Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Goals and Resolutions.

With the new year fast approaching, I think it is time to make plans for 2012. I know that some people scoff at the idea of making resolutions-I mean, why wait until the new year, right? I happen to like the idea of starting fresh....with a clean slate in a brand new year. There is an optimism in the air in the beginning months of the year!

I make goals and resolutions every year, but it is new to share them openly. I did post my blog related goals last year, but I am also including some personal goals as well-more on that at the end of the post.

Everything is broken down by category. I have a lot of lofty goals for this year!

  • Continue project list-main goal is to hit book 200 by the beginning of 2013
  • 10 "fun" reads throughout the year (I strayed a LOT this past year from my project list. To clarify, a "fun" read is anything not considered a classic)
  • 30 minutes of reading/day minimum (This is an old habit I am reinstating. I used to read for 60 minutes every day in college, but sometimes I let a day or two go by without picking up a book. I want to be reading on a daily basis).
  • Continue to post a minimum of 3x a week
  • Sponsor 2 themed months (Shakespeare Reading Month is taking place in January. I am thinking of doing a Victorian Month in the summer...)
  • Include more personal posts (this is something I really want to do. While I know it may take me out of the realm of "book blogger," this is something I need to do for myself as an outlet)
  • Comment on blogs! Probably my biggest failure as a blogger is reading posts and not commenting.
  • Discover new-to-me book blogs!
  • Participate in the two Dewey's readathons in 2012-April and October
  • Participate in other "classic-minded" events during 2012 (Classics Circuit and Persephone Reading Weekend come to mind-these titles do not count as part of my 10 "fun reads")
  • Continue my presence on twitter...(@alliedanielson)
  • Continue maintaining my goodreads page and update with past books read and future books
Challenges (I went a little challenge happy this year...which I am regretting a bit):
  • I can quit any challenge by November 30, 2012 if I am not close to completing it without any guilt :)
  • Go to the gym 3x per week
  • Weight Loss goal: 50 lbs in 2012 (This would be a good start. And after Amanda did it, why can't I?)
  • Apply to grad school by May 1 and decide on a program to start in the fall
  • By the end of 2012, I should have a clearer goal in mind-either working in a permanent teaching position, or doing something else. I can't keep subbing.
  • 1 date night per month :)
  • Spend time on my other hobbies: crafting, scrapbooking, etc.
  • Cook 3x per week (I am not a bad cook, but sometimes it is hard to cook when I might be the only one home-Matt works a lot of nights. I also want to learn some new recipes and share a little bit of that here).
  • Develop a daily cleaning routine (I think my mental health will improve if I become a little neater-not that I'm a slob, but it would be a good habit to make sure all the dishes are washed before bed, trash is out, etc.)

I feel like 2012 has a lot of great things in store. In many ways, I feel like 2011 was a really hard year. While it certainly had its good moments, there were also a lot of negatives. I battled some serious depression in late summer/early fall that I am still recovering from. It was bad enough that I came home many, many days and cried for no good reason besides feeling worthless. I've gained even more weight after losing about 15 pounds earlier in the year. I'm struggling to maintain a healthy balance in my life. And while I know it won't all change at once in the new year, I am excited about turning over a new leaf. I am ready to put everything behind me and move forward.

How long can I really let the past bother me? I can't continue to let life pass me by. I can't continue to let forces outside of my own control dictate the kind of life I have and the kind of person I become. If I let that happen, I won't like the person I become.

So, you will definitely see more of me on the blog in the new year. I have held back some...and I felt that for awhile, I lost my passion for this project. It has come back after some tough conversations with various individuals, so I am bringing it back. I am excited and motivated once more. :)

Thank you all for your kind comments in 2011. I look forward to getting to know you all better in 2012!

Oh yeah, let's hope we all read some phenomenal books! :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The "Day After" Readathon.

Hi guys!

Yep, I am hosting another readathon! woohoo!

After some conversations with Lori on twitter a few weeks ago, we decided to host a little readathon in the new year. We both want to kick-start the year in grand fashion and with some really good books. Personally, I know I have some Shakespeare to plow through, so this is the perfect excuse.

Anyway, here are the details if you want to join in:
  • The readathon will go through January 1st and 2nd. You can start anytime you'd like-just read during those two days (do let me know in a comment that you're participating so I can cheer you on!
  • I will be updating on my blog, as well as little updates on twitter (much like I did in my readathoning in November). You can update...or not.
  • Have fun! The only purpose and goal is to get into the groove of a new reading year in 2012.
That's it! I know that I will be reading up a storm both days since the husband is working. :) I hope you'll think about joining us-even for a couple of hours!

Favorite Books of 2011:

I have a hard time narrowing favorite books down to a concrete number, so instead, here is a look at the books I read this year that I consider new favorites! I should note that my current read, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, will probably be added to this when I finish it.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I hadn't read this one in years, and a few days before Christmas I pulled it off the shelf. Even though the story was familiar to me, I was surprised by the depth and emotion in the novella. It wasn't overly sappy or preachy.

I think this is a book I definitely need to pick up and read again for future holidays. It left me feeling inspired and I remembered bits and pieces from it as I met with family over the last few days. I cannot wait to discover more of Dickens' Christmas stories, as well as sharing this one with future kiddos.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I kept up my new yearly tradition of reading an Austen around Christmas-time. Last year I read Emma, and this year I treated myself to this one. It had been so long since I read it, that I brushed it off as one of my least favorites.

No, I was surprised by the depth in this one, and it jumped a few places in my list of favorite Austens (although, every time I read an Austen, that title immediately becomes my favorite until I pick up another). It also had me debating if I was more of a Marianne or an Elinor. If you don't know what that means, then you best get yourself a copy and find out. :)

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

My thoughts on this book are going up as we speak, so it is perfect timing if you haven't seen them yet. :)

This book? Hands down my all-time favorite of 2011. I was blown away by the story, the writing, and the outright emotion of this book. It actually made me cry at the end (which my husband made fun of me for), but I am STILL thinking about how wonderfully crafted this novel was.

You need to read this at some point. Trust me.

(and it isn't a difficult read-I've heard some of James' later novels are more difficult).

