lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: TBR Pile

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting the fifth annual TBR Pile Challenge. This challenge started when Adam realized that he was missing out on a lot of great books because they were left to gather dust as soon as they were bought. Of course, most of us have this problem (and a fear of dying under the weight of a staggering TBR pile), so this challenge was a success right from the start!

The goal is to finally read 12 books from your own TBR pile in 12 months. Rules:
  1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later (any book published in the year 2012 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
  2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
  3.  The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list”. This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2014.
  4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2014 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from or The Book Depository!
  5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2013!
My 2014 TBR Pile Challenge List:
  1. Saplings by Noel Streatfield (1945) (9/28)
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  3. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May by Benito Pérez Galdós (1873) (11/15)
  4. The Time in Between by María Dueñas (2009)
  5. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1954)
  6. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (2011) (6/21)
  7. Watchmen by Alan Moore (1987) (2/27)
  8. The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust (1920)
  9. Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford (1934) (7/31)
  10. It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst (1968) (4/26)
  11. Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre (2007)
  12. Kraken by China Miéville (2010)
  1. The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953)
  2. Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Philip Pullman (2012)

lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: Reading Outside The Box

Yet another challenge! It's easy to get stuck in our comfort zones as readers and never get out. I strive to read varied, so I was delighted when Alison at The Cheap Reader announced the Reading Outside The Box Challenge.

Participating is pretty easy.
  1. You have all of 2014 to read a book for each square.
  2. A book can only count for 1 square. There will be 25 books for this challenge.
  3. The books read for this project can come from other projects you’re participating in: school, review books, other challenge or events, books for fun.
  4. If you blog, keep a post/page for the challenge. Update the post/page when you read a book for the challenge with a link to your thoughts/review of the book. Make sure to state which square the book counts for!
  5. If you feel like it, write check in posts every few months. Update us on how you feel about the ‘new’ books you’re reading.
  6. Alison will keep a page for people to add review links to. It would be nice to see how others are feeling about the challenge.
I don't want to write a list of the books I want to read for each category. There are some categories which made me think of a particular book the moment I read them, but there are others that still have me scratching my head. If you have suggestions for good audiobooks, romance or self-published novels, please leave them in the comments! I'm really out of ideas for those categories.

I don't know whether I'll complete this challenge. After all, I've only read 25 books this year. However, I'm sure that it will push me outside of my comfort zone and will help me discover new books that would have gone under my radar.

Books read (titles link to my reviews):

1. Second Chance: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous
2. Reading by Ear: Trafalgar - Benito Pérez Galdós
3. Graphic Novel: Watchmen - Alan Moore
4. Adult Fiction: A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
5. Non-fiction Book: Women Heroes of World War II - Kathryn J. Atwood
6. Middle Grade Fiction: The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
7. Young Adult Fiction: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
8. Biography or Memoir: Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
9. Poetry or Novel in Verse: It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty - Judith Viorst
10. Try a Classic: The Court of Charles IV - Benito Pérez Galdós
11. Read a Chunkster: A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin
12. Relive the Magic: The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
13. Loved by Others: The Puppet Boy of Warsaw - Eva Weaver (it has a 4-star rating on GR)
14. Historical Fiction: Fireflies - Ana María Matute
15. Award Winner: Nada - Carmen Laforet (it won the Nadal Award on 1944)
16. Mystery: Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
17. Lost in Translation: The Pillow Book - Sei Shōnagon (it was originally written in Japanese)
18. Contemporary Fiction: Night Film - Marisha Pessl
19. Gathering Dust: Saplings - Noel Streatfeild
20. Romance: Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
21. Accidentally Watched the Movie First: The Mystery of the Black Jungle - Emilio Salgari
22. FantasyThe Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien
23. Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

Categories Left: Picture Book, Self Published

domingo, 15 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: Everything España

