When the slavering book-beast in my brain caught wind of the Book Riot Read Harder challenge in January, it demanded I participate in ALL THE CHALLENGES!!! I narrowed it down to two…okay, so really four…BUT I’m currently focusing on the one from BookRiot and the one created by PopSugar.
With 50 tasks potentially totaling 52 books read, the PopSugar challenge is the most extensive. I’m now over halfway through (with no overlaps!), and I have three clear favorites:
- Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel – There was no one thing that pulled me into this story, but by the time I finished I was so overwhelmed and amazed I just sat there hugging the book like a cherished stuffed animal.
- Something Rich and Strange, by Ron Rash – I love the way Ron Rash writes. He creates such a quiet, almost soothing atmosphere in his stories that the ratcheting tension is nearly undetectable until he hauls back and punches you right in the gut.
- Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline – A virtual reality scavenger hunt with real-life consequences + a narrative practically creaking under the weight of several decades worth of pop culture references, both subtle and blatant = ALL THE YES.
Several other books stood out above the rest, including All the Light We Cannot See, The Sisters Brothers, and Serena. The YA trilogy, The Madman’s Daughter, has also become a favorite. Here are the challenge tasks I’ve completed so far:
01) A book with more than 500 pages: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
03) A book that became a movie: Serena, Ron Rash
04) A book published this year: The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
05) A book with a number in the title: Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
06) A book written by someone under 30: Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
07) A book with nonhuman characters: The Devil’s Detective, Simon Kurt Unsworth
09) A book by a female author: Diamond Head, Cecily Wong
10) A mystery or thriller: In the Woods, Tana French
11) A book with a one-word title: Goodhouse, Peyton Marshall
12) A book of short stories: Something Rich and Strange, Ron Rash
13) A book set in a different country: Hausfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum
14) A non-fiction book: Lives in Ruins, Marilyn Johnson
15) A popular author’s first book: The Secret History, Donna Tartt
17) A book a friend recommended: Bellweather Rhapsody, Kate Racculia
19) A book based on a true story: The Revenant, Michael Punke
20) A book at the bottom of your to-read list: Mosquitoland, David Arnold
23) A book more than 100 years old: The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells
27) A book you can finish in a day: Motherfucking Sharks, Brian Allen Carr
28) A book with antonyms in the title: Pretty Ugly, Kirker Butler
32) A trilogy: The Madman’s Daughter>Her Dark Curiosity>A Cold Legacy, Megan Shepherd
33) A book from your childhood: Inside the Walls of Troy, Clemence McClaren
35) A book set in the future: Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
36) A book set in high school: The DUFF, Kody Keplinger
38) A book that made you cry: Missoula, Jon Krakauer
40) A graphic novel: The Lost Boy, Greg Ruth
41) A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
*Cruel Beauty – I reread this because the dark tone of ACOTR reminded me of it (also of Sunshine). Nyx has to fight against the bitterness she holds against her family and her current situation with her growing attraction to both her husband and his shadow. It is a beautiful book, and one I will read over and over.
*Throne of Glass – I read this book because of how much I enjoyed ACOTR. It is noticeably a debut novel, but it was still worth the read. It’s nice to see a book that has a female as the MC of the standard fantasy trope of lost-heir-has-sword-fights-the-bad-guys.
*Crimson Bound – Set in a different universe than Cruel Beauty, but it still retains the beautiful dark imagery. I have to admit that I am staunchly Team Bad Guy, and want to know how the story would end if Team Bad Guy came out on top.
*Gilded Ashes – A Cinderella novella set in the CB universe, it packed a lot in. I want (need?) to see how Rosamund Hodge handles other fairy tales. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
*Alien series – I read books 6 and 7, and am still enjoying the series. Every time the character James Reader speaks, I hear Ray Gillette from Archer in my head.
*Little Peach – A quick read about how easy it is for a girl to fall into domestic sex slavery. It doesn’t go too in-depth, but it would be a good introduction for a high school student (or anyone, really).
*A Wicked Thing – A reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, the opening is strong, but it kind of peters out towards the end of the book. Not a lot actually happens because it’s going to be a trilogy. The book would have been much better if the story progressed faster. It feels like it’s better suited for a longer stand alone or a duology. Aurora is also too passive and complacent.
*Tricksters – A favorite from my childhood, this is the lite version of the darker supernatural romancey YA novels currently out there. Margaret Mahy glosses over many things that would now be described more explicitly. Also? No MC love triangle!
