Monday, January 31, 2011

Quotable Relaunches This Week

Quotable: Weekly Literary Quotations
This Friday, February 4th marks the relaunch of Quotable, a weekly feature here at Bookish Ruth.

I take copious notes whenever I read a book, often writing down a memorable piece of dialogue or a passage with which I can relate. Many of these quotations have found themselves in finished reviews, but at least an equal number of them are left in the pages of my trusty composition notebook.

Each Friday from now on I'll be hosting a feature called Quotable, which will pluck some of these gems out of my notebook and onto your computer screen. It's my hope that you'll enjoy these quotations as much as I have, and that they may inspire you to pick up a book you might not have considered before.

This is a weekly feature open to other bloggers; grab the button and share your own quotation along with me every Friday! I'll be including a Mr. Linky form with each future edition of Quotable for ease of linking to your selected quotation and browsing through the offerings from other bloggers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: 2011 Reading Goals

Set GoalsThe last week of January may seem like an odd time to assess my reading goals for 2011 (although I did draw up a longhand list of goals back in early December), but I think this is a perfect opportunity to step back and see what's working and what isn't, now that the newness of the year has worn off a bit.

My biggest goal for 2011 was to start blogging again, and I just now feel as though I am shaking the rust from Bookish Ruth after the long hiatus. Last weekend's Bloggiesta was a real blessing as I was able to get a lot of long-neglected blog maintenance taken care of over the course of those three days.

More goals for 2011:
  • Read at least 100 books. I only read 31 books in 2010 and I was disappointed with that total. I will need to step up my reading pace from January, since it looks like I'll be finishing the month with only six books read.
  • Make a sizable dent in unread books that are sitting on my bookshelves. The great thing about being a book blogger is that you always have a lot of books to choose from. One of the not-so-great things is that sometimes those books come in faster than you can possibly read them. I have just over 100 unread books in my personal library and I hope to see that total diminish rapidly in 2011.
  • Make progress with series books. This is, I think, a yearly goal. I would like to get current with the Mary Russell, Lady Julia Grey, and Maisie Dobbs series so I'm ready for the new book from each series, since all three will see new installments published in 2011. I would also like to catch up on my collection of Agatha Christie novels.
  • Continue reading about specific areas of interest. I want to read more books related to Vincent van Gogh, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian England and lighthouses this year.
  • More mysteries and middle grade fiction. In recent years I have made an effort to expand my reading focus. This year I would like to narrow it a bit and focus on my two favorites genres: mysteries and middle grade fiction. Three of the six books I have finished so far this year have been mysteries and I'm reading a middle grade book now, so I feel I am making steady progress on this goal.
Did you set any reading goals for 2011? How do you feel you're progressing with those goals?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 100+ Reading Challenge

100+ Reading Challenge
I wasn't going to do any official reading challenges other than my own (The Baker Street Challenge) and RIP in the fall, but since reading 100+ books for the year is main reading goal for the year, this is a natural choice.

The Details:
1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. Posting on GoodReads or wherever you post your reviews is good enough.

2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Manga, Graphic Novels, Library books, Novellas, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.

What doesn't count: Individual short stories or individual books in the Bible.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2011. Books started before the 1st do not count. You can join at anytime.

1. Doctor Who: The Taking of Chelsea 426 by David Llewellyn
2. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts
3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
4. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
5. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
6. Dragon Bones by Lisa See

7. The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt
8. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
9. Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
10. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn











Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review Dear America: A Light in the Storm by Karen Hesse

Dear America: A Light in the Storm
A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. (1999)
Hardcover, 174 pages
Historical Fiction, Ages 9-12
ISBN-10: 0590567330
ISBN-13: 978-0590567336

Part of the popular Dear America series, A Light in the Storm chronicles a year in the life of a 16-year-old girl at the start of the Civil War.

