Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals and Resolutions for the New Year!

I know that everyone's feed is blowing up with lists of favorite books, covers, authors, releases, hot male characters, goals, resolutions, and everything in between, so here is one more to clog it up. :) No really, I LOVE seeing all the lists, goals, and plans. I am a list person by nature, so it makes my little heart happy to see everyone excited about things for 2011.

I also have a lot in store for the coming year. I am ready and focused to make a significant dent in my project list. Some of what I have planned is already in motion, and some will require some work. Here are a number of goals, resolutions, and plans that I have for 2011.

  1. Host 12 one-month readalongs on books chosen by fellow bloggers (already in motion)
  2. Host 6 two-month readalongs on books chosen by me (already in motion)
  3. Be successful in completing my reading assignments for each day of the readalongs
  4. Send bloggers who complete the readalong novel their "surprise"
Books to Read:
  1. Continue to have a balance between those books I am excited to read and some of those titles I am not so excited to read
  2. Aim to get to at least 160 books read off my project list by December 31, 2011 (this means I need to read about 90 books from my list)
  3. Allow for 5 "fun" reads throughout the year (not an entire month like I did this past year)
Blog Appearance:
  1. Decide whether to move the blog to Wordpress or stay on Blogger and carry through by the end of March
  2. Continue to keep the blog organized, pages updated, and links fresh
Blogger Interactions:
  1. Continue my account on (you can find me at Allie Danielson) and keep updated
  2. Continue my account at Twitter (@alliedanielson) and keep updated
  3. Continue to comment as much as possible on as many blogs as possible daily (this is something I have been working on the last few months)
  4. Continue to branch out to other bloggers and reading communities that are directly tied to my classics project
  5. Keep meeting new people! :) And continuing friendships with bloggers I already know and love!
Blogging and the real life:
  1. Set a time limit per day to focus on blogging activities and stick to it
  2. To keep my sanity, maintain a block of extra time on the weekend to spend more time blogging and interacting
  3. Continue to write reviews as I read and schedule ahead so I don't "fall behind."

What goals and plans do you have for the coming year? Or are you one of those people who think resolutions are silly? ;)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 TBR Challenge.

Well, I caved and decided to join one last challenge. I have actually been contemplating joining ever since I saw the sign-up post, but I finally convinced myself that I want to do it. And I am making sure to choose books that are not on any of my other challenge lists or in my readalongs.

The 2011 TBR Challenge is hosted by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader. Here is his explanation of the challenge:

The Goal:
To finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months.


1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile - I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below - link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book's review. Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed in order to count as completed.

3. Your list must be posted by Friday, December 31st, 2010.

4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2011 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from either or The Book Depository!

5. There may be mini-challenge "check-ins" throughout 2011, to award and recognize those participants who are progressing through the challenge, such as a "Spring Break Check-In!" or a "6 Month Pit Stop!" Participants who are making equal progress to-date (6 books at the 6 month check-in, for example) could win a prize!

6. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published pre-2010!

*Note - You can edit your list through Dec. 31st. As of 1/1/2011, the posted list needs to be final. Also, you can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. :)

Alright, sounds fun, doesn't it?

I have put a lot of thought into my list. I wanted to select 12 books (and 2 alternates) that I really want to get to in 2011. None of them are going to be books for other challenges, and they aren't books for my readalongs. I also tried to choose a few books that I am not so excited about, but need to read. You'll understand when you see the list. :)

My Chosen 12 Books:
  1. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  2. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  3. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  4. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  5. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  6. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  7. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  8. The Dubliners by James Joyce
  9. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Conner
  10. Pamela by Samuel Richardson
  11. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon
  12. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
My Two Alternates:
  1. Winter in the Blood by James Welch
  2. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

I think this will be a great challenge and will actually push me to get some of the...ickier...things off my list in the coming year. :)

A New Year Classic Giveaway.

Perhaps it is the holiday season, but I have been itching to give one of you a gift. So, I have decided to host a little giveaway to bring in the new year and get a beautiful classic into your hands.

What is up for grabs?

One winner will receive a Penguin cloth bound classic of their choice. Yep, a nice pretty cloth bound (you know, the ones I can't stop talking about) of your very own. I own them all thanks to some awesome gift givers this Christmas (thanks mom and dad) and since this collection makes my shelf so beautiful, I want to share the love.

The titles released are:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Divine Comedy: Inferno by Dante
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint by William Shakespeare
Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
The Odyssey by Homer

So here are the details:
  • To enter, leave me a comment with your choice of the above books and your e-mail. You don't leave me your e-mail, I can't contact you if you win. Then no book for you!
  • The contest is going to run until January 2, 2011 at midnight. You have until then to enter.
  • The contest is open to anyone that the Book Depository delivers to. If they deliver to your country, you're in!
  • If I get 25 entries, I will bump it up to TWO winners. Each winner will receive a book of their choice.
  • The winner(s) will be chosen using
That's it! One of these lovelies could be yours! Enter away!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Survey.

I'm sure you may have seen this already. This little survey is being hosted by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner. Feel free to go over there to see what other bloggers had to say!

1. Best book of 2010?
This is an incredibly hard decision! I felt that I read some wonderful books this year. I will have to say that the three that I remember loving most this year were The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

2. Worst book of 2010?
I would have to say Bleak House by Charles Dickens or Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?
This would have to go to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I had really high hopes for this one and it failed miserably. I think I'll give it another chance one day.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?
I would have to say O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I went into it prepared to hate it, but ended up loving it! Always give authors a second chance!

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?
I lent my mom Washington Square by Henry James to read shortly after I finished it because I thought she would enjoy it (nearly a year later she still has it and hasn't read it). I've also recommended the Holmes novels and stories as well as The Dollmaker by Arnow.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?
I suppose I would have to say the Holmes stories, since they are the only "Series" I have read this year.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?
There are so many that I think I am in love with! To name a few new favorites: Maugham, Cather, James, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and Hardy. All will make repeat appearances in the future I'm sure!

