Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Not So Fast! The 2013 and 2014 ARC Reading Challenge

One more wrap-up to do.

Here I was thinking I'd finally got all my 2013 reading challenges wrapped up.  Well, all the ones that needed wrapping, anyway.  But it seems I've still got one more to do — the 2013 ARC Reading Challenge.  And since I'm going to join up for the 2014 edition as well, I'm just going to let this post serve double duty as a wrap-up/sign-up post.  OK?  OK.

Well, for the 2013 ARC Challenge, I signed up at the Bronze Level — I had about a dozen books to read and fully intended to get through them all by the end of the year.  Silly me.  I ended the year with more than two dozen ARCs/galley proofs/books from publishers/etc. — and read fewer than half of those.  I'm not going to list all the books here, but I've got them all listed on my challenge blog (HERE), so you can take a look at the titles if you'd like.

OK, I think that's a wrap.  Many thanks to Teddy Rose @ So Many Precious Books, So Little Time for doing such a magnificent job of hosting.

And...thanks to Teddy Rose for hosting again in 2014.  

For the 2014 ARC Reading Challenge, I'm throwing caution to the wind and signing up at the Silver Level (Read 24 ARCs).  I've already got at least 24 books that qualify and that I really, really need to get read and reviewed.  And I can pretty much assure myself that I WILL be acquiring more as the year goes on.

And that's my sign-up post.  During the year I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE).  Now I just need to get back to my reading.

Happy New Year, everyone! And happy reading in Twenty-Fourteen!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Rest of the Wrap-Ups: 2013 Reading Challenges

Hosted by Amy @ The Crafty Book Nerd (now A Bookish Girl)

I read 13 books for the 2013 Mystery/Crime Challenge, but didn't manage to review them all.  Here's my list (with links to reviews):
  1. Cat on the Scent. Rita Mae Brown
  2. The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown
  3. Cold Remains. Sally Spedding
  4. Guilt. Jonathan Kellerman
  5. Fer-de-Lance. Rex Stout 
  6. A Fearful Madness. Julius Falconer
  7. Inferno. Dan Brown
  8. Death By a HoneyBee. Abigail Keam
  9. A Fatal Likeness. Lyn Shepherd 
  10. The Book of Secrets. Elizabeth Joy Arnold
  11. Night Film. Marisha Pessl 
  12. Double Indemnity. James M. Cain
  13. Evil Under the Sun. Agatha Christie

Hosted by The Book Vixen

For the 2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge, I signed up at the "Out of Breath" level, and aimed to read 6-10 more books than I read in 2012.  As it turned out, I didn't quite make that goal.  But I read a total of 39 books, which was four more than I read last year; so I'm considering this a pretty successful challenge.  I won't list all the books here, but I've got a list over on my challenge blog if you want to take a look at the titles.

Hosted by Bev @ My Readers Block

OK, I completely wiped out with this challenge.  I just never really got going with this one; never even got my "scattergories" figured out - so I'm admitting total defeat.  Sometimes these things happen.  I do apologize to Bev who did a great job of hosting.  I've already signed up for her 2014 Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge, and I promise to try and do a better job with that one.  (Seriously!)

Hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Here's what I read for the What's in a Name 6 Reading Challenge (with links to reviews):
  • Category #1 (a book with up or down or equivalent in title):
    Evil Under the Sun
    . Agatha Christie
  • Category #2 (a book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title):
    Death By a HoneyBee
    . Abigail Keam
  • Category #3 (a book with a party or celebration in the title):
    The Shooting Party
    . Isabel Colegate
  • Category #4 (a book with fire or equivalent in the title):
    The Heat of the Sun
    . David Rain (See Review)
  • Category #5 (a book with an emotion in the title):
    The Happy Hollisters
    . Jerry West (See Review)
  • Category #6 (a book with lost or found in the title):
    The Lost Symbol
    . Dan Brown (See Review)
This has always been one of my favorite challenges, and I'm really sorry I didn't get more reviews written.  But I did read a book for each category, so for me it was a total success.  Especially since it helped me discover one of my new favorite writers, Isabel Colegate.

