Category Archives: Reading Challenges

PopSugar – February

My dedication to timely completing all book challenges this year is paying off. I hit and passed the halfway mark for PopSugar in February. I’ve been trying to stay focused on challenge books instead of being lured by the siren’s song of every other book. If I can finish the main list of 40 books by the end of April, I will be thrilled.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
#5 – Author is person of color
I loved Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis/Lillith’s Brood trilogy, so I thought I would give another one of her books a try. Time travel is one of my preferred genres, and the concept of Kindred seemed interesting – a modern African American woman traveling back to antebellum Maryland multiple times for the purpose of keeping her white, slaveholding ancestor alive. Dana’s journeys were fascinating and horrifying. She had to learn to navigate the reality of being a slave while attempting to keep herself psychologically separate from it.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
#7 – A story within a story
I was absolutely in love with the book for the first 400 pages (the illustrated story), and then the prose section happened. The prose story was well-written, but it ruined the magic created by the illustrations. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me when the connection between the two stories was revealed. Ultimately, though, it was a beautiful story. A sad story, but a beautiful one.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
#8 – Multiple authors
I remember hearing about this book before it came out, and thought it sounded interesting, but not one I would ever read. While it was a fun, tongue-in-cheek fantastical reimagining of how Lady Jane Grey became queen, it was also trite, mired in tropes and clichés, suffered from a lack of solid rules of magic, and had many moments of characters behaving stupidly.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
#9 – Espionage
I grew up loving James Bond (especially Sean Connery), and both of my parents were fans of the books/movies. Espionage isn’t really my genre of choice, but I figured giving Bond a go wouldn’t be too awful. It’s definitely a book of its time, especially in how women are treated. I prefer the movies, even though I know they are equally sexist.

Feed by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)
#11 – Author uses pseudonym
A blood and guts zombie book, this is not. It is political espionage set against the backdrop of a post-zombie apocalypse world. Blogger journalists are part of the staff, covering a presidential candidate on the campaign trail, and end up uncovering a conspiracy. Aspects of it are eerily similar to some of the behind-the-scenes machinations going on in current politics.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
#13 – Author/MC has disability
This felt like a down-to-earth telling about Cece Bell’s experience as a child, warts and all. I can’t imagine the social intricacies of navigating elementary and middle school while wearing a phonic ear, the frustrations of dying batteries, or dealing with people treating you like a small child who equate lack of hearing with a lack of competency.

Eleventh Grave in Midnight by Darynda Jones
#16 – Book published in 2017
I really enjoy this series (though I don’t recommend binge reading/listening as the character flaws tend to be overwhelming). Charlie is still willingly obtuse and complains about not understanding how to use her powers, even though she doesn’t make an effort to figure them out. Uncle Bob and Reyes are still keeping secrets from her in the name of “protection”, and then keep getting mad at her when she doesn’t do what they want her to. That being said, Charlie finally, finally started to experiment with her powers, and Reyes finally, finally started showing her how to use them. We also got to learn more about Reyes’ past, which was good. But the overall series plot didn’t advance much.

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
#17 – Involving a mythical creature
My sister has been after me for a long while to read this, and I finally broke down because I realized it fit a needed category. I’ve read books by Seanan McGuire, but found them to not really be my thing (even though I’m a fan of urban fantasy). However, I absolutely loved Rolling in the Deep. Yes, you already know how the book is going to end before it even starts – that’s kind of the point. What makes the story fun and exciting is how it gets there. She did a fantastic job with her mermaids. No buxom beauties here, but instead, highly evolved deep sea predators.

The Bees by Laline Paull
#21 – Book from a nonhuman perspective
The Bees was a quick read, and held my attention, though I was still able to put the book down. The hive was a religious dystopian society, and completely non-human (and completely non Nature Channel). How the bees interacted, how they were controlled by the Queen and Sages, was fascinating. The worldbuilding was a little uneven at times, specifically with regard to the anthropomorphization of the bees. However, it was an enjoyable read.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
#22 – Steampunk
Steampunk has been one of my favorite genres since I stumbled upon Soulless by Gail Carriger almost five years ago, so finding a book for this challenge consisted of pulling from an already long TBR list of steampunk titles. I liked the riff on Jekyll and Hyde, but the the pacing was off and there was a lack of plot focus – too much going on. Neither plot nor characters were captivating.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
#27 – Title is character’s name
This book was much shorter than I expected it to be. Given how the book was written, it wouldn’t have worked in a longer format. It had a dreamlike quality to it, and was disjointed, offering fairly superficial snippets of Margaret’s life instead of in-depth narration. That being said, the style fit with her personality of never quite behaving the way an adult should.