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

I wasn't too sure what I would see in a book about a big white whale. I mean, really, a whale?

What I didn't expect was how different this book was, and about how every small detail mattered...and didn't matter. It was wonderfully written, with immense passion and insight. It is a book I know I will come back to multiple times in my lifetime.

Don't be intimidated by this one!

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I always blew this one off as a "boy's" book when I was younger, and I wasn't too keen on picking it up for this project. Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying it!

Pirates, shooting, treasure, and ships-what more could you want out of a book? I was swept away by Jim and the pirates, including Long John Silver, as they fought, searched for treasure, and explored the island.

This was one was just plain FUN.

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

After Eva reviewed this one, I knew I had to read it. So I found this lovely edition and it sat on my nightstand for months. I finally picked it up when I couldn't think of anything else to read.

This is another book that I couldn't believe I waited so long to finally read it. The prose? Beyond explanation.

I know this one is a "modern" classic, but it is so worth it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I had read this before when I was in high school, and while I could remember the story, I couldn't put my finger on exactly why everyone loved it so much. I was surprised by how much I didn't remember, and how much I fell in love with the characters. Atticus is hands down the best dad ever. I loved Scout and Jem's imagination and shenanigans, and Boo Radley stole my heart.

It has also made me want to name a future daughter Scout, but Matt isn't going for it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I put off reading this title for as long as possible. I was worried I would hate it. I was worried it wouldn't live up to all the hype, my expectations, or Villette, which I read in 2010.

I was very, very wrong. I cannot believe I waited as long as I did. Jane Eyre blew my mind. It had beautiful description and passages that I still think about. Do me a favor, if you haven't read this one yet, go get yourself a copy.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy has always scared me, and before I began this process and began researching other authors, I would have said he was the scariest writer I would have to tackle. Imagine my surprise when I started reading and was hooked! Like Dostoevsky last year, I was blown away by how accessible his writing was and how much I loved it!

Everyone needs to give this a try at some point. The story is huge, but well-written and emotionally compelling.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

I had never heard of Collins until I started blogging. That might sound crazy, but I had no idea who he was. I continually read his name in blogs when I first started, and I eventually decided to add two of his books to my list (I removed some of the non-fiction titles, since I wanted to focus on fiction). For my first jump into Collins' work, I was blown away. The villain in this novel is my all-time favorite (if there can be such a thing), and the two main female characters were perfect foils for each other.

I cannot wait to read The Moonstone by Collins in 2012!

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

This was the very first book I read in 2011. I had always been apprehensive about reading it, but I was blown away by the mystery and power of the story. It is a book I often think about picking up again, as well as inspiring me to pick up more by DuMaurier in the future.

If you haven't read this one yet, you need to add it to your TBR! It is a fabulous book!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 End of the Year Book Survey.

The wonderful Jaime over at The Perpetual Page-Turner is hosting her "End of the Year Book Survey" for 2011. She started it last year and it exploded all over the place (click here for the big 2010 link-in post on her blog).

I like getting all nostalgic as it nears the end of the year, so before I even thought about my answers for this year's survey, I went back and read last year's. It seems like so long ago that I read some of those titles!

Anywhere, here we go with this year's survey and answers...

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

While I read many, MANY amazing books this year, my gut is telling me that my all-time favorite was The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, with Moby-Dick by Herman Melville in a very close second. POAL was simply amazing. It was well worth the read...and absolutely fabulous. I highly recommend it (my thoughts on it are still going up).

I also need to shout out about Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko-WONDERFUL.

I'm also in the middle of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton-it is definitely going to be a favorite for the year!

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?

There are a couple I could mention here as being unimpressive. I wasn't as into Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys as I had hoped. I also wasn't the biggest fan of Dubliners by Joyce or Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. None of those were bad, just not my favorites.

But my least favorite book of 2011 has to be Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Out of the 125ish books I've read thus far in my project, this has been my least favorite. That should tell you a lot.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

I was surprised by a number of books this year, but I feel like I need to give a nod to War and Peace and The Divine Comedy here. Both were far more accessible than I thought they would be!

I feel I also need to mention that both Oliver Twist and Hard Times by Charles Dickens ended up being really enjoyable!

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?

To be quite honest, I didn't lend out too many books this year to my friends and family that I recently read. I do remember having a lot of conversations about some titles as I read them. The Mill on the Floss came up in quite a few conversations with Jillian, as did Moby-Dick, The Portrait of a Lady, and The House of Mirth. I also convinced Trisha to read The Ranger's Apprentice Series, which she seems to be enjoying!

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?

I spent a few snow days last winter reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which I really enjoyed. Other than that, I really didn't read any series!

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

SO MANY! :) I feel like I can now add Tolstoy (War and Peace and The Death of Ivan Ilyich), Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White), DuMaurier (Rebecca), Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony), and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) to a list of new (to me) favorite authors I discovered this year.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

You know, I honestly can't think of anything that was outside my comfort zone! I was a little apprehensive about starting War and Peace, but it was a much easier read than I thought it would be.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

I immediately thought of the first book I read in 2011-Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I read that book so fast because it was just THAT GOOD. I was also quite hooked on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

I'm trying to think of a book I was really excited for, but since most of them grabbed me in some way, I am going to say Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I have read an Austen title the last couple of years around the holidays, and it is definitely a tradition I am going to keep up! Plus, Jillian hyped it up for me, and I scored a beautiful new edition for review!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

I'm going with two (because I can)-a classic and one of the handful of books NOT on my list that I read this year:

First up is the classic, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. When I found this edition neglected on a bookshelf, I grabbed it. The cover is just so simple and pretty (it is absolutely gorgeous in person).

I also really loved the cover of Nina Sankovitch's Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. This was a book about the power of reading, and who doesn't like a big comfy chair when they read?

I also read a few more of my Penguin clothbounds this year, and you all know how much I love those covers (I read The Woman in White, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Treasure Island, Dracula, Sense and Sensibility and A Christmas Carol all in their clothbound glory this year)!

11. Most memorable character in 2011?

Adam will probably laugh at me, and/or harass me for saying this, but John Galt from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand will remain forever etched in my memory (I read that book 1 1/2 times this year).