Amelia Martin begins her diary in the final days of 1860. Amelia is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper on Fenwick Island, Delaware. The reader experiences the events that led to the Civil War through Amelia's eyes. She is very distressed when South Carolina secedes from the Union and wonders what that will mean for President-Elect Abraham Lincoln.

The conflict also has a much more personal effect on Amelia and her family. Amelia's parents are bitterly divided over the issue of slavery, which creates a very tense home life. Her mother is also prone to depression and Amelia struggles to understand her mother's sudden mood changes.

As war becomes an inevitability, Amelia's friend Daniel enlists in the Union army. Amelia worries for his safety and anxiously anticipates his letters from the front. The other lighthouse keeper at Fenwick Island also enlists, and a new keeper with a large family takes his place. Their joyful home life is a stark contrast to the tension present in Amelia's family.

Eventually, writing in her diary during the nightly watch is one of the few things that brings Amelia peace. She worries about the uncertain future of the country as well as the toll the conflict will take on her parents' marriage:

"I feel as if I am the Light in my family. I must keep my hope burning, so that Father and Mother, even in the darkness that seems to engulf them, might find their way back."
Amelia's diary, though fictional, is very moving. A Light in the Storm provides a unique look at life in Delaware during the early days of the Civil War. Delaware permitted slavery but never joined the Confederacy. Amelia's voice is compelling and young people will be able to relate to her hopes and fears. The book includes an interesting and informative appendix of historical information related to the story.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bookish Ruth's Bloggiesta Wrap Up

Bloggiesta was, as I suspected, a great event for me since my blog had been on hiatus for so long. I initially intended focus primarily on writing reviews, but thanks to the mini challenges and getting inspiration from the to-do lists of other bloggers, I ended up focusing on blog maintenance.

I completed the following mini challenges:
In addition to the mini challenges, I met most of the goals from my first Bloggiesta post. I still have some work ahead of me, but I'm amazed at how much I was able to get done over the course of three days.

Did you participate in Bloggiesta? If so, were you able to reach most of your goals?

New Official Sherlock Holmes Novel Announced

Author Anthony Horowitz
Sherlock Holmes is to be brought back to life in the first new novel about the great Baker Street detective to be officially approved.

Anthony Horowitz, author of stories about teenage spy Alex Rider, has been chosen by Arthur Conan Doyle's estate to write the full-length novel, which will be published by Orion in September.

"I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was 16 and I've read them many times since," said Horowitz.

"I simply couldn't resist this opportunity to write a brand new adventure for this iconic figure and my aim is to produce a first rate mystery for a modern audience while remaining absolutely true to the spirit of the original."

No details of the new tale or even its title have been revealed.
Read the full article here.

I heard the news about this book on Thursday afternoon. On Friday night, thanks to a recommendation from Ruth of Booktalk & More, I watched all five parts of Collision, a BBC miniseries written by Anthony Horowitz. Somehow I missed it when it originally aired on Masterpiece in 2009. Collision is an amazing production and one that I highly recommend. (If you are a Netflix subscriber, Collision is available to watch instantly online.)

When the final twist was revealed, I was utterly convinced that Anthony Horowitz is the perfect choice to pen a new Sherlock Holmes book. The ending of Collision is very much reminiscent of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Ultimately the twist is so simple, and yet the path to discovering it is so intricate. I await Horowitz's Holmes offering with great interest.

