Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Can't you see? It's not me you're dying for." --Ben Folds

Just like in literature, I prefer most of my music to be thought provoking and personal.  There are some songs that just stick with me and are new every time I hear them.

Last night I got to see Ben Folds Five live, and what a treat!  As a piano player myself, (I'm not skilled enough to call myself a pianist!) it was great fun to see Ben Folds' skill and talent displayed.  (Or, since I still have Persuasion on the brain, as Mrs. Musgrove would say: "Very well done indeed! Lord bless me! How those little fingers of yours fly about!"

Often funny and occasionally a bit irreverent, his music is nonetheless heartfelt and thought provoking. The one below, Brick, gets me every time.  [The video above (Do It Anyway!) shows the lighter side of Ben Folds and is tons of fun.  Fraggles!]  Enjoy, and happy Sunday!


6am, day after Christmas 
I throw some clothes on in the dark 
The smell of cold 
Car seat is freezing 
The world is sleeping 
I am numb 

Up the stairs to her apartment 
She is balled up on the couch 
Her mom and dad went down to Charlotte 
They're not home to find us out 

And we drive 
Now that I have found someone 
I'm feeling more alone 
Than I ever have before
  She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

They call her name at seven thirty 
I pace around the parking lot 
Then I walk down to buy her flowers 
And sell some gifts that I got

Can't you see 
It's not me you're dying for 
Now she's feeling more alone 
Then she ever has before 
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly 
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere 
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly 

As weeks went by 
It showed that she was not fine 
They told me son it's time to tell the truth 
She broke down and I broke down 
Cause I was tired of lying
Driving home to her apartment 
For the moment we're alone 
She's alone 
I'm alone 
Now I know it

She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly 
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere 
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Persuasion: Wrapping it Up

"As she spoke, she felt that Captain Wentworth was looking at her; the consciousness of which vexed and embarrassed her, and made her regret that she had said so much, simple as it was."

I've had a marvelous time with this reread, but now it is time to wrap it up.  I never want the end to come, lovely though it is, because it's the anticipation and anguish that thrills me.  Endings are

A conversation between Mrs. Musgrove and Mrs. Croft about the preference of a short engagement to a long engagement made me stop and muse for a while.  I was engaged to be married for 8-9 months, and it was only that long because we had to graduate from high school before getting married (a stipulation put forth by the judge!)  We were an unusual case to say the least.  What is your own opinion about the length of an engagement?  Had a couple better go ahead and get married once they decide to do so?  Or had they better wait and make sure they are financially secure first?

"Place it before Anne."
(Find more photos at Molland's)
Jane Austen begins the last chapter of this book with a note about the moral of the story.  In an age where (as Anne herself mentions at Lyme) novels were expected to support the notion of morality and encourage one on the path of duty, she admits that her argument for love over prudence might be "bad morality to conclude with, though she also asserts that she believes it to "be truth."  One of the compelling things about the Regency Era is how pivotal it was in many ways, including women's role in society, and preference to the individual's desires over the status quo.

Reading it this time around made me realize even more that the reason I love this book is largely because of how closely I identify with Anne.  I just feel the whole book--feeling overlooked and undervalued, convincing yourself to accept your lot in life and giving in to other people's opinions, not fitting in with the 'norm' and wanting more out of life, etc.  Because I feel like that pretty much all the time, I never really know when it's important to stand up for myself.  Putting that on paper makes it sound a little silly to my ears, but there it is.  Again, I feel like Anne: regretting that I "said so much, simple as it was."

This was my 3rd? 4th? time reading this book, and it never fails to disappoint me.  How could it when it makes me feel so understood?

If you wish to follow my whole journey through Persuasion, follow these links!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Persuasion: Part 3 of 4

"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse." --Sir Walter, ever concerned with appearances.

The first half of volume 2 brings us back to Sir Walter and Elizabeth: the relatives from whom no absence is long enough.  Having spent much time in the presence of very good, open-hearted people, the difference is felt more keenly.  Ridicule of Sir Walter's priorities becomes more blatant, and the reader feels, as Anne must, that the idle conversations are an poor way to pass the time.

