Monday, October 24, 2016

Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge Wrap Up

I completed my reading challenge for the year; I read 12 classics in a variety of categories (which gives me 3 entries into the prize drawing!) and posted reviews of them here on my blog. The categories, the books I read, and links to my reviews follow:

 1. A 19th century classic - Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (finished 9/11/2016)

 2. A 20th century classic - Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (finished 2/1/2016)

 3. A classic by a woman author - Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers (finished 2/26/2016)

 4. A classic in translation - The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (finished 5/24/2016)

 5. A classic by a non-white author - Passing by Nella Larsen (finished 6/12/2016)

 6. An adventure classic - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (finished 6/8/2016)

 7. A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic - A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (finished 4/20/2016)

 8. A classic detective novel - The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (finished 6/1/2016)

 9. A classic which includes the name of a place in the title - Howard's End by E.M. Forster (finished 7/25/2016)

10. A classic which has been banned or censored - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (finished 10/5/2016)

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high-school or college) - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (finished 1/25/2016)

12. A volume of classic short stories - Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers (finished 7/3/2016)

My favorite books were The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (I can't believe I'd never read it before!) and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I rated both books five out of five. My next two favorites were Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers and Passing by Nella Larsen, both of which I rated a four. Then I had five books that I rated a three: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery, Howard's End by E.M. Forster, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, and Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers. And finally, there were three books I only rated a two:  The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

I had a little harder time completing my challenge this year compared to last year, which may have been due to my choices, so I'm not sure whether I will do the challenge again next year. It partly depends on the categories, and partly how I'm feeling about it at the end of the year when the challenge is announced. Or I may sign up for the challenge but not feel bad if I decide not to complete it. Or I may sign up and only complete some of the categories instead of all 12. We'll see . . .

Friday, October 07, 2016

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

I read this book for the following category for the 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:

10. A classic which has been banned or censored. If possible, please mention why this book was banned or censored in your review.

This is my last book for the challenge, and it was one of my favorites of the 12 books I read (my other favorite was To Kill a Mockingbird). I can't believe I'd never read this before. Of course, I knew some of the stories, because they are iconic (Tom getting his friends to whitewash the fence for him; Tom's infatuation with Becky Thatcher; Tom attending his own funeral). I'm glad I finally took the time to read it.

According to The Christian Science Monitor:

That other Twain novel about Huck Finn has faced a raftload of controversy ever since the day it was first published. But "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was also banned when librarians said they found Mr. Sawyer to be a "questionable" protagonist in terms of his moral character.

I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn MANY years ago, and it was also a great book; I may have to re-read it at some point. I rate The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 5 out of 5.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

I read this book for the following category in my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:

 A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

I had wanted to read this book for a long time, ever since seeing the movie version several years ago. It was a good story, but much too long. And don't get me wrong, I actually like long novels. But this one just made me feel that the author was being paid by the word. There were many MANY asides, or editorial comments, that seemed to go on and on. I kind of liked some of them at first, but after reading 680 pages, I just wanted to read about the characters.

The book is a portrayal of life and manners in London in the early 19th century. The story is about Becky Sharp, a woman of no money or breeding, who tries to escape her place in life as governess to Sir Pitt Crawley's two young daughters. It follows her and several other characters over the course of about fifteen years. I rate it 3 out of 5.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Polka Dots


Polka Dots


My quilt guild is doing a challenge. In May, we were to bring one yard of polka dot fabric. We then tore it in half, kept half, and passed the other half around until the music stopped (think musical chairs but with fabric). We repeated this several times until we ended up with 5 different polka dot fabrics in successively smaller sizes. We are to make something with these 5 fabrics and bring it to the December meeting. We can add additional fabrics as desired. This is a sneak peak at my quilt, which I finished a couple of days ago. Four of my 5 fabrics show up in this sneak peak - orange with purple dots, black with multiple color dots, gold with purple and brown dots, and pink with white dots. My 5th fabric is green with white dots, very similar to the pink. It didn't have to be quilted for the challenge, but I was having so much fun with it that I just kept working and got it done.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Digital Scrapbook Layouts

In addition to sketching last week, I also completed 3 digital scrapbook layouts.

Devil's Den State Park 2015

Journaling reads, "We enjoy seeing the Williams here each fall. It has become a nice tradition we look forward to."

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Journaling reads, "We had planned on seeing both Zion and Bryce National Parks in addition to Cedar Breaks National Monument, but right after lunch on our drive there, Glen got violently ill and we ended up spending the night in Frisco, Colorado (he may have been served garlic at the B&B in Estes Park). The next day, Glen felt better and we had just enough time to see Cedar Breaks. We were really glad we did. It was spectacular; like nothing either of us had ever seen before."


Black Mesa

In 2012, we met our son, daughter-in-law, and her family at Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma.

