reporting all things bookish

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge


Having moved this past year, I am incredibly aware of the sheer volume of books I own (as are the friends who helped me move). I can’t say I regret owning as many books as I do, because, well, I don’t. But I do find myself somewhat ashamed of the number of books that I own that I just haven’t read. Some are gifts, some are book sale finds, some are, “hey I’m cleaning off my book case and thought you would be interested.” I need to give these books a chance. And this year, thanks to the TBR Pile Challenge hosted by the Roof Beam Reader, 12 will get the chance to be read.

The goal is pretty simple: read twelve (12) books from your TBR pile in 2014. That’s one a month, and feels pretty manageable to me. If you are interested in taking the challenge yourself, click on the link above for the complete details.

My 2014 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1. Running the Race: Eric Liddell Olympic Champion and Missionary by John W. Keddie (2007)

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

3. The Curate’s Awakening by George MacDonald (edited by Michael R. Phillips, 1985)

4. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (1956)

5. The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson (2004)

6. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (1998)

7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006)

8. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1889)

9. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)

10. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1820)

11. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)

12. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2012)

I’m feeling bold and a little reckless, so I am not going to have alternates. I tried to pick a wide variety in a number of categories, and I did a bit of overlap with my Back to the Classics Challenge list in hoping for success on both challenges.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014



Karen over at Books and Chocolate has agreed to host the Back to the Classics Challenge in 2014. If you’re considering the challenge for yourself I would recommend perusing the specific guidelines for yourself, including her definition of a classic.

Now, for the categories:


    1. A 20th Century Classic: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    2. A 19th Century Classic: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

    3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

    4. A Classic in Translation: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    5. A Classic About War: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    6. A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You: Some Do Not…: A Novel by Ford Madox Ford

    There are also five optional categories, which I would love to try, but I will conservatively stick with the original list in hopes of actual completion. Here’s to 2014 and the classics it holds!

    What’s on Your Nightstand February

    NightstandI’ve had a number of things change since January 1, and I’ve found myself with a surprising amount of time on my hands. It’s both wonderful and incredibly odd. That being said, here’s what I read in February:

    The Forgotten by David Baldacci

    The Expats by Chris Pavone

    Inside Afghanistan: The American Who Stayed behind after 9/11 and His Mission of Mercy to a War Torn People by John Weaver

    Pocket Your Dollars

    Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make by Carrie Rocha

    The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

    Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

    Not too shabby, although I am no less behind on posting my reviews.

    For February, here’s what I am reading and hoping to complete:

    Tramp for the Lord

    Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom- A sequel to her powerful story The Hiding Place

    A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year:  A Life Changing Journey into the Heart of God by Diane Stortz- I think the title says it all on this one- its a practical guide for reading through the Bible in a year.

    A Holy Passion: Holiness by Ronald Blake, Neil Wiseman, & Charles Zinkman- This is a collection of essays on the topic of holiness for pastors. I think its an incredibly helpful resource in understanding the Church of the Nazarenes position on the doctrine on holiness…but I’ll confess, some of the essays are pretty dry.

    Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini- This is the authors first stand alone, a historical fiction book based on Elizabeth Keckley, Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker. So far so good.

    I could keep going, adding this week’s library books, and all the non-fiction I keep picking up and putting down, but let’s see how I do with these, shall we?

    Check in a to see what others are reading.


    Review: Kabul Beauty School

    Kabul Beauty School I had been looking forward to reading Kabul Beauty School . Deborah Rodriguez, the author, heads to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, in part to offer humanitarian aid, and in part to escape the difficulties her life and marriage hold. More than any of the skills she learns before being sent to Kabul, she uses her knowledge of haircuts and color to serve the NGO community in Kabul, and eventually the Afghanis as well.She opens Kabul Beauty to school to train and empower the women of war torn Afghanistan, so many crushed under the weight of Taliban rule.
    While I applaud her involvement, and her genunine desire to help Afghani women, even at a danger to herself, I struggle to embrace the author herself. I didn’t trust the voice of the author, the brash American who would so blantly disregard the culture of Afghanistan, favoring her own. She loves the people, but doesn’t seem to want to bend to meet them. Her recollections, instead of being heroic and charming leaned slightly more towards selfish, insincere, and at times judgemental. The beauty of the story is lost among the seeming insincerity of the narrator.

