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kac522 -- 2018 Challenge Reading

2018 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jan 2, 3:26am Top

Welcome to my 2018 Challenge Reading.

This year I will be in & out of various challenges; my only goal this year is to read 75 books, and 40 of those books MUST be books that found their way into my house before January 2018, i.e., ROOTS.

So I'll be using the various challenges to choose these books off my shelves. I'll be following:

American Author Challenge
British Author Challenge
Irish Author Challenge
RandomCAT Challenge
ColorCAT Challenge
AlphaKIT Challenge
ROOTS (Read Our Own Tomes)

I'll also be participating in various group reads, as the books or my mood or my time, allow.

Here's the ticker tracking my ROOTs (R) read:

I'll be numbering my books as I go along, to keep track of total books read. And my chronological 75 Books thread is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279928

So off I go to read....

Edited: Aug 1, 12:21am Top


American Author Challenge

Jan: Joan Didion: Where I Was From finished January
Apr: Alice Walker: In Search Of Our Mothers' Gardens finished June
Jun: Walter Mosley
Jul: Amy Tan
Nov: Narrative Nonfiction

British Author Challenge

Jan: Début novels: Elizabeth Taylor: At Mrs Lippincote's
Feb: The 1970s
Apr: Folk tales
May: Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie: A Pocketful of Rye completed July
Jun: Travel
Jul: Angry Young Men
Aug: Brit SciFi
Sep: Historical Fiction
Oct: Comedic Fiction
Nov: WWI--J. L. Carr: A Month in the Country
Dec: Series

Irish Author Challenge

Jan: Edna O'Brien--I read 2 short stories from 2 Irish story collections.
Feb: William Trevor--read his short story "Death in Jerusalem" from Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories edited by Trevor. Also read the Irish folk tales he selected for the book.
Mar: Deirdre Madden: Molly Fox's Birthday
Apr: Beckett--skipped
May: Crime--skipped
Jun: Anne Enright--skipped
Jul: Colm Toibin
Aug: Molly Keane
Sep: Roddy Doyle
Oct: Poets and Playwrights: J. M. Synge--The Playboy of the Western World

Edited: Sep 1, 2:55am Top


RandomCAT Challenge

January -- a BB -- Baking with Kafka by Tom Gould; Queen Lucia by E F Benson
February -- a celebration -- It's All Relative by A. J. Jacobs
March -- headlines -- The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe
April -- related to April -- April Lady by Georgette Heyer
May -- Spring/flowers -- In Search Of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker
June -- Unusual Narrators
July -- generations -- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
August -- mountains

ColorCAT Challenge

January -- Black --Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf
February -- Brown--At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor (tan cover)
March -- Green--Emily Davis by Miss Read (green cover)
April -- Yellow--My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith (yellow cover)
May -- Blue--Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
June -- Purple--I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman; In Search Of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker (lavender cover)
July -- Pink--A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr (pink in the cover)
August -- Grey--Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna by Peter Singer (grey cover)
September -- Metallic
October -- Orange
November -- Red
December -- White

My Dewey--Where will my non-fiction reading take me?

200s: 296-- Saying Kaddish by Anita Diamante (Apr)

300s: 373-- The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe (Apr); 321.9--On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

700s: 741-- Baking With Kafka, Mooncop, and You're All just Jealous of my Jetpack: all by Tom Gauld (Jan); 780.92-- Mozart's Women by Jane Glover (Jan)

800s: 818-- In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker; essay (Jun)

900s: 929-- It's All Relative by A. J. Jacobs;
940--I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman;
973.9--Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough;
943.6--Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna by Peter Singer

Edited: Aug 25, 7:56pm Top


For this KIT, I'll be listing by alpha, rather than by month. I'm not concerned what month I read it, just that I get the alphabet almost complete (Let's just say I won't be sweating X). All of these books MUST come from my shelves.

A--Jul--Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen; audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson; completed June
C--Dec--A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr; completed July
A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie; completed July
D--Aug--Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (audiobook); completed Mar
E--Sep--The Semi-Attached Couple & The Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden; completed Jan & Feb
F--Mar--Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank; completed July
G--Jun--Mozart's Women by Jane Glover; completed in Jan
H--Nov--Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf; completed Feb
I--Mar--It's All Relative by A J. Jacobs; completed Jan
L--Oct--All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; completed June
M--Jan--Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden; completed March
P--Feb--O Pioneers! by Willa Cather; completed Feb
Q--May--Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson; completed Jan
R--Jun--Emily Davis by Miss Read; completed March
T--Nov--At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor; completed Mar
V--Jan--Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland; completed May
W--Dec--In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker; completed June
Y--Apr--I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman; completed June

And I nearly forgot to include an "Everything Else" Category--books read for other challenges, or group reads, or just purchased, or plucked off the library shelf on a whim, or just for the heck of it!

1. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie (short stories)--For the year-long Short Story Challenge
2. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington for book club
3. Mooncop by Tom Gauld
4. You're All Just Jealous of my JetPack by Tom Gauld
5. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
6. Mrs Tim Carries On by D. E. Stevenson
7. Camilla by Fanny Burney
8. The Fairacre Festival by Miss Read
9. Tyler's Row by Miss Read
10 Mrs Tim Gets a Job by D. E. Stevenson
11. Mrs Tim Flies Home by D. E. Stevenson
12. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
13. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Beckman; translated by Henning Koch
14. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman; translated by Alice Menzies
15. La Vendée by Anthony Trollope

Edited: Jan 8, 12:28am Top

My first book is done--but don't congratulate me yet--I've been working on it since 2016:

1. Mozart's Women by Jane Glover R on my shelf since 2015
Completed: January 2018
Type: biography
Original Publication: 2005
Format: paperback book from my shelf
Challenge: AlphaKit "M"

I started reading this in 2016 and have read it in fits & starts ever since. Jane Glover is a reknowned conductor, and one of her specialties is Mozart. She clearly states that this book has no original research, but she depended almost exclusively on letters to provide a portrait of Mozart, his music and the women in his life. It works mostly, especially to give a rounded portrayals of Mozart, Constanze, and other close family & friends in his life.

I particularly appreciated the last section of the book, which focused on life AFTER Mozart; how Constanze and her 2nd husband attempted to provide a biography of Wolfgang; how Mozart's children fared after his death; and his beloved sister Nannerl. I was bored during the middle section, which gave too much detail on the operas. It was meant to show Mozart's sympathy and realistic portrayal of women in the operas, but it took away from the story of his life, I think.

Overall, an interesting biography, but (obviously) if it took 18 months to finish, it wasn't a page-turner.

Jan 2, 3:27am Top

Ambitious plans for January:

--Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (group read)
--The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden (group read with lyzard
--Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson (RandomCAT--January's theme: a book bullet)
--The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (RL Book Club)
--Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (ColorCAT--January's color: black)
--Country Girl: a memoir by Edna O'Brien (IAC)
--At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor (AlphaKIT--January Letter: M)
--The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (Root--Capricorn author)

We'll see...

Jan 2, 3:28am Top

Best of 2017

It wasn't a stellar year for reading, but here are a few stand-outs:

--The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope--the un-cut version. Much of what made this read fantastic was lyzard's group read thread. Thanks, Liz.
--Discovering the Miss Read books--Village School being my favorite (and the first read)
--The Piano Lesson, a play by August Wilson. Probably loses impact when reading; hope I can see the play performed at some point
--Saving Mozart by Raphael Jerusalmy--a little book that surprised me with its strength
--Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D. E. Stevenson--a charming book that made 2018 begin on a peaceful note

--Krakatoa, the ever wonderful Simon Winchester reading his own work on audio
--Wind Sprints by Joseph Epstein--entertaining short essays from the New Yorker

and the best book of the year had to be:
Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

Jan 2, 12:02pm Top

Looks like you have some great books lined up for 2018. Hope you have a great year of reading.

Jan 2, 12:18pm Top

Always love following your reading. The Duke's Children was a great experience for me, as well.

Jan 2, 6:55pm Top

Welcome back and have a great reading year! Glad to see Krakatoa was among your best of 2017. That was such a good book.

Jan 5, 11:27pm Top

Welcome back!

>5 kac522: - Personally, any book that one has been reading since 2016 deserves some congratulations on finishing it, but what do I know. :-)

Edited: Jan 5, 11:38pm Top

>11 lkernagh: Thanks for stopping by, Lori. As I read this book, I was reminded of the comment/criticism about Mozart made by one of his contemporaries: "too many notes!"

Sometimes I felt like this book was too many words... but maybe that's why Glover (the author) is so drawn to him.

Jan 6, 1:39pm Top

Here's hoping that 2018 brings you many happy bookish surprises!

Jan 6, 9:34pm Top

To a successful reading year!

Jan 6, 11:32pm Top

>8 thornton37814: Lori, thanks for the good wishes. I'm reading a so-called genealogy book, called It's All Relative by A J Jacobs, which is more a series of anecdotes than anything else.

>9 japaul22: Jennifer, I always love reading your reviews. I am so amazed at your reading and your wonderful reviews. I'm on a slow road to reading all of Trollope. I've read the Barsetshire novels and all the Pallisers; now I'm going through the rest pretty much in order. Some of them are hard to find--next up is La Vendee, which even the Chicago Public Library doesn't own, but I found it in a suburban library.

>10 rabbitprincess: I loved Krakatoa. I started listening to The Professor and the Madman while driving to work, but that temp job has ended, so I'll need to make a concerted effort to listen at home. I get more distracted at home; it's so easy to listen in the car, plus it lowers my driving stress!

>13 DeltaQueen50: Thanks, Judy--I was just looking at your "best of" for 2017--John Lewis's March was such a great accomplishment, don't you think? I found it very powerful. I also have a different Paulette Jiles (name escapes me now) on the shelf, and hope to get to it sometime this year.

>14 hailelib: Thanks for the new year wishes--same to you!

Jan 8, 12:02pm Top

>15 kac522: I read an ARC of the book. I wasn't that impressed. It's getting a lot of love among some genealogists, but not necessarily among the ones of us who are a bit older and "more serious" (for lack of a better term).

