Email me at thekeytothegate@gmail.com

Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Resolutions 2013

"Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own." 
                                                                                                      ~ Mark Twain    


Making a list and checking it twice: Discovering the benefits of list making

     Many of us are list makers. We make lists for grocery shopping, home improvement, To Dos, etc. At work, I like to make a daily focus list.
     Book lover's make reading lists: Lists of books we have read, books we plan to read, books that sounded interesting, books that would make good gifts, and so on.
     Studies indicate that creating a list helps us to organize our thoughts and increase our productivity because the act of checking off a particular item encourages us to complete another task, and ultimately reach our goal. Research also suggests that writing out projects and responsibilities can help reduce stress. By compiling your duties or errands into a list, you are able to conceptualize all of the items you need to tackle and better determine which tasks need to be prioritized.
     This year, I decided to make a list of books that I want to complete in the year ahead. These are books that I have previously purchased, shelved, and never had or made the time to begin. Committing to certain titles was actually a bit overwhelming. There are so many wonderful books out there still waiting to be discovered.
     With new releases promoted weekly if not daily, the excitement of the latest "it" book can change up your entire reading schedule. Additional books will be thrown into my mix as my book club announces its selection each month and I read about books fellow readers have enjoyed. I also have several e-reader books ordered, including Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which I can't wait to read. For 2013, books I hope to get off the shelf include:
The Plague of Doves by Louise Endrich
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Sanctuary by William Faulkner

Two new books I received over the holiday which I am excited to read:
A Train in Winter by Caroine Moorehead
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (This is the new Oprah 2.0 selection)

In the new year, I don't want to set a goal of reading as many books as possible. Instead, I want to savor the ones I do read and spend more time digesting these stories.
What is on your 2013 reading list?

Here is to a new year filled with reading!
Rebecca

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Almost Here! Downton Abbey Season 3

Downton Abbey Season 3 is set to premiere in the U.S.
on Sunday, Jan. 6 on PBS.

Have you been following this wonderful television series? This British period-drama is part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology and has received critical acclaim as well as a large following.

"April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way of life it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't."

For fans, The World of Downton Abbey, written by Jessica Fellowes with a foreward by the creator Julian Fellowes, is a beautiful, full-color book featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the show, interviews with the actors, and background information on life and society of the time.

The series begins in 1912, two years before the Great War, and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants employed on their country estate. There is no shortage of drama upstairs or downstairs. From murder and betrayal to romance and loss, viewers have several storylines to remain entertained. Season two ends at the beginning of 1920. During the eight year span of the first two seasons, the series highlights many of the technological advances of the time including electrical lights and the introduction of the telephone. Historical news items, such as the sinking of the Titanic, are also incorporated into the story to establish the time setting. Gorgeous interiors and costumes grace the scenes of the society set while the exploration into the duties of servants on a large estate creates a deep divide between the two classes.

In between episodes, curl up with The World of Downton Abbey to return to the days of Edwardian society and discover more about these wonderful actors and the characters they play.

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays and Blessings for the New Year!

"Write it on your heart that every day
is the best day of the year."
                                                 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


The book tree in the entrance of Empire Books & News
at Pullman Square, Huntington, W.Va.
 
Rebecca

This photo is linked up to Saturday Snapshot, a super fun meme hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Head on over and check out some great photos!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Wishes from Around the World


I posted my Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange message too early. When I arrived home yesterday, I had this lovely card and frame-worthy bookmark awaiting me in my mailbox from Australia. This was sent to me from Jeanie at the wonderful blog: www.samstillreading.wordpress.com.
     One of the many benefits of blogging is the opportunity to communicate with others from many countries and to share the joy of reading worldwide. This terrific card exchange was hosted by Judith at www.leeswammes.wordpress.com and Courtney at www.stilettostorytime.wordpress.com. A special thanks to them for all of the time they spent organizing it for fellow book bloggers!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday and peaceful new year!
Rebecca

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From Sea to Shining Sea

Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange

     This year I participated in the Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange hosted by Judith at www.leeswammes.wordpress.com and Courtney at www.stilettostorytime.wordpress.com. Opening the mailbox and finding a card filled with notations and recommendations about books has been so exciting. These fellow book bloggers have suggested many titles for me and I hope to add some of them to my 2013 reading list.
     These ladies have some terrific blogs and I hope you will check them out!