Friday, January 21, 2011

2010 Reading in Review

2010 FireworksEven though I wasn't actively blogging in 2010, reading was still a big part of my life. My goal for 2010 was to read at least 75 books and I fell short of that goal with only 31. I took extensive notes for almost every book I read, so there is a very good probability that I will still be sharing reviews of many of the books I read in 2010.
  1. Doctor Who: The Pirate Loop by Simon Guerrier
  2. Doctor Who: Sick Building by Paul Magrs
  3. Doctor Who: Wishing Well by Trevor Baxendale
  4. Doctor Who: The Planet of Oblivion by Justin Richards
  5. Doctor Who: The Eyeless by Lance Parkin
  6. Doctor Who: The Slitheen Excursion by Simon Guerrier
  7. The Lightning Thief by Rich Riordan
  8. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  9. The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson
  10. Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R.L. LaFevers
  11. The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer
  12. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  13. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  14. The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke
  15. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
  16. The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
  17. Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters
  18. Claude Monet by Kent Hoo
  19. Van Gogh's Van Goghs by Richard Kendall
  20. Who Was Claude Monet? by Ann Waldron
  21. Van Gogh: An Appreciation of His Art by Gerhard Gruitrooy
  22. Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick
  23. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
  24. The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
  25. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
  26. Doctor Who: Apollo 23 by Justin Richards
  27. Torchwood: Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris
  28. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Veiled Detective by David Stuart Davies
  29. A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
  30. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man by Daniel Stashower
  31. Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
Best Reading Month: August (7 books)
Total Pages Read: 8131 pages

My favorite read of the year was, without a doubt, Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Very honorable mentions include Garden Spells, Messenger of Athens and Sunflowers.

You may have noticed a couple of themes in the above list: Doctor Who and Vincent van Gogh. In January of 2010, David Tennant left Doctor Who as the Tenth Doctor. During the gap between the end of his tenure and the start of Matt Smith's time as the Eleventh Doctor, I decided to catch up on the Doctor Who novels.

Van Gogh started out as an unintentional theme. I've often regretted never seriously studying art and wanted to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of the subject. I have always been drawn to both Van Gogh's art and tragic life story. So, while I started out with some general art books from the library, I quickly zeroed in on books about Van Gogh. My aunt sent me Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick, a novel based on Van Gogh's last two years of life, which I devoured over a vacation in the Pocono Mountains. (In a weird, wonderful moment of synchronicity, my favorite television show and my favorite artist came together in a fantastic episode of Doctor Who, "Vincent and the Doctor", later in the summer.)

So what's on tap for 2011? I have several big goals for this year and will be sharing them in a separate post. I'm eager to improve on 2010 which, while it turned out to be a good year for me personally, was not my best year as far as reading was concerned.

Bloggiesta: Starting Line

This weekend I'll be participating in Bloggiesta, a blogging marathon hosted by Natasha of Maw Books. The purpose of this event is to catch up on all those little things you've been meaning to do around your blog, whether it's writing reviews, creating backup posts for rainy days, reorganizing your post tags, tweaking your blog's layout, etc.

This event could not come at a better time for me since I have a lot of blog maintenance to catch up on after a lengthy hiatus. Here are some things I'd like to address during Bloggiesta:

  • Write 3-5 reviews.
  • Write a 2010 wrap-up post (Done!) and a 2011 goal post.
  • Update my About Me page with a more detailed review policy.
  • Replace my current favicon. (I did this during the first Bloggiesta. At some point since then the site I used changed my favicon to their generic site logo for some reason.) Done!
  • Organize my blog sidebar. It's starting to look less tidy than I would prefer. Done, although I'll probably tinker with it a bit more soon.
  • Prepare to relaunch Quotable as a weekly feature in February.
  • Replace my current contact form with a Google form.
My official start time is Friday 2 PM EST.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Baker Street Challenge

The Baker Street Challenge
I took an unplanned but necessary hiatus from book blogging in 2010, but I am looking forward to a return to regular blogging in 2011. In addition to regular updates here, The Baker Street Challenge Blog has been revamped for 2011.

The Baker Street Challenge is a year-long challenge celebrating the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the continuing literary legacy of Sherlock Holmes. Participants can join at any time before the end of 2011. If you're interested in participating, click here for more details.

I'll be reading seven books for the challenge. Some of the books I'm considering:

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman
The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lycett
The Science of Sherlock Holmes by E.J. Wagner
Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies
Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye