#AnneReadalong2017: Anne of Avonlea (Book 3 of #20BooksofSummer)

Note: Jane at Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie at Death By Tsundoku are co-hosting an Anne of Green Gables series readalong for the remainder of the year.  Check out their blogs for more info on how to join the fun!

“Having adventures comes natural to some people,” said Anne serenely.  “You just have a gift for them or you haven’t.”

My reading of the second book in L.M. Montgomery’s classic series was a bit more of a chore than my experience of the first one, I have to admit.  I did enjoy it, but I found it all too easy to set the book aside when I’d finished a chapter.  It consisted of vignettes about people in Anne’s life and Anne herself, just like the first.  But I felt that there was less forward momentum in the narrative, almost as if each chapter was a short story rather than part of a novel.

9780770420208-us-300Anne is 16 now and a teacher of some of the very children who were recently her schoolmates.  She still lives with Marilla, who is still experiencing poor eyesight and can’t do any close up sewing or crafting or reading.  However, they are soon joined by twins Davy and Dora, six years old, distant relations who are orphaned and need a temporary place to stay. Davy is a deliberately mischievous “handful” and Dora is… well… boring. Dora might as well not exist, in my opinion.  She’s only referenced in contrast to Davy’s behavior, and Anne and Marilla both admit to liking Davy more.  Poor Dora!  I wondered why Montgomery even introduced her in the first place.  Why not just have little Davy come to stay at Green Gables?  But I’ve not read the rest of the series – perhaps Dora has a meatier role to play in the future?

In any case, Anne is busy with teaching and with the newly formed Avonlea Village Improvement Society, in addition to her adventures with the twins and assorted neighbors and friends.  My favorite part of the book came towards the end, when we meet the “old maid” (“forty-five and quite gray”) Miss Lavendar Lewis.  Miss Lavendar is as romantic and imaginative as Anne is, and they become fast friends.

“But what is the use of being an independent old maid if you can’t be silly when you want to, and when it doesn’t hurt anybody?”

I very much enjoyed the whimsical Miss Lavendar, and was quite moved by her affection for Anne’s favorite pupil, sweet, sensitive Paul Irving.  The plotline involving Lavendar and Paul’s father, Stephen, felt romantic and satisfying.  Anne herself has just a taste of romance, her first conscious thought of what may lie ahead with Gilbert, in the book’s last pages.

Favorite line:  “… Mrs. Lynde says that when a man has to eat sour bread two weeks out of three his theology is bound to get a kink in it somewhere.”

Rating:  Three stars.  We got to meet some fun characters, but overall it felt lacking compared to the richness of the first.  Davy was a big drag for me, quite frankly. However, the book had a sweet spirit and Anne still exhibited her trademark appreciation for nature and creative daydreaming, which I enjoyed.  I do look forward to reading more about Anne’s adventures as she heads to Redmond College.  I’m hoping the change of scenery will add more momentum to the story!

20-books(This was book 3 of my #20BooksofSummer list.  Combining reading challenges!  Yes!) 

 

#20BooksofSummer REVISED: Because I’m Awful At Planning My Reading!

I knew that when I signed up for this 20 Books of Summer thing I would have trouble with it!  It’s kind of funny.  I mean, it’s only mid-June and I’m already revising my list. But I am just horrible at planning my reading.  I am a creature of whim when it comes to my books – plus I am in a book group that meets monthly.  WHICH I TOTALLY FORGOT to take into account when I wrote my first post EVEN THOUGH I’VE BEEN IN IT FOR TEN YEARS! Good grief.

140290I’m cutting out five books from my original list. One I started reading and just didn’t like (J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints For All Occasions.  A shame, since I very much liked her other books.)  So I have already subbed in an Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles.)  And since I’ve become hooked on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I’m subbing in the third book, The Waste Lands, because I don’t think I can make it to September without reading it!

Then I’m adding my book group books for June and July to my list.  Our book for this month is Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being.  I’ve heard so many good things about this – I hope it’s good!  I’m going to listen to it on audio and read it, so I can try and finish it by our next meeting.