I'm also going with Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I told my husband I want to name a future daughter Scout. I think he thought I was joking...)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

I have to go back to the first three books I mentioned in question 1: The Portrait of a Lady, Moby-Dick, and Ceremony.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?

I got incredibly sappy and loving after I finished Jane Eyre. I even read a passage to Matt. :)

I threw Atlas Shrugged a few times when I was reading it, I let my cat sleep on it, and I fought it more than any other book this year. I call that a reaction.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch had me feeling very introspective. It also made me tear up a few times.

Ceremony also broke my heart a bit. And I cried a little when I finished The Portrait of a Lady. Matt laughed at me. :)

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

Jane Eyre!!! I held out against a lot of peer pressure to read this one...and it was worth the wait. Such a wonderful, beautiful book!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

From Jane Eyre:
“I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character - perfect concord is the result.”

From The Portrait of a Lady:
“I always want to know the things one shouldn't do."
"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.
"So as to choose." said Isabel”

From Moby-Dick:
"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."

16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?

I am actually going to reread War and Peace in the first six months of 2012. I read it very quickly last year and want to savor it a bit more this time around!

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Portrait of a Lady had me on the edge of my seat by the end. I had to tell Matt all about it when I finished.

I had a huge WTF moment when it came to the SUPER LONG John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had me in stitches...and then in a deep stupor after I finished it (all in a good way-what a fabulous play).

Then there is THAT scene in Jude the Obscure. If you've read it, you should know exactly what scene I am talking about! OMG.

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2011

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2011?

I really can't answer this question because I feel I would leave someone out. Let's just say that book blogs with a classic focus seemed to boom this year. I've met a lot of great new bloggers this year! I also developed my relationships with other bloggers-which I want to continue to do!

Thank you all for continuing to read about my journey!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?

It is really hard to pick a favorite review. I really liked writing this post on the first piece of Moby-Dick. There is also this post on Tolstoy and Purple Chair that I had fun writing as well.

I don't think either one of those are my best posts, but they stick out more than others.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

This is an area I think I need to work on in 2012, but I did have a few posts that got the conversation going. I discussed in this post my observations about reading speed and there were some interesting things said in the comments. I also shared how I manage my book database in this post.

And while it wasn't a discussion themed post, I think that this post on my frustrations with my unemployment gave me a lot to think about (thanks to your comments).

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?

I really enjoyed this post by Jillian about the canon and reading canonical works. It gave me a lot to think about as a classics blogger.

I also loved this recent post (I'm still thinking of a comment to post) by Delaisse-a fabulous blogger, you all need to go visit. It is a great post about women and writing and Virginia Woolf and writing that has been lost. Go read it.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I participated in many, many events this year. I really like community events, so I tend to seek those out. Some of my favorite include the Classics Circuit, Dewey's Readathon, group reads and readalongs, and themed months (like the recent Transcendentalist Month). I like the idea of bringing bloggers together in a positive and meaningful way.

I also enjoy a few memes here and there-Top Ten Tuesday is a fun way to get some book recommendations.

I, sadly, didn't got to any signings this year. I had plans to head up to Lansing in October for the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour, but things came up and I missed it (I was bummed to miss Carrie Ryan, since I met her the year before and needed her other book signed).

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2011?

I have a couple of moments actually...

First, the amount of support I've received this year in regards to all the "outside, real world" stuff going on-from Matt's step-dad battling lymphoma, to my countless posts on being frustrated. Every time I feel a bit down, I visit some of those posts to read your comments. Thank you for that.

I also really enjoyed being a co-host for the April Readathon. I battled through while being sick, but I had a great time hosting and being involved in the community.

There have also been some other things that are special to me-like giving away books to fellow bloggers. I love being able to share books, so for all of you who have entered a giveaway, thanks for that! I love being able to send things to you through the mail!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I went and looked before starting to answer this question. I find it hilarious that this post on the Percy Jackson series has had 2,000+ views this year. Really? I don't even think it is that great of a post (I read the series during "Snowpocalypse" in February).

Some other popular posts (with regards to hits this year) are a number of books that are generally read in school: Lord of the Flies (This post has over 4,500 views since it went up in 2010-INSANE), Catcher in the Rye, Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Umm, to be honest, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Sometimes when I am writing a post I know that it isn't the best, so it never surprises me when some posts only get 1 or 2 comments and some get 15+.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I got Homer (my Nook Color) in July for my birthday! I never thought I would like an ereader, but I really love having it. I do need to read more on it, but it does tire my eyes out sooner than paper books (the screen is backlit). It is fabulous for reading magazines and such-or having twitter open while reading. :)

Since getting Homer, I have used Project Gutenberg A LOT to download some FREE copies of old classics. I am sure I will use the site more and more when books become hard to find (I still prefer reading a physical book).

It isn't a new discovery, but I also spent some time this year pondering a big trip to John King books in downtown Detroit when I finish my project as a celebration gift. I haven't made it down there in over a year, but John King is a HUGE warehouse FULL of used and rare books. Last time I was there, I bought a beautiful set of Austen titles. The bookstore was actually featured in this article by the Huffington Post about the WORLD'S five greatest bookstores. If you are ever in this area, you need to go (I'll go with).

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?


Some of you are going to laugh, but I failed miserably at the challenges I signed up for in 2011. I only completed of course it makes sense I signed up for a lot during 2012, right? But, I am reaching the point where I have less...choice on my list now, so these challenges should be easier to least that's what I'm telling myself.

I also failed to read as much as I wanted to this year. I think I'll hit 82ish books for the year. There were years before I started this project where I was consistently reading 100+ books/year...but when I think about it, that included a lot of YA, fantasy, and other things that are easier to read. Say what you will, but it takes a lot more to read 1000+ pages of classic literature vs. 1000+ pages of YA. I think that the quality of what I read far outweighs the amount.

But, there were weeks at a time where I let other things distract me from reading. I am a much nicer and balanced person when I give myself the luxury of reading everyday. I need to remember that.

Looking Ahead...

