Announcing…. Back to the Classics Challenge 2013!!

Dec 26, 2013 by

Announcing.... Back to the Classics Challenge 2013!!

You asked for it….   so here you go!  I am now formally announcing the Back to the Classics Challenge 2013!!  This is the third year in a row for this challenge, and I hope that you are ready!
I am making a few small changes this year, including requiring less categories to complete.  Wait, did I say *requiring*?  Yes, I did.  This year will feature 6 required  categories that all participants must complete.  Then, I will have additional categories that those super-motivated participants can choose to complete if they’d like.  All reviews must be linked on the appropriate pages again, and those will be listed on the left hand side of this page.  When you’ve finished, you will also need to link a wrap-up post.  Everyone who completes the 6 required categories and the wrap up post will be entered to win a $30US Amazon.com gift card or choice of book(s) from The Book Depository.  Any one who completes 3 categories from the optional list will earn one additional entry into the prize drawing.  Any one who completes all 5 categories from the optional list will earn two additional entries into the prize drawing.
  • All books must be read in 2013.  Books started prior to January 1, 2013 are not eligible.  Reviews must be linked by December 31, 2013.
  • E-books and audio books are eligible!  Books can count for other challenges you may be working on.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may link your review from Goodreads or other publicly accessible online format.
  • Please sign up for the challenge using the linky below BEFORE SEPTEMBER 1, 2013. Please link to your sign-up announcement post (if possible/applicable)
  • You do not have to list your books prior to starting the challenge, but it is more fun that way 🙂  You can always change your list at any time.  You can read the books in any order (including mixing in the optional categories at any time)
  • You can decide to attempt the optional categories at any point (you can also bow out of the optional categories at any point as well).
  • Please identify the categories you’ve read in your wrap up post so that I may easily add up your entries for the prize drawing!
 
