Saturday, January 16, 2021

2021 CHALLENGE - Back to the Classics

 


BACK TO THE CLASSICS

The Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate is one of my favorites. I didn't get my act together in 2020 to sign up in time, so only participated in my mind. 2020 was that kind of year. But I am a little more on my game so far in 2021, so here is my sign up post. We will see how I do reading the books!

The idea for the Back to the Classics challenge is to read "classic" books meaning those published more than 50 years ago that are considered classics. There is no hard and fast definition and you pick your own books. Participants read up to 12 books in 12 separate categories. Readers who read 6 books get one entry for a prize at the end; two entries for nine books; and three entries for 12. Read all the details and rules on the main challenge page. You have to sign up by the end of March.

THE CATEGORIES

  • 19th Century Classic
  • 20th Century Classic
  • Classic by a Woman
  • Classic in Translation
  • Classic by a BIPOC Author
  • Classic by a New-to-You Author
  • Classic by a Favorite Author
  • Classic About an Animal
  • Children's Classic
  • Classic Humor or Satire
  • Travel or Adventure Classic
  • Classic Play

MY BOOKS

I hope to read at least six books for the Back to the Classics challenge. My plan is to read books off my Classics Club list so I can make progress on finishing that list by my deadline goal of December 2023. 

I'm not sure which books I'll pick, but possibilities include:



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter - BOOK BEGINNINGS

 


BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

Another week is here for us to share the first sentences (or so) of the books we are reading. Book Beginnings on Fridays has been going for several years now. We've gathered a lot of opening sentences! 

For those of you who have participated for a long time -- THANK YOU! For those of you who are more new, welcome! I appreciate everyone who participates. I don't always get around to visit everyone every week. But I enjoy all your blogs and love the variety of readers who take part in this event and the different sorts of books we all read.

Please link your post below. You don't have to have a blog to play along. You can post on facebook, Instagram, or other social media and link your related post in the Linky box below. As always, if you post, or share your blog post, on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag so we can find each other. 

MY BOOK BEGINNING



August, 1931 -- The port town of Veracruz is a little purgatory between land and sea for the traveler, but the people who live there are very fond of themselves and the town they have helped to make. 

-- Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter. Published in 1962, Ship of Fools is a shaggy story of many characters on a ship from Mexico to Germany in the stormy times prior to WWII. 

YOUR BOOK BEGINNINGS

Please link to your Book Beginning blog post or social media post, not the home page of your blog or your social media profile page. 

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THE FRIDAY 56
The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

MY FRIDAY 56


David, hearing the thin edge in her voice, said no more, but reflected that no matter how he tried to explain his point of view to Jenny, about anything at all, he seemed always to go off at a tangent, or in a circle, or to get bogged down in a spot he had never meant to be in, as if Jenny's mind refracted his thought instead of absorbing his meaning, or even his feelings about certain things -- Indians, for example. He would give up from now on talking to Jenny about Indians, or about her painting, either; she was sentimental about the one, and obstinate about the other; let it go.

Ship of Fools is a long book -- my edition is just under 500 pages -- but I like it. It's wordy, idea-based, repetitive, and detail-driven, the way many mid-Century (meaning mid-20th Century) novels seemed to be. It is one of the 50 books I put on my Classics Club list because it is on Erica Jong's list of Top 100 20th Century Novels by Women

 



Monday, January 11, 2021

Little Free Library New Year Books - MAILBOX MONDAY

 

A couple of new year's intentions (I wouldn't go as far as resolutions) have me tidying my bookshelves and out for neighborhood walks. Both these find me hitting the nearby Little Free Libraries on a regular basis these days. I have a nice one-mile loop through my neighborhood that takes me past FIVE Little Free Libraries! I can get some exercise and drop off books along my way. 

Of course, I often end up finding books that catch my eye in the LFLs. Isn't that always the way? I am just trying to keep the outflow of books from my house greater than the inflow from the Little Free Libraries. 

Here are my recent Little Free Library finds. What new books have come into your house lately?









Buckingham Palace: The Interiors by Ashley Hicks (Rizzoli). This was my favorite find. I love fancy coffee table books, and this stunner from Rizzoli is brand new. Now that I finished the last season of The Crown, I'm happy to have another way to visit Buckingham Palace. 














A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. Mostly Shakespeare biography, part history, this book focusses on Shakespeare's life in 1599, the year he wrote four of his most famous plays -- Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet.














In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister McGrath. This is another literary history book I found with the Shakespeare book, most likely dropped off by the same neighbor reader. It also looks great.














740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building by Michael Gross. Framed as the history of a fancy building in New York City, built by Jackie Kennedy's grandfather, this is a social history of New York. 



MAILBOX MONDAY 

Join other book lovers on Mailbox Monday to share the books that came into your house last week. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.


Friday, January 8, 2021

12 Books to Read in 2021 -- A Year's Worth of Interesting Indies!

 

stack of 12 books discussed in blog post


12 BOOKS TO READ IN 2021

A Year's Worth of Interesting Indies

Whether you are still in a reading slump from last year or just looking to liven up your 2021 reading list, here are 12 books to read in 2021 guaranteed to mix things up a bit. These indie authors and publishers have turned out top-rate memoirs, novels, short stories, biography, and travel books, so there is something here for every taste, or to fill in a a whole calendar of exceptional reads.

