24in48 Readathon TBR

This weekend, (in less than 4 hours actually) I'll be participating in the 24in48 readathon. I've never done a lengthy readathon like this, but with an over-zealous summer reading list, and August fast approaching, I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a bit of a dent in that list of mine.

The readathon takes place this weekend, Saturday and Sunday (July 22nd-23rd), and the goal is to read for 24 out of the 48 hours. You can break up the hours in whichever way you'd like over the two days, so commitments don't need to be missed. And there's plenty of time for sleep, a shower and meals. There are some great tips, guidelines and even prizes for the readathon, for more info and/or to sign up visit 24in48.com.

I've been making lists, calculating reading times, and putting together the books I'd like to read. It has been recommended to mix up your reading material so you don't burn out. So I also have a few comics, journals, and even an audiobook I can pop on, if I need to take a bit of a break. I've been meaning to crack open a few new adult coloring books, so an audiobook will be the perfect accompaniment. I also have a plethora of favorite snacks, comfy loungewear, candles and even a jaunt to a favorite cafe planned for tomorrow, to keep me motivated. I'm all about the cozy and comfy vibes!

I decided to put together a TBR for the readathon, since I'm a bit of an organizational freak. And, having a bevy of books to choose from, will help me complete the 24 hour goal. These are the books I chose:

1. Hum If You Don't Know The Words
I'm about half way through this, and can see why this has been raved about. Set in the 1970's, the story is told through the voices of Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl and Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman. Both, cross paths unexpectedly during the Soweto Uprising. And their alternating perspectives, weave a story rich with emotion, taking a close look at racism, loss, and the definition of family.

2. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
This is an ARC I received from Flatiron Books and will be released in September 2017. The book is brilliant so far. And reminiscent of J. D. Salinger, Truman Capote and Joan Didion. I think Cherise Wolas will be an author to watch out for after this debut novel.

3. Slightly Foxed, The Real Reader's Quarterly – Issue No. 54 Summer 2017
This is my favorite literary magazine! I look forward to the new publication (released quarterly) as soon as I've finished an issue. I've been savoring this summer issue, since it's release. And this will be the perfect in between read, when I need a break during the readathon. Slightly Foxed introduces you to books that are no longer new or popular today, but stand the test of time. With a good dose of humor, and lightheartedness each essay is an absolute delightful.

4. Home
Last month I read Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead for my Real Readers book club and absolutely fell in love with this moving story! Gilead is part of a trilogy, and Home is the second book, which tells the same story in Gilead, but from the perspective of a different character. You can see my mini review for Gilead on my Instagram account. Robinson will forevermore be an author I pick up.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
One that's been on my list since 2010 (according to Goodreads). I've had it recommended to me, several times. I've also been told it is very French, which I love, and discusses, philosophy, culture, Paris and language. I'd also like to see the movie after reading the book.

6. The Dream Keeper's Daughter
Another ARC provided by JKS Communications and Ballantine Books. This one deals with time travel, archeology, lost love and a plantation in 1816 Barbados during an historic slave uprising. I can't wait to get to this one, it sounds fab!

7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Another one that's been on my list for ages. I love the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, but haven't gotten to the third in the series until now. Nordic Noir is one of my favorite genres; dark, thrilling, with lots of twists. Lisbeth Salander is also a favorite literary character; a strong, female protagonist is always fun to read about! Mysteries, crime fiction and thrillers also tend to be my go to, if I'm ever in a slump. So this will be perfect if I need a pick me up during the readathon.

8. The Moonstone
The Moonstone is the book choice for my Real Reader's book club for July. I have about 150 pages left in this classic, and have really enjoyed it thus far. It is considered the very first detective novel. A young heiress inherits a stunning diamond on her 18th birthday. Unaware that the precious gem is known as The Moonstone and has a dark history, after being stolen from a Hindu shrine. When it goes missing, divergent accounts share details, making the recovery of the diamond complex and full of twists and turns.

This may seem like quite a few books, but I wanted to make sure I had a great stack to pull from, for the full 24 hours. I'll be posting updates of my progress on Instagram, Twitter and Litsy (@catebutler). Followed by a wrap-up once the weekend is over.

There's still plenty of time to join, or even just pop in to say hello over the weekend. If you do participate, I'd love to know what you're reading. Just comment below, or let me know where you'll be posting, so I can check it out.