Noticeable in this section is Anne's relative assertiveness.  Anne states her mind after Mary asserts that Lady Russell "will not find any thing very agreeable" in Captain Benwick. Mary says, "He is one of the dullest young men that ever lived."  Anne has no problem contradicting her, and hearing Anne's voice (for what feels like the first time) is welcome relief.

In fact, we hear much more of Anne's voice, (rather than solely her thoughts and observations,) throughout this segment.  I believe this reflects a restoration of life and hope, in addition to a general gain of gumption.  She has faced what she had lived in dread of, (seeing Wentworth again,) and she has survived.  Her disappointment did not spell the end of her.

Camden Place in Bath
One of the things Austen addresses in this section is the quality of openness.  While Mr. Elliot has every quality polite society might desire—more than sufficient manners to satisfy Lady Russell—Anne can't help but feel something wanting.  Though she finds him to be "an exceedingly agreeable man," she later says that he is "too generally agreeable."  Though he communicates to Anne his contempt of Mrs. Clay, still Mrs. Clay finds him "as agreeable as anybody."  This is a "decided imperfection" and in sharp contrast to the warmth of the Crofts, who display the attribute of openness admirably, and soon join the society at Bath, saving us (and Anne) from wilting in oppressive shallowness.

"They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together."

While the Crofts (whom I love) are being spoken of, I must use a quote of Admirable Croft's to mention Austen's use of parenthesis.  I love using parenthesis myself, and so of course it makes me smile how Austen uses them.  Doesn't it just transport you to the scene itself?

"I wonder where that boat was built!" (laughing heartily) "I would not venture over a horsepond in it.  Well," (turning away) "now, where are you bound?"

I like it, and all the more for the fact that it feels unexpected from a book written nearly 200 years ago.  Another practice Austen uses is free indirect speech, which is shown at the beginning of chapter four, and which also serves to make a scene come alive...though I'm certain that it could also (in combination with the abundance of punctuation) be confusing to a reader unaccustomed to it.  It makes me happy. (Another item of humor in the following excerpt, by the way, being that Gowland's Lotion contained mercuric chloride, a derivative of sulphuric acid, a.k.a. chemical peel. ouch.)

In the course of the same morning, Anne and her father chancing to be alone together, he began to compliment her on her improved looks; he thought her "less thin in her person, in her cheeks; her skin, her complexion, greatly improved—clearer, fresher.  Had she been using anything in particular?" "No, nothing." "Merely Gowland," he supposed. "No, nothing at all." "Ha! he was surprised at that;" and added, "certainly you cannot do better than continue as you are; you cannot be better than well; or I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months."

Now that I've talked at great length about punctuation (wasn't that exciting?) I suppose it's time to wrap up, though I have one more point to address.  Isn't it an interesting contrast that the man who declares he is ready and willing to love any young lady (Wentworth) ends up holding out for something more perfect, while the man who is so bereft that he shall never rise out of his misery (Benwick) ends up being quickly consolable after all?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cashing in on Jane Austen

A year or two back, (whenever it was that Jane Austen was beginning to be extremely supremely in,) a friend and I tossed around the idea of starting a blog dedicated to reading all the knock-off/spin-off (and otherwise Jane Austen inspired) books that were being published like crazy.

And then I began compiling a list.

I stopped somewhere around number 200 (I kid you not) because regardless of whether the books would be quick to read, the project was quickly growing to a size of not funny.

Humor is a funny thing.  (Well, of course it's funny—after all that's the point, isn't it?)  What is funny to me might not be funny to you. For example, you might think that the cover of the book pictured to the left is not funny, but I think it's hilarious.  (Not saying that the story itself should be ridiculed, just that the cover art cracks me up.)

So I dropped the idea of the project (I've got a gazillion other things to do anyhow) but one book stuck in my mind.  Another book with a cover that made me giggle.  And so I put it on my Paperback Swap wishlist, and before long it came.  It's a slim epistolary exchange between two long-time friends, discussing Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park.

