My Challenges (timed)

See my list here
Completed 8 of 9

See my list here
Completed 2 of 3

See my list here
Completed 2 of 4

See my list here
Completed 71 of 81

See my list here
Completed 9 of 10

See my list here
Completed 34 of 50

See my list here
Completed 1 of 2

See my list here
Completed 1 of 2

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Completed 1 of 5

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Completed 3 of 5

See my list here
Completed 5 of 100

My Challenges (perpetual)

See my list of stories read here

See my list of stories read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


New York Times Book Review: 6/40
New Yorker: 0/36
New York Review of Books: 0/20
Vogue: 1/16
Email: 841/1373

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Read-a-thon: the final hour

Only 10 minutes to go! I have nothing to report since my last update. I decided not to push myself as I originally planned -- I knew that I would end up regretting it. So I slept for 7.5 hours and, even though I haven't picked up another book yet, am sure that I made the right decision there.

I appreciate all the comments left for me while I was reader of the hour -- it's kind of funny that it occurred while I was crashed, but appreciated none the less. I'm spending the last few minutes of the readathon visiting others' blogs. I hope most of you met whatever goals you set for yourself.

My final totals are: 3 books read, approximately 16 hours of 24 spent reading.

Thanks again Dewey for hosting this -- it was great! As my friend Sheila says, high five and a hip bump!

Read-a-thon: hour 16 wrap-up

Finished book #3 -- The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg. And that means I've met my goal, woohoo!! Not that I'm going to stop reading, but now I feel less of that self-imposed pressure. I am, however, going to stop reading temporarily and get some sleep because I know what I'll be like if I don't, and it won't be pretty.

Read-a-thon: hour 15 wrap-up

I'm hanging in there, but just barely. The eyes have seriously started to cross, and I had to walk around the house with my book to keep from falling asleep on the couch. But I finished another book -- Night by Elie Wiesel. I've only got 2 more chapters to go in The Rural Life, so I'm going to try to finish it before I grab a couple of hours of sleep.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Read-a-thon: Mini-Challenge hour 12

1. What are you reading right now? I'm working on finishing The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg and I think I'm going to pick up Night by Elie Wiesel next.

2. How many books have you read so far? Just 1.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? The Great Gatsby. I've have always heard so much about it and have wanted to read it for years.

4.Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Yes, I was supposed to go help my sister and BIL move. I did help yesterday, so I didn't entirely bail on them.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? The TV has been my biggest distraction so far. I'm just trying to stay as far away as possible.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How little progress I seem to be making, but I think part of that is that I'm focusing too much on how much I'm reading instead of just reading.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think it's going really well so far, you can tell that Dewey and her helpers have worked really hard to make it a success.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Pick funnier books to read.

9. Are you getting tired yet? A little but I'm getting ready to take a hot shower, which should refresh me.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Stay away from any TV that may be on the house, if possible. My husband is watching Terminator 2 and it's a bit distracting, but there's nowhere I can go and not hear it.

Read-a-thon: hour 11 wrap-up

I did it, I finished Brideshead Revisited, woohoo!! So far that's the only thing I've accomplished, but I'm feeling good so I should be able to make it a few more hours before my eyes start to cross. I'm going to try my best to stay awake the whole time -- I figure late night when I can't see straight will be a good time to break out the audio book. But right now, to celebrate my 1st goal met, I'm going to take a break with a nice relaxing shower.

Read-a-thon: hour 8 wrap-up

Wow, I can't believe we've gotten through 8 hours already, where did the afternoon go? I really feel that I'm not accomplishing as much as I wanted to (although I will confess to taking a break to watch the end of Caddyshack -- hubby had it on and I couldn't resist). I've still got 100 pages to go before finishing my 1st book. I'm usually a much faster reader than this, but somehow this book (Brideshead Revisited) just doesn't move fast enough for me. Sigh -- maybe the next one I pick up will go quicker.

Read-a-thon: Mini-Challenge, hour 4

The task: Grab one of your favorite books and post one of your favorite quotes from it.

