Reading Challenge – Update

Update on my 12-12-12 Reading Challenge

If you remember back in February I posted a challenge to read 12 books, in 12 months, 12 different categories.  I’m not sure I accomplished it but I am going to own up to my successes and failures on this blog.

I promised you an update and here it is:

A book published this year

I read several published this year but the one that, in my opinion was the most memorable was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towels.

A book you can finish in a day

For the first time I picked up a poetry book.  I really didn’t like it.  I’m not going to blame the book or the author because I’m sure it is totally my inability to understand poetry.  Milk and Honey by Kaur

A book you’ve been meaning to read

Another one I didn’t like My Beautiful Friend by Elena Ferrante.  I found it boring and, although I think I want to check the other three books in the series, I have not been able to do that….. it was bad.

A book recommended by local librarian or bookseller

I don’t think I was recommended any books by a librarian or a book seller.  I must ask for next year.

A book you should have read in school

Animal Farm by George Orwell.  I should have read it in Political Science and honestly I’m not sure how I made it 4 years of being a Political Science major and not reading it.  I didn’t like it and wound up giving it two stars.

A book chosen for you by someone you know (spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF)

Most of the books I read were suggested by people on GoodReads or YouTube.  I think I can safely say that most of them were.  The one I will refer to here is a recommendation from YouTube and it’s Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

A book published before you were born

Hmmm no idea.  Perhaps another one to wait for next year.  I’m really old, this may not exist 😉

A book that was banned at some point

hmmmmm don’t know what this would be.

A book you previously abandoned

I kept trying with Anna Karenina ….  still abandoned 😦

A book you own but have never read

I thought I was going to be able to unbox my books this year and put them neatly on my brand new book shelves but I never got the bookshelves so I will have to come back to this next year.  The books I read this year are all new acquisitions.

A book that intimidates you

This was supposed to be Anna Karenina by Tolstoy but ….. again…. I’m intimated enough that I never read it….. 2017 is the year.  I started it on 3 occasions and never made it through.

A book you’ve already read at least once

I don’t tend to re-read books but I will just so I can say this challenge is completed.  Not sure what it will be.

Around the Net – Links I’ve Enjoyed This Week

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This is so true.  I am still learning and I will be learning for a very, very long time……. at least I hope to be.

This week, there were a few things on the inter webs that are worth mentioning (as if I were the expert of all things worth mentioning ha!)

Surveillance laws passed in England and it appears that British citizens are not happy about the government snooping in their business.  Without getting too political (and only because I happen to think we have had enough) I am a bit torn about these laws.  I see their point but I see how they are intrusive as well.  Anywhoooooo!!! good article.

Staying in the same vein did you see this article about the burning of the flag and what President Elect Trump announced?  Again….. I’m torn (I’d make a horrible politician) I can see how it’s annoying and an insult to all those people who have fought so hard and lost so much for our country, but ….. the ability to freely express oneself is very dear to all of us and so much engrained in the fabric of our country.  I am not sure there’s anything we can do about it without embarking on a slippery slope.

Ok so another controversial article …. Buzzfeed had an article just recently about how men deal with powerful women.  Did you guys see the Netflix show “The Crown?” if you didn’t you must stop reading right now and go watch it…. promise you’ll come back for the rest of this post though.  Anyway, It was obvious that Prince Phillip had an issue with his wife, Queen Elizabeth, being the Queen and having more power than him.  In all the episodes you were a witness to how much that bothered him….. I even mentioned on my twitter account, or maybe I thought it out loud, that I didn’t even realize that’s how he felt because that’s not how it appears in public.  I wonder when it changed?  So, Buzzfeed apparently thinks that this jealousy that Prince Phillip felt is still prevalent in today’s society?  Do you agree?

From serious subjects to subjects that warm your heart... .Not only because Matthew McConaughey is OMG super handsome but also because his heart is in the right place.

In business related issues, I found this two great articles.  The first is a list of the five best business books.  Two of my favorite subjects, lists and books…… Ok, wait, let me absorb the awesomeness of those two words.  And the second, because it’s the end of the year and we are all scrambling to get a better promotion at work……. What do the best performers ask when taking on a new job?  

Lastly, how about cookies and booze?  Two other words that should always be used in the same sentence.  I am going to leave you with these recipes that are going to make your Holidays ohhhh so HoHoHo!!!!!!

Good Book Bad Book

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett– a story of two families.