I was hoping to be as entertained throughout the book as I was by the cover, but unfortunately that didn't happen.  It was readable and enjoyable, but both of these guys liked Austen way too much for it to be exceedingly amusing.  (If it was a book about my dad reading Jane Austen, the action would be non-stop, I assure you.)

So this wasn't a huge success for me, but it's actually made me [slightly] curious regarding Regency Era bodice rippers...I think Jane might have gotten a kick out of that one.

Oh, and just in case you are interested in the list, click here to check it out!  Which titles did I miss?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Persuasion: Part 2 of 4

"Anne felt her spirits not likely to be benefited by an increasing acquaintance among his brother-officers.  'These would have been all my friends,' was her thought; and she had to struggle against a great tendency to lowness."

The tension builds.  The majority of this section (the second half of the first volume) shows Anne playing second fiddle, Anne in the background, Anne quiet while others talk over her, Anne being talked at instead of to.  This all changes when she arrives in Lyme.  The sea air is invigorating, inspiring, as is the new company.  She finds in Captain Benwick a thoughtful conversant, and in Mr. Eliot a new admirer.  An event happens that forces our headstrong Captain Wentworth to reconsider those feelings and emotions he has long resolved to ignore.

Amazing to me is how caught up I get in Austen's writing in this book.  The reader gets to partake in Anne's feelings of loneliness and the beginning pangs of resignation as conversation steers around who Wentworth will choose—none of the options being herself.  Then, just as that sad reality starts to make itself at home in your heart, the end of chapter nine brings a development that transports you directly into Anne's "disordered feelings" and "painful agitation" and serves as the first in a series of occurrences that leave Anne in disarray.

"She was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle; but so it was; and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover her."

One thing to note is how Austen manages her male characters.  There is one case where she actually (briefly) writes from Wentworth's point of view, but most of the time when his motives are being noted, it is through Anne's observations and interpretations, and must be viewed through that lens.  It is my opinion that Wentworth isn't simply bitter about the affront of being refused all those years ago, rather he wears this mask in order to protect himself from constantly reliving the heartbreak of being rejected...because he is still in love.  Of course he won't admit that, not even to himself, but when it all boils down we see that he still thinks very highly of her.  However, believing that she still holds to that terrible persuasion that separated them so long ago, he cannot trust himself to be open with her, for that would be to risk utter destruction.

"'Is there no one to help me?' were the first words which burst from Captain Wentworth, in a tone of despair, and as if all his own strength were gone."

Between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, by John White Abbott
(Read more about Persuasion at Jane Austen's World!)
A unique (to Jane Austen) element that features heavily in Persuasion is the importance of location, as it influences more than simply the setting.  Anne, especially, is affected by the different places she happens to be.  At Kellynch, she feel repressed and confined by the expectations of propriety.  At Uppercross she feels needed, yet lonely; more alive, yet still ignored.  At Lyme, she is stimulated and inspired, sensing the vitality that she has lived without.  And Bath, her upcoming destination, she dreads.  The very thought of it sends her into low spirits.

As Volume 2 begins, there is a definite shift in mood.  Anne begins to take more ownership of her life (her internal life, at least).  This is apparent from the beginning, when she has a difficult time paying attention to the matters of family that Lady Russell speaks of, even though she knows that she should be more concerned.  She also admits to herself that the Crofts were more worthy of Kellynch than her own father—a shocking statement for the times, not only because of familial loyalty, but because it questions the class structure.  With this new breath of life swirling round her head, the next installment should make for interesting reading.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Famine Plot by Tim Pat Coogan

"It would have pitied the sun
to look at them"
--James Hack Tuke

I have long been interested in learning more about the Irish potato famine—its causes and effects—but haven't been up to diving into a dense, detailed history.  The solution to the problem was The Famine Plot.  In a brief 235 pages, an overview of Ireland's modern history with a focus on the popular and political opinions around the time of the Great Famine (1845-1852).

Coogan, asserting that "Irish historians as a class have not done justice to the Famine," makes some bold claims about "England's role in Ireland's greatest tragedy."  Focusing mostly on the role Charles Trevelyan played in refusing aid to the famine stricken peasants, and influencing opinion about the Irish in general, it is easy to see that the outcome of those fateful years would likely have been very different under a different influence.

