The American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin

[amazon_image id=”0312658664″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The American Heiress: A Novel[/amazon_image]With Downton Abbey on hiatus, I’ve been going through withdrawal, and Daisy Goodwin’s novel [amazon_link id=”0312658664″ target=”_blank” ]The American Heiress[/amazon_link] was like methadone. The American Heiress is the story of Cora Cash, daughter of a wealthy American flour company magnate. Cora is spoiled and rich; in the beginning of the novel, she compares herself to Emma Woodhouse. She is used to having her way. Her mother, ambitious and conniving, wants to see her daughter land a titled husband. Fate throws Cora quite literally in the path of Ivo Maltravers, Duke of Wareham. After a whirlwind courtship, Cora becomes the Duchess of Wareham, but she learns that accepting this title will mean she might have to give up more than she realized and live in a strange country with a man she barely knows.

The similarities between this novel and Downton Abbey are a little uncanny. Cora, like the character Cora on Downton Abbey, is a rich American heiress who marries a titled aristocrat from an old family in the UK. This novel takes place during the Gilded Age and is therefore set slightly before the events of Downton Abbey begin. I enjoyed Cora’s mother-in-law, the Double Duchess—so-called because she married the Duke of Buckingham after the death of her husband, the former Duke of Wareham. It may be that Goodwin was thinking of Louisa Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who was also known as the Double Duchess because she married both the Duke of Manchester and the Duke of Devonshire and lived during the right period (though she may have been a bit older than Goodwin’s Double Duchess). Cora’s own story calls to mind the real story of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the Duke of Marlborough. Consuelo Vanderbilt was, of course, a rich American heiress like Cora. Consuelo’s real mother-in-law was none other than the Double Duchess, Louisa Cavendish, herself. If you are a fan of this period in history and like costume drama, you would probably like this novel. It was an engaging, quick read. I did not find Cora particularly likable because she was quite spoiled and melodramatic. It was hard to feel sorry for her for too long. However, despite a lack of sympathetic characters, I found the plot of the story held my interest. If I had cared about the characters a little more, I might have been somewhat disappointed in the ending, but I found that the ending was realistic, and I’m not sure I would have liked a different ending.

Some time ago, I asked readers if they wanted me to cast books, and this book is the first book I’ve had a chance to cast.

Carey Mulligan

I could see Carey Mulligan as Cora Cash. She has the chestnut hair color and a certain naivete that could carry the part.

Kerry Washington

I like Kerry Washington as Bertha, Cora’s maid.

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy should play Ivo Maltravers, Duke of Wareham. The book refers often to Ivo’s straight Roman nose and dark “gypsy” looks.

Robert Sean Leonard

Robert Sean Leonard (slightly younger version) as Teddy Van Der Leyden, Cora’s childhood sweetheart. I don’t know why other than he looks like a Teddy Van Der Leyden.

Christina Cole

Christina Cole has the sort of slithery, catlike quality that Charlotte Beauchamp needs. Charlotte is a snake in the grass, y’all. And this gal would be perfect in the role.

Samantha Bond

Samantha Bond was the only person I really cast in my head as I was reading. She is exactly how I imagined the Double Duchess. She would be so perfect!

Interesting side note (if you are still reading): The American Heiress is called My Last Duchess in UK. This title is, of course, an allusion to the Robert Browning poem. I like it, but after reading the novel, I’m not sure it’s very descriptive of events in the book. I’m sure the title was changed because 1) the publisher thought Americans wouldn’t get the reference and/or 2) the publisher thought Americans would like “American” in the title. Whatever.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Outlander (audio), Diana Gabaldon

OutlanderI took advantage of the time I had during a recent car trip to finish Diana Gabaldon’s novel [amazon_link id=”1419381016″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] for the third time (but for the first time as an audio book). I have reviewed the book previously. I am a big fan of Gabaldon’s, and the first time I read the series, which at that time only included four books, I couldn’t wait for the fifth book. When it did finally come out, I didn’t get through much of it before I set it aside, so I’m hoping participating in the Outlander Challenge will help me finish the series.