Well .... I think that's about it for my 2013 challenges.  All the hosts deserve a huge thank-you for doing such great work.  These challenges (even the ones I fail at completely) do keep me reading - my books-per-year count has definitely gone up since I've been joining them.  So I'll keep on signing up.  Which reminds me - I still have a few more sign-up posts to write!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Quick Fix Challenge


Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2014
Hosted by: Jessie @ Jessie's Book Place

Does it seem to you that books are getting longer and longer?  Do you ever find yourself asking "Whatever happened to those beings we used to call editors?"  Of course, sometimes I love a good, long read.  But I've read so many "chunksters" lately, I think they're starting to sort of slow me down - and at the rate I read, I can't afford to let anything slow me down.  So....

I had already decided to do something like this on my own in 2014, and then I discovered there's actually a reading challenge based on the idea.  Jessie @ Jessie's Book Place is hosting the Quick Fix Challenge, for readers who want to read some shorter books (fewer than 300 pages) - definitely a challenge I need.  So I'm signing up at the second level ("Paperclips" - read 15 books).  You can sign up for the challenge, and read all the guidelines, over on the announcement page HERE.  I don't know yet what books I'll be reading for the challenge, but during the year I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog (HERE), and (if I can remember!) here:
  1. Coup de Grâce. Marguerite Yourcenar (151 pages)
  2. The Only Problem. Muriel Spark (188 pages)
  3. Fog Magic. Julia L. Sauer (104 pages)
  4. Andrew's Brain. E.L. Doctorow (200 pages)
  5. The Book Boy. Joanna Trollope (94 pages)
  6. The Thief of Always. Clive Barker (288 pages)
  7. The Litter of the Law. Rita Mae Brown (233 pages)
  8. Midnight in Europe. Alan Furst (272 pages
  9. The Antiquarian. Gustavo Faverón Patriau (240 pages
  10. The Lady in the Lake. Raymond Chandler (272 pages)
  11. The High Window. Raymond Chandler (272 pages)
  12. The Quilter's Apprentice. Jennifer Chiaverini (272 pages)
  13. Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. Terrance Dicks (192 pages)
  14. The Colors of Space. Marion Zimmer Bradley (114 pages
  15. The Transcriptionist. Amy Rowland (246 pages
  16. The Mist in the Mirror. Susan Hill (288 pages
  17. The Two Hotel Francforts. David Leavitt (272 pages
  18. The Celtic Dagger. Jill Paterson (221 pages
  19. The Dirty Book Murder. Thomas Shawver (220 pages
  20. Murder at the Painted Lady. Barbara Warren (186 pages

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

This week I'm reading The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence.  It's the story of a young man whose life is thrown completely off track after he's struck by a meteorite when he's ten years old.  Alex's existence after that is fascinating but far from easy.  Here's the opening paragraph:
They finally stopped me at Dover as I was trying to get back into the country.  I was half expecting it, but it still came as kind of a shock when the barrier stayed down.  It's funny how some things can be so mixed up like that. Having come this far, I'd started to think that I might make it the whole way home after all. It would have been nice to have been able to explain things to my mother.  You know: before anyone else had to get involved. 

Initial Thoughts:   I've been trying to get started on this one for a couple of weeks now.  If the holidays hadn't slowed me down, I'm sure I'd be finished with it by now because I've really enjoyed it so far.  Reminds me a little of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which was one of my favorites a few years back.  So I have high hopes for the rest of the book.


Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

European Reading Challenge 2014


DATES:  January 1, 2014 - January 31, 2015
HOSTED BY:  Rose City Reader

Technically, the 2013 edition of this challenge is still running (until the end of January), but I know I won't be reading any more qualifying books this month.  (You can take a look at my wrap-up post for that one.)  So, I'm signing up for the 2014 challenge.

Basically, the idea is to read books by European authors, or books set in European countries regardless of where the author comes from.  Go to the challenge announcement page (HERE) to see all the guidelines and sign up, and to see the list of eligible countries.  There are five levels of participation, and I'm signing up for the Four Star Level (Honeymooner / 4 books).  I signed up for five books last year, but found that four was a much more comfortable goal. 