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?
Well, trying to remember....I remember laughing a lot through The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I love Tom and want a son just like him.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?
This is probably the hardest question! Like I said, I read a lot of wonderful novels this year. I did read Mockingjay by Collins in a matter of a few hours, but I was also hooked on The Mill on the Floss, Alias Grace, and Persuasion in much the same way!

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?
Well, considering I read mostly classics, I was anticipating a lot of great classic literature! But I'd be lying to say I wasn't super excited to read Mockingjay the day it came out.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
I really loved the edition of Gone with the Wind I read this year! Simply stunning!

12. Most memorable character in 2010?
Oh goodness! I would have to just list a bunch-Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Sherlock Holmes from all of his stories and novels, Lucy Snowe from Villette, and Vardaman from As I Lay Dying to name a few!

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?
SUCH A HARD DECISION! I would have to say its a tie between my top three books up there: The Dollmaker, The Mill on the Floss, and The Brothers Karamazov.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?
Again I have to give props to The Dollmaker. It was simply beautiful. I STILL think about it and I read it last January.

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?
All of them? Perhaps it would be better to say Lolita or Persuasion.

Here's to a wonderful 2011!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Favorite Books of 2010:

I feel like its safe to post this, since the two books I am currently trying to finish most likely won't make the cut. No offense to either, but I read some wonderful books this year!

I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten, so I figured I would simply write about the books that I loved, no matter what the number. These are all books that I read in 2010. Let me know what you thought of any of these titles if you read them.

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The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow.

I absolutely adored this novel. It was one of the books on my list that I knew hardly anything about, but I fell in love with the prose and subject matter. I liked the depiction of Detroit during the war, and the hardship of the family. I was so moved by this book that I cried like a little baby at the end. It is simply beautiful. I highly recommend it (but I have heard that it is hard to find).

Persuasion by Jane Austen.

This was the one Austen novel I hadn't read going into this project and I am so glad I picked it up for the April readalong. It is definitely a more mature Austen novel and I loved the more mature love story that is the focus of the story. And the love letter? Melted my heart. It is no wonder that so many cherish this as their favorite Austen.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

This was one of the books I was most looking forward to. It had always been on my radar, but its subject matter always put me off. Imagine my surprise when I found myself reading it and enjoying the novel! I found it to be beautifully written, if not slightly disturbing. I am looking forward to Pnin in the coming year.

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.

I was surprised by how much I absolutely fell in love with Cather's writing, especially considering I absolutely HATED My Antonia when I read it in high school. This time around, Cather surprised me with this simple story of life on the American prairie and on impulse, I picked up a bunch of her other work a few weeks later at the used book store. I have a feeling that Cather will become a favorite in the future.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.

I am so glad I decided to read this a couple weeks ago. I had never read anything by Maugham and I was in love with his prose from page one. This is a beautiful story of a woman trapped in a marriage (because of her own stupidity I think). She grows and changes and while at points you despise her, you love the tale. Simply beautiful and I can't wait to read more by Maugham.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

My first jump into Charlotte's work was simply beautiful. I felt I related to Ms. Lucy Snowe on more than one level in this lengthy exploration of a lonely woman with no one to turn to. It was moving and powerful and a wonderful first jump with Charlotte. I cannot wait to finally pick up Jane Eyre to see what all the fuss is about.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

This is a novel that I really want to teach. I think it would be especially great at an upper high school level. Lessons of deceiving appearances and selfishness would offer great discussion in today's classrooms. For my first foray into Wilde in a long time, I was surprised and enthralled.

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

This was another title by a favorite author that I was "saving" for a rainy day. And for such a chunker of a book, I flew through it at break neck pace. Once again, I was floored by Eliot's ability to craft such beautiful stories and characters. This title definitely surpassed all her other work as my favorite and I cannot wait to read it again.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

My second jump in Dostoevsky was a grand success with this title. I had figured that the only reason I flew through Crime and Punishment was because it was the second title I read for this project and I was simply excited. I know that isn't the case, since I was in love with this title too. I cannot wait to get my hands on The Idiot in 2011.

Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell.

I always assumed that Mitchell's masterpiece was some silly piece of romance that I would never be interested in. Instead, I was surprised when I started reading to find that it was a portrait of a very ugly time in American history. While of course there are issues with the language and some issues of racism, I love Mitchell's depiction of the south.

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.

I was a little frightened of this mammoth title when I picked up a copy nearly a year ago, but I soon fell into the rhythm of Dreiser's writing about a true American tragedy. It was certainly a lengthy book, but getting into the mind of a nasty and determined criminal absolutely fascinated me.

Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley.

I had started this a few years ago, setting it aside as "too confusing." But as the October readalong flew along, I found myself truly engaged in the story. A slightly creepy and pessimistic view of the future, I was unsure how I was going to react. Instead, I was floored by the emotional slap in the face of a future gone wrong. This one is a definite recommendation!

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I had always meant to read the Holmes stories and finally succeeded this year! 56 short stories and 4 novels later, I have read all of the stories about the master sleuth. And while some were certainly better than others, I now know why Holmes is such a cultural phenomenon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up for December 27, 2010: Holidays, Anniversary, and BOOK LOOT!

I love the holiday season. I love seeing my extended family members. While most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins live in the metro-Detroit area, we usually only get together once or twice a year. Christmas is always one of those times. Both of my parents are one of six kids, so I have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins to visit with. :)

Christmas Eve was spent with my dad's side of the family. We all pick names and purchase a gift for the name we drew. My aunt had my name and bought me two more sets of our dishes since they are being discontinued! I was really excited and they are already washed and in the cupboard.

Its always a fun time and there were a lot of laughs this year. Last year, my aunt and uncle (who were hosting this year) adopted twin boys from Russia. They had no idea what was going on last year, so it was fun to see them all excited this year. The highlight was when they opened Star Wars themed guns and were chasing each other around with their storm trooper helmets on. Quite funny, let me tell you.

