Reading Challenge Check-In

I finished my first book for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge this week. My husband and I listen to audiobooks when we cook dinner. He hadn’t read Jane Austen before. I’ve actually read all of the complete Jane Austen novels; I haven’t read the juvenilia, letters, Lady Susan or Sanditon. I steered him away from Mansfield Park, and Emma is a sort of long one. I actually recommended Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but Steve wanted to try Northanger Abbey because he’d heard that it was a send-up of gothic novels. It is also one of the shorter Austen novels, and it’s her earliest novel, though it wasn’t published until after she died. I’m counting this novel under the category of favorite classic re-read. I wouldn’t say it’s my absolute favorite classic novel, but it had been about ten years since I read it, and Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I hadn’t re-read this one as I had Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, so it was probably time. My husband loved Mr. Tilney’s sense of humor and shook his head at Catherine’s drama. He figured out the Thorpes were horrible right away. A couple of observations: I teach teenagers, and man, teenage girls have not changed at all in 200 years. Re-read any of the parts detailing Catherine and Isabella’s intrigues and it could be set today. Actually, this novel might not make for a bad modernization à la Clueless. In fact, even Catherine’s infatuation with gothic stories works if one takes the vampire/werewolf/witch fads under consideration. One of the reasons I love Jane Austen in general and this book, in particular, is Austen’s famous wit. Juliet Stevenson read the audiobook, and she was excellent.

I’m also slowly catching up on the Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge. We had two snow days this week, so no school, and I read five Sherlock Holmes stories:

  • “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”: Sherlock Holmes’s client John Hector McFarlane is a young lawyer accused of murdering one of his own clients but despite the mounting evidence, Holmes smells a fraud. Rating: ★★★★☆
  • “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”: Inspector Stanley Hopkins seeks Holmes’s help to solve the murder of a young secretary Willoughby Smith, in the employ of invalid professor Coram. Rating: ★★★★☆
  • “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”: Violet Smith seeks Holmes’s help when she notices a man following her as she rides her bicycle to the train station to return home on weekends from her job as a music teacher. While the man never harms her, she is uneasy about him, and she is also uneasy about her employer Mr. Carruthers and his weird friend Mr. Woodley. Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • “The Adventure of the Three Students”: University lecturer Hilton Soames contacts Holmes for help preventing a scandal. He left an exam he planned to give three students competing for a scholarship on his desk, but his servant left the key in the door, and Soames knows that one of the students has looked at the exam. Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • “The Adventure of Black Peter”: Peter Carey, a former whaler known as Black Peter, is found gruesomely murdered with a harpoon. While most people agree he probably had it coming, Holmes and Stanley Hopkins team up again to solve the murder. Rating: ★★★★½

Of these five stories, I probably liked “The Adventure of Black Peter” best, if only for the image of Holmes whacking away at a pig carcass with a harpoon to see how much strength it would take to murder someone with said instrument. Spoiler alert: a lot. “The Adventure of the Three Students” is one of those weird stories when Conan Doyle seems to be trying to prove his open-mindedness. For another example, “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” serves well. Of the three students, two seem more likely to cheat than the third mainly because this third is easygoing, clean-cut, and white, while the other two are 1) an Indian, and 2) a panicky, ragey guy that Soames suspects is probably behind it, but he doesn’t discount the Indian guy because he’s, you know, Indian. It’s almost like Conan Doyle is trying to say, “See? I made the bad guy be the clean-cut white guy and not the Indian or the dude with obvious issues.” “The Solitary Cyclist” is one of those damsel in distress stories that are fairly yawn-inducing. Give me Irene Adler who can take care of herself. Speaking of damsels in distress, it’s a weird thing, but no mention is made of Mary Morstan Watson. She just disappears, and all of a sudden Watson is living with Holmes at Baker Street. I know it’s mentioned in one of the stories that she died, but I don’t recall reading it. I mean, what gives? “The Norwood Builder” and “The Golden Pince-Nez” were pretty much run-of-the-mill Sherlock Holmes stories. The only reference to any of these stories from the BBC series Sherlock that I caught was from “Black Peter.” Holmes shows up covered and blood and carrying a harpoon in “The Hounds of Baskerville.”

I am now caught up with the Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge through November, so now I’m just a month behind.

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Sunday Salon—October 16, 2011

:: آخر لقانا في الخريف..تذكّر الثوب الخفيف ::

It’s been pretty and cool today. Perfect tea weather. I finished up reading [amazon_link id=”1466273089″ target=”_blank” ]The Man with Two Left Feet[/amazon_link] by P. G. Wodehouse via DailyLit last night (review). I started up with [amazon_link id=”1439169462″ target=”_blank” ]Anna Karenina[/amazon_link] by Leo Tolstoy. I’m not going to be able to finish it for the read-a-long at Unputdownables, but it seems like an appropriate time to finally read. Come on Russians: don’t disappoint me this time. Anna Karenina is yet another classic I’m not sure I’d pick up if not for DailyLit.

