One Last Challenge – 2014 Around-the-World Challenge

Okay, this is the last challenge …….. I promise!  My Dead Writers Society Goodreads group has set up a 2014 Around-the-World Challenge, so I really must join this one.  Really, I have no choice!  I’m being held hostage and ………  oh,well, never mind …..  😉  I know that I’m fooling no one, so I may as well quit while I’m ahead ……

The only stipulation for this challenge is that the authors have to be dead and the countries/areas read in the following order.  The books I’m considering are in parentheses:

January:  North America  (If On a Winter Night A Traveler by Italo

February:  South America (The Poems of Pablo Neruda)

March:  Western Europe  (Les Lettres du Moulin by Alphonse Daudet but
                                                              this will probably change)

April:  Eastern Europe (a book by Isaac Bashevis Singer)

May:  Northern Europe  (The Saga of the Volsungs or Fear and Trembling
                                                           by Søren Kierkegaard) 

June:  North Africa (The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz)

July:  Sub-Saharan Africa (Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton)

August:  Middle East  (The Epic of Gilgamesh or The Arabian Nights)

September:  Russia, Mongolia  (I was mulling over The Brothers 
                                                                        Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky but now
                                                                        I highly doubt it)

October:  China, Korea, Japan  (The Story of Stone by Cao Xueqin)

November:  India  (The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye)

December:  Australasia  (I don’t know!  Perhaps something from Katherine

I know I will not make it through all twelve months; if I’m able to read four books, I will be pleased.  But this challenge will force me to read books that I wouldn’t normally choose independently, so it has its benefits.  Plus I probably can find a reading buddy or two within the group and what better reason to join than that!

52 Books In 52 Weeks Wrap-up 2013

While I didn’t have a blog last year, I did particiapte in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge.  Robin is the host and she encourages participants to answer questions at the end of the year, to review their reading experiences.  I admit, I haven’t completed the questions previously but, with a new blog, this year I thought I’d give it a go!

  1.  How many book did you read this year?

       I should end up with about 70 books read, which is 8 less than the
       previous year.  

  2.  Did you meet or beat your own personal goal?
       My personal goal was 65 books, so I beat my challenge.  

  3.  Favourite book of 2013?

       Oh, this is a difficult question.  I would say The Divine Comedy 
       because of the ambitiousness of Dante’s writing, the differences 
       between the three books and the opportunity he gives the reader
       to intimately explore Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.

  4.  Least favourite book of 2013 and why?

       I have no problem answering this!  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
       The whole structure of the story seemed not only forced but poorly 
       stitched together, and the storyline shallow.  The main character’s
       husband is a murderer for really no good reason, and the only emotion
       the second Mrs. deWinter displays is joy that her husband doesn’t 
       love his first wife, the murdered Rebecca.  I know that Rebecca
       was supposed to be the force that dominates the story, I think we 
       are supposed to sympathize with Mrs. de Winter II and be chilled 
       by Mrs. Danvers but, honestly, I was ready to tear my hair out by 
       the end of the story.  Never again unless by torture!

  5.  One book you thought you’d never read and was pleasantly surprised
       that you liked it?
       The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  I thought I would like it but I never
       imagined that I would love it as much as I did.  Wharton was a master of 
       character development when she created Lily Bart.  The reader is 
       introduced to an innocent child, an accomplished flirt, a damaged
       product of society, a redeemed angel, and each of these traits shone out
       just as strongly as all the others.  Just, WOW!

  6.  One book you thought you’d love but didn’t?

       Walden Two.  I expected a good utopian read.  What I got was B.F.
       Skinner’s philosophical treatise of the perfect society, but in a way
       that was rambling and unappealing.  I didn’t feel he really made an 
       attempt to engage with the reader.

       Also, The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson.  It was a story of a girl
       who had lost her mother and was spending her time on an island off
       Finland with her grandmother, and of their relationship together.
       Jansson only mentions the mother’s death once and then doesn’t
       explore this theme further, asking us to surmise the girl’s often
       unpleasant behaviour is a result of this tragedy.  Fine, but the
       grandmother is a little off-colour too, as well as other characters in
       this  novel.  I didn’t hate it and, in fact, some parts were amusing,
       but it left me with no connection to the characters and a very uneasy

  7.  One book that touched you  — made you laugh, cry, sing or dance.

       Oh, lots of these!   First The House of Mirth …… my heart just ached for
       Lily, but because I’ve mentioned this title already, I’ll pick another:  All
       Quiet on the Western Front.  I found this book particularly poignant
       because, while it was realistic, it wasn’t sensationalistic.  I felt the author
       intimately knew his characters and was able to communicate their
       struggles with the reader.  As enjoyable as a book on war can be.

  8.  Any new to you authors discovered and you can’t wait to read more of
       their stories?

       I enjoyed The Master and Margarita, so I’d like to read more of Mikhail
      Bulgakov.  Oh, and Emilé Zola, absolutely.  I also enjoyed M.R. James’
      Ghost Stories.

