2011 Reading Challenges

Friday, December 31, 2010

Since my blog started in August 2010, I haven't yet been able to participate in reading challenges. I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in the following challenges:

- Historical Tapestry is hosting the 2011 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I've chosen the level Severe Bookaholism which requires me to read 20 historical fiction titles. I read 26 historical novels in 2010 so I feel pretty confident about taking on this level.

- The Book Vixen is hosting the 2011 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge. The goal is to read more books in 2011 than you did in 2010. I read 72 books in 2010 and have chosen the "Getting My Heart Rate Up" level - I'll try to read 1-5 books more than 72. My numbers have crept up every year since finishing grad school and I often procrastinate about starting a new book or switch between books often when I'm in a weird reading mood. If I buckle down, I think I can get this done!

- My Love Affair With Books is hosting the 2011 Wish I'd Read That Challenge. I think I'm going to make this my catch-all for classics I wish I'd read. So far I know that I want to read:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I can't believe I've only read one of her books!)
- Either Middlemarch by George Eliot or War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Realistically, I'm not going to get to both of these).
I'll continue to think about other books that can go in this challenge as there are many, many more classics to be read!

Finally, I want to try to push myself to read more "different" kinds of fiction. For me, this means moving beyond historical fiction and the classics to mysteries (especially Gothic), literary fiction and more popular titles. I did this a bit in 2010 and would like to continue.

There they are - my goals for 2011! Feel free to post your reading goals or links to your goals in the comments below. Happy New Year!

The Christmas Haul

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Here is is! My haul of books from Christmas!

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life--solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.
Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .
 Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage.
A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler.
This prequel to Kent’s The Heretic’s Daughter (2008) focuses on the early life of outspoken, tart-tongued Martha Allen, from whom the author is descended. Set in seventeenth-century Massachusetts, the novel finds the still-unmarried 23-year-old Martha being sent to live with her cousins as a domestic. Once there, she finds herself intrigued by a hired man named Thomas Carrier. A Welshman, he is the tallest man she has ever seen and one of the most taciturn. But when he saves her from two marauding wolves, intrigue turns to attraction. But other wolves—human ones this time—may pose an even greater danger to the two. Who is Thomas, in fact? What part might he have played in the overthrow and beheading of England’s Charles I? And why have a clutch of dangerous assassins come from England in search of him?

Freya Stark traveled the difficult and often dangerous journey from Kabul to Kandahar and Herat in search of one of Afghanistan’s most celebrated treasures, the Minaret of Djam. This magnificent symbol of the powerful Ghorid Empire that once stretched from Iran to India lies in the heart of central Afghanistan’s wild Ghor Province. Surrounded by over 6,000 foot high mountains and by the remains of what many believe to have been the lost city of Turquoise Mountain—one of the greatest cities of the Middle Ages—Djam is, even today, one of the most inaccessible and remote places in Afghanistan.

This epic retelling of the legendary Carthaginian military leader’s assault on the Roman empire begins in Ancient Spain, where Hannibal Barca sets out with tens of thousands of soldiers and 30 elephants. After conquering the Roman city of Saguntum, Hannibal wages his campaign through the outposts of the empire, shrewdly befriending peoples disillusioned by Rome and, with dazzling tactics, outwitting the opponents who believe the land route he has chosen is impossible.

Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cezanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful letters to his wife, Clara Westhoff, expressing his dismay before the paintings and his ensuing revelations about art and life.

This sweeping historical narrative chronicles events instrumental in the painful birth of a new nation from the Bloody Morning Scout and the massacre at Fort William Henry to the disastrous siege of Quebec, the lopsided Battle of Valcour Island, the horrors of Oriskany, and the tragedies of the Pennsylvania Wyoming Valley massacre and the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition s destruction of the Iroquois homeland. Caught in the middle of it all was the Mohawk River Valley.

The Best American Magazine Writing 2010 is the strongest evidence yet that the narrative and purpose of print journalism is as vital as ever, providing entertainment, connection, perspective, and unprecedented revelation in increasingly imaginative and engaging ways.

Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland’s most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband’s murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect the man she once despised–and then realizes that Macbeth’s complex ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite Scotland–and his wife’s royal blood is the key to his ultimate success. 

One of the greatest loves of all time - between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley - comes to life in this vivid novel. His Last Letter tells the story of this great love... and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled.

With his first novel, Gabriel's Story, David Anthony Durham delivers a fresh take on the American frontier. The settlers aren't white men but emancipated slaves, whose journey into the promised land is driven by the harsh memory of captivity. Unlike the wagon-train pioneers we're used to reading about, Durham's characters are refugees of Reconstruction.

In the autumn of 1876, nineteen-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst arrives at the great country house of Evenwood in Northamptonshire. There she will serve as the new lady's maid to the former Emily Carteret, now Lady Tansor. But Esperanza is no ordinary servant. She has been sent by her guardian, the mysterious Madame de l'Orme, to uncover the secrets that her new mistress has sought to conceal - and to set right a past injustice in which her own life is intertwined.

Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count. Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion.

Best (and worst) of the Year

Sunday, December 26, 2010


After a long break (and a busy month at work) I've returned with a look back at my year in reading.

As of today, I read 71 books this year and bought countless others. I can't possibly pick an actual favorite in each category but here are my nominees:

Nominees for Favorite Novel:
- Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel  (Tudor England)
- My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (Civil War Washington, DC)
- Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan  (Bronte Sisters)
- The Widow's War by Sally Gunning  (Colonial Massachusetts)

Least Favorite Books of the Year (Fiction and Non-Fiction):
- Plan B by Anne Lamott  (Essays on faith)
- Brooklyn by Coim Toibin (1950's Irish Immigrant)
- Sisters of the Sinai by Janet Soskice (Dead Sea Scrolls)
- The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr (Caravaggio)
- The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (Archaeology/Roman Britain)

Nominees for Favorite Non-Fiction:

- Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger  (Texas High School Football)
- The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester  (Age of Discovery)
- Will in the World by Stephen Greenblat  (Shakespearean London)
- The Great Silence by Juliet Nicholson  (Post- WWI Britain)
- The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto (Dutch Manhattan)
- Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Harmans (History of Ballet)

Best High-Profile, Mainstream Read
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Best Back Catalog Read  (Books Published Before 2000)
 - The Winthrop Woman by Anya Winthrop
- Into the Wilderness  by Sara Donati
- The Songcatcher by Sharyn McCrumb
- Mariana by Susanna Kearsley