Into the new year: a challenging post

Hello! Ahem… Long time no see. Oh, by the way, happy new year! I hope you all had a good time over the Christmas season, huge piles of new books under the tree on Christmas morning, and a great start to your reading (and blogging, for those of you who blog) year.

As for me, the start was less than great as you can see. It’s the end of January already as I am drafting this first post of the year, and so far I managed to finish just one (one! :shock:) book. I do need to get my act together. In my defense, I only have this: this year I do need to put a lot more steam in my work. And I’d be sad to see my reading rate drop too far, so the blog is what goes, mostly. I’ll be taking things very very easy around here. But I’ll still be around.

And I don’t want to let go of the good things. Such as readalongs and group and buddy reads. Here’s my plan so far…

My 2013 readalongs 

OK, OK; these are all may-bes. I’d love to participate in them all (and more), but we’ll see.

Also, I’ve seen many bloggers kiss challenges goodbye, but you cannot count me in that group. Sure, I have to cut back and not sign up for every challenge that pops up, but I always loved challenges that pushed my reading toward new lands, and these I will keep doing (even though I failed them last year and will probably fail them again! I told you, I don’t want any pressure, but I love being exposed to new titles!)

geo

My 2013 geography-themed challenges

Middle East Challenge
Level: Tourist (1-5 books)

  1. Jerusalem by Simon Seabag Montefiore
  2. … really no idea, but last year I ended up reading only books written by Western writers, so I’d like to concentrate on local writers this time. Any suggestion?

Aussie Author Challenge
Level: Tourist (3 books)

  1. something by Melina Marchetta, certainly
  2. something by Geraldine Brooks, ideally Year of Wonders if I can get a copy
  3. The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey

South East Asia Challenge

S. Krishna said she’d put this one up again this year, but it’s not official yet. I’ll try to read 3 books again, starting with Anita Nair’s The Lilac House.

Global Reading Challenge
Level: Easy (1 book per continent)

  • Africa:
  • Asia: The Lilac House by Anita Nair
  • Australasia/Oceania
  • Europe: Long John Silver: the True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure As a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind, by Bjorn Larsson
  • North America:
  • South America:
  • The Seventh Continent:

I’ll also keep doing a few other challenges that I love — really, you cannot stop my passion for chunksters, my interest for non-fiction or my newly-found love of classics!

other

My 2013 “other” challenges

Chunkster Challenge
Level: Mor-book-ly Obese (8+ books, 3 over 750 pages)

  1. Jerusalem by Simon Seabag Montefiore
  2. Shogun by James Clavell
  3. A Dance with Dragons by G.R.R. Martin
  4. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
  5. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki
  6. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Non-Fiction Challenge
Level: Explorer (6-10 books)

  1. Jerusalem by Simon Seabag Montefiore
  2. Alpha Beta by John Man
  3. In Search of Plenty: A History of Jewish Food, by Oded Schwartz and Jane Human
  4. Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay
  5. Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Double Classic Challenge
Level: 2 pairs

  1. … OK, I’m stuck, but last year serendipity came to my rescue, so I’m leaving it open. Feel free to suggest anything! (Maybe something connected with one of the readalong classics?)

Oh, and then there’s the Classics Club. But that list needs a post of its own (although, *scratches head*, maybe I’ve reached my list-in-a-post limit for 2013 already with this post…)

How’s 2013 going so far with you? What challenges and group reads are you loving this year?

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Year’s end: 2012 in review

The year is not over (and I do hope to put in one last book, so I can neatly round off the year at 80) so it’s not time for stats yet, but I spent some time thinking back at how the year has been going, reading-wise and blogging-wise, and I decided to put down some thoughts.

Reading choices

Of 79 books so far, I can honestly say I liked some 20, not more. And I was WOW’ed by only 4 or 5. This is not good. Sometime this year I read an article that made me think about how limited the number of books I can still read in my lifetime is — I really need not to waste those books with poor choices! How do you choose your books to avoid disappointment?

A few of my favorite things: readalongs!

