December 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

I have been terrible about posting on this blog the past few months. I don’t think I’ve done a wrap up in a few months. Sorry everyone. I plan to be better now that I upgraded my computer and everything seems to be working better. I hope it lasts.

  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins 4/5
  2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson 4/5
  3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg 4/5
  4. The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia 2/5
  5. The Birds by Daphne du Maurier 3/5
  6. Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier 2/5
  7. Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger 4/5
  8. Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger 4/5
  9. Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger 4/5
  10. It Had to Be You by Jill Shalvis 3/5
  11. Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis 3/5
  12. Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend 4/5
  13. Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue 1/5
  14. Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis 3/5
  15. Lift and Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein 3/5

That’s the run down for the month. I do really hope to keep up with blogging a bit better in 2017, both for dance and reading. Ta ta for now!

Back to the Classics 2016 Wrap Up

If any of you missed my initial post, I’ve been reviewing some classics this year for the Back to the Classics Challenge. I managed to complete all 12 categories, and I’ll link the reviews below.

  1. A 19th Century Classic – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins     https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/classic-book-review-the-woman-in-white-by-wilkie-collins/
  2. A 20th Century Classic – Animal Farm by George Orwell https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/classic-book-review-animal-farm-by-george-orwell/
  3. A Classic by a Woman Author – Frankenstein by Mary Shelly https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/classic-book-review-frankenstein-by-mary-shelley/
  4. A Classic in Translation – The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/classic-book-review-the-three-musketeers-by-alexandre-dumas/
  5. A Classic by a Non-White Author – The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/classic-book-review-the-pillow-book-of-sei-shonagon/
  6. An Adventure Classic – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/classic-book-review-the-time-machine-by-h-g-wells/
  7. A Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Dystopian Classic – The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/classic-book-review-the-martian-chronicles-by-ray-bradbury/
  8. A Classic Detective Novel – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/classic-book-review-and-then-there-were-none-by-agatha-christie/
  9. A classic Which Includes the Name of a Place in the Title – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/classic-book-review-cold-comfort-farm-by-stella-gibbons/
  10. A Classic Which Has Been Banned or Censored – Lord of the Flies https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/classic-book-review-lord-of-the-flies/
  11. Re-Read a Classic You Read for School – Great Expectations https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/classic-book-review-great-expectations-by-charles-dickens/
  12. A Volume of Classic Short Stories – Dubliners  https://danceworkhomeschoolrepeat.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/classic-book-review-dubliners-by-james-joyce/

It’s been a great reading year for classics!

Classic Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

It is with profound relief that I write this review. I thought I would never finish. Yet here I am, mid December, having finally finished the book I set out to read in March! I’m going to copy and paste what Goodreads had to say about The Woman in White:

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

With that out-of-the-way, I have to say that I’m divided about this book and I’m going to try to make sense in this review, but my overwhelming relief in finishing may be clouding my brain a bit.

The story was fantastic. I love how it was written like a confession to the police, pasting together a story that you almost can’t believe, with unreliable narrators. So much fun. I will admit that it didn’t shock me. I’ve been reading historical romances for 20 years now, so the sneaky marrying for money and then trying to get rid of said spouse plot has been used multiple times. But this was done in a more gripping way. I was sucked in after the first 150 pages. Fantastic. I loved the creepiness of it.

Unfortunately, there were several irritations along the way. I am not a fan of the Victorian lady, or should I say grown up child. I know that this was what was expected of women in this time period, but I did not understand the love that Mr. Hartwright had for Miss Farlie. Miss Farlie was an adult child and Mr. Hartwright and Miss Halcombe spent much of the time shielding her from all knowledge of anything like parents. How Mr. Hartwright didn’t fall in love with Miss Halcombe I’ll never know.

The second little irritation was in the second half of the book. Miss Hartwright has kicked butt and nearly out maneuvered a nasty guy and yet she keeps saying over and over again how she is “only and woman.” I just can’t. If it had been once or twice I could have skipped over it, but it was enough that my eye started twitching every time it was written. She had already proven herself equal and I wanted to reach into the book and slap her!

Overall, I enjoyed this tremendously. The good outweighed the little irritations I had with the book and I’m trying to decide between 3 and 4 stars on Goodreads. I keep changing it.

This was the final book I needed to read for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016! Go me!

Classic Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

When I was first looking at the challenges for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, the re-read a classic you read for school was the most difficult challenge to find a book for. Honestly, I hated all but two books that I read in high school. I’m lucky school reading didn’t put me off books. The two that I did love, Farenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird, I didn’t want to risk ruining my love for them with a re-read. Let me keep my pleasant memories. In college, we didn’t read novels. I went to a two-year school and received a nursing degree. I took English 101 and 102. Not a lot of options. So I had to look deep into the depths of my mind and find something. That something was Great Expectations.