Jan 8, 3:59pm Top

>16 thornton37814: My copy is an ARC, too, that my husband brought home from the bookstore where he works. Yep, it's very Genealogy-LITE. At least it's entertaining, but I'm not learning anything.

Jan 8, 6:45pm Top

Glad you're back for another go! Hope 2018 will be fun for you.

Jan 10, 4:29pm Top

>18 mamzel: Thanks, I hope so too! Last year wasn't my best reading year, so working harder to select things I want to read.

Jan 10, 6:00pm Top

2. The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden R since 2017
Completed: January 2018
Type: fiction
Original Publication: 1859
Format: paperback book from my shelf

Written in 1830, but not published until 1859, Eden's first book is a comment on the aristocratic marriage. I found it a fun read, with several allusions to Jane Austen and several matronly women who are pretty insufferable. Similar to Trollope, Eden also throws in some politics to the romances in the book. Everyone all ends up with the correct partner, sort of like a Shakespeare comedy. I look forward to the other novel in this edition: The Semi-Detached House.

Jan 10, 6:07pm Top

For the January Irish Author Challenge, I decided to read 2 Edna O'Brien short stories which I found in collections on my shelf. I won't be counting these 2 stories as a "book" read, but they will count as fulfilling the IAC January selection:

"Irish Revel" (1968) from The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories, edited by William Trevor
"Sister Imelda" (1981) from A Green and Mortal Sound: Short Fiction by Irish Women

The first collection spans several hundred years, and O'Brien is one of the youngest in the collection.

The second collection is comprised of short stories by Irish women published after 1960. I thought it was interesting that O'Brien was included in both collections, one as almost the youngest, the other as almost the oldest.

Although very different settings, both stories are about teen-age girls who feel out of place from the rest of their worlds, and are at once in ecstasy and despair. I think the best way to describe O'Brien's writing is by two quotes from the latter story, but they apply equally well to the first story:

..."a sky that was scarcely ever without the promise of rain or a downpour." and

..."my version of pleasure was inextricable from pain, that they existed side by side, and were interdependent, like the two forces of electricity."

I think these stories would have spoken more to me when I was much younger. Although the writing is wonderful, the subjects are just weary and somewhat painful. I don't know if I have the heart to read an entire novel by O'Brien.

Jan 10, 6:12pm Top

Was the Eden book a virago? It looks appealing but I wonder how hard it is to get a hold of. I’ll have to do a little exploring.

Jan 10, 7:45pm Top

>22 japaul22: My edition is a Virago, which I found at a charity shop last summer visiting my son in Sheffield, UK. I have yet to see it anywhere in Chicagoland, but here is Liz's group read thread:


and I think someone has it on Kindle, so maybe it's out there. Even if you can't find it, I know you will love reading Liz's comments/analysis of the books.

Jan 10, 7:55pm Top

>15 kac522: I have also read Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles and throught it was very good. I am hoping to get to The Color of Lightning at some point this year. And, yes, John Lewis' March is amazing, I recommend to everyone who thinks graphic novels are "light" reading.

Jan 11, 2:26am Top

>24 DeltaQueen50: Just checked and Enemy Women is the book I have. I think March should be a required high school text.

Jan 11, 3:34pm Top

>25 kac522: Agreed, those books would beat out any lecture on the Civil Rights Movement and give teens of today a real inkling not only what did happen but why this is still a very important issue today.

Mar 5, 4:05pm Top

February was a RL tough month. Trying to get back to normal--currently reading:

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens--on audio, almost done, just 1 more CD!
The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe--journalist Thorpe spends 18 months in a Denver high school classroom of newly arrived teen-age refugees--awesome, positive, inspiring.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone--kid's mystery, with the Art Institute of Chicago's Thorne Rooms as the setting--fun!

Mar 13, 3:32pm Top

Congratulations on nearing the conclusion of Nicholas Nickleby!

Edited: Mar 25, 7:17pm Top

Took a trip to the Seminary Co-op today, and came home with 3 books for me:

Camilla by Fanny Burney
The Soul of Kindness by Elizabeth Taylor
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

and 2 gift books for my husband:
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland

Recently finished:
Emily Davis by Miss Read
Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden (for March Irish Author Challenge)

Currently still reading:
The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe (for March RandomCAT)

and soon to begin the play, "The Playboy of the Western World" by J. M. Synge (for my RL book club)

Mar 26, 3:16pm Top

The Good News:

I donated 20+ books to the Arlington Heights Library today, for their sale at the end of April. Yes! They're outta here!

The Good/Bad Mixed News:

They had a cart of "Free" books next to the donation bin...and I brought home with me:

I and Thou by Martin Buber
Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert
The Gathering by Anne Enright (coming up later this year in Paul's IAC)

Lose some, win some :-)

Mar 26, 4:07pm Top

Well, three is fewer than 20+... :) #silverlining

Mar 27, 1:25am Top

Mar 27, 1:29pm Top

>30 kac522: Yes, it's certainly a net positive transaction for you! :) Also, I really liked I and Thou -- will be curious to see what you think of it!

