Starting Classics Early: BabyLit Board Books

As a lifelong lover of books, it has always been a priority for me to share books and literature with my future (now present) children.  Little did I know, however, that I would have the opportunity to share some of my classical favorites with him or her in infancy.  BabyLit offers a series of baby board books teaching colors, weather, counting, etc. via classics such as Wuthering Heights, Dracula, and Pride and Prejudice.

drac

Currently, we only own Dracula, which teaches counting (get in? get it? huh?).  A little macabre, yes, but very entertaining for this mom and the colors keep my son’s attention for as long as any one thing can hold his attention at this point.  I won’t feel completely content, however, until I obtain Wuthering Heights A BabyLit Weather Primer.

wh

Which classical title would you most want to have as a board book for any little ones in your life?

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Collections

Quotable Monday: Amy Tan

DSC_0028 (8)If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.

Amy Tan

Truly words to live by.

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Filed under Quotes, Women Writers

I’m baaaack! and Maya Angelou

Hello everyone!  It has been quite a while since my last post.  Maintaining a house, a job, a pregnancy, and now a baby will do that to you, I guess.  Or, better stated, to me.  I am certain that there are plenty of people out there who could have juggled life and a blog all at once.  Nevertheless, in an effort to RE-kick start my writing, I’m getting back down to it and updating on a more regular basis.  Stoked?  Me too.

The world has lost a great voice since my last posting.  Maya Angelou was a blast of inspiration and will continue to touch the hearts, lives, and minds of people forever.  Physical death cannot snuff out the memory of her accomplishments or the legacy of her words.  Personally, I look forward to sharing her book, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, with my son when he is a little bit older.  I read this as an adult and feel ready to take on the world and maintain the hope that my son, growing up, will find strength within its lines, as well.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

 

In closing, here is a video of Maya Angelou reciting her poem “Phenomenal Woman”.  The first time I heard this poem I was an awkward, confused teenage girl wondering what my place in the world would ever be.  The words took my breath away; she stopped my heart with the shock of the realization that being a woman is a beautiful blessing in this life.  I am strong.  I can rise above.  I can simply be myself.

Thank you, Maya Angelou, for all that you gave to this world.

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Filed under American Poetry, Poetry

In Memory of Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney passed away last week at the age of 74. His funeral ceremony took place today in Ireland where many mourned the loss of a great poet and man. In memory of his talent and light, I share with you this video of Heaney reading his poem, The Underground.

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September 2, 2013 · 8:13 pm

Driftless by David Rhodes

driftlessTitle:  Driftless
Author:  David Rhodes
Genre:  Fiction

The only reason that I stumbled across Driftless was because that this was a featured title on Barnes & Noble’s “Free eBook Fridays” a few weeks back.  I love me some free books and have been desperately missing the free classics that I used to download for my Kindle; it appears as though B&N does not go below $1.99 for the classics.  Anyway.  I jumped at the opportunity to check this title out when I discovered that there was a free eBook that WASN’T a Romance.

I was in the middle of forcing my way through Madame Bovary, which was slow going for me, so there was about a week between the download and the beginning of reading.  I scoped out some of the reviews that were floating around and prepared myself to be a changed woman.  By reading any number of responses to this novel, one would be silly not to prepare themselves to stare God in the face before jumping into Rhodes’ pages.

Needless to say, I was a little excited to get going with it.  I was even revving myself up to perhaps “meet” a new favorite author.

Unfortunately, however, I wasn’t as blown away as I wanted to be.  I’m not going to write that this is a bad read, by any means, but I found myself skimming a lot.  I don’t really like to skim.  I read a little on the slow side, but I enjoy savoring passages and losing myself in the characters’ conversations, the landscape, my own thoughts…  I struggled in doing so for the majority of this book.

Some positives (for me) – each chapter is told through the POV of a different character.  All 400-something pages focus on the same core set of characters, but you get to hop around from chapter to chapter, story to story.  I feel as though this was the main factor that kept me from calling it quits.  Each of the characters is interesting and unique and I honestly can’t say that there was a single one of them that I disliked.

The other positive (again, for me) is that the spiritual exploration seemed to be a melding of Christianity and Buddhism.  I am a fan of not keeping religion or spirituality completely black and white.  Mixing principles, teachings, and philosophies wins big points in my book.

