Category Archives: Classics Club

Reading in the New Year – 2018 Goals and Plans

A new year, a new set of reading goals!

As with all my goals this year I’m trying to put plans in place that will actually help me achieve them… last year was a real flop when it came to reading, and a super-flop when it came to writing about what I’d been reading.

There are a few things that I’m hoping will help me in my reading (and writing about reading) goals.

First, I’m only participating in a handful of challenges and events:

1515092626-1515092626_goodreads_misc I’ve signed up with the GoodReads challenge to read 75 books – I would love to say I’m going to read more, but I think 75 is a nice, relatively mellow, number to reach for.

ReadHarderChallenge2018-768x994 BookRiots Read Harder challenge has proven to be a challenge for me the past few years (the facebook group I run for a few of us trying to tackle it has reflected this with name-changes that are more and more insistent). But this year I’m taking a little bit of a different tactic. I’ve set up a Trello Board to help me keep track of what I’ve read (and make notes in when I have thoughts and such to contribute to blog posts). And I’ve already selected books to fit most of the categories. These are, of course, subject to change — but my hope is that by having options already listed I’m more likely to read them.

classicsclubThe Classics Club.  Oh, how I love the Classics Club – it’s such a fun group, with a great challenge.  But I kind of want to go back and time and talk some sense into the me that thought it was a good idea to put over 80 books on my Classics Club list.  80 Classics, in 5 years… really? I mean, it’s a nice thought – but reality has certainly gotten in the way.  But I’m going to strive to keep chugging away at this list (even though June 2019, my 5-year mark with the group, is coming up much faster than I’d like). In some cases my BookRiot challenge books have been selected because they’re on my Classics Club list 😀

And that is IT for Book Challenges. No matter what more I see, I’m sticking with these three — that’s enough pressure on myself! Especially for something that I am supposed to (and want to continue to) enjoy doing! There are, of course, some events that I hope to participate in as well — but even those I’m trying to keep limited.


NLW.FB.Cover.OIF.851x480When the Banned Book list comes out later this winter I’ll be taking a look at those books and selecting a few of them to read and write about for Banned Book Week in September. I’ve been participating in that for a long time, and have no plans to stop.  Depending on which ones make the top list for last year, I may go back to just picking some of the most-commonly-banned over the past couple years, or I may draw from the list of the year.  Either way – there’ll be banned book talk the whole week of Banned Book Week.

24hrreading2-thumb And, of course, there is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. This awesome event happens twice a year – in April and October.  Every year I put it on my calendar, and every year I end up scheduling something else in that time.  This year, though… I’m keeping that April date CLEAR. I can’t say about October (things at work start picking up around then), but I’ve got plans for April, and have already started to think about what books I might save for the day (and what snacks I might prepare).

…And because I’m SO GOOD at sticking to my plans… since last week when I wrote this I’ve added two reading challenges to my list.  One is the 50 Book pledge (because, really, I’m doing that anyhow – I signed up to read 75 books since that’s my GoodReads goal.

I’m also going to participate in some of the Bout of Books activities – I think that the semi-regular check-in and challenges there might help keep me on track.. we’ll see!

les_miserables_readalong_finalAnd then, this came along… the Les Miserables Chapter-a-day read-along…. So.. yeah, I’m going to try that because I WOULD like to get through Les Miserables again, and it WILL help complete that for Classics Club….

Adding to this, and of course with a few exceptions, I am trying to mostly make use of the library and books I already own. Mostly because I just have so darn many books, and am trying to minimize my book budget.

What are you looking forward to in the reading world this year?  Any exciting books you know are coming out? Any reading challenges you’re trying or events you’re looking forward to?


Classics Club Spin Time!

Time for another Classic’s Club Spin!

Classics Club Logo

On Monday a number will be picked which will determine which of these books I need to read by February 1st!

  1. Little Woman (Alcott)
  2. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
  3. Shakespeare (History Plays)
  4. Little Men (Alcott)
  5. Doll’s House (Ibsen)
  6. The Master Builder (Ibsen)
  7. Alice in Wonderland (Carol)
  8. Jane Eyre (Bronte)
  9. The House of the Seven Gables (Hawthorne)
  10. Heidi (Spyri)
  11. Ceremony (Silko)
  12. Hans Brinker (Dodge)
  13. A Christmas Carol (Dickens)
  14. Charlotte Temple (Rowson)
  15. The Age of Innocence (Wharton)
  16. The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver)
  17. Dandelion Wine (Bradbury)
  18. Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
  19. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hugo)
  20. The Woman in White (Collins)

Because I’ll have some vacation time when I can curl up with a book, I’ve chosen mostly books that I actually own a physical copy of (a lot of them pretty, old, hardcovers!) because it seems like it will be a lovely winter to curl up by the fire and read.


Edit: Looks like an ebook won (unless I go get myself a paper-copy..which I may do!) Hunchback of Notre Dame it is!

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Classics Club Spin

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


By L. Frank Baum.