Cate xx

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Blog Tour Review: The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George


Title: The Confessions of Young Nero
Author: Margaret George
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Published: March 7, 2017
ISBN: 9780451473387
My Rating: 4/5

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.

I vaguely remember learning about Nero, in one of my history classes in high school. As an adult reader, when I tried to draw forth an image of him, all I could remember was the saying, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”, something about him killing Christians in a diabolical way, and how he was one of the most notorious Caesars. And yet, before the tyrade, murdering and corruption, he, like all mankind, was once an innocent baby, a young child and an awkward teen, not yet, the Nero of legend. This is the crux of Margaret George’s new novel.

When Berkeley Publishing contacted me on Instagram and asked if I’d like to read and review an historical fiction novel featuring Ancient Rome, and Nero’s early life, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only is historical fiction one of my favorite genres, but I’ve had an obsession for Greek and Roman myths, history and civilizations, since 6th grade history.

I can always tell when a book will hook, when I have a hard time putting it down, and this book, checking in at over 500 pages actually read very quickly. Quite the surprise, when I arrived at the last five chapters in just a few short reading sessions. The narrative, as told from the perspective of Nero, retells his life story, from his earliest recollection of almost being drowned by his deviant uncle Caligula, up to the moment, he is told, Rome is burning.

Throw in a Shakespearean number of murders, including the death of several Emperors, his own Mother, Agrippina, who is also another infamous character from history, (she’d be a fascinating character to write about in more detail), and a few friends and countryman who didn’t quite see eye to eye with the vision of Nero, you quickly find the book has a rollicking pace. My favorite part of the book included the subtle and twisted changes that begin to shape and mold young Nero from a good intentioned and dutiful son to the historical figure he is best known for. There were several parts, that any modern psychiatrist would enjoy, where Nero begins to speak of himself as spilt into three different people.

There is also a wealth of insight into Ancient Roman life, not only about the upper echelons, but also the daily ruling and lawmaking of Rome throughout the world. Including several references to Britannia, Boudicca sacking London, and even a moment where Nero meets and is impressed with the Christian prophet Paul; who is arrested and taken to Rome to be tried by Nero himself. Ancient Christianity in this book is known as an upstart and dangerous new religion, based on the teachings of a man named Christ, who had died some 30 odd years before Nero’s rule . Kind of fun to see other historical figures make an appearance as contemporaries of Nero.

Overall, Margaret George, does a great job mixing in historical facts documented during this time in history. As well as providing an interpretation of what may have happened when Agrippina died mysteriously (all historical documents, differ on this point), how the great fire in Rome started and finally how Nero became the Nero of history. In truth, Nero may have been an inauspicious man who loved the arts and longed for the glories and beauty of previous civilizations. Not the corrupt and vile man he is painted to be in historical accounts, including the Bard, himself.

If you enjoy historical fiction, have a fascination with Roman history, or are intrigued by the reigns of Roman rulers, I can’t recommend this enough. It was truly a treat to read.

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February Wrap-Up

February was a bit of a slower month of reading for me, I usually average at least 10 books each month, but with a long and persistent cold, a month full of deadlines and various projects, my reading time was cut down quite a bit. This being said, the books I did read, I enjoyed immensely, and being able to take a bit more time, enjoying and savoring each book, with plenty of time to contemplate, actually made this a slower month of reading in a good way.

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
My Rating: 4/5
Anna Karenina has been one of those daunting books that has been on my list for years. This year, one of my big reading goals, is to tackle those books that one would classify as “literary fears”. Books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf, or on my Goodreads TBR list, etc. With the publication of The New Vintage Russian Classics Series by Vintage Books, and a book club they are hosting called #readingtherussians, I decided I’d like to join them, taking down a few of the Russian titles lingering on my shelves, plus it’s a good excuse to buy their gorgeous editions! What can I say about Anna Karenina, I think I’ve fallen in love with Tolstoy. His writing is fresh, easy to read and honestly flows like a new contemporary novel, not something written in 1873. Even though it took me a bit to warm up to the characters, and I never fully empathized or liked the title character, Anna Karenina. I appreciate that Tolstoy addressed tough issues, such as fidelity in marriage, extramarital affairs, lust, sex, desire, the rights of women, the uprise of the lower classes, and ultimately the consequences one faces when one gives into temptation, and disregards the norms and rules of society. After all is said and done, if this is a novel that you’re a bit leery or nervous about reading, just pick it up and give it a try, there is so much depth and richness in this beautifully written novel.