The biggest negative, however, again – for me, was the ending.  No spoilers here, but it felt incomplete.  It felt as though it ended in the middle of a conversation and there still should have been 20 pages or so to wrap everything up.

 

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Filed under 2013, American Author, Fiction

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

The_Secret_Diary_of_Anne_Boleyn_15th_Anniversary-smTitle:  The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
Author:  Robin Maxwell
Historical Fiction

I am starting 2013 off right – two books featuring Anne Boleyn in one month.  I came to read The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by walking around Barnes & Noble aimlessly, consulting my GoodReads iPhone app for various titles about Anne Boleyn.  I chose this particular book out of the lineup, however, because I have a weakness for stories told through the medium of diary entries or letters.  I had a book by Jean Plaidy on order from the library that I knew would be coming in soon, so I wanted a book that I could consume in a rather short period of time.

The story is set during the early days in the reign of Elizabeth I.  Recently made queen, she is still learning the ropes in what it means to actually be Queen of England.  An old woman visits her with a precious gift – Anne Boleyn’s secret diary.  Elizabeth learns that this woman was with Anne in the Tower leading up to her execution and came to love the then-Queen very much.  By giving this diary to Elizabeth, this woman was fulfilling her last promise made to Anne Boleyn.

The majority of the novel is then told through Anne Boleyn’s diary entries.  For Elizabeth, this is the first time that she is truly getting to know her mother and she is warming to her memory while cooling to that of her father.  From the information in this diary, Elizabeth becomes equipped to “grow up” and to start making some real decisions for her own rule.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  My main gripe was that the presence of Anne’s supposed sixth finger.  I feel rather protective of Anne Boleyn and do not believe that she had the sixth finger, so to see its rumor woven into this story was somewhat disappointing.  However, I reminded myself that this is a work of fiction.  I sucked it up and read on.

I also enjoyed reading a story about Elizabeth, as well, as I have yet to read any focusing on her life and reign.  It delights me to know that while Anne was only queen for 1,000 days and her end was wrought with scandal, lies, and betrayal, her daughter reigned over England for more than 40 years.

Here is a synopsis from Maxwell’s official site (linked to above):

One was queen for a thousand days;  one for over forty years.  Both were passionate, headstrong women, loved and hated by Henry VIII.  Yet until the discovery of the secret diary, Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I, had never really met.

Anne was the second of Henry’s six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from an education at the lascivious  French court, he was already a married man. While his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundation of England and of all Christendom, in the end he forsook her for another love, schemed against her, and ultimately had her sentenced to death.  But unbeknownst to the king,  Anne had kept a  diary.

At the beginning of Elizabeth ‘s reign, it is pressed into her hands.  In reading it, the young queen discovers a great deal about her much-maligned mother:  Anne’s fierce determination, her hard-won knowledge about being a woman in a world ruled by despotic men, and her deep-seated love for the infant daughter taken from her shortly after her birth.

In journal’s pages, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a passionate young woman at the center of England ‘s powerful male establishment, and with the knowledge gained from them, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Robin Maxwell, Tudors, Women Writers

Reading Goals for 2013

We’re almost at the end of the first month of 2013 and, hopefully, we haven’t all called it quits on our resolutions already.  I personally set goals for myself for the upcoming year and, usually, kind of fail at making them all come to fruition.  However, one set of goals that I tend to take rather seriously are my reading goals – or, rather, my hopes and dreams – for the year.

As mentioned in my final post of 2012, I didn’t hit my goal of overall number of books to read last year.  I have my reasons for not hitting that number, but I’d like to accomplish my goals for this year as a way to make up for last year’s shortcomings.  But we’re only 26 days into the year and I’ve already tweaked some of my goals.  Oops.

Let us start with the number of books that I would like to read this year.  On GoodReads, I set myself a goal of 35 books.  I think that I can do this.  Two years ago I read just over 40, so my hopes are high.

In conjunction with the total number of books that I’d like to devour, I originally set a challenge for myself to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I was ready to go, high on the excitement of watching (re-watching when it comes to the trilogy) the films, cracking jokes about Gandalf and tricksy hobbitses.  While I read The Hobbit for the second time in my life, however, I realized that it’s exceedingly difficult for me to get into third person narrations.  Especially when the fact that it is written in this manner cannot be escaped.  Basically, if it reads too much like a storybook, I wind up getting bored and struggling.