THE CATEGORIES:
The Required Categories:
  1. A 19th Century Classic
  2. A 20th Century Classic
  3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic
  4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience – This can be an African-American author, or a book relating to slavery, civil rights, or African-American culture.
  5. A Classic Adventure
  6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal – This can feature animal characters or animals in the title (real or imagined)
Optional Categories:
    A.  Re-read a Classic
   B.  A Russian Classic
   C.  A Classic Non-Fiction title
   D.  A Classic Children’s/Young Adult title
   E.  Classic Short Stories – collection must include at least 3 short stories by the same author, or at 
                                              least 3 stories collected together by genre, time period, etc.
As in years past, I just want to take a moment and let you know that especially for the purposes of this challenge, I do not subscribe to any set definition of a Classic. I think that anyone looking to participate in this challenge already has their own personal definition that works best for them.  If you are choosing to include a title that you feel may be questionably described as a Classic, please just explain your position in your review.
As always, I hope you have fun with this Challenge!  Good Luck!
Sign up here:
1. Sarah Reads Too Much 38. Amara @ Amara’s Eden 75. Kirsten
2. Annette @ Impressions In Ink 39. Courtney @ Chaos Theory 76. Lady In [email protected] My RandRSpace
3. Sha Re Kay @ Lost In Kudzu 40. Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte 77. Sarah @ Coffee & Tea
4. Tanya @ Mom’s Small Victories 41. Samarpita Sharma 78. t It An IUm Apr Il
5. Adam Stone 42. Elida 79. Whitney (She Is Too Fond Of Books)
6. James McShane 43. Hanna @ Booking In Heels 80. Christine @Buckling Bookshelves
7. Maggie Reed 44. Susan @ Reading World 81. Shan
8. Bill Jones, Jr. 45. Jim @ Several Four Many 82. Matt @ Matt’s Book blog
9. Beth 46. Brandyn @ Going for Goldilocks 83. Irish @ Ticket to Anywhere
10. Allie @ A Literary Odyssey 47. Anastasia @ Birdbrain( ed) Book Blog 84. Indiana Jane
11. Adam @ Roof Beam Reader 48. Heather @ Capricious Reader 85. Julie @ Books Are Portable Magic
12. Hezzy 49. Mary Beth @ Research Boring? Not in My Book 86. Dana @ School For Us
13. [email protected] Tale of Three Cities 50. Jean @ Howling Frog 87. Leah Smith
14. Gina @ Book Dragon’s Lair 51. Summer Wathen 88. Ape the Grape
15. Sue Wargo 52. Manno 89. Logan E. Turner
16. Fanda @ Fanda Classiclit 53. Elida @ My first, my last, my everything! 90. Kimberly @Inspirefly
17. Melisa @ Surgabukuku 54. Jo Anne Isgro 91. Morwen
18. Wendy Kirkland 55. TFrances @ Ms. Buff’s Blog 92. Chrissi
19. Erica @ Ink Spots and Roses 56. Becky @ Becky’s Book Reviews 93. Asha @ Asha’s Literary Corner
20. Aliene Believe 57. Alyssa @ ACReads 94. Lisa @Bibliophiliac
21. Cat @ Tell Me A Story 58. Amanda Sue 95. Emily @ Classics and Beyond
22. [email protected] Reader’s Block 59. Story 96. [email protected] Carrot and the Reader
23. Christina 60. Heather @ Ex Libris 97. Leah @ Japan Journal
24. Arenel @ Slightly Cultural, Most Thoughtful and Inevitably Irrelevant 61. bmwheelon 98. Karen @ Books and Chocolate
25. Monica @ Between The Pages 62. Pia @ Kulturkroken 99. The Reader
26.  nica @ A Thousand Lives 63. Hannah @ once Upon A Time 100. Retha @ Bible Fascination
27. Joyful Reader 64. Dalene @ A Date with a Book 101. Maenad
28. Darlene @ Darlene’s Book Nook 65. Gretchen 102. Andrea
29. Melissa @ Avid Reader’s Musings 66. Rob @ Loose Logic 103. Mabel Jane
30. Andi @ Random Thoughts of a Scriboholic 67. JaneGS – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing 104. Laura S.
31. Geoff @ The Oddness of Moving Things 68. Ashley @ The Bibliophile’s Corner 105. Beverly Stuart
32. Melissa @ Must Read Faster 69. Melissa @ Jayne’s Books 106. Alexis
33. Rachel @ Resistance is Futile 70. Kristina @Kristina Yarn 107. Alexis @ Lexi Swoons < 3
34. Risa @Breadcrumb Reads 71. Alouette 108. Col Reads
35. Alpa @ 1 More Page Please 72. Kristi @ Books and Needlepoint 109. Chimpini
36. Alyssa @ The Reader’s Refuge 73. Srivalli 110. veronica
37. Lindsey @ Babies, Books, and Beyond 74. [email protected] Mogul Diamonds 111. You’re next!
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Book Review: “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

Nov 26, 2013 by

Book Review: "Pushing the Limits" by Katie McGarryAt one time, it seemed like Echo had everything.  She was pretty, smart, had amazing artistic talent and was dating the basketball star.  But then something happened, and Echo just isn’t the same – she’s considered to be more of a freak than anything.  And now she has terrible scars up and down her arms that she hides from everyone, and has no memory of how they got there.

Noah had everything going for him too – until a house fire made him and his two younger brothers orphans.  The foster care system has split Noah from his brothers and he wants to do everything he can to get them back and in his custody after he graduates.  But the system, and life just gets him down and he tunes out to partying, drugs, and one night stands.

Echo and Noah are thrust together courtesy of their high school counselor…  and they help each other in more ways than they ever could have hoped.

So, my book bully friend has been telling me about this book for such a long time…  and I finally got the chance to read it.  I use the term “read’ loosely here – it is more like I devoured it!  I just couldn’t put it down!  Echo and Noah really took me by surprise…  I didn’t realize just how involved I was getting in their story until something really intense happened to Echo, and I found myself holding my breath.  And there were tears.  Smiles and laughter too – plenty of that as well.  It is really just emotional all over, and I loved it.  I really did.