I don't really have a definite list of books I intend to read, but there are several I'm thinking about:
  • The Collector of Dying Breaths. M.J. Rose (set in France) 
  • Death in Berlin. M.M. Kaye (set in Germany) 
  • Identity. Milan Kundera (author born in Czechoslovakia) 
  • Istanbul Passage. Joseph Kanon (set in Turkey)
  • This Rough Magic. Mary Stewart (set in Greece) 
  • The Two Hotel Francforts. David Leavitt (set in Portugal)

Challenge Wrap-Up: 2013 Middle East Reading Challenge

For the 2013 Middle East Reading Challenge, I signed up at the Tourist Level (1-5 books).  I ended up reading just one book for the challenge, but it was a good one: Clea, by Lawrence Durrell (see review).  I had hoped to get in some nonfiction too, but it was not to be.  This was a good idea for a challenge - I'd like to see it continue.

2013 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I think it's time to wrap up a few more challenges.  I'll start with two that sort of go together.

Hosted by: Introverted Reader

I signed up for this one at the "Beginner" Level (1-3 books), and actually read three books.  Never managed to get reviews posted, but I suppose that could still happen before the year ends.  What I read:
  1. Chéri. Colette (translated by Roger Senhouse)
  2. Ignorance. Milan Kundera (translated by Linda Asher)
  3. Invisible Cities. Italo Calvino (translated by William Weaver)
I enjoyed Ignorance quite a lot, but struggled with Invisible Cities and Chéri.  But I had fun with the challenge and want to thank Introverted Reader for hosting.  If a 2014 edition were offered, I'd definitely consider signing up again.

Hosted by: Rose City Reader

Signed up at the Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) Level, and should have read at least five books, but only read four.  Still, I consider that pretty successful, given my overall reading record for 2013.  Here's what I read:
  1. Cold Remains. Sally Spedding (Wales, UK)
  2. Ignorance. Milan Kundera (mostly set in Czechoslovakia)
  3. Inferno. Dan Brown (Italy)
  4. Chéri. Colette (France)
Again, not many reviews (just that one for Cold Remains).  Of the four, I suppose Ignorance was my favorite, although Inferno was fun (not the best Dan Brown book I've read, but still very entertaining).

This was a great challenge, and I'm thinking seriously of signing up for the 2014 edition.  Rose City Reader deserves a huge thank-you for hosting.

So, that's two more wrap-ups.  More to come....

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Historical Tapestry
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2014
See the challenge announcement page for full guidelines and sign-ups

I do read quite a bit of historical fiction, but I really think one of the main reasons I keep signing up for this challenge is so I can display those amazing buttons!  And this one's another winner.   Isn't that gorgeous?  

So, I'm signing up again this year.  I'm going to stay conservative and sign up at the Victorian Reader level (5 books).  Haven't decided on any specific books yet, but during the year I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE). 

2014 Finishing the Series Reading Challenge

2014 Finishing the Series Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Yvonne @ Socrates' Book Reviews
Dates:  January 1 - December 31, 2014
See the challenge announcement page for guidelines and sign-ups

OK, I really messed up with the 2013 edition of this challenge.  I signed up to complete one series, and not only did I NOT complete the series - I didn't even read any of the books in the series.  So I'm going to give it another try.

Once again, I'm signing up at the first level (finish one series).  I'll probably try to complete the Mrs. Malory mystery series, by Hazel Holt (I have three books to go). But I have quite a few other series I could work on (see my list HERE), if I get that one wrapped up.

More Challenges for 2014

These are two challenges I REALLY need!  I'd be embarrassed to tell you how many unread books I've got piled up from Netgalley and Edelweiss.  Well, piled up on my Kindle, that is.   So I'm very happy to see that there's someone out there trying to help me with my addiction.

The 2014 Netgalley Reading Challenge is hosted by Ariel Avalon and runs throughout 2014.  You can see the guidelines and sign up for the challenge by visiting the announcement page.  There are five levels of participation to choose from, and I'm going with:

Yes, I really do have that many galleys to be read.  (Tsk-tsk!)  During the year, I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog HERE.


