Author Archives: sophiasoandso

Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder 2018 – Halfway!

My reading momentum this year has been intense (for me at least) – I’m up 30 books already, and 12 of those make up the first half of my Read Harder challenge.  There doesn’t seem to be any threat of it waning anytime soon either, which has me tentatively aiming to finish Read Harder completely before spring.

It took me awhile to warm up to this batch of challenge tasks, but once I started researching titles to fulfill them, my level of anticipation rose exponentially.  Come New Years Eve, I was chomping at the bit and woke up early on January 1st to read my first two books of the year.  And so far, most of the books have been good or great, with a couple of pleasant surprises as well.  Here are my top three:

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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – this graphic novel collects five original stories seemingly inspired by classic folktales, with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, and even a little Lovecraft.  I’ve thought about this book many times since I first read it and will probably purchase it at some point.  It’s eerie, creepy, and fun, and the illustrations suit and set the mood perfectly.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – I chose this for the classic genre fiction task, and my hopes weren’t high.  Not that I expected it to be terrible, but sometimes older fiction gets bogged down in the style of the time.  I was more excited about the fact that the audiobook  was narrated by Alfred Molina than I was about the book itself, even knowing it established most of the tropes that define pirates in the pop culture consciousness.  Well shiver me timbers, I freaking LOVED it.  It was exciting and gripping and totally entertaining.  Alfred Molina was excellent as well, clearly having fun with accents and dialects.  This is one I will read again.

True Grit by Charles Portis – This book was another welcome surprise.  I haven’t read many westerns, mainly due to a lack of interest (so I guess that makes this a great challenge task for me…).  I picked True Grit after enjoying the recent movie remake with Hailee Steinfeld, and I was sucked in completely from the first page.  Mattie Ross is one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read in fiction – she’s confident and sure and brooks no nonsense from anyone.  The story was engaging and suspenseful, but she’s the most impressive part of the book.

Completed Tasks:

1) A book published posthumously – Ariel, Sylvia Plath
3) A classic of genre fiction – Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
4) A comic written and illustrated by the same person – Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
7) A western – True Grit, Charles Portis
8) A comic written or illustrated by a person of color – Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Roxane Gay et. al
9) A book of colonial/postcolonial literature – Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
10) A romance novel by or about a person of color – Destiny’s Captive, Beverly Jenkins
11) A children’s classic published before 1980 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
15) A one-sitting book – Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
18) A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image – Lumberjanes, Vol. 7: A Bird’s Eye View, Shannon Watters
19) A book of genre fiction in translation – Penance, Kanae Minato
24) An assigned book you hated – A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Sophia’s 2015 Reading Challenge Redux

January 2018 marks the beginning of my fourth year doing reading challenges!  When my sister first brought these nifty lists to my attention I was immediately hooked, and they really have helped me expand my reading interests.  I’ve discovered some fantastic books along the way.  That being said….I never actually finished all of my challenges in 2015.  By the end of that first year, I had one book left in Book Riot’s Read Harder and ten books left in PopSugar.

First, I said I wouldn’t start my 2016 challenges until I finished the ones from 2015.  NOPE.  The siren call of new books and new spreadsheets was too strong.

Then, I said I would finish the 2015 challenges before the end of 2016 – which was almost successful: I managed to read 9 of the 10 books leftover from PopSugar, leaving that final book and the one from Read Harder.

Finally, in 2017, I wrapped up that year’s Read Harder in July and Popsugar in October.  With that done, it was time to defeat these last two hangers-on, these ink and paper albatrosses that had been weighing me down for almost three years.

Reader, I finished them.

Actual footage of me when I closed that last book for the last time:

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Without further ado, here they are:

Read Harder 2015 Task 9: A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture.

18339647The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden – This book was beautiful and brutal.  And I mean brutal.  I wasn’t able to read through this novel without stopping frequently and walking away.  It’s full of strong but conflicting emotion, as the story is told through the point of view of a captured young Iroquois girl, resentful of the loss of her family; her captor, Bird, a powerful Huron warrior concerned about the white European newcomers; and Christophe, a French missionary traveling with Bird and struggling to bring his god to an alien people.  Boyden’s elegant prose brings 17th century North America to life with a stark, violent intensity.

