The Novella Challenge

novella-challengeI figured I would do some reading challenges while I was on vacation and just in general since I have committed to reading 52 books this year. I have been looking over the lists of the books I have read and the books that I plan on reading to see what I can count toward a challenge. One reading challenge I selected is this Novella Challenge hosted by Trish.

Here is what she has to say about her challenge, the rules and the selection that I made for books. Also, since I’ve been on planes trains and automobile, I’ve a lot of time to read and have listed some of my progress.

The reason behind the Novella Challenge:

I’m an avid reader (I don’t have time to be voracious, so avid will have to do) and in the beginning of 2008 I had two novellas that I would have put off if I hadn’t made myself read them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read the books, they were just so small, and I gravitate towards the chunksters. -)

So I said to myself one day, “Self, why don’t you host a challenge for novellas! Ew, wait…there’s already a short story challenge, but I think novellas and short stories are different. I better look that up.” Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about novellas:

A novella is a narrative work of prose fiction longer than a short storybut shorter than a novel. While there is some disagreement of what length defines a novella, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000….Occasionally, longer works are referred to as novellas, with some academics positing 100,000 words as the novella‒novel threshold.

Sweet! I can host a challenge!So please! Go ahead and sign up! The rules are easy:

  1. Read six novellas between April 2008 and September 2008.
  2. The novella needs to be between 100 and 250 pages (because who has time to count the words in a book, Mr. Wikipedia?). Some leeway is definitely allowed (some of The Green Mile novellas by Stephen King are 96 pages, and I would hate to exclude those. I’m a lover not a hater.).
  3. Sign up! There will be prizes (yes to be determined). I’m a competitive and loves-to-win-stuff kinda gal, so I couldn’t resist offering prizes. -)
  4. Please review or let people know what you’ve read. You can do that on your own blog (linking back to here) or you can post a comment here or you can post the review here. Whatever.
  5. Need not have your own blog to play. Again, I’m a lover not a hater.

Coupla other things:

  • I don’t have a graphic for this challenge! (
  • This is my first hosting of a challenge, so please be gentle. ;-)
  • Seriously, let us know what you’re reading. I believe there’s a ton of untapped novellas out there just waiting for discovery.

Umm…I think that’s it. I’m really nervous and really excited, all at the same time!

My Reading List

  1. Foe, J.M. Coetzee
  2. A Recent History, Anthing Giardina
  3. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Maryse Conde
  4. Property, Valerie Martin
  5. Reunion, Alan Lightman
  6. ?

I now have to think of a 6th book. I was going to read Masters of the Dew by Jacques Romain but I left the book on a ledge overlooking the mountains in Rocca D’Evandro.

Between the airport, the flights and then the train around Italy, I have already finished books 1,3 and 5 and will write about them soon. I went by novella in the terms of being fiction and less than 250 pages.

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Curious As A Cat. Via Rome, Italy

Week Number 127

1) What is the most disgusting thing you’ve ever had in your mouth?
I’m trying to remember. I think I remember eating snow as a child and getting a patch of pee. Eew!

2) What is the boldest thing you’ve ever done?
Sat across the table from someone and told them how I felt when I was pretty certain that they weren’t in a position to tell me anything I wanted to hear.

3) If you could pick one person you know well to be more religious (or spiritual), who would it be?
I tend to stay away from that kind of stuff with people.

4) What is [your] partner’s best feature? {edited}
Single for the moment.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
Am I too literal? A roller coaster.

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Rocca D’Evandro’s Haunted Castle


So I’m in Rocca D’Evandro which is this little village to the south of Rome in Italy. Really gorgeous. Right out of the movies. The village is small. They have narrow “streets” and walls that are from medieval times. A cross carved in concrete to commemorate a girl stabbed in the village in 1889. Supposedly the population is about 300 people, but I would think that number must only include the people that are living on the hill. I think the town proper must have more people. Anyway. It has a castle. I took a picture from far away and if you look closely you can see it in this picture. I also took a walk there one night with T and her Italian boyfriend (whose village it is) and he was telling us that people have seen people up there. He says this of course as we are walking up to see the castle on a road that is pitch black. No streetlights, a moon hidden by trees, and shadows and bushes everywhere. Wonderful. So the walk was a little edgy for my part. I was totally prepared to see something otherworldly and flip out completely.

