Category Archives: Challenges

RIP XIII

It’s been a number of years since I participated in the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge that heralds the arrival of Autumn. I love reading mysteries, so it’s always a lot of fun to put together a want-to-read list and join this challenge. It was designed by Carl V. Anderson @ Stainless Steel Droppings and he hosted it for many years. Then Estella’s Revenge took over as hosts. This year, Kristen @ We Be Reading, is hosting it, and it’s a very special year for this challenge: Number 13!  So I can’t resist…I’m signing up!

My list of possible reads for this challenge is enormous, but I already own all of these books, so that’s easy. Some of them are also on my TBR Challenge list or my Classics Club list, so that’s another good reason to participate! Plus, these are all books I want to read, so I foresee many hours of very pleasant Fall reading ahead!

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

Click here to go to the Challenge Website to see how it works, read a description of the different “Perils” you can choose, and learn how to sign up.

I am choosing PERIL THE FIRST  [to read four books of any length during the challenge time period]. Here are the books in my pool of choices for this Peril. I am looking forward to starting this reading project on September 1st!

Classics Club Spin, August 2018

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin! Here’s how it works:

On Wednesday 1st August, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st August, 2018. We’ll check in here then to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

What’s Next?

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Wednesday 1st August.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 31st August.

This will be the third “Spin” I’ve done since I joined the Classics Club. The last spin was a fail for me. The book chosen just wasn’t the right one for me at the time, so I still haven’t finished it (I will, eventually). I’m hoping the book chosen for this Spin will be one in which I can get completely and delightfully lost. Here is my list of 20 books for Spin #18. The chosen book will be highlighted in red.

  1. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  2. Kinfolk, Pearl S. Buck
  3. Ask Me, William Stafford
  4. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  5. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  7. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  8. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  9. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin

  10. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  11. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  12. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  13. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  14. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  15. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  16. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  17. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  18. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  20. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig

Read-a-thon Morning

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon started for me (in my time zone) at 5:00 a.m. That’s not early for me as I’m almost always up by that time anyway…I’m a morning bird! I started out with my usual tall cup of tea and an ebook downloaded from the library. The ebook is from a series of books that I share with my grandson. I wanted to start our the read-a-thon by reading about people whom I admire.  Who Was Ernest Shackleton is a nicely written account of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage to the South Pole on his ship, Endurance, and his brilliant leadership that made survival possible for all his men.

My second book of the morning was Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer, by Amanda Lucidon. The photographs were beautiful! And reading about a beautiful person with great integrity and courage was a lovely way to start my day!

Read-a-thon Eve

Tomorrow morning, at 5:00 a.m. (in my time zone), Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon begins.  This will be my second time doing this fun read-a-thon, and I’m really excited to start! I’ve gathered up books from my shelves and from the library, and I downloaded way too many ebooks from the library web site. But I’m all set, ready to go!

My book choices are varied. I included a number of children’s books, and will revisit some of the books I used to read each year while teaching (I miss them!). I’m been listening to the audiobooks of the Harry Potter series, and I’m on the last book, so I will definitely spend some of the day listening, although I may not finish it tomorrow. I’ve included some books that are on my TBR list, and others that just called out to me from the library shelves.

I also decided that I will take a break every hour and walk on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes. When I’m immersed in a good book sometimes I sit for hours on end, so the walking breaks feel really good. As far as food and treats go, I’m keeping it simple and basically just eating what I normally do during the day. I usually snack on fruit or veggies, or have some crackers with hummus, so that’s what I’m planning.

I’ll check in on Twitter and on Instagram, as well as post an occasional update here during the day. I also want to take some time and check in on other readers! I look forward to reading alongside you all!

Happy reading, everyone!

Classics Club Spin #17

It’s time for another “Spin” with The Classics Club! I am enjoying my reading of the classics I chose for my 5-year reading plan even though I’m running behind on writing my reviews. It’s a very enjoyable, non-pressured challenge, so if you are wanting to read more classics, you should join up!

Here’s how the “Spin” works:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018. 

So here is my Spin List.  It will be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday, and I’ll return to this post then to highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #17:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  3. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz 

  4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  5. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  6. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  10. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  11. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  12. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  13. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  14. The Lost Prince,  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  16. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  17. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  18. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  19. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  20. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

A Very Easy Death

A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.

A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir, is a beautifully written, powerfully emotional account of her mother’s death and her own emotional journey through her mother’s illness and death.

At age 78, her mother fell and broke the top part of her femur. She was hospitalized and during examination, the doctors found that she had cancer. It was a highly aggressive sarcoma, and her illness and decline were rapid. Simone and her sister, Poupette, spent most of their time at the hospital with their mother throughout that time, and Poupette was there the night she died.

This is a story that so many of us have gone through with a parent or loved one. Because the journey through illness and decline is a familiar one, I was acutely aware and appreciative of the honesty with which de Beauvoir shared their story — the story of two daughters in the process of losing their mother, and of their mother’s struggle to LIVE while dying.

Before reading the book, I thought that the term “an easy death” meant that the person didn’t have to suffer very much before dying. My family used that term about my father’s passing. He didn’t suffer long with his illness, and we were so grateful for that. But that is not what de Beauvoir meant by “an easy death.”  On the contrary, her mother suffered terribly before she died, but she had her daughters with her throughout the decline, and they helped her, advocated for her, and shared courage together in facing the inevitable. That was a luxury that de Beauvoir felt many people don’t have at the end of their lives.

