Friday, January 29, 2010

Monthly Review of Books and Challenges

In January, I have only read two books so far, but I hope to be finished with another one by the 31st. Of course, one of the books had over 800 pages, so hopefully that counts for something.

The first book was "An Echo In The Bone" by Diana Gabaldon and you can read my post about it here. I will use this book to complete a portion of these challenges: 15 points in the Four Month Challenge II; "G" in the Rainbow Connection Challenge; 101 Fantasy Challenge; "A" in the Monthly Mixer Mele; Year of the Historical Challenge; "G" in the A~Z Authors Challenge; January 11th in the Celebrate the Author Challenge; Romance Reading Challenge; 42 Challenge; Time Travel Challenge; TBR portion of the Take A Chance Challenge; January for Every Month Is A Holiday - Diana's birthday; and "A" in the Alphabet in Historical Fiction.

This book will be used to complete a portion of these challenges: 5 points on the Four Month Challenge II; "N" on Monthly Mixer Mele; Women Unbound Challenge; Year of the Historical Challenge - that's 2 for January; "N" in A~Z Titles Challenge; New Author Challenge; my one-word Title book for the Take A Chance Challenge; my second TBR book for the Twenty-Ten Challenge; and "N" for the Alphabet in Historical Fiction even though we didn't get there yet.

The final January book is one I hope to finish before the 31st. I must say it is a lovely book. It is a collection of folk tales about mothers and daughters. You can't really see the title in the picture, but it is "Mother and Daughter Tales" by Josephine Evetts-Secker. The stories are from all over the world and the illustrations are beautiful. I recommend this book highly. I have truly enjoyed reading it. I'm using it for these challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge; New Author Challenge; Darling Daughters Challenge; "M" in Monthly Mixer Mele; There's No Love Like A Wife and Mother Challenge; and "E" in A~Z Authors Challenge.

Of course, it goes without saying that I am using all three of these books in the Pages Read 2 Challenge - I'm up to 1,358 out of 20,000, and the Buck-A-Book Challenge - $3.00 in the bank for me!

Our Book Club Reviews "Famous Women"

For our January selection, our book club decided to read about famous women. We each read a different book and reported on it at our meeting last Wednesday, January 27th. Here are the books we read:

Bride of Glory by Margaret Leighton - the story of General Custer's wife.

Eleanor, the Years Alone by Joseph P. Lash - about Eleanor Roosevelt after Franklin passed away.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran - see my review below.

Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader by Joseph H. Hilley - the story of the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

And the last selection was a biography of Louisa May Alcott. I'm not sure which book it was though.

The stories of all these women are very different, but very interesting. My favorite was General Custer's wife. She was a strong, imaginative and dedicated woman. All of these women were strong in their own ways and determined to make their worlds better places. It was so much fun seeing which woman and which book the rest of the club members chose, we decided to do it again! In March, we will each choose a mystery novel to read and share it at the end of the month.

In February, we are reading The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein. We hear it was written by a dog???? Should be interesting...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Nefertiti was very young; however she always knew that she wanted to be Pharoah of Egypt.

She had a way of making people do what she wanted. She expected them to want to do her bidding and to love her. Her sister, Mutny, always took care of her and Nefertiti needed her desperately.

Mutny was talented in identifying herbs and learning about their benefits. She was only 13 when she and Nefertiti and their parents moved from their little village to the capital and the Pharaoh’s palace.

At the beginning of the story, Mutny and her father attend the funeral of the son of the Pharoah,Tuthmosis. He had died due to a fall from his chariot. He was in line to rule Upper Egypt and eventually all of Egypt when Pharoah died. Since he passed away, his brother, Amunhotep, was to be made ruler of Upper Egypt. He needed a Chief Wife to help him rule. His mother, Queen Tiye, was also Nefertiti’s aunt. She chose Nefertiti to be Amunhotep’s Chief Wife. Nefertiti’s whole family then moved to Thebes to live in the palace until she and Amunhotep were married. Nefertiti’s father was a vizier, an advisor, to the Pharoah.

Nefertiti guided Amunhotep cleverly. She and her father made many decisions that affected the welfare of Egypt. She did things that had never been done before – for example, she convinced Amunhotep that she should sleep in his bed. Normally, the Pharoah slept alone. She wanted to make herself irreplaceable in Amunhotep’s eyes because he had another wife, Kiya, who also lived in the palace. There was a bitter rivalry between the two women. Kiya gave Amunhotep a son which really irritated Nefertiti. Try as she might, she never could give him a son, although Amunhotep loved his daughters dearly.