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach
#32 – Book about an interesting woman
Getrude Bell was a very singular woman, and had an incredibly solid understanding of the geopolitical climate of the Middle East. She also had strong personal connections with many of the region’s powerful men. There are definite parallels between how Great Britain et al. wanted to reshape the Middle East after WWI, and how current international relations with the Middle East stand.

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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?

Image result for napoleon dynamite gosh

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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The Hub – February

YALSA’s the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge has started! There are definitely some good books on the list this year, though not as many of them catch my attention as last year. This isn’t an issue as there are still many interesting books that will take me out of my reading comfort zone. My reading challenge focus is still on PopSugar and Read Harder, so I haven’t done lot of Hub reading yet. That being said, I did manage to read/listen to seven titles in January, but  six of those titles are graphic novels, which tend to be fast reads.

Some of the books on the list I’ve already read, and don’t plan on rereading for this challenge:

*In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero (just read it in January)
*The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzalez
*The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Of the books listed below, I had Paper Girls (both volumes) and Giant Days (first three volumes) at home already, not knowing that they were going to be a part of this challenge. It was only because I was trying to plow through other books first that I hadn’t already read them. Gemina I’ve had downloaded on my phone for months, but put off reading it on the chance it would be included. Good guess on my part.

And last, but not least: what I read for the 2016 Hub Reading challenge. I read 36 books last year and will probably read a similar number this year.

paper girlsPaper Girls, Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
I read this last year, and decided to read it again because the second volume came out recently. PG is very much a WTF is going on graphic novel. There are two groups of “others”, and the intentions of both are ambiguous enough that it’s hard to tell who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s in it only for themselves. The tree of knowledge imagery (apples, specifically) is worked in throughout the story, and I’m curious as to what those references are setting up.

giant-days-1 giant-days-2Giant Days, Vol 1 & 2 by John Allison & Lissa Treiman
Both volumes were fun and enjoyable. There were moments of snorting, but nothing really jumped out at me as being amazing. Possibly because it was completely different from my college experience? I didn’t go until I was in my 20’s, lived off-campus by myself in a crappy apartment, and balanced a full course load with working full-time.

geminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
The sequel to Illuminae was very good, but not quiet as good, because how do you follow up the awesomeness that was HAL900 and reavers? You don’t, really, but you give it a good shot. The suspense wasn’t up to par, but the plot twists were satisfying. Hanna was also a surprisingly strong lead once she got past her spoiled, entitled existence.

 

mighty-jackMighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Mighty Jack is the opening volume of what looks to be an interesting reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk. It is a bit slow in and of itself, but it is a strong set up for the adventure to follow. Jack and his sister, Maddie, buy seeds at a flea market and plant a garden once they get home. The garden seems to be the one thing that gets Maddie out of her non-verbal shell, so they spend most of their time caring for it. However, the garden starts to get out of control, and for the sake of protecting Maddie, Jack destroys the garden. Jack and Lilly (an awesome, intelligent, sword-wielding homeschooled neighbor) must rescue Maddie from the results of the final packet of seeds she planted after she realized what Jack did.

plutonaPlutona by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox
The positives: the kids weren’t cookie cutter. Each had their own definitive personality, and acted like real teenagers, warts and all. The concept was interesting, a nice twist on superheroes, looking at their fallibility and what happens if that fallibility is discovered. The ending also fit the mood of the story. It is somewhat abrupt and “this is it?”, but at the same time, it’s similar to what the characters are feeling. It works. The negative: because Plutona is one contained volume, there wasn’t enough character development or story depth. I would have been a much better story if spread out over several volumes. So much potential, not enough pages.

prez-1Prez, Vol 1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell & Ben Caldwell
A very good satire of current politics, and the way politics could potentially go (blatant corporate ownership versus the more behind the scenes wheeling and dealing of today). Beth is a fabulous dark horse who isn’t owned by any of the corporations or lobbyists. Once she’s elected, she starts cleaning house and trying to do what’s right regardless of how politicking is supposed to be done. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does in future volumes.

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Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder – Halfway!

After successfully finishing both major reading challenges last year, I was feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by my ever-growing library pile.  Most of the books I had checked out weren’t applicable to the challenges and they just kept building up, so I decided this year I would take a break from challenges and focus on purging the backlog first.