1. One Book You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. I never had the right timing to get to this one, so I made sure to put it on a challenge list for 2012.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. This was the title for the June readalong and I failed miserably. I got 150 pages into it, was loving it, and life got in the way. I kept meaning to come back to it, but never did. I will definitely read it this coming year!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?

I am really excited to read Clarissa with Jillian come April. It will be nice to have some company while tackling it (you are all welcome to join us!).

I am also excited for Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was one I planned to read this year, but again, I ran out of time!

I'm also pretty darn excited to dive into some Shakespeare in a few days!

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?

I have a lot more specifics planned out in my resolutions post (will go up soon-Thursday), but overall, I hope to be productive. I crossed the halfway point in my project about 6 months after I had planned to. That isn't a horrible thing, but I want to make some steady progress this year. My number one goal is to get to Book 200 by this time next year. You all need to hold me to that!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two Years!

Today is my second wedding anniversary! Last year, I wrote a post about where Matt and I have been in honor of our first year spent together (click here to read). This year, I just want to enjoy my day with him, and reflect on all the things we have accomplished in our first two years of marriage. We have come through a lot of struggle, and everyday I wake up happy to know he is by my side. I'm a lucky girl, for sure. :)

We're going out to dinner tonight, so it will be a low-key day before that-mainly spent enjoying our gifts from yesterday. I will be sure to update soon!

(Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

I was feeling a bit restless the other night, so instead of starting another classic from my list and being bogged down by obligation, I took my copy of A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens off the shelf. The beautiful white book had been sitting there all year, neglected and lonely. And it wasn't that I was planning on reading Christmas stories this holiday season...but I felt I needed to.

It is easy to get caught up in the bustle around the holidays-obligations, gifts, seeing family, traveling, baking, putting up decorations, etc. So, I sat down with my book of Dickens Christmas stories, had my tree lighting up the page, and read. And while I could talk about the other stories in this volume, it is the title volume that deserves the most attention. Yes, A Christmas Carol deserves all the praise.

I haven't read the story in a really long time. Instead, I have contented myself with watching the various film adaptations over the years. Last year, in fact, I watched "A Mickey's Christmas Carol" with my sister-it took us back to our childhood.

I was surprised by how moved I became by the story. The story is one we are all familiar with-learning that we need to maintain holiday spirit throughout the year, spreading joy, love, and happiness to everyone around us. But the story is so much more powerful on paper than it is in film. Because not only does the reader get this message about holiday spirit, the reader also learns a bit about what it means to be human.

“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

I was moved by Jacob Marley's account of his punishment and how it was too late to change the course of his life. And what I think fails to come across in the film versions of this story is the power of that knowledge.

I mean, we all go through like making choices about what is most important to us, what we find value in, and sometimes, with selfishness. We want and need things, pushing aside relationships and feelings with others. And I think, what Dickens was trying to say here, in addition to all the holiday cheer, is that we need to acknowledge the way we live on a daily basis.

Because yes, it is easy to be charitable and loving and helpful around the holidays. It is when we dredge on into winter, into summer, that we forget the spirit and magic of the holidays, and we start to forget that people need our help year round.

That's what I loved on this read of A Christmas Carol-that depth that you can pull from Scrooge's character as he sees those he has let down and the true consequences of his actions. It was inspiring, moving, and just what I needed this holiday season.

While you can certainly get the message by watching one of the films, nothing can beat the power and magic of Dickens' words. Reading as Scrooge transformed from a selfish and miserly sort into a man who found joy in helping those around him, and taking pleasure in spending time with them...well, it is what the holidays are all about. Dickens brought his character to life, and the transformation Scrooge undergoes in print is moving.

I think that in the future this will be a holiday favorite. I can't wait to sit around the tree and read it to my children-teaching them that we should keep the holiday spirit the whole year, not just in the month of December.

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book 122: The Portrait of a Lady and Book Stats.

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Henry James (1843-1916)

First Published: 1881
My Edition: Bantam Classic (seen at left)
Pages: 625

Other Works Include: Roderick Hudson (1876), The American (1877), The Europeans (1878), Daisy Miller (1878), Washington Square (1880), The Bostonians (1886), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Tragic Muse (1890), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), What Maisie Knew (1897), The Turn of the Screw (1898), The Awkward Age (1899), The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904).

I pulled this off the shelf the other night and Matt told me the woman on the cover looks like a vampire. I doubt that James wrote about vampires in Europe, but I've been surprised by classics before. :) And now that Matt pointed it out, I catch this lady staring at me. I suppose it is time to pick this up and read it before I give myself nightmares.

I am slowly discovering James' work. I wouldn't have picked up another title by him so soon (I read Daisy Miller as book 94), but this is a title on my 2011 TBR Challenge List. I figured it was about time.

That isn't the only reason, of course. I think I am developing a literary crush on James, and I want to make sure it isn't a farce. This will be the third title by him that I am reading for this challenge, and since it is a far longer piece than the other two I've read, it'll be the test.

If you are curious, here are my posts on Washington Square, which was book 21 off my list:
And here are the links to my thoughts on Daisy Miller, book 94:

What have you read by James?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Victorian Challenge 2012.

OKAY! One more challenge! Then I am cut off! I swear!

Actually, I have been looking for a Victorian Challenge to join for a couple of weeks, so here I am, signing up for yet another challenge. This challenge is hosted by Laura at Laura's Reviews (link will take you to sign-up post).

My 2011 Victorian Challenge was actually a huge success. I happen to be quite fond of the Victorians, and I have a lot of their work on my project list (probably more than any other era).

It should be easy to get through this by the end of the year, since I gravitate toward their work.

Here are the details:

1. The Victorian Challenge 2012 will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2012. You can post a review before this date if you wish.

2. You can read a book, watch a movie, or listen to an audiobook, anything Victorian related that you would like. Reading, watching, or listening to a favorite Victorian related item again for the second, third, or more time is also allowed. You can also share items with other challenges.

3. The goal will be to read, watch, listen, to 2 to 6 (or beyond) anything Victorian items.

4. Please sign-up by posting your blog entry on the number of items and what items you would like to do for this challenge below in Mr. Linky (Don't just post your blog's URL). Don't worry, you can do different things than you have listed. I myself am not always good at sticking to lists!

