward. He reminds me of Thénardier in Les Misérables

In Part 2 Hal finally decides to embrace his role as king he must choose a different life than the one he's been living. That includes distancing himself from the crowd he's grown so fond of.

“Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn'd away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.”

There were moments in this play that felt much too familiar. They glorify the past while bemoaning their present situation.

“The commonwealth is sick of their own choice;
Their over-greedy love has surfeited.
An habitation giddy and unsure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.”

“Past and to come seems best; things present, worst.”

BOTTOM LINE: I particularly loved part 1 of this pair of plays, but they are both excellent. They show that one person can rise above and choose a more noble life. They give hope for personal transformation while at the same time they highlight the sacrifices that come with power and leadership. Someone Shakespeare marries those lessons with battle scenes, bawdy comedy, and even quiet moments of romance in a way that only he seems able to do.

I would highly recommend watching the Hollow Crown series either first or in conjunction with reading the plays. They are beautifully done and helped bring the work alive for me.
Part 1 Quotes:

“But thought’s the slave of life, and life time’s fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue.”

“Youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.”

“O, while you live, tell truth, and shame the Devil!”

“The better part of valor, is discretion.”

Part 2 Quotes:

“Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wavering multitude,
Can play upon it.”

“O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frightened thee. That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness?”

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

“How quickly nature falls into revolt
When gold becomes her object!”

King John 
By William Shakespeare

King John's right to the throne is being challenged by the king of France. He believe's John's nephew, Arthur, should be the king. Conflict ensues and alliances shift as they struggle for power. 

King John was less memorable than some of the other histories, but it still held some powerful moments. There's one scene where a mother grieves for her child and no matter the context, it's a heartbreaker: 

“Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me... My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!”

Lady Constance was a melodramatic character that I would love to see portrayed on the stage. Like all of Shakespeare's plays, this one had beautiful lines, but overall it's not a new favorite. 

“Grow great by your example, and put on the dauntless spirit of resolution.
Away, and glister like the god of war
When he intendeth to become the field. 
Show boldness and aspiring confidence.”

“Mad world, mad kings, mad composition (agreement)!”

Earthsea Readalong

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ursula Le Guin is a famous author, especially in the world of fantasy literature, but I'm sorry to say that until now I'd only ever read a collection of her poetry. Care, from Care's Books & Pie, and I decided to host a laid back readalong of the first book in her Earthsea series to remedy that. 

The bad news is that I'm a slacker and didn't post about it here until now... and I've already finished the book. The good news is that there are more books and I enjoyed the first one so much that I want to keep going! I'm mainly posting about it on Litsy (@avidreader25) and I'm using the hashtag #Earthsea2018. 

If you'd like to join in and readalong, awesome! If you've got thoughts about this book or any others in the series (no spoilers please!) feel free to share here or on Litsy with the group! After finishing the first book I checked a few local bookstores for the second book in the series. I couldn't find it, so I ended up buying this copy, which contains the first four books. 

Now on to my thoughts on the first book. 

A Wizard of Earthsea 

A young boy named Duny shows indications that he might have special powers. In his small town it's unusual, but as his skills develop he attracts the notice of a more talented wizard. He becomes known as Sparrowhawk and is sent off to a wizarding school to learn his craft. His true name, Ged, is known only to the wizard who gave it to him. 

Ged is selfish and short sighted. He believes too much in his own school and ignores warnings from those with more wisdom than he possesses. They continually remind him that the world they live in must remain balanced and every action he takes will have consequences. His hubris is his downfall. 

I couldn't believe how familiar the world of Earthsea felt. It particularly reminded me of The Name of the Wind, one of my favorites! Obviously this book came first and you can definitely see it's influence in the King Killer Chronicles, the Harry Potter series (there's a wizard school!) and Game of Thrones. 

BOTTOM LINE: I was definitely left wanting more. The book is short and I wished I had more time with the characters (especially Ged's sweet pet and his best friend Vetch). I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series. 

“Need alone is not enough to set power free: there must be knowledge.”

 “Yet a greater, and learned skill he possessed, which was the art of kindness.”

“This was Duny’s first step on the way he was to follow all his life, the way of magery, the way that led him at last to hunt a shadow over land and sea to the lightless coasts of death’s kingdom. But in those first steps along the way, it seemed a broad, bright road.”

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

*********  UPDATED HOUR 24 ********
I can't believe this is my 13th readathon (see links below). Over the years I've started planning around the event each April and October. Today my husband is on toddler duty for part of the day, but we have a kid's birthday party this afternoon, so we'll see how this goes. 

Here's a link for more info about the DeweyRead-a-thonToday you can find me posting on Litsy and Instagram as @avidreader25 as well as here. 