This was my “new thing” for 2012 and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I read Bleak House and Wuthering Heights with the Unputdownable readalongs hosted by Wallace, Neverwhere as a group read @ Stainless Steel Droppings, O Testamento do Sr. Napumoceno da Silva Araújo with Alex of The Sleepless Reader and Fall of Giants for the Chunky Book Club — and the latter was the only one that didn’t work out (I see the hosts at the Chunky Book Club are considering whether or not to continue the experience, and I am crossing my fingers that they keep it going!) As one who has never taken part in a book club IRL, I loved the chance to discuss while reading! And I do want to continue  “readalonging” in 2013. Do you know of any good group read I should consider?

Reading in a group is always more fun than reading alone. Image credits: Gerg1967 on Flickr

Language diversity

One of my goals for 2012 was to read more in my “minor” languages (German, French, Portuguese). As it was, I realized in November that I had read almost only in English, almost nothing in Italian either! Which resulted in a flurry of  hurriedly Italian reads  😦 For 2013, I want to be more careful on that side: ideally, I want to aim at 6 books each for my minor languages, plus 10 Italian (OV) and 10 translated into Italian. That makes up almost half of my usual fare, so it should leave me plenty of choice for the remaining books. (I am considering quarterly goals for these languages, too. I hope that would help.) The one language that it’s harder for me to get books in is German, so here’s the question: any good German-language books you want to recommend?

A few of my favorite things: classics!

Another thing I appreciated this year was some classic reading: Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas… It always takes me longer to actually get to books of this kind, but mostly I find out that they’re worth it. Because I want to read more in this sense, I am working on a list to join the Classics Project — it’s taking me forever to complete it, and I keep reading books from the list before it’s ready so I never actually have 50, but I’m working on it. What classic book should absolutely be on my list?

When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before. Image credits: » Zitona « on Flickr

Challenges… done and not done

I’ve taken reading challenges very loosely this year. I like it better like that, with no pressure, but right now I think I must check myself before I decide which ones to join. I really want to work on what I end up reading, and for 2013 I intend to join mostly challenges that push the limits of my reading: pushing me to read more nonfiction, and more classics, and more books from different cultures….

  • Completed challenges this year:
    1. What’s in a Name
    2. Antonym
    3. Middle East (I intended to write a Jerusalem-related post but never got around to it. Maybe in January)
    4. Back to the Classics
    5. Venice in February
    6. Chunkster
    7. Classic Double: yay!
    8. RIP VII
  • Failed challenges this year:
    1. Medieval challenge: I read one, but was stuck on the second (of four books) so long that it ended up being the only DNF of the year
    2. Reading Round Rome: 3/7, but the host has disappeared halfway through
    3. Greek Classics: 1/2. What was that about liking classics, again?
    4. Aussie Author: 1/3. Ahem
    5. Dewey Decimal: 5/6. Almost.
    6. Africa: I read 4 out of 5, but I guess I understood not one of them. Not sure how to approach this kind of literature.
    7. South Asian: for the second year in a row 😦

What challenges are you taking in 2013? And how was your year in 2012?

Transfigured: a classic double challenge post

Or: of To Kill a Mockingbird, of Jellicoe Road, and of the awesomeness of reading them both.

classic_double

When I first saw the Classic Double Challenge, hosted by Melissa @ One Librarian’s Book Reviews, I thought it was a great idea. Read a classic and a book that is a retelling or in any other way connected to that classic? Count me in. (*) And yet, I only had a very vague idea of what I would read.

Then I read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Which is awesome.

In Jellicoe Road [JRoad], two girls have to study To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [TKaM] in school, and because one of them is ill, the other helps her out. In thanking her friend, the first girl says something like “If you ever need me, I’ll be Jem for your Mrs Dubose.” I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil JRoad for you, but I ended the book more interested than ever to read TKaM — no, I had never read it before, but keep in mind I’m not American, so that’s the main reason why. Later this year I found a copy and read it.

And BAM!, I knew I had my couple of books for this challenge.

(By the way, To Kill a Mockingbird is awesome too!)

JRoad is not a retelling, strictly speaking. It’s more like TKaM is transfigured in it. The story it tells is completely different. The themes it touches upon are other.

