Welsh Reading Challenge

Well, after Googling ever combination of Welsh, Author, Book, Reading, Challenge, etc, that I could think of, I can’t find a single reading challenge that focuses on my own family heritage (that’d be Welsh, if you didn’t guess it already ;-) ).  So, what better to make my very first sponsored challenge than a Welsh one?

I’m both nervous and excited about starting a book challenge, especially since I’ve got such a focused reading plan for this year.  How can I fit more books in?  But if I don’t plan to read them, I may never “be in the mood” to read books I really DO want to read.  Which is why I decided to create the WELSH READING CHALLENGE :-D

So the first thing a challenge needs is a button, and I got that.  It’s not the most incredibly creative, I suppose, and if anyone wants to make one for it, I’m open to it.

Welsh Reading Challenge 2010

1.  So next we need some rules…

Read at least one book in 2010 that is either by a Welsh author, takes place in Wales, or is about Welsh people (immigrants, descendants, etc).  Pretty simple :-)

2.  And now we need levels to shoot for:

Efydd bathodyn (bronze medal) – Read one to three Welsh-related books between now and December 31st, 2010 to receive a bronze medal.

Arian bathodyn (silver medal) – Read four to six Welsh-related books by December 31st, 2010 for the silver medal rank.

Aur bathodyn (gold medal) – Read seven or more Welsh-related books in before the end of 2010 and be a gold-medalist!

I’m planning to read one Welsh-related book per month which will put me well into the Aur bathodyn range ;-)  (BTW, I do not speak Welsh… try as I might, I have no one to practice with so my Cymraeg pretty much always sucks… so it’s quite possible that I’ve totally botched up the translations.  I used this online translator, so if you know the correct terms, leave a comment and I’ll correct it.)

3.  Post about it on your blog, leave a comment here to let me know and leave the link of reviews.  I’d love to make a page and do a monthly update of what everyone’s doing.  LOL.. though, everyone may just be me.  You can list which books you plan to read, but you don’t have to.

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And now for my planned Welsh Reading Challenge books:

1.  The Mabinogion – From the Amazon.com page -“Drawing on myth, folklore and history, the stories of the “Mabinogion” passed from generations of storytellers before they were written down in the thirteenth century in the form we know. Set in dual realms of the forests and valleys of Wales and the shadowy otherworld, the tales are permeated by a dreamlike atmosphere. In “Math Son of Mathonwy” two brothers plot to carry off the virginal Goewin, while in “Manawydan Son of Llyr” a chieftain roams throughout Britain after a spell is cast over his land. And King Arthur’s court provides the backdrop to tales such as “How Culhwch Won Olwen”, in which a young man must complete many tasks before he can marry a giant’s daughter.”  Basically, it’s like this… last year when I was looking for Welsh books, this one popped up.  It’s ancient, and so it’s like Uber-Cymraeg, right?  (LOL… linguists all over the world are having a stroke over that one)

2 and 3.  Aberystwyth Mon Amour and Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce – Noir detective novels with cool cover art and fun titles that take place in the Welsh city Aberystwyth.  He’s the best… and the only… Private Eye in town.  I’m really looking forward to reading these.

4.  A Writer’s House in Wales by Jan Morris – Journalist and National Geographic writer, Jan Morris, reflects on her home in Wales, her heritage and the history of the land.  Another one that I’ve been looking forward to reading.

5.  Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas – I don’t think a Welsh reading list could be complete without something by Dylan Thomas on it.  Most people know the line “Do not go gentle into that good night,” which is a Thomas poem.  Under Milk Wood is a play, and it’ll be new to me.  Before coming across the play, I’d only thought Thomas had wrote poetry.

6.  How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – When I came across this treasure at the library sale last year, I actually broke out in a little victory dance.  I have been wanting to read it for a long time, and NOW I could finally do it!  Well… lol… can and actually DOING so are two different things.  This book is one of the reasons for THIS challenge.  It’s the story of a Welsh family in a coal town, how close they are as a family and community, and how the mining strike and later mechanization affected and fractured them forever.  It’s a before and after view, and shows how we have to give up a lot to get modern conveniences and luxuries and who has to pay.  Sometimes, even, we may want to take a second look at whether it’s worth the loss.

7.  Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman – LOL, I got this book basically because of the name.  It’s the first Penman’s Welsh Trilogy.  Oddly enough, I generally run in terror from “historical fiction” stuff… but because it’s “Welsh”, well, that’s a different matter.

8.  The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies – I had planned on reading this for the World War II challenge last year, but never got to it.  I’m hoping to get it read for sure this year.  I read a few blog reviews of it late 2008-early 2009, and thought it sounded really good, but it just never migrated off the long-range TBR shelf.

9.  On Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin – is a story of twin brothers living on a farm on the Welsh/English border.  The book description says it gives a wonderful description of the loneliness of life in rural Wales.  Hmm…  sounds a bit like rural Appalachia, which makes sense, given quite a few of the Welsh immigrants (including my own family’s ancestors) came through that area.

10.  The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales by Gerald of Wales –  after my failure to get through The Conquest of Gaul, I’m not sure how I’ll fair with this one.  Hopefully, the whole “war report” stuff Caesar wrote is why I couldn’t make it, and Gerald will be a wonderful historian to read.  For some reason, though, I’m feeling a bit like Catherine Morland at the moment… Historians inflict torture on people by writing books. 

11.  A String In the Harp by Nancy Bond – YA fantasy that takes place in Wales.

12.  Evans Above (Constable Evans Mystery) by Rhys Bowen – takes place in a small Welsh village, and looks like such a fun read :-)

Okay, there’s my twelve.  MAYBE, I’ll try for some more, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to fit much more into it.  There’s more I’d like to read… like Sheepshagger by Niall Griffiths, that one looks like it’d make Palahniuk sick.  And I’d love to know what other great Welsh books there are out there.