    I give Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez one star.

    Library Loot: January 2 to 8

    badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky found at The Captive Reader. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

    In my post just yesterday, I mentioned that  I would be limiting myself to two library books per visit. Well, dear reader, I have missed that goal completely in my very first visit to the library….but only by one.

    Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez has been on my to-read list for quite some time. After a rather complex procedure that involved picking the books off my Goodreads list that most interested me and crosschecking it against availability at my local library, I decided on the Kabul Beauty School.

    Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni jumped out at me as I scanned the biographies shelf this evening, so I decided to give it a try.

    Trespassers Will be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock is the third memoir on the list. This one I found while scanning the shelves in the religion section. My hope is that it is a more an encouraging remembrance of faith with some amusing anecdotes and less a bitter memory of the religion of childhood…but I guess I’ll have to wait and see.


    Throwing another dart…

    imagesWhen I began this blog in June, I had some rather ambitious goals. I really thought I could read and review books a few times a week, as well as post on other rather bookish topics on the days in between. This is not at all what happened, however. I missed that mark by so many days I began to lose count, making me feel like quite the blogging failure. By December, I was ready to scrap the blog and move on.

    But its a New Year, all fresh and clean, and maybe before I throw in the towel I need to try again.  So, as of today, I’ve got a new look, and a few new goals for 2013 to try and make this blog a success.

    What stays the same?

    • It’s still primarily a book blog. I love reading and I love sharing what I read. That hasn’t changed over the last six months, even if my schedule has.
    • Library Loot– I’ll keep posting what books I take out, even if I decide not to review them.
    • It’ll still be nerdy. This much hasn’t changed. 😉

    What will change?

    • Weekend Recaps– These will be categorized as Life and Things. Friends and family living far away check in here occasionally, and  I want to be able to share what’s happening. Besides, as I started sharing my weekends I realized how genuinely boring my life is.
    • I’m not accepting books to review. I tried accepting books to review and found I could not meet the time constraints. It just doesn’t work for me. If you want to recommend a book, I’m all for it, but please, no ARC’s.
    • Library Loot will shrink. I’m limiting myself to one to two books each library visit. It will keep me from racking up fines for books I haven’t read, and it will help me focus on picking up books I actually read.
    • Any Reading Challenges must be started by March…and if I’m not enjoying it, its okay to scrap it. Blogging is more a fun side hobby than a part time job.

    With these changes in mind, here are my more modest goals:

    1. To post once a week. Book Reviews, Randomly bookish topics, Library Loot, Quotes, and Life and Things Updates all count as posts.
    2. To take pictures for the blog and stop using images from the web. I credit them, but it would still be nice to start using my own images. Guess I will be purchasing a camera…. 😉
    3. To enjoy blogging a bit more. I love reading and I really do love writing. So maybe if there is a little less pressure to post, it will be fun again.

    Happy New Year readers! Here’s to hoping 2013 means a bit more success on the blogging front!

    Book Blogger Confessions: Politics

    Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers “confess” and vent about topics that are unique to us. Feel free to share, vent and offer solutions.

    Just keep it respectful – no bashing authors or other bloggers! If you want to participate just grab our button and include it in your post with a link to either Tiger’s All Consuming MediaMidnyte Reader or For What It’s Worth. We will be providing a linky at the end of our posts so people can “hop” to see all the participants answers.

    Should bloggers & authors discuss politics? Does that turn you off to a blogger or an authors books if they tweet/post about their political positions or do you appreciate their passionate point of view? 