Amunhotep had an obsession with the Sun God, Aten. He even changed his name to Akenhaten and elevated himself and Nefertiti to the level of gods. He constructed a city called Amarna which had their images placed everywhere. The people loved Nefertiti, but feared Akenhaten. He would not send soldiers to guard their borders using the soldiers to build his city and all the buildings he wanted. He seemed very selfish and immature to me. Amunhotep hired an artist, Thutmose, to follow he and Nefertiti around and make sculptures of what they were doing. He wanted the images of himself and his family to be remembered by Egyptians. In the past, portraits of the Pharoahs had been very similar, but Amunhotep wanted his images to actually look like him.

Many things happened during their rule which were a sign of their opulence and a desperate attempt to have their own way in everything. All Mutny wanted was to live a quiet life with her husband, their family, and her gardens. It was very hard for her to separate herself from Nefertiti in order to have that life.

I enjoyed this book very much. It didn’t drag at all. There was always something else happening, many things that were unimaginable. Mutny and her husband, Nahktmin, as well as her friend, Ipu, were my favorite characters. I’m sure many others have liked them best as well because they were gentle and peaceful. Nefertiti was strong, but very spoiled. She may have known what she was doing – even though she was only 17or 18 – but we will never know what she went through behind closed doors. Amunhotep was truly insane. Even more so at the end of his life. I believe Nefertiti kept him from doing more irrational things than he did and he did some really irrational things – very selfish things. Nefertiti loved the people of Egypt and wanted them to be able to live in peace. That was very difficult for her to achieve.

The historical details included in this book were very interesting yet they didn’t overshadow the story. I learned many things about Egypt and Nefertiti. It opened up a new avenue of interest for me. I recommend it.

I'm using this book for these challenges: The Four-Month Challenge 2; Monthly Mixer Mele; Women Unbound; Year of the Historical; A~Z Challenge - Titles; New Author Challenge; the Twenty-Ten Challenge - TBR category; The Alphabet in Historical Fiction (when we get to "N"); and, of course, the Buck-a-Book Challenge!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What are we reading today?

Wow! It's Monday already? Last week, I finished "An Echo In The Bone" by Diana Gabaldon, so I'm only continuing with the other 3 books this week: "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran, "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkein, and "Fortunata and Jacinta" by Benito Perez Galdos. I have to push ahead on "Nefertiti" since I have to have it finished by January 27th for our book club. I'm about halfway through it. It's an easy read - except when I read by the fireplace which puts me to sleep. Bilbo and his friends have just been abducted by the goblins that came out of the crack in the back of the cave...and I'm sorry to say that "Fortunata and Jacinta" has been neglected a little. I will get back to it though. There are others who read as slowly as I do, right? Well, I'm just enjoying myself and the variety of books I'm being exposed to through reading challenges. I'm having a GREAT TIME! Thanks to all of you who are hosting challenges. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to host one myself!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon

I finished "An Echo In The Bone" by Diana Gabaldon this morning! Reading it was like connecting with old friends. However, I have a few questions...***SPOILER WARNING*** What happened to Jem? Last I remember he was riding the little train in the tunnel and then, nothing. And where are Roger and William Buccleigh? I guess that's called paving the way for another book. After 800+ pages, you're done but you're not done. I was surprised that Jamie and Claire stayed put in the same time the entire book. They just seem so right for each other - of course, they should by now. My favorite characters were Rachel and Ian, though. They are so different, but exploring their relationship could open up so many possibilities both dramatic and funny. I also liked Jem (which is why I was so upset that she left him in the tunnel!). He's going to grow up to be just like his Grandda - not afraid of anything and always able to figure a way out of a dangerous situation. Let's hope so.

When is the next book coming out????? And, are they going to make an epic movie???

An Introduction to Fantasy

I had a comment on my "The Hobbit" post that I would like to address here. In the comment the question was posed - do I think that "The Hobbit" is a good introduction to fantasy for someone who has never read the genre before, or should a person start with something else. I think it depends on the age of the reader. I received "The Hobbit" from my sister for my 12th birthday (that was 40+ years ago) and I couldn't put it down. I'm not sure that I would have picked up a copy at my current age had I not already read it when I was young. Granted, I am enjoying it just as much - maybe more - as I did then. Hmmm.

My daughter, who just turned 18 in December, is planning to read "The Lord of the Rings" this spring. I will be interested to see what she thinks of it. She is a big fan of C.S. Lewis. She did a term paper on him last year. I had to get permission to read her Narnia books last summer because they are so precious to her. Right now she is immersed in King Arthur and Merlin. I bought her Mary Stewart's trilogy for Christmas. She has also read all of the Harry Potter books. I would say she is a bona fide fantasy fan. But then, she started young as well.