I can't begin to count the number of passages I underlined, nor can I think how to properly reduce all I learned into a few inadequate sentences.  The chapter talking about souperism and the Catholic/Protestant conflict were fascinating, and I found his observations on popular opinion quite captivating in light of how enlightened we now think we are.  The truth is that there is no perfect, easy answer to such a complex, multi-faceted problem, even though it is hard for me to read such derogatory opinions about the Irish people.

His writing did get a bit repetitive towards the end, but his tone wasn't near as accusatory as I feared it might be based on the title and subtitle.  The best part is that it did such a good job at keeping me interested that I'm eager to read on and learn more.

"For our part, we regard the potato blight as a blessing.  When the Celts once cease to be potatophagi, they must become carnivorous.  With the taste for meats will grow the appetite for them; with the appetite, the readiness to earn them.  With this will come steadiness, regularity, and perseverance; unless, indeed, the growth of these qualities be impeded by the blindness of Irish patriotism, the short-sighted indifference of petty landlords or the random recklessness of Government benevolence."
The Times, September 22, 1846

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rethinking Challenges for 2013 (and stats for 2012)

I simply am not wanting to try to meet expectations in my reading life right now.  I have so many other things going on that I feel like I'm failing at (or not managing up to my standards) that I need to find a way to let go of some of the guilt-weight, and this seemed like the best place to start.

Between designing and keeping on top of our house project, and homeschooling a 3rd and 11th grader (not to mention getting 2 other kiddos through middle school and trying to keep the house clean etc) my non-scheduled, non-disciplined self is being challenged enough already.  Add to that some new news—we inadvertantly sold the house we just moved into, which means we now need to look for a new place to live (that is hopefully big enough for us, close to our remodel project, and preferably still within walking distance of our friends who just moved close to us) and get to repack all the things we just unpacked— and I've certainly got enough on my plate.

Last year I focused on my own personal challenges more than group challenges, and I'm taking that urge to be free from commitments a step further in 2013.  Instead of making lists of books that I want to get through, and crossing them off as I go, I am going to read how the mood strikes and keep track of how they might fit into my goals.

Generally speaking, the areas that I'll be keeping track of are similar to what they were before:
  • Books from my Wishlist
  • Books that have been on my shelf FOREVER
  • Classics
  • Non-Fiction
  • Pulitzer Prize Winners
  • Newbery Medal Winners
  • Willa Cather [Chronologically]
These will be tracked on my Challenge page, as before, and continuing on the sidebar (bar graph) as well.  We'll see how this all works out!

Now, to look at how I did on my 2012 goals. Overall, I think I did fine.  Mostly, I didn't reach my goals, but since they were largely personal goals, I'm okay with it.  I am looking forward to guilt-free reading in 2013 though!
  • Willa Cather Chronologically: I wanted to read 4 books, and I ended reading 5.  Yay me!  I'm currently about halfway through her books, and some good ones to come!
  • Reading the Newbery Medal Books:  I wanted to read 5 books, and I only read 4...although I did read half of Gaiman's Graveyard Book before quitting, so I've crossed 5 off the list anyhow.  Maybe someday I'll give that one another go. I've currently read 36 of the 91 books.
  • Reading the Pulitzer Prize Winners:  My goal was to read 5 books, and I only read 4.  I've currently read 18 of the 85 books.
  • Reading from my Shelf: I wanted to get 10 of these out of the way, but only read 4.  :(  The hard part here is that some of the books weren't even ones I selected myself.  Might be time to weed through the shelf.
  • Reading Poetry and Short Stories: I wanted to read 3 collections of each, in order to build an appreciation for these forms.  I ended up loving the stories I found, and will continue on that end.  I had a harder time with poetry.  I don't know if I'm just picky or what, but much of it says nothing to me.
  • Reading from my Wishlist: ...because I'll never get to them otherwise.  I wanted to be reading one a month, but that petered out.  I ended up reading 7, which is still better than none.
  • Back to the Classics Challenge: I read 7 out of 9 on my list, but linked up even fewer reviews than that, which is why I didn't sign up for 2013.  I am still keeping track of my Classics Club, though.
  • Spring into Junior Fiction Challenge:  a personal challenge to get through some of my JF...I wanted to read 10 but only made it through 8 on my list (although I did read other JF.)  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Persuasion: Part 1 of 4

"The rapid increase of the crow's foot about Lady Russell's temples had long been a distress to him."