PopSugar 2015 Task 21: A book your mom loves.

121534Storm, by George R. Stewart – This book was a straight up challenge.  It was quaint but somehow ruthless at the same time.  Dated and a bit boring, but occasionally fascinating and horrifying.  I didn’t particularly care for it by the time it was done, and it took me weeks of slogging and whingeing to actually finish it.  But, I can appreciate why it’s beloved by many – the various vignettes depicting the effects of the massive storm system, the description of how meteorology was actually done before fancy electronic instruments, and the fact that it originated the idea of naming significant storms.  I respect it, but I don’t like it.

And finally, here is the second half of my 2015 PopSugar task list (books read in 2016 in blue):

2) A classic romance: Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare
8) A funny book: Harrison Squared, Daryl Gregory
16) A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: Beauty, Robin McKinley
18) A Pulitzer Prize winner: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
21) A book your mom loves: Storm, George R. Stewart
22) A book that scares you: Locke & Key Vol. 1-6, Joe Hill
24) A book based on its cover: Uprooted, Naomi Novik
25) A book you didn’t read in school: Night, Elie Wiesel
26) A memoir: You’re Never Weird on the Internet, Felicia Day
29) A book set somewhere you want to visit: The Carnival at Bray, Jessie Ann Foley
30) A book from the year you were born: Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg
31) A book with bad reviews: Armada, Ernest Cline
34) A book with a love triangle: Re Jane, Patricia Park
37) A book with a color in the title: Black River, Josh Simmons
39) A book with magic: The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins
42) A book you own but have never read: The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World, Brian Allen Carr
43) A book that takes place in your hometown: First Grave on the Right, Darynda Jones
44) A book written in a different language: Blood on Snow, Jo Nesbo
45) A book set during Christmas: Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh
46) A book by an author with your initials: At the Water’s Edge, Sara Gruen
47) A play: Macbeth, William Shakespeare
48) A banned book: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
49) A book based on or turned into a TV show: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1), Jennifer Graham
50) A book you started but never finished: Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear

Sophia’s Bookish Monthly TBR – COMPLETE!

The Bookish Monthly TBR is the last of the three main challenges I took on this year – my second year in a row with no stragglers and the earliest finish yet: December 18th!  Last year I was reading challenge books up to December 28th, and in 2015 I didn’t even complete either challenge (more on that white whale in another post).  I have one book left to meet my Goodreads goal of 150, but a few hours of reading over the holiday weekend will take care of that no problem.  And with any luck, Bookish will release the 2018 TBR list in the next couple of days so I can get that spreadsheet up and running!  Here’s what I read for the second half of this year’s challenge:

Bookish First Half

July – Read a book about an overlooked figure in history.26030711

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

Nathalia Holt

I enjoyed reading The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan – a very different perspective on World War II, but a bit disjointed and not totally satisfying – so I was cautiously looking forward to Rocket Girls.  Fortunately, it did not disappoint.  It’s engaging and informative, with a sociable tone and accessible information on the technical aspects of rocket building.  It was fascinating to learn about the beginnings of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and impressive to see how many barriers the women who worked there faced and ultimately broke through.  These are stories that should be told and contributions that deserve to be recognized.  In this same vein, I plan on reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures soon.

August – Read a collection of essays and short stories. 24611587

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

April Genevieve Tucholke

This was a fun bunch of spooky stories.  As a whole the collection was fine – easy to read, some nice tension, and a few surprises, but nothing hugely impressive overall.  However, there were three very strong stories that were good enough for me to justify adding a full star to my Goodreads rating: In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan, which offered an extra gruesome version of a Wonderland tea party; Sleepless by Jay Kristoff, wherein Norman Bates uses the internet; and The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu – you must have done *something* to provoke that ghost into haunting you.  I would consider purchasing a copy of this book just to be able to re-read these stories in particular.

September – Read an entire series.9317452

Rivers of London/Peter Grant, Books 1-6

Ben Aaronovitch

This was a whirlwind of an audiobook marathon: I blasted through all six books in about as many days right down to the wire, finishing the last one on September 29th.  I enjoyed each of them pretty much equally – this series is excellent fun and the audio narrator is fantastic.  The concept of ancient deities claiming guardianship of the various rivers in England combined with London’s blend of cultures and history provides a great foundation for something beyond your typical detective story.  A perfect blend of suspense, dry humor, and pop culture references, this series is definitely worth revisiting multiple times.

