Challenge updates

I do love a good challenge and this year I signed up for two and created one personal one of my own.  Today, I was updating the pages and thought it might be fun to share where I am.

First up, I’ll go with my personal challenge – to read a second book by authors I read last year and swore I would read more of.  There were five authors – Nicole Trope, Colleen Hoover, Alex Marwood, Sarah Gran and Peter Swanson.Read More »

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Classic Club Spin…it’s been a while

One of my new years resolutions was to get back onto my Classic Club challenge, which I neglected miserably last year.  As we’re already in March I have only started one book from the list (which still isn’t finished), I thought it might be time to join in with the classic club spin again and give my reading the kick up the … it needs.

For the spin, you pick 20 books from your list and then, tomorrow, a number is announced and you read that book.  Easy, as long as I don’t get a book I’m dreading!  Here’s my list…

 

  1. 1984 – George Orwell
  2. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  5. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  9. Lacuna – Barbara Kingslover
  10. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  12. Possession – A S Byatt
  13. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
  14. Sons and Lovers – D H Lawrence
  15. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Path
  16. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
  17. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  18. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  19. War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
  20. Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

I have to admit a few of these are re-reads I’m quite looking forward to revisiting (like Oscar and Lucinda which I haven’t read in over 20 years) and some are by authors I know and trust but just haven’t gotten round to reading (like Barbara Kingslover).  A few though I am dreading as I’ve tried and failed to read them before.  The biggest of those is Possession (I wrote about my inability to finish it here).  So wish me luck and keep your fingers grossed it’s not number 12!

Emma

Book Blogger Hop: Time Devoted to Blogs and Books

Iimaget’s been a while since I joined in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop. Each week they post a question which you and other bloggers answer. This week, the question is…

 

How much of your day is devoted to your blog, and how much is devoted to reading?

For me, reading always wins out. I read every day, usually on an evening or when I’m travelling for work. If I’m travelling in the car, it’s an audiobook (which I am slowly getting a grip of).

I also spend quite a bit of time reading other people’s blogs – not just book blogs – though some days I don’t have time. I don’t make time every day to blog either, though I always start the week with good intentions and occasionally manage to schedule in advance. I enjoy blogging but it’s a hobby and so I do it when it feels right.

What about you, what takes up the time – blogging or books?

emma

 

 

National Short Story Week 2015

NSSW-300x171This week is National Short Story week, something I hadn’t heard of – though it’s in its fifth year – until I read about it on Kimberly Sullivan’s blog.  I really enjoy short stories but haven’t read any for a while and so loved the idea of promoting them (now that I’m aware of it!) if I could.

You can find out more about the week here but, in a nutshell, the idea is to promote short stories, and short story writers, publishers and events. It runs from today, Monday 16th through Sunday, 22nd November.  Kimberly is taking part by trying her hand at flash fiction.  I’m nowhere near as creative but I thought I could do my part by reading and doing mini-reviews of short stories every day.

23624909The reading will start tonight with The Memory Man by Helen Smith, which has been on my Kindle for a few months now.

Two women become friends in an abandoned post-apocalyptic building. A psychic makes contact with a lost soul. His apprentice tries to find news of a man he has lost touch with. Fragments of memories are traded and twisted. Friendship provides comfort, but the recovery of memories brings torment rather than reassurance – until truth becomes secondary to survival.

It feels like a fun thing to do and I’m also hoping it might get me out of my reading funk and inspire me to read some new authors. Are you a short story reader – any recommendations for the rest of the week?

Emma

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

So I did it, after days of struggling to read any book, let alone the only one I’d set myself for Frightfall, I finally found my rhythm late last week and got not only Frankenstein but also Eeny Meeny finished too (a review of that will follow later in the week).

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So, what did I think of Frankenstein? I liked it a lot, which I’d hoped I would.  A gothic novel and one of those books that you think you know the story of, even if you don’t, it was written by Mary Shelley when she was 18 and travelling in Europe with her future husband – Percy Shelley – and Lord Byron.

According to more than one source I read, they had challenged themselves to see who could write the best horror story – I didn’t find out if Mary Shelley won – and Frankenstein came to her in a dream.  The idea of a scientist who creates a monster and lives to regret it.

Having not read Frankenstein before, I was under the (apparently common) misconception that that was the name of the monster, not the man who created him.  That aside, though, the story itself seemed very familiar; even though I would swear I have never read the book or seen the film, I must have in my (much) younger days.

