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Now that 2013 has come to an end, it’s time to count up the challenge books and see where I stand.

american revolution buttonWar Through the Generations: 2013 American Revolution Reading Challenge

Goal: 4-10

Books read: 3

Thoughts: I’m not happy that I failed to complete my own challenge, but I just wasn’t motivated to read about this war, even though I do find it interesting.

1. The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

2. Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

3. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

historical fiction reading challenge

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

Goal: 25+

Books read: 37 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: This is always an easy challenge for me, so in 2014, I will set a higher goal to see if I can clear more historical fiction books off my shelves.

1. The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock

2. Circles of Time by Phillip Rock

3. The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

4. The Klipfish Code by Mary Casanova

5. A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock

6. The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

7. The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

8. The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

9. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

10. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

11. The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power

12. The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

13. The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

14. The Wars by Timothy Findley

15. Seduction by M.J. Rose

16. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

17. Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

18. The Last Van Gogh by Alyson Richman

19. Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

20. Defiance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

21. Victory by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

22. I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

23. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

24. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

25. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

26. Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw

27. Gracianna by Trini Amador

28. Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

29. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik

30. Rising Sun, Falling Shadow by Daniel Kalla

31. The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons

32. Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence by Stephanie Baumgartner

33. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

34. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

35. Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

36. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

37. City of Women by David R. Gillham

P&P bicentenary

The Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

Goal: 9-12

Books read: 21 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this challenge, and I’m thinking about doing a Jane Austen challenge on my own in 2014.

1. Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange

2. Pride & Prejudice (Marvel Illustrated) by Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus

3. The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

4. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

5. All Hallow’s Eve by Wendi Sotis

6. For All the Wrong Reasons by Mary Lydon Simonsen

7. A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park by Mary Lydon Simonsen

8. A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

9. Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen

10. Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton

11. Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance

12. Mr. Darcy’s Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth

13. The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler

14. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

15. First Impressions by Alexa Adams

16. Second Glances by Alexa Adams

17. Holidays at Pemberley by Alexa Adams

18. Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan

19. “Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling” by Alexa Adams

20. Project Darcy by Jane Odiwe

21. Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

ireland reading challenge

Ireland Reading Challenge 2013

Goal: 4

Books read: 3

Thoughts: I love reading books set in Ireland, but time just got away from me this year. I had a 4th book picked out, but just didn’t get to it.

1. The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

2. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

3. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

dive into poetry challenge

Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013

Goal: 1

Books read: 2 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: I’m glad Serena challenges me to read poetry every year. I don’t think I could read as many poetry books as she does, but I’ll try to read a couple more next time around.

1. Eyes, Stones by Elana Bell

2. Love: Ten Poems by Pablo Neruda

Literature & War Readalong 2013

Books read: 4/12

Thoughts: I really love these readalongs, and even though I didn’t get to participate every month (either because of time or because I couldn’t get the book through my local library), I enjoyed reading the discussion posts. With the focus on WWI in 2014, I hope to participate more often.

February — The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

March — The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

April — The Wars by Timothy Findley

June — Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw

goodreads challengeGoodreads 2013 Reading Challenge — COMPLETED 🙂

Read: 102/100 books

Final thoughts:  Overall, I think I did really well, just got a little pressed for time at the end of the year.

Did any of you participate in any reading challenges last year?  How did you fare?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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chains

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Yes, she could hurt me.  She’d already done so.  But what was one more beating?  A flogging, even?  I would bleed, or not.  Scar, or not.  Live, or not.  But she could no longer harm Ruth, and she could not hurt my soul, not unless I gave it to her.

(from Chains, page 247)

Chains is the first book in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America series set during the Revolutionary War.  The novel follows 13-year-old Isabel, a slave denied the freedom promised to her and her younger sister, Ruth, when their owner died.  The girls are sold to a Loyalist couple, the Locktons, and taken to New York City shortly before it is invaded by the British in 1776.

Isabel is determined to secure their freedom, and she foolishly believes a fellow slave, Curzon, when he tells her that his master would be able to help in exchange for information about the Locktons’ involvement in plots against General Washington and his troops.  When Ruth is sold and shipped to the West Indies, Isabel finds herself locked in a battle with the cruel Madame Lockton — a war as fierce as the one being fought between the Patriots and the British and every bit as deadly.

Anderson’s novel is geared toward middle-grade readers, but there is much for adults to admire as well.  The passages from relevant historical documents at the beginning of every chapter were informative and paved the way for further research.  Anderson doesn’t sugar-coat the cruelties of slavery and war, but she doesn’t go overboard with graphic descriptions either.  The punishment inflicted on Isabel at the request of Madame Lockton is horrific, yet it emphasizes Isabel’s status as property and makes her evolution into a strong young woman who reclaims her scar for herself all the more satisfying.