The 2014 Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge is hosted by Falling For YA, and also runs all through 2014.  See the guidelines and sign up HERE.  I'll be signing up for the Silver Level (25 books).  And I'll track my reading progress over on my challenge blog (HERE). 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Clea, by Lawrence Durrell

Iconic E-Books from Open Road Media
Originally published by Faber Publishing, 1960

Clea is the fourth and final volume in Lawrence Durrell's series of novels known as the Alexandria Quartet.  The first three books, Justine, Balthazar, and Mountolive, tell the same intricate and fascinating story from three different points of view.  In Clea, set seven years later, we get to see what's happened to the characters in subsequent years.  Darley, the narrator of the first book, returns to Alexandria at the end of World War II, and reconnects with all the major figures from the earlier novels.  He begins an affair with Clea, who was a more shadowy presence in the earlier books, but turns out to be one of the most interesting of all the characters.

This is such a wonderful series of novels.  I read the first three many years ago, sometime during the 1980s, and don't really know why it's taken me so long to get to this final book.  In many ways, it's very different from the others, but the gorgeous, lyrical writing is the same.  The Quartet is just a truly rewarding reading experience.

Sample passage (these are the book's opening lines):
The oranges were more plentiful than usual that year. They glowed in their arbours of burnished green leaf like lanterns, flickering up there among the sunny woods. It was as if they were eager to celebrate our departure from the little island -- for at last the long-awaited message from Nessim had come, like a summons back to the Underworld. A message which was to draw me back inexorably to the one city which for me always hovered between illusion and reality, between the substance and the poetic images which its very name aroused in me.... Alexandria, the capital of memory!

The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, by Duncan Whitehead

Dog Ear Publishing, 2012

Duncan Whitehead’s The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club is a thriller-parody that involves the members of an informal afternoon cocktail and dog walking club in an old Savannah neighborhood. As the book opens, one of their friends dies of cancer, and a rivalry immediately develops amongst the surviving ladies, involving the new widower.  It was a promising beginning, but unfortunately the rest of the book didn't quite live up to that promise. 

There were a LOT of twists and turns and surprises along the way, some of them extremely unexpected and most of them fairly entertaining. There’s the man who incurs the ladies’ wrath because he neglects to clean up after his dog. There’s the once successful children’s writer haunted by a past that may or may not involve Adolph Hitler. And then there’s the hit man who’s skulking around the neighborhood. And these are just a few of the various plot lines.

I had a hard time getting through this one. Somehow I just couldn’t maintain much interest in any of the characters or their activities. The book has been called “zany” and “screwball,” but I thought the humor seemed forced and - just not very funny. One thing I did enjoy was the ending - it springs a bit of a surprise which wasn’t hard to see coming, but still turned out to be a nice satisfying plot twist. I just wish the rest of the book had been that satisfying.

(Note: I received my copy of this book free of charge from the publisher. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Happy Hollisters, by Jerry West

Doubleday & Company, 1953; 184 pages.
Illustrated by Helen S. Hamilton.

The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West, is the first book in a series that was popular with children in the 1950s and early 1960s.  I read several of the books when I was a kid, but never read this first one until this year when I read it for the Pre-1960 Classic Children's Books Reading Challenge.

It's a very cute story about the five Hollister children who move to a new house in a new town, when their father gets a job there.  Their adventures begin on the very first day of their move, when the moving van containing all their toys disappears.  It was also carrying their father's important new invention, so naturally the young Hollisters immediately set about trying to solve the mystery of the disappearing moving van.

At the same time, they begin exploring their new home - the house is said to be haunted and is also supposed to contain a hidden treasure.  And while they investigate the place, they find a secret stairway that brings even more excitement.  A mysterious intruder leads them to a hideout on a deserted island where all the puzzles are eventually solved.  The five Happy Hollisters recover their missing possessions, find the hidden treasure, and decide that they're ready for more adventures in the future.  Like I said, very cute story.

I loved these books when I was a kid, and I had a lot of fun traveling down memory lane with this one.  The story was appealing, and the illustrations by Helen Hamilton are really charming.  I'm not sure how the books would go over with today's young readers - the action is definitely tame compared to the books around right now.  But I think they still might be good for children just starting to read on their own, before they move on to more sophisticated stuff.

Guilt, by Jonathan Kellerman

I've been very lazy about posting reviews this year. So during this last week of December, I'm going to try to post short (sometimes VERY short) reports on the books I read in 2013 but failed to mention on the blog, in (roughly) the order I read them - mainly just to prevent myself from forgetting them completely.  This is one from back in March.