Mar 27, 4:32pm Top

>33 christina_reads: I've always wanted to read it, so I hope it isn't too far over my head.. :)

Mar 27, 6:18pm Top

>30 kac522: Definitely a win-win!

Mar 27, 9:31pm Top

>35 rabbitprincess: Pretty much, although my book shelves are still groaning...

Mar 30, 5:59pm Top

Trying to catch up after a couple of stressful months, in which I lost a very dear friend. I haven't had the energy to do any kind of review, although I have been updating my Challenge posts in >2 kac522:, >3 kac522: and >4 kac522: above. So here are some quick reviews of my reading, starting in January where I left off:

Three books of cartoons by Tom Gauld:
3. Baking with Kafka (publ 2017) finished January; hardcover from the library
10. Mooncop (published 2016) finished February; hardcover from the library
17. You're All Just Jealous of my JetPack (publ 2013) finished February hardcover from the library

Lots of fun stuff here; Mooncop has a story line; the other two are just lots of fun cartoons, many with literary bents.

4. It's All Relative by A. J. Jacobs (publ 2017) finished January; paperback Root from 2017 finished January
Not much of hard genealogy, but a lot of stories, anecdotes and thoughts on being related. After getting his DNA tested and learning about his family tree, Jacobs organizes the Global Family Reunion, trying to set a Guinness reunion attendance record. The book is humorous, and even if the actual genealogy info is scanty, I'm sure this book will inspire others.

5. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie (short stories) (publ 1924); ebook from the library; finished January
I enjoyed these short stories because the solutions are shorter, simpler and easier for me to follow! I still couldn't solve them myself. I especially liked the one about the hidden will, which was quite a bit different from the usual cases.

6. Where I Was From by Joan Didion (publ 2003); for Jan AAC; paperback from the library; finished January
Essays (labeled as chapters) in search of a book about California and what California means. The beginning chapters are genealogy/family history told in a random tale style; the ending chapters deal with feelings around the death of Didion's parents. The beginning chapters and ending chapters were the best, and gave one the real sense of Didion's complex relationship with her family and the place of her birth, California. But the middle chapters seemed to be lifted entirely out of old essays written in the 1990's and felt dated. Uneven, but where the book shines is in the penetrating look at California, as a place and as an idea.

7. Queen Lucia by E F Benson; (publ 1920); for RandomCAT Jan; Root from 2017; paperback from my shelves; finished January
Meh. So many people love this series, but I had to force myself to finish this. The characters were not appealing to me; they all seemed so negative. I suppose that's the "funny" part, but it just made it tedious for me. Georgie was especially insufferable, and I could hardly like Lucia. Am thankful that this is a series I can drop.

8. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (publ 1918); for my book club; paperback from the library; finished January
The decline of an established wealthy family in turn-of-the-century Indianapolis, although the town is not named. Progress, specifically the automobile, brings disaster to the family and the town. Tarkington's white, upper middle class society is a world unto itself in the big city. This provincial novel contrasts sharply with O, Pioneers by Willa Cather, which I read a few weeks later, yet they were both written about the same time (early 20th c.) and about the Midwest.

Mar 30, 6:19pm Top

February reading:

9. The Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden; (publ 1859); Root from 2017; paperback from my shelves; finished February

I liked this second half of Eden's two books a bit better; I felt the characters were warmer and more likable; the book left me feeling happy, as I recall, although I did not write down my thoughts at the time. Guess I'll have to read it again :)

12. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather; (publ 1913); Root from 2015; hardcover from my shelves; for my book club; finished February

Loved it. Set in rural Nebraska, this is Cather's first book to portray her native area, which she continued to do most of her life. So many great themes and threads wind their way through this book: urban vs. rural; immigrant life and assimilation; love for the land; ill-fated love; freedom; the human condition. Much of the time reading the book I spent comparing to The Magnificent Ambersons and how they were vastly different portraits of the Midwest in the late 19th century. We had a great discussion at book club.

13. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf; (publ 2015); Root hardcover from 2016 from my shelves; for Jan ColourCAT; finished February

Gotta love Haruf's writing, but had trouble with the premise (widow asks casual neighbor friend to share her bed), and the ending was disappointing, if not depressing. Sweetly done, at least.

Mar 31, 5:41pm Top

>37 kac522: You liked the Jacobs book more than I did. I was quite disappointed in it.

Edited: Mar 31, 5:48pm Top

>39 thornton37814: My husband brought the book home as a leftover from his bookstore, and I had a chance to read a few reviews (including yours, I think) before I read it. I wasn't expecting much, so I guess it exceeded my very low expectations, mostly because it was funny. I do think, if you don't know anything about genealogy or DNA testing, it might get you moving on it. But I personally didn't learn anything new. Even his own family story was a bit muddled, which could have been at least interesting, if he had done it right.

Apr 3, 2:07pm Top

>37 kac522:
Sorry to hear that. Hope you're doing OK.
Taking BBs for both of the Tom Gauld-books.