Christmas morning was spent with my immediate family, where Matt and I got SPOILED. Everyone else did too. My parents are always extremely generous and since all of us kids exchange gifts as well, there were large piles of beautifully wrapped packages waiting for all of us. Besides the books which I'll talk about in a minute, I got Seasons 1-10 of Friends, a Le Crueset Canister set for our kitchen, a Le Crueset crock for all of those bulky kitchen utensils, new salt and pepper shakers, a tart dish, some jewelry, a second set of sheets for our bed (yay for new sheets!), and a bunch of wonderful little items that have already been put away. After gifts we ate a big breakfast and talked before Matt and I headed over to his parents for lunch and more gifts.

At Matt's house we arrived just in time for the big gift giving extravaganza. We only exchange with his parents, but I don't think our 6 nieces and nephews minded. They were opening gifts left and right from their grandma and grandpa! I got to hold the baby (she's about 9 months or so), so that was wonderfully fun. :) Matt's parents got me a subscription to Paula Deen's magazine (I LOVE Paula. I would adopt her if I could) as well as a beautiful necklace. Then we ate, again, and stayed to chat for a few hours before heading home to check on the kitties and empty our full Jeep.

We headed back to my parents for gifts with my mom's side, where we do a one gift exchange as well. My uncle got me an IKEA gift card, which is perfect as I need a new desk. We sold Matt's HUGE one when we moved and he took mine, which was big. I'm getting a smaller one, but the gift card will be wonderful. We're also going to get some wall shelves for around the apartment, so yay for IKEA. We ate again (I was about to burst by this point), before pigging out on my delish apple pie and banana splits and cookies. I was good and only had a scoop of frozen yogurt, since I have been watching what I am eating, but it was wonderful.

After that, we headed home and I unpacked a few things before calling it a night and passing out for 12 hours.

Sunday was spent cleaning and unpacking while Matt was at work. When he got home we got cleaned up and went out for an AMAZING dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We had the most delicious calimari and I had a shrimp dish (YUM). It was low key and wonderful, just like what I wanted. It is hard to believe that we've been married for a whole year already, but I am excited to be moving forward together in 2011. If you feel like reading some sappiness, I wrote a post yesterday for Matt. It is cheesy. :)

Now on to the good stuff, BOOK LOOT!

I made out like a bandit this year and got a good deal of books, much to my brothers' disgust. They told me, after moving us in here, that they never want to move my books again. :) Well, now I have a big chunk of new titles to shelve and figure out where to put. My classics shelf is bursting, so I might need to clear some space on my other shelves.

I should point out ahead of time that I had to take this on my phone, since the cord for our camera is packed in one of Matt's boxes and I don't feel like digging around for it.

From top to bottom:
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Halt's Peril by John Flanagan

This stack is actually of some recent acquisitions. I figured I would throw it in here for kicks. :) I picked up The Painted Veil by Maugham after a conversation with Amanda at The Zen Leaf about his work. I had to replace a title on my list and figured a novel by Maugham would be a great fit (the work I replaced was "The Dead" by James Joyce, since it is included in The Dubliners which I also have to read. No sense in reading it twice). I already read it (I was excited about it), and it was EXCELLENT. I have also read Pegasus already and my post went up sometime last week. The book by Flanagan is another book Matt picked up for me recently and is the ninth book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. I love that series and needed this one in hardcover to match. :)

Kim, Moby Dick and Nicholas Nickleby are all on my list and since I was given a gift card, I picked them up on a trip to the bookstore. Moby Dick failed to win in a readalong poll, but I am still planning on reading it this year and soon.

From left to right and top to bottom:
Big coffee/tea mug
Vanilla Caramel Tea
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Eygyptian Mint Green Tea

This is all of the loot I received from the Book Blogger Holiday Swap! My package came a while ago and I opened it then, but because of the camera situation, I am just now getting a picture up. I was so incredibly excited for all of these goodies and my Santa was super thoughtful and generous! And I have to say that the vanilla caramel tea is delicious. Thank you!

From top to bottom and left to right:
"Richard III" by William Shakespeare
"As You Like It" by William Shakespeare
"Antony and Cleopatra" by William Shakespeare
"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare
"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare
"Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare
The Iliad by Homer (Robert Fagles Translation)
The Inferno by Dante
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint by William Shakespeare
a renewal of my subscription to Bookmarks magazine!

All of these lovelies I opened on Christmas morning! My sister was responsible for the pile of Shakespeare wonderfulness and the Homer. I was really excited for the Shakespeare since I am planning on reading a good chunk of his plays this year to get them out of the way. :) I love both sets of these editions, and this is a great pile to choose from. So many wonderful plays!

The pile on the right was from my parents, and yes, those are the beautiful Penguin cloth bound editions that I am in love with. I just love these editions and I know that I talk about them often, but look at how pretty! I am excited to get these on the shelf next to their brothers and sisters. Now I have all of the released titles and just have to wait till April for the next four to come out (Middlemarch, Dracula, A Tale of Two Cities, and Gulliver's Travels). I have a book problem, did you know that?

My parents also resubscribed me to Bookmarks magazine, which I have been getting for the past year. I am so excited for the next edition to come into my hands. :)

Well, that was my book loot from Christmas. I hope you got some books as well!

Happy Reading everyone!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

To My Husband.

I met Matt when I was 15 and he was 14. I was a sophomore in high school and he was a lowly freshman. We were immediate friends and joked around a lot. Now, people always laugh when I say this, but we met at band camp. Yes, band camp.

We were both members of my high school's marching band. Our band was very well-loved in the community because of how big and good we were. I know that is some places being in band is for the "nerds," but while we were most definitely nerds, our band was well-respected by our peers and community.

Anyway, it was at band camp that we met and became friends. We were happy to find out that we were also in the same band class (there were 4 levels at my school), so we sat next to each other the entire year. Matt was kind of goofy and was always cracking jokes. This was something that I later came to love. If there was ever a time that a funny one liner needed to be said, Matt was the one saying it.

That first couple of months was fun. We decided to go to Homecoming together on a whim, as we liked each other well enough. It was a fun night, but no sparks. We remained friends all that year and continued to hang out and get to know each other.

The following year, I was moved up to the top band, so Matt and I did not have class together. We also weren't anywhere near each other in marching band (the first year I met him we stood next to each other a lot), so our friendship kind of dwindled to a passing "hello" whenever we saw each other. The year passed with us growing apart.