I read 10 Victorian works in 2011, so I am going to shoot for the same number in 2012. I know that some of these authors aren't necessarily true Victorians (as in, being from England and the dates of publication), but many were writing in that same time period, or were heavily influenced by those British authors. I have listed the titles I have left on my main project list, and I will choose from these to finish this challenge. Anything marked with an asterisk* is a book on another challenge list for 2012-meaning it will get read for sure (I hope).
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackerary*
  • Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad*
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling*
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins*
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens*
  • Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens*
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe*
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I may also read the following, which are not on my project list:
  • The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
There are 19 titles up there, and my intentions are to read 10. I think it is a good plan, especially since there is a lot of crossover to other challenges!

Review: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.

I feel the need to start this off with a couple of notes. I want you all to approach this "review" knowing a few things off the bat. First, THIS post is the result of a couple of hours of writing. My first three drafts didn't sound right because I attempted to tiptoe around some issues. That didn't work.

Second, I know you might be scratching your head and asking, "Why are there books with DRAGONS on a book blog?" My answer to that is that before I started this whole shebang, I read a great deal of fantasy and science-fiction.

Third, I have tried my best to keep massive spoilers out of this post, but I'm assuming you have some knowledge of the the books' general storyline.

Fourth...I debated not even posting this. I may even take it down.

And lastly, this isn't much of a review. I usually don't feel comfortable writing about authors' work when they're alive...especially when it is in an unfavorable light. But, not writing about my frustration would be unfair to myself. I need to vent.

Anyway, I did my best. Here we go.

Ah, Christopher Paolini...I avoided Eragon with a vengeance when it first came out. Back then, I was a hardcore fantasy geek, and while I adored the dragon on your cover (because hey, dragons are pretty awesome), I was unsure whether your young writer skills would live up to my high expectations. I mean, really, I spent my teenage years reading Anne McCaffrey's epic Pern series. Now, there is a writer who wrote epic dragon fantasy!

I eventually caved after my sister read Eragon. I knew that the second book, Eldest, had come out, so I received a beautiful box set for Christmas one year. I sat down and read them both.

I came away thinking "Hmmmm." Because I was young at the time, and not exactly sure of all the literary reasons why the books didn't sit right with me, I couldn't voice why the story felt off. I mean, it had a lot of elements I love in epic and high fantasy. There was an evil villain, a prophecy, an orphan...and hey, a beautiful blue dragon. I LIKE dragons...when they are done well. And while the story in Eragon was something I could see myself loving, I didn't love it. I liked it, but I wasn't convinced.

If we fast forward a few years, I was excited to learn that the third book, Brisingr, was being released. It had been a few years since reading the first two, and in the time in-between, I had gone to college, earned myself a degree in English, and read a lot more literature. The details of the books were hazy, so I determined to listen to them on audio as I went to and from work (I was long-term subbing in a district an hour from home-I listened to a lot of audio books that year).

When I finally got my copy of Brisingr, I was disappointed to hear that contrary to what I was told, the third book was not the end of the trilogy. Instead, I found out that Paolini couldn't wrap the story up in three books and needed a fourth book. I didn't mind. I LIKE long series. So I read Brisingr and was incredibly disappointed. Why were there random rambling passages? Why did it feel like nothing happened?

Again, it took years for Paolini to finish the next book, Inheritance, which is the book that just came out in November. For some reason, I was eager to reread the series, and I spent the last week plowing through all 4 books, all 2700+ pages of them.

I began with excitement. It had been three years since reading the series, and I was excited to revisit your world and get the whole story in one long, extended read. I had been looking forward to this experience for weeks, knowing that once I finished my piles of obligations books that I could dive into something fun and enjoyable.


^THAT is my unhappy face. Because while there were certain pieces of the books that I still liked this time around, I felt like slogging through all 2700+ pages of this "cycle" pushed me over the edge.

Now, I'm not trying to come across as snarky, mean, rude, or anything of the sort, but I really had a hard time with the fact that the publishers and editors let Paolini do some of the things he did in this series.

It wasn't the length that bothered me. Like I said before, I LOVE and enjoy long fantasy series. In fact, the longer and more involved the story, the better. I like getting lost in a world for a long period of time.

If it is done well.

Paolini didn't need the fourth book. There were pages upon pages of material in the third and fourth books that served absolutely no purpose-at least in the way Paolini constructed the story. There were side stories and threads that had nothing to do with propelling the plot forward. Instead, I felt cheated when I closed the last book. Why did I spend hours slogging through side story when it didn't matter in the least? If I am going to read a long piece, I want it to be worth my while. This wasn't.

My other huge irritation was the fact that Paolini needed to be more critical of his diction and choices. There were so many convoluted similes and metaphors that served no purpose and distracted from the story. I had to stop many times to share something with my husband.

For example, in the first book, Eragon is traveling and notices a storm approaching. Now, Eragon has lived a sheltered life so far. He grew up in a small village, which he has never left. He can't read or write and hasn't had any formal schooling. So why does he compare the storm clouds to a grand cathedral and explains the expressions of the "gargoyles" he sees? It makes no sense and pulled me completely out of the story.

Another example takes place in the fourth book, when in the span of three pages, the only focus was on a minor character's fingernails. Yes, his fingernails.

I know Paolini is young. Heck, he wrote Eragon as a 15-year-old. My own writing at 15 was awful, so props to him for managing to get his book published and widely read. But, his inexperience shows. By the fourth book, it is clear that he had to wrap up loose ends. After the climax, he spent another 100 pages wrapping everything up...and he did it badly. Paolini needed some more guidance from someone-someone to show him that describing everything was not the way to construct a story. The reader needs to be able to construct their own interpretation based on the few, good details a writer shows. Spending pages describing what each dwarf king looked like and what they were wearing is pointless when they disappear from the rest of the series after the next chapter. Does a reader need all that detail? Absolutely not. It serves no purpose and distracts from the real story.

And that isn't even the worst of it. I haven't even scratched the surface of all the little details that bothered me as I read.

Is my disappointment clear enough?