I haven’t abandoned the hope of reading Tolkien altogether, but I’m not maintaining this goal for 2013.  INSTEAD I want to challenge myself to read primarily historical fiction this year.  So, let’s say, at least 75%.  Pair the fact that I am admittedly obsessed with the Tudors and Anne Boleyn with my never tiring of these books, I think that this is a very feasible (and enjoyable) goal.

What are your reading goals for 2013?

Perhaps while I read these books, I will wear my new Anne Boleyn hoodie, bought from the tartx shop on Etsy.  It arrived last night and is beautiful, comfortable, and warm.  If you’re a fan of the Tudors or anything historical and classy, check out her shop.  You shan’t be disappointed.

Anne Boleyn hoodie from tartx on Etsy

Anne Boleyn hoodie from tartx on Etsy

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Filed under 2013, Books

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

51+mE0mV0ML._AA300_Title:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown
Author:  Claire Ridgway
Author’s website:  The Anne Boleyn Files
Non-Fiction/History

In April of 2012, I read Ridgway’s other book on Anne Boleyn, The Anne Boleyn Collection, in order to grow my knowledge on the actual life and story of Anne Boleyn.  As a fan of Ridgway’s website, The Anne Boleyn Files, I had a feeling that I would enjoy her books, as well.  My inkling was spot-on.  So, naturally, I was ecstatic to learn that there were even more books coming out by her!

I decided to kick off 2013 with The Fall of Anne Boleyn because, really, it’s been far too long since my last Tudor read.  And while I have a few biographies sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be cracked open, I opted to revisit Ridgway’s personable and accessible writing style instead.  Similarly to The Anne Boleyn Collection, The Fall of Anne Boleyn, at times, reads like a conversation that the reader could be taking part in with the author.  I love that you don’t only get historical facts and excerpts from actual letters from the Tudor players, but you really get to share in Ridgway’s love of Anne Boleyn.

Another positive about Ridgway’s books is that she presents all sides.  She admits that it is difficult to decipher everything that really happened during this time, but instead of only presenting one view or one scenario, the reader has the opportunity to not only learn what Boleyn’s contemporaries thought and said (where primary resources still exist) but also what ideas historians have recorded, deduced, and proliferated since then.

My interest in Boleyn only grows the more that I learn about her.  She was a far cry from a witch or concubine as some believe(d) her to be.  Anne Boleyn was a woman who fought to gain her position.  She valued education, charity, and spiritual reform.  She believed in the validity of her ideas and, with her feisty nature, did not shy away from sharing them – even though she was a woman.

For anyone looking to learn more about Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend Claire Ridgway’s publications and website.  You will not be disappointed!

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Favorites, Non-Fiction, Tudors

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

0806_gone_425Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Mystery/Suspense

My final read of 2012 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – is definitely a book to be added to my ever-growing list of “favorites”.  This book was a gift and, while I have seen the title show up in reading lists, bestseller lists, and all over GoodReads, I never took a moment to read the synopsis and decide for myself whether or not I should check it out.  I am incredibly thankful that someone gifted it to me, however, because this is a book that I just could not put down.

Before I read the Millennium trilogy, I never would have considered myself a Mystery/Suspense kind of girl.  My main memories of the Mystery genre from my bookstore days were ridiculous, never-ending series where cats solved crimes or titles that I considered more in the realm of  really terrible “Chick Lit” than a book of substance.  However, thanks to Stieg Larsson, I’ve thrown my old prejudice opinions out the window and am finding some novels that I really, truly love.

Gone Girl is the story of a missing woman (Amy, the wife) and the #1 suspect (Nick, her husband – of course).  Each chapter is told in either the POV of Amy or Nick, laying out both sides of the story/experience for the reader.  The characters are complicated inasmuch as it’s difficult to really love or hate either of them 100%.

Through the entries in Amy’s diary, the reader takes a short journey through the beginnings of her relationship with Nick – the meeting, the inside jokes, the early years of their marriage, but when both of them lose their careers in journalism and then move out of New York City, it appears that their marriage gets rockier and rockier.

