Tuesday, December 8, 2020

2021 Reading Challenges -- An Ambitious List

Another new year is coming in and I've cleared the entire 2021 calendar for reading...

Ha! I wish! Really, though. I've spent years trying to find ways to clear my schedule so I could stay home more and do the things I love. 2020 pretty much did that for me so, in the words of my prophetic 2018 post on upcoming reading challenges: "In short, I'm staying home. Forever."

I've looked over several awesome reading challenges out there and have settled on those below. Mt. TBR is still threatening an eruption and I've got to get ahead of it!

This challenge takes place right here at Belle's Library. You may read any book published during or about the Victorian era (1837-1901). 

I'm hosting this brand new challenge this year. Read all the things you missed out on as a kid---or revisit some old favorites! 

This challenge encourages us to read a minimum of four books and offers monthly themed challenges.

This one is new to me this year, though I do think I participated once upon a time. The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at The Intrepid Reader. Choose your era and go to town! I think I'll attempt the Medieval Level at 15 historical fiction books. Use hashtag: #histficreadingchallenge on social media.

I actually have quite a bit of Georgian/Regency books on my TBR. I love this era!

This one is new to me this year: the Back to the Classic's Challenge from Books and Chocolate. She offers challenges and a grand prize! Read anything published before 1971---easy peasy!

This is a set-it-yourself challenge that runs for 5 years. Commit to reading at least 50 classics in 5 years.  You can see my list here: The Classics Club.

Daughters of Promise runs the Brighter Winter Reading Program during the months of January and February. They offer a challenge sheet and prizes!

What great reading challenges have you discovered for 2021?

The 2021 Children's Books Reading Challenge -- for Adults! #2021ChildrensBooksChallenge

I've just about finished signing up for all the reading challenges I'm planning on participating in for 2021. I've browsed my TBR shelves to prepare and there's one unexpected thing I've found: I have a lot of children's books there. 

I know a lot of adults really enjoy reading youth or young adult fiction but, other than the occasional classic, I've never really been into it in my adulthood. Still, I must be somewhat interested or I wouldn't have 10-15 or so children's books hanging out on my TBR!

So, I've created the Children's Books Reading Challenge...for Adults! Sure, I read with my kids all the time---but this year I'm challenging myself to read more children's books by myself.

Want to join? It's easy! Just let me know in the comments below. If you have a blog or a Goodreads account you'd like to link up, even better! Then, every time you read a book for the challenge, just come back here and let us know about it with your thoughts or link in the comments. That way we can all be inspired! Let's use this hashtag: #2021ChildrensBooksChallenge on social media so we can find one another easier.

What books qualify? That one's simple: it's up to you! Anything you think could be found in the children's section of a library or bookstore is applicable, as well as timeless classics that the whole family would enjoy. Here is a list I made from Wikipedia that I'll be working from.
I can't wait to see what everyone is reading!


2021 Victorian Reading Challenge #2021VictorianReadingChallenge

The last six years, I've read everything "Victorian" I could get my hands on. I still can't seem to get enough, so this year I'm renewing my commitment toward Victorian studies. I'm still fascinated and there's still so much to learn! Read on for a phantasmagorical reading challenge for 2021---
Victorian style!

More than any other time in modern history, the Victorian Age saw the most change to European and American societies. Many agrarian, rural communities transitioned to urban centers of industry. Men and women began to talk about and take steps toward redefining their traditional roles. Theories about God, the origin of man, and the practice of religion began to be publicly put forth, challenged, refuted, or solidified. The Victorian Age saw a great revolution in the western world and it's a topic that fascinates me endlessly.

Over the past few years, I've collected a good stack of Victorian novels and have several on my Christmas list. I spent a week in England a few years ago, visiting the Brontes' old stomping grounds, and even wrote and taught a class on Victorian Sci Fi and Fantasy literature. This year's reading challenge will be all about the Victorians.

The Rules

*Books published during the Victorian age (1837-1901) are acceptable.

*Books written about the Victorian age are acceptable, no matter what year they were published.

*Stories are not limited to Victorian Britain. Read about what was going on in other parts of the world during this time!

The challenge is open to everyone everywhere---you don't have to have a blog or site to join. Just comment with the link to your online review (Amazon, Goodreads, BookCrossing, or elsewhere) and we'll come visit you.