I have to admit that I am really sad about this book.  Perhaps I am not in the right frame of mind to read.  Sometimes you encounter books that are very well written and have a beautiful story to tell but happen to have falling into the hands of the wrong reader.
unknown A book can only have a voice through the eyes of the reader but if the reader is not prepared to hear the story the book has to tell, it doesn’t matter how well it is written and how beautiful the words on paper may be, the story will never be told properly.

This is how I’m feeling about Commonwealth.  This is my first novel by Ann Patchett and even though I am not enjoying this book I can see and feel that it is a very well written work.  Throughout the book (the very little I have read) I am able to live thought the drama that the families are going through and at no point do I feel that Ann Patchett is talking at me.  The author makes every effort to guide the reader through the intricacies of the story which takes place through 50 years of a family.  Throughout I can feel the confusion, the pain and the fullness of each of their lives.  As I said, the writing is beautiful.

for the reasons above, I feel that I owe the book and the author another opportunity.  I am not, at the moment, able to finish reading this book.  However, I am not going to DNF it nor am I going to do any sort of further commentary on it.  I am going to put it down and give myself a few months and then come back to it.  I am a firm believer that there are some books as some people, deserve a few chances.

Sometimes the reader is not ready for the story.

Onwards and forward with other stories…… There are so many to be told.

 

XoXo

Ana

Book Review – The Sellout by Paul Beatty

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The Sellout by Paul Beatty

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Yep… two stars. I think that’s being generous. I thought about the prospect of giving it just one star but I know the author must have really put some effort into at least finishing the book so that deserves something.

I couldn’t help but feel as if the author was talking down to me the entire time. I understand satire and comedy but I do not like to be put down. It’s obvious the color of my skin and perhaps I am not able to understand what it’s like to be a different color, heck I can’t even understand what it’s like be a different sex. I didn’t think this book was funny, as a matter of fact I felt it was racist and in a dangerous way. It felt argumentative and it felt like it was generalizing the way everyone felt about each other. How blacks feel about whites and how whites feel about blacks.

Lastly, I will be the first one to admit that I do not have a large vocabulary. First English is not my first language and second …. well I just don’t have a large vocabulary so I couldn’t help but feel stupid while when I so often I had to stop reading to look up some of the words used. I get it…. the author is highly educated but does it have to be so much in my face? If the reader cannot understand what the author is trying to say, then in my mind it’s a bad book.

All I have to say. I’ll just add that I’m not really sure how this book won the Man Booker Prize but perhaps race had a part to play.

Thanks for reading this rant….. I hate that it sounds that way.

View all my reviews

Around the Net – Links of Interest This Weekend

 

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Authors, Libraries and good deeds…. what more can one want? This one is even more interesting to me since it relates to my hometown of Newark, New Jersey.  Philip Roth will donate his personal library to Newark.

Making decisions.  I will admit that I hate making certain decisions.  I always feel as if I’m going to regret it and ….. Ugh!!! it’s not a good feeling.  I was very interested when I saw this article on one of my favorite websites.  Better Decision Making — If nothing else it shows me that I am not the only one who hates decision making.

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to organize my computer folder/files.  What a shocker!!!!!!!!  have not been able to accomplish that but I am at least starting the process. I  found this video to help me make my folders pretty.  Pretty things always help me get motivated. You’re welcome 🙂

Before I go.  Did you all have the chance to see the new MacBook Pro?  I’m in love and I’m trying to figure out if I need it….. I know I want it but I’m not really sure I can justify it.  I will leave you with the Apple Event right here.

I just realized that I think this was a very slow week in reading on the internet.  I got some actual physical book reading done so there aren’t that many links.  I hope you find that the ones I do have are good ones and of interest to you as well.

More to come next week.

The photo is the front of the New York Public Library at sunrise in October.  I thought it was interesting to photograph early in the morning and capture one of the workers who makes our library look so regal.  In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful buildings in New York.

 

A Gentleman In Moscow – Amor Towles

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Viking Publishing 2016
462 Pages $27.00 Hardcover

What would you do if you had just been sentenced to spend the rest of your life indoors? albeit at a very nice and posh hotel, but nonetheless indoors? This is exactly what happens in the most recent novel by Amor Towles, A Gentleman In Moscow.

We come to find the Count or Alexander Rostov when he is leaving his room at the Metropol in Moscow to go to his sentencing. The Count bids the room good-bye and walks out fully prepared to never see the room, or the hotel, for that matter, again. However, because of his past, apparently the Count is some sort of Russian hero the tribunal sentenced him to house arrest that the very hotel he just bid good-bye.