For those not in the know, Outlander is the story of Claire, a nurse during World War II, who travels to the Scottish Highlands for a second honeymoon with her husband Frank and finds herself mysteriously transported about 200 years in the past, where she is almost immediately confronted by her husband’s ancestor, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, an English officer garrisoned in Scotland. She is rescued from the clutches of Black Jack by members of the Clan MacKenzie, who take her to their stronghold, Castle Leoch. Claire finds herself drawn to Jamie, a young man in the MacKenzie party. She establishes herself as a healer in the castle and though she never stops trying to figure out how to return to Frank, she begins to build a life for herself in the past. Later, she is forced to marry Jamie in order to protect herself from Black Jack and the English army, and it is after that event that her adventures truly begin.

One of the things I noticed for the first time on this reading is the long scenes that in another book might simply have been cut. Gabaldon tends to write scenes and stitch them together later rather than write in a linear fashion. I know this because I have heard her speak about her writing process. It has benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits is that readers feel they have intimate connections to the characters through vignettes that develop the characters into fully fleshed people. Gabaldon is gifted with description. No reader should have any trouble picturing her scenes. However, one of the drawbacks, and it’s something I really only noticed on this read, is that some scenes feel superfluous and don’t really develop the plot so much as the characters. I am huge fan of characters and will enjoy a book with good character development over a book with weaker characters and a fast, tight plot, but on this read, I really noticed the fact that much of the writing was unnecessary. Given the length of the book, that is kind of a problem. And the books only progressively get longer. I may not mind as much with the rest of the series because I have only read the next three books once, and I have never read the final three. I might find I enjoy the ride a little more when the plot is not quite as familiar, and truthfully, I don’t think most readers would have a problem with the superfluous scenes given how engaging a writer Gabaldon is.

Davina Porter is a superb reader, and listening to the books will give readers a whole new appreciation for Gabaldon’s Scots.

Rating: ★★★★☆

I’m counting this book as my romance novel for the Mixing it Up Challenge.

A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly

[amazon_image id=”B0006BD9BK” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]A Northern Light[/amazon_image]Jennifer Donnelly’s YA novel [amazon_link id=”B0006BD9BK” target=”_blank” ]A Northern Light[/amazon_link] is based, in part, on the same crime that inspired Theodore Dreiser to write [amazon_link id=”0451531558″ target=”_blank” ]An American Tragedy[/amazon_link]: Chester Gillette’s murder of Grace Brown in the Adirondacks in 1906. The novel’s protagonist, Mattie Gokey, is the teenage daughter of a poor farmer in the North Woods. Mattie’s mother died not too long before the events in the book start. Before she dies, Mattie’s mother extracts a promise from Mattie that she will stay to help take care of her siblings. Mattie’s older brother Lawton left home after a fight with their father, and Mattie is responsible for her three younger sisters. Mattie, however, dreams of going to college. Her teacher, Miss Wilcox, encourages Mattie, who she believes has a gift for writing. Mattie’s friend Weaver Smith has dreams of attending Columbia University, and Miss Wilcox encourages both of them. They both take jobs at the Glenmore Inn, where Grace Brown and Chester Gillette come to stay. Before Grace is murdered, she entrusts Mattie with her letters and asks Mattie to burn them. After Grace’s body is found and Mattie finds herself unable to dispose of the letters as Grace asked, she reads them instead, and she uncovers a motive for Gillette’s murder of Grace as well as motivation to follow her own dreams.

Jennifer Donnelly’s books are all good. This particular novel’s narrative flashes backward and forward in time, but the plot is not difficult to follow, and in the end, Donnelly’s reasons for telling the story in this less linear fashion are clear. Mattie is an engaging heroine, representative of so many girls of her age who were expected to marry, often without love, and raise a family. Weaver is an interesting character too. His father was killed in a racial hate crime, but rather than making Weaver fearful of whites, it instead empowered him to stand up for himself when he encounters racism. Like Mattie, the reader can have no doubt that Weaver will go to Columbia and become a fine lawyer despite the odds. Donnelly’s setting is vividly painted for the reader, both in time and place—which is a particular gift of Donnelly’s and something I have enjoyed about all of her books.