T’s boyfriend also told us the story of a couple who had taken a walk up to the castle. They were hanging out and and enjoying the evening when her boyfriend saw a presence (something or someone) and took off running down the hill. Left his girlfriend. Got as far away as he possibly could and went to a bar! WTF? Had a drink and was telling everyone that he saw a ghost. So where was his girlfriend you might ask? Still up at the castle with no idea that he had seen something scary. No idea of anything at all, wondering what was going on, until she wandered down the hill and found her boyfriend telling his ghost story in a bar over a beer. And then she marries him. Well, not the next day or anything but she marries him!

T and I were blown away that they still got married after he was scared enough to flee because he saw something- and not take her with him. I think that would undermine my feeling of safety in a relationship. It might actually be a deal breaker. I wouldn’t feel the same about him and marriage would more than likely be out of the question for me. I don’t generally think of myself as needing anyone to defend me, and that’s not really even the point. I’m not bothered by the fact that he was scared, nor would I have expected him to do anything stupid (like in the movies where people go off to investigate), but at least if something scares the hell out of you- take me with you! That’s all I’m saying. Drag me along wondering if you have lost your mind. Throw me over your shoulder and run. Freak out a little, if you must, but then come back for me. Run past me and tell me to run too. Give me something to work with!

Who even knows what he saw, but what if it wasn’t a ghost but a real person who could have done her harm.


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The Trip

Getting through airline security for an international flight on a Friday night turned out to be pretty uneventful even though I left work later than I expected, took the train to the airport train and got off at the wrong stop and had to go back one stop, thrn zi got offf the airtran at the wrong terminal, but I just walked over and it was realy no big deal. The terminals are right together.

I had to take my laptop out and my shoes off. The security guy asked if I had the new laptop and I said I didn’t know and then he asked if I got it in the last 1-2 years and I said yes, and then he informed me that it was indeeed the new one. Lucky me. This isn’t the first time that I’ve received commentary on my laptop. The last time it caused such a stir was beacuse of the color and I was accused of paying $400 more for it to get in in black. Which is kind of ridiculous any way you look at it. Why should I be judged for the type of computer I chose. Very interesting.

The meal that I had last night on the plane was pretty tasty. I am under no illusion that this is for any other reason than there was enoough fat and salt in there to embalm a small animal. I wonder what the vegetarian or special dietary option looked like. I got beef and the softest broccoli I have ever seen (or tasted for that matter) in a brown gravy, a little lasagna and a “salad” comprised of what tasted like pickled shredded carrots and two rolls of lunch meat. Dessert was 5 squares of melon and two grapes. Faced with such a meal, I had to get a glass of red wine. I guess the flight attendants and crew bring their lunch. I can’t imagine what would happen to a person eating the “meal” I had last night on a daily basis. Like I said, it was tasty. Salt, fat and hunger will do it every time.

Breakfast was the dryest danish I have ever had with a thin line of brown filling. And I use the word filling very loosely since I couldn’t taste at all what it was. I’m assuming some type of fruit? I’m wanting it to have been fruit. My other option was thre halves of bread glued together with cheese in one part and some type of meat on the other. What happens to the other half of the second piece of bread? Are they saving money this way? I would guess that maybe over volume they do. That last half of bread over the number of people that they are serving makes for a few extra sandwiches. I find this all rather fascinating.

Surprisingly enough I got on the plane and went to sleep before we even took off. I was awake briefly when I felt the wheels leaving the ground and then went back to sleep for an hour. Amazing. I have to be at the point of exhaustion before I can sleep sitting upright and essentially in a public place. Shows how tired I am. I brought several books because I just knew I would be reading on the plane. Nope. Was up for an hour, hungry and waiting for dinner, ate dinner and knocked right back out.

