Ok this one was a lot of fun! As a lover of Historical Fiction and Classics I could not have gone wrong with this challenge. After some debate, I finally decided on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was absolutely fascinated with the Civil War growing up and I’ve always been kind of ashamed that I had never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, especially when it quote on quote “started the Civil War.” I’m so glad that I finally picked it up. This book is not only a wonderful story, but a remarkable representation of anti-slavery feelings in the 1850s. Harriet Beecher Stowe does not hold back. She lashes into everyone, South and North alike for being responsible for slavery. She takes down the slave owners in the same breath that she criticizes the do-gooder abolitionists of the North who would send all African Americans back to Africa rather than try to integrate them into the America society. Stowe gave the slaves a voice that very few were able or willing to do in these times. Stowe does bring a lot of Religion and the gentleness and moral superiority of women into the mix a lot so I could see how some people might be turned off by the book. But if you think about as a first class account of the what was important in society during that time, and how these piece allows one repressed member of society (a woman) give power and voice to other repressed members (African Americans) you can see that it really is a powerful piece of work! I can’t believe that throughout all my schooling to become an English teacher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was never even discussed in any of my classes. God knows I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for about three different class (it wasn’t that bad since I love that book). I’m sure one of them could have found room for Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the syllabus.
Ok so this challenge is technically left over from last year’s reading challenge. I never got around to completing it last year so I thought I would add it onto this year’s challenge. I had the Doors Trilogy by Emily Rodda on my kindle and I was just in one of those moods for a quick fantasy read. Growing up, I read Rodda’s other series, the Deltora Quests and the Dragons of Deltora. I loved them! They were quick easy reads, but the world that Rodda created captured my attention and I found myself drowning in those books until I had read
them all (14 books total). I still have found memories of those books and often had nostalgic memories of reading on snowy nights with Christmas music playing in the background whenever I think of them. I was more than excited to return to her writing for another escape, even though I am now an adult. Perhaps that reason alone is why I didn’t enjoy this particular series too much. I found the start of the books to be too slow moving and the end too fast. I had a lot of different expectations that were never met and I was disappointed in the overall conclusion of the books. The characters had a lot of room for improvement and the action was a mix between exciting and sludgy. I mean I can’t say that I hated the books. I still imagine someone, especially a child, picking the Door Trilogy books up and enjoying them. They just were not as good as her previous work. I imagine that if I had read these books first, I would never have picked up the Deltora series. I might recommend these particular books for any parents out there who wants a good fantasy pick to read to their child. They are fast moving and can easily hold a readers attention. You’ll move through the books quickly and I think they could be a nice gateway into more serious fantasy series like the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, Eragon, or His Dark Materials later in life.
For the next challenge on my list I decided to tackle a book of poetry with Maya Angelou’s book of poems. Previously, I had read a few of Maya Angelou’s poems separately, but never a compiled work of her poetry. I was exploring a local used bookstore when I came across a copy of one of her books. It’s been awhile since I read poetry, since I’m usually just a novel reader, but once again I was glad that I picked this piece up. For anyone who hasn’t been introduced to Angelou’s marvelous writing you are really missing out. A lot of her material is raw and serious. You can sometimes feel your heart breaking as you read her beautiful lines. I pages with a colorful sticky notes whenever I came across a line or phrase that I loved. By the time I finished, sticky notes were stuck every which way. I wish every person would take the time to really read at least one of her poems; I think we could all learn a little something from Ms. Angelou.
I decided to get one of the worst sounding challenges done and out of the way, thus I started with the self-improvement book challenge. In general, I hate self-help books. I happened to have The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler because my boyfriend got it for me for Christmas in attempt to get me to go to the gym and lift with him. I love exercise even less than self-improvement books, but I love my boyfriend and I know he’s right that it’s time that I start working out (I promise he said this in an extremely loving way) so I decided to give this book a try. Luckily, this book was not that bad. It was actually pretty interesting. I learned a lot about health in general and what it means to be a woman in the weight room, where and I know I am not alone in thinking that generally only guys go. The author is very witty and doesn’t make the material dry. The book covers why and how to lift, gives a 6 month workout plan that’s easy to follow for beginners and experienced lifters, and also includes some yummy recipes to try as well as the ideal foods to eat as you work out. All in all I was very happy that I took the time to read this book, and I certainly feel a bit more confident when I go to the gym.
I am so excited to get started on my 2016 Reading Challenge! In order to make the reading challenge more interesting I have added more categories and changed some included on the list below (I didn’t see any reason to read a book by a celebrity and a comedian when comedians are generally celebrities anyway). All in all I hope to read 65 books as part of my reading challenge this year.
Most of you are probably familiar with Philippa Gregory’s Novel The Other Boleyn Girl, but I would like to put a pitch in for her book, The Constant Princess.
This story follows Katherine of Aragon who is the queen in the beginning of The Other Boleyn Girl and how she managed to become the Queen of England. Katherine’s true name is Catalina and she is a princess of Spain. Her parents are Isabella and Ferdinand, King and Queen of Spain. From a young age, Catalina knew she would become a queen and that she would be a powerful one at that. Catalina’s determination to become and remain a queen starts off as a desire fueled by her politically charged childhood, but soon becomes a desire propelled by love and commitment. One of the aspects that I like the most about this story is that despite numerous odds, Katherine found love and mutual respect in her first husband. Marriages like theirs tends to be political, and no doubt that’s how theirs began, but they saw past their differences and worked together as a team to actually build a bridge between their two worlds.
How much of the story lies in fact I cannot say, but it is clear that Gregory has done her research on the time period. I’ve always felt that a sign of a truly well-done historical novel is its ability to bring the reader as close as they can to past and leave them there for a while. When I read historical fiction, I want to the whole experience: the clothes, the food, the smells, the action. Needles to say it is not an easy task. Luckily, Gregory has got that down pat and it’s easy to slip into one of her novels. While others are off praising the Boleyns, I want to showboat Katherine for a bit since I feel like her story is one that deserves to be told.
As you travel through the beautiful and tragic world that J.K. Rowling has crafted with such incredible detail and so much heart that it can only overflow off the pages into your own heart, you become entrapped in your own woes and struggles waiting for the inevitable life-changing ending that we all desperately cling for.
The Casual Vacancy is not a book to be devoured in one sitting. It is a book that must be chewed, savored, and swallowed in pieces in order for the true depth of the story to pierce your consciousness. Each character that is lost in their own personal tragedies fighting for survival, is a mirror reflecting your image.
J.K. Rowling did a brilliant job crafting her story. It is a plot based around something that seems so completely trivial, it isn’t until you have dug much deeper into the pages that you realize how much pain and anger exists beneath the surface.
Perhaps the greatest aspect that sticks out to me the most is that there is not one character in this story that I can say that I like, and yet I grew attached to each of them and their woes. I can’t really say that I was rooting for anyone, rather I was watching from a distance with gathering pity and self-righteousness. The miraculous part of this is that I cared about the story as a whole. And I had to ask myself, “How did she do that?”
How did Rowling create these detestable characters who could only ring out pity (at best) from me, and still make me fall for their story? I’m afraid I don’t have an answer. All I can say is that if you want to learn how to craft a master novel, you better be taking notes from The Casual Vacancy.
Again, I cannot stress enough that this is a novel that must be taken in with time. These pages contain messages and lessons that we can learn from, but we must first be willing to give it a chance.