It is told by Frankenstein to the captain of a ship that rescues him from the icy waters around Siberia.  The captain (Robert Walton) introduces and ends the story through letters to his sister and the story itself was easy to read and easy to follow (coming in at just over 250 pages in my version).  Once I had gotten the rhythm, as I said, I found myself turning the pages and getting drawn into what was happening.

I didn’t find it scary though but, instead, quite sad.  Frankenstein’s monster (he doesn’t have a name) didn’t ask to be created and, once he was, was rejected by the man who created him.  He came to understand the world around him and that there was no place in it for him and no one willing to take the time to understand what he might be thinking or feeling.  It seemed to be a given that if he looked like a monster, he must be one, and so that is what he became, seeking revenge on Frankenstein and his family.

The revenge he took and the people he killed – it all seemed inevitable from Frankenstein’s first selfish act of thinking he could control life itself and I had no sympathy for him (Frankenstein) as a result, especially when his scientific mind couldn’t seem to see anything good in the creature.  I really did wish I could reach into the pages and give him a shake and say “listen to what your creation is saying”.  Towards the end of the novel, he does seem to have a moment of clarity, saying “In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty.”, but it doesn’t seem to last long.

There is a lot in Frankenstein I feel like I need to re-read, that there are thoughts on friendship and responsibility and the general need to be good to each other.  At some point, I will do that.  In the meantime, though, I am just happy to enjoy it for what I had hoped it would be – a good horror story!

Emma

Fright Fall 2015

With October officially here, it seems a good time to start thinking about all things Halloween-y and today I actually got ahead of the game and bought my daughter her costume. I also realised I hadn’t written my sign-up post for Fright Fall so here it is.

Fright Fall is a week long read-a-long run by Michelle through her read the seasons blog. I did the Summer one and it was a lot of fun. This is shorter being only a week long (starting Monday) and there is a simple rule for the books you read – they have to be scary be that mystery, thriller, horror or gothic. You post what you plan on reading and how you did at the end.

Tying in with my reading of Romantic Outlaws (yes, I’m still reading it!) and my classic club list (because I’m way behind on my list), I’ve decided to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

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Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever. (From goodreads)

I’m really looking forward to it, and maybe picking up some suggestions from others for spooky reads for the rest of the month. Wish me luck and, if you have time, click on the badge below to see what others are reading.

Emma

Authors on Austen

Jane_Austen,_from_A_Memoir_of_Jane_Austen_(1870)During my random wandering around the web last week in search of tidbits for a post I hope to write once I finish Jane Austen’s Emma as part of Austen in August I came across a quote by Virginia Woolf: “of all great writers [Austen] is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness”. It got me wondering what other authors might have had to say about Austen, whether they felt the same way.

There were some that didn’t, Mark Twain seeming to be most widely quoted critic, saying “I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone!”

More often than not though, other writers seem to be fans and there are a lot out there, including…

…Harper Lee –  “All I want is to be the Jane Austen of the south”

…William F. Buckley, Jr. – “One doesn’t read Jane Austen; one re-reads Jane Austen.”

…Thornton Wilder – “[Her] art is so consummate that the secret is hidden; peer at them as hard as one may; shake them; take them apart; one cannot see how it is done.”

…J K Rowling – “My favorite writer is Jane Austen, and I’ve read all her books so many times I’ve lost count…I imagined being a famous writer would be like being like Jane Austen. Being able to sit at home at the parsonage and your books would be very famous and occasionally you would correspond with the Prince of Wales’s secretary.”

…Anthony Trollope – “Miss Austen was surely a great novelist. What she did, she did perfectly…. she places us in a circle of gentlemen and ladies, and charms us while she tells us with an unconscious accuracy how men should act to women, and women act to men.”

…Margaret Drabble – “Austen’s output was so compact that many of us know much of her work by heart and feel its echoes every day. Yet, on rereading, we always find new shades of meaning, new pleasures and, most importantly, new questions.”

…Val McDermid – “She’s a genius…One of the reasons we all still read Jane Austen is because her books are about universal things which still matter today – love, money, family.”

But the last word goes to Helen Fielding whose Bridget Jone’s Diary is based on Pride and Prejudice and has its own Mr. Darcy.   It sums up why Jane Austen may have been adapted so many times on TV, film and books. “Jane Austen’s plots”, Fielding said, “are very good and have been market researched over a number of centuries, so I decided simply to steal one of them…I thought she wouldn’t mind and anyway she’s dead.”.  Here’s to more stealing of plots!