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Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett – Book Review

bel-cantoBel Canto, by Anne Patchett

Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: August 2, 2005
Format: Trade Paperback, 352 pages

Beautifully written, this book reminded me of reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The “unreality” of it all.  Not meant to be taken literally.   Loved the way the narrator was upfront about what happened later in the story because then our concentration is on how it all unfolds.  Great use of the omniscient point of view.  The narrator puts his spin and interpretation of events as they are unfolding.  People coming together and crossing the artificial boundaries that we put up to separate ourselves.  The characters are able to find themselves as they are being held hostage.  Their needs and wants, and also those of the hostage takers, are reduced yet intensified with their limitations as hostages. (I’m sure there is a better word for hostage takers, but I can’t think of one now. Captors?)

It was interesting to hear another friend’s perspective on this book.  I had heard before reading it that it was either hated or loved.  After talking with my friend who hated it, I better understand the polarization.  Suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy this book.  Her main reason for not being able to enjoy the book was predicated on her belief that that people in a hostage situation wouldn’t behave in this way, and she has a point, they wouldn’t. However for me, it wasn’t so far from the realms of possibility.  In horrific situations people do amazing things to adapt, and will often identify with their captors.  I was willing to suspend disbelief because I was caught up in the greater beauty of the connections the characters starting making with themselves and with each other.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys beautiful and lyrical prose in a tale that leans heavily on the fantastical.

Read More Reviews At:

Reading In Appalachia

Have you reviewed The Bel Canto by Ann Patchett? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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Curious As A Cat #125/#2

I’m Curious

1) What famous couple do you think will announce their separation next?
I can honestly say that I have no idea. It is a rare occasion when turn on my television, and that’s usually to watch a movie. Don’t really read the newspaper either. Sometimes I look the the NYT and clip certain articles of interest and then don’t read them. As a result I hardly ever hear any celebrity news, which makes sense to me. I don’t know them. I don’t even know the couples anymore. I just happened to look at a magazine cover to see that Beyonce had married Jay-Z and then another time that Angelina Jolie was expecting twins. I’m in a bubble.

2) What one thing would you provide to all senior citizens in the world?
Someone to talk to everyday. I get a lot of calls at work from what I call “armchair investors” and they call and make such a big dal about the one or two shares of stock that they own. I know that most times they are just needing someone to listen.

3) In what situations do you exaggerate the most?
When storytelling, a little bit. But it’s always obvious.

4) What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever visited?
I guess it might be really weird but I did visit the completely antiquated home of a relative. We’re talking wood-burning stove and a pump in the kitchen that connected to a well in the yard. They had an outhouse. Needless to say I held it, but a cousin went and did her business in the cornfield rather than face the box of poop. Eew!

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
Santa’s elves.

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In just 3 days…

I will be waking up in the morning to go to work and from work hop on a plane to Rome, Italy. I’m starting to get excited but I don’t feel prepared at all.

I have decided that I am just going to take my backpack. I did that when I went to Ireland. It was much heavier than I intended it to be because I got carried away and packed too much, and it was winter and my clothes were heavier. This time it’s all about sun dresses and sandals. Maybe the odd pair of shorts and whatever pants I wear on the train. I plan to take my computer. I’m going to spend some time in a small village where there will be no internet, but I will at least be able to type and save entries to my travel journal to post later and of course, lots of pictures.

I had been considering going to Paris for a little bit, but now I’m thinking I will wait and make that another trip.

I’m not concerned with the packing so much as I am with the stuff I have to do before I leave. Work is really busy and I need to get food and litter for the cats, pick up dry cleaning, clean up a little more, and a few other things before I go. I’m telling myself that I am going to so those things tonight. Hmm.

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Can I Do It In Time?

been trying really hard to finish North River by Pete Hammill for a
book club meeting that I have tonight and I am having the hardest time. It’s just not my type or style of book. While I’m reading it, I manage to get through but once I put it down, it’s really hard to pick back up. And,
it’s throwing me off schedule with everything else because I made the
commitment this year to actually read one book at a time and not start
anything else until I finish. Bummer. I’m on page 105 and I need to be on page 334. I have to read at lunch and then go right home after work and see how far I can get before I have to show up at 7:30. I think I might speed read this one, and I usually never do that for fiction.