I think what bothers me the most is the wasted time. Like I said, I read hundreds of pages this week that amounted to nothing. They served no purpose. They didn't advance the story in any way. Now I am left feeling like Paolini stole precious time from me. So yes, I am disappointed.

More than anything, I am mad that Paolini didn't wait. The core of his story was great. He had something that was interesting, inventive enough, and the base for a great fantasy epic. But the overly descriptive, rambling, and pointless writing took away from everything he tried to accomplish. Had he edited, reworked some parts, and deleted a whole lot of pointless side story, he would have had something I would have truly loved. But he didn't. Instead, he finished this "cycle" of books with a disappointing end note.

I'm not sure what else I can truly say. If you've read this, or any of the books in the series, please comment below with your own thoughts. I'm curious to see what others have to say about this series.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ask Me Anything Answers.

Since I was not feeling particularly well on Sunday, I asked for my readers to leave me questions in the comments for my post. I got some great questions, and now I am going to do my best to give you some answers! If you would still like to ask me a question, feel free to leave it in the comments below. I'll edit/update this post if I get more questions. :) And pretty much anything is fair game!

My answers will be in italics. I apologize in advance for being long-winded.

From Jillian:

1. What do you plan on doing after you finish your 250? Will you make a new list and continue the blog? Will you continue the classics?

To be honest, I'm still not sure what approach I am going to take. I have debated a few different ideas; from creating a new list of 250 titles, to giving myself free reign, to doing a mash-up of both. What I do know is that classics have become a permanent part of my "literary diet," and it is highly unlikely I will give them up. What I think I might do is start working through lists of books by author. Sure, there are some authors that I don't think I'll revisit again, but there are many others who I am curious about. I even starting planning a Future Projects page where I have begun to list some authors and their work for future exploration.

I do want to mention that I will probably read MORE of the other things I enjoy-like YA, Fantasy, and science-fiction.

And yes, I imagine I will still blog. My only worry is that if I move away from the real purpose of this blog, I will be come a book reviewer. I don't want that title. And I don't want to be pressured into reading things "just because."

It will be interesting to see what happens.

2. Do you have any plans for grad school someday? (Unless you've already gone to grad school? I'm not exactly sure, so really this is several questions.) :-P

I haven't gone to graduate school yet. :) I've thought about it numerous times in the last few years. Part of the problem is that if I earn a Master's before landing a teaching job, I won't get hired in. Why would a school pay me more if I have no experience? That has prevented me from applying and starting.

However, I have thought more and more about biting the bullet in recent weeks. I am looking into programs now with hopes of being accepted to a program and starting in the fall. I am about 80% sure that I am going to go for a Master's in English. The other option I am toying with is a Master's in Counseling. I still have some time to think about it. I'm sure I'll be talking more about it as due dates draw nearer.

From O:

1. Is there a book you wish you hadn't read? A book that really depressed or upset you, or disturbed you a little? If so, how do you look at it now? Can you say, "well, at least I've read it" and put it down as good experience and widening your horizons a little, however unpleasant it was at the time, or do you think it was utterly futile?

Interesting question. I can think of a few books where I was so disappointed that I was angry afterward for wasting my time reading them. I actually have a bit of that anger towards the series I spent the last WEEK reading (The Inheritance Cycle by Chris Paolini). It is very rare that I don't finish a book. I always push through. But that usually leaves me feeling angry when I finish-I don't like wasting reading time.

As for whether there is a specific title I wished I hadn't read...I can't think of anything. While there are certain titles I wish I had wiped from my memory, I am of the opinion that each book has some kind of purpose for each reader. Many of the books I have disliked have shaped me as a reader, so I can't be too upset with their lingering unpleasantness.

I hope that made sense.

2. Which book are you most proud of for having read? What is, in your eyes, the most "impressive", that makes you kind of chuffed to say, "yes, I've read it"? Or are you completely unfazed by people saying, "gosh, that's impressive!"? Like, I'm not showy-offy about books because firstly, my real life friends aren't interested and I could say I read the handwritten manuscript of War and Peace and they'd be like, "why?", but at the same time, when I think of some books I've read, I think to myself, "maybe I am a little bit clever for having read that"...

I had an interesting conversation with my Student Council kids about my reading habits shortly before I left. When I was talking to them about what I read on a regular basis, one of my students asked, "Do you read those books because it makes you feel smart?" I don't think she believed me when I said no.

On one hand, not everyone has the stamina and courage to take on some of these titles, you know? They get built up as being monolithic tomes that only the "most intelligent" can conquer and understand. I think that is kind of a silly attitude, and I try not to come across as being a bit snooty for having read all of this (and future titles to come). I have always maintained that people should read what they enjoy. Some people enjoy classics. Some enjoy romance novels. Does it really matter?

But on the other hand, I like to give myself a big pat on the back when I finish something particularly challenging. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment this year for finishing War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, and Moby-Dick. All three of those have reputations and it feels pretty darn good to say I've read them (and mostly loved them).

From Softdrink:

What is your favorite book to teach?

Of the books I have taught so far, my absolute favorite was The Crucible...which is actually a play. The kids really got into it, and we had some amazing moral discussions that really challenged them. It is a great play, and I hope to teach it again!

I also really liked teaching The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was student teaching. It was my first foray into the Sherlock Holmes world, and it was a fun mystery with the kids-we did some fun sleuthing activities!

What is your favorite breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?

Breakfast: pancakes. I LOVE pancakes. There is a restaurant nearby that makes the most amazing pancakes with apples, dried cherries, and walnuts in them. YUM.

Lunch: Give me a good grilled cheese sandwich, and I am the happiest girl alive. Or mac and cheese.

Dinner: I love fish. We grew up eating fish from staying up north at my grandparent's cottage on a lake, so some lovely pan-fried perch, green beans, and rice is my idea of a perfect dinner.

From Caro:

- What are your plans for 2012? Both bookish and family/work related.