From reading other reviews (very carefully avoiding any spoilers), I knew that there were going to be a lot of surprises and I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.  I had this nagging desire to find out what happened to Amy and whether or not Nick really did it.  Needless to say, I am very happy that I had this past week off from work; otherwise, I would have been pretty exhausted each day from staying up late, powering through as many pages as possible before finally succumbing to sleep.

In 2013, I will definitely be checking out Gillian Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  If my excitement didn’t sell you on Gone Girl, a professionally written summary is included below:

Marriage can be a real killer.

   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Check out Gone Girl on Amazon.

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Filed under 2012, American Author, Books, Favorites, Fiction, Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Women Writers

2012: The List of Books

Photo from todayfm.com

Photo from todayfm.com

Thanks to GoodReads.com (one of my favorite social networking websites), I totally embrace setting a goal of “x” number of books to read for the year.  And, also thanks to GoodReads.com, I can actually track my progress!  In 2011, I met my goal of 40 books for the year.  In comparison to a lot of other readers out there, this isn’t really all that impressive, but, as a slightly slower reader, I was ecstatic to hit the goal!

So, for 2012, I upped the ante.  When I set my goal, however, I did not know that my husband and I would trudge through the home buying process, close on a house, move, and then get to work on cleaning, painting, and miscellaneous other projects to make it “home”.  Now, I don’t know how many of my readers have purchased a house (a short sale at that), but it really consumes every ounce of your being.  SO.  I didn’t hit my goal.  I didn’t even meet my 2011 goal.  But that’s okay.  With everything that happened this year, I am still proud of the 36 books (novels, poetry, and graphic) that I completed.  I might just hit 37, too.  I’m currently reading Gone Girl and I totally cannot put it down!

My year-end lists also aid me in figuring out which books I failed to write about due to aforementioned crazy plus the holidays and work!

So, without further adieu, the list of the books that I read in 2012 (in no particular order)…

  1. Grandmother’s Secrets by Rosina-Fawiza Al-Rawi
  2. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  3. Slouching Toward Nirvana by Charles Bukowski
  4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  5. Seamus Heaney – Selected Poems – 1966-1987
  6. Sarah: A Novel (Book One of the Canaan Trilogy) by Marek Halter
  7. The Maid and The Queen by Nancy Goldstone
  8. The Boleyn Inheritance (Tudor Court, #3) by Philippa Gregory
  9. Living Your Yoga by Judith Hans0n Lasater
  10. Body Double (Rizzoli & Isles #4) by Tess Gerritsen
  11. How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV
  12. Do It Herself by Joann Liebeler (a must-have for any lady buying a house!)
  13. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  14. Defending Jacob by William Landay
  15. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
  16. The Constant Princess (Tudor Court, #1) by Philippa Gregory
  17. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
  18. The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
  19. Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
  20. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1) by Tana French
  21. The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth About The Tudors by Claire Ridgeway
  22. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (#1)  by J.K. Rowling
  23. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  24. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman
  25. The Last Week: What The Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem by Marcus J. Borg
  26. The Covenant (Abram’s Daughters, #1) by Beverly Lewis
  27. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  28. Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream by Kiyo Sato
  29. Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West by Anne Seagraves
  30. Katharine of Aragon: The Wives of Henry VIII (#2)  by Jean Plaidy
  31. The King’s Secret Matter (Tudor Saga, #4) by Jean Plaidy
  32. The Shadow of the Pomegranate (Tudor Saga, #3) by Jean Plaidy
  33. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  34. The Other Boleyn Girl (Tudor Court #2) by Philippa Gregory
  35. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  36. Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom Brauen

My goal for 2013 might be slightly lower than my 2012 goal, but I look forward to trying to read as much good literature as possible.  I have a few books lined up to kick off the year – Game of Thronesand The Hobbit.  If I’m feeling adventurous enough, I might FINALLY read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well.  Those books alone could take me all of 2013, however!

Are you setting any goals for yourself for 2013?  Did you set any for 2012?  If so, how did you do?

Oh, and one other goal that I have for 2013 – more consistent blog posting!!

Happy New Year and happy, happy reading!!

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Filed under 2012, Books