  9.  Name the longest book you read?  The shortest?

      If I finish in time, it would be War and Peace at 1392 pages.  If not, my 
      next closest is Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens at 996 pages.  The
      shortest was Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc at 72 pages.

10.  Name the most unputdownable book you read?

       The Brain That Changes Itself was fascinating!

11.  Book that had the greatest impact on you this year?

       The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  I still think about it:  Lily’s fate
       and was it necessary?

12.  What book would you recommend everybody read?

        The Divine Comedy, The House of Mirth, Beowulf and Pride and

13.  Share your most favourite cover.

       What a lovely cover!  I speaks of adventure and makes you want to
       pick up the book and read!


14.  Do you have a character you fell in love with?

       Lily Bart from The House of Mirth.  A tragically loveable yet sometimes
       unlikeable character!  Also Rilla from Rilla of Ingleside, Miette from The
       Fortune of the Rougons, Antonia from My Antonia …… the list could go

15.  What was your most favourite part of the challenge?  Did you do any of
       the mini-challenges?

       I enjoy how this challenge gives me focus.  I didn’t do any of the mini-
       challenges but I’ll certainly be considering some for 2014!

My goals for 2014 are to read less books and to spend more time with the books I read.  I want to take the time to read over passages that resonate with me, be able to ponder the thoughts the book has provoked, and leave time to journal.  The beginning of the year is shaping up to be busy; I have probably too many books scheduled to read but I am feeling positive about starting the year off without many leftovers from 2013.

All the best to everyone for 2014!

Last Minute Challenges – 2014

Here are a last few challenges to squeak in before the end of the year.  Please visit the linked sites for more information about these challenges.  I hope to see some of you joining the insanity!

The 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge is hosted by Robin, who is a very well-organized and welcoming hostess.  I’ve participated in this challenge for about 4 years now and I love the comradory that this challenge inspires.  There is a homeschool forum thread where people touch base each week with each other to discuss the books that they are reading.  An excellent challenge!

I really can’t say no to the 2014 Chunkster Challenge.  I am reading through Dickens, have Daniel Deronda scheduled for 2014, plus some history tomes …….. I will easily be able to reach at least 5-6 or more.  This past year I read 14+ chunksters, but I’m going to be less ambitious this year.

And to heighten the tension, the European Reading Challenge is going to be a new addition.  Hosted by Rose City Reader, this challenge, in one aspect, should not be difficult; I read many European books each year.  On the other hand, to read books from different European countries to reach each level will require some effort.  I am going to go-for-broke with this challenge and aim for the Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) which is 5 books by five different authors and from five different countries.

And to top off the insanity, I am joining the 2014 Shakespeare reading challenge.  I’m aiming for the “Occasional Theater-Goer” with 1 – 4 plays to read.  Two years ago, I participated in attempting to read a Shakespeare-a-month and failed.  Well, I did manage to get through about 5 months and REALLY enjoyed his plays, however, I allowed myself to get distracted.  So, once again, I need a challenge to keep me focused.  This will be my most challenging challenge.  I have so many books scheduled for 2014, but my goal has been to return to Shakespeare and I am determined to do it.  Wish me luck ~~~ I will need it!

And I probably will need valium and therapy when it is all over, but the less said about that, the better …….  😉

A Non-Fiction Adventure

Found on Howling Frog Books and hosted by Michelle, this is the perfect challenge for me.  Like the Classics Club, this challenge is over a 5-year period so my challenge dates are December 22, 2013 to December 21, 2018.  You can check out my non-fiction book list on the sidebar.

Here are the guidelines:

  • choose 50+ non-fiction books
  • books must be non-fiction, ie. biography, autobiography, history, memoir, cooking, travel, science, etc.
  • list them at your blog (or on Goodreads or another social media site)
  • choose your completion goal date five years in the future and make not of it with you list of titles
  • come back here and post the link to your list in the linky below
  • write a review (or a short summary) on the book when finished and link it to the title in your list
  • there will be pages posted at the top of the blog for you to link your reviews
  • when you have completed the challenge, come add your link to the COMPLETED CHALLENGES page
  • there will be a blog roll in the sidebar where I will list you/your blog linked to your lists
  • grab the button in the right sidebar and link it back to this blog
  • check out this PAGE which contains links to various online sources with lists of reading ideas
  • this challenge can be crossed over with any other challenge
  • it is mandatory that your list be made in advance so you have something to work towards.

Why is this the perfect challenge?  Because I have a number of non-fiction books that are sitting on my shelves and, although I am interested in reading them, I often tend to default to fiction.  This challenge will get me focussed on an area that I really need to address.  Perhaps this is the perfect challenge for you too!

2nd Annual Classics Club Read-a-thon

The Classics Club is having their 2nd Annual Read-a-Thon and I’ve decided to participate ……. or at least do my best.  It begins at 8 a.m. on January 4th, 2014 and ends 24 hours later on January 5th.  What a great way to finish off some of those pesky classics that you weren’t able to complete for 2013 and get ready to start a new year!