But it has the same way of dealing with difficult subjects without ever bringing them to the forefront. In TKaM it’s mental health and racism (among other things), but everything is seen through Scout’s eyes. To me, it felt like those ethereal things that you can only see without looking directly at them (I think Tolkien describes the elves in that way somewhere, but I may be misremembering. It happens with smaller stars, to me at least). In JRoad the narrator is 17, not a child anymore, but still the feeling is the same: domestic violence, drug addiction, the story is a way of dealing with harsh themes, without ever looking at them directly.

Also, they share the same great storytelling (which may be why they both manage to deal with those themes so well).

And they share a reflection on the absence of parental figures. (By the way, can anyone point me towards something that explains the figure of Atticus Finch? A strange character, that one. Genial and lovable, but strange.)

And more than everything, JRoad is TKaM transfigured because it takes single elements from the classic and uses them to build its own story: the friend only coming over for summer, the shooting at tins, the big fire, the tree… maybe the only thing that does not make an appearance is Scout’s ham costume!

Bottom line: this was a fun challenge to do, and both these books great, but taken together they are pure awesomeness!

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(*) If you like the idea of the Classic Double Challenge, it will be on again in 2013. Also, don’t miss the Retell Me A Story event, on January 13th-19th! See you there!

Giving thanks

I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet (not that I celebrate it anyway) but this week I want to send a big thank you to Felicia The Geeky Blogger.

Why? Because it’s thanks to her generosity that in my mailbox I found this:

and also this:

Now, I also have to admit something. It all started when I participated in the mini-challenge Felicia hosted during the last Bloggiesta, Photo Copyright: Bloggers doing right by the graphics we use!” But while I’ve always (tried to) be careful with the copyright of the pictures I use, in her post Felicia pointed out something else to be mindful of. She wrote:

Protect your own photos! Use something like PicMonkey (it is free) to write at least your blog name on them. If the photo is then pinned on Pinterest without a link back to your photo (blog entry), your name is on it. While this is not fail safe (really good graphics people can remove it), you can feel more comfortable knowing that 90% of the population won’t remove your “branding”.

And I have to admit I never got around to do it. I will probably wait the next Bloggiesta to go through all the past images, but in the meanwhile I should at least decide how to mark them as mine, particularly the ones in the Travel with Books Project.

And here I could do with some help. What do you think would work better? My whole blog HTTP address in small print, like I did here? A semi-transparent watermark like this? A more visible, possibly artsy thing? A frame of some kind with the address/name on it? What do you think, what do you use?

And the Read-a-thon is here…

Please note: this will be my only read-a-thon post for the weekend, I’ll add any update below, so please scroll down for the most recent activity!

Yes, it’s finally Read-a-thon time. I am writing this on Friday evening, just as me and husband are preparing everything in order to be free to read tomorrow. As usual, there’s a lot of anticipation.

I’ll be honest: I’m going to take things very easy this time around — it’s been a busy period and I’m afraid I’m also coming down with something, so really, I won’t pressure myself.

But! Even so! There’s books! Here’s my list of possibles:

  1. a 9h audiobook version of La Dame aux camélias (which will come in handy when I have chores to do)
  2. this week’s reading for the Wuthering Heights readalong
  3. Gates of Fire, my current read
  4. Anything in this pile:

What about you? What are you reading?

(Now hitting the “schedule” button so tomorrow at 13:00 I can start reading. Wishing you all a happy read-a-thon!)

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Hour 1 update: Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Husband and I are reading from Coimbra, Portugal

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Husband: Shogun by James Clavell, me: Fables by Bill Willingham

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Snacks? What snacks?

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Uhm, this one always stumps me. Let’s say I’m probably the least self-pressured blogger in the book blogging world… I just blog as it goes 🙂 but I love the community. Also, I’m an Italian currently living in Portugal (so if my posts go ungrammatical during the night, you’ll know why!)

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Husband: start with shorter/quicker books. Me: do the audiobook thing if I want to do chores during the weekend, and possibly try to go outside for a while.