Taking Out:

  1. Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon by Jane Austen
  2. Discontent and Its Civilizations by Mohsin Hamid
  3. Ghana Must Go by Taye Selasi
  4. Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton

tb-cover-993x1500Subbing In:

  1. A Tale For the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
  2. The Waste Lands – Stephen King
  3. Unnamed Book Group Pick for July
  4. Unnamed Book Group Pick for August

I do still want to read the four I took out, but I also want to get as close to finished 20 books as I can, so they will have to wait.  This is hard!

I’ve finished the second book from my list (Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.) I really liked it.  Four stars!  I’ll be posting a review in the next couple of days.

So how are you faring with your lists?  Are you having to cut and add things like I am?

#20BooksofSummer: Taking the Plunge

Last year I joined Cathy’s #20BooksOfSummer Challenge but chose the option of reading ten books instead of twenty.  I know myself, and I know that I am a mood reader. Writing down a list of books that I MUST read ignites my inner rebel and instantly makes me want to read anything but.  And when I began thinking of my lists for this year’s challenge, I was going to go with the 10 books again.  However, having seen many lists going up this week, I’ve started to question my decision.  I think I’m going to go ahead, roll the dice, and do the FULL TWENTY!  So what if I don’t finish?  So what if I decide to swap out books?  No one is going to notice, because they’re too busy reading their own books and writing their own posts, right?  I’m not being graded on this, so why not?  Quit being such a perfectionist, Laila!  So, here is my list. (BTW, the picture below is not the full twenty – some of them will be library books I haven’t checked out yet.)

IMG_1646The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

Passing by Nella Larsen

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by Sharon Bolton

In the Country by Mia Alvar

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Saints For All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Discontent and Its Civilizations:  Dispatches From New York, Lahore, and London by Mohsin Hamid

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

The Reckoning (Maeve Kerrigan #2) by Jane Casey

Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon by Jane Austen

Ghana Must Go by Taye Selasi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

At Mrs. Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

(Yes, I’m combining my #AnneReadAlong2017 with this challenge!)

20-booksThere it is!  Have you read any of these?  Are you joining the #20BooksofSummer Challenge?  

40 For 40 Update: Some Progress Is Made, And A Poll!

So a while back I wrote about turning 40 this year, and how I’d made a list of 40 small “challenges” I wanted to complete before the year is out.  Well, since my birthday’s come and gone, I thought it was time to share an update on my progress and give you a look at the whole list.  (It wasn’t complete the last time I wrote about it.)

IMG_1628Here are the challenges I’ve completed:

  1. Memorize a poem (The Summer Day by Mary Oliver)
  2. Eat a salad for lunch every day for a week
  3. Meditate at least 5 minutes every day for a week
  4. Plant something new in the garden (watermelon and pumpkin)
  5. Read one book of the Bible (Mark)
  6. Don’t get on Twitter or Facebook after 6 pm for one week
  7. Do a three-star sudoku puzzle
  8. Thoroughly de-clutter my chest of drawers
  9. Drink 8 glasses of water a day for a week
  10. Work out in the 30 Minute Fitness area of my gym

Here are some challenges that I’m currently working on:

  1. Learn some ASL signs/phrases
  2. Watch all the Iranian films in my library system’s movie collection (we have a lot!)
  3. Get rid of 40 possessions (I’ve gotten rid of ten so far)

Challenges still remaining:

  1. Read a classic book that has intimidated me (I’ve not yet chosen which book!)
  2. Go see a play
  3. Bike from my house to a local landmark (I still haven’t gotten a bike yet!)
  4. Cook something that intimidates me
  5. Bake something complicated
  6. Take a dance class
  7. Start learning how to knit
  8. Get my passport renewed
  9. Go to Toronto to visit my cousin and sight-see
  10. Visit a church
  11. Go on a hike with my Dad
  12. Play with my son right after dinner every night for a week instead of immediately washing the dishes
  13. Camp overnight with my husband and son (I’ve never camped)
  14. Take a yoga class
  15. Read a book that my husband picks for me
  16. Volunteer with an organization for an afternoon/a day
  17. Write a paper letter to a faraway friend
  18. Do one random act of kindness every day for a week
  19. Call an old friend who is faraway
  20. Go to a museum
  21. Visit Parnassus Books in Nashville
  22. Take a class – art, cooking, gardening, etc.
  23. Begin learning Farsi
  24. Spend 15 minutes reading poetry daily for one week
  25. Bake bread (I’ve never tried)
  26. Swim with my son at the neighborhood pool this summer (I’m notorious for avoiding a bathing suit)
  27. Attempt to make tadig or tahdig (a Persian crusty-rice dish that’s very popular – and delicious!  My mom used to make it when I was a kid.)

