Friday, November 29, 2013

November 2013 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

November News

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! It has always been my absolute favorite holiday. This year, I am especially thankful for family and good friends, however typical that may sound.  I am also thankful for you and the fact that you are reading this right now. This year has held a lot of growth for Read.Write.Repeat. and I could not be more thrilled.

In that vein, a few exciting things happened this month.  For one, the Facebook page surpassed 100 likes - this week, actually! If you haven't already liked the page, head over there and due so now. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on and I occasionally post some things I don't here. It's worth checking out!

Also on Facebook, I got a special shout out from author Michael Hurley there after I reviewed his book, The Prodigal for TLC Book Tours. Hurley posted the following on his Facebook page along with a link to the blog:
"This, coming today from the blog "Read, Write, Repeat," may be the best line yet from all the reviews of The Prodigal: "It's a book for people who like people, not people who like explosions." This reviewer correctly observes what is sometimes lost on lovers of explosion-literature (God bless them), which is that The Prodigal is driven by characters, not plot. It is a long walk on the beach at sunrise, not a quick ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the fair. Check out the full review here:"
Thanks so much to Michael Hurley for those kind words!

If you missed out on Movie Monday this month, I talked about Orson Welles's adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. At the start of this week, I gave you my thoughts on the first Hunger Games movie. For those of you who went and saw "Catching Fire" this past week, you can look forward to discussing that in less than two weeks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Brave New World
My progress through Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list marches on. Though I am not reading the books in any strict order, I am loosely working from the top down. Today, I bring you number five.

In a timely, though unplanned, move, I finished Aldous Huxley's Brave New World earlier this month. If you did not know, the 50th anniversary of Huxley's death was last Friday. Yes, that's the same day as JFK and C.S. Lewis. What a day of intellectual loss.

Huxley published his famous work in 1932. Keeping that date in mind while reading really adds perspective. Huxley wrote from a world that had yet to see Hitler or the mass consumption of visual media (the television did not begin to gain traction until later that decade).

Huxley gave us one of the original dystopian novels. There is a strong chance you read this in high school.  If, however, your education mirrored mine and it was somehow sidelined, let me offer a quick recap.

Based in London, Huxley writes about a "utopian" world. Humans are all produced in a factory, rather than through human intercourse. While in their faux utero state, the babies are conditioned for their future. The government literally is creating classes of humans from their genes up. Humans are produced en masse and only the elite few are destined for the highest caste, "Alpha."

Free love takes on a new meaning as traditional partnerships are eschewed for sexual exploration. The majority of the population self-medicates with a drug called soma. It's calming effects are also used to control the people and keep them happy. Happiness is the ultimate goal. No one deals with reality. The whole society is based on an extrapolation of Henry Ford's invention of the assembly line.  Mass production and homogeneity are valued above all else.  

A few outlying areas remain on the globe in which the world government has not overtaken. This areas apparently proved less than profitable to settle and therefore have been left alone.  The real adventure begins when a "savage" from the reservation is brought back to London.

Movie Monday: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Despite having a full queue of
classics ready and waiting for their turn to be featured on Movie Monday, I thought you all might enjoy something a bit more current today. 

Unless you live under a rock, you know that the second Hunger Games movie came out this weekend! We went with some friends on Saturday (to a matinee, even, like the old, cheap people we are). I plan to share my thoughts about it in a few weeks. I need some time to digest and discuss. Plus, I want to give you all a chance to see it!

Don't despair, however; we're still in the Hunger Games spirit around here today!  In anticipation of Saturday, Kevin and I watched the original movie last week. 

I have to admit, I had forgotten just how good it is. I think when it originally came out, I was hyperaware of any differences between it and the book, so I did not fully enjoy it as the great movie it was.  Besides, as far as film adaptations go, it does a pretty kick ass job. 

A few things it does beautifully:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lunch in Paris - Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris:
A Love Story, with Recipes
As Midwestern weather turns dreary and cold, I appreciate books like Lunch in Paris more than ever. An American in Paris meets food memoir. A perfect escape from drizzly days and the barrenness of local, seasonal produce.

Elizabeth Bard was born and raised on the East Coast of the USA. She fell in love in Paris, eventually marrying her Frenchman and settling down to life as an expatriate. Her memoir spans from meeting Gwendal (Gwen-DAL) to present day. The pages are filled with her story of acclimating to a new culture, a new family, and new culinary experiences.

I resonated with Elizabeth right from the start.  She described her sense of adventure thus: "It's not that there's no free spirit in me. But it's a free spirit with a five-year plan." I hear that loud and clear. Understanding her personality in that way, I think, gave me a unique perspective on her story.

As a newlywed with an appreciative palate and an intense wanderlust, this book spoke straight to my heart. Bard is basically living out one of my dreams: move to Europe, fall in love with dashing foreigner, eat their luscious cuisine. Side note: I'm totally thankful for my amazing, American husband who eats whatever I'm experimenting with in the kitchen. Of course, I wouldn't complain if he had an accent and moved me across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence
Remember how much I love turn of the century settings? While L.M. Montgomery has been my go-to for ages, I discovered this summer that the 100 Best Novels list could provide some new options. The Magnificent Ambersons became the first from the list to fit the bill.  The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is the second.

Until recently, this novel had given me no cause to promote its place in line. It ranked no higher than many others on Modern Library's list. I knew virtually nothing about it. My only connection was a vague understanding that I would be reading it sometime in the next few years.