Everything España, hosted by Lianne

Spain is a very interesting country with a very rich culture and history. Thus, Lianne at Caffeinated Life is hosting Everything España, a reading challenge about this Iberian country. Rules:
  1. It runs from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014
  2. You can join at any time
  3. Books accepted in this challenge are books set anywhere in Spain (completely or partly), or books written by a Spanish author.
The levels are:
  1. Tourist: 1 - 4 books
  2. Frequent Traveller: 5 - 9 books
  3. Spain is My Home: 10+ books

I couldn't pass up this challenge, since I don't know that much about Spanish literature. And that is especially bad, since I'm from Spain! I had already pledged to read more Spanish classics for the Classics Club Challenge, so this ties in nicely. I don't want to burn out with challenges, so I will try Tourist. If I finish too early, I can add more books to the challenge!

Books read (titles link to my review):
1. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous (set in Spain and supposedly written by a Spanish author)
2. Trafalgar - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
3. The Court of Charles IV - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
4. Fireflies - Ana María Matute (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
5. Nada - Carmen Laforet (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
6. El voto femenino y yo - Clara Campoamor (nonfiction by a Spanish author)
7. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)

miércoles, 11 de diciembre de 2013

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Summary (from Goodreads):

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. 

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

Kate Morton writes a kind of book that I love. I would tentatively classify these novels as comforting historical fiction. What makes them different is that they are told from several points of view, at different times in history, they involve big families and are usually focused on women. The storylines end up superimposing and converging into a fireworks display, which usually makes me a happy reader. Another example of this kind of fiction are Maggie O'Farrell's novels (reviewed here and here).

The Forgotten Garden follows the stories of Cassandra (2005), Nell (1975) and Eliza (1900-14), as Nell tries to untangle her origins since she was abandoned in a wharf in Australia when she was a little child. However, this mistery isn't such for the reader, who knows many of the secrets from the start. This hindered a little bit my engagement with the story. Even if Kate Morton tried to muddle things toward the middle, it was pretty obvious what the real ending was going to be, especially since there were many pages till the end. It's akin to watching an episode from a procedural show and knowing that their first choice of suspect is wrong and the murderer is still looming, free. This clumsy development brought some more awful consequences with it, since it forced the author to include several plot devices which seemed forced, and turned into loose ends. I'm thinking of the Jack the Ripper/mad brother/seedy detective plotline, for example.

The fact that the author felt compelled to include a romantic interest also bothers me. I think that, although cute, the emotionally manipulative background for Cassandra and her salvation by a knight in shining armour is problematic. It wouldn't be so if the women included were different, but most of them were cookie-cutter romantic heroines. I know -from The House at Riverton and from Eliza and from Rose's mother- that Kate Morton is more than capable of writing interesting women, so I'm still scratching my head over her choice of a timorous protagonist to lead a 500-pages novel. On the other hand, there is a veiled criticism in her way of describing the roles and expectations of a Victorian lady - the struggle for propriety and decency, the need to ensnare and keep a husband, be it with lies or kids or whatever it took - the ease of doctors and other men to declare a woman mad or hysteric. So maybe she had a point in choosing a female main character who doesn't exactly kick ass, but gets to solve a century-old mystery. And the romance subplot really adds to the fairy tale feeling of the whole foundling mystery, along with the very definite personalities of the different characters - the crone, the prince, the princess, the maid, the fairy queen, the gentle forest-dweller animals (one of them is even named Robyn!)...

Once again, I loved Kate Morton's writing skills. She brought Victorian London and Cornwall to life. I liked the bits and pieces of Victoriana she included, like mourning jewelryThe atmosphere was taken right out of a Dickens novel, and the cameo of Frances Hodgson Burnett was perfect, as were the references to Enid Blyton's books. But my favorite part were, without a doubt, the fairy tales and the book-within-a-book subplot. I like the fact that she invented an array of characters (writer, illustrator, reviewers, and biographers) who blended so well into reality. So much that I had to google to be sure they weren't real. I think I would have enjoyed reading Eliza's Magical Tales for Girls and Boys. The little snippets were lovely, although not to subtle when it came to foreshadowing the general story arc. I would have loved to see the accompanying illustrations.