Category Archives: Reading Challenges

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

Emma PopSugar – Final Four

After bulldozing most of my way through the first 48 books of PopSugar’s Reading Challenge, it took me three months to finish the final four, but I am FINISHED! I now have three months to recharge before the 2018 reading challenges begin.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
#1 – Recommended by loved author (Neil Gaiman)
This was a surreal, dreamy book with a healthy dose of magic, and lovely descriptions of the various acts and oddities contained within the tents. If the Night Circus was a real thing, I would be a complete junky, wearing my red scarf and following the circus to its next location. I could spend endless hours rambling in and between the various tents. That being said, the plot moves along slowly with not a lot of action or excitement, and while there is love involved, it’s not really as the description on the back of the book states. It also seemed like there was something missing that would have given it the extra oomph needed to turn it into a book I could read multiple times.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
#5 – About an immigrant/refugee
I had recently read Such a Lovely Little War, so it was interesting to have a slightly different perspective and experience of the same events. The Best We Could Do focuses on Thi Bui’s personal experience of fleeing Vietnam, living in a refugee camp, and then adjusting to life in the United States. She weaves her current life in with her family’s lives in Vietnam, and also shows the effects the experience had on various family members.

Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
#7 – Eccentric character
Envy of Angels is the first in a series focusing on a company, Sin du Jour, that caters parties and banquets to the supernatural side of NYC. The main characters have lost their restaurant jobs and are unexpectedly hired by a famous chef who was thought to be dead. The other employees are an odd bunch and the food they serve (and the situations they find themselves in involving zombie clowns and a giant chicken) are even odder and, at times, mildly disturbing.  The only two negatives I can think of are that there is zero character development and very little background on Sin du Jour. Given that this is the first in a series, hopefully growth and background will be forthcoming.

Winter by Marissa Meyer
#8 – 800+ pages
I started reading Winter in hard copy, but was quickly unable to stand Winter. I get that she’s not quite right in the head due to suppressing her gift, but at the same time she was incredibly annoying. I gave up about 100 pages in. After having trouble finding another 800 page book that could be construed as a quick read, I gave Winter another go, this time as an audiobook. Listening to it a 2x made it go faster, but also upped the annoyance factor because of how the narrator sounded. I came to the realization that I don’t like heroines who are damsels in distress. Both Cress and Winter are two such heroines, and while they do (at times) conquer their own weaknesses, I have a really hard time with such wibbling about actually doing something.

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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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The Hub – June

June was the final month for 2017 Hub Reading Challenge. I only had five books left that I wanted to read. I managed to finish three, DNF’d one, and the fifth on – Burn Baby Burn – was set aside because I had library books that were due and couldn’t be renewed. I do plan on reading it at some point in the near future.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle
My sister has been after to me to read this book since it came out last fall. I was surprised at how much I connected with this book. In part because of the realization that I am guilty of the negative perceptions Doyle points out. She does a good job conveying the hypercritical expectations set for women, not only by men, but by women themselves. We’re all guilty of the schadenfreude surrounding “trainwrecks”. It is so easy to look down upon women who don’t follow the stringent rules they’re expected to obey. When they step out of line, their worth and legitimacy vanishes. It is an exacting double standard. A man and woman can follow the same path, but the man will recover being seen as a survivor. The woman, however, will be forever tarnished and less than. People will glory over where she went wrong.

The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon
A book that makes evolution interesting by focusing on some of the weird and grotesque adaptations that have allowed various species to succeed. The tone is tongue in cheek, and does not take itself seriously. The chapters are also short, so it’s an easy book to read a bit, put it down, and come back to it later. Some of the adaptations I knew about (the wasps and fungus that turn other creatures into their zombie nursemaids), but others were unknown (such as the snot-ejecting hagfish and sea cucumber-anus inhabiting pearlfish) and I am now slightly traumatized with knowledge that will never leave my brain.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
This is a hard book to read. It’s a pulls-no-punches look at rape culture, dealing with sexual assault and its aftermath. Part of what makes it a hard read is because the main character, Emma Donovan, is not a likeable character. She is vain, selfish, entitled, and jealous of her friends. She is exactly the kind of girl whom everyone would say she was “asking for it” if she were raped or assaulted, and no one would offer any sympathy. I’m glad O’Neill wrote about someone like Emma because (as written about in Trainwreck) some women are more valued than others based upon how well they toe the line of appropriate feminine behavior, as deemed by society. Even with concrete evidence of the boys’ disgusting behavior, the town still considers them the victims of a “drunk and regretful” girl. Readers watch as Emma spirals downward in her own despair, as her family becomes pariahs, even as the town rallies behind the boys. One of the hardest things for me, was how her parents, especially her father, treated Emma – before she was raped, after she spoke with the police and became and international news sensation, and after she made the decision to drop the charges. A happy ending, it is not…but it is definitely a realistic one.