Lately my attention to the list has been poor.  The first few months of the year I was gung-ho about the project, but I’ve slacked off the last couple of months. I still want to accomplish as many of the goals as possible before the end of the year, though, so I’m renewing my focus!

Here’s where you come in:  You get to help decide which classic book I read! Take a look at my choices, all books I want to read sometime in my life.  Vote in the poll!

If you have any tips on making any of my challenges easier, I’m all ears.  I’ll be sure to post an update later in the year, and I’ll let you know the results of the book poll shortly!

 

R.I.P. Challenge: White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

My second pick for the R.I.P. Challenge is Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is For Witching, and I loved it.  I’m not sure I fully understood it, or even that it is a book than can be fully understood, but I’m okay with that.

6277227It’s the story of teenage twins, Miranda and Eliot, both about to graduate the British version of high school and embark on their lives as adults.  It’s also the story of a house in Dover, England, the house where the twins live with their father, Luc, who runs a bed and breakfast there.  And it is also the story of Ore, a young black woman adopted and raised by white parents, who meets Miranda at Cambridge.  It’s told from multiple perspectives, including one from the (malevolent) house itself.

One evening she pattered around inside me, sipping something strong that wedged colour into her cheeks, and she dragged all my windows open, putting her glass down to struggle with the stiffer latches.  I cried and cried for an hour or so, unable to bear the sound of my voice, so shrill and pleading, but unable to stop the will of the wind wheeling through me, cold in my insides.  That was the first and last time I’ve heard my own voice.  I suppose I am frightening.  But Anna Good couldn’t hear me.  When she closed me up again it was only because she was too cold.  Most nights she went with the moon, and when it was round she stayed in my biggest bedroom and wouldn’t answer the thing that asked her to let it out

(let you out from where?

let me out from the small, the hot, the take me out of the fire i am ready i am hard like the stones you ate, bitter like those husks)

Miranda suffers from a condition called pica, in which people compulsively eat non-food items; apparently all the women in her mother’s lineage suffered from it as well.  her favorite thing to eat is chalk.  She suffered from it even before her mother Lily’s death, but her mental and physical health take a dramatic turn for the worse after Lily dies. She can’t sleep.  Her brother and father are aware of her condition but are powerless to stop her from harming herself.  Eliot feels the full weight of responsibility for her, since Lily is gone and Luc is pretty much going through the motions of parenting.  After defending Miranda from a serious accusation of violence, the reader sees him sag under the pressure.51ggkdnfrdl

The duty to speak when Miri couldn’t, to make sense when she didn’t.  I checked that no one was around, then put my forehead to my locker and stood against it like a plank, with all my weight in my head.  I stood like that until I stopped feeling like breaking something.  Otherwise I could snap the Biros in my pocket, go into the nearest empty classroom and slam the chairs into the bookshelves, then what?  Go home and smash Lily’s camera?  Thank you, Lily, for leaving me in charge of someone I just can’t be responsible for.  She won’t forget or recover, she is inconsolable.

As the house divulges information about the women in Miranda’s family, it also describes terrifying acts it performs on guests at the B&B.  People who work there feel the evil presence. The house does not like that Miranda has gone away to school.  It does not like that Miranda has a special relationship with Ore.  Ore comes to visit her on a school break and strange and scary things happen to her as well. Miranda knows that something is very wrong, something that she is not strong enough to escape from.  The ending is sad, unsettling, and decidedly ambiguous, with a strong sense of magical realism.