Throughout the book we learn of what I will describe as the Count’s obsessive compulsions and his need for rigid traditions. As an aristocrat the Count is used to certain things with which he will not part even during his house arrest. His books, his chair and his schedule. Right from the start we can see Amor Towles sense of humor the same way as it was presented in Rules of Civility. When the Count returns to the Metropol he assumes he will still be living in the same manner to which he was accustomed, including the same extravagant room he had left just a few hours prior. However, he quickly finds that he will be living on the upper floor of the hotel and …… nope…… not the pent house. In fact he is going to living in a very small room and not just that, he will have to earn his keep and in order to do so, the Count becomes a waiter. Although he is moved to a small room he makes sure that all his things from the very large room on the third floor are moved up to his new room. When we next see the Count he is contemplating his need for such possessions now that he is in this much smaller room.

Throughout the story we learn about bits of the Count’s life including his relationship with his family. Especially his relationship with his sister of whom he has a picture hanging in his new “bedroom.”

The book is a sociopolitical story of Russia and for those of us who know very little about Russia (would love to learn more) I couldn’t help but notice that as the Count changed and matured through the years so was Russia, outside the doors of the Metropol changing as well. It is true that the book is told during some of the most difficult days of Russia, maybe event he most difficult years but as well are human years difficult between the 30s and the end of one’s life. This is when we learn the most…. this is when we, as humans, get our bruises and learn to cope with disapointment. It felt to me as if the book was talking about a metamorphosis we all must go through to become the people we ultimately become. The same goes for Russia. It is time, and it appears that they all felt it, that she too should change. We come face to face with these thoughts as we listen in on a conversation the Count has with one of his friends who came to see him at the Metropol. A poet who paces about non-stop was trying to explain to the Count that Russian people were not less than anyone just because they felt the need to destroy or better yet, reconstruct the past. “We turn the gun on ourselves not because we are more indifferent and less cultured than the British or the French or the Italians. On the contrary. We are prepared to destroy that which we have created because we believe more than any of the in the power of the picture, the poem, the prayer or the person.”

I thought that the sprinkling of the various characters was very well done. There was Mina, the young girl the Count met early on during his house arrest. Nina is a curious child and she and the Count got on numerous exploration trips with thin the hotel. Nina possesses one of the hotel’s skeleton keys and she shows the Count where they can stand to listen in on some of the meetings going on in the ballroom. She is fascinated by decorum and political coverations and we come to meet her again later on in the story. Miskha is also another character who helps the Count overcome stability and helps him see how he is set in his ways. The narrator tells us that this is not whom the Count whats to be and so he begins to change……. As is Russia as well.
throughout the book Towles sprinkles in some history of Russia, literature and art….. Ok, so one of the books the Count really likes is Anna Karenina —- I have not read it and there is a spoiler in this book — Just FYI 🙂

This novel is without a doubt one of the best this year. I thought that the history lessons were great and have made me want to learn more about the Country. I thought that the relationship between Russia and the Count were very well told especially as we see the parallels between Russia coming of age and the Count becoming less rigid. I though the contrasts were very well made. Throughout the story I could feel the pain of the people and their love for their Country. As always, Amos Towles writing is poetic without being boring and his descriptions are so on point that I cannot help but feel that I was sitting in the lobby of the Metropol while all this was going on.

Other books by this Author:

Rules of Civility
Published by Viking, 2011
335 pages

My November TBR

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Yep, it’s already October 31st and it’s time to figure out what I think I want to read in the month of November.  As the weather gets colder I tend to want to stay inside more and hopefully spend my time reading.

Unfortunately, I am still getting through A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  It’s a great book and I love his writing but for some reason I am having a hard time making it through the book.

I’m half way through it and on vacation the next couple of days so I’m hoping to be done before I have to get back to work.

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I just picked up The Sellout by Paul Beatty, at the library and I have to return it on November 11th, I will most likely pick it up next.

If you haven’t heard, The Sellout is a satirical.  It takes place on the outskirts of Los Angeles and our protagonist is a black male who is raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist who is killed in a police shootout.  His hometown has been literally wiped off the map due to all the chaos with poverty, unemployment and crime.  Now his father has been killed by the police.  Our protagonist wants to right all kinds of wrongs as much so he decides to reinstate slavery and segregation in the high school.  His actions land him in front of the Supreme Court.  This book sounded really good to me.  It’s a mixture of the new, the old and the political :).

I have been waiting for this book to be available at the library and there is no way in hell I’m not going to read it.  I can’t wait to start.

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The next book on the list The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.  This was my October pick from the Book of the Month Subscription Box.  I’m so far behind on my reading.  It sounded interesting.  Emma Donoghue is not an author I have read before so I’m looking forward to learning about her.

