Tag Archives: 100 Book Challenge 2014

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This is one of the BBC’s The Big Read books that our library had.

Published: 1860

Genre: literary fiction

Length: 645 pages of text, 668 pages total

Setting: various English locations, mid 1800s

Summary: Short version: A mystery because women have vapors instead of talking Continue reading

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2014: Year in Review

Yes, I know I’m late getting on the bandwagon of looking back on 2014. I was behind on book reviews and wanted to make sure all my 2014 books were reviewed before I looked back on the year.

So, how did I do on my reading challenges? Let’s take a look.

100 Book Challenge: I was so close this year at 98 books. If I would stop reading such long books (I read 12 books over 500 pages, although no 1000+ page books) I might actually reach 100. I’ll try again this year.

Check Off Your Reading List: I wanted to read a Pulitzer Prize winner a month, and I didn’t make it. Instead of reading 12 Pulitzer’s, I only read nine. However, if you include books that won any award, I made it to 17. So, I’ll count it as a qualified success.

Global Reading Challenge: Of the seven continents, I only got five. Turns out, I’m not good at picking books because of their setting.

Back to the Classics: There were six main categories and five optional categories. I managed eight out of the 11 categories, and while I put Justin Morgan Had a Horse in the historical fiction category, it would also have fit in the classic by an author new to me category, so I’m counting this challenge completed. Of the books in the challenge, I only read one (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain) specifically for the challenge.

Alphabet Soup Challenge: This was another challenge I got close on but just couldn’t finish. I was missing an I author (I started a John Irving book at the end of the year, so that will be my first book for 2015), an X author, and a Y and Z title. I do like the alphabet challenge, so I’ll continue this one in the future. Our family has a big chart in a hall with columns for myself, Mr. Curiosity and Miss Adventure to record our alphabet challenge books. I like that we can all participate.

For challenges this year, I probably won’t do so many. The alphabet challenge will stay, and I’m still working on my Pulitzer Prize list. We’ll see what else I can come up with, but it probably won’t be much. Any more than those two categories just feels like too much work.

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Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My last book in 2014 was a reread:

Published: 1996

Genre: epic fantasy

Length: 807 pages

Interest: It’s the first book in the Song of Fire and Ice series. I’ve decided to reread the whole series, it being one of the best epic fantasies currently being written. I don’t often reread books, but I do so love this series. I’m curious what I’ll see differently, knowing what I know about how things are moving ahead. Continue reading

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Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Published: 1922

Genre: fiction

Length: 227 pages

Setting: Glen St. Mary, Prince Edward Island, early 1900s

Interest: It’s the fifth book in the Anne of Green Gables series I’m reading to Miss Adventure as a bedtime story

Summary: Anne and Gilbert have finally gotten married and are off to Glen St. Mary where Gilbert will be practicing medicine with his uncle. Anne fins dome new kindred spirits there. Miss Cornelia is an affirmed old maid just down the way who has an opinion on everything (and it usually starts with men and/or Methodists being wrong). Captain Jim is the lighthouse keeper and teller of many tales. Then there’s Leslie Moore, who’s lived a tragic life and is saddled with a simple husband she hates. They don’t truly become friends until Anne loses her first baby at birth. We see many scenes from Anne’s life in her first year or so of marriage.

Final thoughts: A delightful story, due mainly to Montgomery’s writing instead of any major plot points in the book. Montgomery loves to describe the scenery and Prince Edward Island provides many opportunities for her lyrical descriptions. She also tends to use catchphrases for her supporting characters, which can get tiresome at times. Makes it easy to tell who’s talking, though. I also noticed that this book seemed to have a stronger thread of Christianity than previous books.

I did find it interesting that at no time was it ever said that Anne was pregnant. In fact, even when she was in labor, the allusions where so vague Miss Adventure didn’t realize what was happening. Once the baby was born, though, Montgomery was able to convey the sadness of losing a child so well that I teared up while reading the passages.