I found myself more engaged with and moved by this novel than by the only other Oyeyemi book I’ve read, Boy, Snow, Bird, which I appreciated but didn’t love.  I will be seeking out the rest of Oyeyemi’s books for sure – she is a strikingly original author.  This is the quintessential October book, equal parts sad and creepy: a mystery, a ghost story, and a haunting love story all at once.  An excellent choice for my first R.I.P.!

 

My Very Late #10BooksofSummer Wrap-Up

I promise I’m not ignoring the book blogging world on purpose, guys.  It’s just that life has been really hectic lately.  I hope things start to calm down soon!

I wanted to wrap up my experience participating in Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer Challenge.  Exercising my self-knowledge, I chose the #10Books path rather than 20.  I know that too much pressure to read results in me NOT reading, just as too much pressure to drop desserts results in my bingeing on chocolate chip cookies.  (Readers and eaters, know thyself!)10booksfinal

So here are my results:

  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – Five stars – Loved it!
  2. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – Had book from library and didn’t finish it in time.  It still has a waiting list on it, and I’m back on the list, so hopefully I’ll get to finish it in the next two months!  What I’ve read was very good.
  3. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.  My first Nnedi book, and I enjoyed it very much.
  4. Open City by Teju Cole.  DNF, sadly.  I really enjoyed his Every Day is For the Thief, but this one was too slow and ponderous for my tastes/mood.
  5. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia.  So good!
  6. Means of Evil and Other Stories by Ruth Rendell.  Inspector Wexford doesn’t let me down, y’all.
  7. The Vegetarian by Han Kang.  One of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.  Note I didn’t say I loved it.  But I didn’t hate it either.  It remains an enigma.
  8. High Rising by Angela Thirkell.  Light, cheery, British, fun read.
  9. Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor.  So GOOD.  Highly recommend for those interested in social justice issues.
  10. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.  ALL THE STARS.  Marlon James is now on my Top Ten Favorite Authors list.

I think 8/10 is a very respectable showing, and I am so glad I took the chance and participated!  Thanks to Cathy at 746 Books for hosting this.  I came away with two five-star reads that will go on my year end Top Ten for sure.

In other news, I’ve once again returned to reading more than one book at a time.  I have decided that I’m cool with alternating between a few things, as long as they’re in different formats (audio, fiction, nonfiction.)  Currently I’m listening to Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.  So far it’s not knocking my socks off, but I’m still interested.  I’m also reading Sister, Outsider by Audre Lorde, which is TOTALLY knocking my socks off, but it’s so good that I don’t want to rush it.  I just finished Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior and it hit me right in the gut.  It’s just a beautiful, raw look at how messy being a human being who loves other human beings is.  And it’s about honoring your inner voice and strength, and following your heart.  I loved it.

That’s all from me for now.  I hope you’ve had a very good weekend and that you’re enjoying some good books!

 

My First R.I.P Challenge!

ripeleven250I’m just a little bit excited about this, can you tell?

I was still feeling like a new-ish blogger last fall, and I did not participate in the challenge. As I approach my second blogging anniversary, I am eager to jump in!

This is the 11th Annual R.I.P. Challenge (Readers Imbibing Peril) hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  You can read more about it and join here.

From September 1 to October 31, you can read books (or watch movies/shows, or play games) from these genres, perfect for chillier Autumn nights:

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Gothic
Horror
Dark Fantasy

Given my mediocre showing in reading challenges, I’ve chosen Peril the Second.

“Simply halve the requirement of Peril the First. If you choose to take on this Peril, read two books of your choosing that you feel fit the various R.I.P. categories.”

ripnineperilsecond-600x268

I haven’t quite nailed down what I’ll read to fulfill my Peril, but I’m considering Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls and Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial (since I own them both and haven’t read them yet.)  But I’d also like to include an author of color so I may read something from Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, or a mystery by Attica Locke.

In any case, I think it will be fun to read about what everyone else chooses.  I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to scary entertainment, but I do appreciate a nail-biting page-turner. If you have a creepy(ish) book you really love, please suggest it in the comments.  This should be fun!