Austen in August

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I've read at least one Austen book every year since 2002. I worked my way through her six novels, then I reread them, then I read all of her juvenilia. I just love her work. I just realized that I didn't read ANY Austen last year! I'm horrified. In my defense, I did have a baby and not get a lot of sleep, so all of my reading suffered last year. 

Anyway, I'm back and obviously miss Jane. Roof Beam Reader is once again hosting the annual Austen in August reading event and I'm thrilled to have an excuse to just back into her work.  I'm planning on rereading my very first Austen, Pride & Prejudice, this month. If you want to join in the fun you can see the details here

Hogarth Shakespeare: Hag-Seed

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Some of the most well-known authors of our generation have joined together to create the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Each author is retelling one of Shakespeare's most well-known plays. It's a brilliant idea and one that I'm loving so far. Tracy Chevalier wrote New Boy, the story of Othello set in a Washington D.C. grade school in the 1970s. Anne Tyler tackled The Taming of the Shrew in Vinegar Girl, turning the soured Kate into the daughter of a scientist looking for a green card marriage for his lab assistant. In Margaret Atwoods' Hag-Seed we meet Felix, a modern-day Prospero. He's the eccentric director of a theatre festival, but after being betrayed, he exiles himself as he plots his revenge.

With the other two books I've read in the series I couldn't help but compare them to the original the entire time I was reading them. With Hag-Seed I kept forgetting that it is a remake of The Tempest, even though they are talking about the original play through the novel. The plot and the characters are strong enough that they stand on their own. I kept getting sucked into the story, which is exactly what you want.

I love that every aspect of the retelling is not literal. Miranda is his daughter, but she passed away when she was little. He is not stranded on an island, but instead he's trapped in an isolation of his own making. He takes a job teaching Shakespeare to inmates at a local prison. I love how he has to introduce Shakespeare to them and in doing so, we as the readers are able to appreciate some of the primal aspects of the Bard's work.  We often treat Shakespeare as high-browed and far above lay people. In reality he was often crass and played to the commonest level of humor. I love that Atwood manages to embrace that while still highlighting his deeper message.

BOTTOM LINE: Loved the book and the whole premise of the series. It's such a treat to see Shakespeare's work through a new lens. Just as every director of a film or play brings their interpretation to each piece, so do these authors.  I can't wait to read the rest of them!

Vonnegut's Childhood Home and Putt Putt

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The other day I got to see Kurt Vonnegut's childhood home in Indianapolis. His parents were wealthy when he was young and the home is in a gorgeous neighborhood. The family put their handprints in cement near the backdoor and the littlest one is Kurt's!
His parents' initials are on the front door (pictured above). I'm such a sucker for seeing author's home. It's fun to get a tiny glimpse into their lives. This one just happens to be in my own hometown! 

 Last year my local art museum (the Indianapolis Museum of Art) created a mini golf course with themed holes. Each one had some significant meaning to the state of Indiana. There was a Vonnegut hole, which, of course, was my favorite!

Photos by me and a friend.

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

*********  UPDATED HOUR 13 ********

I had great plans for the read-a-thon today. Snacks set out, my reading stack was chosen, then I got the plague. So I will be fighting a nasty flu and chasing after a toddler today. If I get a little reading done it will be a miracle, but I'm going to try! 

Pages Read: 662 pages 
Currently Reading: A Gentleman in Moscow
Books Finished: 3 (Amadeus
, A Man Without a Country, Bone: Out from Boneville)
Breaks Taken: Lots for Sydney. I also gave myself a break after she was asleep and watched an episode of The Handmaid's Tale. 
Mini-Challenges Completed: 7 (Opening Survey, Give the Gift of Reading, Books to Empower, Picture ChallengeOne Night Reads, Mid-Event Survey, Fur, Scales, and Stuffing)

Sydney (below) is doing her best to distract me from reading.

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 think I'll ignore the stack I picked and maybe do some comfort rereads instead. I'm thinking my favorite Sherlock Holmes and Kurt Vonnegut. 

 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  Taking sips of gatorade and hoping I don't throw up.  
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! 
I've got an 80lb dog and a 15 month old keeping me company (distracting me from reading). I also love to travel and I just booked tickets for our next international trip! 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
I've participated in 11 other read-a-thons, but this is the first time I've attempted one with the flu. I wouldn't recomm
end it. 

Mid-Event Survey! 
1. What are you reading right now? A Gentleman in Moscow
2. How many books have you read so far? I'm shocked, but I've finished 3! 
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I don't know how far I'll make it. 
4. Have you had many interruptions? Yes! Taking care of a toddler, having some trees delivered, generally not feeling so hot because of the flu. How did you deal with those? Just powered through and reading when I could. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I've been able to get some reading done!

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

Photos by me.

The Classics Club Challenge Complete!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Exactly five year years ago I decided to take part in The Classics Club. At the time it was a small group that wanted to make an effort to read more classics. That was right up my alley and so I made a list of 100 books I wanted to read over the course of the next five years.

Today is my deadline and just last week I posted my final review. It has been such fun completing this challenge. Somewhere along the way the club grew to a huge community. I became one of the co-moderators that helped manage and run the website.

I have absolutely loved seeing all the new members and new reviews that are constantly pouring in. We’ve had Classic Club spins, where a random number choses your next book for you. We’ve had meme questions that spark wonderful conversation.  All-in-all it has been a delight. I plan to continue to stay involved with the website, and obviously I’ll still be reading classics. I’m proud that I managed to complete my list by my deadline.

Any other Classics Club members out there getting close to finishing your lists?

Here's my complete list with links to all my reviews. At the bottom of the page there's also a list of classics I read and reviewed before beginning the challenge. 

Adam Bede

Monday, March 6, 2017

Adam Bede 
By George Eliot 

Our title character is a good man and a simple one. He sees the world in black and white. Work hard, take care of your family, and you will lead a good life. He falls in love with an impetuous young woman named Hetty. Unfortunately, Hetty has fallen for the wealthy Captain Arthur Donnithorne, a man above her station, but one who is still susceptible to the young woman’s charms. 

I loved the character of Dinah. She could be perceived as a killjoy or prude, but she never cane across to me like that. She is Hetty’s cousin and is a Methodist preacher who travels the countryside serving in local communities. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it was unusual for a woman to travel about on her own, much less to serve as a leader in the church. She has a fierce strength and independence and doesn’t give into the pleas from her family to give up her calling. 

When she is asked about being a woman preacher, this is what she says… 
“When God makes His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed what sort of bush it was—he only saw the brightness of the Lord.” 

Dinah: When she does finally fall for Adam, she still doesn’t agree to marry until he declares that he will never stand in the way of her duties as a preacher and he fully supports her. I was a bit heartbroken from Adam’s brother Seth, since he’s the one who originally pursued Dinah. 

Hetty’s story is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine feeling so hopeless and abandoned. In the midst of her panic about her pregnancy she didn’t trust anyone with her secret and so she was unwilling to look for other options. Even though her life was spared, her future was still going to be full of grief and guilt no matter what. 

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. It reminded me so much of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Return of the Native (both of which were published decades after this one). It’s an intense look at the desperation of one woman and the man who loved her. I appreciated the rich depth of characters like Dinah and Adam. I also liked that Arthur wasn't a one-note cad. He easily could have been, but instead we see the situation from his point of view as well. 

“What destroys us most effectively is not a malign fate but our own capacity for self-deception and for degrading our own best self.” 

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” 

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”