My guess is that I will be trying to finish War and Peace, Tales of Ghosts and Men, and will be trying catch up to the schedules of David Copperfield, and His Excellency, Eugene Rougon.  If a miracle happens and I happen to finish a few of these books before 2013 ends, I will have The History of the Ancient World, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Wizard of Oz and The Great Gatsby to start off the year.

I’ve never participated in a Read-A-Thon before and I’m really looking forward to it!

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014

Here it is!  The challenge I have been waiting for!  Back to the Classics Challenge 2014 is being hosted this year by Books and Chocolate.  She has taken over for Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much and has already done a wonderful job organizing this challenge.

The rules for this year are as follows, including a few changes:

This year there are six required categories and five optional categories.

1.  20th Century Classic   The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
2.  19th Century Classic   David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
3.  A Classic By A Woman Writer  Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
4.  A Classic In Translation   Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon by Émile
5.  A Wartime Classic  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
6.  A Classic by an Author Who is New to You  The Warden by Anthony Trollope


1.  An American Classic   The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
2.  A Classic Mystery/Suspense Thriller  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
3.  A Classic Historical Fiction Book  The Once And Future King by E.B. White
4.  A Classic That Has Been Adapted into a T.V. or Movie Series  Othello by William Shakespeare
5.  Extra Fun Category – Write a Review of #4  Othello movie reviews

She also has made another rule:  All classics must be published 50 years ago or earlier, so nothing before 1964 will be considered a classic.

Please check out her blog for information on prizes and additional explanations.

Even without a blog, I participated in this challenge every year.  It is my easiest challenge and probably the most fun for me.  So if this challenge sounds like fun to you too, pop over to Books and Chocolate to check it out.  And good luck to everyone!

Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge

Words and Peace is having a Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge.  Since I am going through the Rougon-Macquart series by Emilé Zola, this will be an easy challenge for me.

The rules for this challenge are:

Any book related to France

  • it can be set in France
  • written by a French author
  • written in French, by authors from any country
  • about a French theme: French cuisine, French fashion, etc.
  • it can be a book counted for another challenge

All genres are accepted
All media is accepted

LEVEL 1: “un peu” = 3 books

LEVEL 2: “beaucoup” = 6 books
LEVEL 3: “passionément = 12 books
LEVEL 4: “doublement passionément” = 24 books
LEVEL 5: “a la foile” = 52 books

Please see her post for details about a special giveaway!

I will go for LEVEL 1, because I’m not sure if I will make LEVEL 2 but I will give it a try.

1.  Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon – Émile Zola

2.  Candide – Voltaire

3.  Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

4.  La Curée – Émile Zola

5.  La Parure (The Necklace) – Guy de Maupassant (en français)

In addition to Zola, I am going to try to read at least one book in French in 2014, possibly two.  Sadly I am going to make them children’s books, because my French needs serious review.  My choices are:


Bonne chance!

The Apology of Socrates by Plato

The time is 399 B.C. and Socrates has been charged with the corruption of youth and for believing in gods other than the gods of Athens.  His defence?  He was told by Chaerophon, a companion of his, that the gods at Delphi had declared that no one was wiser than Socrates, and Socrates, knowing that he was neither great nor wise, set out to find a wiser man than he.  But ….. surprise! …… with each man, or segment of society Socrates questioned, he discovered that, while most men had knowledge, they were lacking wisdom and, as of the date of the trial, it does not appear that he has found one wise man.

So what made these respectable men of Athens so enraged that they demanded Socrates’ death?  Perhaps the problem was that Socrates didn’t merely question men …… he grilled them, he roasted them, he flambéd them, he broiled them and he probably verbally flogged them, before going on his merry way.  Is it any wonder that a large segment of Greek society was out for his blood?  Yet Socrates was not ignorant of his unfortunate affect on people.  He was aware of the brooding animosity of the enemies he had left scattered in his wake, but he proclaimed that his duty to God, nay, his responsibility to God, was to answer the question that was set before him:  Is Socrates the wisest man?

“Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidea and Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me like any other man, facing death —- if, I say, now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God ordered me to fulfil the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of death: then I should be fancying that I was wise when I was not wise.  For this fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown; since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.  Is there not here conceit of knowledge, which is a disgraceful sort of ignorance?”

And to the possibility of being freed on the condition that he agreed to no longer attempt to influence the people (or to tell the truth, as Socrates would term it), he responds:

” ……. if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply:  Men of Athens, I honour and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting anyone whom I meet after my manner, and convincing him, saying: O my friend, why do you who are a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens, care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?  Are you not ashamed of this? …….”

As far as Socrates was concerned, he had a duty to God and to truth to fulfill his purpose and nothing was going to sway him from this quest.  His rhetoric is brilliant but he really makes no effort to placate his accusers.  Though his life is important, which is evidenced by his attempt to refute the charges, there is something he places in much higher esteem:  the truth and his obligation to it.

“….. I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that the greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living …..”  

The Death of Socrates
by Jacques-Louis David

Sadly, the verdict was death for Socrates, his final words a moving epitaph:

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die, and you to live.  Which is better, God only knows.”