One of the book's I'm reading this hour is The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I can't say that it's one of my favorite books, but I just read this quote and loved it:

"In Wyoming people as though winter were 'out there' even now, lurking not in time but in space, being prepared somewhere in a shop or factory, awaiting only final assembly and shipment to the proper address. ... [T]hat talk is a way for people to remind one another of what they've already gone through together and are prepared to go through again -- just part of the cost of being neighbors in a landscape so spare of humans but so full of weather."

Living in the South, we don't really identify with or worry about winter, but this quote made me think of my friends in the North who speak of winter almost as if it were an unloved but tolerated member of their family who comes to visit each and every year -- it's something you'd like to avoid if possible, but resign yourself to having to deal with because you know you don't have a choice. And in that resigning, you console yourself with the realization that the rest of the family has to deal with it as well, so at least you're not alone.

Read-a-thon: Hour 2 wrap-up

Another chapter down in Brideshead Revisited, and some progress made in The Rural Life. Rural's chapters are months of the year -- I'm currently at September. I've been reading this book a couple of pages at a time for months now, so I'm counting on the Read-a-thon as the perfect time to wrap it up. I'm also visiting a couple of other readers' blogs each hour. Looks like people are reading some great-sounding things. There goes my TBR list!

Read-a-thon: End of Hour 1

So far I've knocked out 2 more chapters in Brideshead Revisited and I'm completed the 1st Mini-Challenge. I'm feeling a little antsy, but hope to settle down and get some serious reading done.

Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge #1

Where are you reading from today? The suburbs of Tallahassee, Florida, in the panhandle of Florida. The weather is terrible here today, which makes it perfect for reading.

3 facts about me …

* I'm a big sports fan, something that you would never guess looking at me. I love college football (no NFL), MLB, NHL, golf, you name it -- but only as a spectator. I'm a terrible athlete and don't play anything.

* I'm a lifelong Florida Gators fan, in spite of the fact that I live and work in the home of the FSU Seminoles.

* I currently own almost 700 books and have read less than half.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I picked 6, along with several copies of the NY Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? My hope is to finish 3 of the 6 books and at least 2 of the book reviews. I never track number of pages. I'm also going to attempt to keep up with the challenges and to read others' blogs, but I don't have any set numbers for either of those things.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time? I'm a first-timer, so I'm more interested in getting advice than giving it, lol!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Awards Challenge completed!

The challenge was to read any 12 award-winning books from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. I challenged myself to read 17 books -- I didn't make that, but I did finish 14 of them. I'm carrying over two of the unread books to the Books Awards II Challenge, and the third unread book is going to remain unread -- it's just WAY too long (should have looked at it before I put it on the list).

I'm still working on getting reviews written for books I've finished, but the ones I've reviewed have a link:

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

3. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

5. Empire Falls by Richard Russo

6. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis

7. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

9. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

10. Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

11. The Red Lily by Anatole France

12. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

13. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

14. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Did not read:

Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (reading in Book Awards II)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (reading in Book Awards II)

Weekly Geeks #9 -- Challenges

The theme this week is to get organized with our challenges.

Like many book bloggers, I'm becoming more and more addicted to reading challenges. So far I'm not participating in nearly as many as some people, but I'm planning to add on more soon (like I have any more hours in the day, but I'm convinced I can squeeze in some more books somewhere, lol).

I thought this was a great theme, since it forced me to sit down and look at what I've completed so far, what I've got coming up, and when the various challenges finish. Here's my tally right now, including dates (links are to challenge blog websites):

1. Book Awards Challenge: 12/12 +2 extra (ends June 30)
2. Nonfiction 5 Challenge: 4/5 (ends Sept. 30)
3. Wind-Up Book Chronicle: 0/4 (ends Nov. 15)
4. 2008 TBR Challenge: 7/12 (ends Dec. 31)
5. Banned Book Challenge: 5/11 (technically ends June 30 but I'm doing my own through Jan. 31)
6. 1% Well-Read Challenge: 1/10 (ends Feb. 28, 2009)
7. Pulitzer Project: 9/82 (perpetual)
8. Book Awards II Challenge: 0/12 (begins Aug. 1, ends June 30, 2009)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