Ballantine Books, 2013; 378 pages

Publisher's Description:
In an upscale L.A. neighborhood, a backyard renovation unearths an infant’s body, buried sixty years ago. Soon thereafter, in a nearby park, another disturbingly bizarre discovery is made not far from the body of a young woman shot in the head. Helping LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis to link these eerie incidents is brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware. But even the good doctor’s vast experience with matters both clinical and criminal might not be enough to cut down to the bone of this chilling case. Backtracking six decades into the past stirs up tales of a beautiful nurse with a mystery lover, a handsome, wealthy doctor who seems too good to be true, and a hospital with a notorious reputation—all of them long gone, along with any records of a newborn, and destined for anonymity. But the specter of fame rears its head when the case unexpectedly twists in the direction of the highest echelons of celebrity privilege. Entering this sheltered world, Alex little imagines the macabre layer just below the surface—a decadent quagmire of unholy rituals and grisly sacrifice.

My Thoughts:

This is the 28th book (!) in Kellerman's Alex Delaware series, but the first one I've read.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though it's obvious there's a long history involved, this particular book was perfectly accessible for someone with no previous experience with the series.  The story is definitely hardcore police procedural, miles from cozy - dead infants are never easy to read about, and that's just the first of several pretty gruesome elements.  So it might not be to every reader's taste.  But I definitely enjoyed it, and I'll be reading more of the series in the future. 

Favorite quote:
She cried. It seemed genuine, but who could be sure about anything on the west side of L.A.

(Note: This review refers to an advance reader's edition of the book provided free of charge by the publisher. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Monday Reading Update

"Jungle Tales," 1895 by James Shannon

It's been a while since I posted a reading update - over a month, I think.  During that time, I've read a few more books, but haven't posted any reviewsStill working on that; one of my resolutions for the new year is to do a better job of reviewing the books I read.  Hmmmm.  I think that was one of my resolutions for THIS year.  Oh, well - here's my list of books finished:
  1. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
  2. Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain
  3. Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie
  4. The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber

I've also done wrap-ups for a few of this year's reading challenges:

And I've signed up for some new challenges for next year:
I'm trying to do a little better job of controlling myself when it comes to signing up for challenges in 2014.  That's six so far, and that might be all I can handle.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: Wrap-Up

Isn't that a wonderful button?

The 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge was hosted by Historical Tapestry.  I signed up at the "Victorian Reader" level (read five books), and actually read seven books that would qualify.  As usual, I haven't managed to review ALL of them (I might work on that in the next couple of days), but here's my list, with links to the reviews that I did get written:
  1. The Heat of the Sun. David Rain
  2. The Flamethrowers. Rachel Kushner 
  3. Clea. Lawrence Durrell 
  4. Is This Tomorrow. Caroline Leavitt (review to come)
  5. A Fatal Likeness. Lyn Shepherd (review to come)
  6. The Shooting Party. Isabel Colegate  
  7. The 13 Clocks. James Thurber 
I was hoping to do a little better than that - this is one of my favorite challenges, and I want to say thank you to the challenge hosts.  If there's a 2014 edition of the challenge, maybe I can give it another try. 

2013 Nonfiction Reading Challenge: The Wrap-Up

The 2013 Nonfiction Reading Challenge was hosted by The Introverted Reader.  I signed up at the "Dilettante" level (1-5 books), and read one book:

Not a great achievement - I really need to work more nonfiction into my reading routine.  Still, I enjoyed the one book I read, and want to thank my host for giving me some motivation.

Challenge Wrap-Up: 2013 Pre-1960 Classic Children's Books

Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2013

I believe this challenge might have slowly died over the course of the year.  It was hosted by Kimberly @ Turning the Pages, but I don't think she's been doing updates lately.  Which is OK, since I haven't been doing reviews for the books I read, either.  But I thought I should go ahead and do a little wrap-up post - especially since the books I read provided some of my favorite reading moments of the year.

Here's my list:
1. The Happy Hollisters, by Jerry West (1953) 

 2. Half Magic, by Edward Eager (1954)

 3. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (1900)

 4. Pretty Polly Flinders, by Mary Frances Blaisdell (1914)
5. The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber (1950)

I also started, and then abandoned, Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White.