I would recommend this book even to readers who aren’t necessarily fans of YA, mainly because I think readers will enjoy learning about this time and place and will like Mattie and her friends and family (except, of course, for those we aren’t supposed to like). Grace Brown’s murder is more or less incidental to the plot, as the main story is Mattie’s coming of age.

Rating: ★★★★½

I thought about counting this book as a crime/mystery book as part of the Mixing it Up Challenge, but I ultimately decided not to because the crime is not the center of the novel.

Full disclosure: I obtained this book via PaperBackSwap.

Divergent, Veronica Roth

[amazon_image id=”0062024027″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Divergent[/amazon_image]Veronica Roth’s novel [amazon_link id=”0062024027″ target=”_blank” ]Divergent[/amazon_link] is the story of Beatrice Prior, who lives in a future dystopic Chicago. After a cataclysmic war that Beatrice, the first-person narrator of the story, doesn’t know much about, Chicago divided into five factions: Abnegation, who believe that the cause of war is selfishness and seek to be as selfless as possible; Dauntless, who believe the cause of war is cowardice and seek to be as brave as possible; Erudite, who believe the cause of war is ignorance and seek knowledge; Candor, who believe the cause of war is deception and seek to be as honest as possible; and Amity, who believe the cause of war is unkindness and seek to be as kind as possible. At the age of sixteen, each member of this society takes an aptitude test that partly determines which faction they will join. Some people are best suited for the faction into which they are born, but those who are not leave their families behind because in this society, faction comes before family. Beatrice has always felt out of place in Abnegation. She doesn’t feel selfless enough. When she takes her aptitude test, the results are inconclusive, and her test administrator explains that she is something called “Divergent,” which is a very dangerous thing to be, though Beatrice doesn’t know why. All she knows is that she must keep her test results quiet. The day after the aptitude test, Beatrice must choose which faction she will join, and she shocks everyone by choosing Dauntless.

After joining Dauntless, Tris, as she is known, undergoes a tough initiation that hardens her mentally and physically and prepares her for her role in the faction that protects the society. Even in this competitive environment, she manages to make friends and develops an attraction to Four, her instructor. As she becomes more deeply involved in her initiation, she discovers something is not right about her society, which is perhaps not as invested in peace as she has grown up believing.

Fans of Suzanne Collins’s [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] series will find much to like in Divergent, the first book of a planned trilogy. Tris is a tough-as-nails heroine not too different from Katniss, though with perhaps a little less confidence. Four is an interesting counterpart and love interest, too (more interesting than Peeta or Gale, in my opinion). The craziness of the Dauntless initiation will remind some of the Hunger Games, and certainly the dystopic future set in a world where people divided based on some arbitrary factor will look familiar, but the factions are more interesting than the districts of Panem. Your station in life in Panem depends so much on which district you are born into, and it seems fairly difficult to change your stars in Collins’s series, but choices determine everything about who you are in Roth’s dystopic Chicago, which I liked because it puts more responsibility into the hands of everyone. Rather than a ruthless Capitol victimizing everyone, Roth writes about a society in which everyone is responsible, to some degree, for the way things are, and are also ignorant of some facets of the society. I haven’t seen a lot of people compare this novel to [amazon_link id=”0547424779″ target=”_blank” ]The Giver[/amazon_link], but I thought of that book often as I read. In Lois Lowry’s novel, the society seems perfect, but Jonas discovers that they systematically execute those who are weak or ill or old. Feelings are suppressed. No one can see color. The weight of discovering what his society is drives him to escape, an event which might destroy his society, given that he has been chosen to the the society’s Receiver. I suspect something similar will happen with Tris. I can’t help but feel she’ll upend the whole society. Unlike Katniss, who knows her society is corrupt and unfair, both Jonas and Tris discover the darkness in their society when they both come of age and choose their role or have it chosen for them.