Apr 3, 2:11pm Top

>37 kac522: I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

Apr 3, 2:16pm Top

Apr 5, 3:07pm Top

>37 kac522: - I am sorry to learn about the stress and condolences on the loss of your friend.

Apr 5, 10:56pm Top

>44 lkernagh: Thanks for your thoughts, Lori.

Edited: Apr 6, 11:58pm Top

Currently reading:

Saying Kaddish by Anita Diamant
Camilla by Fanny Burney

and still plugging away at:

The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe

Apr 20, 9:14pm Top

Finished Saying Kaddish and The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship and Hope in an American Classroom.

Currently about half-way through the 900-page Camilla.

Need to write up my March reading one of these days.

Apr 28, 8:02pm Top

Bought more books at a library sale today ($1 each):

Penhallow, Georgette Heyer
Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly
My Italian Bulldozer, Alexander McCall Smith (hardcover)
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (hardcover)

and yesterday picked up:
So Big by Edna Ferber

I'm behind in my Roots Read (11) vs. Purchases Made (17). Trying to kick out the door as many as come in, so will need to ramp up the reading. :)

Edited: Jun 14, 6:03pm Top

Yikes--looks like the last time I did any kind of summary of my reading was way, way back in March. So let's catch up:

14. At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor

Completed: March 2018; Challenges: AlphaKit T; Colour Cat Brown (Feb); BAC-Jan: debut novel
Type: fiction
Original Publication: 1945
Format: paperback book on my shelf since 2015

The story of a marriage that is like two ships passing in the night...with Mrs. Lippincote (the house's owner) hovering above like a shadow, but never actually appearing (if I remember correctly). An excellent Taylor novel, although sometimes a bit sad.

15. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens; Challenge: AlphaKit D

Completed: March 2018
Type: fiction
Original Publication: 1836
Format: Audiobook, on the "shelf" since 2016

Have read this and seen productions several times. What I'll take away from this outstanding reading by Simon Vance is how inherently good (as in virtuous, kind) some of the characters are. Like the Cheeryble brothers and John Browdie and Newman Noggs and Tim Linkinwater and the Crummles. Their goodness, without being sappy, overcomes all the evils of Ralph Nickleby and Squeers and Sir Mulberry Hawk. It is not so much the "hero" Nicholas himself, but the wonderful cast of thousands around him that makes it such a great story. I think it's time to read another Dickens, and be surrounded by People Who are Good and Kind.

16. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Completed: March 2018
Type: Middle school/YA fiction
Original Publication: 2010
Format: ebook from Chicago Public Library

Meh. Geared for middle school readers. Two kids find "magic" in the Thorne Rooms of the Art Institute of Chicago. If you're not familiar with the Thorne Rooms, they are a series of 68 miniature rooms from America, Europe and Asia, decorated in meticulous detail, starting in the 13th century through the 1940s. The story is kind of dumb, but the descriptions of the Thorne Rooms, their history and historical facts about each time period were fun.

Edited: Jun 10, 1:08pm Top

Some series reading:

Moving on with Miss Read:

17. Emily Davis by Miss Read (finished March)
24. The Fairacre Festival by Miss Read (finished May)
25. Tyler's Row by Miss Read (finished May)

Completed: March and May, 2018
Type: fiction
Original Publication dates: 1971, 1968, 1972
Format: my paperback and from Chicago Public Library

More tales of village life from Miss Read. I found Emily Davis the best of the three, probably because of the circumstances under which I read it. Miss Emily Davis has just died, and her best friend Miss Clare remembers Emily's life, from her earliest school days, until her retirement. On the day I finished the book, one of my best friends died, so it was very poignant for me.

The Fairacre Festival is the story of the village overcoming the crisis of extensive damage to the village church. Tyler's Row focuses on a row of run-down houses, their inhabitants, and the courageous couple determined to purchase and re-hab them. These stories, although good, had less appeal for me, but they are nice, quick escape reading into a simpler time and place.

Keeping up with Mrs. Tim:

At the end of last year I read the first book in the Mrs Tim series. I had a wonderful time reading the rest of the series:

20. Mrs Tim Carries On by D. E. Stevenson
26. Mrs Tim Gets a Job by D. E. Stevenson
27. Mrs Tim Flies Home by D. E. Stevenson

Completed: March and May, 2018
Type: fiction
Original Publication dates: 1941, 1947, 1952
Format: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library

I will definitely be reading every Stevenson that I can get my hands on. These books are told diary-style; they are fun, sometimes flip, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes make me cry. Hard to really say what they're "about", except about one woman's life during and after WWII. Especially delightful are the descriptions of Scotland. Lovely books.

Edited: Jun 14, 6:06pm Top

More reading:

18. Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden

Completed: March, 2018; Challenge: IAC March; AlphaKit F
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 2008
Format: paperback on my shelf since 2010

OK. My familiarity with Irish women writers is limited. This novel is about one day in the life of an unnamed narrator, and her musings on life, love and friendships. Also features 2 very different brothers. The book had some fine parts and themes, but occasionally dragged and felt repetitive. I would have loved it 20 years ago; my older self not so much.