Chains is a novel rich in historical detail, from the confusing plight of slaves in choosing sides to the vivid description of the fire that tore through the city, leaving hundreds homeless as winter approached, and the deplorable conditions endured by the Rebel prisoners after the invasion.  Anderson brilliantly tells the story in the first person point of view of Isabel, which not only lets readers get to know and care about her but also allows for an objective portrayal of both the Americans and the British, neither of which were the “good guys” when it came to the treatment of slaves.  Isabel’s strength carries the book forward at a brisk pace, making it somewhat disappointing when this installment ends without a satisfying sense of resolution.  But that’s okay because the second book in the series, Forge, is waiting patiently in my to-read stack.  I can’t wait to see where Anderson takes Isabel next.

Book 3 for the American Revolution Reading Challenge

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 36 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed Chains from the public library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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chainsSerena and I are hosting a read-along of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson in September for the War Through the Generations American Revolution Reading Challenge.  You don’t have to be taking part in the challenge to join us for the read-along.

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom.  Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel.  When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion.  She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.  (publisher’s summary)

Here’s the schedule:

Sept. 1-6: Chapters 1-10

Sept. 7-13: Chapters 11-24 (end Part 1)

Sept. 14-20: Chapters 25-36

Sept. 21-27: Chapters 37-45 (the end)

Discussion questions will be posted on War Through the Generations each Friday during the month, and you can answer them on your blog or in the comments…or pose your own questions or chat about whatever catches your fancy.  It’s up to you!

If you’re interested in participating, please sign up in the comments on this post.  We hope you’ll consider joining us!

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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jack absolute

Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★★

Até turned to him. To his silence. “Do you fear what we are to do here?”

“I fear what we may find. Friends who are now foes. All wars are civil wars in some way, Até. This one more than most. Eleven years we have been away. A world changes in eleven years.”

The Mohawk thumped his chest with a closed fist. “It does not change here.”

Jack studied the shoreline. “I think it changes there most of all.”

(from Jack Absolute)

Jack Absolute is the first book in a series set during the American Revolution that focuses on a British spy with conflicted loyalties.  Jack Absolute is a character in The Rivals, a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and C.C. Humphreys was inspired to bring him to life after portraying him in a 1987 revival of the play, which was first performed in 1775.  (I love that the book features a photograph of Humphreys in costume!)

Jack Absolute arrives in London in 1777 after seven years abroad seeking to reclaim his family’s fortune to find that his friend, Sheridan, who believed Jack to be dead, has made him a laughingstock in a play that depicts a failed love affair from his past.  It doesn’t take long for Jack to get himself in trouble while at the theater.  After turning down General Burgoyne’s request to rejoin the British Army and sail with him across the sea to do some intelligence work and help put an end to the war, Jack’s dalliance with an actress leads to a duel and forces him to flee from the authorities — straight into Burgoyne’s carriage, leaving him no choice but to accept his old friend’s offer.  All of this happens in the first three chapters, and the excitement and adventure never let up.

The novel follows Jack as he attempts to track down a spy in the Redcoats’ midst, works with his Mohawk brother, Até, to drum up support for the British among the divided Iroquois tribes, romances the daughter of an American Loyalist, and seeks revenge on the sinister Count von Schlaben.  In rich detail, Humphreys paints a portrait of the American wilderness, the bloody battles at Saratoga, and the excesses of British-occupied Philadelphia.

Jack Absolute is an expertly paced novel that has so much to offer in terms of action, setting, and historical detail.  Jack’s duties keep him on the go, and he always manages to end up in impossible situations, which ensures the plot never slows down.  Humphreys does a brilliant job making the characters, both historical and fictional, come to life.  Jack Absolute is one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve come across.  He is both brave and foolish, not to mention daring, charming, funny, honorable, and even haunted.  When it comes to the war, he is torn but loyal.  It’s easy to see why he’s a hit with the ladies, and he even surprised me at times, which is what I liked best of all.

Jack Absolute has a little something for everyone — war, sex, romance, intrigue, and even swordfighting.  It gives readers a glimpse of the various sides of the war, Redcoat, Rebel, and Native American, showing how confusing it was for men to fight against men they fought alongside to defeat the French not too long before and how the war put the Iroquois tribes at odds with one another.  It’s also a perfect series book, satisfying readers at the end while paving the way for a sequel.  I can’t wait to follow Jack on his next adventure!

Book 2 for the American Revolution Reading Challenge

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 17 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received Jack Absolute from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the turncoat

Source: Review copy from NAL
Rating: ★★★★☆

“They hang men.  Women disappear.  It’s only glamorous in the novels, Kate.  If we are successful, we can’t boast.  Spying is a dishonorable trade for women, for precisely the reason you despised me this afternoon, and you despise yourself now.  We exchange our virtue for their secrets.  If we fail, we don’t have the privilege of a public trial and famous last words.  Our reward for failure is an unmarked grave.”

