Classic Children's Literature · RAL

Anyone for a RAL?

It’s inevitable – no matter how lousy the reading’s been, no matter how many books are currently in the TBR stack next to my reading chair – come December (if not earlier), I’m thinking about the next year. What wondrous reading will be then? Admit it – you do it too. All those lovely end-of-year lists/goals/dreams. Truly, one of the highlights of December for me! (Can you tell I’m a planner/list-maker?)

So yes, I already have a pretty good idea of what I’m planning on for next year. And while I usually wait to share until either a) I’m signing up for a challenge I likely won’t actually complete or b) my end of year post, I thought there was one plan that I should mention early. Actually, a non-plan as well: I currently have no plans to continue the Children’s Classic Literature Event for a sixth year. If anyone else wants to host a similar event, please feel free (and I may even read along), but I won’t be hosting one.

A Wrinkle In Time Movie Poster (low res)

However. I am planning some Madeline L’Engle reading for next year, starting with a reread of A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, of course this is because of the upcoming film adaptation. And the fact that I asked for and received a box set of the Time Quintet books several years ago and still haven’t (re)read them. And then I thought, “hey, there’s a movie coming out–maybe I’m not the only one who wants to (re)read this?” So let me know if you think you might want to read along – if there’s enough interest in a A Wrinkle in Time RAL prior to the March release (I’m thinking January), I’d be willing to host. Alternatively, if there’s already a RAL planned/running, please point me that direction as I haven’t found it yet!

Now, just to clear the deck off first…

Reading

Completed: All the Crooked Saints

The first miracle was this: making the darkness visible.

Sadness is a little like darkness. They both begin in the same way. A tiny, thin pool of uneasiness settles in the bottom of the gut. Sadness simmers fast and boils hard and then billows up and out, filling first the stomach, then heart, then lungs, then legs, then arms, then up into the throat, then pressing against eardrums, then swelling against skull and eventually spilling out of eyes in a hissing release. Darkness, though, grows like a cave formation. Slow drips from the uneasiness harden over the surface of a slick knob of pain. Over time, the darkness crusts in unpredictable layers, growing at such a pace that one doesn’t notice it has filled every cavern under the skin until movement becomes difficult or even impossible.

Darkness never boils over. Darkness remains inside. (Ch. 4)

Cover: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie StiefvaterAll the Crooked Saints
Maggie Stiefvater
US, 2017

When I first heard about All the Crooked Saints, I didn’t think I would rush out to read it when it came out; something about the description failed to grab me. But as it grew closer to publication date, and seeing more about it online, I decided to place a hold at the library and a short time after its release I had it in my hands. It turned out, for various reasons, to be the perfect book at just that time.

Set in 1960s Colorado, All the Crooked Saints is the story of the Soria family, some of whose members can perform the miracle of giving physical shape to another’s darkness. That person must then complete the hard work of overcoming the darkness for themselves, and a Soria must never help—for then their own darkness will be made manifest, and a Soria’s darkness is said to be greater than any other’s.

Although it is not a very long book (around 300 pages if I recall correctly), it is even lighter on plot, with a story spanning only a few short days. But with a wide and varied cast of characters, it is more intent on their inner lives and the desolate, but beautiful, landscape that surrounds them. Each character carries some sort of “darkness,”—either of their own making or of external forces (or a combination of both)—whether or not it has been made manifest for all to see. Just as the physical form of the darkness prevents the pilgrim from leaving the confines of the Soria compound, so their previous internal darkness prevented them from leaving some hinderance behind, from moving forward. Although at times the point seemed overly-direct, All the Crooked Saints is Steifvater’s metaphor for how she feels we should all approach our own inner demons, with hard work that ultimately only we can solve, not anyone around us, a message no less true for its directness. And ultimately it is also a story about hope, something that is so easy to lose when all of the news and social media around us seem to want to inspire us to despair instead.

Her dress was wet, and so was her skin. This was because, despite the porch roof, it was raining on her. Rain originated from nowhere and spattered on her hair and face and shoulders and clothing, then ran off the stairs and formed a fast-running rivulet into the brush. Every part of her dress was covered with monarch butterflies, their orange-and-black stained-glass wings likewise soaked. They clung to her, unable to do anything but slowly move their wings or climb across the fabric. (Ch 3)

Unlike her previous novels, All the Crooked Saints departs from Stiefvater’s beloved Celtic mythology in favor of Mexican folklore, and also sets aside her more familiar fantasy techniques for the realm of magical realism, stretching and straining the bounds of reality in such a matter-of-fact way, that even the more surprising of the miracles seem natural. The previous Stiefvater fiction I’ve read has always remained so grounded in the familiar world, however, that this doesn’t feel so great of a departure, and at times, it seemed to me less “magical realism” and more “tall tale” – prompting me to wonder, what the bounds are of each? A line of investigation, if my library pile weren’t pointedly reminding me of other obligations, I would follow up on sooner rather than later.

