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:

Image result for it's been 84 years gif

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

Emma’s Read Harder Halfway Point

What started out as a post for my January Read Harder books changed as my reading goal quickly escalated to an attempt to complete the entire challenge before my semester starts on January 29th. At that point, any reading not related to my classes will most likely be confined audiobooks listened to during my commute and household chores.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#3 – Genre fiction classic
This is the second audiobook I’ve listened to narrated by Michael York, and I’ve realized that I don’t like his narration style. He is too whiny with some of his interpretations.  I’ve also realized that I am incredibly cynical and jaded in that I found John the Savage to be annoying and overly self-righteous. I had very little sympathy for him given how judgemental he was towards Lenina. Other than those annoyances, the book is good – remembering that it was written in 1931, and many of the technologies/ideas discussed didn’t exist or were in their infancy. There are definite parallels to our modern world: drugs/soma to get rid of unwanted emotions, and the blatant push towards consumerism.

Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune by Sean O’Neill
#4 – Comic written and illustrated by the same person
I had trouble with this comic’s use randomly bolded words. It made it hard to read book, and it took me until a third of the way through to stop seeing them. It really ruined the flow of the story given that so many words were unnecessarily emphasized. Rocket as a character was somewhat annoying, but that’s my personal thing rather than a flaw on how he was written. I did like the adventure of the story though. It reminded me of Tintin.

River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
#7 – Western
Because both novellas are being rolled into one book, American Hippo, I decided to read both of them for this task. I will get my largest complaint out of the way first – there weren’t enough hippos, or at least, not enough feral hippos. Both novellas felt like unfinished parts of a whole. There were the seeds of an awesome novel, but it didn’t feel fleshed out. I would have liked more page time for the overall evil machinator, which would have tied the two halves together. I liked the characters, but didn’t really get to know any of them. Basically, this is a solid draft of what could be a kick-ass novel if it were ramped up and expanded a bit.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
#8 – Comic written or illustrated by person of color
I really liked the concept of the magical shawl and Pri having to deal with some serious life changes. However, it didn’t feel like there was a cohesive narrative. Pri was dealing with jealous of over her uncle and aunt’s baby, her mom’s unwillingness to talk about either India or Pri’s father, and the magical shawl she found in a suitcase. While there was some unity through the shawl, it didn’t feel like various elements really got resolved. When I finished, I was still questioning how Pri got over her jealousy, or how her mom’s sister handled the shawls visions of her daughter/husband. It felt like the narrative flitted from one topic to the next without there being something at the end of the story that tied it all together. There was a sort ending with the shawl being shown to help another woman, but no real closure for Pri.

Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins
#10 – Romance novel written by/about person of color
Even if you are not partial to romance novels, Destiny’s Captive was a fun book, and it lacks in-depth sex scenes, noted because that can be a deterrent to some readers. It had great opening, and the back-and-forth early dynamic between Noah and Pilar was entertaining. I liked that Pilar was a strong character without the stupid decisions/misunderstandings female leads have a tendency to make in romance novels. My only complaint was that at times it felt like things were too rosy – Pilar’s quick acceptance of her marriage to Noah, and Pilar’s acceptance into the Yates clan.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
#11 – Children’s classic published before 1980
I grew up watching Bond movies, and have read Casino Royale, but never did I realize that Ian Fleming had written a children’s book. I have never seen the movie, so I didn’t have to worry about disappointment that comes from reading the book a favored childhood movie is based upon (cough, cough Bedknob and Broomstick). The story was fun and straight forward, and I liked that it was an adventure with only enough magic to give Chitty Chitty Bang Bang her abilities.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
#12 – Celebrity memoir
I liked this book, but it was only alright. It felt like a good chunk of it focused on Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars, and all of the included diary entries related to this. As articulate as 19-year old Carrie Fisher was, it would have been nice had other non-Ford excerpts  been included. I also would have liked to have heard more of her thoughts overall on both filming Star Wars and its subsequent popularity. The one thing I really didn’t care for were the dialogues/monologues of when she met with fans for autographs, etc… they were annoying and didn’t seem to bring anything to the memoir.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
#15 – One-sitting book
Binti was an intelligent, creative, and grounded character; one of better female leads I’ve read in a while. I enjoyed the world building, and liked that cultural perspective was not from a mainstream white Western world perspective. My two complaints were 1) the resolution with the university and Meduse felt simplistic and anticlimactic given how the Meduse were introduced in the story, and 2) the story was too short. I would have loved to see the novella fleshed out into a full length novel. There was so much more detail that could have gone into her dynamic with the Meduse and her experience at the university.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
#16 – First book in new to you MG/YA series
Three Times Lucky was an alright book. I liked the overall mystery, but the characters felt undeveloped and Mo was excessively precocious. I like independent girls, but not when it feels unrealistic for the age of the character. My oldest is 11, and I couldn’t see her behaving or talking in way similar to Mo’s.