Echo and Noah have had such different experiences, and tell their stories in alternating point of view narration.  Their individual histories help them really understand each other on such a deep level – a true connection.  But there is so much that can get in their way!  They also each have their own set of loyal and trustworthy friends, and their counselor is awesome.  These people become crucial to their overcoming their individual obstacles, and the way that it all plays out is incredible.  This was really much better than I expected, and I am so glad I read it!  I will absolutely read on in the series, as the next two books follows the story of different characters introduced here.

*****
Pushing the Limits
by Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen, 2012
391 pages
Series:  Pushing the Limits #1
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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Audio Book Review: “Animal Farm” by George Orwell

Aug 26, 2013 by

Audio Book Review: "Animal Farm" by George OrwellMan, I love this book.  Even the first time I read it in English class years ago – I loved it.  I mean, it is pure genius.  I love this cover too…  Even though I downloaded the audio from my library and didn’t get to see it firsthand, the graphic is good enough here.  It certainly doesn’t make much question as to what the book is about, does it?

If you somehow are not familiar with the story line, Animal Farm is a tale based in the Russian Revolution, only instead of human Russians overthrowing the governing party – it is the British animals of Manor Farm.  These animals cast out the drunken leadership of Farmer Jones and his wife and assume control, renaming the property Animal Farm.  They begin to rule themselves with a very pure idea of socialism, and seven governing principles (among them “Four legs good; Two legs bad”).  But it doesn’t take long for the pigs to rise above the other animals, and for Comrade Napoleon to become the overall leader.  The pigs become increasingly more corrupt, and the uneducated masses of other animals allow it until, finally, the pigs even start to resemble the humans they replaced in the first place.

The way the characters are developed is fascinating.  To watch the pigs slowly transform themselves into “more than” the rest of the animals is something to behold.  The way they manipulate the others, and how we can see humans do the same thing even now is just genius.  I think my favorite character of all is Squealer the Pig.  He is the one who spreads the propaganda and further’s Napoleon’s cause and influence over the animals.  I love the way he just changes history and gets the others to believe him…. believing more in him than their own memories.  Is this a good (as in positive) character?  Not at all – but I admire his boldness.  Whenever the text announced Squealer’s presence in a scene, I’d smile because I knew something interesting/appalling/crazy was about to happen.  And I could picture him hopping from feet to feet while he was spinning his tales.

I’m so glad I experienced this one again…  I remembered it as being good, but I had forgotten just HOW good it really is!
*****
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Blackstone Audio, 1999.  First published 1945.
Source:  Library
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Book Review: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum

Nov 26, 2012 by

“We’re off to see the Wizard…  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

This is one of my all time favorite movies.  I have always loved it – and remember fondly when it would be shown on television once a year.  My family would turn it into an event with popcorn and my brother and I were allowed to stay up late.  Technology being what it is today, I own the DVD and watch it often with my kids (or maybe by myself.  I’m not ashamed.)  I’d always wanted to read the original book, but just never got around to it.  Until now.  This is pretty much the general rule, so I was not particularly surprised.   The story is pretty much what you think it is:  a little girl and her dog get caught up in a tornado, which brings them from their mundane life in plain Kansas to a magical world.  Now in this unfamiliar land, she meets up with a Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and a Cowardly Lion with whom she travels to find the Great Wizard of Oz to have their wishes granted.  Along the way, they meet with Wicked Witches, Good Witches, Flying Monkeys, and Munchkins.