Then, I started listening to The History Chicks. If you are not already listening to their delightful podcast, you definitely you should. These two awesome ladies tackle a different female, historical figure each episode. They are entertaining and educational. Seriously, go check them out.

Anyway, they did a series of episodes on the Gilded Age. I was in heaven. Seriously, guys, I think this is the next historical era I'm going to obsess over. During the series, the had a whole episode dedicated to talking about Martin Scorsese's acclaimed film adaptation of this book. I figured out early on that the movie they were discussing was based on one of the Modern Library books. As soon as I did, I skipped the episode. I didn't want any part of the plot ruined for me.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Prodigal - Michael Hurley

The Prodigal
Today, I am excited to be a part of my third tour with TLC Book Tours. Previously, they brought Visiting Tom and Fiesta of Smoke to my bookshelf and your screens. I love how book tours bring variety to what I'm reading. The Prodigal by Michael Hurley was no exception.

There's that old adage that you cannot judge a book by its cover. When joining a book tour, the cover is all you really have to go by. The cover art and the blurb that lands on the back cover. You make your decision based on that. That and the reviews and ratings of other Goodreads readers. 

I think it's only fair that you see what drew me in, so here is the blurb that I saw about The Prodigal:
Pride, betrayal, forgiveness . . . and the eternal sea.  The Prodigal tells the mystical tale of four people on Ocracoke Island whose destiny is tied to an abandoned schooner, thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, that one day drifts ashore.  Marcus O'Reilly, a renegade Catholic priest, must confront his inner demons.  Ibrahim Joseph, a Bahamian fugitive, must face his past.  Aidan Sharpe, a fallen lawyer, struggles with self-doubt and his growing affection for Molly McGregor, a fearless towboat captain who cannot find the courage to love.  They will all be drawn into a 2,000-year-old mystery that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
I'm a nerd.

I will admit it. My husband reminds me all the time when I reference anything, well, nerdy. I like to think, however, that I am a casual nerd. I enjoy pretty mainstream nerd activity. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. The deepest I've ventured into nerd territory is either when I watched through the reboot of Battlestar Galactica a few years back or the years I knew about Comic Con events (only because of the LOST panels, I swear!). Anything beyond that, I claim "normalcy."

My biggest justification of my normalcy is the fact that I've never gotten into video games. Sure, I liked playing The Sims and Zoo Tycoon in my early teenage years, but who didn't? We never had a game console growing up and the only time my fingers perform with true dexterity and skill is on a keyboard, not a controller.

How I ended up with a book in hand that drew so extensively from the gamer world, I don't quite know. How I ended up enjoying it - well, that's less of a mystery. But, I'm getting there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Monday: The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

First off, let me apologize for only one post last week - and a late one at that!  It's been a little crazy in our personal life lately. My mother-in-law is having major surgery today and we are with them.  It's put me a little behind in getting posts up, but I hope you understand. Family comes first. Always.

Today, for Movie Monday, I'm covering Orson Welles' adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. Booth Tarkington's novel just barley makes it onto Modern Library's prestigious list at #100. If you remember from my original post on the book back in August, I am very happy it scraped by. 

Because I enjoyed the book so much, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. After all, it has Orson Welles' name right in the title. He wrote, directed, and narrated the film. The film premiered in 1942. No surprise, then, that is is in black and white.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

I realize this post is a day late. I apologize for that! Work has been crazy and Kevin is out of town and, while you think that would lead to more punctual blogging, I've been either too exhausted or too busy being productive around the house.  C'est la vie.

I cannot say this particular entry on the 100 Best Novels list was one I was highly anticipating. In fact, basically the opposite was true.

I knew the basic gist of the story: stepfather of orphaned child becomes lover of orphaned child. Stepfather, Humbert Humbert, is narrator, so he portrays himself in the best light possible, but it's not hard to read between the lines here. Lolita is a story of child abuse.

You can talk all day long about how modern society has made us desensitized to important issues like violence and sexuality. I tend to agree; I brush all kinds of things off that I probably shouldn't. This issue, however, is one that simply cannot be brushed aside. It's hard to swallow in any form, even told from the abuser's perspective.

Of course, Vladimir Nabokov had no illusions of Humbert's heroism. The whole book is an exercise in truth.  As the discussion questions in the back of my copy said, "What is in doubt is how much of Humbert's version of these events - and how much of Humbert himself - we can believe."

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

October News

As the weather turns cold, I am burrowing down with my books. My list of books below is proof of that. October saw my first tour with Novel Publicity. Congrats to Ashleigh, who commented on that post and won a $50 gift card to Amazon because of it!  I'm so proud that the winner came from here!

Also in October, I launched Movie Mondays. If you have missed out on those posts, I definitely recommend going back and reading them. This month I reviewed adaptations of "The Great Gatsby" and "A Passage to India." Movie Mondays will make an appearance on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. If you have a special request of a movie, let me know and I'll happily schedule it. Just keep in mind it needs to be an adaptation of something I've actually read.

Finally, I'm excited to announce that this month we hit both 50 followers on Facebook and 10,000 page views. Considering I think I got less than 1,000 page views my entire first year of blogging, I could not be happier. It's been a big year and I'm hoping 2014 proves even bigger!

Oh, and on one last note... in case you didn't know, the third book in Veronica Roth's Divergent series came out on October 22.  I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy yet, but expect a review as soon as I do! In the mean time, take a look over at the side bar and notice that my review of Insurgent has shot to the top of the "What's Popular Lately" list. I'd say quite a few people are looking to get a refresher before picking up the closing book. I'm happy to be providing that!