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Hour 4 update – with Readathon snacks mini-challenge

My reading is going slowly slowly slowly. May be changing book soon. Just took a pause to have a look at some minichallenges, and Uniflame asks us about our snacks. Too bad this readathon I am only having cough drops so far…

Image by rahego on Flickr — Taking pictures with my camera is too much hassle at the moment. Maybe this qualifies for the challenge anyway?

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Hour 7 (almost 8) update: one down, and one more challenge

Finished my reading from Whuthering Heights. Still stuck on Gates of Fire. Speaking of which, Martina aka Book Drunkard asked for an acrostic, let me try (I’m loving this year’s challenges!):

Get
All
Those
Epic
Spartans

Or
Fear

For
I’ll
Rule
Eternally

(That would be Xerxes speaking, I guess…)

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Hour 13 update: Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
What, are we halfway already? I’m a little bit fatigues, but not really sleepy. I seem to be progressing very very slowly, though, so maybe after this update I’ll try and finish my current book and head off to sleep (it’s now 1.30 a.m. around here…)

2) What have you finished reading?
Only one volume of Fables, plus the section of WH I was planning on reading today. As I said, Gates of Fire is proving a very slow reading for me! 😦 Still 150 pages to go, then I can choose something more… lively.

3) What is your favorite read so far?
This volume of Fables (#14, I think: Witches) was quite good, the series is picking up again.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
I took a pause from reading for dinner — tortellini: maybe not a snack proper, but it suited me very well!

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
*shame* didn’t do any blog-surfing/cheerleading yet. I have to admit that the 450+ list of participants is daunting. How do you pick which ones to visit? I’m looking forward to your advice!

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Hour 20 update: with book sentence

Back from some sleep, still to finish that one book (this is getting ridiculous). Just in time to participate in the minichallenge I love most: book sentence @ Midnight Book Girl.

American Gods colour Norway rose red

Wicked Hannibal, rising last night in Twisted River to kill a mockingbird, set in darkness the most beautiful thing

(Sorry for the low quality of the pictures… I woke up to a gloomy morning and my phone does not work well as a camera in such poor light.)

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Hour 23 update: book finished!

Yes! I was finally able to finish Gates of Fire. Wow. I hoped I would accomplish more. Dare I try and read one more book before the end? Or should I rather go cheerleading?

Quote time:

The opposite of fear is love.
from Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield

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Hour 24 update: end of event meme

It’s almost over. It’s been fun as always, although I did have better hopes in terms of what I could accomplish. Oh well, chalk that one up to not being thoroughly well 😦

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    None, or all of them. But I have to admit I just packed up and went to sleep during the night this time around. (Am I too old already to pull an all-nighter??) I may or may not do some more reading in the afternoon, though 🙂 as I’m basically too tired to do anything else!
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    I still believe big fat books work well to see you through the night. And then some graphic novels to round up the last early morning hours.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    It would be nice to have some sort of group chat, like a fireside group to stop and have tea together when attention plummets… Oh, wait, I guess that’s what you people use Twitter for, except I don’t do Twitter.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    I appreciated a lot that the minichallenges all had prizes from either Amazon or BookDepository, which allowed almost worldwide participation. Oh, also, the minichallenges were great! Way to go!
  5. How many books did you read?
    I managed 3 in the end, plus a few chapters for the readalong. Husband managed 2. Not too bad considering that we’re both under medication. (Yeah. Right. I know. *hangs head in shame*)
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    ME:
    Gates of Fire
    by Steven Pressfield
    Fables # 14 – Witches by Bill Willingham
    A Ride Across Palestine by Anthony Trollope
    HUSBAND:
    a collection of short stories by Ivo Andrić
    Fables # 12 – The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    The Fables volumes, for both of us.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I’ll skip this question.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I wasn’t a cheerleader this time so maybe it has been addressed already, but when I did there were few squads with a huge list of blogs each, and this made it so that some blogs were visited much less than others, so maybe more squads with smaller lists could work better. That said, I wish to thank all the nice people who came to visit here during these 24 hours — you rock! (And you were many, so probably the thing I was mentioning has already been addressed.)
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Next time… I’ll put more consideration in my choice of books! 🙂

See you next time people!