The Wizard of Oz is one of those stories I though I knew.  After all, I’d grown up with the movie, even gone as Dorothy for a few Halloweens. I’ve read all of Gregory Maguire’s “Oz” retellings, and I am a huge fan of “Wicked.”

I figured it was high time I read the original (and the Classics Club spin helped me decide to read it now!)… and it was quite a surprise to me!

In the Introduction Baum notes that he sets out to create a story that will simply entertain. So I tried to approach it with that in mind – a fun story meant to entertain. It was hard to put aside all the expectations I carry from the retellings I am familiar with – but pretty quickly I was forced to do just that as Dorothy is not greeted by the very familiar Glinda The Good, floating around in her little bubble.  Rather, she first meets the Witch of the North – an old woman with many wrinkles and nearly-white hair.

 [T]he story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out. – L. Frank Baum

The story does follow a pretty familiar pattern. Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the East, ends up with her shoes (in this case they are silver, not ruby), and she sets out to find the Wizard in the Emerald City. Along the way she makes friends with The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodsman, and The Cowardly Lion. The Wizard resides in Emerald City and sends them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Wicked Witch of the West is bested by a bucket of water, and when they return to the Emerald City the Wizard is unmasked; he gifts the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion with trinkets to help them feel they have what they have the traits they have already exhibited, and he sets out to take himself and Dorothy home in a balloon. Dorothy’s gets stuck behind because of Toto – but the story as written by Baum continues from there. It is only after all of this that Dorothy meets Glinda – following a harrowing journey through Oz.


So many of the details of the story are different, lots of characters that appear in the story who did not make the cut in the movie, but a few events really stood out to me. The story of the Tin Woodsman, for instance – once a normal man and slowly turned into a man of tin – would make an interesting tale in itself; one of the many stories-within-the-story that this short book holds.  The Winged Monkeys, and the way they have been tied to the power of a magical crown, was an interesting shift (and to see when the characters chose to use their limited chances with the crown.

The difference that I found the most intriguing was what brings Dorothy to throw the bucket of water on the Witch. In the movie it is the burning Scarecrow, water thrown to save a life… but in this story Dorothy threw the water at the witch because the witch stole her pretty silver shoes! It’s an accident, of course – Dorothy doesn’t know that the water will kill the witch, but she earns some serious points for being a rather self-sufficient individual for her response.

First, as a well-raised young lady, she apologizes. Then, once the witch melts into what is described as a “brown, melted, shapeless mass,” Dorothy “drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again.” Then she goes to free her friends who have been taken captive, and to find the friends who have been destroyed (such as the poor scarecrow).

I really enjoyed this story, and look forward to reading the rest of the books in the Oz series at some point. A fun and light read, it really does entertain (as it set out to do), but also carries some good messages that we can all embrace. I found a lot of power in the fact that the Tin Woodsman – the one seeking a heart – had to constantly be re-oiled to keep from rusting because he felt so deeply. Sometimes those things we think we are lacking — because of our own self-doubt, or because of something we understand about how we must be, or something someone has said to us – are the exact gifts that we actually carry in great quantity.


Classics Club SPIN TIME!

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!

The way it works: I list 20 books from my Classics Club Reading List, then on the 24th of this month (tomorrow…) a number will be chosen.  That is the book that I will end up trying to read before October 23rd.
I’ve got a few other fun Classics-Club-Related things in the works but, for now, my list!

And the spin number is: 5!  Looks like I’ll be reading some Oz!

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy
  4. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
  6. O Pioneers! – Willa Cather
  7. The Three Musketeers – Alexander Dumas
  8. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingslover
  9. Ariel – Sylvia Plath
  10. Heidi – Johanna Spyri
  11. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
  12. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  13. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein
  14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  15. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving
  16. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  17. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
  18. Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
  19. The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Lerouch
  20. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

A Little Princess, Storytelling Inspiration

782926A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This was another one of those old childhood favorites.  Like The Secret Garden it’s a story I read a few times when I was little.  I started out (as with The Secret Garden) with a Scholastic Picture Book version of the story.  The illustrations drew me in, but the story is what held me.

The version I first read.

There were certain scenes during this reread that I remembered but details that I had forgotten.  It was like visiting a beloved location from my childhood, it didn’t take long to be reminded why I had fallen in love in the first place.

Sara is not a spectacular beauty, which is something I love.  The author stresses her unique looks many times, the thing that glows for her is her kindness, caring and pride.  She is a little soldier and a little princess — and those two things compliment each other to create a strong, caring, and determined.

She is such a great character.  She holds true to herself no matter what obstacle she encounters, even when it is a struggle, with a wisdom beyond her years. I didn’t always understand her wisdom when I was first reading it — like her reaction to being told that she will have to work for her living.

“Can I work?… If I can work it will not matter so much.”

Before I had the experience of grief I had no idea the power of this sentence, but now I understood that drive, that need to do something that can take your mind off of what happened.  This little girl who is so observant, so giving, so loving, just knows that working will be a welcome thing.