Journaling reads, "Glen and I hiked halfway up the mesa, as we planned, while the rest of the group (Ira, Billie, Parker, Holden, Catherine, Cooper, Bryan, Kyle, Jacey, Jessica, Brian) made the whole 8 mile hike in very hot weather. At right is the whole group as we started the hike. Below is Brian and Jessica (and me) shortly before Glen and I stopped. At bottom right is the group going on after we stopped. I sketched a bit when we stopped."

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sketches from Colorado

As I said in my last post, my husband and I spent last week in Colorado. We always enjoy our time there, and this year was no exception. We stayed in a cabin on Spring Creek, between Gunnison and Crested Butte. I took photos and sketched while my husband fished, we hiked, played games, read, did some site seeing, went to a play in Gunnison, and shopped at an art festival in Crested Butte. We've been going to this area for 31 years now, so we obviously love the area. Here are my sketches from the week:


Colorado Page 1
Page 1


Colorado Page 2
Page 2


Colorado Page 3
Page 3


Colorado Page 4
Page 4


Colorado Page 5
Page 5



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival

Even though I haven't posted much, I did keep up pretty well with my lessons in Laure Ferlita's class. At least until the bonus lesson Laure provided because of some computer glitches she had. I still plan to do that bonus lesson at some point; it just won't be for the class. Anyway, I wanted to post the remainder of the lessons that I did complete:

Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival
Lesson 2


Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival
Lesson 3


Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival
Lesson 4


I always enjoy Laure's classes, and this one was no exception. The only reason I didn't get the bonus lesson completed was that we spent last week in Colorado, staying in a cabin with no internet access. I did do some sketching, which I'll share in my next post. And we had a really good time, so it's all good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Howard's End by E.M. Forster

I read this book for the following category in my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:
9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.  It can be the name of a house, a town, a street, etc. Examples include Bleak House, Main Street, The Belly of Paris, or The Vicar of Wakefield.
The story concerns the relationships between three families; the Wilcoxes, who are pragmatic and materialistic members of the middle-class, the Schlegels, who are idealistic and intellectual members of the middle class, and the Basts, who are aspirating members of the lower class. When Mrs. Wilcox bequeaths Howard's End (her beloved country home) to Margaret Schlegel, Mr. Wilcox disregards her bequest. For me, the book had a slow start, and I might have given up on it if it had been longer (it was only 246 pages), but I ended up liking it by the end. I rate it 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers

I read this book for the following category in my Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge:

12. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories. It can be an anthology of stories by different authors, or all the stories can be by a single author. Children's stories are acceptable in this category also.

I am not a big fan of short stories; I much prefer novels. I had planned to read a different collection for this category (Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson).  I got almost 2/3 of the way through it, but I found I just didn't care enough about the characters in those stories to finish it. I probably would have stopped reading it earlier, but it was what I had with me when I was out of town, so I kept reading, hoping it would get better; it didn't.

I have read the first three Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers and enjoyed them, so I figured there was a pretty good chance I would like the short stories too, and I did. It contained 12 stories, and I liked them all, although the last one, The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba, was my least favorite. The reason I prefer novels to short stories is there is so much more time to fully develop a story and the characters. But I am already familiar with the character of Lord Peter Wimsey from the novels I've read, and the stories, although short, were well developed enough to be enjoyable to me. I rate it 4 out of 5.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival

It's been a long time since I've gone on an Imaginary Trip or Visit with Laure Ferlita, but that's exactly what I'm doing now. This time it's an Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival, and we're in the Skagit Valley in Washington state. Here is my first sketch:

Imaginary Visit to a Tulip Festival


In case you don't know about Imaginary Trips, you can read more about them here.  Laure is the guide on quite a number of Imaginary Trips; she provides photos and video lessons on sketching with watercolor in your travel journal. She is a great teacher and good friend and I highly recommend her classes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Passing by Nella Larsen

I read this for the following category in my Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge:

5.  A classic by a non-white author. Can be African-American, Asian, Latino, Native American, etc.


The story follows two light-skinned African American women who knew each other as children but have lost touch with each other. Irene Redfield lives in Harlem, is married to a doctor, and has two sons. Clare Kendry, on the other hand, is married to a racist white man who is unaware of her racial heritage; in other words, she is passing as white. They meet again by chance and begin to see each other again. Clare has a desire to come back to the vibrant community she left behind, and Irene is frightened of the consequences of Clare's behavior. Both women are forced to confront their lies and secret fears.

I thought the book was very well written and I rate it 4 out of 5.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I read this book for the following category in my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:

6.  An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction. Children's classics like Treasure Island are acceptable in this category.

This is the story of Jim Hawkins, a cabin boy on a voyage to find buried treasure. As I was reading it, it seemed cliche with things such as a treasure map where X marked the spot, a one-legged pirate (named Long John Silver) with a parrot on his shoulder, tropical islands, etc., until I realized that this was the first book with all of these elements; its influence on the popular perceptions of pirates was enormous. But the pirate/adventure genre isn't one I really enjoy; I rate it 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I read this for my Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge for the following category:

8.  A classic detective novel. It must include a detective, amateur or professional. This list of books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is a great starting point if you're looking for ideas.