River Queens: Saucy Boat, Stout Mates, Spotted Dog, America by Alexander Watson



It took me a while to get to River Queens and I am so glad I finally did. What a delight! It's the memoir of Watson's adventure restoring an old wooden Chris-Craft boat he and his partner bought in Oklahoma and sailed back to Cincinnati, Ohio. It's a charmingly quixotic story of adventure, mishap, and the romance of river life. The real heart of the book lies in how Alexander and Dale, two urban, gay, landlubbers-turned-river-captains, are adopted by the community of small town and rural "river people" they meet along their inland journey. In these divisive times when it sometimes seems like no one gets along, it is nice to read a book and realize that people are really nicer than we remember. 

The Canyon Cuts Both Ways: Hidden Stories by Dan T. Cox

Reading Dan T. Cox's new collection of short stories is like living in Oregon's North Santiam Canyon for a while. The stories overlap just enough you feel like you know the community, with its small towns, mills, forested hills, bad weather, and difficult lives of the people who live in this beautiful but struggling pocket of Oregon. Cox is an excellent writer in that you don't notice his writing -- the stories come straight at you. If you are a fan of Raymond Carver, you'll love The Canyon Cuts Both Ways

 

Never Leaving Laramie: Travels in a Restless World by John W. Haines

Never Leaving Laramie: Travels in a Restless World by John W. Haines (2020, OSU Press). 

John Haines was an adventure seeker from a young age. He biked through Tibet, kayaked the Niger River, and rode the Trans-Siberian Express from Beijing to East Berlin. A fall from a train in the Czech Republic in 1999 left him partially paralyzed and radically changed his life. His new memoir, Never Leaving Laramie, weaves the stories of his travels with his philosophy of travel as Haines writes about how growing up in Laramie, Wyoming gave him perspective and taught him lessons he carried with him around the globe. He ends with a chapter on his life since his accident and the different ways people can travel through the world. 



Hunting Four Horsemen by Jim Geraghty













Hunting Four Horsemen by Jim Geraghty (2020, Discus Books)

If you are in the mood for an up-to-the-minute thriller, Hunting Four Horsemen is the book for you. Set in 2021 when vaccines have corralled COVID19, but nothing is quite back to normal yet. Now the CIA's "Dangerous Clique" team of special operatives, lead by Katrina Leonidivna, must track down a new threat -- an anonymous arms dealer trying to sell a new bioweapon to terrorist organizations. This deadly virus would make corona look tame and plunge the world into chaos. It's non-stop action as the Clique races around the globe tracking bad guys, saving humanity, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty monkeys.  


Rough House by Tina Ontiveros













Rough House by Tina Ontiveros (2020, OSU Press) 

Tina Ontiveros's memoir is a tough read but it lays bare what it was like to grow up in the logging camps of the Pacific Northwest. Raised by a charming but abusive father and a mother worn down by small-town poverty, Ontiveros writes with heartbreaking honesty about family dysfunction and intergenerational trauma. Rough House makes an excellent companion read with Dan Cox's short story collection, The Canyon Cuts Both Ways, because it is the nonfiction version of the same world, as seen by the women and children who live in it. 


Dudes Rush In by Lynn Downey














This debut novel takes us back to 1952 Arizona, the heyday of Dude Ranches, when war widow Phoebe McFarland leaves her settled life in San Francisco to spend six months on her in-laws' ranch. Her discovery of a diary from WWI years sets her on the path of a mystery and her own rebirth. The story is packed with engaging characters, plot twists, and memorable settings, and Phoebe is a smart and likeable heroine. Downey was the archivist for Levi Strauss, Co. and her skills as a researcher show in this page-turner of a historical novel.


Braided in Fire: Black GIS and Tuscan Villagers on the Gothic Line by Solace Wales














Solace Wales tells the story of the Tuscan village of Sommocolonia and the Black 366th Infantry Regiment that defended the village in WWII during the Battle of Garfagnana. At the center of her story are Lieutenant John Fox, who posthumously won the Medal of Honor for his heroism, and the brave Biondi family. Wales explores how the bonds between some of the Black GIs and Italian villagers, forged during the battle, remained strong for lifetimes. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues, Braided in Fire is a timely record of the Black lives given during WWII to save Europe from fascism.    


Always an Immigrant: A Cultural Memoir by Mohammad Yadegari with Pricilla Yadegari













Always an Immigrant: A Cultural Memoir by Mohammad Yadegari with Pricilla Yadegari (2020, White River Press). 

Mohammad Yadegari was born in Iraq in an Iranian family. At 18, he moved to Iran to finish high school in Tehran. Later, he immigrated to the United States for college and graduate school where he met and married his wife Pricilla. He wrote his memoir in the form of personal stories and anecdotes about growing up in the Middle East in the the 1940 to early 1960s and then moving to America. He's a good storyteller and the book is full of humor and real life wisdom. Immigrant stories are a part of American life and it is fascinating to get the perspective of someone who immigrated from the Middle East in the mid-1960s. 