I’m still reading [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] by Erin Morgenstern. You might recall my daughter and I were arguing over it. My daughter won, mainly because I downloaded the iBook sample that Starbucks provided as their first e-book Pick of the Week. I was able to read up to about page 91, so it’s a pretty substantial sample. If you can’t tell that far in whether to continue or not, then the sample size just doesn’t matter.

I’m still listening to Juliet Stevenson’s recording of [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link] by Jane Austen. My poll results indicate that both of the two people who voted think I should read [amazon_link id=”140222267X” target=”_blank” ]Willoughby’s Return[/amazon_link] by Jane Odiwe for my other book for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. Only problem is I don’t have it. Yet. The wait list for it on PaperBackSwap is long, too.

This Sunday I also watched the final episode of season 3 of [amazon_link id=”B001AQR3LC” target=”_blank” ]The Tudors[/amazon_link]. Did they ever cast a perfect vapid teenager for Catherine Howard, or what? I find it hard to believe Joss Stone as a “Flanders mare,” though.

I’ve been listening to this Austin City Limits playlist (Facebook app) that’s available for free on iTunes. It’s a great playlist. My favorites are “You Are Not Alone” by Mavis Staples, “Devil Knows You’re Dead” by Delta Spirit, “Don’t Gotta Work it Out” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and “Lost in My Mind” by The Head and the Heart. I have say that “WHALE” by Yellow Ostrich is pretty catchy once it gets going, though I thought it was kind of odd at the start. I’ve actually been listening to Spotify quite a bit and made this playlist full of great women artists.

We saw [amazon_link id=”B00275EHJG” target=”_blank” ]Toy Story 3[/amazon_link] at movie night at my kids’ school on Friday. Dylan was especially entranced. My favorite comment? When Dylan said Ken’s hair looked like Justin Bieber’s. He so rarely makes references to pop culture, and we don’t often get such a window into what he’s thinking. Saturday was the Taste of Roswell in the town square. We ate lots of great food, and the weather was gorgeous. The music was too loud. I think I’d be just as happy if the organizers left music out of the event altogether. Last night I stayed up too late watching [amazon_link id=”B000UJCALI” target=”_blank” ]The Shining[/amazon_link], which was dumb because that movie scares the bejesus out of me, and then I was the only one awake and scared in the dark. All told, we’ve had a great weekend. I’m not ready for it to be over. Unfortunately, today means laundry and getting ready for the week ahead. It’s my last short week due to Jewish holidays, but I’m going to a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday that I’m not thrilled about attending.

photo credit: » Zitona «

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Sunday Salon—October 9, 2011

Apple mug

Since I write mainly about books over here, I haven’t had much occasion to discuss what a huge Apple fan I am. I write this on my MacBook, which I use to write almost all of my posts. Steve Jobs was a creative genius and a brilliant leader. Believe it or not, I’m beginning to see posts to the effect that we shouldn’t be sad, or that the outpouring of grief over Jobs’s death is inappropriate. To those folks, I say, don’t tell others when and how to grieve. That is unseemly. If you are so inclined, you can read my post at my education blog, where I talk about technology much more often. I am not ashamed to admit that I did cry a little. I know I didn’t know Steve Jobs, but I think, like a lot of people, that I felt like I knew him at least a little.

In any event, I think Jobs was poised to change the world of reading as much as he did music. I think the Kindle is still quite a strong competitor for the iPad, particularly as the Kindle Fire recently released is much cheaper than the iPad. However, I think mostly readers will purchase the Kindle Fire, whereas the iPad has appealed to people who are looking for a tablet computer. I could be way off in that prediction. Without the iPad, I don’t think we’d ever have seen the Kindle Fire. We may also be able to blame the iPad for the boom in popularity of e-books. The Kindle came out earlier, and the Nook may have also (I’d have to check that date), but the iPad ushered in a great deal of interest in e-books.

[amazon_image id=”B0037KN05C” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignright”]Jane Austen: The Complete Collection (With Active Table of Contents)[/amazon_image]A colleague actually asked me last week if I ever read paper books. I don’t know when owning a Kindle became this all or nothing proposition, that it means I don’t read paper books. Sometimes, I actually prefer them. It depends on the book. Certainly if I have any notion I might have the book signed, I will buy a paper book. And sometimes, the paper version is a better value. On the other hand, I just bought a Kindle version of all of [amazon_link id=”B0037KN05C” target=”_blank” ]Jane Austen’s works[/amazon_link], including all six complete novels, The Watsons, Sanditon, and Lady Susan, and selected letters and juvenilia. For 99¢. I’d never be able to buy a paper copy of all of that writing for 99¢.

It has occurred to me before that it would be smart to grab a public domain book, compose notes or an introduction, and format it in Scrivener for the Kindle Store and sell it for 99¢. I have had friends who have done this, and it’s such a smart idea. I think you need to add some functionality, such as a working table of contents or annotations, to make it worth the buyer’s while because so many of those books are available for free. Of course, the free versions are often not well formatted and have no working table of contents.

