2013 Challenges, Challenges, Classics Club

Back to the Classics 2013

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This is the second of two year-long challenges that I’ll be participating in during 2013 (the other being my own 2013 TBR Pile Challenge).  I’m taking part in this one because 1) Sarah is awesome; 2) The challenge has some great twists, including selecting books based on categories within the massive “Classics” canon; and 3) it will help me make progress toward completion of my Classics Club list.
 
 
THE CATEGORIES:
 
The Required Categories:
  1. A 19th Century Classic: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. A 20th Century Classic: Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic: Emma by Jane Austen
  4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience: Beloved by Toni Morrison
  5. A Classic Adventure: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal: Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow

Optional Categories:

  1.    Re-read a Classic: Animal Farm by George Orwell
  2.    A Russian Classic: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3.    A Classic Non-Fiction title: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  4.    A Classic Children’s/Young Adult title: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  5.    Classic Short Stories: Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
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2013 Challenges, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges, Events, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #8 – August Progress!

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Congrats to this month’s winner, Karen from Karen’s Books & Chocolate! 

Dearest TBR Pile Challengers – Welcome to Another Checkpoint!

It is August 15th, which means we have crossed the half-way point and are now officially on the downslope for our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge! So far, the overall progress and participation in this year’s challenge has been outstanding! I really have been impressed by you guys – even just reading one or two of your twelve, to this point, is great. Keep at it!

Where I’m At: I have now read 10 of my required 12 books – so I’m feeling pretty good! This might be the first year in the last few where I could manage to complete all 12 books + the 2 alternates on my list (although I have some hefty books left to read, so I’m not going to get ahead of myself, here).  I need to write my review for Persuasion, which is Book #10, but I do plan to do that, and post it, before the August 20th deadline.

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My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram

Book #10: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc. Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)

GIVEAWAY: This month’s check-in comes with a giveaway!  One winner will be chosen from those who link-up to their reviews of books completed between July 21st & August 20th.  Anyone who posts a check-in for this month and links-up by August 20th will also be included.  The prize is any book of winner’s choice, up to $20 USD, from The Book Depository!  Good Luck!


Link-up Your Reviews for July 21st – August 20th:

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2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges

TBR Pile Checkpoint #7 – July Progress!

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Hi, Hey, & Hello There, all TBR Pile Challengers!

It is July 15th, which means we have crossed the half-way point and are now officially on the downslope for our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!  So far, the overall progress and participation in this year’s challenge has been outstanding! I really have been impressed by you guys – even just reading one or two of your twelve, to this point, is great.  Keep at it!

Where I’m At:  I have read 9 of my required 12 books. I have made absolutely ZERO progress in the last two months, but I will blame that on my recent relocation, plus reading some chunksters like Don Quixote and The Odyssey, as well as working on events like The Beats of Summer, The read-along of To Kill a Mockingbird, and, of course, the ever-popular and soon-to-be here  Austen in August!

My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram 

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget.  IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)



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2013 Challenges, Austen in August, Challenges, Events, Jane Austen

Austen in August: Sign-Up Post! (#AustenInAugustRBR)

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Welcome to the sign-up post for AUSTEN IN AUGUST, an annual reading event celebrating one of literature’s greatest writers! This event was inspired by a Twitter conversation that took place between three founders of The Classics Club.  Last year was a huge success, and I am hopeful that this year will be another knock-out!

Why is Jane Austen so interesting?  Pemberely explains:

Jane Austen is very resistant to being classified as part of a literary “school”, or being placed in any customarily-defined literary period — partly because none of the obvious available terms, “18th-century, “Romantic”, or “Victorian”, would appropriately describe her. Almost all of the major figures who were literarily active in the period 1800-1837, and who are currently deemed worthy of remembering (i.e. are “canonized”), fall into one of a few categories — either they launched their literary careers before 1800 (Burney, Edgeworth); or they were part of the Romantic movement (or were more or less strongly influenced by romanticism, or wrote in self-conscious reaction to romanticism); or they did most of their writing and publishing after 1837 (e.g. Dickens). Jane Austen is the conspicuous exception who does not fit into any of these categories.”

The Goal: To read as many of Jane Austen’s works (finished or unfinished) as you want or are able to, during the month of August.  Biographies, audiobooks, spin-offs, and re-reads also count.  I will post throughout the month on different subjects, as well as with my own reviews of the Austen books I finish.  We will be offering giveaways, guest posts, and other shenanigans, all of which are meant to inspire a great, interactive event.

If you are going to participate, you can read any of Jane Austen’s novels, a biography about her, or any contemporary re-imaginings (such as Austenland or The Jane Austen Book Club, for example). All posts will help you qualify for prizes, which I’ll explain in a later post!

And if you want to sign-up for Austen in August, simply leave a comment stating such!  Maybe include some of the books you hope to read, too.  I plan to read Emma and Persuasion, at the very least.  🙂

Please also post the button somewhere on your blog (maybe in an announcement post or on your blog’s side-bar) so that we can spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation.  The more of us reading Austen together, the better!

Sign-ups are open throughout the month of July.  If you sign-up after July 31st, you can still participate, but may not be eligible for some of the early giveaway prizes.

To Share/Discuss on Twitter and Facebook, Use Hashatag #AustenInAugustRBR (I added the RBR to distinguish our event from a couple of others with the same name which coincidentally popped-up in our first year. ;P)


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2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #6 – June Progress!

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Hello, TBR Pile Challengers!