That plan…it didn’t last long.  Especially after my sister told me she was going to try to finish both Read Harder and PopSugar Ultimate as quickly as possible. I wanted to see if I could reasonably keep pace with her (I’m not cocky enough to attempt racing her – the woman is a reading machine), so here we are.

Fortunately, a lot of the books I had out DID fulfill this year’s challenge tasks – I’m over halfway through Book Riot’s Read Harder and only a few books shy of halfway on PopSugar Ultimate.  It’s been a good year so far too – lots of amazing books already.  Here are some of my favorites from Read Harder:

22318499How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis – after experiencing a personal epiphany while visiting the farmhouse that inspired Wuthering Heights, Samantha Ellis decided to re-read some of her favorite books featuring influential heroines.  The result is a funny, fascinating, and often poignant analysis of several classic and popular works (most I’ve read, some I haven’t) that perfectly captures how it feels when we internalize and attempt to emulate beloved characters and narratives.

22295304Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older – this book is awesome.  A teenage girl living in Brooklyn discovers she’s part of a supernatural legacy, the Shadowshapers, people who can connect with spirits through art in all its forms.  The imagery is vivid: you really get a feel for the culture, the mythology, and summer in the city.  Sierra is thoughtful, creative, and smart, and the characters surrounding her are just as engaging.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.  Also, Anika Noni Rose’s narration on the audiobook was fantastic.

25935592Armada by Ernest Cline – this was my reread, but this time I went for the audiobook edition.  I enjoyed revisiting this story (Ready Player One still wins, though), and Wil Wheaton narrates it perfectly.  He brings the characters and the plot to life, using different tones and accents without sounding forced or awkward.  Basically, I’ll read anything Ernest Cline writes and listen to anything Wil Wheaton narrates.

 

Completed Tasks

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
8) Travel memoir – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
9) Book you’ve read before – Armada, Ernest Cline
12) Fantasy novel – Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake
13) Nonfiction about technology – Tetris: the Games People Play, Box Brown
15) LGBTQ+ YA or middle grade novel – George, Alex Gino
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
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

Read Harder – January

ultra-mindsetThe Ultra Mindset by Travis Macy
#1 – Book about sports
This is as about as sporty as I get. I don’t have a strong interest in sports, and while I know I will never be an ultramarathoner, I am starting to run again. Macy uses anecdotes to illustrate his tenets for how to become a better runner, person, etc… Because it’s a little bit of everything, it isn’t going to be useful for someone looking for hardcore lessons on building endurance, but it’s accessible, telling people they are capable of more than they think they are. It’s a mentality shift, not a physical shift. It’s good motivation for me as a beginner.

invisible-libraryThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
#3 – Book about books
I liked the premise of the book – interdimensional librarian spies saving books – but the execution of the story didn’t really hold my attention. It was alright, but not not as good as I was hoping it would be. There was too much information, too much going on, and even with that…it was still kind of boring. I also didn’t make much of a connection to the characters. There was no growth. I have no interest in reading any of the sequels.

in-the-country-we-loveIn the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
#5 – Written by an immigrant / immigration as central narrative
I’m not sure how tightly this book fits into the prompt given that it’s more about the long lasting impact the deportation of Diane Guerrero’s parents had on her. Immigration is central in that it is what brought her parents to the United States, and also what tore their family apart. I couldn’t begin to imagine what life was like for Diane, living with the threat of losing her parents hanging over her head, and then how crushing the reality of it was when it actually happened. Immigration is such a complex and controversial topic, and having a personal story that humanizes it is important, especially now.

boneBone, Vol 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
#6 – All-ages comic
This book has been recommended to me in the past, and the library director I used to work for loves this series. However, I wasn’t able to get into it. The first volume is mostly set up (which isn’t necessarily bad), and while I liked Fone Bone, I didn’t like his cousins. They seem to be the ones who will cause all of the forthcoming trouble. My dislike is mostly my reaction to Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, but the plot didn’t hold my attention either.

gatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
#7 – Published between 1900-1950
I’ve tried to read this book before, but have never been able to get very far into it before becoming distracted by another book. I decided to give it a go on audiobook (Jake Gyllenhaal as narrator), and found it was much easier to listen to it than to read it. The whole book seemed somewhat futile and the characters selfish. Gatsby’s whole motive for his ostentatious life was to impress a girl with whom he had a summer fling with prior to being shipped off to the trenches, a girl who was as petty and selfish as he was obsessive and insecure. That being said, Fitzgerald did an excellent job skewering various levels of society – the need to climb to the higher strata, and the disdain the higher levels of society had for the lower levels.