Purchase Book: Book Depository

FRAMLEY PARSONAGE by Anthony Trollope
My Rating: 4/5
Oh how I adore Anthony Trollope! I have absolutely enjoyed my foray into the world of Trollope and the Barsetshire Chronicles. Framley Parsonage, is the fourth book in the series, and I think one of my absolute favorites. I’ve been reading these lovely editions with a group on IG, and haven’t we enjoyed #trolloping together. Trollope has such a wonderful sense of humor, and his little asides to the gentle reader are my favorite parts in each of his novels. He also writes the most wonderful female characters, most if not all of them have a strong opinion, sense of oneself, and can be seen as quite spirited and modern for the time. I love how they are the standout characters in his novels, not the men, who are meant to be in charge. Usually even his most liked male characters will still take a back seat role, when it comes to character development and depth, when up against his female component. Quite progressive indeed, Mr. Trollope! Even though, Trollope can be a bit long winded at times, his quick wit, subtle humor and ability to address human nature makes these books a sheer delight to read. And again, even though he wrote over 150 years ago, his ability to understand and write plausible characters, and understand human behavior makes this modern reader adore him even more.

Purchase Book: Book Depository

THE VOYAGE OUT by Virginia Woolf
My Rating: 4.5/5
Woolf is another literary fear I’ve wanted to address for quite some time, and after mentioning it several times on IG, @coffeecoffeecat and I decided to start reading her works in publication order. Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, which Woolf started working on, as early as 1905, remained the novel she continued to edit, change, and re-publish throughout her lifetime. As I sit here, trying to organize my final thoughts for this novel, I find myself struggling a bit, not because I don’t have anything to say about the novel, but because I have so much to discuss and talk about. Reading this book, took me back to university courses, the excitement of discovering an author and work that strikes something deep inside of you. I loved underlining passages thought the novel, the notes in the margins, and how often, I had to stop and reflect on what I was reading. The beauty of Woolf’s sentences, and descriptions, simply move you. Even though Woolf is writing a full century before I read the novel, the themes, thoughts and worries, Woolf’s characters discuss in this novel, could easily be placed in our century. Woolf’s main character Rachel, reminds me quite bit of other literary heroines; a touch of Jane Eyre, with her naivety, and goodness, and quite a bit of Marianne Dashwood; young, eager to find love, and passionate about all that she sees and does. But, this is Woolf, so, The Voyage Out doesn’t end quite as fairytale-ish as an Austen or a Brontë. Many of the personal issues and concerns of Woolf made an appearance throughout the novel, including characters in her latter novels, the freedoms and rights of women, the rise of the lower classes, marriage and fidelity, how to handle a changing world order, and even a hint of the exoticism. For my first foray with Woolf, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

Purchase Book: Book Depository

THE POISONED CHOCOLATES CASE by Anthony Berkeley
My Rating: 4/5
February’s choice for the #BLCCChallenge was one of my favorite so far. I’ve always loved golden age mysteries and these editions feature some of the best that I’ve read in this genre. This was such a fun set up for a crime novel, and was actually highly admired by the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.

In 1928, Berkeley had conceived the idea of inviting fellow detective novelists to meet up for dinner and conversation – often about real life murder cases, which he found fascinating, and which regularly provided plot material for his novels and those of his friends. The dinners proved popular, and Berkeley soon came up with the idea of forming a members’ club for leading crime writers. The result was the Detection Club, which came into being in 1930, adopting a formal set of rules and a constitution a couple of years later; the club thrives to this day. Its fictional forerunner was the Crimes Circle which features in this novel.

This novel, takes the multiple solutions which members of the Crimes Circle formulate to explain the poisoning of the victim in the novel. Each of the amateur detectives present their theories, and although are convincing when being presented quickly become disproved. I thought I had guessed the solution to the murder, but was pleasantly surprised when the truth was finally revealed. An added perk to this British Library edition, were two additional solutions; one written in 1979 by a young writer who knew Berkeley, and the other written by Martin Edwards, who writes several of the introductions to these editions, and is a prolific  author himself.