Share the joy of reading with your family and friends this holiday season!
Rebecca



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

"Life, Enza decided, is not about you get, but what is taken from you. It's in the things we lose that we discover what we most treasure." ~ Chapter 5

Book Description (from amazon.com): The fateful first meeting of Enza and Ciro takes place amid the haunting majesty of the Italian Alps at the turn of the last century. Still teenagers, they are separated when Ciro is banished from his village and sent to hide in New York's Little Italy, apprenticed to a shoemaker, leaving a bereft Enza behind. But when her own family faces disaster, she, too, is forced to emigrate to America. Though destiny will reunite the star-crossed lovers, it will, just as abruptly, separate them once again—sending Ciro off to serve in World War I, while Enza is drawn into the glamorous world of the opera . . . and into the life of the international singing sensation Enrico Caruso. Still, Enza and Ciro have been touched by fate—and, ultimately, the power of their love will change their lives forever. A riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny, inspired by the author's own family history, The Shoemaker's Wife is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write.

"I don't know what to say to make you believe me. I don't believe in God so much. And the Blessed Mother forgot all about me, just as my own mother did, but none of them could give me what one thought of you could do. But if you come away with me, I promise to love you all my life. That's all I have to offer you." ~ Ciro to Enza, Chapter 21


My Thoughts:
     The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani is a beautiful story of grand proportions. Following the lives of Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravenelli as they come of age in northern Italy and immigrate to America where their paths continue to cross until they accept that their journey is one.
     The novel begins as Ciro and his brother Eduardo are taken to live with the Sisters of San Nicola as their mother, Caterina, can no longer care for them following their father's death in a mining accident in America. The loss of a father and mother greatly effects the brothers in opposite forms. Ciro turns inward and longs for beautiful women and to find meaning for his life while Eduardo explores his faith, turning later to priesthood to find his peace. Ciro is lead to Enza after being hired to dig her sister's grave and meeting her at the funeral service. Enza's devotion to her family and desires for them to live a better life force she and her father to move to America to find work, always with the plan to return and build a home of their own. Ciro's fate also sends him to America after witnessing an act by the local priest. It is in a new land, that Ciro and Enza's paths cross again.
     More than a love story between two characters, this novel is a tribute to art and a celebration of a simple way of life. Trigiani's geographic descriptions quickly nestles the reader into the landscape, from the quaint Italian countryside to the bustling streets of Little Italy and Manhattan to the sprawling spaces of Minnesota. Along the way, the strength of the characters remains through their traditions; their crafts are elevated to an artform. We see Ciro create shoes with such skill that we can smell the leather. As Enza sews colorful fabrics into form, we envision the fashion.
     The passages in The Shoemaker's Wife are extremely detailed but not to a fault. The reader is easily entrapped in the setting which makes for an easy connection to the characters. It is clear that a lot of research went into creating this epic story and it left me feeling far more enriched after finishing it.
     I first discovered opera after reading Ann Patchett's Bel Canto and then later Ellen Cooney's Lambrusco. Enza's work in the costume department of the Metropolitan Opera House introduces us to the behind-the-scenes moments of famous opera singers of the time, including the beloved Enrico Caruso. Trigiani takes us on an elaborate tour of the world of art from music and fashion to cuisine and architecture, but religion and spirituality are also at the heart of this story.
     WARNING: You will need to have a box of tissues at hand for the last few chapters of this book. At first I thought I would have liked for the novel to have had a different ending, but this story was Ciro and Enza's story. And a beautiful one it was.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What I'm Reading- Dec. 10, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I am re-reading this classic for my book club's January meeting. Our members rotate selection each time so our reading material can vary greatly from month to month. Although I have read Wuthering Heights many years ago, I am always willing to re-read a classic.

I recently picked up these two books below. I'm not sure when I will read these but I found them at bargain price and couldn't resist adding them to my stacks.
Have any of you fellow readers read either of these? If so, what did you think?

 

Oprah announced the new selection for her Book Club 2.0 last week: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. This is the second selection for 2.0, following Cheryl Strayed's Wild. Has anyone been following along with her new online format? I haven't read Wild but Hattie sounds interesting. I'm interested to see if an online book club has as much appeal as a face-to-face meeting.
Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

I came across Campbell's Butternut Squash soup at the grocery store and was excited to try it because I love butternut squash. I wanted to make it more hearty to serve as a meal so I tossed in some extra ingredients that took this soup from simple to gourmet with little effort.