“She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn’t read them, Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always startving for new books to gobble, and she wants grown-up books — great, bit, fat ones– French and German as well as English– history and biography and poets, and all sorts of things.”

-A Little Princess

Her storytelling, though, that is what sticks with me the most.  It draws me in as it draws in everyone around her.  Reading it as an adult I realize that it may be where I got some of the very basic seeds of my belief that everyone is an artist. She see’s the world as being full of stories; everyone has a story they are telling.

She reads stories in books, she pulled stories from the world around her, she found stories in the way people went through their lives.  Even when everything was taken from her and her world came crashing down she still found stories all around her.

Really, in many ways it was her stories that helped to pull through the challenges.  Her stories and her pride.   I enjoy the plot, but what I really got from the story (at least this time around) was the theme of the storytelling.  This is a story about the stories we tell, the stories we project to the world.  Everyone has a story they are telling, if they know it or not.



#LazyLambs Book Club — Reading Weekend!

It came up on a bit of a whim.

I had a very successful weekend on the novel, word-sprinting on Twitter with Hannah, Sabina, and A.P (with AJ not participating in the sprints, but joining the conversation!)  It was really wonderful and lovely (and did I mention productive?) weekend!

One thing that came up in the end of this greatly productive weekend — some of us are quite behind on our reading.  I’d planned to use next weekend (well, aside from another visit to a wine tasting!) to read.  Given that this is a busy week at work, I know that my brain is going to be a bit worn out, so I want to plan to do something relaxing, but useful.

So, I have decided to host a little read-along this weekend!  For those participating in the #LazyLambs Book Club (Are you?  You should!) might want to use it to read A Dirty Job… but you could use it to read anything!

Participating in Pink for All Seasons, why not catch up on what Miss Gwen is up to? (I have to admit, I kinda binge-read the book the other day so now am waiting for the next month to start the next book…)

Or maybe you’re doing the Alcott Reading Challenge? (which is the books I’m going to be focusing on I think).

Maybe you’re participating in Nerd in the Brains Reading Dragons Summer reading program? By the weekend we’ll know what the challenges are!

Or maybe you need to catch up on your reading for the Classics Club?

Could be that you’re participating in any number of other reading challenges and book clubs floating around.

Join us in reading for any of them!  I’ll be hosting Read-sprints on Twitter @nerissarain , I’ll probably also use the #LazyLambs Book Club hashtag.  Not sure exactly HOW to run a reading-sprint… but… I’ll find a way 🙂

If nothing else, we can share bits and pieces of what we’re reading.  Favorite quotes, reactions, fun things like that.  Basically, add to all our our To Be Read lists!

Hope you’ll join me!

Classic Clubs Spin! Old Man and the Sea


My Classic ClubSpin” for this round was The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

This was a re-read for me, though I honestly can’t recall much from my first time reading it.  I was in late elementary school at the time (sixth grade, I believe) and it was the theme for my Odyssey of the Mind team.  We created a play that, I’m pretty sure, had pretty little to do with the book.  However, that play won us the Rantra Fusca award at the local competition (the award given for “exceptional creativity.”) so… that’s a win 🙂  Anyhow.. that’s about what I remember from my first read….

Re-reading it this time I found myself being drawn into the work as a writer.  The majority of this story takes place when the old man (Santiago) is out on the sea.  As far as human characters go, it’s just him out there.  But he is far from the only character in the story.  Hemingway crafts a story where there are characters everywhere — the fish the old man spears, the ocean itself, sharks, the wind, even his own hands become their own unique characters.

His left hand was still cramped, but he was unknotting it slowly.

I hate a cramp, he thought.  It is a treachery of one’s own body….

Then, with his right hand he felt the difference in the pull of the line before he saw the slant change in the water.  Then, as he leaned against the lin and slapped his left hand hard and fast against his thigh he saw the line slanting slowly upward.

“He’s coming up,” he said. “Come on hand. Please come on.” (Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Scribner ebook edition, 2002. Page 38 -39)

What Hemingway manages to do in this story is to create real tension, he reminds me (as a writer) that if the character feels strongly about a matter it can make the readers feel the same.  Never before had I felt so much anxiety about if a hand would be able to un-cramp.  Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book was when his own hand becomes the antagonist.

This book is so full of bits and pieces to reflect on, I found myself making all sorts of notes.  But one of the things that sticks with me is this: though he is hunting for this fish, and he intends to kill the fish, the fish remains his “friend” throughout.  Other things become the enemy, but always the fish is his friend.  They are on this journey together.

Though it took me a while longer to read this than it really should for a book that is so short (hovering around 100 pages, depending on the edition), I really enjoyed the read.  The descriptions of the ocean, of fishing life, the way that that Santiago’s past is presented in bits and pieces to us… I loved it all.

I recommend giving it a read (or a re-read if the last you read it was for a school-related assignment).  I just… don’t recommend reading it the early morning when you’re only half-awake.