My friend Amanda got it into her head that spring that she needed to set us up. So she did her best to bring us together at parties and movies. We eventually sprung up our friendship again, and I started to fall for him. In the year that we had spent apart, Matt had really grown up (and I do mean up. I was taller than him when I met him). He was older, more mature, and I can say it, cute. It seemed like it was forever until he kissed me (sorry mom), but when he did, I knew. I knew that I wanted to be with him and nothing else mattered.

We became boyfriend and girlfriend the summer before my senior year, and spent the year together. There were many phone calls until three or four in the morning just talking about whatever came to mind. There were a lot of movie nights spent on my family's couch. But more than anything, we just fell for each other.

It has only been Matt since then. He is my best friend and the person who truly understands me. He puts up with my "book habit," bad jokes, and my attempts at learning to cook. We still play music together once a week in a community band, and we're truly grateful that music brought us together.

It was a year ago today that we said "I do" and tied the knot. It has been a year full of struggles and small triumphs. But we survived and love each other more than we did a year ago. Every day I am thankful that I found someone who loves me so completely. He is a wonderful man and while not a reader, I love everything about him. :)

Happy One Year Anniversary Matt! Here's to....75 more? :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to take some time today to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. This is such a special time of year and I am so grateful that this year is less hectic than last year.

You see, I am a nutcase and decided to get married the day after Christmas. It was crazy and looking back, I have no idea why everyone went along with my insane plan. But it was beautiful and wonderful and I find it hard to believe that a whole year has (almost) passed.

I love Christmastime, which is one of the main reasons I decided on December for our wedding. There was snow on the ground, lights in the trees, and the feeling of family everywhere. Just beautiful.

Anyway, this Christmas will be far less stressful and I am going to enjoy the time spent with a LOT of family members. For that reason, I won't be around much the next few days, but I do have a special entry ready for Sunday. :)

I wish you all a very merry Christmas! I hope you spend lots of time with those you love, and that Santa finds a way to put a lot of books under your tree. ;)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book 64: A Separate Peace and Book Stats.

Title: A Separate Peace
Author: John Knowles (1926-2001)

First Published: 1959
My Edition: Scribner (Seen at left)
Pages: 204

Other Works Include: Morning in Antibes (1962), Indian Summer (1966), The Paragon (1971), Spreading Fires (1974)

I read this for the first time a few summers ago. I think I was 19 or 20 and beginning to realize that I needed more classics in my life. That was a summer I was working at the other big park in my city and spent many shifts sitting in the booth selling permits, or wasting away in the concessions stand. Since I was spending so much time read at work, I had a rule that summer that for every 3 fun reads, I had to read 1 classic.

It worked out rather well, and I even got other employees to pick up some novels (I believe it was the same summer we started a book club and all the female employees read The Bell Jar). For me, it was a great way to read some classic literature on my own.

This novel, in particular, stood out from the rest that summer. I knew nothing about it going in, except that it was often taught in schools and was about boys. The rest was for me to discover, and I vividly remember reading it in the heat of the concession stand. I was absorbed in it and groaned inwardly whenever someone came to buy something.

It has been a few years since then, but I am hoping it packs the same punch. I thought about it for days afterwards when I first read it. Let's see if a second read feels the same.

*I should note that this is a backlogged review.*

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings.

Every Tuesday, the bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish host Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly feature where bloggers count down their top ten of the given topic!

Given the holiday season, this week's topic is the top ten books I hope Santa brings. There was no way I could ignore this one this week, as I asked for a LOT of books this year. :) I did show some restraint and only passed along my most wanted, but that was still a really high number.

In any case, here are the top ten books I really want for Christmas. And in some cases, I cheated and put a few under one number. You'll see why when you get there. :)

10. Halt's Peril by John Flanagan: This is the newest release in one of my all-time favorite series. I adore the Ranger's Apprentice series and can't wait to pass them on to my children (very far off in the future). They are fun and action-packed reads that I always enjoy!

9. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz: If you're telling me that I can make Cauldron Cakes and Pumpkin Pasties here at home, I want to. A friend bought this book and after looking in it, I know that I am going to have to get my own copy. And you can bet that I'll even try casting spells as well!

8. The Divine Comedy: Paradise (Book 3) by Dante: I only own The Inferno, so I need to finish the set!

7. The Divine Comedy: Purgatory (Book 2) by Dante: Like above, I need to collect the whole set before I begin. Since The Divine Comedy counts as only 1 book on my master list, having all three at hand would make conquering them a bit easier.

6. The Iliad by Homer: I don't own a copy of The Iliad!! And considering how much I love The Odyssey, this is surprising (really, I named my blog after it). I also would love to have another Greek masterpiece translated by the awesome Robert Fagles at my hands, since he is a master of Greek translation.

5. The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy: I would really like to read this shorter Tolstoy piece before I begin the mammoth War and Peace next month. I feel like a small taste of Tolstoy before the whole big chunk would make conquering it feel a bit easier.

4. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I have one more novel by this big Russian guy to read and I have yet to get my hands on an edition. And since I am hosting a readalong of it this coming year, I suppose I need a copy eventually.

3. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: I have yet to get my hands on a copy of this one, and since it is yet another title on my list of books to read, it'll be easier to do so if it is sitting on my shelf! And this new edition is so lovely!

2. Assorted plays by William Shakespeare: I asked for the rest of the Shakespeare plays on my list that I don't own (about 12???). I am really going to work on getting more of his plays read this coming year (I did sign up for a Shakespeare Challenge), and owning the plays is one step closer to making that happen! I asked for a combination of the lovely Folger editions (seen above) as well as the Barnes and Noble Shakespeare editions (surprisingly wonderful editions that are easy to read).

1. Penguin Clothbound Classics: I already own 13 of these beauties, but there are 8 (10 if you count the two that are no longer in production-Crime and Punishment and Madame Bovary) that I don't own (and I just noticed that Gulliver's Travels isn't pictured here. That one too). I LOVE these editions and want to own the whole set. I've already read a few of the ones I own and I simply love these editions. They are well done and all of the supplemental material makes these a treasure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Pegasus by Robin McKinley.