    Honestly, I don’t think I’ve read a book blog that contained a political discussion, let alone one where their politics made me uncomfortable. I do honestly appreciate people’s passion, but I do not appreciate disrespect. One of the most challenging things for me this particular political season has been the decision of so many on social media to be disrespectful. Name calling, mudslinging- none of those have a place in a political discussion.

    “Some people juggle geese”

    That quote, from Joss Whedon’s brilliant show, Firefly, comes outs of an episode when the crew of Serenity had to deal with a con-artist, and the wildly different culture on a particular moon where the Captain accidently wound up married. Oops. His wife, it turns out, was quite a bit of trouble. But I digress.

    The past few days have been spent experiencing Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Sadly, my place remains without power, and I had an interesting adventure yesterday hunting for gas, and landed at my sister’s place when I was nearly out. The good news is that she has heat, power, running water, and food. The bad news is, I hadn’t packed anything except some work books and my laptop.

    It’s been interesting to people watch over the last few days, as people have encountered various levels of need, and had access to limited resources. How people have chosen to use their time off. Some people are heading down to the water and taking pictures. One of my neighbors spent Tuesday morning clearing debris and offering to assist the local police force in clean up. Some people have gone out looking for a hot meal. Others have made massive meals and invited friends to eat by candlelight.

    I personally have done a little bit of everything. I’ve hung out with my roommates, I’ve cooked, I’ve gone out and surveyed the damage, I’ve cleared debris, and now, I am down in Jersey searching for gas, spending time with my sister and nephew, and rather enjoying a house with heat and lights. How about you? How have you spent your time post Hurricane Sandy? Were you impacted by the storm, or have you had heat and power?


    Review: The Book Thief

    Image from the NY Times Book Review, published March 27, 2006.

    In her review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin writes, ” “The Book Thief” is perched on the cusp between grown-up and young-adult fiction, and it is loaded with librarian appeal. It deplores human misery. It celebrates the power of language. It may encourage adolescents to read. It has an element of the fanciful. And it’s a book that bestows a self-congratulatory glow upon anyone willing to grapple with it.” [Full review]

    The Book Thief is a rare work of literature indeed, dancing on the line between adult and young adult literature, yes, but dealing with topics of death, of hope, of loss, of ethics, and yes, of literacy. The narrator is death, the time and place Nazi Germany, a horrifying combination until you realize Zusak’s touch is both tactful and realistic. At times the narrator switches back and forth between his perspective and that of the characters, even interupting himself to provide a bit of clarification.

    There are both breathtaking and heartrending descriptions throughout the narrative. Death describes colors using smells and vice versa. At points, it turns graphic novel as we read a books written for Liesel.

    Not every moment in the book is spot on. It drifts here and there. But that does not at all hinder it from being one of the finest works of literature I’ve read, and among the most creative. For that reason, and so many others, I give The Book Thief and its celebration of the written word five stars.

    So…about the month of October…

    When I started blogging in June, I knew there would be times when it was difficult to blog regularly, if at all, and I promised myself that I would prepare for that, and well, prepare you my dear readers for that. Fail. When September swept in with registration, a new series of projects, and a brand new schedule, I was prepared. I was not, however, prepared for the month of October and the host of emergencies, deadlines, and car repairs that would sweep me away.

    I wish I could say that I have this grand collection of books to review, that I was quite literary during October in my hiatus- but I wasn’t. Other than randomly happening upon another book sale, I read only what was required of me, and at times, not even that. I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t wrap my head around a story.

    This season has passed, thankfully. The emergencies are no longer emergencies but realities that I have adjusted to or problems that have been solved. And my schedule, though still incredibly full, finally has some kind of rhythm to it. In the next few weeks I will review what I did read, roughly four novels and two non-fiction books, and start to pick up some of my regular posts again, such as the Weekend Recap and Library Loot. Sorry that I ever so briefly fell off the planet.




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