DNF – Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
I cannot convey how boring and unegaging this book was. It felt like a contrived mash up of Little House on the Prairie and demons/psychotic episodes. There was absolutely no dramatic tension. Allusions to Amanda’s psychotic episode during the previous winter ended up being more annoying than intriguing. I ended up skipping around in the story to see if it got any better, but it didn’t.

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PopSugar – May

My PopSugar goal for May was to finish the first 40 tasks of the challenge. I had only two books left, so it was doable even with both books being nonfiction. Though I’ve been suffering from challenge reading burnout, it beats finishing the challenge at 11:30 pm on December 31st like last year.

I also managed to read four books from the advanced list, leaving me with four books remaining. Though I’m mostly finished, PS is going to go on the back burner for a bit because I’m itching to start reading down my Amazon list. Also because I pushed myself with challenges and am now dragging my heels for challenge books, even if they’re books I want to read.

Bum Voyage by David Greer
#18 – A reread that never fails to make me smile
Bum Voyage was one of my mother’s favorite childhood books, and she introduced it to me when I was kid. A 10-year-old boy is dragged to Europe by his mother on a multi-week, multi-country tour. It’s an interesting look at post-war Europe as it rebuilds itself. The biggest thing I clung to as a child was how hamburgers in England were essentially sausage patties in a bun, and not what Americans would consider hamburgers. And when I visited England in 1998, I confirmed this (at a regular restaurant, not a fast food chain). As a child, I absolutely adored David and how he perceived the world around him. Fast forward to the present day, and while I still find David’s view entertaining, as an adult I am now aware of how misogynistic the book was at times (keeping in mind it was written in 1960).

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
#20 – Has career advice
This book was mostly irrelevant to me because I will never be an entrepreneur, and the nature of my current job precludes regular telework. That being said, I did have some useful take away, mainly in regard to travel and mini-retirements (I love the concept of mini-retirements). I also liked his reinforcement of not letting work consume your life.

 

 

ADVANCED LIST

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
#4 – Takes place over character’s lifespan
Be warned – this is a very slow book. I recommend listening to it in an audio format that allows you to change the listening speed. 2x kept it from being too draggy. Plodding pace aside, it was a really fascinating read. I loved the concept of Harry reliving his life over and over again (he’s a kalachakra – an immortal being continually reborn). I loved how the kalachakra communicated with each other across the centuries, and how the threat of the rogue kalachakra was handled. Harry himself was a bit bland and emotionally divorced from what was going on around him, but at the same time, I can understand this could be a defense mechanism to living the same life on repeat.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#9 – Bought at a used book sale
This was the first of the two books that fell well below my childhood expectations. The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite movies as a child; the book definitely translates well to film. And while l adore nonsensical stories, I did not like this one in book format – the book spent too much time moralizing. I don’t like being moralized at when reading.

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
#10 – Mentioned in another book (View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman)
The second of the two books of crushed childhood expectations was this one – Wonderworks mini-series all the way! Maybe it’s because I listened to it instead of reading it (not a fan of Michael York except in the movie, The Taming of the Shrew). The inflections used when describing the interactions of the children with Aslan, felt a bit pedophilic. Those scenes themselves bothered me, but I’m coming at this from the angle of a modern mother, and not a child from the 1950’s. I could very well be reading too much into it.

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
#12 – Based on mythology
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and Norse Mythology doesn’t disappoint. I love how he uses words and sly asides. I love the cadence of both his writing and narration. I love how he takes Norse gods and their stories and makes them his own, while staying true to the nature of the beings. My only complaint was that the book wasn’t longer.

 

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The Hub – May

May was my burn out month for reading challenges. This wouldn’t necessarily appear to be the case because of the number of books I read, but I had a run of books that were either unimpressive or DNFs. It feels like there was a better book selection last year, or I at least had a better connection with the selection. That being said, some of the best books I’ve read so far this year were Hub books – The Truth About Forever, Along For the Ride, and The Female of the Species.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was enjoyable enough, and the concept was unique and well-thought out. My problem was with the main character. I had a hard time with her bull-headed devotion to her special snowflake status – the dream that she could be the queen even though she failed miserably at all of the requirements necessary to even be considered as a candidate. Adapt and overcome, and sure enough she becomes a dark horse. I dislike the current belief that anyone can be anything, and to see it so bluntly in this book detracted from the imagination of the spirits and how humans co-existed with them.