long-way-homeA Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley
#11 – Set at least 5000 miles away from your home
So to start, Saroo was five years old when he rode a train across India and ended up alone in Koltkata. My son is five years old. I kept imagining my son in Saroo’s place and couldn’t fathom how he was able to survive. I also found it incredible that he retained enough of a detailed memory to be able to find his hometown on Google Maps 25 years later. In regard to the writing, it was fairly informal and not the content was not overly in-depth. It’s more “this is how it happened” versus introspection.

georgeGeorge by Alex Gino
#15 – MG/YA author is LGBTQ+
While not the most polished book (debuts tend not to be), it’s a much needed book, and age appropriate for the middle grade crowd, either for a child in a similar situation as George, or for children trying to understand a classmate. George is a girl, and her dilemma is the difference between her reality and how others perceive her. I like that she had support from unlikely source (her brother). There is no “lesson”. The story is simply about George knowing who she is and what she wants (to play Charlotte), and having the courage to be both.

hunterHunter by Mercedes Lackey
#12 – Fantasy novel
After 27 years of reading fantasy novels, this was the first Mercedes Lackey novel I have ever read. A bit shocking really, given how prolific a writer she is. I loved the intersection of post-apocalypse and magic; how old world technology and terminology have been repurposed and used in conjunction with magic. For all that it’s fantasy, it’s political as well with a huge government conspiracy. Joy is a strong character, and not hot-headed. I had to force myself to not listen to the sequel right away since I want to finish my book challenges first.

ms-marvel-4Ms. Marvel, Vol 4: Last Days by Willow G. Wilson
#18 – Superhero comic with a female lead
I’ve been somewhat ambivalent towards Ms. Marvel, even though it is excellently written and drawn. It’s more that I have never really liked superhero comics. That being said, I keep reading Ms. Marvel though because of various reading challenges. However, volume 4 is the one that has tipped my ambivalence over into love. It felt like the storytelling has hit finally its stride. Complex and dark, Kamala has to confront a crisis that has the very real possibility of not ending well, and in realizing that she has to learn that superheros can’t save everyone. There were still plenty of clever details in the background, like the random pigs or the rat with a bowler hat or some of the storefront signs, which added some levity. Kamala also has some good scenes with both her mother and Bruno.

labyrinth-lostLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
#19 – Character of color goes on a spiritual journey
This is a book I heard about, read the description, and then told myself it looked interesting, but it wouldn’t be something I read. Thank you Book Riot for making this category, because without it, I would have never read it. Labyrinth Lost was rich and detailed, and the bruja religion was fully developed. The storytelling was beautiful. The only quibble I had had to do with the romance/love interest. It didn’t feel right, sort of like it was there because there should be a romance. It didn’t develop organically, and would have been better left in the friend zone, with the potential for it to grow in future books.

PopSugar – January

pinesPines by Blake Crouch
#4 – Audiobook
I don’t exactly know how I came across this book – probably Audible – but it was amazing. I couldn’t stop listening to it. There is definitely something creepy and off about Wayward Pines, and various citizens are champion gaslighters. The weird ratchets up even more once Ethan starts his attempts to escape, and what he discovers upon his partial success. I plan on watching the TV show once I’ve finished the trilogy, especially since I’ve seen multiple reviews saying the show is better than the book.

scandal-in-springScandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
#6 – One of the four seasons in the title
This book was only alright. The basic romance was enjoyable, but there was a lot of POV-time spent on characters secondary to Daisy’s and Matthew’s romance. Lillian also had some serious blinders on, and was a downright shrew. I liked her hardheadedness in It Happened One Autumn, but I did not like her in Scandal in Spring. Lillian dragged the book down, with her inability to accept that Daisy had a valid opinion regarding Matthew.

awaken-onlineCatharsis: Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell
#10 – Cat on the cover
This is the best book I’ve read in the RPG sub-genre. It takes the concept and twists it a bit, placing the MC, Jason, as the villain of the newly launched MMORPG, Awaken Online. He has to grapple with what real life has thrown at him, and with his growing realization that he has been cast as the villain online. Aspects of both his real life and online life collide, and both he and his adversaries exist in a gray zone. Is the hero really good? Is Jason really bad? I can’t wait to listen to the sequel when it comes out.

