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!


PAST READATHON POSTS:
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.

Circe

Monday, April 16, 2018

Circe
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!

American Writers Museum

Thursday, January 4, 2018

 This place is amazing! This fall I visited the American Writers Museum in Chicago and I was so impressed. The museum had so much to see and was completely interactive. There was a children's section that featured Goodnight Moon, Charlotte's Web, and Dr. Seuss. Any young readers would be thrilled to see their favorites.
 There are beautiful quotes from authors decorating the walls. There are musical sections. When I was there, the entire Kerouac scroll was on display. I easily could have spent half a day there exploring the whole place. Unfortunately, I was attending a conference and so I only had a few hours, but I'm so glad I took the time to visit on that quiet Thursday afternoon.
 
 One of the main area is a giant timeline of American authors. It's broken up by different periods and includes details about what was happening during that time (like the Civil War or a medical advancement). Make sure you turn the text block beneath the author photo for more info. I didn't realize they turned until I was halfway down the hall. 

I loved discovering new authors alongside old favorites.  Seriously such an incredible place to visit. If you're in Chicago, even for a day, I hope you'll stop by. It's right downtown and worth every second you spend there!

Ulysses Readlong

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I have been intimidated by Ulysses for as long as I can remember. I've read some of James Joyce's shorter books, but I've never been up for tackling this beast. In February I'll be reading the whole thing and I'm excited/nervous. 

The book is broken into three sections and 18 episodes. Each one is written in a wildly different style. It's loosely based on Homer's Odyssey, but instead of ancient Greece, the story follows one man, Leopold Bloom, around Dublin.

If you need some extra motivation, I love this YouTube clip on why you should read the book.

The readalong will be very laid back. I'm not a Joyce scholar, just a reader. To join in the fun just post to your blog or on Twitter, Litsy, or Instagram. If you comment with a link I will update my post to include the link. Use #FebBloom when you post so we can all see the discussion. 

Image from here.