Divergent is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat read. I read it on the bus, which was a mistake because it nearly caused me to miss my stop several times and actually did cause me to miss my stop once. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, [amazon_link id=”0062024043″ target=”_blank” ]Insurgent[/amazon_link], which is due out in May. The book leaves open several questions that I hope I learn the answers to before the end of the trilogy:

  • How did the society get like this? Lake Michigan is nothing more than a marsh. I want to know how that happened.
  • What is going on outside of Chicago? Are they the only people in the world, or just cut off from everywhere else?
  • If there are other people, do they have factions too, or is that just Chicago? If it’s just Chicago, what the heck is going on there?

I have other questions, but they’re a little spoilery.

I love dystopian novels. So much fun to read, and with the success of The Hunger Games, it looks like we’ve been seeing a lot of them lately.

I was glad I recently visited Chicago as it helped me visualize the scene much better than if I hadn’t, but I suspect Google Images and a good map would be nearly as helpful.

Oh, and I’m totally jealous of Veronica Roth, who wrote this debut novel when she was only 22 and studying creative writing at Northwestern.

Rating: ★★★★★

Other reviews of Divergent:

This one’s been on my TBR pile for a little while and qualifies as the children’s/YA choice for the Mixing it Up Challenge. Actually, it qualifies for sci-fi/fantasy, but I can’t double-dip.


Moloka’i, Alan Brennert

[amazon_image id=”0312304358″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Moloka’i[/amazon_image]Alan Brennert’s historical novel [amazon_link id=”0312304358″ target=”_blank” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_link] tells the story of the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i through the life of one remarkable woman named Rachel, who is sent to live at the colony at the age of seven when she contracts Hansen’s Disease and is exiled to Moloka’i, forced to leave her family and live as a virtual prisoner.

Once on the island, she has a difficult adjustment, but she also finds a second family, friends, love and causes for joy that she never expected. She builds a life for herself on the island, and she endures her share of tragedy, but ultimately, the book is not sad, and I would even say I felt it ended on a triumphant note. I liked this passage at the beginning and thought I’d share it:

Papa tied up at the Esplanade, his children putting on a brave face as they escorted him back to the SS Mariposa, all of them quietly determined not to cry.

But almost as though someone were taking their secret thoughts, their hidden grief, and vocalizing it, there came—from the pier immediately ahead—a terrible, anguished wail. It was not one voice but many, a chorus falling like the wind. It was, Henry and Dorothy both knew, not merely a wail, but a word: Auwē, Auwwayy! (Alas! Alas!)

It sounded exactly like the cries of grief and loss that Rachel had heard the day the king had come home. “Mama,” she said, fearfully, “is the Queen dead, too?”

“No, child, no,” Dorothy said.

Moored off Pier 10 was a small, decrepit interisland steamer, the Mokoli’i. A distraught crowd huddled behind a wooden barricade, sighing their mournful dirge as a procession of others—young and old, men and women, predominantly Hawaiians and Chinese—were herded by police onto the old cattle boat. Now and then one of the people behind the barricade would reach out to touch someone boarding the ship: a man grasping for a woman, a child reaching for his mother, a friend clasping another’s hand for the last time.

Ma’i pākē,” Kimo said softly.

“What?” Rached asked.

“They’re lepers, you ninny,” Sarah admonished. “Going to Moloka’i.”

“What’s a leper?”

Someone in the crowd threw a flower lei onto the water, but contrary to legend, it was not likely to ever bring any of these travelers back to Honolulu.

“They’re sick, baby. Very sick,” Mama explained. Rachel didn’t understand. The people didn’t look sick; they didn’t look much different than anyone on the other side of the barricade.

“If they’re sick,” Rachel asked, “why isn’t someone taking care of them?”

No one answered her; and as that word, leper, hung in the still humid air, Dorothy dug her fingers into Rachel’s shoulders and turned her away from the Mokoli’i. (16-17)

This passage sets up the events in the novel beautifully and creates a thread, with the cry of Auwē, Alas! that is woven throughout the book. I liked Rachel a great deal as a character. The characters as a whole are well developed, and I think this book tells the important and little known story about Moloka’i respectfully and beautifully in a way that exposes the pain that the colony’s residents surely felt while still acknowledging that even in circumstances of pain and loss, it’s possible to find great joy and happiness. Rachel’s incredible life is a monument to the real residents of the colony at Kalaupapa, Moloka’i. I am very glad I was introduced to their story.