I'm trying to think of someone who has never read a fantasy and what they DO read. My sister is an avid reader. She reads a variety of genres, but not many fantasy books - oh wait - she has read the "Outlander" series (or some of them) by Diana Gabaldon. And, she's read Harry Potter. She may be interested in Tolkein. I'll have to ask her.

Where do you think is a good place to start someone just venturing into the fantasy genre?

Monday, January 11, 2010

What am I reading? What are you reading?

Well, today is Diana Gabaldon's birthday! I am almost finished with "An Echo In The Bone" - less than 200 pages to go. When I finish it, I will have lots of notches to put on my reading challenges for this year. I'm also reading "Fortunata & Jacinta" by Benito Perez Galdos. My oldest daughter is working toward her Master's Degree in Spanish and she and I talked about this book over the summer. Of course, she read it in Spanish and I'm reading it in English - which actually makes a bit of a difference. The translation notes at the beginning of the book were very interesting. In addition to those two books, I'm reading "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran as my "women in history" selection for our book club. Each of us is reading about a different woman. And, last-but-not-least, I'm re-reading "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkein. It's delightful. I'm having wonderful memories from my own life stirred up as well as memories of Bilbo's adventures. I was reading each book for 15 minutes at a time, then I got to a part in "An Echo In The Bone" that intrigued me and the timer went off and was long forgotten until I found out what happened. I'm still reading all 4 books, but I'm trying to get done with "An Echo In The Bone" within the next couple of days in honor of Diana's birthday...and I do have laundry to do...and the Christmas tree to take down...never mind - those things can wait. I have to find out what happens! You can post what you're reading here. Hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Hobbit!

YES! I am so ready to read "The Hobbit" along with you! It's January and the start of the first entire year that I will be doing reading challenges, so at the moment I am reading 4 books at once: "Fortunata & Jacinta" by Benito Perez Galdos (my oldest daughter, who is preparing for her Master's degree in Spanish, gave it to me for Christmas), "The Hobbit" (so much fun re-reading about Bilbo Baggins), "An Echo In The Bone" by Diana Galbadon (which I have been reading for a little while now and hope to finish this month - it's Diana's birthday on January 11th), and "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran (each member of our book club is reading a different book about a woman in history and I chose Nefertiti). That is probably too much information for this post, but...anyway, I'll try to answer some of the discussion questions...

When did you first hear of The Hobbit? I received the book from my older sister - she is 11 years older than I - as a gift. She was on her own already and sent it to me for my birthday. I was probably around 12. I loved it and couldn't put it down.

What made you decide to join the read-a-long? I read most of "The Lord of the Rings" but never completed all the books. I've been talking about starting over and reading all of them for a few years now, so when I saw this read-a-long, I thought it was an ideal time to plunge in.

Have you read it before? If so tell us about that experience. As I stated above, I read "The Hobbit" and most of "The Lord of the Rings". I loved "The Hobbit", but I guess I got distracted from the other books. I can't even remember how much I finished, but I plan to read the entire series this time.

J.R.R. Tolkien pretty much founded the modern fantasy genre. So let’s take a moment to think about the genre as a whole; have you always loved fantasy? I didn't really consider myself a "fantasy" fan until I realized that I'd been reading fantasy after fantasy. I like books like "The Hobbit" and LOTR, but I also like urban fantasy like the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I like time travel romance especially Jude Deveraux' and Lynn Kurland's novels. And I have loved reading the Outlander series. I've read "Twilight" and "The Host", so, yes, I guess you could say I am a fantasy fan.

Do you have a certain plan for reading it? A few pages a day, spacing it out over the month? Or are you just going to race through it? Let whimsy decide? As I said, I'm reading 4 books at once right now. I read for 15 minutes in one book, then 15 minutes in another - unless I get to a good part and I can't stop at 15 minutes. It's working for now. I'm almost done with "An Echo In The Bone".

Reading "The Hobbit" just makes me happy. I actually giggled (and believe me, I haven't giggled for years) when Bilbo reached in that troll's pocket. He's so cute.

I hope you are having as much fun reading "The Hobbit" as I am. I can't wait for the next round of questions.

If you want to comment on "The Hobbit", visit The Striped Armchair.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Operation Actually Read the Bible - update

I haven't been posting about this lately, but I haven't given up! I'm on my 76th day of reading the Bible. I've completed Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus and I'm on Chapter 18 of Numbers and Psalm 78 in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, I completed Matthew and am on Chapter 13 of the Acts of the Apostles. I'm really proud of myself and I wouldn't trade the quiet time I take in the morning to read my Bible.

God Bless all of you and I hope you have a peaceful and rewarding new year.