Just couldn't get into it.  The "little people" in the book turned out not to have anything very magical or special about them, aside from being tiny.  Yes, that's intriguing, but I just needed something more.  Frankly, it was actually sort of boring.  Well, one clinker out of half a dozen isn't bad, I suppose.

So, thanks to Kimberly for hosting the challenge, and spurring me into reading a few of the books I've been meaning to read for years now.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Beginnings on Friday: Cheri by Colette

Cover portrait by Antonio de la Gandara

I've just started reading Colette's classic novel, Chéri.  The portrait of a fading love affair between a middle-aged woman and her much younger lover caused a huge stir when it was first published in 1920, and is still controversial today. This is the opening paragraph, with the eponymous Chéri speaking:
'Give it me, Léa, give me your pearl necklace! Do you hear me, Léa? Give me your pearls!'

Initial thoughts:
The first sentence was intriguing and drew me in.  What comes after that is more problematic.

I've wanted to read this one since I was in my teens - back in the '60s it was still considered pretty steamy stuff.  I imagine that's not the case today, although I have to confess I'm finding it a teensy bit  disturbing.  It's not just that Chéri himself (yes, Chéri is the male half of the duo) is so much younger than his lover/mentor, Léa - it's also that he's portrayed as more than a little...well, effeminate I guess is the best word.  Which makes the whole situation very...OK, disturbing is all I can come up with.

I've only read about twenty pages, so I don't have a very firm opinion yet.  For now, though, I'm sticking with it.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Newbery Reading Challenge 2014


Hosted by: Julie @ Smiling Shelves
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2014

This one really looks like a lot of fun. I've always wanted to read more of the Newbery Medal winners and honor books - and this challenge even allows you to read Caldecott Medal winners, too.  And since re-reads are also allowed, I might even revisit some of my childhood favorites.  The challenge works on a point system, with a different number of points given for Newbery winners, Newbery honor books, and Caldecott winners; and there are five different levels of participation to choose from.

For all the guidelines, see the challenge announcement/sign-up page HERE.  (And be sure to read Julie's explanation for those "smiling shelves"!)

I'll be signing up at the first level, L'Engle - so I'll be gathering a total of 15-29 points.  Haven't made a list of potential books yet, but during the year I'll be tracking my reading progress over on my challenge blog, HERE

Sunday, December 08, 2013

USA Fiction Challenge: State By State in 2014

Hosted by: Kerrie of Mysteries in Paradise
Dates: Throughout 2014 (or longer)

See the challenge announcement/sign-up page HERE

Guidelines (quoted from the challenge announcement/sign-up page):
"Read just one novel from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author. You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not."

I'm signing up for this one knowing, going in, that I'll never finish it in one year.  So I'm going to consider it an ongoing challenge and just see how far I get.  Should be interesting.

Kerrie says it's OK to start reading for the challenge now, so I can get going. Here's my list of states, with a few possible titles (all from my TBR list).  During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and listing the books I've actually read, over on my challenge blog.
  2. ALASKA 
    Tales of the City. Armistead Maupin
  10. FLORIDA 
  11. GEORGIA 
  12. HAWAII 
  13. IDAHO 
  15. INDIANA 
  16. IOWA 
  17. KANSAS
    In Cold Blood. Truman Capote
  20. MAINE
    The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout
    The Cranefly Orchid Murders. Cynthia Riggs
    Night Passage (Jesse Stone #1). Robert B. Parker
    The Whistling Season. Ivan Doig
    My Antonia. Willa Cather
  29. NEVADA 
  33. NEW YORK
    The League of Frightened Men. Rex Stout
    Guests on Earth. Lee Smith
    Ancient Shores. Jack McDevitt
    The Beet Queen. Louise Erdrich
    Born Brothers. Larry Woiwode
  36. OHIO 
  38. OREGON
    The Quick and the Thread (Embroidery Mystery #1). Amanda Lee
    Mickelsson's Ghosts. John Gardner
    The Ivory Tower. Henry James
    Theophilus North. Thornton Wilder
    The Witches of Eastwick. John Updike
    The Widows of Eastwick. John Updike
    The House on Tradd Street. Karen White
  44. TEXAS
    Texas. James Michener
  45. UTAH 
    The Secret History. Donna Tartt

Friday, December 06, 2013

Book Beginnings on Friday: Evil Under the Sun

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.