As a read aloud, this book worked quite well. Not only did you have Montgomery’s lyrical descriptions of the location, but the chapters were the perfect length to read one a night. I always appreciate having a given stopping point instead of having to find one in the middle of a chapter.

Title comes from: It’s what Anne and Gilbert called the house they lived in, their first house together.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 97/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Published: 1992

Genre: fiction, short stories

Length: 249 pages

Setting: Versailles, Louisiana, 1990s, with memories of Vietnam during the war

Interest: It won the Pulitzer Prize

Summary: This is a series of short stories of Vietnamese immigrants who left Vietnam during or just after the Vietnam War. They all have memories of Vietnam that they are trying to reconcile with their life in Louisiana. While the landscape may be similar to what they left in Vietnam, there are just enough differences to be jarring.

Final thoughts: They were interesting stories (and one novella). I’m not a huge fan of short stories, mainly because they’re short. The stories are over so quickly and I don’t want to just rush on to the next story. I liked that the stories all shared a similar setting and theme, even if they didn’t share characters. The Vietnamese narrators and settings (at times) also set this book apart from others.

Title comes from: The last short story in the book shared the collection’s title. It came from a ghost visiting the narrator who was trying to recreate a dessert they both made back in Vietnam when they were younger.

Awards won: Pulitzer Price in 1993

Reading challenges fulfilled: 96/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, 9/12 in the Check Off Your Reading List Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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A Force of Nature by Richard Reeves

I promise a post to wrap up my reading habits of 2014, but I’ve got a couple of book reviews to finish up from last year first.

Subtitle: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford

Published: 2008

Genre: nonfiction, science biography

Length: 177 pages of story, 207 pages with appendices

Setting: mostly England, early 1900s

Interest: I saw it reviewed on Uncertain Principles and decided to read it to see if Mr. Curiosity would be interested in reading about a scientific genius.

Summary: Ernest Rutherford was a bit of a genius who became a physicist at the creation of the field of physics. He was instrumental in many experiments involving the nature of atoms, discovering alpha and beta radiation, the structure of the nucleus, and he was the first to artificially change one element into another. He worked and communicated with many of the big name scientists of the time. He was also gifted with the ability to take disparate information, put it into a comprehensive whole, and design and experiment to test his hypothesis.

Final thoughts: While I enjoyed the books (and all the cameos by other scientists I recognized), it’s not quite something for Mr. Curiosity. Just a little too dry for him at this point. I’ll give him five years and then try it on him. I was amazed how much Rutherford added to the scientific canon, and I didn’t even know it. I vaguely recognized the name (he’s got an element named after him), but I couldn’t have named his accomplishments. The work he did during the war was also interesting, considering what we’ve been learning this year about WWI and WWII.

Title comes from: Someone used the phrase in reference to Rutherford.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 95/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

Published: 1978

Genre: YA science fiction/fantastical realism

Length: 278 pages

Setting: near the Murry’s house, various times in the past and present

Interest: It’s the third book in the Time Quartet I’m reading to Mr. Curiosity as a bedtime story.

Summary: The world is at a crisis point when Branzillo, the leader of Vespugia, threatens to unleash nuclear weapons. Branzillo seems to be linked to Mrs. O’Keefe’s family and she lays a charge on Charles Wallace to avert the crisis. Charles Wallace is visited by the unicorn, Gaudior. Gaudior takes Charles Wallace through time (but not space) where he goes Within different individuals to help them make the right choices and save the world. It always seems to come down to brother against brother, usually with power and a girl involved. Charles Wallace is able to change the past, using a powerful rune Mrs. O’Keefe told him, and save the present.

Final thoughts: I loved reading this book out loud. Even though the chapters are really long, it has such a lyrical quality to the text that makes it a joy to read out loud. The rune that was recited in several parts of the book (and made up the chapter titles) is good enough to turn into a handwriting project for Mr. Curiosity. Besides, it was good to catch up with the Murry family again (L’Engle was one of my favorite authors as a kid).