Into the pot went the soup, a can on cannellini beans, some pre-cooked and shredded chicken, a little bit of chicken stock and some dried thyme. After heating in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, I removed the soup and stirred in some white cheddar cheese.

Finally, I topped it off with a roasted red pepper puree recipe that I found online. I used jarred roasted red peppers for ease. Just toss some peppers, a little olive oil, some minced garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes in to the food processor and blend. Then, just stir into your soup.
This soup turned out as one of my favorites. I was very pleased with how it all came together and definitely want to make it again. It was the perfect comfort dish to for a cold, winter day.

Happy Cooking!
Rebecca
This post is linked up to Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Novel Idea...or is it?

Have you ever read a book where the concept is so original or the storyline so  intense that you were in awe of the author's creativity? Would your opinion of the work change if you became aware that the ideas or characters were not solely of his or her creation?

An article in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine, "Master of Fine Arts," delves into the concept and creation of "book incubators" defined as "a team of idea generators who invent premises, map out plots and characters, and then match the blueprints with undiscovered writers."

One such incubator, Paper Lantern Lit, has had significant success with this strategy, having sold every project it has pitched to publishers- now weighing in at 23 books since the organization launched in 2010, including the popular Venom series. A book concept is created followed by chapter outlines, and then writers are interviewed to develop the characters and fill in the blanks.

In many professions, "think tanks" are able to produce inventive ideas with each participant challenging the creativity of the others, creating a finished product that can have mass appeal but does this apply to the art world?

Billed as fiction, does a lack of authenticity decrease the value of the story or the reader's connection to it? What are your thoughts?

Happy Reading!
Rebecca




Sunday, December 2, 2012

Books, Books, and More Books Please

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Recently Finished: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I recently finished Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and it is a must read. You can check out my review here: http://thekeytothegate.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien.html

Currently Reading: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
This is the first of Adriana Trigiani's books that I have read. I felt this was a little slow to begin but I'm nearing the half-point and completely engulfed in the story. I am reading this as an e-book but I love the cover art on this one.

Coming Up: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This will be a re-read for me, having previously read this many years ago in high school English. My book club selected this as the next book for discussion. We rotate reading selection among members which leads to a variety of genres and authors.
 
I also reserved these two e-books from my library when they become available:
 
 
I typically would not select to read a Nicholas Sparks book but after seeing the movie preview for this one, I thought I would give it a try. I know many of you readers have read and loved Gone Girl so I can't wait to get this one and dive in.

I look forward to discovering what you are reading this week!
Rebecca



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Deep Dish Mexican Pizza




These short winter days do not cooperate for much weekday cooking so on the weekend, I like to experiment. I had an extra pie crust in the refrigerator and was inspired by one of my favorite dishes of a ham, tomato and cheese dinner pie, which led to the creation of a deep dish Mexican pizza. I pre-baked the crust first according to the box directions so that the it would crisp up on the bottom, covering the edges in aluminum foil so that they would not burn. After baking, I spread re-fried beans into the shell, topped with cooked ground turkey mixed with a can of green chilies and enchilada sauce. Then, I topped that layer with chopped tomatoes and jalapenos, followed by a top layer of Monterey Jack cheese. Back into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese is all melted.



Then slice and enjoy with a nice margarita or your favorite beverage. The best part about this dish is that it can easily be customized. You could substitute black beans, rice, salsa, corn or other veggies for any of these ingredients.
Buen provecho!

Rebecca

This post is linked up to Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Give the Gift of Books this Christmas!

" A book is a gift you can open again and again."
~ Garrison Keillor, American writer and broadcaster

Need ideas? Check out the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die on Good Reads at http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/952.1001_Books_You_Must_Read_Before_You_Die?page=1.

The list includes classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Lord of the Rings, to more modern selections. It's also a great checklist for books to add to your personal reading list or library.
 

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


"...and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry." (page 16)

Book Description from wikipedia.com: The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. While apparently based on some of O'Brien's own experiences, the title page refers to the book as "a work of fiction"; indeed, the majority of stories in the book possess some quality of metafiction. Many of the characters are semi-autobiographical, and readers of O'Brien's work will notice that some of the characters share similarities with characters from his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. O'Brien dedicated The Things They Carried to the men of the Alpha Company that he fought with during the war.