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
#17 – Female sci-fi author with female main character
Fortune’s Pawn is sci-fi with some romance novel thrown in. I did like Devi. she was a strong no-nonsense woman who didn’t seem to make the lame mistakes female leads are wont to do. I wasn’t too sure of what the overall/behind the scenes plot was beyond Devi wanting to survive her year onboard the Glorious Fool in order to join an elite military group. Hints of a large conspiracy are dropped, but never really explained, and I found it somewhat confusing. It also made the novel feel like a set up instead of a complete story. There’s nothing wrong with that, but each book within a series should still have a resolved subplot even if there is a multi-book arc.

Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens (Oni Press)
#18 – Comic not published by DC/Marvel/Image
This one volume story about a wager between a divorce lawyer (Ares) and a wedding planner (Aphrodite) ended up being cuter than I was expecting. Admittedly, my bar was set low when I realized that it wasn’t, in fact, about Greek gods/goddesses, but that was my own fault for not reading past the title when I heard about it. It was a “lover conquers all” story that wasn’t overly saccharine. It didn’t really go into depth with anything, feeling more like a snapshot than a full story.

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
#21 – Mystery by person of color/LGBTQ author
As a general rule, non-magical mysteries are not books I read on a regular basis, but my sister recommended this book to me. It was a fast-paced, well-written, convoluted story that held my attention. Michael Boatman was a great narrator, creating distinctive voices between the characters.

Reading Challenges of 2018

Another year, another round of reading challenges! Serious reading happened last year, and more of the same will happen this year. I have challenges to complete and TBRs to clear. I’m sure I will hit burn out before June because I will be taking the final two classes needed for my graduate degree during the spring semester. I should probably only take one class, but I really, really want to be done with it.

Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge
I have completed this challenge every year it’s been offered and have always managed to find categories completely out of my comfort zone and new books to fall in love with. Admittedly, when I first saw the list for 2018 I was a bit underwhelmed because very few of the categories felt like a stretch, but after spending time trying to find books, I warmed up to it. As with previous years, there are several categories that are a bit tricky, specifically #2 – True crime, #9 – Colonial/post-colonial, #13 – Oprah book club, and #20 – Book with a cover you hate. I really hope that reading challenges will slow down on using Oprah as a category because I’m starting to run out of books on her list I find remotely interesting. I also have an issue with “a cover you hate” because it is just so subjective.

To counteract my complaining, there are categories I am excited to read: all three comics categories (#4, #8, and #18), #3 – Genre fiction classic, #16 – first book in new to you MG/YA series, and #17 – Sci-fi with female author and protagonist.

As for reading companions, my husband has no interest in participating. Paraphrasing, he does not want to be told what to read. Sophia will be participating, but will be doing her own thing in regard to blog posts, most likely posting only when she gets to the halfway mark and then when she completes it.

PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge
Last year, I completed 55 of 56 challenges. It will most likely be the same this year given how much time I spend inside my house (advanced list, #3 – Being read by a stranger in a public place). As with last year, some of the categories are going to be tough to find books for, either because it is a genre I have no interest in (#2 – True crime, #5 – Nordic noir, #23 – Also a stage play/musical, and #38 – Ugly cover) or because the topic is somewhat obscure (advanced list, #4 – Tied to your ancestry and #6 – Allegory).

I am not planning on rushing PopSugar, and will try not to get mentally tied into completing it within a certain time frame. I will pick at it until I am finished with my degree, and then I’ll knock it out.

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge
This will be my third year participating, and I am impatiently waiting for the list to come out (probably late January/early February). I would like to read between 25-35 books, as I have in previous years, but my final tally depends on what books are on the list. It was hit or miss last year in regard to books I had an interest in reading. I do like that this challenge pushes me beyond what I normally read in YA, and I have found hidden gems, but as with any challenge that pushes the comfort zone boundary some reads are rougher than others.

Emma’s Amazon TBR Challenge
I still have over 1000 books on my Amazon TBR list, but I did manage to make a small dent in it in 2017 – 127 books to be exact. I am hoping to get at least that number read this year. I didn’t add too many books to my list because I stopped reading my normal blogs and websites.

Amazon TBR – December (Part 1)

2017 ends with my Amazon TBR list 127 books lighter. This number is relative given the list is over 1000 books long and I’ve managed to add more to it. My net reduction is probably closer to 70. That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing how many more books I can knock off in 2018.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
This was a sweet book about a widower coming to terms with his grief at his wife’s passing, and his inability to leave his comfort zone of daily routine (to the detriment of his relationships with his children and neighbors). The charm bracelet was the impetus for each aspect of his adventure – in learning about her hidden past and in learning about new facets of himself. The novel itself was nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s nice to read a book where the main character becomes a better version of themselves.

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
It took me several weeks to finish reading Gunpowder Alchemy. I was initially excited because steampunk set in Asia? Yes, please! The mechanics of the technology were fascinating, but I just didn’t connect with Jin Soling or her story. While it was well-written, it just didn’t grab me.