I own everything by McKinley and I love her writing dearly. When I saw she had a new novel coming out over the summer, I knew I was going to have to get it and read it. That's just how it goes with favorite authors. I'm sure you understand.

Not to mention, this book has one of the most beautiful covers that I found myself staring at lovingly. I am a sucker for a beautiful cover, so there was no doubt that I needed to get this book.

I ended up reading it last week when I was in need of some comfort. There was some stuff going on that I need to get my mind off of, so I looked for some welcoming arms in the words of a favorite writer.

McKinley didn't disappoint me.

I'm gong to say from the beginning that McKinley's writing style can be extremely off-putting if you aren't familiar with her. I have read all of her novels and short stories, and pretty much in the order she wrote them (that was unintentional). Over time, her style has developed and she has a very distinct way of writing her tales. And she generally has two types of stories: a revision and alternate view of a much-loved fairy tale, or an original fantasy novel. Usually people love her fairy tale retellings, but I love both.

In Pegasus, she focuses much more on the fantasy aspects, but develops it richly and slowly. There has been talk on Goodreads that she is losing her touch, but I prefer her slow and deep way of building the story. In two of her most recent novels Dragonhaven and Chalice, she did the same gradual build of plot. McKinley takes her time to develop everything. She gives us background details, explanations of history, and true insight into the characters before she brings in the heavy pieces of the plot.

This novel builds from the same approach. At the beginning, the reader knows that Sylvi will be bonded to a pegasus on her 12th birthday. It has been a long ritual that dates back to the days when humans first entered the Pegasus' land. It had been a time of war and the human population saved the Pegasi from invading creatures. To show good will and evidence of their alliance, members of the ruling class are always bonded with a pegasus.

Sylvi is the princess of the humans living in the valley and on her 12th birthday, she is bonded to her pegasus, Ebon. Leading up to this moment, McKinley has us explore the purpose of this whole ritual through papers Sylvi finds in the library as she studies. So when the bonding happens and Sylvi discovers she can speak directly to her pegasus, we know its a big deal. Ever since the beginning, humans and the pegasi have not been able to talk. Instead, each bonded pair relies on a magician to interpret between them. The fact that Sylvi can speak to Ebon and vice versa is what launches the problems in the novel.

The rest of the novel discusses what happens after their bonding. In small flashbacks, Sylvi is fleshed out even more, and the situation the two characters find themselves in is made more serious. The magicians are lurking in the background full of displeasure over what has happened and political turmoil is starting to brew.

But it all travels at McKinley's even pace. She never once rushes the story into the action. Instead, she continues to build the tension and heartache of the characters. She weaves beautiful tales of her fictionalized history and allows the reader to feel like a part of Sylvi and Ebon's bond. She never once preaches or makes the reader feel stupid. Instead, you are a part of the story and you learn as Sylvi learns.

It is well done and beautifully executed, but I can see why it could be so off-putting.

I think many readers are used to writers giving them what they want. If we want action and suspense, we're going to get it. In Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, she keeps up the romantic triangle and the action throughout the entire novel. As the reader, we were always on our toes and we ate it up. I am sure you could say that for many novels in the same vein. But in Pegasus, McKinley takes it at her own pace. Yes, she wants us to enjoy it, but she is building something grander than what we expect. And that takes time.

There is also the issue of the method of bringing up important information. This was the sole thing that bothered me in the novel. Instead of finding a way to bring up relevant information as it was needed in an effortless way, I always find myself recalling a memory with Sylvi where she remembers some piece of information. This meant that a chapter would start with Sylvi at 16, but a memory would take her back to 12 to learn something, and then we would spring forward again. I can understand using this technique every once in awhile, but every time Sylvi needed to know something, we went down memory lane.

The only other thing that slightly bothered me is that the story isn't complete. I had no idea going into this that the full story wouldn't be in the book. The story ends (rather abruptly) with ideas of a sequel. I wish I would have known that going in so I wouldn't feel as sad to set this one aside. :)

All that being said, I adored Pegasus. I found it to be a beautiful weaving of friendship, love, and the meaning of tolerance between two different peoples. I look forward to what the next book will bring in 2012.

Some Page Edits.

Just a little PSA here. I got a little crazy organizing and changing things, so there are a few things different with my pages.

I combined my "About Me" page with my "FAQs" to put all that boring information in one place. I also added a new page with detailed information about readalongs for you all to take a gander at. And lastly, I removed my 2010 Challenges list (since I haven't been paying attention to them and I've won anyway) to add in a "2010 Books" page with each book I completed this year.

There are a couple of small organizational things that were tweaked. I officially removed "The Dead" from my TBR list, as it is a part of The Dubliners which I am reading anyway. I added in The Painted Veil by Maugham, which I am reading now, in its place.

Everything else has been updated and should be current to what is currently going on. I hope you all enjoy those little tweaks!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up for December 19, 2010: Teaching, Readalongs, and Holiday Plans.

What. a. week.

I feel like I haven't gotten a chance to catch my breath the last few days, but now I have two weeks until another commitment comes up, so hopefully I can spend it relaxing and getting ahead on some reading and blogging.

In case you missed my post of crazy on Wednesday, I got a phone call Wednesday afternoon that told me the teacher I am long-term subbing for was told by her doctor that she was done teaching. Wednesday afternoon was spent in a flurry of finding outfits for the next two days and mini-freak out attacks as I got ready to start teaching on Thursday.

Thursday and Friday were spent at the school and learning the ropes in the two days before the kids are on a two-week break. It was awkward and weird for the kids, and a little rough, but we made it through and I am feeling great about my upcoming time teaching. The teachers and staff were so welcoming and I already feel pretty comfortable in the building. The kids will get used to me and my style of teaching eventually and since I already had to put my foot down with two classes (I actually held 5 of my sixth hour class after school to give them a chit-chat about respect), I think that come January, we will all be better off for me having been there before break.

I also got to bring home some resources I wouldn't have seen until January, so a goal for these two week is to get the month of January planned and organized. I already have the first week done, so this shouldn't be too bad.