(from The Turncoat, page 40)

The Turncoat is the first novel in Donna Thorland’s Renegades of the Revolution series, but readers don’t have to worry about starting a new series as it looks like each of the books will stand alone.  Set in 1777 amidst the British occupation of Philadelphia during the American Revolution, The Turncoat is the story of an innocent Quaker girl whose determination, outspokenness, and bravery get her into a whole heap of trouble.

When Kate Grey’s father goes off to serve with General Washington, she’s left on the family farm with Angela Ferrers, a.k.a. the Merry Widow, a Rebel spy determined to destroy Colonel Bayard Caide, who is busy drinking, looting, and raping his way through the Colonies, and steal the plans he is to pass on to General Howe.  But it’s his cousin, Major Peter Tremayne, Lord Sancreed, who arrives at the Grey’s farm…and there’s something different enough about him and Kate that they immediately are intrigued by one another.

Months later, Tremayne, disgraced by the Merry Widow, seeking to rebuild his career, and still thinking about Kate, enters Philadelphia and finds a very different Kate working her charms on his cousin.  Having witnessed the evils of war, Kate puts her Quaker pacifism aside and puts her life (and virtue) on the line to help the Rebel cause.  But she is torn between her loyalty to the revolution and her feelings for Tremayne, and one slip will lead to their downfall.

I wanted to read The Turncoat because I’ve always been fascinated by stories about female spies, but I soon worried that the romance and the sex would overpower the danger and the war.  However, there was just something about these characters and the time period that made it impossible for me to put the book down.  Thorland’s characters are well drawn and complex, especially Bayard Caide, who comes off as evil but has a story that makes you think twice about him.  I loved Kate and Tremayne, the passion and tension between them, and the obvious conflicts that arise between a Rebel and a Redcoat, a plain Quaker and an aristocrat.  Thorland’s portrayal of the historic figures, including Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John André, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen, seemed realistic, though I didn’t know more than the basics about them before reading this book.

The Turncoat covers so much ground, from the battles at Forts Mercer and Mifflin and the decadence of occupied Philadelphia to espionage and the treatment of women during war.  Readers should be warned that there are some pretty steamy sex scenes in this book, along with several instances of rape, but I thought for the most part, they were well done and contributed to the development of the characters.  There is much suspense and danger throughout this novel, and I was on the edge of my seat and up past my bedtime, needing to know how it all played out.  Thorland really brings the American Revolution to life in The Turncoat, with a strong heroine and plenty of historical facts, fascinating characters, and exciting adventures to hold readers’ interest from the first page.

Book 1 for the American Revolution Reading Challenge

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 7 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Turncoat from NAL for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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It’s the time of year where I start thinking about new reading challenges.  I’m going to keep my challenge participation light again in 2013.  Here are the challenges I’ve selected:

american revolution button

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Wade level of 4-10 books for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013 at War Through the Generations that I’m co-hosting with Serena.  I don’t own any books about the American Revolution, so I think I’m going to start this challenge by browsing my local library.  The Girl and Jerry have signed up as well for the Dip level of 1-3 books.

historical fiction reading challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Ancient History level of 25+ books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013 at Historical Tapestry.  It’s not much of a challenge for me to read historical fiction, but I can’t resist this challenge and want to see how many books I can read in this genre in a year.

dive into poetry challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013 at Savvy Verse & Wit.  Since I already comment on all of Serena’s weekly Virtual Poetry Circle posts, I’m committing to review at least 1 poetry book and participate in her National Poetry Month blog tour.  There are several options for this challenge, so I hope you’ll see how easy it is to get your feet wet in terms of reading poetry.

ireland reading challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Shamrock level of 4 books for the 2013 Ireland Reading Challenge at Books and Movies.  I probably should have signed up for this challenge long ago since I tend to read a handful of books every year that are written by Irish authors, set in Ireland, or feature Irish characters or Irish history.

Literature and War Readalong 2013

I also want to take part in the Literature and War Readalong 2013 at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.  Caroline hosts a discussion on a war-themed novel once a month throughout the year.  I plan to read as many of these books as I can get my hands on.  Here’s the schedule:

January 28: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Iraq War)
February 28: The Flowers of War by Geling Yan (Chinese/Japanese War)
March 28: The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (WWII)
April 29: The Wars by Timothy Findley (WWI)
May 31: All That I Am by Anna Funder (WWII)
June 28: Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw (WWII)
July 29: Children of the New World by Assia Djebar (French/Algerian War)
August 30: Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel (WWI)
September 30: There’s No Home by Alexander Baron (WWII)
October 28: Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman (Post-War)
November 29: Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson (WWII)
December 30: The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (Vietnam War)

What challenges are you committing to in 2013?

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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american revolution buttonSerena and I are hosting the American Revolution Reading Challenge on War Through the Generations from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013.  Those interested in joining us should visit the sign up page and select a reading level.  You only need to read 1 book with the American Revolution as a primary or secondary theme to complete the challenge.  If you need some book ideas, visit the Recommended Reading: American Revolution page; we’re continually adding to the list.

We hope you’ll join us!

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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