Persuasion begins with some history and some humor, which provides some important background to the story.  The novel opens with Sir Walter Elliot trying to reassure himself of his importance and standing, which (from the wise eyes of 2013) might seem silly and boring, but really helps set a base for the situation and gives a hint at Austen's humor at the same time.

First, the history: Remember in the intro when I mentioned the importance of Napoleon?  Not even Sir Walter realizes the great shift that this war has made in the importance of the gentry versus the importance of the newly wealthy (such as Admiral Croft) though he feels threatened by it all the same.
"In 1789, the year the French Revolution cast a long shadow over the wealth and privilege enjoyed by landed elites like Sir Walter, he and his wife also lose their only son, whose stillborn death substantially increases the possibility that Sir Walter's cherished title will pass out of his immediate family and to an estranged relation, Mr. William Elliot."
(from my annotated edition)
He's a dandy, all right.
(Buy yourself a print of the Prince Regent!)
Why is all this so dreadfully vital to the story?  Because Anne Elliot comes from privilege, and her beloved Captain Wentworth holds only a chance in "a most uncertain profession."  She behaves as propriety would have her behave, and breaks their engagement.  After 8 long years of repressed affections and brewing bitterness, the couple's fortunes have been reversed: Anne is a spinster, and Wentworth has built a desirable fortune.  In our time, being free to marry and change our station in life with no ostracizing and criticizing from society, it may be hard to understand the very real, very severe impact these issues had on life.  Happiness was no easy thing to achieve.

Second, the humor: So the funny thing about this, is that the Baronetage (the book from the opening lines of the novel) is not as grand as it sounds.  According to my edition, "Baronets were ranked above knights but below barons and were technically classed as commoners (not members of the peerage)."  The volume was created in order to raise money by making smaller men feel more important, and judging from Sir Walter's adoration, it has worked.

"Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation.  ...Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did."

So here we are introduced to a character to be ridiculed, immediately contrasted by his late wife: a character to be admired.  We quickly find their eldest daughter classified as being very much like her father, and Anne, our herione, as much like her mother: "very inferior value" (see? funny stuff already!)  Having "an elegance of mind and sweetness of character," Anne "was nobody with either father or sister—she was only Anne."

Drawing Room Scene, engraved by Anker Smith
They're way too cozy for Kellynch; more like Uppercross perhaps.

Throughout the novel, Austen's wit is a vehicle for her derision of how shallow people can be, but also as a cover to belie the gravity of a situation or the depth of feeling.  I'm a fan of juxtaposition in general, making Austen's writing all the more delightful for me.

"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning."

Having had to grow into a confidence in my own judgement and opinions, and having been in the habit of collecting opinions and weighing them before making decisions, I've always closely identified with Anne.  I love how Austen describes Anne's inner turmoil—the anguish of being in "perpetual estrangement" when she knows that nobody understands him as she does, and knows also that it is utterly impossible that his mind could remain unvisited by similar memories.

So, I've always identified with Anne, but it wasn't until this time reading Persuasion, however, that I realized that Cpt. Wentworth also has things in common with my husband!  He's brilliant, ambitious, and when we married (quite young) he had nothing promising success or security except his own confidence.  Centuries of social progress on our side, our wedding still caused a bit of a stir (he was but 17!) and I'm thankful that my parents stood by me and supported me.  (No wonder I love this book so!)

One major difference, however, between my love and this fictional one, is that Wentworth is rather headstrong—quite unwilling to pay notice to his feelings or consider other perspectives.  He obviously still has Anne on the brain, but has decided he needs to protect his own hurt and pride, refusing to consider that Anne might still love him as well.