I am very excited to teach a unit on satire to my three senior English classes. I am going to bring in some pieces from Gulliver's Travels, which I read last summer, as well as some short essays from Satire is a little tricky, so hopefully I can come up with some great ideas for them.

So because of teaching, my schedule has been off from normal. I only got about 3 or 4 hours of sleep Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, so I am super exhausted and unsurprisingly, not feeling good today. I am dragging and feeling like crap (complete with a small fever), so I am going to spend the rest of my evening reading and catching up.

I am currently in the middle of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (recommended by Amanda) and I am loving it. I also need to finish Barchester Towers still, since I completely missed my Classics Circuit post on Thursday.

Posts are up for the January readalongs. War and Peace was actually up last week, but both Rebecca and The Woman in White were put up earlier this afternoon. Please spread the word and sign-up!

I am sure this week will be a little crazy as Christmas draws near and bloggers travel to visit with family and friends. I am still planning on posting most days as a head's up. With two weeks off and 6 books waiting for their posts to be put up, I need to. :)

I hope you all have a great week! See you next Sunday!

The Woman in White Readalong Sign-ups:

I am pleased to announce that in January 2011 I will be hosting a readalong of Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. I am extremely excited to be reading this novel, as I have heard so many wonderful things about it around the blogosphere.

I hope you will consider joining in on the fun and get a wonderful classic read at the beginning of new year (we all need some classic love in our lives).

I have never read anything by Collins before, so this will be a new experience. In fact, I don't have a copy of this title on my shelves yet! I asked for the beautiful Penguin clothbound edition for Christmas and I will be sure to go purchase it if need be. I am going to make my plans for this readalong based on the information I find online (I generally like to have the book by me when I plan these things, but I can't do that in this case).

If you are considering joining in, here is a little synopsis of the novel taken from

"The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction: Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant "Napoleon of Crime.""

Sounds like a wonderful read for a cold winter night, right?

The book is roughly 600 or so pages, so we'll divide it down the middle. I would recommend looking to see where there is a break around the 300 pages mark and calling it halfway. :)

There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)
Since I am hosting 2 other readalongs in January (War and Peace and Rebecca), I am making your posting dates a little spread out. I will do my very best to have my post up with my thoughts and observations on the first day.

If you decide to participate, here is what you need to do. First, you need to comment here letting me know that you want in. I will put your name below with a link to your blog so we can all come cheer you on. When it comes time to post, all you need to do is comment on my main post with a link to your own thoughts about the novel. I'll add links to the bottom of my page so other participants can visit your blog and comment.

I don't require participants to read everyone's thoughts, but it is more fun to visit and comment as much as possible.

I do ask that if possible you post a link on your blog somewhere promoting the readalong. I always say that the more participants, the better.

And everyone who succeeds in finishing the novel and makes their posts is eligible for a small prize, furnished by me.

So, if you are interested, comment below and let me know! I hope to see you joining! :)

Medical Librarian
Aimee Burton

Rebecca Readalong Sign-ups:

I am pleased to announce that in January 2011 I will be hosting a readalong of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. I have heard only wonderful things about this novel, so I am extremely excited to begin reading.

I hope you will consider joining in on the fun and get a wonderful classic read at the beginning of new year (we all need some classic love in our lives).

This will be my first experience with Du Maurier, but I know she is a favorite with some of my favorite book bloggers. And as her most popular novel, I only have high expectations for this wonderful little book.

If you are considering joining in, here is a little synopsis of the novel taken from

"Sixty years after REBECCA was first published, Daphne du Maurier's unsurpassed masterpiece continues to enthrall readers with romance and suspense, as the second Mrs. de Winter narrates the haunting events surrounding her marriage to Maxim de Winter and her growing obsession with his first wife, the beautiful, now dead Rebecca."

This sounds like a great read for January and a way to dive into something thrilling and wonderful when all I want to do is huddle under blankets in the cold.

I am reading from a mass market paperback edition (the one with the red satiny background). My edition is 380 pages, which isn't too bad for a readalong! I am planning the page requirements based on my edition. If yours is different, you can adjust as needed.

There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 190 pages, or chapters 1-15)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 190 pages or chapters 16-27)
Since I am hosting 2 other readalongs in January (War and Peace and The Woman in White), I am making your posting dates a little spread out. I will do my very best to have my post up with my thoughts and observations on the first day.

If you decide to participate, here is what you need to do. First, you need to comment here letting me know that you want in. I will put your name below with a link to your blog so we can all come cheer you on. When it comes time to post, all you need to do is comment on my main post with a link to your own thoughts about the novel. I'll add links to the bottom of my page so other participants can visit your blog and comment.

I don't require participants to read everyone's thoughts, but it is more fun to visit and comment as much as possible.

I do ask that if possible you post a link on your blog somewhere promoting the readalong. I always say that the more participants, the better.

And everyone who succeeds in finishing the novel and makes their posts is eligible for a small prize, furnished by me.

So, if you are interested, comment below and let me know! I hope to see you joining! :)

Laura C.
Katy F.
Linda (no blog link)
My Mom (no blog link)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I normally don't write random posts without a specific theme pertaining to books, but somehow I have wound up with 2 in the same week.

Today has been pretty chaotic. I woke up with a screaming migraine, which wiped me out until noon. Then I was hit with a shocker of a phone call.

You all remember that I am supposed to start long-term subbing starting in January? Well, I am starting tomorrow (Thursday). The teacher I am filling in for was ordered to go on bed rest, so I am going to be finishing the last couple days before the students' winter break. It is overwhelming, but I'm sure I'll be fine. It just happened a few weeks earlier than I thought. :)

Anyway, I will be teaching and getting in the swing of things Thursday and Friday. I found out today that Friday is the last day before break (not a day next week), so I am sure that it will be chaotic both days as the students get ready to go on break and I try to adjust. But, it'll be fun and I am looking forward to it.