Purchase Book: Book Depository

FIVE LITTLE PIGS by Agatha Christie
My Rating: 5/5
February’s choice for the @maidensofmurder book club has quickly become one of my favorite Christie’s. When Hercule Poirot is hired by a captivating young women, to prove the innocence of her mother, accused of poisoning her father 16 years ago, the task of uncovering the truth seems even too much for the brilliant mind of Poirot. But, as he proceeds to interview the five individuals present at the time of the murder, he cleverly uses the childhood rhyme, Five Little Pigs to solve the murder. After listening to each of the accounts in person, he then asks the witnesses to write down their exact movements and memory of the day of the crime. What ensues is a quick paced tale of lust, passion, deceit, anger, selfishness and ultimately tragedy. I must say, Christie who is notorious for throwing out red herrings, easily tricks you into thinking you know the answer, until the truth is revealed at the very end. This book will be at the top of my Christie favorites, including, And Then There Were None, Murder On the Orient Express, and Crooked House.

Purchase Book: Book Depository

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The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

I’ve had Howard’s book, The Light Years on my list for quite some time. Recently, the Cazalet Chronicles have been popping up all over the place, including a fabulous article in the Winter 2016 Issue of Slightly Foxed. After all these coincidental prompts, I knew I needed to bump this up to one of my next reads.

After doing a little bit of research about the novel, many readers and reviewers have compared this to Downton Abbey and I do agree to an extent. Throughout the novel, one follows the story of multiple characters both upstairs and downstairs, with the main focus on the large Cazalet clan, whose lives and misadventures unfold through each of their perspectives in nicely packaged sections. With a large cast of characters, including several small children, the first part of the novel was a bit confusing. I found myself almost needing to jot down notes, to keep all of the characters and storylines straight. But, after a little flipping back and forth, I soon found myself completely engrossed in each of their stories.

The book is divided into three sections, between two summers, and two years – 1937 and 1938. Even though both years take place before the outbreak of war, there is an underlying tension, especially in the 1938 sections, that to me, alludes to the trials and horrors of the approaching war. During the first section, the stories of the family are quite idyllic with a warm summer glow that envelops the section, fresh love, days at the beach and a family life that we all long for. But something changes in the second section, LATE SUMMER 1938, and that gleam and glow that was apparent the summer before is tarnished – the children are older, and a little less innocent, cracks are starting to appear in relationships and that looming knowledge that war is just around the corner, and a changing world order, starts to affect the narrative.

I’ve always had a fascination with England during the two World Wars. So the setting and time of this novel was perfect in my opinion. I’ve also recently discovered one of my favorite types of fiction focus on the everyday lives of people, in particular the role of women in the household. This simple formula of focusing on a family that is bound together by love, tragedy, happiness, sadness, and ultimately the outbreak of war, is what makes this book in my opinion. Howard has taken a complex and diverse family and created identities and personalities as seen in a typical family during the 1930’s and in doing so, weaves a story that sweeps you up, even as a modern reader.

There are four more books in the Cazalet Chronicles, all follow the family up to the 1950’s. I’m anxious to see where the story goes, how the characters grow and develop during the years of WWII and the aftermath in the years to come.

Favorite Quotes:

The trouble about being a saint was that it didn’t seem to be very nice for them at the time, only afterwards, for other people, after they’d died. Working a miracle would be marvelous – being martyred would not. But supposing you could be a saint without being a martyr?

That’s what ordinary life is, isn’t it? Carrying on as usual.

My Rating: 4 Stars


Book Details:

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Pan MacMillan (September 1, 2013)
Language: English

 9780330323154

Purchase Book: Book Depository

 

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Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

“It was a stern night landscape. The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void. As the stars came nearer, the sky retreated deeper and deeper into the night colour… the whole of the night scene came together in a clear, tranquil harmony.”
~ Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country

Another book I’ve been reading for @simondavidthomas’s #1947club. SNOW COUNTRY by Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata is a beautiful and powerful story of doomed love set amidst the majestic mountains of Japan. Kawabata has been compared to classic haiku masters, using words and descriptions to convey a consciousness of beauty through opposites. Even though the main story of the novel is quite heartbreaking, Kawabata is able to paint scenes of beauty throughout by describing the resplendence of the snow country.

Having completed the novel, I do think reading this for a class or for coursework at university would have been intriguing. I feel there was so much, I may have missed, being unfamiliar with various parts of the Japanese culture; the role and history of the geisha in traditional Japanese writing, and a significant theme of colors throughout the novel, in particular, the colors, red, white and black as well as other themes and imagery.

The novel does have an underlying tone of gloom and hopelessness throughout, which may be off putting for some. But, if you enjoy rich descriptions of beautiful landscape and the study of raw human emotion, this is worth a read.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review can also be found on Goodreads here

You can find this book available in paperback through Amazon

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