Lib, our protagonist is a nurse with a simple.  She is to take care of a girl who has refused to eat for four months.  Lib expected to find out that the girl was a fraud and was looking forward to expose both the girl and the town where the girl lived for taking advantage of the situation.  This is a psychological thriller about good and evil and about relationships between people from different cultures and worlds.

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So these are the books I am challenging myself to get through.  I have one more on my Kindle but if I don’t get to that one I won’t feel too bad.

What’s on your TBR this month?

Around the Net

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Women at the top in the financial industry!!!! is it a myth? There are some and the industry is trying to bring us along.  This is a great article that may or may not explain why it’s not happening fast enough.

What do you think Bill Gates would say are the most important things you must possess to become rich?  C’mon don’t pretend that having money is not important to you.  It’s important to all of us so you might as well read this article.  Let’s just say it’s for research.

Intelligence v. Rationality — hmm is one more important than the other?  If you ask me I’d like to have both please.  What’s the point in being intelligent if you are not rational?  hmmmm or can you be one without the other?  Great article.  Tell me what you think.

For us women who have to walk in heels all day here is a great article to help us out.

Ok, and this one is for me more than for you.  I am trying to write better book reviews and as any normal American Woman when I don’t know something I rely on the internet.  Here is a great article I found about writing a better book review.  Honestly, it can be used even if you are just looking to better understand a book you’re reading.

Snapchat — It’s a thing now.  However, for those of us born in a difference century I remains a mystery.  yes, I have it on my phone and occasionally I Snap a thing or two but am I doing it right? Here is an article to help you up your game….. ok, help me up my game …. or get game.

My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own WordsMy Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit that I was not expecting to really like this book. Let’s just say that the only thing which that the Justice and I see eye to eye (no pun intended) is that women are as good as men and sometimes better. I am a huge fan of the Justice’s work towards women’s rights and equality. I was very interested in learning how she keeps an open mind in the Court when her views are obviously ….. well…. her views.

I was happy to see that instead of an autobiography like so many others which I wind up finding boring, this one was set up as a collections of Justice Ginsburg’s writings, thoughts and decisions as well as in some cases, at least one, a speech written by her husband. I found it very heartwarming when she interjected her own opinion and thoughts in the midst of reading his speech.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to politically agree with the person you’re reading about to enjoy and even like the person.

Ana

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Book Review – Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second book by Anne Tyler. For those who may not know, this book is the retelling of the Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare which I never read and perhaps that’s the reason I was a bit underwhelmed by this book.

This is the story of Kate Battista and her family, her father and a younger sister. We find out that the mother passed away “died” as Kate Battista, the oldest daughter seems to prefer at some point after Kate’s sister, Bunny was born. Kate’s father is a scientist, Dr. Battista. I got the sense that he was not a good one…. I’m not sure why I thought that. I don’t believe Anne Tyler wanted that to be a fact, but … throughout the book I kept trying to like him and completely failed at that. Dr. Battista’s lab assistant, Pyotr, an immigrant, in the United States on a Work Visa was on the verge of perhaps being deported which would have put Dr. Battista’s research in jeopardy so the only solution was for Kate to marry him and help him get his green card.

The writing is beautiful as we all know Anne Tyler can do. The scene description made me feel like I was completely familiar with my surroundings and gave me the sense of being there, standing next to Kate when she told her co-workers about her impending marriage, or when her and Bunny talked to each other on the morning of the wedding.

As expected from Anne Tyler, each character was very well developed. None of them felt two dimentional at all. There was substance to who they were. Kate, although not very likable, was a good person and wanted to do right by her father and her family…. Dr. Battista, although a jerk, in my opinion, did the best he could and knew how, and even Pyotr, who may be as much a victim as he the aggressor. The only problem I had was the predictability. Once I got to know the characters the only one that surprised me was Bunny. There was very little Anne Tyler could do to make me believe, from the beginning that Pyotr was not going to turn to out to be who he was, or was he?

The story develops normally, as expected and then the end was a let down. It felt as if it was cut short. it didn’t flow and it didn’t fit the personalities of the characters. it felt fake and I felt as if I missed something.

Having said all this. I still thought the writing was very much worth it. I never once felt as if I needed to put the book down that stop reading. As a matter of fact I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. The hardest question is whether or not I would recommend it. I think the answer would be; if you like reading about families and the intricacies within a family unit…. what makes people who they are and how they get that way and if you like reading and feeling taken to the place you’re reading about, I would recommend the book. I would caution you that you will not be reading an award wining book (at least I don’t think you are). You will probably be disappointed at the end, and if you’re not I would love to speak to you about it…..what did I miss?

Ana

View all my reviews