Friday, January 23, 2015

10 (Fun) Un-bookish Facts About Me...

  1. I live near the mountains but dream of living by the ocean.
  2. Ziplining is my new favorite "sport".
  3. One of my hobbies is creating mixed-media collage and postcard art.
  4. I've been summoned for jury duty six times in the last 15 years (which is so not random or fair!)
  5. Summer is my favorite time of year.
  6. I pretend I like my job, but if I won the lottery I'd quit tomorrow. (Not that I ever play the lottery.)
  7. While I love the idea of camping, I don't love the actuality of bugs, dirt or sleeping on the ground.
  8. Every year I watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the amazing kids who compete, but mostly for the even more amazing words they spell.
  9. Pancakes are my favorite breakfast food (they're not bad for dinner either), especially cream cheese or applesauce cinnamon pancakes. 
  10. Someday I'd love to travel around the world so I can finally join the Circumnavigator's Club.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Week of Rereading...

I like revisiting a book I've already read for some of the same reasons I like returning to the same beach house again and again; it's familiar. I know what to expect and I know all the best spots, so I can just relax and enjoy the experience. And with no library books currently hanging over my head, I decided to take a break from my TBR shelf and spend a few days rereading some old favorites.

I bought Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan over a decade ago when I was going through my British chic lit phase, and I wanted to see if it was as funny as I remembered (and if I still want to keep it). Jasmin Field is a journalist who has been cast as Lizzie Bennet in a stage version of Pride and Prejudice being produced for a charity event; the director of the play is Oscar-winning actor Harry Noble, whom Jasmine finds as arrogant as he is handsome. Life imitates art when Harry finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her. (You can see where this is going, can't you?) Despite being completely predictable, this bit of romantic fluff is still fun. (But I might be ready to let it go.)

Then, being in the mood for a little more romance, I binge read three of my favorite Rosamunde Pilcher books--those deceptively simple yet beautifully written novels about two people falling in love, where the spaces between the lines and what isn't said is almost more important than what is. (As a bookish bonus, they're also all set in amazingly irresistable places like Scotland, Cornwall, and Mallorca.) My chosen threesome? Snow in April, The Day of the Storm, and Sleeping Tiger. It was like being on summer vacation...and just what I needed this week.

Happy Rereading!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bookish Art for January

Harry Brooker - The Treasure Volume, 1879

Look well to this day,
For it is life.
In its brief course lies all the realities of existence.
For yesterday is but a memory
and tomorrow only a vision.
--Sanskrit Poem

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stoker's Manuscript

"So you wish to enter the world of the undead ... To immerse in this is to invite the undead into your life."  Mara lifted an eyebrow over her glasses in that way the fortune teller asks if you really wish to know of your days ahead.  "By the time you understand my warning," she said, "it will be too late, and they will be in your life."

I love Bram Stoker's Dracula; it's one of my favorite classics. So, when I saw the title of Royce Prouty's novel and read it's premise, I had to buy it. His main character, Joseph Barkeley, is a rare book dealer who has been hired to authenticate an original draft of Stoker's Dracula for a mysterious buyer. As part of his job, Joseph must also transport the manuscript to Castel Bran in the heart of Romania: Dracula's Castle. There, Joseph becomes tangled up in the dark secrets of his undead employer, the secrets hidden in Bram Stoker's original manuscript, and the secrets of his own past.

I think what I liked best about this novel was Joseph's own history as a Romanian orphan and his return to the country of his birth. Prouty transports you to Romania and really gives you a tour of that country and it's people -- it's bookish travel at its very best! I also liked that his vampires are in the same vein as Bram Stoker's, with a few added twists. His story is good--interesting and very readable--and his suspenseful ending would make Stoker proud.

I wish he'd included a bibliography at the end of his novel so I knew what books he read to research Bram Stoker's life. (I'm in the mood for a good biography.) Beyond that, I'm happy to have checked another book off my TBR stack.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Bingo!