The Classics Club

And the Title Is….

 

Cover: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

With #4 spun, it looks like I’ll be reading Mary Barton over the next few weeks (hopefully!). It’s been a while since I’ve read Gaskell, but I do really like her, so I’m excited for this one. And it will be nice to get back to some Victorian literature; it’s been quite a while.

Looking forward to a short work week, too—hopefully some extra reading time to get this started.

Happy reading!

The Classics Club

Another Classics Spin

Question Mark - cover place holder

If at first you don’t succeed….

This is apparently the 16th Classics Club spin. I don’t know how many I’ve attempted, and it’s been even fewer I’ve completed successfully (maybe one?), but it seems always worth the try.

Actually, I’d been thinking just the other day that’s it’s been a while since I’ve really read any books to sink my teeth into, or even any 19th or early 20th century fiction. (Of course, then I remembered that I read Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea this summer, which I keep managing to forget.) So as it happens, this spin is quite timely. Because I’m craving some 19th or early 20th century reading, my spin list is largely from the middle of my Classics Club list, and I’ve left it in chronological order. I’m rather rooting for #1, Lady Susan, as I pulled that out for a reread a few weeks ago, though I haven’t gotten to it yet. But really, anything here would be good, especially as the bulk of the books are currently on my shelves just waiting to be read!

And you, are you spinning?

  1. Austen, Jane: Lady Susan (England, c. 1794)*
  2. Austen, Jane: Emma (England, 1816)*
  3. Brontë, Anne: Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  4. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Mary Barton (England, 1848)
  5. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Cranford (England, 1853)
  6. Trollope, Anthony: The Warden (England, 1855)
  7. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (England, 1860)
  8. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd (England, 1874)
  9. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)‡
  10. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)
  11. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Ireland, 1891)*
  12. Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine (England, 1895)
  13. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  14. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  15. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  16. Gibbons, Stella: Cold Comfort Farm (England, 1932)
  17. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  18. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  19. Wright, Richard: Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  20. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
Reading

Completed: ‘Salem’s Lot

As I ease my way back into blogging (i.e., struggle to remember that I’m supposed to take some time to actually write about books), I recalled two things:

1) I never remembered to “close out” my Readathon post. If you’re deathly curious, I managed 248 pages over 6.25 hrs of actual reading time. Which, admittedly, in a 24-hour period doesn’t sound like a lot, but a) I was unfortunately rather sleep-deprived heading into readathon and b) for me that’s rather good lately. Those 248 pages included rereads from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (‘textbook’ version, not the movie screenplay version) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both by JK Rowling, plus a good chunk of Blood Crime by Catalan author Sebastià Alzamora (accidentally timely, given the recent political upheaval in Catalan/Spain).

2) I had a draft of a post I had started this summer for a book that, given the “spooky season” we are just departing seemed completely appropriate to finish up and share now. [Yes, I’m a little behind. I’m calling this progress.]

‘Salem’s Lot
Stephen King
US, 1975

Cover: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King (mass market paperback)I picked ‘Salem’s Lot off my bookshelf this past summer on a whim—I was looking for something that would read quickly, to kick-start me back into better reading habits, but also a “gown-up” book to convince myself that I was capable of reading anything more complex than Beatrix Potter. (Slow reading spring, can you tell?) Though long, it worked—I found I could fly through pages even in just a short sitting, which is often all I have available.

‘Salem’s Lot is Stephen King’s vampire novel, an exploration of the idea “what if Dracula arrived in the 20th century US?” As such, it is—King acknowledges—heavily indebted to the 1897 Bram Stoker novel. But even with my fond familiarity with Dracula (I’ve read it twice) and the clear direction of the story—I had a fairly good idea shortly in who would/wouldn’t survive—I found it compulsively readable.