Nick Charles was a detective in New York until he married Nora, at which time he moved to California to manage the various businesses left to Nora by her father. They are back in New York on vacation when the secretary (Julia Wolf) of a former client of Nick's (Clyde Wynant) is murdered. Everyone assumes that Nick is working the case. He isn't too sure he wants the case, but Nora is fascinated with the idea. Nick and Nora spend most of their time drinking. I kind of liked the book, but not as much as the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers; I think the characters in Sayers's books are much more likable and engaging. I rate The Thin Man 3 out of 5.

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

I read this book for my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge for the following category:

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language.
I was disappointed in this book. It got rave reviews, so I was expecting something great, but I just didn't see it that way. I thought it was a somewhat interesting story, but just barely interesting enough to keep me reading all 530 pages. I didn't like the writing style, and since it was a translation, I couldn't tell whether it was the author's style or the translation that I didn't like. In literature, you are supposed to "show, not tell," but I thought this was a perfect example of telling rather than showing. The book was about four sisters. The two older sisters (Tsuruko and Sachiko) were married; the two younger sisters (Yukiko and Taeko) were not. The youngest (Taeko) couldn't get married until her sister (Yukiko) got married. Much of the book was about trying to find a husband for Yukiko. It was interesting learning about the culture of Japan before the second world war, which was very traditional and appearance was everything.

Overall, I rated it two out of five.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

I read this book for the following category in my Back to the Classics 2016 reading challenge:

7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. Dystopian could include classics like 1984, and children's classics like The Hobbit are acceptable in this category also. 

The story is set far into the future, after a nuclear holocaust, in a monastery in the Utah desert. The monks preserve the written relics of their founder, an engineer, without understanding what they are. The story is told in three parts, and I liked the first part quite well, but I was disappointed in the second and third parts.  I rate it 2 out of 5.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

This is the third Lord Peter Wimsey book in the series and the third one I've read (I like to read a series in order if possible). I've liked them all so far, including this one. The plot was good and the characters are always great, which is the main reason I read them, since I never really considered myself much of a mystery fan. The mystery in this book was whether an old woman died from natural causes or murder, and if it was murder, how. A delightful new character was introduced into the series: Miss Climpson, a genteel spinster who was hired by Lord Peter to investigate for him. I was uncomfortable reading the sections about one of the characters, who was black, because of the racism, so I kept reminding myself that Dorothy L. Sayers was a product of her time (1927). I read this book for the following category for Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge:

3.  A classic by a woman author


I rate it 3 out of 5 (it would have been 4 out of 5 if it hadn't been for the racism).

Monday, March 07, 2016

Digital Scrapbook Layouts

I actually managed to complete several digital scrapbook layouts over the last month or so. I'm pretty far behind, so the pictures of New England are from the fall of 2013. Pictures of our grandson are from summer and Christmas, 2015.

Lighthouses in New England, Fall 
2013

Journaling reads, "Portland Head Light, in Maine, is the only lighthouse we were able to tour, due to the Federal Government shut down that began the day we arrived in Providence, RI (10/1/13). The other two lighthouses pictured are in Massachussetts."

Driving Through New 
Hampshire

Journaling reads, "We drove through New Hampshire to Vermont on the Kancamagus Highway in the rain. The fall color was outstanding. We found a little cafe that served locally grown apples and apple cider for lunch."

Eli's Fishing 
Adventure

Our 19 month old grandson came to visit in the summer of 2015 (with his parents, of course). We took him fishing, and he caught his first fish (with just a little help from his Grampa).

Christmas Tree Planting


Journaling reads, "Brian, Jessica and Eli arrived about 4:00 on 12/24/15, in time for Eli to help plant his Christmas tree, a Bosnian Pine."

opening presents

Journaling reads, "Eli had as much fun helping everyone else open presents as he did opening his own."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Even though Go Set a Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird, it was actually written first. Since I loved Mockingbird when I read it originally many years ago, and still loved it when I read it again last month, I wanted to read Watchman. I was disappointed in it.

I've just learned from Wikipedia that Go Set a Watchman was actually more of a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, which explains a lot. Many of the situations in Mockingbird were different in the retelling in Watchman. I believe that as Harper Lee rewrote her draft, turning it into To Kill a Mockingbird, she must have decided to make a number of changes, some small and others quite significant. Then when Watchman was published last year, no one went back to make it consistent with Mockingbird.

I read the book for the following category of the Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge:

2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1966. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later.

 
I rate it 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee many years ago and loved it. When I heard about Go Set a Watchman, which is set 20 years later (even though it was written first), I wanted to read it, but I decided to re-read Mockingbird because I didn't remember much about it. Luckily for me, it fit perfectly into one of the categories for my Back to the Classics 2016 reading challenge:

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  If it's a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it's a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?
To answer the question, yes, it definitely stands the test of time. It is very well written and is the story of young Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and their attorney father Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930's. The book was written in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It was made into an Academy Award-winning film in 1962. I rate it 5 out of 5.