I suppose I read it. It was an assigned book. The only things I remembered was a weird lady named Miss Havisham and her white dress and rotting wedding cake. That’s about it. I’ve never even watched an adaptation of it. Sad.

I hate summarizing books, now I know where my daughter gets it from. Great Expectations is the story of a boy named Pip. He’s “brought up by hand” by his much older sister who is married to the blacksmith. Events happen and he ends up coming into “great expectations” and the book shows what happens to those expectations.

I had many thoughts during my reading. 1. Pip is absolutely adorable as a child. Love him. I don’t love his complete adoration for Estella throughout his life. She’s a complete jerk. I understand she was brought up that was by Miss Havisham, but I don’t know how anyone could like her. 2. Joe is the best person in the book. I want a friend like Joe. More people need to be like Joe. Joe is the best. 3. Pip’s great expectations turn him into a nothing. He could have had a better life without them. I was almost relieved when he had regrets.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved the writing and the story. I came out very glad I decided to re-read this because it was worth remembering. I hope to read another Dickens next year. Any suggestions as to what would be best?

Classic Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

My mother grabbed The Martian Chronicles out of a Little Free Library a year ago and I was a fan of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, so I decided to pick up this little book for my Back to the Classics 2016 Challenge. I didn’t read the Goodreads blurb before reading, but it would have explained a lot. Nearly everything, in fact.

The strange and wonderful tale of man’s experiences on Mars, filled with intense images and astonishing visions. Now part of the Voyager Classics collection.

The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize the red planet. The first men were few. Most succumbed to a disease they called the Great Loneliness when they saw their home planet dwindle to the size of a fist. They felt they had never been born. Those few that survived found no welcome on Mars. The shape-changing Martians thought they were native lunatics and duly locked them up.

But more rockets arrived from Earth, and more, piercing the hallucinations projected by the Martians. People brought their old prejudices with them – and their desires and fantasies, tainted dreams. These were soon inhabited by the strange native beings, with their caged flowers and birds of flame.

The Martian Chronicles is a book of short stories about humans colonizing Mars. It takes quite a few stories to really understand that they are cohesive overall – there is a story here, just not 100% following characters, it’s following Mars.

The book was published in 1949, so I did some research about “space stuff”. As I was reading I couldn’t help thinking about how much more we know about space than Ray Bradbury knew when he was writing. Despite it being set in the future (which happens to be now, yes, now!) the marriages are very 1950’s-esque, even among the Martians. The first pictures of earth from space were in 1946 and 1947; the first picture of the surface of Mars was in 1976. Knowing this helped me get a bit more into Ray Bradbury’s mindset while he was writing this. As far as humanity was concerned, this could have been the truth when it was written.

The Martian Chronicles is a sad book with colonization themes. The portrayal of humans was so sad and yet so true. It does end hopeful. Overall, it was a weird read on par with reading 1984 in 1984. The only words I can use to describe the experience are, unfortunatly, weird and interesting.

Until next time!

Classic Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Was I the only human who had not read this book? It seemed like it!

I went into reading Frankenstein with only the image of that scene in the classic movie, and many parodies of the scene, in my head. You know the one. The monster on the table with tubes sticking out of it and then the crazy Doctor running around with all his genius. I didn’t remember anything other than that, so I basically went into this blind.

From Goodreads:

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.

I enjoyed Frankenstein much more than I anticipated. First, the descriptions of Lake Geneva were lovely. I felt like I was there. Second, it was put together cleverly, starting and ending with letters from a sailor to his sister. Frankenstein’s narrative surrounding the Monster’s. Last, it was nothing like the movie. The Monster was not a stupid being. Frankenstein created a being that was more intelligent than he himself was. This doesn’t condone the murders and vengeance that went on, but it was interesting to me.

I could probably go on for ages here, but my broken finger is hurting and I need to stop typing now. I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

September Reading Wrap-Up

September started well and ended poor. I am currently reading 4 books, none of which is keeping my attention. Hence, I didn’t read the volume of books that I usually do.

I participated in #RYBSAT and #DiverseAThon. During those I read a total of 8 books. They will be the first on the list.

  1. The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky 2/5
  2. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter 5/5
  3. United We Spy by Ally Carter 5/5 (it’s over and I’m sad)
  4. Tempestuous: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s The Tempest 4/5
  5. srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone 4/5
  6. YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright 3/5
  7. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows 4.5/5
  8. What Milo Saw by Virginia MacGregor 4.5/5
  9. Dubliners by James Joyce 3/5
  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch 4/5
  11. The Reader by Traci Chee 4/5
  12. Follow Me by Tiffany Snow 3/5

I’m currently over half way through On Beauty by Zadie Smith. It’s going at a snail’s pace. I started Frankenstein a few days ago, and it, too, is not that exciting. Add to that Great Expectations and a few chunky books that I need to read by the end of the year and I’m feeling a bit bogged down. Hopefully I’ll find some lighter reads that will keep me feeling productive next month. Until next time, everyone!