This week, I'm just starting Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie, a mystery novel featuring her Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot.  I've had this one on my TBR list for years now.  Here's the first sentence:
When Captain Roger Angmering built himself a house in the year 1782 on the island of Leathercombe Bay, it was thought the height of eccentricity on his part.
Initial thoughts: Standard Christie opening - many of her novels begin with a bit of "back story" to set the scene. Also fairly typical of the Poirot novels to find the master detective off on a jaunt somewhere - this time to an out-of-the-way resort in the south of England.  And we also have one of those wonderfully unpronounceable surnames Christie is so fond of throwing at us - Angmering (apparently, also the name of a village in West Sussex).

I generally love Poirot, and so far I'm enjoying the book, although I'm only a few pages into it.

I'm reading this on my Kindle - so, no interesting cover. Above is the first American Edition from 1941.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Heroic Measures

This week my teaser lines come from Jill Ciment's lovely little novel, Heroic Measures.  I bought the book when it was published back in 2009, but it's taken me all these years to get around to reading it. What a mistake - it's a brilliant read.  In this snippet, one of the main characters is waking up on what might turn out to be a life-changing morning:
For Ruth, the spectacle of sunrise is less inspiring than comforting. The rise of the sun is like the opening of a novel she's read so many times that she can take pleasure in the details and nuances without having to race to the end to find out what happens. (p.57)

Well, with this book, even though it's not a re-read, I'm going through very slowly and savoring each line. It's that good.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vintage Mystery BINGO 2014

One more challenge that's just too enticing to pass up! Bev at My Reader's Block is hosting another Vintage Mystery reading challenge for 2014, and this time there's a bingo-card twist that sounds like a lot of fun. And two versions - Silver Age or Golden Age mysteries (you can choose to do either version, or both).  See the announcement/sign-up page to read all the rules and guidelines. 

I'm going to start with the Gold Edition card (mysteries published before 1960), and try to complete one whole line (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally - haven't decided which yet).  Then if I can complete that one I might go for the Silver as well - that would be a total of 12 books, and I definitely have that many want-to-read mysteries on my shelves.

So we'll see how it goes.  During the year I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE). This one should be fun.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Shooting Party

This week my teaser lines come from The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate, a book I've been meaning to read ever since 1985 when I saw the movie based on the novel.  This quote comes very early in the book, on page 2:
"It's not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone else with them."
I've kept a diary or journal of some kind almost since I learned how to write.  And this has always been one of my favorite quotes about journal keeping.  I knew it was by Isabel Colegate, but I never knew exactly where it appeared in her works.  So I was pleasantly surprised to discover it here. (And, by the way - do you keep a journal?)

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Author Reading Challenge 2014

I really am trying to be a little more selective about signing up for reading challenges in 2014, after doing so badly with my 2013 crop.  But the New Author Challenge (hosted by Jackie over at Literary Escapism) is one of my favorites.  For some reason, I forgot to sign up this year.  Not making that mistake again.  I'll be committing to fifteen new authors, but hope to do a little better than that.  Since I don't know who those authors will be yet, I won't be making an advance list, but during the year I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog (HERE), and here too (if I can remember):
  1. Marguerite Yourcenar: Coup de Grâce
  2. Julia L. Sauer: Fog Magic
  3. Gavin Extence: The Universe Versus Alex Woods
  4. C.C. Benison: Ten Lords A-Leaping 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wrapping Up the Chunkster

The 2013 Chunkster Challenge actually runs through December 31st, but I'm wrapping it up now - even though I've only read two of the four books I intended to read when I signed up at the "Chubby Chunkster" level.  Realistically, I don't think it's likely I'll have time to read any other BIG books before the end of the year, so I'm admitting partial defeat and bowing out now.

The two chunkies I finished were:

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
(509 pages in hardcover)


Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
(602 pages in hardcover)

I cheated just a smidge with that second one, as I started reading it on my Kindle.  But almost immediately I realized I needed to read a print version to see all the illustrations, which are a major part of the narrative.  So, I actually ended up reading nearly 600 pages of it in print.  (No, really - I did!)  Will get my review up in a day or so and add the link.

So, that's about it.  My thanks to Wendy and Vasilly for hosting - it was a fun challenge, even though I only made it halfway.  Maybe next time....