From Publisher's Weekly: "Greeted with high praise in England, Ishiguro's third novel is a tour de force-- both a compelling psychological study and a portrait of a vanished social order. Stevens, an elderly butler who has spent 30 years in the service of Lord Darlington, ruminates on the past and inadvertently slackens his rigid grip on his emotions to confront the central issues of his life. Glacially reserved, snobbish and humorless, Stevens has devoted his life to his concept of duty and responsibility, hoping to reach the pinnacle of his profession through totally selfless dedication and a ruthless suppression of sentiment. Having made a virtue of stoic dignity, he is proud of his impassive response to his father's death and his "correct" behavior with the spunky former housekeeper, Miss Kenton. Ishiguro builds Stevens's character with precisely controlled details, creating irony as the butler unwittingly reveals his pathetic self-deception. In the poignant denouement, Stevens belatedly realizes that he has wasted his life in blind service to a foolish man and that he has never discovered "the key to human warmth." While it is not likely to provoke the same shocks of recognition as it did in Britain, this insightful, often humorous and moving novel should significantly enhance Ishiguro's reputation [in the U.S.]."

Okay, first, I finished this book in September 2007 and am just now posting about it. I'd like to say it just slipped through the cracks or that I was too busy, but the truth is that I didn't quite know what to write in my review. I still don't, but am going to give it a try anyway.

My problem in writing my review doesn't stem from the fact that I didn't like the book -- I did. Ishiguro is a masterful writer and I'll probably reread it sometime. And the problem is not the characters. I felt an emotional attachment to them and felt like I understand what they were about. I guess the problem is that the emotion of the book is SO reserved, it's almost like it rubbed off on me. That, and that the emotion you feel reading the book is not overwhelming, it's one that you can easily relate to but it doesn't make you want to jump up and down, ranting about how everyone you know just has to read this book.

Now that I've said that, let me say that you SHOULD read this book. It's a great book with an interesting plot and is well-written. Just don't expect to be swept away or cry big buckets of tears.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble: "This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel."

I can't even begin to tell you how much I liked this book. I've always liked Steinbeck, but have never read enough of his works to know if that feeling was justified. Having finished this one, I can say that I feel much more confident in my judgment. Steinbeck's descriptions of places made me feel like I was right there, and his descriptions of people show a wonderful understanding of human desires and actions.

One thing this book did was make me think more about the cause (if there is one) of good and evil. I absolutely believe there are such things in the world, but the question of where they come from has always intrigued me. For the most part, I tend to think that "bad" people are the result of abuse, neglect, or the like, but I wonder if that's always true? Doesn't seem like it can be, since there have been people who seemed to have perfectly normally childhoods and who turned out bad anyway. How did that happen? Is it just something that's in humans naturally? I don't know the answers and this book didn't provide them, but it did make me think about the issue more.

Finally, I'm quite anxious now to see the movie version (not least because it starred James Dean). I'm always a little nervous about watching a movie based on a book that I loved -- there's always a chance that they really screwed it up. But I've heard good things about this one, so hopefully I won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goals for 24 hour Read-a-thon

I've decided that my goal for the 24 hour Read-a-thon this weekend are to finish at least 3 of the following 6 books:

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (2008 TBR Challenge; 1% Well-Read Challenge)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Banned Books Challenge)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1% Well-Read Challenge)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Wind-Up Book Chronicle; Banned Books Challenge; 1% Well-Read Challenge)

Night by Elie Wiesel (Nonfiction 5 Challenge)

The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg (Wind-Up Book Chronicle)

And to finish at least two issues of the New York Times Book Review (101 Things in 1001 Days Project, #50)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble: "Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances."

Okay, all I can say is, OMG! I cannot imagine living the life the author describes -- it's completely insane. Seriously, I spent most of my time reading with my mouth hanging open, and I kept telling my husband, "He must be exaggerating. This COULD NOT have happened like this." And then I'd think to myself, "Well, actually it could. But damn, I'm glad it didn't happen to me!" What with the brouhaha over truth-in-memoirs these days, you have to wonder how much is really the truth and how much is artistic license, not that I really care one way or the other. Parts were snort-milk-through-your-nose funny (although I could have skipped the sex scenes -- I'm not a prude or anything, but ewww). At the end of the day, this was a well-written book that I couldn't stop reading. I'm going to give the movie a try and hope I like it as much.

Friday, June 20, 2008

One week to the 24-hour Read-a-thon!