I will admit that for part of this book, it wasn’t coasting on a full five stars, mainly because Brennert does make some choices as a writer in terms of style that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel, but the characters and plot swiftly drew me beyond caring anymore, and by the end, I was in love with the book. If you have a mind to learn about Hansen’s Disease or late nineteenth and early twentieth century Hawaii, or if you just like a good historical novel, I highly recommend this book.

Rating: ★★★★★

Full disclosure: I obtained this book from PaperBackSwap.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

A Young Girl Reading, Jean-Honoré Fragonard

2012 Reading Goals

A Young Girl Reading, Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Happy New Year! Let’s all hope we survive the end of the Mayan calendar this year, mainly so people on the “History” Channel (lately, I’m thinking some sort of federal authority ought to require them to use the quotation marks) will quit talking about it.

I met my reading goal of 50 books in 2011, which was my best ever year. While I do want to read more books this year, I am not sure I could read much more than 50, so I’m setting this year’s goal at 52, only a moderate increase over last year’s goal. It also rounds out to an even book a week.

I am participating in the following reading challenges this year:

All of these challenges allow for books to be counted for more than one challenge, which is great. Otherwise I’d need to pare back.

Last year I made it a goal to improve the tagging on my blog posts, which is still an area I need to work on. I am posting more regularly, and the review posts include the authors’ names now, which I think has contributed to making them more useful. I need to work on titling meme posts so that they are more descriptive of the content rather than just titling them after the meme and using the date. I need to get back in the habit of doing Teaser Tuesdays. I realized in looking back at my posts that I actually liked those posts quite a lot more than I thought I did. Also, I think it’s a good way to introduce readers to favorite quotes in books. Another goal I have for my blogging is to post more often about book and literature-related issues, which I started out doing, but gradually cut back on. In reflecting on my favorite posts of the year 2011, I found those types of posts were more frequently my own favorites, and it stands to reason that if I liked them better, perhaps readers do too.

I have some other reading goals for the year.

  1. Find the time/energy to revive the faculty book club I have led at my school. My colleagues have been asking me about it.
  2. Comment more on reading blogs. I subscribe to many in my feed reader, but I don’t leave comments as often as I think about it.
  3. Clean out my blogroll/RSS feed reader once a month and eliminate bloggers who haven’t posted in a while (unless they announced a hiatus and plan to be back).
  4. Read books set in a larger variety of locales. I don’t want to push it artificially, and I want to read what I want to read, but I did notice the books I read this year were clustered in two locations: the east coast of the U.S. and the U.K. I guess it makes sense, but even with the U.S., I only read two books set in western states (Colorado and Washington) and one set in the midwest (Wisconsin, though that was [amazon_link id=”0060558121″ target=”_blank” ]American Gods[/amazon_link], which is set all over America, and I picked the place the character settled down the longest).

Outside of reading, blogging, and reading about blogging, I have some more goals for the year.

  1. Continue the exercise regimen I started before Christmas. My Christmas present to myself (from the family, I guess) was a Wii Fit, which my sister said was great for beginners. I started a yoga/aerobic/strength training regimen that I have been faithfully doing every day for about a week (barring Christmas, mainly because I didn’t take the Wii down to my parents’ house, where we spent Christmas). It’s actually been a lot of fun to use the Wii Fit program.
  2. Learn to knit. My sister learned from watching videos, and frankly, I hope I can teach myself using videos or tutorials rather than take a class. But I should like to learn so I can make Hogwarts house scarves for everyone in the family according to their house colors (Maggie and Sarah are Hufflepuffs, Steve’s a Slytherin, I’m a Ravenclaw, and Dylan hasn’t been officially sorted in Pottermore, so I’ll either let him pick or sign him up for Pottermore when it’s out of beta). Maggie and Sarah seemed to like the idea of having Hufflepuff scarves, so it sounds like a plan.
  3. Cook more. It’s hard with work and everything else, but it’s more economical. I have done fairly well this year, but there is always room for improvement. I get bored of the same old things over and over. I like trying out new (simple) recipes and saving the more time-consuming/difficult stuff for weekends, holidays, or breaks. Cooking more means planning better and perhaps even a membership at one of those wholesale warehouses. I have a family of five, and we go through the food. I need to be smarter about the food budget. I have quite a few food-related books on my TBR list, too. I love watching TV about food and reading about food.