October – Read a book that scares you.18498558

Bird Box

Josh Malerman

Yeah, this book scared me.  It had me crawling right out of my skin.  And I try not to read scary things too soon before bed, but I NEEDED to know what happened next.  And then, I wasn’t able to fall asleep because I NEEDED to know how it ended.  So I stayed up way too late on a weeknight for the sake of avoiding disturbing dreams and finished it.  This book was too much of a good time to really analyze it critically – for avid horror readers it may be nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a nice, solid contribution to the genre.  It’s creepy and tense and stressful and compulsively readable.  Check it out.

November – Read a graphic novel or comic book.35631919

Rat Queens, Volume 4: High Fantasies

Kurtis J. Wiebe

I adore Rat Queens.  The first volume was awesome – what’s not to love about a scrappy, snarky, boozy band of lady mercenaries?  The subsequent volumes were still fun, but the Queens deserved better.  I’d heard that the comic was going on an indefinite hiatus, so I was surprised to see Volume 4 pop up in the library catalog.  It was nice catching up the ladies, but overall it felt like a limp attempt at a not totally necessary reboot.  Hopefully the series can find its stride again and return to the glory of volume 1.

December – Read a book about belief.17568801

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Reza Aslan

I don’t practice any religion, and I haven’t spent much time studying the Bible, so I can’t react to this book from a spiritual or theological perspective.  But most of what I’ve learned about the Judeo-Christian tradition has been within the context of history as a whole, and from that perspective, this book is compelling.  Aslan takes the mythic figure of Jesus as presented by the Gospels and builds a more complete portrait of the man by describing him relative to the social and political realities of his time.  It’s fascinating to see him re-framed as a seditious revolutionary, whose words and actions were (and arguably still are, apparently) considered radical and dangerous to the general order of things.

Sophia’s PopSugar 2017 – COMPLETE!

Like this year’s Read Harder, the PopSugar challenge was a good one – lots of fun categories that led me to many new and amazing books.  However, I will admit to fudging my own rules for the last book of the challenge by reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to fulfill the 800+ page task.  I prefer not to use re-reads for these challenges, but I’ve been working my way through Harry Potter again as a nod to the 20th(!) anniversary of the first book being published, so I decided to let it count.

Here are three awesome new-to-me books from the second half of the challenge:

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Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky – This is a fun story all on its own – crazed fangirls take increasingly drastic steps to get their hands on their beloved boy band – but listening to the audiobook brought it to life.  It’s narrated by Barrett Wilbert Weed with that slow, slightly marble-mouthed valley girl vocal fry, which just elevates the already dark, dry humor to another level.  The plot moves in unexpected ways, making it feel fresh and surprising.  This is one I plan on reading more than once.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – Another fun book that truly deserves to be described as quirky, but without the implication of being overly twee or saccharine.  There’s plenty of bite here.  It’s solid social satire, touching on mental health, PTA moms, and the unique sensibilities of the Pacific Northwest.  I’m a sucker for books that use ‘found documents’ to tell a story, and this one does just that to great effect.  The plot never sagged or waned, and I felt compelled to read just one more chapter, I swear! so I could get to the bottom of the mystery.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – Gorgeous, painful, and moving.  This book had me full-on crying by the end of it.  I had been listening to the audiobook during a long day of mindless data entry, and I was so engrossed I kept listening on my drive home.  And when I got home, I took off my coat and sat down to listen to the rest of it.  TEARS.  It’s beautifully written from multiple perspectives and captures a World War II event I’d never even heard of – the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship filled with refugees fleeing war-torn Europe.  It’s an amazing story.