The 2008 summer Read-a-thon (hosted again by Dewey) is coming up fast -- the fun starts Saturday, June 28 at 9 am PST (that's noon on the East coast)! Click here for a time zone map and here for Dewey's Read-a-thon FAQs.

I've got a bunch of books that I'm ready to dive into (don't we all?) and so I'm trying to map out my strategy. I haven't ever done a read-a-thon before and don't know quite what to expect -- but in the interests of not burning myself out and/or getting nothing accomplished, I decided to sit down and brainstorm the best ways to approach this. (Yes, I'm a planner, I make itineraries when I travel, and I'm generally non-spontaneous, so sue me).

What I've come up with is:

1) Have several books from various challenges available -- a few fiction, a nonfiction or two, and of varying lengths and subjects so that if I get bored with something, I've got a backup right there waiting to be grabbed -- no sense in wasting precious reading time searching through the piles;

2) Mix in things other than books -- I decided to pick things off of my 101 in 1001 project that involve reading, such as the NY Times Book Review and the research I need to do for a couple of goals;

3) Check if any of my shorter challenge books are available in audio format and have them on hand -- that way, when my eyes start to cross, I can go for a walk and still "read"; and

4) Make sure to have snacks on hand and the phone turned off -- it's so rare that I have any time just for me, I want to take full advantage of this. The family is being prewarned to STAY AWAY:-)

I can't wait for next weekend!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Weekly Geeks #8 -- Scavenger Hunt

My first Weekly Geek post, woohoo!! I've been meaning to join in for weeks, but something has always come up.

Our Weekly Geeks #8 theme is SCAVENGER HUNT.

The challenge is to find as many of the keywords as possible, in as many Weekly Geeks’ blogs as possible. You can use any blog that has participated in any WG, even if it was only once. AND THERE IS A PRIZE!

Your post should list each keyword you found, and it should link to the blog in which you found it, in fact to the specific post in which you found it. Please NUMBER your keywords.


1. (THE PRIZE. Did you find it?): A subscription to Bookmarks Magazine
2. youtube: Reading Adventures
3. war: Saving My Sanity
4. Sunday Salon: Smallworld Reads
5. Buy a Friend a Book: Bell Literary Reflections
6. BTT (or Booking Through Thursday): Bride of the Book God
7. omnibus: Mysteries in Paradise
8. Speculative fiction: Stuff as Dreams are Made On
9. Short stories: Journey to the End of the TBR Pile
10. Ani Difranco (or just Ani): Care's Online Book Club
11. Printz: Maw Books Blog
12. Man Booker Prize (or just Booker): Joy's Blog
13. Newbery: Chain-Reading
14. Mother Talk: The Hidden Side of a Leaf
15. interview: Age 30 - A Year of Books
16. history: Biblio Brat
17. glbt (or any other arrangement of those letters, or with a q in there): Karin's Book Nook
18. fantasy: Confuzzled Books
19. film: Writing Chaos that is Me
20. giraffe: Caribou's Mom
21. biography: Mog's Book Blog and...
22. Geraldine Brooks: Book Nut
23. graphic novels: Katrina's Reads
24. classics: Just a (Reading) Fool
25. faerie: Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
26. Amelie: Random Field Notes
27. doo doo doo
28. 24 Hour Read-a-thon: The Armenian Odar Reads
29. etsy: Book-a-Rama
30. poetry: Nothing of Importance
31. Bookmooch: The Written Word
32. Out of the Blue
33. R.E.M.: Random Wonder
34. Bookworms Carnival: Adventures in Reading
35. library: Blue Archipelago
36. Lost (must refer to the TV series): It's All About Books
37. Six Feet Under: Literary Escapism
38. ReadingAnimals (I’m featuring her because I feel bad that I can’t figure out how to comment at her blog.): Reading, Writing and Retirement
39. hedgehog: Thinking About...
40. pregnant: A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
41. nosebleed (or nose bleed): Naked Without Books
42. 42 (No, that’s not a mistake; number 42 is to find the digit 42.): Just Add Books
43. herding cats: In Spring it is the Dawn
44. Django Reinhardt: I know who this is but I could not find a post ANYWHERE!
45. A.S. Byatt: You Can Never Have Too Many Books
46. Homer: The Indextrious Reader
47. ROFL
48. cheezburger (must be spelled with Z!): Tip of the Iceberg
49. d20: Bookworm
50. Little Critter: Becky's Book Reviews
51. translation (or translated): Joystory
52. dumpster: A Chain of Letters
53. Orson Scott Card: A Striped Armchair
54. Tite Kubo: Puss Reboots (found only as an author tag)
55. pavement: My Own Little Reading Room
56. magic realism: Things Mean a Lot
57. search: Lori's Reading Corner
58. nerdfighter:
59. summer: Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!
60. Amish: Tripping Toward Lucidity
61. ARC: So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