I'm actually crafting a bookish plans for 2012 post that will go up next week, so I am going to dodge that part of the question for now. :)

As for family, Matt and I are doing pretty awesome. We have no plans to start a little family of our own, so that will not be happening in 2012. ;) We are planning on spending more time with our families. His step-dad is still battling lymphoma (he has two more chemo treatments to go) and his mom battled breast cancer last year. My parents are both healthy, but we want to make sure we are being there for all of our parents.

As for work...things are kind of up in the air. I am planning on subbing as much as possible, and while I am not too happy about it, I will be going back to the park I work at once the spring season hits. It isn't that I hate the park is more about me wishing for a "big girl" job. I am hoping that through the rest of this winter I find some answers about what I want to do when I "grow up."

- What books are you the most grateful for having read?

Many. :)

Okay, one of the first classics I read on my own was Silas Marner. I picked it up when I realized that for an English major, I was woefully uneducated in regards to the classics. Eliot's novel spurred me on to reading some of my first novels by Austen, Wharton, etc. If I hadn't decided to start somewhere, and with Silas Marner, who knows where I would be?

I also need to mention The Odyssey. Yes, again. It is the book that inspired the name of my blog, and I like to think of myself following in Odysseus' footsteps. I guess you could compare Ayn Rand to the cyclops. ;)

From Ioana:

-Have you ever felt that your social/work life is interfering with your reading? How did/do you balance them out?

My husband often jokes that my reading interferes with my social life. ;) I am a homebody by nature. While I like spending time with friends, I am not a big "partier," and I often feel uncomfortable in crowds. He will drag me out if I have been too sheltered.

When I get really busy and stressed out, I have to carve out time for reading-it becomes mandatory. While I always read an hour/day, I sometimes have to remind myself why that's important. It gives me time to de-stress and "soak" into a good book. Reading keeps me calm and happy.

-What is your fondest memory of being a teacher (book related or not)

This is a really hard question, and I have a lot of memories I could share. But I'll share a recent one...

On my last day in my most recent position, a student came over after the bell rang to end class. He handed me a card, said he would miss me, gave me a quick hug, and bolted out the door. When I finally had the chance to read the card, he said thank you for helping him with his college essays. He had asked if I could take a look at them outside of class, and we sat down for an hour after school to do so. His card was sweet and very touching. I'll keep it always.

-Have you ever tried to convince someone to read a book? (aside from your own students haha)

I try and convince my husband all the time. :) He doesn't cave in. My mom is the usual recipient of my book convincing these days. Many of my "literary" friends from college live out of state, so I really don't have anyone in person to talk books with. Something I have come to love about blogging is the opportunity to shove books on other people. :)

-Could you imagine an alternate life in which books wouldn't be such a huge part of your existence?

Not at all.

I have been a reader for as long as I remember, and I don't think it will change. The real test will come when Matt and I start a family, but while I may slow down my reading, I don't think I'll ever stop.

From two anonymous noters:

1. Tell us a little more about your husband-what's he like?

Matt best friend. We met when I was 15 and he was 14 and became fast friends. We've been together since I was 17 and he was 16 (ten years officially in July). He has been there for me through a lot, and I can't even begin to describe how much I love him.

In regards to personality, Matt is more outgoing than I am. He is a funny guy and likes to crack one-liners. He doesn't read, but spends a lot of time working on mechanically inclined things. He likes to work on cars and spent part of this summer restoring a Mustang with his brother. He also wired and built a distortion pedal for his electric guitar! He definitely has a talent for taking things apart and putting them back together-something he learned from his step-father.

He is also one of the most caring people I know. He takes on a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He works very hard and while he sometimes gets down on himself for not being where he thinks he should be professionally, he busts his butt. I can think of no other person i respect more than my husband. He is a wonderful man.

2. Favorite bands?

I really listen to everything. :) The only genre I'm not a huge fan of is rap, but you can see me busting out some country, pop, or heavy metal any time.

A long-time favorite is the band Muse-we've seen them in concert 5 or 6 times going back to 2002. We also went to see Josh Groban in concert this summer (our first dance at our wedding was to a Josh Groban song).

-What is the scariest thing you've seen or that has happened to you?

I'm a huge chicken, which I have mentioned before. One of the scariest things I can remember is going to a haunted house in high school and having one of the characters follow me around whispering things in my ear. I cried I was so scared.

In regards to real-life things that are also scary...Matt was out of town in the summer of 2008 for my brother's bachelor party in Las Vegas. My mom woke me up at 3:30 in the morning while on the phone with my brother Eric. Eric had found Matt passed out in the bottom of the shower and they couldn't get him to wake up. They had to call the ambulance to come get him and spent 5 days in ICU out in Vegas. Matt was diagnosed as being diabetic earlier in the year...turns out, the doctor misdiagnosed him with the type. His blood sugar went super high due to the altitude change, the heat, and the trip in general.

When he came back to Michigan after being released, he had lost a lot of weight (he's already a skinny guy). He almost died. It was the scariest experience of my life to know I almost lost him.

-If you were allowed to have a book written for you by any author (dead or alive), who would write it and what would it be about?

Oh MAN. What a question!

I would have to say...Homer. Yep. I would want him to compose an epic poem about my own odyssey. ;) I jest...

I would actually have to really go with Jane Austen. She died far too early. And I would ask her to write whatever she wanted-whatever she felt she didn't have the time to write before.

-What does your family think of your blog and project (if they are aware of it)?

Well, of my family members, the only person who reads it on a regular basis is my mom. My sister also comments on occasion, and I know that one of my aunts reads it from time to time. As far as I know, my dad, brothers, and Matt have never read a post. They all know about it, and I talk about it some, but I don't think it interests them. My brothers have never been readers, and neither is Matt. My dad is too busy with work.

I don't mind. Sometimes it is kind of nice to have another place to go to and talk freely. :)

-I think I remember seeing that you also write. What style do you write? Any hope of getting anything published?

I do, but not as much as I used to. To be honest, writing blog posts takes up a lot of my writing time. But, I have been working on two new pieces in the last few months. In the past, I have written a lot of fantasyish novels. Right now I am working on a YA-styled piece, as well as a piece of literary fiction inspired by my own unemployment.