Check it out! It's a new bookish Bingo card from Unruly Reader. You can pick one row of squares and read for bingo, or fill all 25 squares and go for blackout. It's a fun and different way to track what you read, and it just might expand your reading horizons, too. The Unruly Reader gives explanations and suggestions for each category on her blog, as well as a printable version of the card. I love reading bingo. It's one of my favorite bookish things. And I'm excited about most of the categories on this Bingo card, although a few of them worry me a little. Like the Book of Essays and a Cult Classic. Those will be a challenge for me, but I'm still going for blackout.

So, print out a Bingo card and play along.
Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tackling My First TBR:

I loved Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's first 'sensation' novel; it's what prompted me to buy Aurora Floyd in the first place. And that book has been languishing on my shelf ever since. I'm not sure why I've put off reading it for so long, but I thought I'd better tackle it first this year before I put it off again. (As a bookish bonus, it also fills the 'Classic with a Person's Name in the Title' category in this year's Back to the Classics Challenge.)

About the book:
Aurora Floyd is an impetuous dark-eyed beauty "who lives quickly". She's passionate and thoughtless, but not cruel or unkind; she's petted and spoiled, but she also has a generous and warm-hearted side. Everyone seems to love her even though she's not as concerned with society's conventions as she should be. "But then, if she had been faultless, she could not have been the heroine of this story." What's her greatest fault of all? Aurora Floyd has a secret: a youthful indiscretion that overshadows her relationship with her devoted father as well as with the two men who desire to marry her.
"But why did you run away from the Rue St Dominique? And where were you between the month of June in the year fifty-six and last September?"
"I cannot tell you, Talbot Bulstrode. This is my secret, which I cannot tell you."
"You cannot tell me! There is upwards of a year missing from your life; and you cannot tell me, your betrothed husband, what you did with that year?"
"I cannot."
"Then, Aurora Floyd, you can never be my wife."
She loses the first man who loves her; marries the second who adores her. And still her terrible secret darkens her otherwise happy life. Like a gathering storm, trouble comes in the form of blackmail, two new enemies, and the inopportune arrival of James Conyers, a very unwelcome old acquaintance. There's even a murder. What's a girl like Aurora to do?

I liked this novel, although through the first half of it I felt that I was always seeing Aurora through the subjective gaze of other characters, never through her own, which made it a little hard to like or dislike her, or even feel sorry for her. I liked her much better by the end. She's a pretty gutsy character, especially for the time period. (Aurora Floyd was published in 1863.) Braddon's writing is quite readable, but I found the pacing a bit uneven. At times this 459 page novel really drags (especially in the first 100 pages), but then you turn the page and suddenly find yourself speeding along. While I do think that Lady Audley's Secret is the better novel, I really enjoyed reading this one. Aurora is a one-of-a-kind character who somehow manages to obtain a happy ending to her story. I'm glad to have met her. Sometimes complicated characters are the best kind.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge

When I saw the categories that Karen at Books and Chocolate chose for this year's Back to the Classics Challenge I knew I had to sign up.  There are 12 different categories to choose from, but the challenge is flexible; you can read books in just six categories, or nine, or all twelve. The whole point is just to read more classics. And what could be better than that?

Here are the six categories (and the books) I'll for sure be reading this year:
A 19th Century Classic: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
A Classic by a Woman Author: The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons
A Very Long Classic Novel: Armadale by Wilkie Collins (which is 661 pages of very small, very dense type. Gulp!)
A Classic Novella: Either The Bunner Sisters or Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title: Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
A Classic Children's Book: The Independence of Nan by Nina Rhoades

Here are the three categories that I might read this year:
A Forgotten Classic: A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
A Classic in Translation: Embers by Sandor Marai
A Classic Play: Henry V by Wm. Shakespeare (or maybe The Merry Wives of Windsor)

And finally, the last three categories that I probably won't get around to reading this year 
(but you never know):
A 20th Century Classic
A Humorous or Satirical Classic
A Non-fiction Classic

Aren't they great categories? Now you see why I couldn't resist signing up for this challenge.  Best of all? I actually own all the books that I've chosen...they're sitting in my TBR pile waiting for me to read them. Looks like this could finally be the year. Are you planning on reading any classics this year? If so, which ones?

Happy Reading!