I’m a little intrigued because I don’t know why this book is bothering me so much. To me, it’s light summer fare. Well not light in terms of it being funny, but not a hard read-it’s a bit of a mystery. I think the author should have branched out a little bit in his word choices. He refers to a 3 year old kid in the book as the boy. And it’s always the boy this and the boy that. I guess there’s a falseness in the dialogue and the character’s inner life that bugs me. It’s
also annoying that since I have procrastinated on it, it’s taking a
long for me to get through a book that shouldn’t be taking up so much
of my time. And I’m not compelled by enough interest in the characters
to finish it. I might be very quiet tonight. Oh boy!

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Curious As A Cat #125/Me #1

Curious As A Cat

1) What is the craziest thing you ever did as a child or teen?
I really wasn’t a crazy child.  I liked to read.  I liked to crochet, and in the summers I liked to stay inside so that I wouldn’t be eaten alive by the mosquitos in Alabama.  I guess I started branching out as a teenager. I once took a bus in a snowstorm from Amherst, MA to New York City because my friend wanted to go out dancing.  That would have been okay, but I needed to be at work in Amherst by noon the next day.  I don’t think I made it.  We had a great time though.

2) If you could teach someone you know one life lesson, who and what would you choose?

I know it’s an if questions but I’ve really given up on teaching people anything.  People have to decide and come to their lessons on their own, and usually when they are ready they are able to follow the examples  of those who have what they need or want to emulate.

3) In what situations do you find yourself relying on your parents (or your parents’ advice) the most?
I alway think of my mom when I am out shopping for clothes.  I can hear her telling me which fabrics will shrink or ball up, or hold odor.  It’s good to know the qualities of fabrics that you are buying.

4) What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
Time to make the donuts.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
I have no idea.  It looks like a strand of hair, a plant stalk or a light saber.

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Blog Talkers Talk #80/1

Blog Talkers

Where were you at midnight, when it became 2008? What sort of goals did
you set for yourself for 2008? Have you met those goals? Are you
working on those goals? Have your goals changed? If so, how? What are
your goals for the remainder of 2008? Are you looking forward to 2009?
Or are you just taking one day at a time?

I think I was home alone this year.  New Year is not one of my big holidays.  I never stopped thinking of September as being the start of the "new year", so by the time January rolls around I’m pretty much over it.  It’s also one of those annoying holidays where no one knows what they are doing until the last minute and then everyone makes a plan and is doing something completely different and you have to pick what to do. I was just happy to have the day off.  I think my mother actually woke me up to say happy new year, when  she called, and then I went back to sleep.

This year was the first year that I actually made a list of been goals and have either completed or have been making  progress/tracking them throughout the year.  I usually think in terms of themes that ran through the year, and I do it after the fact.  This year, I made a list of  101 things that I wanted to do in the next three years and have been meeting with an accountability partner every week to discuss my progress.  It’s actually interesting how the list has evolved over the course of the year because by actually putting down what I thought I wanted to do, I started to think about why I wanted what I want and if I really  did want it it.  About a quarter of the things I came up with have been thrown out because I realized they were things that weren’t important to me at all and fit either an outdated version of me, or someone else’s definition of me, or who I thought they thought I should be.  Something like that.  In any case, I realized that they were things I didn’t want to spend time pursuing and are slowly being replaced with goals that are more in line with what I would like to accomplish.

Going to Italy was one of my goals, and I leave in less than two weeks.  My other major goal was to finish  my cd project.  I hope too be wrapping that up by September 2nd.  I’m taking it one day at a time.  Years don’t actually mean much to me.  One of the good things about setting goals is that I have re-set time in a sense.  I think in terms of weekly and monthly progress, so I’m always starting over and having a "new year", or entering a new period.  I’m sure 2009 will be fun. But so far 2008 has been a very good year.

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