My Thoughts:
     First--This is THE book for children of Vietnam Veterans or family members of Vietnam Veterans to read. A collection of stories told from O'Brien's keen observations of the psychology of the soldier, The Things They Carried is a powerful, emotional, and raw telling of a journey that remained endless for many of the servicemen who experienced this war.
     A Vietnam Veteran himself, O'Brien gracefully guides the reader through the jungle and home again. The writing is spectacular. Each sentence is crafted with such a creative alignment of words that there is a sense of poetry to the work. The Things They Carried provides those who were not there and the generations that follow with the descriptions that will never find their way into the history books--- what REALLY happened.
     Beyond the necessities and weaponry, personal items and useful tools, it is the weight of the visions and actions that became the heaviest burden of all.
     I look forward to reading all of O'Brien's other books. He is a gifted writer and we are left to question the art that could have been created by those who did not survive and those that returned home but never found their way back to the life they had known. They carried far too much.

"There were times in my life when I couldn't feel much, not sadness or pity or passion, and somehow I blamed this place for what I had become, and I blamed it for taking away the person I had once been." (page 185)

My Dad in 1970 before leaving for Vietnam.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving Message


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
                                                              ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Are You Currently Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
About this book from wikipedia.com: The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. While apparently based on some of O'Brien's own experiences, the title page refers to the book as "a work of fiction"; indeed, the majority of stories in the book possess some quality of metafiction. Many of the characters are semi-autobiographical, and readers of O'Brien's work will notice that some of the characters share similarities with characters from his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. O'Brien dedicated The Things They Carried to the men of the Alpha Company that he fought with during the war.

Recently Finished: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
It felt like an accomplishment to finish this masterpiece but I also didn't want it to end. Check out my review here: http://thekeytothegate.blogspot.com/2012/11/anna-karenina-by-leo-tolstoy.html

Coming Up: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This will be a re-read for me, having previously read this many years ago in high school English. My book club selected this as the next book for discussion. We rotate reading selection among members which leads to a variety of genres and authors.

About this book from wikipedia.com: Wuthering Heights is the only published novel by Emily Brontë, written between October 1845 and June 1846 and published in July of the following year. It was not printed until December 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre. A posthumous second edition was edited by Charlotte in 1850. The title of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors of the story. The narrative centres on the all-encompassing, passionate, but ultimately doomed love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and the people around them.

I look forward to discovering what you are reading this week!
Rebecca



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


The End!
     I finally finished Tolsoy's Anna Karenina! As you are aware if you have read some of my previous posts, I have been reading this one for quite a while. My Signet Classics copy weighed in at 807 pages but it was worth every sentence. Read more below!

Book Description (from wikipedia.org): 
     Anna Karenina is the tragedy of married aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The story starts when she arrives in the midst of a family broken up by her brother's unbridled womanizing—something that prefigures her own later situation, though with less tolerance for her by others.
     A bachelor, Vronsky is willing to marry her if she would agree to leave her husband Karenin, a government official, but she is vulnerable to the pressures of Russian social norms, her own insecurities and Karenin's indecision. Although Vronsky eventually takes Anna to Europe where they can be together, they have trouble making friends. Back in Russia, she is shunned, becoming further isolated and anxious, while Vronsky pursues his social life. Despite Vronsky's reassurances she grows increasingly possessive and paranoid about his imagined infidelity, fears losing control.
     A parallel story within the novel is of Levin, a country landowner who desires to marry Kitty, sister to Dolly and sister-in-law to Anna's brother Oblonsky. Levin has to propose twice before Kitty accepts. The novel details Levin's difficulties managing his estate, his eventual marriage, and personal issues, until the birth of Levin's first child.