Completed Tasks

1) Recommended by a librarian – Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple
2) On your TBR list for way too long – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
3) A book of letters – Griffin & Sabine: an Extraordinary Correspondence, Nick Bantock
4) Audiobook – Gemina, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
5) By a person of color – When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon
6) One of the four seasons in the title – Summerlong, Dean Bakopoulos
7) Story within a story – Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, Jennifer Donnelly
8) Multiple authors – The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares, ed. Jason Blum
9) Espionage thriller – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John Le Carre
10) Cat on the cover – The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis
11) Author who uses pseudonym – The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
12) Bestseller from genre you don’t normally read – milk and honey, Rupi Kaur
13) By or about a person who has a disability – The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
14) Involving travel – The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
15) With a subtitle – Trainwreck: the Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why, Sady Doyle
16) Published in 2017 – King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard
17) Involving a mythical creature – The Gentleman, Forrest Leo
18) Read before that never fails to make you smile – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
19) Book about food – Cinnamon and Gunpowder, Eli Brown
20) Career advice – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson
21) Nonhuman perspective – Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw
22) Steampunk novel – Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger
23) Book with a red spine – Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
24) Set in the wilderness – Beauty Queens, Libba Bray
25) Loved as a child – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
26) Author from a country you’ve never visited – Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
27) Title is a character’s name – A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro
28) Novel set during wartime – All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
29) Unreliable narrator – Kill the Boy Band, Goldy Moldavsky
30) With pictures – The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
31) Main character is different ethnicity than you – The Gauntlet, Karuna Riazi
32) Book about an interesting woman – Shirley Jackson: a Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin
33) Set in two different time periods – Shadowbahn, Steve Erickson
34) Month or day of the week in title – The Last of August, Brittany Cavallaro
35) Set in a hotel – The Witches, Roald Dahl
36) Written by someone you admire – Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
37) Becoming a movie in 2017 – Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
38) Set around a holiday other than Christmas – The Accident Season, Moira Fowley-Doyle
39) First book in a series you haven’t read before – These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
40) Book bought on a trip – Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller
41) Recommended by an author you love – Unmentionable: the Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, Therese Oneill
42) Bestseller from 2016 – The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena
43) Family-member term in title – Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor
44) Takes place over a character’s life span – Perfume: the Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind
45) Book about an immigrant or refugee – Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys
46) Genre/subgenre you’ve never heard of before – Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
47) Eccentric character – Trouble Makes a Comeback, Stephanie Tromly
48) More than 800 pages – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
49) Got from a used book sale – Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
50) Mentioned in another book – The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling
51) Difficult topic – Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
52) Based on mythology – Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder 2017 – COMPLETE!

This year’s Read Harder was excellent – none of the books I read rated below three stars for me.  Not even the German poetry!  I did hit a bit of a reading rut in June, so sadly I did not reach my original goal of finishing before July.  But I did finish this challenge IN July, I’m just bad about keeping up with posting, despite my sister’s frequent random “blog post?” texts.  Not even her oldest child authority can overcome the inertia of my laziness, muahaha.

Anyway. Here are the highlights from the second half of Read Harder this year:

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’ll admit I used the new TV show as an excuse to finally read this, but boy howdy is it terrifyingly relevant, even and especially today.  The story felt timeless and way too possible, making it easy to imagine how smoothly our society could shift in such a direction.  It was totally compelling, and the tension was consistent and constant.  This is definitely a book I plan to revisit.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This book is beautiful and heart-wrenching.  I don’t know how many times I teared up throughout the story, and I full-on cried at the ending.  Yaa Gyasi knows how to WRITE.  Her imagery, her tone, her flow, her ability to plumb the depths of emotion and characterization without weighing down the narrative – I marveled at it all.  This book deserves to be read and read again.  I listened to the audio version, and the narrator absolutely did the text justice.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – Another gorgeous book, all quiet subtlety and simplicity.  But underneath that, an edge so hard and sharp  you don’t notice the cut until you see the blood.  This epic family saga moves through four generations of struggle and change, gently lulling you with a steady narrative until it sucker punches you in the gut with little warning or ceremony.  And then the story just moves on.  Rinse and repeat.