19. The Playboy of the Western World by J M Synge

Completed: March, 2018; read for my book club; Challenge: IAC Oct--playwrights
Type: drama
Original Publication date: 1907
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

Knew absolutely nothing about this play; it was hilarious, and I read it along with listening to a radio performance of the play, which helped a lot. Lots of Irish angst, as father and son clash. The "role" of women in Irish society is somehow underneath all of this, too. What I remember most is the lyrical, almost poetic language of the play.

21. Saying Kaddish by Anita Diamant

Completed: April, 2018; Challenge: My Dewey--200s
Type: nonfiction, Judaism
Original Publication date: 1999
Format: paperback from Chicago Public Library

Laws and customs, both traditional and modern, surrounding dying, death, burial and mourning in Jewish tradition. Very thorough and comforting resource.

More to come...

Jun 10, 10:10am Top

Welcome back! Good work on catching up with series. I should really catch up on some of mine...

Edited: Jun 10, 6:30pm Top

>52 rabbitprincess: Have a few more to post; hope to do so soon.

Currently reading:

Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder's original manuscript with historical annotations, which later became the "Little House" books.
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Jun 11, 3:55pm Top

>50 kac522: So sorry for the loss of your friend. :(

I read and enjoyed Mrs. Tim of the Regiment several years ago, so I should probably continue with the series! I have not yet read any of the Miss Read books, but they sound right up my alley.

Edited: Jun 11, 10:58pm Top

>54 christina_reads: I've heard Miss Read compared to Jan Karon's Mitford series. Miss Read is the village school teacher in the fictional village of Fairacre, in rural southern England. The books are mostly set in the 1950's. There's also a series about the village of Thrush Green, which I haven't read yet.

Another series similar to Mrs Tim are the Provincial Lady series by E. M. Delafield. They are also written as a diary and very funny. Enjoy!

D. E. Stevenson wrote a lot of books, so there's plenty to look forward to.

Edited: Jun 12, 10:34am Top

>55 kac522: I do love D.E. Stevenson in general! The Miss Buncle books especially. I love that many of them are being reissued now!

Jun 14, 6:06pm Top

>56 christina_reads: Miss Buncle is next up for me...I have the first book here somewhere.

Jun 15, 7:07pm Top

>55 kac522: - I loved Jan Karon's Mitford series so good to know the Miss Read series may have the same or similar reading audience.

Jun 15, 7:38pm Top

>58 lkernagh: Good to know, Lori; I may need to try at least the first Mitford book. The first Miss Read book is Village School.

Jun 23, 10:45pm Top

Catching up:

22.. The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe

Completed: April, 2018; for my Dewey challenge (300s)
Type: nonfiction. Current Events, immigrants
Original Publication date: 2017
Format: Library book from CPL

Journalist Thorpe spent 18 months in a Denver high school classroom, observing newly arrived teen-age refugees--awesome, positive, inspiring. Thorpe follows the teens in the classroom, at home, and in the community. Reminds us what courage it takes to start all over in a new country.

23. Camilla by Fanny Burney

Completed: April, 2018; read for LT Group Read with lyzard
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 1796
Format: paperback from my shelves

Although it took me a month to finish Camilla, it was well worth it, just to put Jane Austen's work in perspective. I think because of her popularity lately we take Austen for granted these days. It seems so normal and natural, and yet, for the time (judging by Burney) it wasn't.

I think it took reading this book to realize how far ahead and, well, just how smart Austen was in her writing. It's looking at Austen within the context of what's being written around her, just before and just after that is so interesting.

And now I've re-read Northanger Abbey and it makes so much more sense, plus some aha! moments when Austen mentions Burney.

Edited: Jun 23, 11:02pm Top

28. The Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Completed: May, 2018; Challenge: ColorCat May: Blue; Root from 2013
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 2000
Format: paperback from my shelves

OK. Enjoyed the concept--following a painting through the ages, by short chapters on the owners. I liked the first one and the last the best. Seems not to have stayed with me.

31. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Completed: May, 2018; Challenge: ColorCat April: Yellow
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 2017
Format: hardcover from my shelves

Another fun one from McCall Smith; full of his various offbeat, but wonderful, observations on Italians, ethical parking behavior and "honest machines."

Jun 23, 11:52pm Top

And pretty much right in a row, I read three books that were essentially memoirs. All three concentrate on specific points in their lives, but each takes a different approach.

29. I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's List Survivor by Laura Hillman

Completed: June, 2018; Challenge: ColorCat June: Purple; Root since 2015
Type: memoir
Original Publication date: 2008
Format: paperback on my shelf

Aimed at the older YA audience, this book details the events in the life of Hannalore (Laura) Wolff Hillman, from the time her family is deported, until she is released. Although she barely survived over the 3 years in camps, her last few months were in relative ease after being placed on Oskar Schindler's list. Told in a truthful, straight-forward but simple style, this book tells the horrors, but also the small joys and triumphs. There is hope in this book.

30. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

Completed: June, 2018; Challenges: April American Author Challenge; ColorCat June: Purple; Root since ??before 2009
Type: memoir, essays
Original Publication date: 1983
Format: paperback from my shelves

Mostly essays from the 1970s and through the early 1980s, when Walker was in her 30s. And although these are essays and not a memoir, it feels more like Walker is sharing her life experiences with us. My favorite was probably her piece on discovering Zora Neale Hurston's birthplace and grave. Much to appreciate in the essays on Civil Rights and writers. A lot of anger in the essays on black women, and these were difficult to read and I didn't understand them as much. But I can see the great upheaval at the time of race vs gender, and which took precedence in one's life.

32. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder, ed. Megan Stine

Completed: June, 2018;
Type: memoir and literary biography with extensive annotations, pictures and maps.
Original Publication date: 2014, from Wilder's original manuscript from early 1930
Format: Oversized hardcover from Chicago Public Library

This book took the longest to complete. It is very thoroughly and meticulously annotated. Sometimes it is almost a bit tedious to read easily. If you are a Wilder devotee, there is much to love here: this is Wilder's never-before-published original manuscript "Pioneer Girl", which became the basis for the beloved "Little House" books. The manuscript was originally intended for Wilder's daughter, Rose, and is told in the first person.

The editors spend considerable pages in the beginning of the book about the history of the manuscript, its several iterations, the influence of Wilder's daughter Rose, and the final publication of the children's books. The manuscript itself is the centerpiece, with many, many notes, explaining how the original manuscript differs from the final books and how it is like (and differs from) Wilder's actual life. The editors consulted census records, city records, newspapers and all kinds of local records to follow the Ingalls family and all the people they encountered in their journeys to the West. The editors also note where Wilder made choices in wording, presentation, and choice of what to keep in/leave out, and how that changes the tone of the children's books (told in the third person about Laura) from the original memoir (told in the first person--a mother to her daughter). There are pictures of the family, pictures of the towns and maps of the journeys.

I think the editors could have arranged the notes & manuscript better, so that those who just want to read through the original manuscript can do so without being confused by all the notes that seem to get in the way of the reading. Not included, but would have been helpful, would have been a genealogical chart of the Ingalls and Wilder families.

For those who want all that detail (and I did especially enjoy the research into the real Ingalls & Wilder families), then this is the book for you.

While reading these, I thought a lot about the different approaches to tell one's own life story. Hillman's story was simple and to the point. It is more similar to Wilder's original manuscript. Walker's essays are more reflective and analytical, but no less interesting about her youthful days. Wilder left out some of the more difficult and unsavory events out of her manuscript; Hillman did not shy away from difficult subjects, but told them sensitively. Certainly the more modern Walker tells us all, perhaps more(?) than we wanted to know.

Jun 24, 12:04am Top

33. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen; audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson

Completed: June, 2018; Challenge: AlphaKit: J (Feb); Root from 2013; a re-"listen"
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 1818
Format: audiobook I own

This latest "listening" was greatly enhanced by having read Camilla earlier this year. The references to Burney and her works, as well as the whole heroine/gothic stuff, really stood out after Liz's (lyzard) wonderful group read this year. And the last line of the book, about "parental tyranny vs. filial disobedience", seems to come directly from the themes of Camilla. These are all things that flew over my head on previous readings, so I felt I got a lot out of reading this again.

Jun 24, 12:04am Top

Currently attempting to finish reading:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Jun 24, 12:33am Top

Forgot to report the books I picked up at a used book sale (AAUW) last week:

News of the World by Paulette Jiles -- heard lots of good stuff about this book
The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth -- Wentworth is new to me
A Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie -- adding to my Christies
A Very Particular Murder by S. T. Haymon -- I've read one or two Haymons

Jun 24, 8:32am Top

Great batch of reading! Frances Burney is on my list of authors to check out. I agree that it would be interesting to see the context in which Austen was writing.

Jun 24, 1:55pm Top

>66 rabbitprincess: Liz (lyzard) led a group read of Camilla here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/289474 She also did a group read of Evelina (I didn't read that one) and Cecilia. Liz is excellent at setting the stage for the book, and the author in context, so you might find it interesting just to read her comments once you do get to Burney. She plans to do a group read of Burney's The Wanderer soon, I think maybe August.

I actually liked Cecilia better than Camilla, but the latter was more popular, and JA mentions it via John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey. I haven't decided whether I'll do The Wanderer, but I definitely want to get to Evelina.

Jun 24, 2:28pm Top

>67 kac522: Thanks for the link and the mention of the other group reads! I'll check them out when I get to Burney.

Edited: Jun 29, 11:18pm Top

Currently reading:

--attempting to finish up A Man Called Ove

--and just started listening to Simon Winchester reading his book The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers created the Modern World ...as usual, Winchester has me hooked after the first 10 minutes.

Also finished the hopeful All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr...summary soon.

