Sunday, February 24, 2008

A~Z and TBR Challenges

I heard it from a friend who

heard it from a friend who

heard it from a friend

You been mess- No wait.

I mean I heard about this challenge to read 52 books in a year, the A~Z Challenge. You choose one book title for each letter of the alphabet and one author for each letter of the alphabet. (No doubling up.) Click here for the official site, or just play along at home. My A~Z picks are toward the bottom of the page on the sidebar. If anyone knows a good book starting with the letter "X", PLEASE let me know!!! Apparently the author of the challenge didn't take the serious shortage of such titles into consideration when she launched her idea.

There is also another challenge called the TBR Challenge which you can do instead of, or combine with, the A~Z Challenge. Combining the two is the approach I have chosen. It seemed to render narrowing down the options much easier for the A~Z Challenge in my opinion. Basically, the TBR Challenge is this:

Pick 12 books - one for each month of 2008 - that you've been wanting to read (that have been on your "To Be Read" list) for 6 months or longer, but haven't gotten around to. Read one book from this list each month in 2008.

I have included my 12 in the A~Z lists. They are:

  1. Austenland by Shannon Hale (A Title)

  2. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (I've been planning to read that since I finished the first three in two days last fall) (B Title)

  3. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky (C Title)

  4. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (D Title)

  5. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (H Title)

  6. Standing For Something by Gordon B. Hinckley (S Title)

  7. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (T Title)

  8. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (W Title)

  9. Language Shock by Gregory Agar (A Author)

  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (C Author)

  11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (S Author)

  12. Mila 18 by Leon Uris (U Author)

Happy reading!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen's first book ever written and last ever published. I believe is was published posthumously and I'm not sure she ever intended for it to be read by an audience (although I have not read anything one way or the other). The book seemed to me to be a study in writing novels. She asked and answered a lot of questions in this book. What makes a heroine or a plot worthy of reading? Which works to take inspiration from, which to completely diverge from? Are novels worthy endeavors? Can one be written about normal people? Will doing so make novels more socially acceptable? Do popular opinions matter on the subject of novels anyway? Jane makes many asides to the audience which I felt were more of a stream of consciousness creative writing exercise than anything else. I especially felt that the book was not intended to be published at the end when she essentially said, "and then they all lived happily ever after, etc., etc. You know all the rest and I can fill it all in later without giving it much thought." It is possible that this was an underdeveloped stylistic choice, especially considering the similar though less abrupt ending of Emma. I think however, that Northanger Abbey was just a practice to help the author decide more precisely on a direction to take her work.

I didn't particularly like this book and I found the asides to the audience on par with political lobbyist soapboxes, of which I am not a fan. I am quite glad I had read a number of other Jane Austens before reading this one. I fear that I would not have picked up any of the much more worthy ones, had I read this one first. I don't think anyone should miss out on Austen but in this case I am going to have to say skip this one, at least until you have read some of her other more wonderful books.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I read this book cover to cover and for the first two days afterwards I couldn't even tell if I liked it or not.

The book is interesting, creative, and well thought out. I was intrigued by the histories, cultures, religion, and politics of the different ethnicities in Maguire's Oz. I particularly appreciated the way their many folktales offered an explanation for the various and incongruous accounts of the events and characters portrayed in the Baum books. I did not like the people of Maguire's Oz, however. I found them to be a morally bankrupt society on an apocalyptic level. The story was fraught with murder, intrigue, and sexual perversions of every sort. I found it offensive on many levels. It also took me a very long time to get into the story.

Elphaba, a.k.a.- the Wicked Witch of the West- goes through most of her life just trying to do what is right in spite of the wicked world in which she lives. She is constantly helping others and receives only the smallest portion of love from others in return. She is a tragic character and you hope that in the end she will go to some afterlife prepared for the inhabitants of Oz. This is not to be however, since there is no "After" for witches. Perhaps this is best, since it is her hope to cease a painful existance.

If this book were a movie, it would receive an "R"-rating at the very least. I understand that the musical is quite family friendly, so if you are interested in hearing the twist on the tale, I would buy tickets to a production and skip this one altogether.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees is set in the Civil Rights Era in South Carolina. It's about Lily Owens, a white teenage girl whose mother is killed when she is a child. When her black substitute mother offends a dangerous and racist man, Lily makes the decision to take the woman and escape to a town Lily's mother may have visited in the past. They are taken in by three black women on a honey farm and Lily learns for the first time the meanings of love and family. She courageously faces fear, racism, abuse, and the enigmatic truths about her life. This book has some strange religious themes but I liked the story anyway. It was definitely something more substantial. I would recommend this book to women but probably not to men. It's a little too "Lifetime Original Movie" for a co-ed audience.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

First Two Book Reviews

I posted these first two book reviews on my other blog.

The first was "The Jane Austen Book Club". The short story is that I hated it. For the long story you can go here.

The second was "Love Walked In". Yes it did. I loved this book. Here is my review.

More to come soon!