Charles Wallace again has to use his special abilities to save the world, without really knowing how to do so. L’Engle has the ability to weave the fantastical (unicorns and time travel) into a reality you’re sucked into. Everything doesn’t come out perfect, and we see the tragedies as well as the triumphs in the lives Charles Wallace inhabits. I never did figure out what Charles Wallace changed in the past in order to fix the future.

Title comes from: I’m not sure

Reading challenges fulfilled: 94/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

Published: 1991

Genre: epic fantasy

Length: 514 pages

Setting: mostly Arbonne and Gorhaut, a Medieval setting with a French and German feel

Interest: I wanted a “K” author for my Alphabet Soup author challenge. I like Kay’s work, so it was an easy choice. I’m just sad my local library system doesn’t have much of his work.

Summary: Arbonne is a country devoted to music, love, worship of the goddess Rian, and women have power. Compare that to their northern neighbor, Gorhaut, where the god Corannos rules in a cold, harsh climate and women are subservient to the men. Galbert de Garsenc, the High Elder of Corannos, is working on the weak King of Gorhaut to invade Arbonne and burn the followers of Rian. Opposing him is his son, Blaise, who has renounced Gorhaut after a treaty he disagreed with. Blaise has been travelling as a coran for hire. He ends up in Arbonne and is goaded into declaring himself the true King of Gorhaut by his father’s actions. Gorhaut and Arbonne go to war.

Final thoughts: It took a while for me to get into the book, mainly because of all the difficult names. I had a hard time keeping everyone straight and even remembering who people were when they reappeared in the story (I’m not good with names, in books or real life). Once I got the names straight, I was hooked and didn’t want to sop reading. By the end, when all the machinations bore fruit, I had a hard time putting the book down.

I liked all the singers and their importance in the story. There was even a bit of unrequited love, with a cheeky singer catching the eye of Blaise. At least Kay was realistic and didn’t let the interest bear fruit since the two weren’t on the same level of society.

Title comes from: Arbonne was the setting for much of the story and the bards are a major part of society in that country.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 93/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and a K in my Alphabet Soup Author challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes

Published: 2012

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 213 pages

Setting: Italy, 1944

Interest: I chose it for our second American History Club meeting on WWII. Continue reading

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Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Published: 2013

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 407 pages of text, 424 total pages with references

Setting: England, 1543-1549

Interest: It was looking for a Q-titled book and found this one. I do enjoy a good historical fiction on occasion.

Summary: Katherine Parr has just buried her second husband. She’s called back to court to attend Lady Mary (the King’s daughter by a previous marriage). While at court, she catches the King’s eye. Although she has other desires (namely Thomas Seymour), you don’t say no to the King. They are married and Katherine embarks on a life trying to keep the King’s fickle attention. It’s made harder when the King can’t make up his mind about religion – is he going to support reformation, like Katherine does, or go back to the Catholic church. She survives the King, but makes a mistake in marrying Thomas Seymour.

Final thoughts: I was captivated by Katherine. She always seemed to present just the right public face needed in a situation. The only problem was that meant she could never be herself. She tried to influence the King to promote reformation, and it almost sent her to the Tower. She kept her head, but also had to keep her tongue. It would be so hard to always, always have to play a part.

I was also so disappointed in how Seymour turned out. I thought Katherine would finally get her chance at an enjoyable marriage, but no. Seymour seemed to love Katherine, but he really just loved the power she represented. And then she finally has a baby to love, and dies in childbed. She survived the King, but her life afterwards wasn’t much better.

The book was a great story about the politics of life at court and the changeable nature of King Henry. I appreciated the fact that all the main characters and major events actually happened. Fremantle just created a story around the known events of the court.

Title comes from: A chess move Katherine uses once when playing the King.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 91/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and a Q in my Alphabet Soup Title challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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