So, if I am a little absent the next two days, I apologize. I am supposed to be a stop for the Classics Circuit tomorrow and I haven't had a chance to finish the book, let alone write a post. I was planning on finishing it today. I am planning on writing a post tomorrow afternoon, so if you are for that, come look around in the late afternoon early evening tomorrow. :)

Happy Reading everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

I would have never picked up The Glass Castle normally. I am not the biggest fan of memoirs, even though I love biographies and autobiographies of historical figures. But this title always repulsed me from the beginning.

My university hosted a "One Book, One Community" event every year in the effort to draw college students and the at-large community together through reading. I was never interested in it, as it seemed like a big disorganized mess. But the year this book came out, 2005, the university chose it. I heard about the novel through the grapevine and some resulting bad press.

I believe this was all around the time that James Frey was combating rumors about the legitimacy of his own memoir and that has always been stuck in my mind. For me memoirs = lies. Perhaps that is the wrong way to go about it, but I had a sour taste in my mouth.

So why did I read this?

This book is a requirement for seniors in the school district I am teaching in starting in January. And since I am teaching a section or two of senior English, I figured it might be a good idea to read this novel before I begin to teach it. I bought a copy and brought it home, eying it warily before diving into it one night.

And I was surprised. I was hooked and finished the book in one long sitting on my couch. It was moving and deep and beautifully written.

Jeannette tells the story of her childhood and the inattention her parents have for their children. Along with her two sisters and her brother, Jeannette is neglected. Her parents, while intelligent and ready to have children, seem to pay little attention to the kids once they come along. Neither parent holds down a steady job or paycheck. When money does come in, the kids learn to hide it from their father out of fear they won't eat.

In the beginning they travel from little town to little town by car. They stay only long enough to get what they need before moving on. The first scene of the novel is when a very young Jeannette burns herself by the stove (she is four) and has to spend an extended time in the hospital. Obviously the staff begins to ask questions, but before anything can be done, he father comes in and takes her out of the hospital before fleeing. This way of escaping is something the Walls family seems to do constantly.

Her parents are incredibly selfish. They make a home out of an old railroad depot for a couple of years and seem to be beginning to prosper. But in one rough patch, all that is left to eat is a stick of butter, which the girls split. Upon hearing that they ate it, the mother has a fit. There was another point in their lives that the family was starving, but the mother was gaining weight. The kids eventually caught her in bed with candy bars and after asking for food, their mother told them no and that she didn't want to share.

The kids and parents continuously live on the brink of poverty, but the parents don't see a problem with it. It also becomes clear that the kids need to take over and mature before their lives are ruined. The kids mature quickly and experience things that I haven't even experienced.

Jeannette was a victim of two sexual assaults-one a boy in the town with the railroad depot, and once by her uncle. Her parents didn't seem to care about either.

I was hooked, and pages were flipping quickly as I took in the story of the Walls family. A lot of it was disbelief, that parents would act this way towards their children. That a parent wouldn't care that their kids have nothing to eat and are freezing at night. That a parent would take their young teenage daughter to a bar to help hustle money, and not care when she was taken upstairs by a grown man.

Eventually the kids escape, one by one, to New York City. The parents eventually follow, but for once, the kids are allowed to live their lives in the way they should.

I was overwhelmed when I finished, so I had a long talk with Matt about the story as whole. A lot of the conversation steered towards how I was going to teach a novel of such desperation and poverty to the students in this district? The fact is, this district is one of the wealthiest in the state and the school where I am teaching contains the wealthier subdivisions in the district. I can guess that most of those kids won't be able to relate to these characters beyond pity, so I am struggling with how to make those connections.

I was moved by the story, having seen the truth behind it. I have taught in areas where poverty is apparent and I know that students I have had have come to school hungry and wishing that school lasted 7 days a week so they could have 7 meals/week as opposed to 5. I have seen some nasty things in the schools I have worked in and I know that stories like that of Jeannette Walls are still out there. But many of those kids will never escape it or find a way to voice it in the way that she did.

So yes, I certainly did love the book and many parts of me are excited to teach something that is so raw and powerful. I know that for many of my future students it will be their first real exposure to poverty. I am hoping that this book will shock them and get them to think about their own strengths and abilities to make the world that they are living in a better place. Cheesy? Yes, but sometimes students need a kick in the pants to see where their own power comes from.

My one concern was with some of the language. I don't have a problem with small amounts of nasty language. As a writer, I know that sometimes the only way I can get a point across is by a well-placed four letter word. It happens and I can accept that. But I am worried as to how I am going to teach this, especially when my most hated word in the world is a part of it (I am speaking of cun*). If I was a parent, I am sure I would have some issues with my children reading a book with that word in it. But, it can be a learning experience for me and the students, so hopefully no drama ensues when we get to that part of the book.

In any case, I am looking forward to exploring this deeper with my students and perhaps giving memoirs a second chance in the future.

Monday, December 13, 2010

This and That on a Monday Night.

This is going to be a random post tonight. I'm home alone at the moment and I have some things running through my head that I want to get out. Most of them are reading related, so I promise I won't be too boring. :)

First I took a random trip to a local chain bookstore this evening. I had the store that needed to be used and since I was already out and about I stopped in. This is my least favorite of the two stores in the area and tonight I was reminded why that was. I was searching in general for something off my list, since I promised Matt that I have to read what I buy (something about moving all of my books...pssshhhh). Anyway, I was searching the fiction shelves and noting in my head where some titles were that I might be interested.

I was having a hard time finding something by Maugham, since his work was not where it was supposed to be, so I stopped a worker to ask. He was the most unhelpful and rude employee I have ever come across. He told me he was "too busy" to help me, but when I stopped him he was straightening piles of books that were only slightly disheveled. When I asked again, he sighed loudly before walking to a computer and typing. He eventually found where the books were (not in the correct place and not even CLOSE to where they should have been), asked me if I was "satisfied" and stormed off. Needless to say I was angry.

I ended up buying the book I came in for with my coupon, so the book was free, but I told the man at the register I would not be returning. When he asked why, I told him about my experience. Instead of trying to make it better, he told me that I should understand that they were busy around the holidays. Including me, there were maybe 15 people in the store. They were certainly not busy and I did not deserve to be treated so rudely. I highly doubt I will return.