What about you? Do you have any reading goals or other goals for 2012?

Obscure Books Challenge

2012 Obscure Books Challenge

Obscure Books ChallengeI said I wasn’t going to do this, and maybe I’m crazy, but you know, sometimes you just run with your ideas. I was looking at a copy of [amazon_link id=”143918271X” target=”_blank” ]A Moveable Feast[/amazon_link] that I checked out of my school library, and it had a list of Hemingway’s published books. Some of them I’d never heard of. I’m no Hemingway scholar, but I did teach American literature for a long time. It’s not shocking, I suppose that Hemingway wrote books I had never heard of, but it made me think. Hemingway was awarded a Nobel Prize and wrote many books that are now considered classics. It seemed strange to me that he had written these other books that received less notice, and I wondered if it bothered him that the books were not as well received as some of his others.

Most writers publish more than one book (Harper Lee is a notable exception). Not every book published by every writer is destined to become a classic. My book club chose to read George Orwell’s novel [amazon_link id=”0156196255″ target=”_blank” ]Coming Up for Air[/amazon_link], which I had never heard of until it was suggested. Sometimes there is a good reason why a book doesn’t become well known, but sometimes pretty good books are either overlooked or overshadowed by their more well known cousins. Almost every writer who has published a classic has published several books that are less widely read.

So I created a reading challenge based on reading lesser known works by well known writers. It’s called the Obscure Books Challenge.

Guidelines? Well, the books don’t have to be books no one has ever heard of, but they should be less well known. For example, everyone has heard of [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link], and if people read only one of Fitzgerald’s books, it’s probably that one. But he wrote several others, including [amazon_link id=”0486289990″ target=”_blank” ]This Side of Paradise[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1743383843″ target=”_blank” ]The Beautiful and Damned[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0684830507″ target=”_blank” ]Tender is the Night[/amazon_link]. The first two appear to have entered the public domain and can even be downloaded for free on the Kindle. If you liked The Great Gatsby, but you haven’t read Fitzgerald’s other novels, perhaps this challenge will give you an excuse for doing so.

Or suppose you’ve read Mark Twain’s [amazon_link id=”0393966402″ target=”_blank” ]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn[/amazon_link], but never heard of [amazon_link id=”1463710399″ target=”_blank” ]Pudd’nhead Wilson[/amazon_link]? I’ve read it twice. It’s not bad. It’s not Huck Finn, but it’s not bad.

If this challenge sounds like something you might want to try, head on over to the challenge page and sign up. You can post links to your reviews on the review page and be entered to win a giveaway each month. Giveways for each month will be announced on the review page so that you can decide whether you want the book in question and want to submit a review in order to be in the running for the giveaway. Note: the giveaway books may or may not be related to the theme. It depends on what I can get my hands on, so just keep an eye on the review page for details.

I am not going to go nuts and over-commit myself to my own challenge because I have already entered quite a lot of challenges that (if I’m honest) interest me more, but in the spirit of being a good host, I will participate at The Stranger level and commit to reading three lesser known books by well known authors. These are the books I plan to read:

[amazon_image id=”1743383843″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Beautiful and Damned – The Original Classic Edition[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0684865726″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]True At First Light : A Fictional Memoir[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0140434798″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Villette (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_image]