Book Review: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank BaumIn the book, they meet many other curious creatures which add to the adventure.  Other major differences?  (Here is where I’ll start mentioning spoilers)  I always kind of loved that in the movie, the Scarecrow, etc. were imagined versions of people Dorothy knew in Kansas.  Also that her whole adventure was when she was out cold unconscious after being hit in the head during the tornado.  However, in the book, this just isn’t the case.  The world of Oz is real, and real time passes while Dorothy is there – enough time for Uncle Henry to build a new farmhouse, to replace the one presumably still sitting in Munchkinland.  This really is a huge difference, and makes the entire story more of a fantasy, and not just a dream.  Does that make sense?  Also, I really liked that the book made reference to the fact that Dorothy needed to sleep and eat during her long journey on the yellow brick road.  Many people are also put off a bit that Dorothy’s shoes are silver and not ruby as in the movie.  But you have to remember that when the movie was released in 1939 – it was one of the first to be in color, and ruby slippers look way more impressive than silver.  On a much smaller note – The Flying Monkeys used to scare me in the movie, but I like them much more in the book.

I also just wanted to mention that I listened to most of this as an audio book, narrated by Anne Hathaway.  She did a great job, though some of her “voices” for characters were somewhat interesting!

*****
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Originally published 1900
Narrated by Anne Hathaway
Series:  Oz #1
Kindle/Audible version
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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Book Review: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Sep 26, 2012 by

Book Review: "The Book Thief" by Markus ZusakI feel like I may be just about the last person in the book blogosphere to read The Book Thief.  But just in case you haven’t either…..  No.  I can’t really give you a coherent synopsis.  It is the story of the book thief, as told from an omniscient and omnipresent narrator…  concentrating on the thief’s life as a German girl in Nazi Germany.  She is living with a foster family, and can barely read the alphabet.  It is her foster father who teaches her how to read the words from the first book she stole.  Learning to read gives our young thief the power to survive the war.

This book contains scenarios you’d expect from any book set in Nazi Germany; Germans who love the Fuhrer, Germans who don’t.  Jewish people persecuted, Jewish people hiding.  Bombs.  Death.  Hunger.  It is put together in such a way that is compelling and intense and incredibly emotional.  The narrator makes no secret about what is going to happen, but allows the words to show their strength, their beauty and their weight in the telling.  The complexity of the human condition is shown in all its colors, and it I just found myself getting wrapped up in all of it.  I had trouble putting the book down, even when bawling my eyes out.

I will keep these characters with me for a long time to come.  They are brilliantly crafted, and just became real to me.  I just loved them, loved them all.  As an added little bonus, Mama used some German words quite often and they are now ingrained in my mind.  I have had dreams in which I’m calling someone a saumensch or saukerl.  The words just sound so guttural, so heavy and insulting – perfect for their purpose really – and I don’t even think I’m pronouncing them correctly.  By the end of the book, I was torn.  I didn’t want to stop reading, I didn’t want this experience to end, but I needed to know what happened to these people.  I needed to know how exactly their story played out.  It was beautiful.

Just on the off chance that I wasn’t the last person out there to read this, trust me when I say to go out and start reading this.  Now.  You will thank me later, I promise!

*****
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Knopf, 2005
550 pages
Source:  Gift – and THANK YOU!
*****
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Book Review: “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

Jul 26, 2012 by

Reading Mrs. Dalloway involved learning a lesson that I didn’t expect.  I went into it flippantly, even though I had been warned that Virginia Woolf was difficult.  But I have read authors that some consider difficult and made it through…  I thought I knew more than I did.  I mean, it is a small book, and I assumed it would be a quick read no matter what.  I knew some people loved Woolf, and I hoped I would find an enjoyable story in it.  After all, it was a day in the life of a woman planning a party… how difficult could it really be?

Yes.  I thought that.  Can you see me cringing with that admission?  I can’t believe that I tried to debase Woolf, not to mention women in general (and I am a woman!) to that level.  I am not even going to get into all the terrible things that I’m thinking about myself right now, for thinking so simply.  For not realizing the scope of what that initial assumption could mean in a general sense.  Like I said, I am a woman (though I’ll safely assume that this applies to men as well) and I am perfectly aware of how much and how often my mind wanders throughout any given day…. subject to subject, to the past, and curious wonderings about strangers I see on the street….  I guess I never expected that true mind stream of thought could be captured so eloquently on the page.