This was actually my first King novel, and really one of my few forays into the horror genre. I didn’t find it particularly frightening or even chilling; perhaps I’ve been jaded by the realities of actual events, but I find I am frightened not by fictional monsters, rather the real ones. Interestingly, King investigates this: some characters struggle to accept the reality of vampires in their community, because aren’t vampires fiction? Which forces the reader to realize, hey I might not be scared by this book, but if vampires really DID exist, really DID have such power—would I recognize it in time? More importantly, the vampires are ultimately a stand-in for the real monsters that King—and the reader—knows exist. The horror is not the something supernatural lurking in the dark of abandoned houses, it is the something all-too-human committing unspeakable acts, whether behind closed doors or openly but without correction.

In the end, what I found most interesting about the novel—though I enjoyed the story—is how it serves as an artifact of its time. The descriptions of hair styles and clothing. The references to wars, both Korea and Vietnam that are current in a way they aren’t today. The “politically incorrect” speech of the era, and the casual references to political corruption from an era in which the Watergate Scandal still poignantly stung. And yet we can still find parallels today, reminding us that though technologies may change (how would this story be different with cell phones?!), the human condition has not.

Although after one book, I’m not yet so much a Stephen King convert as to say I wish to read his entire backlist, I could see reading more at some point down the road—recommendations welcome!

Readathon

Readathoning

Pokes head in room…anyone there?

So, it’s been a while. And for a while there, due mostly to time issues, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back here. But I made up my mind this week, and Dewey’s Readathon seemed the perfect way to ease back into the blog. (Not reading. That hasn’t been a problem.)

Readathon book pile
Stack of Possibilities

Not everything will be read, and perhaps only one may be even finished. (Fantastic Beasts for sure!) I’m a little late getting started, and there may even be more napping than reading. But let’s see where the day leads us, shall we? I’ll keep updating here as I go along… (and on Twitter @simplerpastimes).

Happy reading!

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Wonderfully autumn-like (finally!) Northeast Ohio

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The two Harry Potter titles (rereads). No scratch that, All the Crooked Saints.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Popcorn!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’m a tea- and chocolate-addicted reader who seems to keep distracted by some fun new hobby, but reading will always be my true love.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

It’s been a while, but this time I’m going to be more willing to skip between books at whim. Also, I’m more open to naps.

Hour 4

Haven’t been solidly reading – by my reading timer only about 1.5 hrs. But I read all of Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. Haven’t decided for sure on what’s next—maybe a bit more of Blood Crime (Sebastià Alzamora), which I started earlier this week before moving onto All the Crooked Saints?

Nearly Hour 9

Got a bit sidetracked there, and have only managed about 2 hours of actual reading time over this last section, but I did make it through Part 1 of Blood Crime. That seems like a good spot to change it up, so I’m switching to All the Crooked Saints, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for quite a while now.

Hope everyone else is enjoying this as much as I am!

Hour 12

Time flies! And I haven’t done quite as much reading as I’d intended, but…well, I don’t have anything else to do from now until whenever I fall asleep, so there’s still plenty of time.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?

At the moment? All the Crooked Saints, but I’ll probably be switching to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soon.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I’ve finished (1) and read chunks of two others. I’m skipping around, so I don’t expect that I’ll finish anything else.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Hmm. Well, since it’s likely the only new book I’ll read in the second half is Harry Potter…, I’ll say that one.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Interuptions only of my own making! But laundry really must be done…

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

That I haven’t fallen asleep—I really thought I’d be much more tired today.

Classic Children's Literature

A Farewell to the Classic Children’s Literature Event

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Time always flies so fast during the Classic Children’s Literature Event! I can’t believe it’s the end of the month.  Already! I had hoped to get just one more book finished before the end of the month, but I’m still over 50 pages away, so it’s not looking likely. I’m sure that in addition to this last book, I’ll have one more straggler into May. So, if like me, you’re just not quite finished, feel free to share any last reads here over the next couple weeks and I will update the participant list.

Participant List:

Carissa at Bookshelves and Daydreams:
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
The Borrowers
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Carol at Jouney and Destination:
My Friend Flicka
Devil’s Hill

Cleo @ Classical Carousel:
Finn Family Moomintroll
Cyrus the Persian

Emma at Words and Peace:
Charlotte’s Web

Faith at Household Diary:
The 101 Dalmatians
Children of the New Forest
Bed-Knob and Broomstick

TJ at My Book Strings:
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon

Amanda at Simpler Pastimes:
Beauty and Other Variations on La Belle et la Bête
Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Charles Perrault Fairy Tales)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Participants:

Cirtnecce @ Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices
Amanda @ Simpler Pastimes

Please let me know if I’ve missed your post!

Happy Reading!