I would love to be a published author one day, but frankly, I'm not sure I have the skill set or the drive. That could change, but I mainly write for myself. I am very wary of letting others read my work. The one time I had Matt read a novel, he started attacking it, and that was too much for my fragile ego (I have since realized that the writing was crappy and deserved his attack). Perhaps one day...

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

It's Tuesday, so that means that it is Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, participants count down their top ten in the specified category!

Since I participated in this topic last year, I felt I should participate again to keep up some kind of routine. ;)

Anyway, this week's topic is the "Top Ten Books We Hope Santa Brings." Now, while I have a very long list of books I want to acquire, I thought that my friends and family wouldn't be too thrilled to sort through pages and pages of book titles when they ask what I want (Does anyone else face opposition when you ask for books? I think part of my problem is that they helped me move all my books last year...something about me having too many already or some such nonsense). I narrowed down my list, so these are the exact ten titles I asked for this year.

And you'll notice a trend...or two. ;)

10. The Call of the Wild by Jack London: This is one of those Puffin Classics that were just released. Since I already owned the Penguin Clothbounds...I kind of extended into this set as well. I already own three, so you can see why I "need" the rest for my collection. I love London, and this cover really captures the magic of his story.

9. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: Told you there was a trend. :) I finally read this one this past summer and really loved the magic of it. I can already picture reading this to the future little kiddos I might one day have. I love the images on this cover-the ships especially.

8. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green: I actually haven't read the book, but I've seen the Disney animated version often enough to be pretty familiar with the story. :) I love the little bunnies scattered on this cover, and it is such a lovely shade of green.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I haven't read this since I was young! My best friend in the fourth grade lent it to me, and I loved the story. I don't think I ever owned a copy, but I would love to rediscover it again!

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: My own copy of this edition, which I read in college, not as a young girl, has gone missing. I read this for my YA literature course and loved it. I eventually want to read the whole series, but starting from book 1 would be great!

5. Hard Times by Charles Dickens: I LOVE this novel, and I think the new design for the Penguin clothbound series is gorgeous. I love this shade of green, and I know this is going to look so pretty on my shelf if I get it.

4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens: The other new Dickens title being released in the same collection (see the second trend here?). Again, I love the cover-the birdhouses are delightful, but now I am wracking my brain trying to remember the connection! Oh, and for you Dickens lovers, Penguin is offering a beautiful box set of all the Penguin Clothbounds in celebration of his birthday.

3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: I am SO GLAD that Penguin decided to release the other 3 Austen titles in this collection (yep, I have the other three). I actually haven't read this title in a long time, so I would love to sneak this one in as a fun read.

2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: This is the other Austen I am not as familiar with (haven't read it in a while!). It is also the only Austen still left on my list! Keeping with my new tradition of reading an Austen in December, this will be the pick in 2012!

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen: This might be my FAVORITE cover of all the Penguin clothbounds (The Odyssey by Homer comes in a very close second because I adore the waves). This is also my very favorite Austen, so I would love and cherish this for all time. :)

What books are you asking for this holiday season?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The 2012 "Books I Started but Didn't Finish Challenge."

I know, I know. I have signed up for so many challenges, but hey, here is one more. :)

This challenge is being hosted by Jillian at A Room of One's Own.

It all started when Jillian discussed the stress of having a pile of "unfinished" titles going into the New Year. I know how she feels-I like to have everything wrapped up and ready to go come January 1! But, sometimes it doesn't happen, and sometimes, we set aside books for a moment. Before you know it, months have gone by and that book is still sitting there, unfinished.

This is a challenge to fix that, since all the books to complete this challenge, are well...incomplete!

Here are the details:

The goal:

  • Commit to finish some or all of the books you began to read in 2011 (or before) and never completed.


  • I will not give away prizes or otherwise motivate people to complete their goals for this challenge.
  • Instead, I encourage you to self-motivate.
  • Keep your list central on your blog (or elsewhere) and commit to buy yourself some sort of reward when you finish the task. (A book? A bookmark? Whatever you know will inspire YOU.)

The rules:

  • Post a list of the books you began reading in 2011 (or at some point in your life) and never finished reading. (Maybe even say why you stopped reading!)
  • You can list as few or as many titles as you intend to complete in 2012. One or twenty or a hundred – it’s YOUR challenge.
  • You can include whatever genres you please in this challenge.
  • It doesn’t matter how you go about finishing these books. You can combine them with any other challenges.
  • You do not need a blog to participate. You can simply list the books you want to finish in the comments below.
  • List the prize you will gift yourself when you complete this challenge in your challenge post (to make it official.)
  • Write yourself a little manifesto about how you intend to approach these left-over books.
  • Commit to finish your list by the end of 2012.
  • You are NOT allowed to stress if it takes longer than 2012 to finish your list! Just commit again in 2013!!

Doesn't it sound like a good time? ;)

I've decided to tackle a few of the books I've set aside during this project. I do have some books that I stopped reading from years ago, but I want to get through my 250 list before I worry about them.

Here is what I am going to read for this challenge:
  1. Kim by Rudyard Kipling: I started this one back in the spring and made it about 30 or so pages before I set it aside. I was having a hard time getting into it, so I took a short break. That break has lasted until now.
  2. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad: I actually think I started this one in 2010. I made it 50 pages in before wanting to stab my eyes out. Maybe a second try will work out for me?
  3. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: I find it kind of hilarious that I hosted a readalong for this and never finished. I was 200 pages in when the end of school took over in June. The book got shoved aside on my nightstand, then somehow got reshelved. It is sitting right next to me on the bookshelf with the bookmark still in place.
  4. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: This is another title I attempted to read and has a bookmark about 40 pages in. I think, like Vanity Fair, it just got shoved aside when I found other things to read.
  5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding: This one has been sitting on my nightstand since we moved into this apartment over a year ago. And it sat on my nightstand for a year before that! Again, I probably stopped reading it about 50 pages in...for no real reason. This one is on another challenge list for the coming year.
My Prize:

My next project after my 250 is to read some complete works by some authors. When I finish this challenge, I am going to buy myself the rest of Gaskell's and Cather's novels. :)


I will read all of these to get closer to finishing my 250 classics! And I will enjoy them and cherish them (except maybe Conrad).