Mini Book Reviews: Romance

It’s time for a few NetGalley reviews. This time around I read a couple of romances.

Once A Soldier by Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney is a historical romance veteran. I haven’t read one of her books a in a while and was pleased to read this one.

Once A Soldier is the love story of Will Masterson and Athena Markham. Will has been a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and has been asked to go to the small country of San Gabriel to scope it out for political reasons. There he meets Athena, the illegitimate daughter of an English Lord and an infamous San Gabriel woman. She is currently helping her best friend, the princess, run this small country until the King is released by the French – if he’s still alive.

This book is one of those slow-moving romances. There is a ton of political talk and it adds to the book, because it was well thought out and it shows these characters personalities well. I appreciated that Will and Athena started out by being friends and having a healthy respect for one another. I hate in when people jump into bed together immediately, especially in historical novels. Some may find this book a bit slow, but it was relaxing to me.

It is the start of a series. The beginning chapter is showing a group of men who are all captured, all spies and solders, and all lying, and how they escape. I assume the next books will be some of their stories.

Follow Me by Tiffany Snow

This book follows China Mack. She is a genius computer programmer working for the best tech company. She’s living a very ordered life with a bit of the hots for her boss (everyone has the hots for the boss), and she likes it that way. Then Jackson, the boss, chooses China for a top-secret programming job for the government. Then people involved in this contract start getting killed. It’s difficult for China on multiple levels because her orderly life starts going awry – her niece moves in, a sexy (suspicious to me) neighbor moves in and she suddenly has a dating life, plus she’s being followed by unknown persons.

This was a fun romantic suspense book. I’m a sucker for this genre and for nerdy smart, but socially clueless, women in books. China is one of those. I wasn’t a fan of the sudden love triangle in the book. She’s never had a date and then suddenly her next door neighbor AND her boss are  after her? Come on. I also didn’t understand what was going on with all the computer stuff. It was a bit glossed over and I do like a bit more juicy computer geekery in this sort of book.

There is a sort-of cliffhanger. Things get wrapped up, but new things happen. (Sorry so cryptic!)  If you liked it, you will want to continue with this series. I liked it, so now I’m impatiently waiting. Maybe we’ll see more of Jackson’s nerdiness in the next books?

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing these eARCs in exchange for review.

 

Classic Book Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

When I took on the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, I was very worried about the Classic Short Story Challenge. I’m not a fan of short stories in general, and, as a new person to classics, didn’t have much knowledge of classic short stories. Dubliners was the only volume that I knew of and that was on my TBR. My grandmother gave me horror stories about James Joyce’s writing. My mother just groaned in pain. People on Goodreads have horror stories about reading James Joyce. I was afraid. Very, very afraid.

It started a bit rough. I immediately didn’t know if I understood the first story. It ended so abruptly. Was I correct in thinking that the priest was a bit shady? The second story didn’t fare much better. I was feeling stupid so I put it aside for about a month.

I have the Penguin English Library softcover edition. One day I picked it up off my nightstand and read the synopsis on the back. There it tell me that each story marks “a moment of epiphany for the characters”. Ah. From that moment on almost all of the stories at least made sense to me.

I actually enjoyed “The Boarding House”. It reminded me of the historical romances that I still love. What a scheming minx! “A Painful Case” made me think of regrets in life. There were a few where men just kept going on about politics or religion and they were a complete bore. “Counterparts” was like looking into the mind of a boorish drunk. That was not fun.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this! It wasn’t nearly as awful as everyone predicted it to be. Wait for it… This may be my favorite book of short stories. Shocking.

August Reading Wrap-Up

This month was all about fun reading. I refuse to beat myself up for not reading the two classics I have started. I ended up reading a lot of the freebies that I downloaded years ago, getting some library books, and catching up on some series.

  1. Innocent in Las Vegas by A. R. Winters 3/5
  2. The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher 3/5
  3. Anything for You by Kristan Higgins 3/5
  4. At Last by Jill Shalvis 3/5
  5. Big Boned by Meg Cabot 4/5
  6. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood 2/5
  7. Once a Soldier (eARC) by Mary Jo Putney 3/5
  8. The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg 4/5
  9. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch 4/5
  10. The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell 3/5
  11. Calamity Jayne and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Lawn Gnome by Kathleen Bacus 3/5

Considering how easy the above were to read, this was not a good month for reading. My guess is that all the readathons that I participated in during July burnt me out. I don’t consider this month a failure by any means! Next month I really need to finish Dubliners and Great Expectations. I’m also participating in #RYBSAT, so I’m starting September with a bang!