My Thoughts:
     First published in installments in the periodical The Russian Messenger from 1873 to 1877, Anna Karenina was released in book form in 1878 but more than a century later, it still reads very modern. (The version I read was translated by David Magarshack in 1961 but more recent translations have been published.) The size and scope of the book seemed daunting when I first began. However, the story instantly captures the reader's attention from the opening line: "All happy families are like one another; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
     Divided into eight parts, the novel addresses and conquers so many themes that the book becomes an overview of life. Adultery, passion, love, loss, death, family, religion, politics, class, society- you name it, Tolstoy tackled it in this tome. According to wikipedia, William Faulkner described the book as "the best ever written." It would be hard to dispute this statement.
     There are many main characters that share the spotlight with Anna herself but it is the allure of her character that quietly drives the other storylines. The reader is not instantly introduced to Anna. The mystery of her builds up our excitement with the announcement that she is to visit her brother, Oblonsky, and his wife Dolly. This visit changes the course of Anna's life, and we follow her through her journey and demise.
     With the recent release of a new film adaptation starring Keira Knightley as Anna, the book is once again garnering great attention. Previously, the novel was also a hot topic as it was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 2004.
     There is much to digest in Anna Karenina, leaving one with the sense that everything cannot possibly be grasped as Tolstoy understood it. Background information on the making of the book outlines that Tolstoy incorporated many of his personal experiences into the storyline, including his relationship with his wife Sonya which he used to mold the characters of Levin and Kitty.
     Anna Karenina is a classic indeed. It has traveled gracefully through the ages and will continue to do so. In the final part, Levin begins to ponder the quintessential question we all form- What is the meaning of life? And can faith help us to define it? Is goodness the essential preservation of the soul? Levin's state of being brings the conclusion to the book and it is one of optimism and hope for a brighter future. What more could a reader ask for than a story that leads us on a search for a greater understanding of self? Anna Karenina- a perfect ten.

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Celebrate the Holidays with Books!


Have you ever finished a book and immediately thought- "Who else has read this?"- because it got you feeling all sorts of emotions and you just need to discuss it with someone?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, try creating a new family tradition by selecting a book for everyone to read in advance and discuss at dinner. This is a great way to encourage your family and friends to read more and share the experience with them.

A great selection would be Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. You can read more about this book here: http://thekeytothegate.blogspot.com/2012/04/unbroken.html

Books can have the power to unite us by opening our minds and hearts to new and different ways of thinking, a perfect way to celebrate the holidays and the joy of reading!

Rebecca

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reading Anna Karenina


I wanted to check in because I haven't had a new post in little while. I'm still reading Anna Karenina. I am nearing the half-way point. I am thoroughly enjoying the book but life has been interfering with my reading schedule as of late. This novel is much easier to read than I was anticipating and the storyline is incredible. I am excited to finish it and see the new film adaptation.

What are you currently reading?

Rebecca

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Banned Book Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Laurel-Rain from Story Corner for winning The Grapes of Wrath, my giveaway during the Banned Books Week Celebration!
Keep reading banned books and celebrating your freedom to read!
Stay tuned to The Key to the Gate for more giveaways soon!

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Ever Growing TBR Pile


I am excited to read these two books that I recently purchased from my local library's book sale: "The Devil in the the White City" by Erik Larson and "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien.

Have you read either of these? If so, what did you think?

Too many books and not enough time.

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celebraring the Freedom to Read Banned Books with The Grapes of Wrath


In celebration of Banned Books Week, I am jumping on the Banned Wagon and participating in a promotion hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Visit her blog at www.bookjourney.wordpress.com to check out featured posts from bloggers all around the country celebrating the freedom to read books of their choosing!

According to the ALA (American Library Association): A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books Week. Click here, www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/2000_2009, for a list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009.

I don't know about you, but if someone tells me not to read a certain book because its content is politically incorrect, too graphic or falsely exaggerated, my curiosity is instantly piqued. What is it that they don't want me to learn, understand, or experience?

This year for Banned Books Week, I chose to re-read my favorite book of all time, The Grapes of Wrath. I read this book the summer before my junior year of college and it has never left me. I think often of the Joad family that Steinbeck created with such depth of emotion and grace, especially during the struggling economy our nation is currently facing.

** I am giving away a new copy of The Grapes of Wrath to one, lucky commenter! Comment on this post and let me know what your favorite banned book is to be entered into the giveaway. The deadline to enter will be Friday, Oct. 12.