**UPDATE** My day has not been as full of reading as I had hoped, but that's ok. My kiddo and I attended her best friend's birthday party (see below) and had a BLAST! The party theme was reading, so that was pretty perfect. We've also run some errands and played outside quite a bit. I'm hoping to read a little more after she goes to bed.

Reading Stats:
Pages Read: 458

Currently Reading: --- Gave up and called it a night at hour 18. 

Books Finished: 3, Bones: The Dragonslayer, Shadow of a Bull, and The Rose Tattoo 

Snacks Eaten: Lots of coffee, blueberry muffin, soy flat white, dill pickles, string cheese, birthday cake, and popcorn

Mini-Challenges Completed: 9
Introduction Quiz
Vague Recollections 
Book and a Snack 
Introduction Quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Indianapolis

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams because it's set in New Orleans and I'm visiting that city for the first time in a week! If you have NOLA recommendations, let me know in the comments!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Dark chocolate covered pretzels and pickles (but not together). 
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm a magazine editor by day. I have a giant pup, a 2-year-old, and an awesome husband. I also review live theatre about once a week at Stage Write and am a total Shakespeare nerd. I also LOVE to travel and have been Reading the States for a few years. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Understand that my toddler is definitely going to make my reading numbers dip, but that's ok.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? The Rose Tattoo
2. How many books have you read so far? 2
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half ofthe Read-a-thon? Bone 5
4. Have you had many interruptions? YES! A kid's birthday party, a huge gardening project, and other errands. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How little reading I've been able to do. LOL

End of Event Meme1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 16, I was trying so hard to read the last 10 pages of my book and I just kept falling asleep. 
2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read! Shadow of a Bull, Bone: The Dragonslayer, and The Rose Tattoo. 
3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners? I love the Bone series for readathons. 
4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thonthat would make you smile? I have to say that changing the mini challenges to be open the whole time and easy to find on one page was an AWESOME change! 
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Absolutely!

April and October 2011 / April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 April 2014 / April and October 2015 /April and October 2016  /  April and October 2017

Photos by me.


Monday, April 16, 2018

by Madeline Miller

Circe is a witch on a remote island when Odysseus meets her on his journey home in Homer's Odyssey. In Miller’s reimagining she’s a complicated woman with heartaches and hopes of her own. She’s no longer a footnote in someone else’s story.

We meet Circe as a child in the halls of her Titan father. She never fits into his world of petty jealousy and swift anger. It's not until she's exiled to an island that she begins to figure out who she is. I loved the descriptions of the world where she lives. Whether she's digging in her garden or riding in her father's chariot above the earth, the descriptions bring each scene to life so vividly.

It’s a story of loneliness and longing. The beautiful language draws you in immediately. If you know any Greek mythology the characters will be familiar, but Miller gives them new depth. Just as she did in The Song of Achilles, she brings that ancient world alive and I couldn’t put it down.

BOTTOM LINE: Circe is such a wonderfully complex character. She is full of flaws and selfishness along side guilt and empathy. In this book there are no clear villains and heroes, just characters full of life and contradictions. I can’t wait to return to her world again one day.

“It is not fair,” I said. “It cannot be.”
“Those are two different things,” my grandmother said.

“In a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

“Within him was an ocean’s worth of grief, which could only be stoppered a moment, never emptied.”

“It is youth’s gift not to feel its debts.”

“Those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.”

Ulysses: Final Post

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Finally finished! It was a tough ride. There were sections I loved and others I really struggled with. Joyce is undeniably talented, the chapter where he walks the reader through the entire history of the English language proves that. But his style isn’t my favorite and I frequently felt lost in his ramblings. I’m glad I read it and I’m also glad it’s done! Once again, please check out Adam's awesome episode break down here. 

The supplemental material in my book explains some of the background on the censorship of the book and includes a letter from Joyce to his Random House publisher. It also includes the monumental 1933 decision to stop people from banning the book in America. The ruling changed the way censorship was approached in our country.

I absolutely loved some of the comments from Judge M. Woolsey, the man who made the decision. To me, his summary of the book captures so many of my feelings perfectly.
“Ulysses is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become it’s satellites. The study of Ulysses is, therefore, a heavy task. The reputation of Ulysses in the literary world, however, warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written.

It is brilliant and dull, intelligible and obscure by turns. In many places it seems to me to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words usually considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt’s sake.

Joyce has attempted — it seems to me, with astonishing success — to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious. He shows how each of these impressions affects the life and behavior of the character which he is describing.”

The very final episode of the book is a crazy onslaught of thoughts from Bloom’s wife Molly’s point of view. She flits from thing to the next with no real pattern. She is just thinking, so her thoughts are unfiltered. It’s oddly refreshing even if it’s hard to follow. How many of us have had the same thing happen as we randomly think about our day? I could immediately relate.

Joyce’s honesty his characters really struck me in the final few chapters. He writes about Bloom’s flaws and fetishes in detail, something that just wasn’t done before. Yet by the close of the book you feel a bit hopeful about his marriage. There was something powerful about that. No matter how gross or strange Bloom was, he might have found his equal in his wife Molly.

BOTTOM LINE: Reading Ulysses was an experience. I struggled with it. I was blown away by the lovely language at times and at others I was completely weirded out. I can’t really compare it to anything else and that alone makes it a unique book. I am so glad I read it and I also don’t think I will ever read it again!

“Still you learn something. See ourselves as others see us.”

“Life, love, voyage round your own little world.”

Ulysses Readlong: Part 2

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

So I've officially made it halfway through the book and it hasn't killed me yet! I won't pretend that I've understood everything that has happened in Joyce's epic novel, but I will say Adam aka Roof Beam Reader, has provided notes and thoughts on each section and they are invaluable! Here are the notes on episodes #7-12.

This section of the book has quite a bit more in the way of crass humor and I'm not shocked that it was so frequently banned in the past. It also gives us a deeper view into our characters, both how they see themselves and how others see them. I'm also both impressed and often overwhelmed by how many different styles Joyce uses in his writing. Sometimes his parodying something, sometimes it fits a new narrator's point of view, etc. But it always keeps the reader on their toes. 

For me, I like to read an entire episode, then go back and read a summary and some notes. I like to let the language flow over me first before I bring someone else's opinions into the mix. I'm looking forward to the second half, but I'm also already a bit exhausted by Joyce!
Once again, I am positive that if I wasn't combining the audio version (seen above) and print, than I would be losing this fight. Being able to hear the story and following the random bits of French, Latin, and songs has helped so much. If you're thinking of reading it, I would highly recommend trying this! 

"Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves". 

Ulysses Readlong: Part 1

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I went into this readalong thinking it was going to be a complete slog and I would hate it. But honestly, I wanted to know why was considered a classic. I love Ireland and this is one of the most famous pieces of literature from the country. I think I built it up as being so difficult and horrible in my mind that the reality isn’t that scary. So far (don’t hit me) I’m actually liking most of it.

I can’t say enough about the importance of pairing the audio version with the print. I love doing it that way. Instead of fighting through every single line, I hear a lyrical Irish voice reading the conversations to me. It brings them alive. When one person rambles on about some idea, it feels like I’m listening to a long-winded friend. Then I go back to the print version and find passages that I loved. I look at the layout of each chapter because the styles are unique. 

After I finish a chapter, I’ve been reading this guide which provides very short little summaries of what happened. Also, the incredible Adam at Roof Beam Reader is posting his in-depth thoughts about each chapter on his blog. Here’s the link. They are wonderfully detailed and make connections I never would have caught. I love that he highlights the parallels with Greek mythology as well.

Combination of all these elements is really working for me. I’m not a huge fan of every single chapter and of course it is a strange book with a lot of meandering and stream of consciousness thought, but I was expecting that. I wasn’t expecting the beautiful language or profound reflections of life and death. I particularly love the references and discussions of Shakespeare’s work in chapter 9.

I think approaching the book with an open mind and an understanding that it was not going to be an easy read has really helped me enjoy it. I am NOT a Joyce scholar and I’m not reading it with the goal of understanding every single reference made. Instead, I relaxing into the novel and hoping to not become completely overwhelmed by it.
“I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and one livid final flame. What’s left of us then?”

“Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer’s heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute.”

Dinner: A Love Story

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dinner: A Love Story 
by Jenny Rosenstrach 

This was one of my favorite books of 2017. Jenny created a blog with an emphasis on making family dinners a priority. This book is the culmination of that project. I had never read her blog, but you definitely didn't need to. My favorite thing about this "cookbook" is that her personal stories and experiences are sprinkled throughout it. You feel like you're getting to know her as you read about her recipes. I love how simple and straight forward most of the dinners are. Her philosophy is clear: use good ingredients and make food you love and your idea of what "dinner" should be will change.
(Making the chicken pot pie, left, the finished flatbread pizza, right)

So far we've tried three of the recipes and they've all been great. We made the chicken pot pie, the arugula and prosciutto flatbread pizza, and the kale, white bean, and sausage soup. I love that there is room to get creative with her recipes. If you know you love a certain ingredient, toss it in the soup or on the pizza. You don't have to worry about messing it up.
(Making the kale, white bean and sausage stew, left, finished product, right)

The book has already gotten me excited about meal planning again. I've bought the ingredients for some of her other recipes (pork ragu, creamy tomato chicken, and tomato and white bean soup) and can't wait to try them out.
Jenny includes lots of tips for getting kids to eat good food, which was so helpful!

If you've read this one, let me know if you've tried any of the recipes!