 

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
I liked this book. It was a fast read, and I liked the story, but it didn’t particularly grab me. It was lyrical, though the language was at times felt inauthentic for teens (more how adults daydreamed they would have talked when they were teens). I did like how positive and open it was for LGBT teens learning and accepting who they were.

 

 

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
Another fast read that was a basic overview of Minamoto Yoshitsune. It didn’t really go into a lot of details, feeling like it skimmed over a lot of the violence and destruction involved with toppling a regime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I ended up liking the Sarah Dessen books more than I expected to. They all have similarities – parents who are absent (physically or emotionally), young teenage girls who are a little bit on the outside of things, still slightly awkward with themselves, and the journey from that awkwardness into self-confidence. They felt innocent and hopeful and it made me wistful for my high school days, learning about love for the first time. Of the four books, The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride were my favorites. I felt a connection with Macy and Auden in regard to how their families disfunctioned. Keeping the Moon was alright, but I didn’t like how Colie was told she was a shallow person for not being attracted to Norman. It felt like she talked herself into liking him because of other people’s opinions. This Lullaby was my least favorite. I liked that Remy had some edges to her, but Dexter was annoying, and I didn’t care for how the story unfolded.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
Unfortunately, this book was only somewhat interesting, and only somewhat focused on what the title said the book was about. I was expecting, and hoping, for more information about the five people enslaved by four presidents, but instead of taking what we know of their lives and expanding on what we know of slavery in general from that era, he put the focus on the presidents. I would have liked to learn more about the hidden history of slavery, how it affected those who were enslaved, and the culture they created.

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Another book I’d heard about but wasn’t on my reading radar. I’m glad it was on the Hub list because it was wonderful. Both Theodore and Violet were interesting relatively well-fleshed out characters. I liked how they connected, even if the use of Virginia Woolf was a bit pretentious. I do have several complaints with the book. Theodore’s mental illness was  glossed over to the the point I had no clue what it was. A school guidance councilor mentioned that he thought Theodore might be bipolar, but it was speculation on the part of that character. The adults in the book were awful, ranging from ambivalent to neglectful to abusive – and none of them were called out for it. Their behaviors were treated as par for the course. And finally, it felt like suicide was treated in such a way as to make it appear tragically beautiful. Which it is most definitely not.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This is a fairly brutal tragedy of a book. It deals with some nasty topics, but at the same time is darkly funny. The humor is a good counterpoint to what happens, and keeps the story from being overwhelming. I like that the main characters, and even some of the secondary characters are complex while staying away from special snowflake-cliche end of the spectrum. I adore Alex, and even though some of her actions are outside of the law, she is still a relateable character who is aware of her flaws (and the flaws of society).

 

 

DNF – Every Sun a Star by Nicola Yoon
I like the concept of this book, but I couldn’t stand it. The writing style and instalove got on my nerves, but what kept me from making myself overlook those for the sake of an interesting story was how the immigration office was portrayed. I have first-hand experience working for the benefits side of immigration, and it is most definitely NOT like how it is written in the book. We’ll start with the fact that USCIS has absolutely nothing to do with removals/deportations. That’s all ICE. USCIS deals with benefits (green cards, becoming a citizen, etc…). It is not law enforcement. If you went to a USCIS office to talk about removal proceedings, you would be told that we can’t help you, please go talk to ICE. Also, if you’ve scheduled a walk-in appointment, you won’t know the name of the officer ahead of time. You will get whoever happens to be working the information counter on that day. The same goes for interview appointments. On top of that, an immigration officer isn’t going to give someone the name of a potentially skeezy lawyer/fixer who might be able to help a person stay in the US. Maybe it was different “back in the day”, but it was never my experience.

DNF – The Reader by Traci Chee
A book with an interesting concept, but it was just. so. freaking. boring. And highly implausible once I started to get into it – how was there no system of writing or some sort of equivalent? I had to force myself to get to page 50. Then I read the last few pages. And I realized I had no interesting in learning what happened in between.

DNF – Dryland by Sarah Jaffe
My third DNF for May was Dryland. Another book that seemed interesting, and one that would be a good fit because I lived through the flannel-wearing-teen-angst of the 90’s. But it was another boring book. I didn’t connect with Julie, and wasn’t able to push myself past around page 30.

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PopSugar – April

So…I didn’t manage to finish PopSugar in April, but I did get pretty darn close – two books left out of 40 for the regular list, and three more knocked out for the advanced list, putting me at four out of 12 completed. Most of the books I read skewed towards the side of disappointment, or at the very least a strong indifference. The only one that really hooked me (meaning that I will read it again) was Geekerella.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
#1 – Recommended by a librarian
A librarian I know recommended this because of the mix of geekdom and fairy tales, and they work surprisingly well together. I loved how all the props from Cinderella fit into the modern world, i.e. magic pumpkin = vegan food truck. High form literature it’s not, but it is a solid beach read. I would listen to it again.

Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
#2 – Been on my TBR list way too long
The Disney movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, was one of my childhood favorites. I picked up the book a while ago with the intention of reading it to see how it compared to the movie. Unfortunately, it was awful. Book and movie are two completely separate entities. The movie used the book as source material, and then created an entirely new everything. The personalities and actions of the characters, and the adventures the children went on were completely different.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
#3 – Book of letters
I first read this in college for a Christian literature course, and I enjoyed it immensely. A lot of what Lewis writes about is still so very relevant to how people live their lives today; how easy it is to twist (supposedly) good actions into evil ones. I don’t recommend reading this if you are stressed out or are mentally being pulled in multiple directions as it makes it harder to process.

All By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
#12 – Bestseller, not from usual genre (mystery thriller)
I have only read one other MHC book, Loves Music, Loves to Dance, and that was in middle school (bought it from a Scholastic bookclub order form – probably not a book that would be on there today). And while more than 20 years has passed since I read it, I could swear there was more going on, and that the murders and motives weren’t so transparent (need to reread to verify). All By Myself, Alone was mediocre at best. I liked it in that it was a moderately enjoyable fast read, but that’s about it. MHC pretty much gives away who the killer is before the book even gets started, and there were too many subplots with cliché characters.

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker
#15 – Book with a subtitle
This book falls into my ‘declutter my mental and physical space’ kick. Becker has some solid things to share, and it fits in with other lifestyle books I’ve listened to recently, but he lost me on the toxic relationships section. I know he’s coming at minimalism from a Christian perspective, but there are some relationships that just need to be let go.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
#28 – Set during wartime
I have mixed feelings about this book, enough that I know I won’t read the sequel or any subsequent books. Bradley was too heavy-handed with pointing out the lack of education/life experience of Ada and Jamie. It also seemed like Ada was too quick to learn – you don’t go from zero experience riding horses to successfully jumping one over a hedge. On the positive side, I did like how Ada, Jamie, and Susan created a family.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
#34 – Month/day of the week in the title
I have read three books in this series, and while the first one was clever and cute, it began to wear a bit in the second book, enough so that I didn’t want to read the third. One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the sixth book in the series, and the main character is book world Thursday, and not real world Thursday. RW Thursday was entertaining, BW Thursday was not.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
#38 – Set around a non-Christmas holiday
Of the few Agatha Christie books I’ve read, Hallowe’en Party was my least favorite. The plot was interesting, but I didn’t always follow how Poirot came to the conclusions he did. I will read more AC, but I plan on sticking with her earlier works.

 

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
#40 – Book bought on a trip (ALA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, 2014)
I picked this book up after going to a speech McGonigal gave at ALA. I don’t remember the content anymore, but I do remember being fascinated with what she said. Both my sister and I bought her book, and had her sign it. I really like the idea of incorporating gaming into our everyday lives as a way to make reality more bearable and motivating, or as ways to crowdsource tackling large issues. But as she says in the book, our attention span for any one game only lasts for so long before it becomes boring and we move on to something new. It doesn’t necessarily feasible for socially-conscious MMORPG to go attract a significant population for a length of time.

ADVANCED LIST

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
#3 – Family member term in title
I like the idea of the book – two brothers on a mission to complete a hit in the Wild West, but it fell short. There was a lack of character development, and the plot felt rambling. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but rambling plots need strong characters, and the characters all blended together. Admittedly, I am not a fan of westerns in any format, so this may have something to do with my lack of enjoyment. (My sister thinks this also could be because I listened to the book as opposed to read it.)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
#6 – Genre/subgenre you’ve never heard of (mannerpunk)
Even though I’ve read mannerpunk books before, I was unaware that it was its own subgenre. Lies looked interesting with the concept of pulling off heists again the wealthy in a Venice-like city, and I liked how the multiple threads and players added complexity. However, the story felt like it went on forever – and that was listening to it at 2x speed. Losing words would have tightened it up and made the story immensely more engaging.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
#11- Difficult topic
This book was mediocre at best. I hate that I have this opinion about such a dark and complex topic, but there was no gut-wrenching emotion.  The characters were two-dimensional and boring. They showed no signs of moral ambiguity or other flaws. They were written as such that it was blindingly obvious who were the victims – all were heartstring-pulling “special” in some way. and who was the villain – basically a guy who has a major temper tantrum because people are essentially not living life the way he wants them to in relation to him. I also had issues with how character diversity was handled. Too much time was spent pointing out what made the characters different/diverse, and it made the “diverse” characters feel like caricatures.

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