I already happen to have copies of The Beautiful and Damned and Villette, and I should probably read them. True at First Light intrigues me for several reasons. First, Hemingway was working on it when he died, and his son Patrick edited it and published it a little over ten years ago. Second, it’s set in Africa. I don’t know why I enjoy reading books set in Africa so much. I should read more of them. I think part of me wants to visit Africa, but I’m also a little afraid, particularly after reading [amazon_link id=”0061577073″ target=”_blank” ]The Poisonwood Bible[/amazon_link] (such a great book!). It’s a place of such extremes: vast deserts, tropical rainforests, animals that don’t live anywhere else. The third reason I want to read this Hemingway book is that it’s mired in controversy over whether Patrick Hemingway should have edited and published it. The reviews are really split. Seems people either love it or hate it. Sounds like it provokes a strong reaction. Plus it’s available at PaperBackSwap, so I don’t have to buy it.

If I find I want to add books to this challenge pile, I’ll do so later, but for right now, these three books look good to me.

No more challenges. And don’t you all go posting any interesting challenges that I feel compelled to join!

Harry Potter Reading Challenge

Harry Potter Reading Challenge 2012

Harry Potter Reading Challenge

I found another challenge I want to participate in this year. I haven’t re-read the Harry Potter series in a while. I always enjoy it when I do, and I always get something new out of it, too. I think I’d like to try it again. Penelope at The Reading Fever is hosting what looks like a fun Harry Potter Reading Challenge.

In order to participate, you just need to read or re-read the Harry Potter series between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

Anyone want to join me?

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012

2012 Reading Challenges

I love reading challenges! Here are some 2012 reading challenges I’ve found and decided to try. I probably will add a few more, and once the calendar flips over to January, you’ll find permanent links to these challenges in the sidebar where all the 2011 ones are right now. What I need to be better about this year is actually participating on the blog challenge sites themselves—posting links to my reviews, and the like.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012

I participated in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011, and it was easily one of my favorite and most successful reading challenges of the year, so I wouldn’t want to miss it again. I’m going for the Severe Bookaholism level of 20 books. Sign up here.

Where Are You Reading 2012 Challenge

The Where Are You Reading Challenge is another challenge I also did in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed. You can see my Google Map here. I’ll post it again later in the month in my recap post. Sign up here.

Mixing it Up Challenge

I’m kind of excited about the Mixing it Up Challenge. The idea is to branch out and try books in different genres:

  1. Classics
  2. Biography
  3. Cookery, Food, and Wine
  4. History
  5. Modern Fiction
  6. Graphic Novels and Manga
  7. Crime and Mystery
  8. Horror
  9. Romance
  10. Science Fiction and Fantasy
  11. Travel
  12. Poetry and Drama
  13. Journalism and Humor
  14. Science and Natural History
  15. Children’s and Young Adult
  16. Social Sciences and Philosophy

I’m going for the “All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top” level of participation at one book in each genre. Not sure what I’ll read yet, but I have a few ideas for some of the categories. Sign up here.

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

As soon as I described this one to my husband, he said I needed to sign up for it. I do have a small TBR mountain leaning against the wall on my side of the bed. Steve would be glad if I could plow through some of it. I’m not too insane, so I’m going for Pike’s Peak (plus, I’ve been there because it’s in my home state of Colorado), which requires me to read 12 books from my TBR pile. I’m not sure which ones I’ll read yet, but as I said, I have a huge stack, and I also have a lot of unread Kindle books. Sign up here.

Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge

How absolutely adorable is that button? This challenge asks participants to read free e-books. For the purposes of this challenge, ARC’s, library books, or books I’ve won can’t be counted. The books must be free, legally downloaded books. FYI NetGalley users, it looks like NetGalley books are counted as ARC’s for the purposes of this challenge, so they’re out, too. I’m going for the Coupon Clipper level of 12 books. Sign up here.

Outlander Series Reading Challenge 2012

I have actually only read the first four books of Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] Series. I just recently downloaded all of the audio books with Audible credits I had saved up, so this challenge seems like a good incentive to actually listen to the books and actually catch up with the series. Sign up here.

You know of any other great challenges I should check out? Naturally, I’ll be doing the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the R.I.P. Challenge that Carl hosts once he announces them later.