Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Reading Life (50) - #Reading plans, plus a couple of short #reviews

I can't believe my last "A Reading Life" post was way back in September of 2017. Wow! I have truly been slacking. Hoping to do better, although these posts will probably be monthly, or bi-weekly occasionally. I think I can commit to that.

Last month, I shared my #BookJar and Random Reading projects, along with the other few challenges I'm participating in this year. One thing was clear to me from the're going to need a bigger jar. lol  Alas, my pretty little jar with the green lid (pictured in challenge image above) was not large enough for all the slips of paper. I couldn't get them to mix up so I kept drawing the same books again and again. Pictured also above is the new jar with plenty of room to shake, shake, shake.

Coincidentally, the book I drew from the book jar (after transferring paper slips to the new jar) was The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, which is also one of the books in my Read Your (Book) Shelf challenge stack, and so it's my read for February for that challenge. The Twelve Caesars is also on my list for Book Challenge by Erin 10.0 and my Non-Fiction Adventure challenge list. Also, for Book Challenge by Erin, I'm reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and listening to Austen's Northanger Abbey on audio. This month's True Book Talk (my Goodreads book group) selection is The Princess of Cleves by Madame De Lafayette (translated by Nancy Mitford). Since February is a short month, I'm not going to pick a Random Reading title this month. I'm already going to struggle to finish what I have slated.

I finished my Read your (Book) Shelf book for January, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. My True Book Talk January selection carried over into this month. I just finished it today, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography by Marion Meade. I also finished today, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (audio book and reread). 

I've become so nervous about writing reviews. I'm not sure why. I guess because anxiety has really entered my life more of late and it extends to all areas. So, most of my reviews are going to be short and sweet. Below, I share my (short) thoughts on the three books mentioned above. 

Orphan Train

Everyone I've talked to loved this book. My mom read it first and she loved it. So did I. I think books like this should be required reading for over privileged kids who think they have it bad. (Hopefully) they will never know a life like the orphans, like Vivian, had in this book. It's difficult to imagine how few rights children had even as recently as the 1920s. This book examines, in a fictional account, the very real phenomenon of the orphan trains which operated from 1854 to 1929, transporting orphans to the Midwest states for adoption, but which usually amounted to indentured servitude. What Vivian experienced was so heartbreaking, never truly finding a family to love her, and where she felt she belonged, even when she did find a family who at least cared for her and took her in as their own. She finally finds true happiness, only to face tragedy again. I really liked how the author tied in the story of a modern day foster child who meets Vivian as an elderly lady and they form a strong bond of friendship through their shared orphan experience. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a poignant historical read, and who loves stories about the triumph of the human spirit. The tears it brought to my eyes several times showed me that this book really touched my soul.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

This was hands down one of the best biographies I have ever read. I have long admired Eleanor, the
woman who was a queen twice, first in France, and the second being the queen to the formidable Henry II of England. Together they sired eight children, two of them becoming future kings of England in their own right. Boy, what she went through and achieved for her children is truly astounding. She was a formidable woman who knew to pick her battles. She most certainly made some mistakes along the way, but for the time period, when women were mostly kept in the background, Eleanor was always in the forefront. She lived to be 82 years old, quite a feat for the time as well. Before I read this book, my only reference for Eleanor was the famous film, "The Lion in Winter." Even then, I fell in love with the woman she was, and have always wanted to learn more about her. This book gave me that and much more. Not only a biography, but a detailed historical account of her life, and those of her husband, Henry II, and her sons. It definitely made me want to read more about the various figures during her lifetime.

A Discovery of Witches
This was a reread (I listened on audio). I wanted to read it again before the series aired (on Sundance or Shudder). I didn't quite get there, but I watched the first eight episodes and will now finish watching the last two. I have to admit, I liked this better when I read the print book the first time. I think it was the voice of the audio book reader. Listening to her read it made it sound more corny to me. Has that ever happened to you? It just seemed more romance-y to me this time. Maybe I'm just more jaded than I was back in 2011. All this being said, I still like the story. I love the history tied up in it, and the idea of witches, vampires and demons existing along side humans. So, I'm looking forward to reading the second book, though I won't be listening on audio. Not sure when I'll pick up, Shadow of Night, but it will definitely be before the next season of the television series (which is pretty good, by the way, although a bit different from the book).

What's going on in your reading life?

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  1. I just read the first Harkness book for the first time and oh my yes the romance is slow, tedious, and extremely corny, especially after all the other vampire romances we've all read or heard about at this point.

  2. I notice reading has gone by the way side a bit due to stress, but I just finished Coraline and loved it! I find YA and younger books appeal to me a lot these days :)

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