Once Upon a Time, IX

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(Beautiful art by Kim Kincaid. Visit her site at http://www.artbykimkincaid.com)

Spring has arrived and with it comes my favorite reading event of the year: Carl V’s Once Upon a Time challenge. This is the 9th year he has hosted this fun event. I’m very fond of it because it was the first reading challenge I participated in when I first started blogging, and it inspired me to expand my reading choices to genres I’d seldom tried. Each time I participate, I find new reading friends, new favorite authors, and many new favorite books. Now it has become a rite of Spring for me and the year doesn’t seem right unless anchored by Carl’s wonderful OUaT.

If you haven’t tried a reading challenge before, this is an enjoyable way to start. Choose books from four different genres, read short stories, watch films, or play a game. No pressure, just fun and celebration of the fanciful!

The Once Upon a Time IX Challenge has a few rules:

Rule #1: Have fun.

Rule #2: HAVE FUN.

Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!

Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

Set goals that fit your reading wish list and available time. Carl has many different options to choose from. This year I’m keeping my choice simple and choosing “The Journey” for my goal. I will read [at least] one book from any of the four genres between now and June 21st. I will write a post for each book I read and will update my list in the Challenges tab on my menu bar.

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Thank you, once again, Carl, for hosting this delightful reading event! I know I’m going to love my reading in the next few months and enjoy reading the posts of the other participants!

2015 Challenge: Travel the World in Books

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While perusing the hundreds of different reading groups on Goodreads recently, I found one that called out to me: Travel the World in Books, hosted by three bloggers, Tanya at Mom’s Small Victories, Becca at I’m Lost in Books, and Savvy Working Gal.

The Goal of this challenge is to: “Travel the world in books, of course! Expand your horizons and read books set in or written by authors from countries other than the one you live in. Visit as many different countries in books as you wish.” The Time Frame for participation is open ended, which suits me well. And, best of all, they are having a January read-a-long of Barbara Kingsolver’s, The Poisonwood Bible, a book I’ve long had on my TBR list. I couldn’t resist, so have signed on to participate in both the challenge and the January read-a-long. 

My own goal with joining this challenge is to expand my reading horizons, and enjoy some more of the world’s wonderful literature, which is something I love to do. I’ll compile a list of books, as I go, and will keep track of them under my Challenges header. I am looking forward to my reading travels this year!

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Early Morning Cocoon

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I’ve always been an early riser, but one of the pleasures of retirement?… I’ve replaced that early morning get-ready-for-work rush with my quiet cocoon of beauty — filled with words and yarn. Knitting while listening to an audiobook. What an enjoyable way to start a day! This morning I started a new knitting project with this silk yarn (a gift for a beautiful friend) while listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s gorgeous writing in The Poisonwood Bible.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

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In The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, a gifted mathematics professor suffered brain damage in an accident that left him with only 80 minutes of working short-term memory. He had been cared for over the years since the accident by housekeepers who ran his household and watched over him. They came and were replaced frequently.

The new housekeeper, however, is different from the others who had looked after the professor before her. A very caring and intuitive person, she (and her young son) become close to him, and their kindness and caring ways bring out the best in all of them. They become a kind of family, sharing a love of mathematics and of baseball, and taking care of each other. But each day, when the housekeeper returns, the professor doesn’t remember the events and interactions of the day before.

It’s a fascinating kind of story. It didn’t have big action or lots of drama, but it stays with you long after you finish the book. I loved the relationships, the math that was explained by this gifted teacher, and the baseball. I read it for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 8, and it was a lovely choice. I look forward to reading more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.

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Once Upon a Time VIII: The Joy of the Genre

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Carl V’s Once Upon a Time reading challenges always end too soon! I enjoyed reading a number of books this time around, but didn’t post about each of them. For me, this time, my participation in this challenge was simply all about the joy of the genre. So here are the books I read, or re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed for Once Upon a Time VIII.  Thank you, Carl, for hosting this special annual celebration of the magical!

And some wise words from one of my favorites, Roald Dahl, as a fond farewell to this year’s Once Upon a Time…

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Summer Reading

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Now that I’m retired, summer reading has taken on a whole new meaning for me. For one thing, my summer is longer with much more time for sitting on the porch and reading. Yay! I don’t have to spent most of June finishing teaching units, grading papers, and writing report cards. I don’t have to take classes in July to update my teaching certificate. And I don’t have to spend days and weeks in August preparing my classroom and going to district teacher meetings. Although I miss my kiddos, I am happy now that I can just enjoy reading on my front porch! And doesn’t that sounds heavenly?!

Hobbit-coverSo I decided to start my “Summer Reading” on June 1st this year with a re-read (this is the 6th time) of an absolute favorite of mine: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was early in 1968, having just returned from a year abroad as an exchange student, when I read a reprint of an article by W.H. Auden from The New York Times. It was a review of a series of books by an English author, J.R.R. Tolkien. They sounded so good, I quickly went out and bought all 4 books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those delightful hours spent reading those books set the standard for my summer reading. Total immersion into a different world… Traveling there and back again without having to leave my comfortable summer reading spot… Complete enjoyment of beautiful writing and wonderful creativity…  I would love to recapture some of those delightful reading moments from long ago!

