2014 Russian Literature Challenge Wrap Up

This was one of my favourite challenges this year.  It pushed me to focus on all things Russian and helped me finish that epic Russian novel, War and Peace. It also introduced me to my first Dostoyevsky and my first Turgenev. Dostoyevsky is going to take more getting to know, but Turgenev was a delight ……. very different from what I expected of a usual Russian novel.
I had aimed at finishing 1 – 3 books but I ended up reading 5, so I’m pleased with myself. Here are the books I read:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Thanks to O at Behold the Stars for hosting this challenge!  I am now firmly entrench in a love of Russian Literature!

2014 Challenge Wrap-Ups

While I’ve done some individual wrap-ups for certain challenges (and have some more to go), because I had so many challenges this year, I thought I’d encapsulate them in one big main post.

Chunkster Challenge:                   Goal:  5-6 books    Completed: 11 books
Arthurian Lit Challenge:              Goal:  3-4 books    Completed: 3 books
Back to the Classics:                     Goal:  10 books       Completed: 10 books 
History Challenge:                         Goal:  1-3 books     Completed:  5 books
Russian Lit Challenge:                  Goal:  1-3 books     Completed:  5 books
Books on France Challenge:    Goal:  3 books       Completed:  5 books
TBR Pile Challenge:                       Goal:  12 books      Completed:  10 books
Pre-Printing Press Challenge:    Goal:  4-6 books     Completed:  13 books
Shakespeare Challenge:              Goal:  1-4 books      Completed:  9 books
Around the World Challenge:    Goal:  6 books       Completed:  7 books
C.S. Lewis Challenge:                   Goal:  12 books      Completed:  14 books
British Books Challenge:             Goal: none            Completed:  40 books
Mount TBR Challenge:                 Goal:  24 books     Completed:  55 books
European Challenge:                    Goal:  5 books       Completed:  4 books
52 Books in 52 weeks:                  Goal:  52 books      Completed:  75 books

 So, all in all, and considering the number of challenges I participated in, it wasn’t a bad year.  My fails were the TBR Pile Challenge and the European Reading Challenge.  Yet in other challenges I far exceeded my goals, so I’m pleased.  I made it to Mt. Ararat in the Mount TBR challenge, read a good number of Shakespeare’s plays and did well on my Chunkster and Pre-Printing Press challenges.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring.  Will I be able to finally complete the TBR Pile Challenge 2015?  Will I be able to handle the scope of my challenges:  from English literature to Pre-Printing Press literature to books in translation …..?  I’m going to try for a bit more focus for the coming year and see what I can accomplish!

Mount TBR Checkpoint # 3

Well, by gum, what happened to checkpoint #1?  I have no idea!  This is perhaps a clue that I have too many challenges to keep track of ….. ????

My original goal was Mount Blanc at 24 books, but I have already passed by that peak, and at 42 books it’s good-bye Mount Vancouver, I’m on my way to Mount Ararat (48 books)! I will definitely be able to make it but Mt. Kilamanjaro after that (60 books), is unlikely.  This will be my best TBR challenge to-date.

Bev @ My Reader’s Block would like us to answer some questions, so here goes:

1.  Who has been your favourite character so far?  And tell us why?

Ah, the impossible question!  Or at least impossible to pin-point just one character.  I was intrigued by Eugène Rougon in Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon, for his patience and subtle machinations during France’s Second Empire; I marvelled at Cicero’s lively rhetoric; Oedipus’ mastery of situations, even as a blind man, was stunning, and the loyalty and good sense of Antigone, his daughter,  elicited admiration.   Who could not join Odysseus in his ten-year struggle to reach his son and wife on Ithaka, and be impressed by Margery Kempe who had the courage (or the blind stubborness) to be different in a world that would often ostracize her for it?  While Satan was not a character I would say I enjoyed, per se, his characterization by Milton was one of the best I’ve ever experienced in prose or verse.  But if I would have to pick a favourite, I would choose the Reverend Septimus Harding for his solid, respectable, responsible character, a man who would not compromise his principles for any money or any influence, be it by his collegues or family.  A truly admirable man.

2.  Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?

Ah, definitely War and Peace and it was definitely worth the wait.  Now was the perfect time to read it, as I’ve finally been conditioned to view chunksters as simply another book and not as an unscalable mountain.  More importantly, I’d read a couple of other works by Tolstoy and had become used to his style of writing.  This book will definitely be a re-read.

The second book sitting the longest was Paradise Lost.  After I’d finished it my first thought was, “why did I wait so long to read this?!”

3.  Choose 1-4 titles from your stacks and using a word from the title, do an image search. 



courtesy of Nokes
Creative Commons


courtesy of Seth Anderson
Creative Commons


It’s encouraging to have to post updates on challenges that are going well. Now I’m off to read Le Morte d’Arthur for my Arthurian Challenge that is not going well.  Wish me luck!

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 …….  😉

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.”

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge 2014

I stumbled across The Pre-Printing Press Challenge at All Booked Up via Howling Frog Books (can you tell that I like her blog?).  It’s rules are reasonably unstructured so I thought it might fit nicely into my year.

The rules of the Pre-Printing Press Challenge:

     1.  All books must have come out before 1440, when the printing
          press was first invented.
     2.  Books chosen for this challenge can overlap with other
     3.  Books can be translated into the language of your choice.
     4.  All the books you’ve chosen must be read by December 31,
     5.  You can read 1-3 books, 4-6 books, 7-9 books or 10 or more
          books if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.
     6.  The choice of books is up to you.  There are not set reading
          lists, and you don’t have to set one when you join.
     7.  Post your blog address where you’ll be posting your
          comments on your choice of books in the comments of
          this post when you  join, and tell me how many books
          you’ve chosen.  I’ll set up a link to participating blogs 
          from here.
     8.  Above all, have fun!!!

The challenge starts December 1, 2013.

So, remaining list-less (that’s me!) I will add my books to the list below as they are read:

1.  The Apology (of Socrates) by Plato  —  December 12, 2013

2.  The Odyssey by Homer  —  March 23, 2014

3.  Oedipus Rex by Sophocles —  May 25, 2014

4.  Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles —  June 24, 2014

5.  Confessions by St. Augustine —  June 30, 2014

6.  The Book of Margery Kempe — August 1, 2014

7.  The Epic of Gilgamesh — August 14, 2014

8.  Defence Speeches by Cicero — August 20, 2014

9.  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers — August 25, 2014

10.  The Inferno by Dante Alighieri — October 15, 2014

11.  The Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri — October 25, 2014

12.  Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory — December 6, 2014

I’m so glad that this challenge begins in December so I can get started right away!