holiday-in-nokoMy Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons
#14 – Involving travel
A look at the surreal alternate reality that is NoKo. It’s funny, but not ha ha funny, more like the I can’t believe this is real/really happening/don’t know exactly how to react funny. Alice in Wonderland quotes start each chapter, and they are apt metaphors to what the author experiences. She doesn’t disparage the people, but she questions the government and country that forces people to live like in those conditions. After a while, she likens her visit to living in a psych ward – you can tell things aren’t right, but you can’t necessarily discern the truth from the lies. Her questions were not always answered, her guide deflecting them or throwing out random answers. I liked her concept of “proptalking”, the constant stream of propaganda talking she listened to. It reminded me of 1984 with the doublespeak. NoKo seemed like a parody of modern life that doesn’t quite get it right. It has to be incredibly hard for the people who work with tourists; to reconcile their reality and their indoctrination with what tourists say the outside world is like.

cinnamon-gunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
#19 – About food
The basic premise of this book: private chef is kidnapped by pirate and forced to serve her an elegant dinner every Sunday. Food played a central roll, of course, and Owen, the chef, must get creative in coming up with a worthy meal while at sea on a minimally equipped pirate ship. However, my favorite aspect was watching Owen grow as a character. He started out with a very rigid and narrow worldview, but even with the brutality he saw and dealt with, he ended up accepting and embracing the fact that nothing is strictly black and white. People who might seem good on the surface are really cruel, and vice versa. It turned out to be a really lovely book.

fatherlandFatherland by Nina Bunjevac
#23 – Red spine
Part family history, part Croatian/Serbian history, Fatherland looks at Bunjevac’s father’s actions as a Serbian terrorist in Toronto. It traces his personal history and discusses potential reasons for his actions through the lens of actual history. She tries to sort information out and make sense of it in order to have a better understanding of the father she never knew. I liked how bigger picture history was woven through personal history. My only complaint is that the book ended too abruptly. I am really curious as to how all of this effected her older brother, Petey. The history is fascinating because it’s not something that really gets covered in school beyond Tito = Yugoslavia.

revenantThe Revenant by Michael Punke
#24 – Set in the wilderness
My sister has been after me to read this book for the past two years. My husband read, and enjoyed it. I figured it would be a good read. It was, don’t get me wrong, but after all of the brutality and hardship that Glass has to endure, the ending was incredibly anti-climactic. I know that endings aren’t necessarily clear cut, but after what happens when he crosses paths with Fitzgerald at the end, coupled with the fact that it just kind of peters out after that…I wish there had been a bit more to close it up.

dragonsongDragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
#25 – Book you loved as a child
While Bunnicula was the first chapter book I ever read, it was Dragonsong that got me hooked on reading. When I was nine, my librarian mother, who despaired about my middling interest in reading, thrust this book into my hands one day. It was all downhill from there. I connected with Menolly, with her feelings of being unwanted and out of place. This segued into a love of dragons, and my obsession with their existence and the possibility that I might get lucky and end up being adopted by one. I don’t deny that I had some issues.

singing-bonesThe Singing Bones by Shaun Tan
#30 – A book with pictures
A collection of very short fairy tales, supplemented by photographs of sculptures that added a dreamlike and sometimes unnerving weight. It felt like movement was happening just beyond the edge of perception. Some of the stories are snippets of the fairy tale, or the entire thing boiled down to its most salient point. I loved that Neil Gaiman wrote the foreword, and I agree with him that Tan gave the fairy tales a tactile dimension that adds to heft of the stories. He captured the feeling fairy tales evoke – magical, but also uncomfortable and gruesome. Tan made these fairy tales his own, and gave them new dimension.

bollywood-bride

The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
#31 – MC different ethnicity than you
This is the second book by Sonali Dev that I’ve listened to. Both were light and fluffy romances, but even with that in the background, it was fun reading a romance novel through the lens of a different culture – same, same, but different.