Humor, true feeling, and philosophy of life—does it get any better?  Needless to say, I'm enjoying the re-read tremendously.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012: Full List and Stats

A major reading slump this autumn has made a dent in reaching my reading goals, but I'm gaining speed and refocusing now—albeit with slightly different priorities (but that discussion will have to wait for another post.  I'll be talking about goals and all that stuff soon.)  One thing that is always a priority with me is the list and the stats.  I love stats.

How many books read in 2012?
(30 less than 2011! Largely due to reading slumps and no novellas.  My goal is always to break 100, so I still came pretty close.)

NONFICTION - 14 (15% of total) [18/14% in 2011]
FICTION - 81 (85% of total) [107/86% 2011]
  • CLASSICS - 17 (21% of fiction) [37/30% in 2011 (novellas!)]
  • JUNIOR / TEEN - 20 (25% of fiction) [26/20% in 2011]
  • ADULT FICTION - 44 (54% of fiction) [45/36% 2011]

Male/Female authors?
FEMALE - 48 (51%) [48% in 2011]
MALE - 47 (49%) [52% in 2011]

OLDEST? Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, 1818 (it was all right)
NEWEST? The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon (it was wonderful)

Longest book read? 11/22/1963 by Stephen King @ 849pp
Shortest book read? Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde @ 69pp
Number of "chunksters" (450+ pages)? 12--2 more than 2010 & 2011
Any in translation? 1 (What??? That's it???? Pitiful.)

Best/Worst Reading Month?
Best--March & April @ 13 books each
Worst--September & October @ 2 books each

TOP FIVE of 2012: (excluding recent re-reads, notably Song of the Lark, and determined by the very un-scientific method of deciding which ones loomed largest in my memory.)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (all around wonderfully done)
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (incredible story-telling)
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (fascinating biography!)
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (heartbreaking characters and setting)
Hell and Ohio by Chris Holbrook (incredible, deceptively simple writing)


and a comparison chart just for the fun of it--

The most notable change in my reading in the last 5 years is the shift between Junior/Teen Fiction and Adult Fiction.  This is due to 2 factors:  first, my kiddos are getting older so I have more available brain cells to be able to handle more complex literature; and second, I'm not homeschooling as many of kiddos now, and so I don't need to be doing the amount of pre-reading and reading-aloud that I was doing before.

Other than that big difference, I am also showing a slight decline in Non-Fiction reading (although it should be noted that 2008 Non-Fiction was mostly on the Junior level).  This explains why I've been craving it more!


Nonfiction: 16% (average rating 3.76)  [2011: 14% (average rating 3.56)] [2010: 21% (average rating 3.74)]
4.5 stars:
  - Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  - Lincoln: A Photobiography, Russell Freedman
  - Last Call, Daniel Okrent
4 stars:
  - Up and Down Stairs, Jeremy Musson
  - The Complete MAUS, Art Spiegelman
  - Eating the Plates, Lucille Recht Penner
  - Quiet, Susan Cain
  - The Famine Plot, Tim Pat Coogan
3.5 stars:
  - Newspaper Blackout, Austin Kleon
  - 1776, David McCullough
  - Rascal, Sterling North
  - The Children's Blizzard, David Laskin
3 stars:
  - Q's Legacy, Helene Hanff
  - One and Only, Gerald Nicosia
  - George Washington: Our First Leader, Augusta Stevenson

Classics: 18% (average rating 3.97) [2011: 30% (average rating 3.74)] [2010: 10% (average rating 4.04)]
5 stars:
  - Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
  - The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham
4.5 stars:
  - Night, Elie Weisel
  - How Green Was My Valley, Richard Llewellyn
4 stars:
  - My Antonia, Willa Cather
  - One of Ours, Willa Cather
  - Lady Windermere's Fan, Oscar Wilde
  - The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  - The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
  - The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
  - Watership Down, Richard Adams
3.5 stars:
  - The Warden, Anthony Trollope
  - Youth and the Bright Medusa, Willa Cather
  - Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  - On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  - A Lost Lady, Willa Cather
3 stars:
  - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