My totals: 57 out of 61, with 57 different bloggers

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Trial of Queen Caroline by Jane Robins

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

"In The Trial of Queen Caroline, Jane Robins tells the story of one of history's least happy marriages. The future George IV could not be bothered to meet Caroline, Princess of Brunswick, a woman "with indelicate manners...and not very inviting appearance," before she arrived for the wedding. He was immediately disgusted by her. He far preferred one of his mistresses, whom he had secretly married in a Catholic ceremony, knowing that the British state would not recognize the marriage if it ever came to light.

In 1797, just three years after George and Caroline wed, the couple separated. George wrote to her that "our inclinations are not in our power, nor should either of us be held answerable to the other. "As Robins relates, Caroline took him at his word and proceeded to live exactly as she pleased, departing for Europe and a life of scandalous associations and debauched parties. Rumors of Caroline's lifestyle soon reached George, still Prince of Wales, who determined that she would never become Queen. To the shock of the nation, he demanded that the popular Caroline face a trial for adultery. The potential consequences included a death sentence at worst, and certain divorce and disgrace. The voice of the popular press, raised in anger for the first time in Britain, roared in disapproval. Riots spread in the countryside. The mother of a single, deceased child, Caroline became thepublic's favorite martyr."

I love historical nonfiction like this -- I find it fascinating to read about those whose manner of living was so different from my own, and I'm especially intrigued by England in the 18th and 19th centuries. This is one of those stories that make you shake your head wondering what the people involved were thinking. And I still can't get over the fact that the king was allowed to do anything he liked, while if the queen did the exact same thing, she could be divorced and tried for treason. Talk about your gender inequality!

I do take issue somewhat with the comment in the B&N synopsis regarding how George "could not be bothered to meet Caroline" before the wedding, only because this was not uncommon and reflects no more discredit on George than on any other royal of the time. Most royal marriages then were essentially business mergers, and what the participants thought and felt for each other didn't enter into it. What made this case uncommon was that the king tried to discard the queen years later. But my complaint is only with the synopsis, not the book itself.

The author is a gifted storyteller -- a lot of the information that could be very dry is presented in a lively, fast-paced manner, and she presents the major characters well -- you feel that they were real people, not just historical personages. Overall, I found this book quite interesting and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this period of history.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

"Ralph Elllison's Invisible Man is a monumental novel, one that can well be called an epic of modern American Negro life. It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching—yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places. It is a book that has a great deal to say and which is destined to have a great deal said about it.

After a brief prologue, the story begins with a terrifying experience of the hero's high school days, moves quickly to the campus of a Southern Negro college and then to New York's Harlem, where most of the action takes place. The many people that the hero meets in the course of his wanderings are remarkably various, complex and significant. With them he becomes involved in an amazing series of adventures, in which he is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed—as much by himself and his own illusions as by the duplicity of the blindness of others."

This novel has received praise from all quarters ever since its original publication, and in my opinion every bit of praise is well-deserved. This is a magnificent book. Mr. Ellison is able to make you connect with the main character in a way that few authors can. It's not an easy read, but then I'm sure it wasn't meant to be. And by not easy, I don't mean the writing style -- the book flows and moves incredibly quickly -- but rather the subject matter. Often, an author can only shake us out of our comfort zone by showing us how brutal and ugly life can truly be. And there's no doubt that, no matter how advanced and "civilized" our society is, there continues to be discrimination of all types. As a white woman, I'm sure that I will never truly understand what it feels like to be a minority in our society, but this book moved me just a little bit closer and for that, Mr. Ellison deserves and receives my gratitude.