It takes some getting used to; and I certainly had a hard time with it at first.  Thankfully, I received some great advice which really helped me let loose my usual reading style and ride the stream of consciousness flow of thoughts and ideas.  (Read the post and comments linked HERE if you are interested in the discussion)  The two hardest concepts for me to wrap my head around were that there isn’t much plot and that not every little detail matters.  It also helped to read some passages aloud, so I could grasp where the point of view changed.  While this is a day in the life of Mrs. (Clarissa) Dalloway, we also see into the minds of different people in her life or at least touch her life and day and thoughts in some manner.  I’d say that the first quarter of the book is an exercise in adjusting to this literary writing style.

And this style is extraordinary.  It is innovative.  Simple and complex all at once.  You don’t have to like it or enjoy it to see and appreciate the importance of it.  I’d imagine that re-reading this would be almost necessary to pick up on the subconscious thoughts embedded in the stream of consciousness…  It is going to take me a bit before I will be able to do that though.  This was so far out of my comfort zone that I am going to need to be gentle to my mind for a bit and read something light (and with more plot!).  I am not put off by Woolf though, and I still have Orlando on my Classics Club list.  But I will be better prepared to give her and her writing a proper go from the start next time.  I should also add that an annotated edition might have been helpful in my case!

*****
Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf
Harcourt, 1998.  Originally published 1925
194 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****
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Book Review & Giveaway: “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce

Jul 26, 2012 by

He didn’t mean to do it.  He certainly didn’t plan it.  I mean, he didn’t even have his mobile phone on him.  He didn’t say good bye to his wife, Maureen.  But Harold did it anyway.  You see, that morning he had received a letter out of the blue from a woman he used to work with.  Queenie Hennessy had written him to say good bye, explaining that she is dying of cancer and living in a hospice.  Harold is moved by his sudden memories of a kindness Queenie provided him twenty years earlier, and writes her a letter in response.  He isn’t really happy with how he has written his letter; he is having trouble saying all the things that he needs to say to her, but he feels as though he must post the letter right away.  The first post box he walks to has already been collected, so he walks to the next one.  And then the next one after that.  By the afternoon, he has resolved to walk the entire length of England to see Queenie…  and he has sent message that she must live until he gets there.  He has faith that his walk will save Queenie.  But she’s not the only one who could use some saving…

I really liked Harold.  He is recently retired, though not really sure what to do with himself all day.  He and his wife have a truly strained relationship…. and there is just so many times a week that you can mow the lawn.  His walk becomes so much more meaningful, and it is a wonderful experience to travel along with him.    He is forced to remember terrible memories of his childhood, of the harder parts of his marriage and fatherhood but also of the happier times throughout his life.  He questions everything, and becomes quite philosophical about the meaning of his life and the legacy he will eventually leave behind.  He encounters some unique individuals along his journey, and even some followers.  There has been much sadness in Harold’s life, and you really feel his despair and depression…. and makes you feel like his biggest cheerleader when the journey becomes harder.

Maureen is also in incredible character.  She is hard, cold, and has certainly endured her share of heartache. But being left behind by Harold, being alone like this is nothing she ever anticipated and I really liked watching her transformation in response to this new situation.  Harold walks to save Queenie in a very literal sense…  but the end result is so much more.  It is meditative, emotional, surprising, humorous and a wonderful experience to read.  Rachel Joyce deserves all the wonderful buzz she’s getting for this impressive debut!

Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for review.  Good News!  They are also providing a copy for one of my US readers as well!!  Please complete this FORM to enter.  Please enter only once; duplicate entries will be deleted.  US mailing address only (no PO Boxes please).   Giveaway ends at midnight EST on July 29th, 2012.

*****
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Random House, 2012
336 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours
*****
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