Emma

Library Love: Library Challenge Update

I am a huge fan and user of my local library and, earlier this year, I signed up for Sheila at Book Journey’s Library Challenge. There weren’t any check-ins or requirements other than committing to reading a certain number of library books and supporting your local library as a result. I went for 30 books and, halfway through the year, I’m feeling slightly chuffed to be just over halfway towards my goal. You can find the full list of books here but, as I’m six months in I thought I would pick and share my favourite six books to date…

1. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood. To be fair, Margaret Atwood can do little, if anything, wrong in my eyes and this collection of stories were no expection. A real mix of dark tales.

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2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I had heard a lot of positive comments on this book before I read it and had half expected to be disappointed as a result because my expectations were high. Thankfully I wasn’t. Instead I got completely lost in a post-apocalyptic future where people still performed Shakespeare and had hope.

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3. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. A book I first read 25 years ago and was happy to see has stood the test of time and memories. A dark and compelling tale.

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4. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This was the first Alice Munro I had read (I’ve just finished my second) and I wish I’d discovered her sooner because I love the way she tells a story and how she writes powerful female characters.

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5. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. Another I’d heard a lot about and wasn’t disappointed by. A different take on a detective story (if you can call it that) and an insight into what it might be like to have dementia.

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6. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway. I picked this because of the title and the cover – a guitar pick – with no idea what to expect. I loved every minute of it and Claire DeWitt is one of my new favourite characters, a complete one-off.

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With a big stack of books from the library still to read, I should make my goal no problems. Hopefully there will be some more great reads in there!  Wish me luck.

Emma

What I’m Reading This Week: 11th May, 2015

As today is the start of Bout of Books, I am a woman on a mission this week to read, read, read. Which means something will probably come up and I’ll get nothing read. Still, here are the books I think I might attempt…

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (because I finally read Divergent and really enjoyed it)

11735983One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves – and herself – while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable – and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Moth by James Sallis (because Sallis is one of my favourite authors)

14436807Lew Griffin has quit the detective business and withdrawn to the safety of his old home in New Orleans’ Garden District, where he copes with his past by transforming it into fiction. Following the death of a close friend, he returns to the streets– not only the urban ones he has conquered but also those of the rural South that he escaped long ago– to search for the runaway daughter he didn’t know that his friend had. Griffin discovers that we rarely know anyone, even those closest to us. And he now finds that he must also face two things he most fears: memories of his parents and his own relationship with his now-vanished son.

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter (because I meant to read this the other week but didn’t get round to)

22716411Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated. Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project–an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past–Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared more than one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

My goal is three books and I hope it will be these three.  Have you read any of them – am I in for a good week of reading?

Happy reading!

Emma

Bout of Books

Next week, starting Monday, is Bout of Books, a week long read-a-thon organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It’s a low pressure read-a-thon, where you set your own goals and take part in daily challenges and giveaways if you can, plus a couple of Twitter chats. The low pressure nature of it is what I like.

Bout of Books

This is actually the 13th “bout” but only my second – I did my first last year and really enjoyed it but the timing hasn’t been right since then.  Next week is a pretty clear one for me, though, so I’m taking part again.  Book wise, I haven’t picked anything yet (though having finally read Divergent, I’m thinking I might go for book 2 in the series) but am going to try stretching myself and read three books plus take part in each of the daily challenges.

I’ll update on Twitter and through this post throughout the week. It should be fun and hopefully I’ll read some good books, pick up some good tips and maybe find some new book blogs. If you want to join in or find out more check out the bout of book blog here.  Wish me luck!

Update (11th May): Day one down and 100 pages into Insurgent. Really enjoying it. 

Update (13th May): I am three days in and one and a half books down. I started with Insurgent as planned (see my What I’m Reading This Week post) but then couldn’t wait to know what happened next so abandoned my plans and went straight to Allegient. Am about 100 pages in and going strong. 

Oh and I managed to actually complete a challenge set by Kristina Hornerby writing a very bad Haiku (also my first):

Girl decides to wear black
Gets a tattoo and falls in love
Brings down powers that be

Update (15th May): finished Allegient (didn’t see that coming!) and started on The World Before Us. Struggled a bit at first but really enjoying it now, about 20% in.

Emma