With regard to Maman we were above all guilty, these last years, of carelessness, omission and abstention. We felt that we atoned for this by the days that we gave up to her, by the peace that our being there gave her, and by the victories gained over fear and pain. Without our obstinate watchfulness she would have suffered far more.

She and her sister were with her mother constantly during her illness, so de Beauvoir also describes the very painful reality a loved one faces in going through the agony of cancer.

…In this race between pain and death we most earnestly hoped that death would come first.

…Friday passed uneventfully. On Saturday Maman slept all the time. ‘That’s splendid,’ said Poupette to her. ‘You have rested.’ ‘Today I have not lived,’ sighed Maman.

…Nothing on earth could possibly justify these moments of pointless torment.

And she poignantly details the final aloneness of death.

…The misfortune is that although everyone must come to this, each experiences the adventure in solitude. We never left Maman during those last days which she confused with convalescence and yet we were profoundly separated from her.

All the way through this book, I thought of my own mother.  Simone de Beauvoir’s mother was 78 when she died, which seems so young to me from my vantage point now. I am incredibly fortunate to still have my mother who is 98 years old and still very much alive and well! But she and I are also very aware that time is getting short, which gives a special aura to every conversation, every visit, every moment we share. She and I talk about the end quite often, and our shared hope is that it is quick and painless. I live 800 miles away from my mother, so I know it is possible I won’t be with her when that time comes, to help ease her final journey, and that is hard for me.

Nothing prepares any of us for death. Even if fighting a terminal illness, Simone de Beauvoir said: “A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.” Her mother clung tenaciously to life:

What touched our hearts that day was the way she noticed the slightest agreeable sensation: it was as though, at the age of seventy-eight, she were waking afresh to the miracle of living.

And on the finality of death itself, de Beauvoir said:

There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.

Simone de Beauvoir was a gifted author and influential existential philosopher. This was the first book I read by her, but I am very anxious now to read more of her work. I was so impressed with the beauty of her writing and with her deeply thoughtful honesty. With this book, she has touched my heart and mind like no other author has done in a long time.

Simone de Beauvoir with mother and sister…

This was a book that was on my list of 50 books to read for The Classics Club, and was also on my TBR Pile Challenge list.

Simone de Beauvoir

Today is Simone de Beauvoir‘s birthday. She is an author I have long been interested in but have not read any of her work, although I have two of her books on my shelf — The Second Sex, her great feminist manifesto, and A Very Easy Death, the story of her mother’s death. Both books have traveled with me through a number of moves because I really do want to read them.

When I signed up for Adam’s (@roofbeamreader.com) Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, I put A Very Easy Death on my list. I intend to start it soon. Today, on her birthday, would be perfect!

My TBR Pile

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge is hosted by Adam (@roofbeamreader.com). This challenge is a fun way to read books you already own and that have been sitting on your bookshelves for a long time just waiting for you to decide it’s time to read them! It’s time!

Click on the graphic above to read Adam’s rules for the challenge. And check back here to follow my links to the books I’ve finished and reviewed.

My TBR Pile:  Some of these books have been on my shelf for a very long time!

  1. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  3. The Princess Bride, by WIlliam Goldman
  4. A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir (completed January 2018)
  5. This Star Shall Abide, by Sylvia Engdahl
  6. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  7. The Joys of Motherhood, by Buchi Emecheta
  8. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  9. Clandestine in Chile, by Gabriel García Márquez
  10. Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry
  11. Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck
  12. Dipper of Copper Creek, by Jean Craighead George

Alternates:

  1. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  2. Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, by Marta McDowell

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear friends! I am so happy to leave 2017 behind and make the great leap into 2018!  I am looking forward to my 2018 reading, and am planning on taking on some longer books that have been waiting on my bookshelves forever.

There are a few reading “resolutions” I’m going to make for 2018. One is to read at least 10 of the classics on my Classics Club list of 50 books to read in 5 years. I’m also going to focus on my TBR pile of already owned books. To help with motivation and accountability, I’ve decided to join Adam’s (@roofbeamreader) TBR Pile Challenge. I will post about it shortly.

I plan to blog as often as I can, knowing that when the weather warms up and I can get out into the garden or work on my training for 5k races, I won’t have as much time to sit in front of the computer. It’s funny how at this stage of life (retirement), I absolutely love being outdoors and am spending much more time out there than I have since I was a child!  It feels like a really healthy thing to do…and it’s fun!

I’m also looking forward to seeing what your 2018 plans are and what books you choose for your first reads of this new year.

Happy reading, dear friends!

Painting by Charles James Lewis. “Reading by the Window, Hastings.”

The Best Sequel of 2017

“Best Sequel I Read” is the prompt for day 3 of the “All the Books of 2017” challenge hosted by @annreads on Instagram.. This year’s best was Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling. I’m enjoying a slow, leisurely re-reading of the Harry Potter series, and this time around, I absolutely loved The Prisoner of Azkaban! It was just so much fun!

My favorite quote from the book is, of course, “…when in doubt, go to the library.” But the former teacher in me also got a big kick out of this quote:

History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who taught it, was their only ghost teacher, and the most exciting thing that ever happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn’t noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staffroom fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.

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