*Southern Vampire series – I gave in and instead of reading the stacks of books I should be reading, started in on Sookie & Co. I much prefer Book Sookie to True Blood Sookie.
*Skip Beat vol 1-24 – I started reading this series on the recommendation of sumlynnnguyen, who commented on my April Books post. And you know what? This is an awesome series! I love Kyoko’s mix of grudge, revenge, pessimism, optimism, and naiveté.
*Say I Love You vol 5-7 – I still love this series, and can’t wait for more.
I read two books to Bean in June (we’re working on a third, but it’s been slow going). We’ve read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books before, and they are ones that Bean comes back to periodically. She also enjoyed The Chocolate Touch (another book that shows its age in superficial aspects, but is still a strong story despite this).
Bug (my 5-year old) adores the Rainbow Fairies series, and given that it takes about 30 minutes to read one, they can be blown through very quickly. My 3-year old son started listening in as well. I wasn’t expecting him to have the attention span for them, but he does. We also read the first book in the Magic Tee House series. There are more words and less pictures, so it takes longer to get through a book. Both Bug and my 3-year old (who really needs his own moniker) like MTH so far, though they get a little restless if we read for more than 10 minutes at a time. My husband is reading the second book in the MTH series to them right now.
Tuesday, July 7th, marked the first of six Summer Science series – three for toddlers/pre-K, three for school age. Bubbles was the first session, geared towards the T/PK set. I did a slightly different version of this program last year. There was a lot of overlap, but the age group for this year’s program was specifically for 2-5 years old. Last year it was a family event, and the age of the participants skewed older.
I opened with a book, then the children had two activities to choose from. To close out the program, I turned on my bubble machine and sang, “My Bubbles Float Over the Ocean” (tune: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”).
Bubbles Float, Bubble Pop (Science Starts) by Mark Weakland
1.Bubble Painting – I tried this last year, but it was only marginally successful. I found this blog post after the fact and decided to follow her instructions instead. It was definitely a better choice. The mess factor was still there, but it was less frustrating for the children.
Small cups of bubble solution mixed with liquid watercolor.
2. Blowing Bubbles – I made two tubs of bubble solution: a basic recipe (water, dish soap, and glycerin), and a more fancy recipe. I also set out a tray filled with different types of bubble wands. The fancy recipe was the fan favorite – it did a great job making big bubbles.
My birthday was in April, and one of the highlights of any birthday is spending the gift cards you are given. Going back to my childhood, gift cards meant one thing: buying more books. And as an adult – nothing has changed.
Orlando (Annotated): A Biography by Virginia Woolf(annotated edition) – I have never read the book, but I fell in love with the movie as a child/tween. It’s been on the back burner for years to sit down and actually read the book, and 35 was the magic birthday.
The Mode in Costume: A Historical Survey in 202 Plates by R. Turner Wilcox – This book features heavily in my childhood memories surrounding visits to our local public library. I checked it out more times than I can count, simply to stare at (and sketch) the pictures. I never actually read the words. It is one of those books I’ve been meaning to buy for years, but never have. It now lives on one a shelf in my living room, waiting for one of my kids to discover it.
Motherfucking Sharks by Brian Allen Carr – My sister recommended this book to me during a chat about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. It looked awesome (and was awesome), and as my library system does not have it and probably won’t ever purchase it, I bought it instead.
Three coloring books: Creative Coloring Mandalas, Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns, and Entangled. Four years ago, my best friend introduced me to the awesomeness that is coloring as an adult. Bean and I visited her in Germany, and she promptly gave Bean several Zauberhafte Mandala coloring books to keep her occupied during down time. After our daughters were asleep at night, we would sneak the coloring books out of their room and spend hours coloring and chatting. I highly recommend it.
June was by far the slowest Read Harder month to date. Only Sophia completed any challenges. My husband has been busy outside in the garden/hop yard, and I have been busy being distracted by the piles of books unrelated to this challenge.
July will be the month to buckle down on the challenge reading (at least for Sophia and I since I don’t anticipate my husband completing it). Sophia has only four books left to read, so hopefully she’ll finish it this month. I have placed hold requests for three books (Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, and The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes) and purchased a fourth (The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh) with the goal of reading all four before the month is out.
Without further ado, our stats and books, color-coded to make it easier to know who read what:
Me 15/24 (0 in May)
My Husband 9/24 (0 in May)
Sophia 20/24 (2 in May)
#21 – Guilty pleasure
Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
#24 – Self-improvement
This Is How by Augusten Burroughs