Adult Fiction: 22% (average rating ) [2011: 36% (average rating 3.81)] [2010: 30% (average rating 3.38)]
5 stars:
  - Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
  - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
4.5 stars:
  - On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  - 11/22/1963, Stephen King
  - So Big, Edna Ferber
  - The Hand that First Held Mine, Maggie O'Farrell
  - The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall
  - The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson
  - Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
  - Hell and Ohio, Chris Holbrook
  - Good Behaviour, Molly Keane
  - Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart O'Nan
  - The Colour of Milk, Nell Leyshon
4 stars:
  - The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  - Dance Lessons, Aine Greaney
  - Love and Summer, William Trevor
  - The Frozen Thames, Helen Humphreys
  - Martin Dressler, Steven Millhauser
  - Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  - Dreams of Joy, Lisa See
  - The Lola Quartet, Emily St. John Mandel
  - Lizard, Banana Yoshimoto
  - Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, Kevin Wilson
  - Familiar, J. Robert Lennon
  - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
3.5 stars:
  - Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
  - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
  - The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  - An Irish Country Doctor, Patrick Taylor
  - Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
  - An Invisible Sign of My Own, Aimee Bender
  - A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  - Moloka'i, Alan Brennert
  - Into the Blue, Robert Goddard
  - The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom
  - Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
  - Up From the Blue, Susan Henderson
3 stars:
  - DragonQuest, Donita K. Paul
  - Cross Currents, John Shors
  - The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker
2.5 stars:
  - Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Susan Elia MacNeal
  - The Bird Saviors, William J. Cobb
  - She Who Remembers, Linda Lay Shuler
1 star:
  - The Last Time I Saw Paris, Lynn Sheene

Junior/Teen Fiction: 21% (average rating 3.65) [2011: 20% (average rating 3.5)] [2010: 39% (average rating 3.64)]
5 stars:
  - A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
4 stars:
  - The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
  - The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  - Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
  - Mary, Bloody Mary, Carolyn Meyer
  - Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
  - Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
  - Toliver's Secret, Esther Wood Brady
  - Eli the Good, Silas House
3.5 stars:
  - The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich
  - Fairest, Gail Carson Levine
  - A Lion to Guard Us, Clyde Robert Bulla
  - Catherine, Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
  - The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
  - Shiloh, Phyllis Reynold Naylor
  - The Shakespeare Stealer, Gary Blackwood
3 stars:
  - Pedro's Journal, Pam Conrad
  - Pocahontas and the Strangers, Clyde Robert Bulla
  - Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson
2.5 stars:
  - The Matchlock Gun, Walter D. Edmonds

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For the Record: December 2012

Happy New Year, all!  I'll be posting my full-year stats & list shortly, but wanted to reflect on December by itself also.  While my reading hasn't made a full comeback, it's getting there.  I'm pretty happy with the lack of reading-obligation-stress at least!

5 Books Read in December: (95 total)
1 for Obligation:
  - The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien (4) (Read for my 13 year-old who read Watership Down for me.  It was better than when I tried to read it in high school.  Thank goodness.)

4 Just Because:
  - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce (5) (wonderful story! great audio selection.)
  - Rules of Civility, Amor Towles (3.5) (a lot of little things bugged me here. meh.)
  - The Colour of Milk, Nell Leyshon (4.5) (sad topic, but gorgeous and perfect all the same)
  - Up From the Blue, Susan Henderson (3.5) (would have been better but for the narrator on the audio version.  Should have read the print copy, but that's not how this month worked.)


3 Current Reads:
  - The Famine Plot, Tim Pat Coogan.  Received from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers and really enjoying it so far  Love nonfiction! Love Ireland!
  - Persuasion, Jane Austen.  Love this book, and super excited to be reading it along with a great group over at Unputdownables.
  - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski.  Book club book, currently listening to the audio version and not likely to get done in time!


On My Nightstand:
Most likely contenders for what I want to read next are Two Guys Read Jane Austen and Running the Rift.  I also have to obtain Flight Behavior for one of my book group reads.