End of rant. Promise.

In readalong news, you might notice over at the right that we have a tie for the January readalong. My original thought was to have a revote, but why bother? I'm just going to host both as a readalong and sign-ups will be up by the end of the week. I might be crazy to be hosting three readalongs in the month of January, but we all need a little crazy in our lives...right? Ya'll better sign up too!

Today has been a stressful day, on top of a stressful week. I spend a long portion of today in deep thought and prayer for someone (I can't share this yet) and because of that, I pulled a fun book off the non-classic shelf to read. I feel guilty, but I needed to escape from what was going on today. A friend got the book for me the day it came out, since we share a deep love for the author, so you'll be seeing a review of Pegasus by Robin McKinley pop up randomly. That's why.

Anyway, love to you all. I hope you're having a great reading week!

Review: The Laura Years Books 6-9 by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Last week I took you with me as I traveled with Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to the plains of Kansas, to a sod house in Minnesota, and finally to the shores of Silver Lake by De Smet, South Dakota. I also can't leave out a little detour in New York to learn about the childhood of Almanzo Wilder, Laura's future husband. As a reader, I got to grow up with Laura and by the fifth book, Laura was very much coming into her own as a teenager. Her family was deciding to settle in De Smet for a lengthy period of time and a world of new opportunities was arriving.

The sixth book, The Long Winter, has always been my favorite of the series. I'm not sure why, since it is a sad and depressing novel about the plight of the early settlers in De Smet, but I always loved the way the family seemed to stick it out through everything to survive one of the hardest winters anyone has ever known.

After an omen of a long and hard winter, Pa decides to move everyone into town and his building for the duration of the winter. The family settles in and is continuously hit with blizzard after blizzard. When a storm clears up, work begins to clear the railroad to the town so supplies can be sent in, but by the time everything is clear, another blizzard hits.

As time passes and winter continues, things begin to get desperate in De Smet. Coal runs out so the Wilder family twists hay into sticks to burn for heat. At one point there is a tunnel of snow that Pa dug to get into the barn and out. Laura can look out the upstairs window to see people passing by on snow above her.

But through it all, the family and town continue to survive. Almanzo and another man hear of a man with wheat south of town to buy for the starving town. On a clear day they make the long journey there to buy wheat for the starving settlers, but are caught in a blizzard on the way back. It was only by chance they found the town in blinding white snow, but thanks to their courage, the town could eat.

I know now why I love this book so. I think it really speaks to the perseverance and courage of the men and women who took chances to settle in the wilderness. We all complain when we're a little cold but have the luxury of notching up the thermostat. These people had to fight for survival.

But I also love Almanzo in this novel. He took a huge risk to bring wheat to starving people when he didn't need to. I think that speaks for his character and truly develops him into more than just a passing character.

The next book, The Little Town on the Prairie, is probably the most "fun" of all the books. Exciting things are happening in De Smet as the town booms. The Wilder family begins regular visits to Church and Laura and Carrie attend school (by this point Mary is in a college for blind students). The family participates in all kinds of social events held in the evenings at the school.

It is a wonderful and happy time and the book reflects that. I think the settlers of De Smet were glad to have lived through the long winter and they seem to be enjoying society and the new things in town.

But of course one of the best parts about this novel is all of the romance popping up. Alamanzo calls on Laura to drive her places and you can see the beginnings of the relationship and love forming. I also love that Ma gets all worried-what mother doesn't get worried when boys start calling on their daughters?

The eighth book in the series, These Happy Golden Years, continues the story. Laura is a teen and the rest of the family is prospering. Their shanty on the claim is expanding, things are going well, and the family is happy.

One of the most memorable portions in this novel is when Laura gets her first teaching position. She is a teacher to five students away from home. She is forced to live with a family and the wife is clearly unhappy with Laura in her home. But every weekend, without fail, Almanzo comes to get Laura and taker her home. And every Sunday he drives her back so she can escape Mrs. Brewster.

It is truly touching that he sacrifices so much for a girl he barely knows. But its clear that at the beginning of their courtship that he feels more than she does. Laura always keeps him at an arm's length in the beginning.

Laura teaches two more school terms before the end of the novel, and her marriage to Almanzo. The wedding is rushed, as Almanzo wants to be married before his sister and mother arrive to run the show. I always felt bad as a girl that Laura had to hurry to get married and she wore black to her wedding. So sad!

But the novel ends as a new and powerful chapter of Laura's life begins. She is married to Almanzo and for the first time in her life, living away from her parents.

The final novel in the Laura years series is The First Four Years. And this is the book that I was anxious to get to. I said in my first post about these novels that Jillian had said something that spurred me to pick these up rather than be done with my return to childhood. Jillian talked about how in this novel everything seemed so detached, and how Laura seemed different being married. But she also talked about the trials Laura and Almanzo faced in those years. That is what made me decide to reread these. More on that in a moment.

This novel is different than the others in that the characters are less developed and it feels like you are reading mere glimpses of memory from Laura. The book was published after Almanzo's death and you can tell that Laura was trying to record thoughts and give some kind of ending to her story.

The story follows the first four years of their marriage, as they try their luck farming and succeeding on their own. But their first fours years are wrought with pain and struggle. They are deep in debt. Laura loses a son and has to struggle to recover. Both of them fall ill and when Almanzo tries to work too soon after being sick, he suffers a stroke and never fully recovers. It seems as if the two cannot recover and cannot get ahead. But even with all of that struggle and pain, they have hope. And they keep trying.

When I remembered what this novel was about, I knew I needed to read them again. Matt and I are approaching our one year anniversary. This first year has been a struggle for us-you know, with me not working, money issues, and health problems-but here we are. We are still pushing forward and stilling working towards something better. Reading this gave me hope about our own situation, and the knowledge that things could be a lot worse. :)

I am so glad I decided to go down memory lane with Laura and her family once more. It was wonderful to re-experience life on the prairie with her family and my childhood. If you have never read these, I suggest you add them to your list, right now. They are timeless stories of a loving family full of hope, courage, and perseverance.