Completed Tasks

1) Book about sports – The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman
2) Debut novel – IQ, Joe Ide
3) Book about books – How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much, Samantha Ellis
4) Set in Central/South America by local author – Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez
5) By an immigrant/central immigration narrative – Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
6) All-ages comic – Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together, Shannon Watters
7) Published 1900-1950 – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
8) Travel memoir – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
9) Book you’ve read before – Armada, Ernest Cline
10) Set within 100 miles of your location – The Red Queen Dies, Frankie Y. Bailey
11) Set more than 5000 miles from your location – Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
12) Fantasy novel – Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake
13) Nonfiction about technology – Tetris: the Games People Play, Box Brown
14) Book about war – The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan
15) LGBTQ+ YA or middle grade novel – George, Alex Gino
16) Banned or frequently challenged – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
17) Classic by author of color – Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
18) Superhero comic with female lead – Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson
19) Character of color goes on a spiritual journey – Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older
20) LGBTQ+ romance novel – If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo
21) Published by a micropress – We Are Legion (We Are Bob), Dennis E. Taylor
22) Collection of stories by a woman – Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson
23) Collection of poetry in translation, not about love – Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke
24) POV characters all people of color – Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

Sophia’s Bookish Monthly TBR – Halfway!

This year I decided to add yet another reading challenge to my list, because there’s no such thing as too many challenges, right?!  Bookish.com created a list of monthly categories intended to help you clean out your TBR pile.  I’m officially at the halfway point, and so far it’s been a lot of fun!  I like the relaxed pace, and the tasks are just specific enough to get you thinking but not so much so that you feel the need to do any shoehorning.  Here are my books for the first 6 months:

27161156January – Read a book that supports your New Year’s resolution.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

J.D. Vance

After the horror of our last presidential election, I decided I wanted to make more of an effort to understand how we as a nation arrived at this point.  To that end, I’ve been building a list of books focusing on regions, cultures, and experiences within the United States that are different from my own.  Hillbilly Elegy was the first step.  It’s an interesting memoir – Mamaw is by far the star of the narrative and I’d love to know more about her – but Vance’s social analysis was not as well-formed.  He was very fortunate to find himself on a path where his hard work did actually pay off, allowing him to boost himself out of the poverty that plagued his ancestors.  As a result, he can’t seem to help repeating that tired trope: the only people stuck in poverty are those who refuse to help themselves.  Poverty is far more complicated than that, and he comes across as condescending and judgmental towards anyone who doesn’t finish school or ‘settles’ for a lifetime of blue collar work.

18584855February – Read a love story.

Heartless

Marissa Meyer

In this engaging prequel to Lewis Carroll’s classic stories, Meyer imagines how the decapitation-happy Queen of Hearts came to be the scourge of Wonderland.  This book swept me off my feet – I tore through all 453 pages in a single weekend.  Her vision of Wonderland expands on Carroll’s, including the use of familiar nursery rhymes.  It’s also shot through with references to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, adding a sense of unease and lurking horror.  I really felt for Cath and her struggle with first love and trying to do right by her family’s expectations without sacrificing her dreams.  Knowing she ends up a raging, tyrannical monarch only compelled me to read faster so I could find out how she got there.

589071March – Read a book published the decade you were born.

Ironweed

William Kennedy

I was originally planning on using this book to fulfill a task on a different challenge, but I found a replacement and decided to use it for the TBR instead.  This is not an easy book, and I’m not sure I liked it all that much.  But I do appreciate the literary merit and the tragic intensity of the story.  Francis Phelan is an interesting character, his difficult life and personality flaws make you want to judge him and sympathize with him in equal measure.   Kennedy also captures that hollowed-out feeling of inevitable doom during the Great Depression.  I came away from the book feeling heavy and sad.

16059322April – Read a National Book Award winner.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

George Packer

The Unwinding is another on my list of books about the state of the U.S.  This one was a solid block of text – no charts, no graphs, no pictures.  The narrative is divided into sections by year, starting in the 1970s.  Packer follows three individuals from various backgrounds throughout the book, and features a notable public figure or event in each section.  Each year is introduced by a single page word collage, collecting headlines, song lyrics, and quotes from public figures and popular media into a hodgepodge of visual sound bites that set the tone for that moment in time.  This was a maddening, eye-opening, and fascinating read.  Packer masterfully weaves each thread together, creating a concerning and frustrating portrait of cultural upheaval.

30045683May – Read a book about mental health.