It is June 15th and, ready or not, we are now officially HALF-WAY through 2013 and half-way through our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!  I have been very impressed by all the progress being made through these challenge lists – the monthly updates have been so much fun.  I hope you all agree!

Where I’m At:  I have read 9 of my required 12 books. I have made absolutely ZERO progress since last month’s check-in, but that’s largely due to the semester finishing up, teaching summer classes, starting the Beats of Summer event, and also reading Don Quixote for my Classics Club challenge.  I know I will get at least one more book (Persuasion by Jane Austen) read for this challenge during the summer, thanks to Austen in August, but I hope to also read one more before the new semester starts in September.

Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram 

My favorites so far have been Orlando, A Streetcar Named Desire, and O Pioneers! What have been YOUR favorites, so far?  Any surprises or major failures?

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget.  IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)

Giveaway!:  Since we are officially at the half-way mark, this month’s checkpoint comes with TWO GIVEAWAYS!  Be sure to link-up your reviews (or a checkpoint post) by the deadline.  Every link you post (provided it is new to this month – no posts/reviews used previously!) will earn you one entry into a random drawing. The prize is a book of your choice, up to $15 USD, from The Book Depository!

Link-up Your Reviews for May 21st – June 20th:


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1001 Books, Book Review, Challenges, Fiction, Literature, W. Somerset Maugham

Review: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0
YTD: 54

Plot/Story:
4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful.

W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage is a story about an orphaned, crippled boy’s journey into manhood. These journeys are rife with humor, sadness, wit, despair, and sometimes downright exasperation (stop going after that worthless hussy, already!). Philip’s physical deformity is a hardship which haunts him, both bodily and emotionally, throughout his life – even after corrective surgery which, at the time, did little for the problem. The perseverance, though, and the slow, subtle strengthening of character which ultimately leads to a satisfactory self-image and corporeal ability to make decisions based on desire and not from fear, are the driving forces of this novel. The, I suppose, didactic purpose of the novel is twofold: first, that individuals have the capacity to enact change through courageous resolve and believe in one’s self rather than any higher power (Philip throws off the theological and physical “crutches” to empower himself); and two: that it is perfectly natural for life’s path to detour, veer of course, and be completely road-blocked from time to time – the willingness and ability to adapt to and grow from change seems to be virtuous and worthwhile.

Characterization:
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

What is most interesting about Maugham’s characters are that they are all static, but in a believable way. Normally, I would get extremely bored or irritated by characters who remain the same throughout the course of the story; fortunately, Philip Carey, the main character, though repeatedly making similar mistakes with “love” and money (to the point where I literally wanted to pull my hair right out of my scalp), is the one character who actually does grow and metamorphose over the course of the story – and he is the only one who has to, because it is his journey we witness. Still, I would typically prefer that even the antagonists and minor characters might develop or change, for better or worse, as it usually serves to enhance the story. Here, when the primary antagonist, Mildred (the horrid love interest) remains static, it allows Philip’s growth and follies to become more profound. The reader can root for and shout at Philip throughout his many trials and stumbles, because we know where Philip comes from and what he hopes to achieve, and we can contrast that with what we know for certain about the characters around him. It surprises me to be reviewing this type of characterization positively, but it just demonstrates Maugham’s masterful style and skill.

Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

Maugham’s prose is rather stunning. It is romantic but effortless (unlike the oft over-wrought prose of the Victorians or the French post-revolutionists). His style is reminiscent to me of Victor Hugo, without the tendency to veer from the storyline into historical and social background and essay. This was a rather long book, coming in at just over 600 pages, but (though it did take me a while to read, due to external factors), had I had two or three days to devote just to reading, I could have immersed myself completely into the story and breezed through the book, without feeling gypped by inconsequential or underwhelming prose/style. I also appreciated the short chapters, as many of the scenes and emotions did tend to be intense and diverse, so allowing for sufficient and convenient pauses (for reflection, for releasing frustration, etc.) was well-met. The prose was appropriately challenging, with a fitting amount of depth – serious, without being lofty.

Additional Elements:
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

As I mentioned above, regarding the Plot, Of Human Bondage was a great story in its own right, but it also posed two very interesting ideas: the first is counter-religion/pro-Humanist. As the book was written in the early 20th Century, I found it a welcome break from traditional literature of the period; granted, there were certainly reactionary writers, writing back to their staunchly religious and pious (prude) predecessors i.e. 18th Century novelists; but, still, the atheistic sentiment in literature was not (and is not) exactly prevalent. That is not to say, by any means, that the book comes across as “religion-bashing” or “anti-Christian” or even “pro-Atheism” in any way – it is not a call to arms, so much as a subdued retraction from the mainstream. Also, the story speaks highly of the virtue of hard work and resolve. There is much mention of the great societies, particularly of the rising American ideal, and the indication is that the “American dream” has seeped into even European culture (though Americans in the story are not always spoken of in the highest regard). While the “try, try, try again” theme is common in literature, Philip’s pathos is so honest and authentic that the reader cannot help but root for him in a way that almost anticipated failure, but which allows for delight, personally, in his successes. Readers are always supposed to want their protagonists to find their happy endings, but Maugham writes Philip so brilliantly that one can actually be pleasantly satisfied by the little happiness he discovers, and about how he realizes it.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Adult, Literary
Interest: Coming-of-Age; 20th Century English Literature; Orphans; “Bootstraps” Life.

Notable Quotes:
“Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner.”

“He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it.” 

When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.” 
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