How to Participate

Leave a comment below letting me know you're in and add your blog link if you have one. You can link directly to your home page or to a post you've written about the challenge. You can join at any point during 2021. Share this challenge with your friends so they can join, too!

Every time you finish a book for the challenge, come back and leave your thoughts/link in the comments---then we can all be inspired! Also, here's a hashtag for us to use so we can find one another easier: #2021VictorianReadingChallenge

Monday, December 7, 2020

Ten Days (or so) with Nellie Bly: Two Book Reviews

Book Description: "Nellie Bly's journal of being institutionalized for 10 days. An expose of how the 'insane' were treated." In 1887, journalist Nellie Bly convinced authorities she was insane so she could get the inside scoop on what was going on inside Bellevue Hospital, a local insane asylum for women. She found that many were put there not because they were insane but because they were in the way of their families or were immigrants who couldn't communicate well. Once she was "rescued" by friends and let out, she published her findings which led to reforms and more investigations.

This little book sparked a weeks long reading and research venture on the life of Nellie Bly and Victorian sensational novelists. It's not super well-written--- more a culmination of her notes with a little narration thrown in here and there. I found it difficult to follow chronologically but did feel I got the basic gist once I was done. Very awesome that her undercover work caused changes to be made within the facility and probably others too. After finishing this I couldn't get rid of a nagging feeling that I had another book on her. After a little digging, I found that I did have another---Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman (see below) is the story of her race around the world to attempt to beat Phileas Fogg's time. I read that and learned a ton more about Nellie Bly.

Book Description: "In 1889: Two women, successful journalists and writers, set off in a desperate race in opposite directions, each determined to outdo Jules Verne's fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days."  True Story!

I read this on the heels of Nellie Bly's Ten Days in a Mad-House. After finishing that one, I knew the name sounded familiar so I dug through my TBR shelf and, sure enough, I did have this! Yay!

I learned a LOT reading this book, but my main take-away was a reminder that there are many facets to Feminism. I saw a children's book the other day promoting Bly as a Feminist. I'm not totally sure she fits what our culture would call Feminist, but in many ways, she represents the kind of Feminist I would have been in those days. I doubt modern ones who would label her this way have read her take on Susan B. Anthony: "When she met Susan B. Anthony, president of the (National Woman Suffrage) convention, she did not hesitate to tell her that, 'if women wanted to succeed they had to go out as women. They had to make themselves as pretty and attractive as possible.'"

Speaking of controversial topics, I was a little shocked at the behaviour of the boatmen in Egypt who rowed up to the ship to help take passengers to land. They coerced/forced the English passengers into their boats, sometimes violently, and then held them captive in the water for payment. Westerners of those days are now looked down on for their prejudices toward people from other parts of the world, but if stories like these, as well as those about being swarmed by beggars when stepping off the boat, circulated back to home, it's no wonder they took this view. This is definitely barbaric behaviour.

On the other hand, I learned a lot about the British empire, what they did to acquire their empire, and the general arrogance of imperialism. I was not impressed.

There were not nearly as many details about Bisland's trip as Bly's. Perhaps it's because Bisland didn't keep as detailed a diary. Much of the portions of the book devoted to Bisland were padded with related info about someone or something else.

People were shocked that Bly could get by with so little luggage---yet she did have the advantage over Bisland of having some time to think things through. I think it's crazy rotten that Bisland literally had a couple hours between learning she was going to being put on a train. My surprise was with the fact that Bly, this popular reporter known for fighting injustice, didn't report on any of the inhumane issues she saw. Perhaps she was only an advocate when there was a clear safety net nearby.

I spent almost the entire book rooting for Bly, only to be so disgusted by her arrogance and dishonesty at the end that I switched my loyalty to Bisland. I lost quite a bit of respect for Bly---especially when she made up stories that Bisland had attempted to sabotage her. To make matters worse, Bisland's boss later blamed her losing on her inexperience and ineptitude. Poor girl didn't even want to make the trip in the first place!

The book lost me a couple times when it became heavy on the war talk and there were several instances of repeated details, but overall, I really did enjoy reading this and will likely hold on to it for awhile in case I choose to use it with my high schoolers.

My favorite quote was this one describing Bisland's thoughts while riding through the English countryside: "It was a landscape she felt she already knew from books; riding through it she was not learning but remembering." That's how I feel, too, when I'm in England.