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

Meik Wiking

I probably fudged the category a bit with this one, but it does pertain to mental health.  Hygge is the Danish concept of the sense of well-being you feel when you’re in a comfortable, cozy space, often with people you care for and/or delicious food.  I first saw the word on a friend’s Instagram post and upon finding several new books about it, I checked out the first one available at my library.  While I wasn’t necessarily expecting an analytical opus on the subject, this book was a little fluffier than I’d hoped.  It offered basic guidelines for what is essential to establishing hygge in your home, including recipes and lighting ideas.  Still, it’s a nice concept – I definitely feel at peace when snuggling under a blanket by a fire with a snowstorm billowing outside, or reading on a rainy afternoon while drinking a hot cup of tea.

21413846June – Read a book set outside of your home country.

Wolf Winter

Cecilia Eckback

I had high hopes for this book.  The summary on Goodreads hooked me right away – a brutal murder on a creepy mountain in 18th century Lapland?  Awesome.  It was intensely atmospheric, pulling the reader right into a sense of isolation and bitter winter weather.  There were some magical realism elements that added a surreal touch.  Ultimately though, there were too many threads, and by the end it felt like the author wanted to use all of these ideas but couldn’t decide which should take precedence.  As a result, the ending felt jumbled and confused.

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Sophia’s PopSugar Ultimate – Halfway!

Passed the halfway mark on the PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge a few days ago!  I also hit 50 books out of the 150 I pledged to read on goodreads.  My goal now is to finish both PopSugar and Book Riot Read Harder by the end of June, if not sooner.  I’m not so much keeping pace with my sister anymore – originally I was maintaining a gap of only 3 books, but she’s since pulled ahead by 8 books.  I’ve had a lot of new movies come in for me at the library, OKAY?

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So far this year, PopSugar has been a lot of fun.  They expanded their task list to include 12 bonus categories, which I had at first intended not to attempt until I finished the main list.  In the interest of efficiency, though, I’ve decided to just consider them part of the challenge as a whole.  A good number of the books I’ve read up to now ended up earning five star ratings from me.  Here are three of them:

23513349milk and honey by Rupi Kaur – I’ve mentioned it in other posts: poetry is not my thing.  It’s often too opaque for me, though I can appreciate the lyricism of it at times.  This volume, however, hit me right at home.  I loved the free verse, I loved the language, I loved the artwork that appeared on some of the pages.  This work is accessible without pandering to any one sensibility.  It was emotional and moving.  At some point, I intend on purchasing a copy.

30555488The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This book was brutal and compelling.  It often gave me chills, made me cry, and had me on the edge of my seat.  I liked how he conceptualized the Underground Railroad as a literal subterranean train system – the descriptions of the different stations made me wonder about the people who protected them and the places they were hidden.  The book also contains what has become one of my all-time favorite quotes.

29358401Trainwreck: the Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle – Participating in reading challenges has really pushed me to read beyond my fantasy/sci-fi/lady classics comfort zone and start picking up more books like this one.  Social and cultural analysis has always fascinated me (anthropology major), and feminism is becoming more important to me – this book makes a great contribution to the discussion in both areas.  It’s well-researched, nicely balanced, and very readable.

Completed tasks:

2) On your TBR list for way too long – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
3) A book of letters – Griffin & Sabine: an Extraordinary Correspondence, Nick Bantock
4) Audiobook – Gemina, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
8) Multiple authors – The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares, ed. Jason Blum
10) Cat on the cover – The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis
11) Author who uses pseudonym – The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
12) Bestseller from genre you don’t normally read – milk and honey, Rupi Kaur
14) Involving travel – The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
15) With a subtitle – Trainwreck: the Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why, Sady Doyle
17) Involving a mythical creature – The Gentleman, Forrest Leo
18) Read before that never fails to make you smile – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
20) Career advice – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson
21) Nonhuman perspective – Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw
22) Steampunk novel – Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger
25) Loved as a child – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
26) Author from a country you’ve never visited – Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
27) Title is a character’s name – A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro
28) Novel set during wartime – All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
30) With pictures – The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
35) Set in a hotel – The Witches, Roald Dahl
36) Written by someone you admire – Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
37) Becoming a movie in 2017 – Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
39) First book in a series you haven’t read before – These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
42) Bestseller from 2016 – The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena
47) Eccentric character – Trouble Makes a Comeback, Stephanie Tromly
51) Difficult topic – Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
52) Based on mythology – Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

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