 

hotel-rubyHotel Ruby by Suzanne Young
#35 – Set in a hotel
If “Hotel California” and “The Sixth Sense” had a YA novel baby, this would be it. It was creepy – things were slightly off. Not a lot, but enough that a little thread of WTF started running through my head. I couldn’t put it down, staying up way too late on a work night in order to finish it. I did figure out what what going on part way through the book, but it didn’t detract from the story. The ending was satisfying. (It looks like the paperback version of this book is known as Hotel for the Lost).

medium-rawRedium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
#36 – Written by someone you admire
I’ve enjoyed Anthony Bourdain since I first saw him sarcastic and ranty on No Reservations. I enjoy is perspective and the way he uses words. I admire him because he not only knows and understands his flaws and failings, but he embraces them, never trying to push the blame on to someone else. He knows exactly who he is, warts and all. The essays of Medium Raw did not disappoint. I will never look at food the same way as him, but it is still fun to live vicariously through his descriptions. “Go Ask Alice” was my favorite, and showcases Bourdain’s snark, but also his understanding of his own pessimism and why others might love what he hates.

tenTen by Gretchen McNeil
#37 – Becoming a movie in 2016
This book piqued my interest because of its comparison to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, but if it was turned into more gruesome teen slasher book (not gruesome for some, but I have a low tolerance for anything horror-related). It was an interesting read, and I will probably watch the movie when it makes its way to DVD.

moon-calledMoon Called by Patricia Briggs
#39 – First book in a new to you series
Tentatively on my TBR list, I decided to give it a listen when I learned that Lorelei King (Charlie Davidson series) was the narrator. It was alright. I know that’s not high praise, but I’ll give the second book a listen to see if the pace picks up a bit.

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Reading Challenges of 2017

Let’s just start with this, shall we?

read-all-the-books

Because this is essentially what 2017 is going to look like for me. It’s a whole new year, and even though my book love was dragging at the end of 2016, I am ready and motivated and will do my damnedest not to get distracted by other books until I have finished all the challenges. Two weeks in, and my willpower is still holding, even though I desperately want to give in to some sequels that keep calling my name.

Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge
Of course this one is at the top of the list. Twenty-four categories of awesomeness, and books for 16 of them are already in my house. I am lifting my “no rereading” ban this year, because Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (#17 – Classic by author of color) has been on my TBR for years. I read it 17 years ago for a college English class, so I’d like to think enough time has passed that it’s alright to reread it.

This year will also be different in that my husband won’t be participating. He is back in school, so fun reading has been mostly sidelined for him. Sophia will be late joining the party – she has a massive TBR stack of library books that need to be read and returned (she works at a library, so no late fees, which unfortunately encourages book hoarding tendencies).

What am I excited about this year? Well beyond the fact that I already have over half the books at home, the categories feel more challenging this year. Micropress? Nonfiction about technology? Set within 100 miles of where I live? There are some good categories for sure.

PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
The behemoth got a bit bigger this year. In addition to the normal 40 categories, they upped the ante by adding 12 more in their “advanced” reading list. I am not going to let myself touch the advanced list until I’ve finished the normal one (though I have already chosen six of the books). The ante was also upped with the categories they chose. They feel much more rigorous, more horizon-expanding. I’m going to have to dig for a few of these – “story within a story”, “month/day of the week in the title”, “book bought on a trip”.

PopSugar was my Achilles heel last year. I didn’t finish it until the evening of December 31st. My reading motivation was down the drain, and even though I could have had it done months earlier, I kept getting distracted by other reading challenges or other non-reading challenge books. The latter being the main culprit. “I will not get distracted” is my reading challenge mantra for 2017.

Bookish: 12 Ways to Kill your TBR this Year
I saw Bookish’s challenge last year, but didn’t add it to my challenge list because, well…I was already participating in three of them. One more seemed a bit much. This year, however, I am adding it to the happy family that is Emma’s obsession with reading challenges. Both Sophia and my step-mom will (hopefully) be participating as well. I really hope my step-mom does as it is not as hard as other challenges. Twelve books in twelve months. A different theme each month. Very doable. It will help to make a small dent in my TBR mountain.

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge
No link for this one yet since it hasn’t come out yet (probably towards the end of January, like last year). I am excited to see what books are on it this year. It definitely expanded my YA horizon. I tend to stick with YA fantasy and graphic formats, so this challenge forced me to read a larger slice of the YA pie. Like last year, my aim is at least 25 books, but not every book.

Emma’s Amazon Challenge
This one stems from the fact that I have 1000+ books sitting in my “books to read” wishlist on Amazon. The struggle is real. Some of these books will be removed from the list because of other reading challenges, but once I’m done with those (minus Bookish), my goal is to start knocking these bad boys out. Not the whole thing, of course. It would take me three years of dedicated reading to do that, as the list currently stands.

 

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