I’m so excited to get reading!

Update:  The Welsh Reading Challenge now has it’s own blog.  Click here and explore!

And here’s Mr. Linky if you want to sign up now:

 

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Title:  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Author:  Kim Edwards

Paperback:  401 pages

Date Published:  2006

Publisher:  Penguin Books

ISBN:  0143037145

The head crowned.  In three more pushes it emerged, and then the body slid into his waiting hands and the baby cried out, its blue skin pinking up.

It was a boy, red-faced and dark-haired, his eyes alert, suspicious of the lights and the cold bright slap of air.  The doctor tied the umbilical cord and cut it.  My son, he allowed himself to think.  My son.

“Where is the baby?” his wife asked, opening her eyes and pushing hair away from her flushed face.  “Is everything all right?”

“It’s a boy,” the doctor said, smiling down at her.  “We have a son.  You’ll see him as soon as he’s clean.  He’s absolutely perfect.”

His wife’s face, soft with relief and exhaustion, suddenly tightened with another contraction… he understood what was happening… “Nurse?” the doctor said, “I need you here.  Right now.”

…”Twins?” the nurse asked.

…This baby was smaller and came easily… “It’s a girl,” he said, and cradled her like a football… The blue eyes were cloudy, the hair jet black, but he barely noticed all of this.  What he was looking at were the unmistakable features, the eyes turned up as if with laughter, the epcantha fold across the lids, the flattened nose… A mongoloid.

-The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, pages 15-16

When Norah Henry goes into labor during a blizzard (I know, very Lifetime Movie, right?), Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver their children himself.  There is only one other person present at the delivery, the office nurse, Caroline Gill.  When David realizes that his newborn daughter has Down’s Syndrome, he passes her to Caroline with the directions to a “home for the feeble-minded,” and the name of the person to talk to there.  His intentions are to tell his wife, who is passed out from the anaesthetic gas, about their daughter’s condition when she comes to, however, when the moment arrives, he lies to her and tells her the girl is dead and her body sent to be buried in the family cemetery on his partner’s farm.  In her grief, Norah plans and announces a memorial for the lost child, “Phoebe,” and informs David of all this after it’s been made public, sticking him fast to the story he told her of the baby’s death.

Caroline, after seeing the deplorable conditions of the place David has sent his daughter to be dumped off and after being informed that the person to whom she was to speak no longer works there, decides to keep Phoebe.  Caroline, now in her early 30s, has spent her whole life waiting for her life to begin, waiting to be someone and to make a difference, she takes Phoebe and moves to Pittsburgh to raise her as her own.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is the unfolding of the outcome of David’s decision.  It shows how this one secret, and really, much more that David has kept all his life, erects a wall between him and his family.  In his attempt to spare his wife and son the pain of having a daughter and sister who’s condition he believes will be a burden on them their entire life, he has only substituted one pain for another.  By the time he realizes his lie has caused more heartache than the truth ever could, his family has become individuals, islands unto themselves, lonely and feeling like they could never be good enough for the rest.

Because this book does a great job at recreating the sentiments of the time period toward special needs children, there are times when what’s being said is offensive.  My two older girls have special needs, and when the nurse in the Pittsburgh hospital asks Caroline if she really wants her to save Phoebe’s life, it rankled me as much as it did Caroline.  The book doesn’t crank out a happily ever after scenario, nor does it become an “Oh my God, yet another tragedy” soap opera, instead it presents a plausible, heart-felt outcome.

Things to keep in mind if you plan to read this book:  It is a real look at what life is like raising a child with special needs, and raising that child into adulthood.  It is a lifetime of events, and therefore can seem long, but it doesn’t drag.  Also, it does have heavy and sad moments, the character’s don’t do “the right thing” and there are no heroes… except maybe Paul and Phoebe, and even then maybe just Phoebe.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards can help the reader have more compassion for caretakers of special needs children, as well as having a moral that the truth is always the better way to go, that the best of intentions is often the surest and straightest path to Hell.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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P.S.  Do NOT watch the Lifetime movie of this.  It is officially the WORST book to movie EVER! EVER EVER EVER EVER EVERI give that POS movie NEGATIVE infinity out of 5 stars.  It made the characters appear flat and shallow, it changed parts of the story that didn’t need changed and it was just plain crap.  Anyone who says they didn’t like the book because the characters were shallow and selfish, I have to wonder if they really read the book or watched the movie.

Viral Video Wednesday ~ Oh, Baby!

Hello and Happy Wednesday :-)  As of this minute, Jen of Devourer of Books hasn’t delivered yet, though I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter for the #babyk hashtags to start popping up :-)  So, in her honor, this week’s VVW topic is:

Babies!

When I think back to when each of my kids were still crawling and cruising, I remember their discovers, sometimes with a chuckle and a smile, others with a bit of panic.  My kids all had jacks-in-the-box, and I myself remember cranking the little grinder around for hours on end.  The following clip shows baby Legend  (who would name their son that?) with his first “POP” experience.

Now, I do believe Jen is having a single, but you never know… surprises might occur and she could get double the pleasure, double the fun :-)

And bath time can be quite fun, though it’ll be a few weeks before she’s giving him a bath. The following vid clip has a rather sagastically wise message: When making bubbles in the tub, don’t push too hard or you’ll make number two. Words to live by.

I leave you with this final clip. Little baby Damien stretches and yawns in a rather unique manner….

Next Week’s VVW topic: Dinosaurs :-)

Now it’s your turn: Gimme yer fav baby vid clip :-D

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