So… I am reading and enjoying, once again, The Hobbit.

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…

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Hobbit house at the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon…

Japanese Literature Challenge

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The lovely Meredith, at Dolce Bellezza, has announced her Japanese Literature Challenge, her 8th time hosting this lovely challenge. I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read for her past challenges and so I am going to enjoy participating in this one once again this summer. My goal is to read at least one book, knowing that my biggest challenge is to actually finish these Challenges I take on. But I will choose from some very interesting books that I already have, or have been interested in reading some day, and, so perhaps I will be able to finish more than one! Here’s my collection of possibilities:

  1. The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
  2. Country Teacher, by Katai Tayama
  3. Tales from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  4. The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Theodore W. Goossen

And here are my reviews of books I’ve finished for her previous challenges:

  1. The Big Wave, by Pearl S. Buck
  2. Thousand Cranes, by Yasunari Kawabata
  3. The Bells of Nagasaki, by Takashi Nagai
  4. After the Quake, by Haruki Murakami
  5. Twenty-Four Eyes, by Sakae Tsuboi
  6. Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Akinari Ueda
  7. Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square
  8. The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samuari, by Erik Christian Haugaard
  9. Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
  10. Summer of the Big Bachi, by Naomi Hirahara
  11. Kusamakura, by Natsume Soseki

 

THANKS, Meredith, for organizing another enjoyable challenge and sharing your love of Japanese literature with us!

The Once and Future King, Part 2

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The second book of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, is called Queen of Air and Darkness and it is, indeed, a much darker part of this story. Unlike the first book, The Sword in the Stone, this section is not a story for children. It is full of the brutality and evil of the Medieval world young King Arthur enters as he begins his reign.

Everything is set into motion in this section. The idealistic and innocent youth become a man, and we watch his development as both leader and philosopher as he experiences his power as king and comes to understand what that power means and how it can be used for Right.

At the same time, the ultimate tragedy of King Arthur and his dream is set in motion by a sinful, though unknowing, act. Using trickery and witchcraft, Queen Morgause seduces Arthur (her half-brother). His son, Mordred, is conceived…

It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death of Arthur….It is the tragedy…of sin coming home to roost . That is why we have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred, and to remember, when the time comes, that the king had slept with his own sister. He did not know he was doing so, and perhaps it may have been due to her, but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence is not enough.

In this book, I found the brutality of Morgause and her sons quite disturbing. It was a stark contrast to the upbringing and education of Arthur, and I had trouble with the images Mr. White painted. I also had trouble with how often he inserted his own opinions, and the happenings of his own time period, into the story. Perhaps, if I just wanted the story of King Arthur without editorializing, I should have been reading Le Morte d’Arthur!

At any rate, it’s a complex story, not one that can be ready lightly or quickly. Although there were humorous elements in this section, it was overall a very dark book. So now I’m on to the next section: The Ill-Made Knight.

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Queen Guinevere, by William Morris

I am reading this book for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time-VIII reading challenge.

 

The Once and Future King, part 1

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Painting by Alan Lee…

The stories of King Arthur have long captured my imagination. I’ve read many different versions and enjoyed each one. Many years ago, (to be truthful, it’s been 41 years!), I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I loved it! So for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge this year, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this wonderful classic, and revisit an old friend, so to speak.

It’s a very long book, divided into four parts which were written and published at different times. The Sword in the Stone tells of the boyhood of Arthur, called “Wart” by his family, and of his education by the wizard, Merlin. And what a wonderful education! –full of nature and folklore and imagination! It was a very enjoyable “listen,” and, if I were still teaching 6th grade, I would consider reading it aloud to my students as a stand-alone book.

The Sword in the Stone is very much about learning and about the relationship between this special student and his teacher. I retired last year after 27 years of teaching, and one reason I chose to become a teacher in the first place was because I love to learn, so this quote from the book speaks a particular truth for me about the joy of becoming a lifelong learner.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

Other hidden pleasures in this section of the book were the many quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and also the inclusion of Robin Hood in the story. What fun! This part of The Once and Future King was written for the child in all of us.

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Painting by N.C. Wyeth…

Once Upon a Time, again!

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It’s Spring at last, and with the return of the season comes Carl V’s (Stainless Steel Droppings) wonderful Once Upon a Time reading challenge. This is his 8th time hosting, and I’m so happy to be participating again this year. I know it takes a lot of work to organize and run this event, so I want to thank Carl for another Spring full of very enjoyable reading!

This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.

You may choose your own level of participation in this challenge, and I have chosen “QUEST the FIRST” again for this year. The instructions are simple:

1. Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

2. Have fun!

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I begin this challenge by listening to the audiobook of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White. I read it many years ago and remember loving it. I enjoy Arthurian literature, and I’ve been wanting to reread this one for quite awhile, so this is perfect timing. Along with The Once and Future King, here are some other books I’m considering for this challenge. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews by those taking part in this annual event . Happy reading, everyone!