Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Challenges for the New Year and Some New Historical Fiction

Welcome to the first Sunday Salon of the new year! What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'llmill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake.... All virtually! There are over 500 bloggers who participate in The Sunday Salon, so if you enjoy reading, you're in good company!

The new year is also that time of year we look back on the year and make resolutions for the future. It's been a fun reading year. I estimate I read close to 100 books. I love reading blog posts that have the exact number of books and pages read. I think this year one of my resolutions is to keep a tally of pages read, just for the fun of it. Do you keep any reading lists during the year? I usually don't make a lot of resolutions, but I do enjoy participating in reading challenges that are kind of like making a resolution to read so many books or a particular type of book, but I think it's less stressful to challenge myself versus making a resolution. This year, what challenges are you going to participate in? This week I'll be posting the details of the challenges I'm going to join, but I can tell you what they are now!

First, since I love historical fiction, I'm going to join the 2011 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry, who are a group of readers who enjoy historical fiction. Anyone can join, you can read as few as 2 historical fiction books, or as many as 20. Right now there are 68 people signed up to participate. The next challenge I'm going to join in, is the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011 hosted by Tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn. Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer, and has a unique way of telling a story. He's wildy popular in Japan. I've been meaning to read Murakami for The Japanese Reading Challenge, but just never got around to cracking a spine, so this is my way of nudging myself to do so. Another challenge I'm joining is the 2011 Graphic Novels Challenge. I stepped out of the box last year and read a few really interesting graphic novels. I've discovered it's not just about comic books, and there really are some great stories and artwork in this genre, SO, I'm up for discovering some more great novels in this medium. This reading challenge is being hosted by Vasilly of Thoughts of an Eclectic Reader.

So, now that I'm thinking of historical fiction, I did happen to discover a few books this weekend that might just work in that category! Here they are...

The Metropolis Case by Mattew Gallaway... From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart’s yearning for connection. Martin is a lawyer from post-9/11 Manhattan, In 1960 Anna is destined to be a grande dame of the international stage, Maria is a teenager in the 1970's with a voice that takes her from the doldrums of Pittsburgh to Julliard, and Lucein a young Parisian at the birth of the modern ear, the early 1860's in a bid to become a singer for the ages. This unlikely quartet is bound together across centuries and continents by the strange and spectacular history of Richard Wagner’s masterpiece opera Tristan and Isolde. Grandly operatic in scale, their story is one of music and magic, love and death, betrayal and fate. Matthew Gallaway’s riveting debut will have readers spellbound from the opening page to its breathtaking conclusion.

I love stories that sweep back and forth in time, and weave the stories of the characters from different eras together. Not all authors are able to make it work, but this novel has already gotten quite a bit of buzz about Michael's "lyrical prose", and "engaging story". So this is my first hopeful pick of 2011.

Corrag by Susan Fletcher... The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan's hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end - but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose - and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make - and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.

I love the heart of this book- the clans , the politics of the day, the witchcraft "trial", and I've heard mixed reviews of this book. People who've read it say that the prose, the beautiful lyrical writing is what to love about this book, and that there isn't a lot of plot. But I'm still game to read this and make my own mind up.

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones... From Publishers Weekly: Medieval Spain's caste system can't keep a good man down in this absorbing epic, a Spanish-language bestseller. Arnau Estanyol, son of a fugitive peasant, starts out in 14th-century Barcelona as a lowly porter who carries stone blocks to a cathedral construction site and ends up a rich moneylender who saves the city from pillaging and frees the serfs of a barony he acquires by marriage. Alas, his dizzying social assent and defiance of the feudal order provoke enraged aristocrats—his status-obsessed wife included—into siccing the Inquisition on him. Arnau is a kindhearted, somewhat passive figure who combines piety, industry and cosmopolitanism to challenge a corrupt, dogmatic church and a parasitic nobility. The plot features thwarted romance, war, plague, immolations and self-immolations, set in a Machiavellian world ruled by privilege, cronyism and brute force. The melodrama is sometimes laid on thick, but Falcones's rich portrait of medieval society is fascinating.

Although people were quick to compare this to Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, the cathedral is not central to this story. The buzz is that this novel really captures the history of Spain in this era, so people unfamiliar with (or think they already "know" the history) will read about Spain from a unique perspective.

What books are you excited about for 2011?! How about ebooks? Did any of you receive a new eReader during the Holidays?! As much as I love my "dead tree books", I do enjoy my eReader too! I think publishers are going to really embrace the ebook this year. Let's just hope prices remain around the $9.99 price point. I just hate seeing the ebook costing more than the hardcover or paperback!

Check back this week for the dedicated posts about the challenges- I'll include all the particulars so you can see if you may want to join in. And if you're hosting any challenges, please share! Even though I may not have time to join in, I'd love to hear about them!

Happy reading... Suzanne


Beth F said...

Happy new year. I have Cathedral by the Sea in audio -- I'll get to it eventually.

Mason Canyon said...

Looks like you're in for a busy year of reading with the challenges. You have several good books to start with. Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with wonderful reading.

Thoughts in Progress

Literary Feline said...

I love reading all the wrap up posts this time of year too. :-)

Good luck with your challenges this year! They all sound like they will be fun. All of the historical novels you are considering for the one challenge sound good. I'll be watching for your reviews if you do decide to read them.

I hope you have a Happy New Year, Suzanne!

Anonymous said...

I just finished a new historical fiction book called Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Draper. You can see the review on my website

Marg said...

Welcome to the Historical Fiction challenge!

I have been wanting to read Cathedral of the Sea for the longest time!

I hope you enjoy your reads.

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