The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck


"In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."
                                                            ~ Chapter Twenty-Five

     To me, there is no book that deserves to be read and cherished more than John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Since its publication in 1939, the book has been challenged and/or banned for a variety of citations including: exaggeration of situation, communist sympathies, and obscene language and sexual references.
     The story follows the Joad family as they migrate west in search of work after being turned off the land they farmed in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. It is a story about the strength of family, the will to survive, both the kindness and cruelty of others, and the unbreakable American spirit. It is a story that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
     It will make you angry and sad. It will make you reevaluate what is important in your life. It will make you question how strong you could be under the worst of circumstances. Lastly, it will leave you hopeful, comforted that the human heart is ultimately good.
     If you haven't read The Grapes of Wrath, I greatly encourage you to do so. Stop whatever you are currently reading and head to your local library or bookstore. Read this book, share this book. It is the Great American Novel.

"Ever'thing we do- seems to me is aimed right at goin' on, Seems that way to me. Even gettin' hungry- even bein' sick; some die but the rest is tougher. Jus' try to live the day, 'jus the day."  
                                                                                      ~ Ma Joad

Book Description (from the Penguin cover): The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Tom's Cabin had summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. At once naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's fictional chronicle of the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s is perhaps the most American of American classics. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided of Haves and Have-Nots, Steinbeck created a drama that is intensively human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.

Keep Reading Banned Books and Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!
Rebecca

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Crisp Fall Days and Autumn Poetry

These photos are linked up to Saturday Snapshot, a super fun meme hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Head on over and check out some great photos!

The leaves in our part of the state are just beginning
to turn to shades of amber, russet, and gold.

The Autumn
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn and autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.


How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth

That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,

When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!


The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which one refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them --
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.


I hope everyone is having lovely fall weather and enjoying the new season.
Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner

Book Giveaway Winner
Congratulations to Sim of Chapter 1 - Take 1 for winning 'The Red Tent' giveaway!
Stay tuned for more giveaways coming soon!

Happy Fall!
Rebecca

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Art of Journaling

"The art of writing is the art of discovering
what you believe."  ~ Gustave Flaubert
Do you keep a journal? As a youth, I was an avid journal writer but as the years passed, I found it more difficult to take the time to quieten my mind and put my thoughts, concerns, hopes, and ideas into words. In June, I began to journal again, this time with more success.

I previously wrote about Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spritiual Path to Higher Creativity here:
http://thekeytothegate.blogspot.com/2012/05/finding-ones-way-through-reading.html. If you haven't checked out this book, it is a great resource to help you begin journaling. In The Artist's Way, Cameron suggests that we write "Morning Pages," three pages of stream of consciousness writing to help us cleanse our minds before setting out on our day.

Personally, I have found that writing in the morning is difficult for me. I am to pre-occupied and don't enjoy the writing process because I am too focused on getting the task done so that I can be out the door in time for work. Many journal writers prefer to write at night, including a daily gratitude list. Regardless of the time of day you write, or whether you write every day or just when you feel like it, I encourage you to pick up a pen and a notebook and put your thoughts onto paper. What do you see? Do you feel differently reading back the descriptions of your emotions? Does it change your way of thinking about a certain situation or individual?

A quick internet search can provide you with many journal prompts to get you started if you are feeling writer's block. Get writing...and begin your discovery of you!

"Fill your paper with breathings of your own heart."
                                           ~ William Wordsworth

Happy Reading...and Writing!
Rebecca

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Are You Reading this Week?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Just Finished: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This was my book club's latest selection and I enjoyed it much more than I had originally thought I would and plan to read the next one in the series.
Coming Up: After seeing the stunning movie trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley, I am going to attempt to read this Tolstoy classic. Many years ago, I read the first 200 pages of War and Peace, only to put it down and never pick it up again. I'm hoping to have more success with Anna Karenina.

If you have not seen the trailer yet, it is available here at imdb.com: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1781769/

There is still time to enter the new giveaway: The Red Tent

Simply leave a comment on this post (or the original announcement) by September 21, 2012. This is a copy I picked up at my local library's used book sale. I have bought many copies of this book the past few years to share with others. Read more about it here: http://thekeytothegate.blogspot.com/2012/09/titles-for-book-clubs-and-new-giveaway.html
Happy Reading!
Rebecca


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Celebrate the Freedom to Read!


Banned Books Week is
September 30 - October 6
"30 Years of Liberating Literature"

From the American Library Association:
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books Week. Click here, www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/2000_2009, for a list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009.

Take part in Banned Books Week: Read a book from the Banned Books list and share your thoughts with others. Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!

Rebecca

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