Jul 4, 4:26am Top

34. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Completed: June, 2018; Challenge: Root from 2017
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 2014
Format: paperback from my TBR shelf

Finished in 3 sittings--I could not put this book down. Amazing writing--lots of images of light, colors, textures, aromas, water. Although the book jumps back and forth between the lives of two teenagers before & during WWII, Doerr labels all the sections clearly, and it's easy to follow the story. The two main characters, one French, one German, were particularly well done. Doerr weaves together many different threads into a (mostly) believable whole. The theme of radios and the unseen, memories of music and voices over the airwaves, and how these remembrances guide us, is haunting. In the end, despite that it was about war and some very dark times, there was light and hope in this story, without being overly sentimental. And about the power of nature and the sea and birds and music and books and memory, and the goodness of people, even at the worst of times.

35. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Completed: June, 2018
Type: fiction
Original Publication date: 2012
Format: paperback from Evanston Public Library

Meh. It was a struggle to finish; stopped reading it several times (including one time to read All the Light We Cannot See, which only made Ove more annoying), and finally finished it because a friend recommended it. Ove was too grumpy for me; his friends too kind; being "saved" from suicide again & again got old. I did enjoy the parts about his childhood; there were a few lines that made me laugh; and I was moved by his remembrances of his wife. But it wasn't enough to carry the whole book. I only cared a little for Ove and didn't at all care about the supporting characters. Maybe it was just a bad time for me to read this book, but it didn't work for me.

Edited: Jul 4, 4:35am Top

Time for a mid-year summary:

35 Total books read -- not bad; almost half-way to 75.

25 Fiction
10 Nonfiction

12 Male authors
23 Female authors

16 Roots--books on my shelf from before 2018
17 Library books
2 books bought AND read in 2018 --woo hoo!

2 Audiobooks
3 ebooks

34 books originally written in English
1 book translated from Swedish (need to up translated books in the second half)

By original publication year:

5 books before 1900
5 books 1900-1930
4 books 1931-1960
7 books 1961-2000
4 books 2001-2010
10 books 2011-2018 this rather surprised me, as I feel like I'm usually reading "older" works


I'm doing OK with the Color challenge and my Alpha challenge; so-so with RandomCat & myDewey, but I'm pretty far behind in the AAC, BAC and IAC.

I keep track of my Challenges in:

>2 kac522: AAC, BAC, IAC progress
>3 kac522: RandomCat, ColorCat and myDewey progress
>4 kac522: AlphaKit, and Everything Else

My top reads so far in 2018 (no particular order):

--O Pioneers!, Willa Cather--I have yet to find a book by Cather that I haven't loved
--Mrs Tim series books -- so glad to have found D. E. Stevenson!
--The Newcomers, Helen Thorpe -- timely look at refugees in the US with fresh eyes
--Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder -- heavily annotated and academically detailed, but worth the effort
--All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr -- gave me hope
--audiobook re-reads: Nicholas Nickleby and Northanger Abbey -- my comfort listens

These reads deserve special mention because I learned so much from the group reads with Liz, who made them interesting, thought-provoking and enjoyable, even if they weren't necessarily 5-star reads for me:

Camilla by Fanny Burney
The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden

Currently Reading:

A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester (audiobook)
and have even (OMG!) finished up a few more chapters in my multiple-years-long project Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

Jul 6, 2:57am Top

Finished A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr. If you haven't read it, you should. Period. Only a little over one hundred pages and well worth your time. It is 1920 and a Great War veteran spends a summer in the Yorkshire countryside, ostensibly to restore a painting in a village church, and begins to restore himself from the horrors he has experienced. The writing is outstanding. Now if only I can find a library copy of the movie with Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh.

Currently reading: (I think there's a war theme going on here):

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
Pushing Time Away: My grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna, Peter Singer. Singer is a Bioethics Professor at Princeton, originally from Australia. His grandfather, David Oppenheim, was a professor and philosopher in Vienna, who worked with Freud and Alfred Adler, and perished in Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943. Singer explores his grandfather's life through interviews with friends and family, saved letters, and his grandfather's writings on philosophical topics.

I think these two will work well together, if they don't become overwhelming.

Jul 6, 2:15pm Top

>70 kac522: - I keep seeing such great comments about the Doerr book, but your remark that you finished it in 3 sittings gives a really good impression of what a page-turning read it is. I must add it to my library list.

>72 kac522: - I loved the Carr book! Such a great story.

Jul 6, 5:43pm Top

>73 lkernagh: What's interesting, Lori, is that a month ago I started to read The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah, which is also set in occupied France. But that book just didn't do it for me--I couldn't finish it. So I was hesitant to read another book about France in the war. All the Light we Cannot See is such superior writing, point of view, characters, themes.

I have to read the Carr book again soon. I know I will appreciate it the second time through, or perhaps listen to the audio.

Jul 21, 8:32pm Top

>72 kac522:
A Month in the Country is wonderful. I saw the film when it came out and have been wanting to read the book, but don't want to wipe away the movie from my mind. Perhaps read the book and then rewatch the movie... :)

Jul 21, 10:48pm Top

>75 -Eva-: There you go! Problem solved! I think some things will be clearer after reading the book, and the movie is pretty true to the book.

Jul 24, 2:14pm Top

Currently reading:

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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