Mordecai's Ashes by Arlana Crane













Mordecai's Ashes by Arlana Crane (2020, Big Tree Press)

With Mordecai's Ashes, Arlana Crane launches her new Larsson Investigations series, set on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Karl Larsson has lost his job in the Alberta oil fields and his wife, but he just inherited a detective agency in Victoria, BC. With nothing to lose and a lot to learn, he sets out to solve a mystery or two, his 19 year old cousin Kelsey as his sidekick. There are plenty of twists and turns, lots of PNW atmosphere, and a terrific story to keep the pages turning. All in all, Mordecai's Ashes is a fine kick off for what looks like a very entertaining series. It's always fun to start at the beginning. 


Beloved Prophet 2020: The Abridged Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journals, edited and arranged by Virginia Hilu and Dalton Hilu Einhorn













Beloved Prophet 2020: The Abridged Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journals, edited and arranged by Virginia Hilu and Dalton Hilu Einhorn (2020)

Kahlil Gibran wrote The Prophet, which since published in 1923 has never been out of print, has been translated into over 100 languages, and is one of the best-selling books of all time. Gibran never married but had a long-time intimate relationship with Mary Haskell, to whom he was once engaged. This is a new edition of Beloved Prophet, the correspondence between Gibran and Haskell, which was first published in 1972. This edition has been pared down about 40% to make it more accessible to a general audience, editing out the parts of interest only to academics. Beloved Prophet is a must read for die hard Gibran fans. 


She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church by Gail Hovey













She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church by Gail Hovey (2020, Exposit Books

Hovey's memoir discusses the often overlooked issue of sexual abuse of girls by women. But don't be put off by the subject matter. It is really the story of how easily young people can be enthralled and exploited by someone older who seems  charismatic simply by showing the young person a little special attention. That manipulation leads to feelings of guilt and shame that take a long time to recognize and and even longer to understand, well into adulthood. When Hovey was a teenager, she was emotionally and physically seduced by Georgia, the education director at her church. It took her decades, including a move to South Africa, to break free of Georgia's influence. Hovey tells her story well, with compassion and insight. She Said God Blessed Us is a memoir worth reading for anyone whose family has been touched by abuse or who wants to understand dynamics and effects of abuse. 

The Town Crazy by Suzzy Roche













The Town Crazy by Suzzy Roche (2020, Gibson House Press)

The Town Crazy is set in Hanzloo, Pennsylvania, a suburban Catholic community in Pennsylvania in 1961, when a single father moves to town with his son Felix. The dads are suspicious, most of the moms are smitten, and Lil O'Brien, one of the town moms, seems to be losing her mind. Felix befriends his classmate, Lil's daughter Alice, but when the town busybody jumps to a conclusion of misbehavior, tragedy follows. Meanwhile, Lil's bottled-up secret is leading to greater emotional collapse. This character-driven, captivating story will keep you engaged from cover to cover. 


GO AHEAD -- FILL YOUR CALENDAR WITH THESE 12 INDIE BOOKS!



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow - BOOK BEGINNINGS and THE FRIDAY 56

 


BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

Welcome to Book Beginnings on Fridays, where we share the first sentence or so of the book we are enjoying this week. You can play along on your own blog, social media, or in the comments below.

If you post on your blog or social media, please link to your post in the linky below. Please link to your BBOF post not your home page or social media profile. If you want to participate in the comments, just leave a comment with the opening sentence of the book, along with the title and author's name. 

If you post or share on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag so we can find each other. 

MY BOOK BEGINNING

I'm making a big effort -- a bigger effort than usual -- to clear off my TBR shelves in 2021. With that goal in mind, I'm reading Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow this week because it has been on my TBR shelf for as long as I can remember. 

He had to have planned it because when we drove onto the dock the boat was there and the engine was running and you could see the water churning up phosphorescence in the river, which was the only light there was because there was no moon, nor no electric light either in the shack where the dockmaster should have been sitting, nor on the boat itself, and certainly not from the car, yet everyone knew where everything was, and when the big Packard came down the ramp Mickey the driver braked it so that the wheels hardly rattled the boards, and when he pulled up alongside the gangway the doors were already open and they hustled Bo and the girl upside before they even made a shadow in all that darkness.

Wow! That is quite a shaggy opening sentence. It's an entire story in itself. Billy Bathgate won the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 1990 PEN/Faulkner Award

I didn't care for Ragtime, even though most people love it, so I put this one off. But I'm now halfway through and enjoying it very much. Ragtime bugged me because it seemed to me a bucket of historic facts dumped out and then strung together like beads by the story. Although Billy Bathgate is based on the criminal history of New York gangster Dutch Schultz, it is a solid, cohesive story.


YOUR BOOK BEGINNINGS

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THE FRIDAY 56

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

MY FRIDAY 56

From Billy Bathgate

It surprised me that someone that physically unfortunate would want to dress sharply. His trousers were pulled up so high by his suspenders that he seemed not to have any chest.

Doctorow is a good storyteller. He spins a yarn so you can picture everything precisely. 


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