Speaking of Jane Austen, I have been spending quite a lot of time this week curled up with [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense And Sensibility[/amazon_link] this week. Juliet Stevenson is a fabulous reader. Have you heard that quite a few actors are lending their voices to new audio books? Including our favorite Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth. He’s not on this list, but I can only find one audio book read by Alan Rickman: [amazon_link id=”1572705701″ target=”_blank” ]The Return of the Native[/amazon_link] by Thomas Hardy. I tried to read that book, and I never got far. If Alan Rickman read it to me, I just might finish it. Heck. I have four Audible credits. I ought to give in and just get it.

I am rereading Sense And Sensibility for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge, but I am having a little trouble deciding which other book to read for the challenge. If you have an opinion on either of this books, feel free to vote in the poll.

[amazon_image id=”0385340869″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Cookbook Collector: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_link id=”0385340869″ target=”_blank” ]The Cookbook Collector[/amazon_link] by Allegra Goodman. Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight-year-old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, twenty-three-year-old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy. Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley, romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily is rational and driven, while Jess is dreamy and whimsical. Emily’s boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess’s boyfriends, not so much—as her employer George points out in what he hopes is a completely disinterested way.

Bicoastal, surprising, rich in ideas and characters, The Cookbook Collector is a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can’t find what we’re looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living. But above all it is about holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays.

[amazon_image id=”140222267X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Willoughby’s Return: A tale of almost irresistible temptation[/amazon_image] [amazon_link id=”140222267X” target=”_blank” ]Willoughby’s Return[/amazon_link] by Jane Odiwe. A lost love returns, rekindling forgotten passions… In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past.

Three years later, Willoughby’s return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn’t be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?

[amazon_image id=”1402253893″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Expectations of Happiness[/amazon_image] [amazon_link id=”1402253893″ target=”_blank” ]Expectations of Happiness[/amazon_link] by Rebecca Ann Collins. International bestselling author of the Pemberley Chronicles series explores the beloved characters of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Acclaimed for historical accuracy and emulation of Jane Austen’s voice as well as the depth of her depictions of the complex and evolving society of the day—especially what life was like for women—Collins imagines three sisters dealing with what happens when a spirited girl grows into a scandal-prone young lady who defies society’s rules and must then pay the consequences.

So which one do you think? I already own the first, but it doesn’t have high reviews on Amazon (hence my indecisiveness). Its reviews on Goodreads are about par for the course on that site.

Which Sense and Sensibility spin-off should I read?

  • Willoughby's Return, by Jane Odiwe (100%, 2 Votes)
  • The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins (0%, 0 Votes)
  • I have another suggestion for you (please leave a comment) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 2

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I hope you are curling up with a good book and a warm beverage on this fine fall Sunday. Happy reading!

The Sunday Salon

photo credit: re-ality

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WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—October 5, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I haven’t done WWW Wednesday in a while; I skipped it for the entire month of September. I guess I’m back today!

I am currently reading several books. Despite what DailyLit says over there in the sidebar, I fell behind with [amazon_link id=”1466273089″ target=”_blank” ]The Man with Two Left Feet[/amazon_link] by P.G. Wodehouse and still haven’t finished it yet, though I have enjoyed it very much. I am also still reading [amazon_link id=”1439170916″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I haven’t picked it up in a while. I think it’s perfect for dipping into occasionally.

I am also still listening to/reading along with [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense And Sensibility[/amazon_link] read by Juliet Stevenson. Oh, how I love crazy, flighty Marianne and admire steady, dependable Elinor. Wish I could be more like her. What a great friend she would be, too.

I am currently engaged in a battle with my daughter over [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] by Erin Morgenstern. See, I bought it with an Amazon gift card I received for my birthday. Hence, it is a birthday present. She grabbed it while I was reading [amazon_link id=”0441020674″ target=”_blank” ]Those Across the River[/amazon_link] by Christopher Buehlman (review) and started reading it. I say I should get first dibs because it’s my birthday present. She argues she started reading it first and has also offered me two of her books to read. I also contend waiting for her will take too long. We nearly arm wrestled for it yesterday. We have an uneasy truce and have agreed to share it. For now.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. Maybe something witchy like [amazon_link id=”B003P9XMFI” target=”_blank” ]The Hangman’s Daughter[/amazon_link] by Oliver Pötzsch or perhaps [amazon_link id=”1416550550″ target=”_blank” ]The Forgotten Garden[/amazon_link] by Kate Morton. I have a rather large stack of books in my TBR pile. I also just received [amazon_link id=”1565126297″ target=”_blank” ]When She Woke[/amazon_link] by Hillary Jordan from a Goodreads giveaway, and the cover is so cool:

[amazon_image id=”1565126297″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]When She Woke[/amazon_image]

I have to admit it’s caught my eye. I also have a weakness for picking up books I just got instead of turning to my TBR pile.

I am in the mood to continue reading something gothic or creepy for RIP, though. Which would you pick?

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