 

That Wolf-Boy is Mine by Youko Nogiri
A four volume manga about the relationship between a recently transferred high school student and one of the most popular boys at her new school. She learns his secret – he can transform into a wolf. Que the relationship and ensuing drama. Overall, it was a cute story with an interesting twist between the two main characters, however it wasn’t amazing.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico
Hellhole is still my favorite novel by Damico, but Waste of Space is in second place. Her humor is dry and satirical, and pokes fun at the ludicrousness that is reality television. It took me a bit of time to warm up to it, but once the story got going, I enjoyed it immensely. My favorite character(s) is toss up between Chaz and the NASAW scientists

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
I’ve been on something of a Holly Black kick recently, and have enjoyed most of her books (I did like or finish Doll Bones). While Darkest Part of the Forest was not my favorite, it was still a good read, with a darkly creative spin on the coexistence of humans and fairies. I have a penchant for fairy tales that focus on the dark underbelly fairies and not on the pretty sparkles. There is always a price for dealing with fairies, and Darkest focuses on that complicated web and the ramifications it has on those involved..

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
I put this on my list because I liked Seven Black Diamonds, and while (again) Marr’s idea was interesting, how the story was written was staunchly mediocre. I kept listening with the hope it would get better, but it didn’t. The characters were boring and I didn’t particularly care about their situations.

 

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
I haven’t decided how I feel about this book. The whole thing felt like a novel-length set up for the actual plot. On the one hand it was incredibly slow and nothing much actually happened. On the other hand, the glimpses of future Tea and her actions were great. She’ll either be a villain or an anti-hero in the next book, but it would have been better if this had manifested earlier in the book, or of the present/past had been done a better set up. We know she wanted revenge, but no motive was given at any point during the novel.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Even though I have very limited cultural understanding of Koul’s experiences, I really enjoyed her insights, sense of humor, and writing style. Pretty much all of us can relate to the complicated dynamic between parents and children regardless of our backgrounds. The part that stood out the most to me, and the part I most related to, was her essay on rape and  rape culture.

DNF

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
I liked Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga and Simply Quartet, and assumed I would like this one as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to because I did not care for Anna. She wasn’t bad per se, but I didn’t have any sympathy for her situation. I cared more about the lives of her sisters and brother because their lives were upended for the worse. I would have liked to hear their stories, not Anna’s. I also found Anna to be somewhat condescending towards the upper class and the rules that dictate society.

Gilded Cage by Vic James
This was not a bad book, but more that I am getting jaded of YA dystopian books. They’ve all started blending together and feel like only slight variations of the same theme. The Us vs. Them mentality is superficial and lacks depth. There is an infinite amount of gray, which is much more interesting, so it makes no sense that authors stick with black and white.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
I lasted a whopping eight minutes into this audiobook before I wanted to stab my ears. Part of me kept hoping it was really clever satire, but then I realized that it was supposed to be straight. I probably should have stopped listening as soon as the main character started waxing poetic about “mommy wine”. She was so very, very modern mom cliché, and that type of mom makes me want to hurl.

December Books

With 2017 finished, I managed over 400 books, about half of which were audiobooks (which is why I managed 400 books in the first place).

Audiobooks (24)

Most of my audiobooks were not for Amazon TBR. Dad is Fat was hilarious. Jim Gaffigan has a good peg on what it’s like to be a parent. Some Danger Involved was an interesting start to a late Victorian era murder mystery series. I liked it enough that I would read more books, but not so much that I would buy the books. The same goes for Fated, though this was urban fantasy. Rebel Queen was surprisingly good. I liked that the main character was not the rebel queen herself, but was one of her security guards. On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service was surprisingly good, in large part because Queenie wasn’t in it. She is one of the most obnoxious characters, and I hope she does not return as Georgie’s maid. Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them was alright – a YA mystery involving mythical creatures. It would have been a better read than listen as I do not particularly care for the narrator. She is good as part of an ensemble, but not as the sole narrator. I have mixed feelings on God is Disappointed in You. On the one hand, it was a a funny, but accurate interpretation of the Bible. One the other hand, there were parts that were not entertaining and felt like a chore to get through. There were times that God came across as an emotionally/physically abusive spouse.

Novels (9)


Most of the books were read for my Amazon TBR. As for the two books that weren’t TBR related, The Strange Case of Finley Jane was decent – better than The Girl in the Steel Corset; and Eternally Yours was a somewhat disappointing finish to an otherwise good trilogy.

Manga (4)

Emma’s PopSugar 2017

I managed to finish the PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge faster than I did in 2016. Instead of waiting until after 11pm on December 31st to finish my final book (Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers), I finished my final book in September (The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern). I read all but four books in the first five months of the year, picking at the remainder because reading challenge burnout.

2017 was another year of expanded horizons, though I don’t feel as if I expanded them as much this year as last year because many of the books fell into my comfort zone. That being said, there were still categories that caused anxiety, such as bestseller, not from your usual genre, has career advice, and 800+ pages. Those ones were particularly hard because 1.) many bestsellers are written by authors I have no interest in reading, 2.) I don’t really need career advice because I am exactly where I want to be professionally, and 3.) I didn’t have the mental patience to read an 800 page book that wasn’t Outlander, and I didn’t want to do a reread. I debated reading Sarum (read when I was around 13 years old), but by that point in the year, I was burned out and didn’t want an in-depth book to keep track of.

Favorites

Kindred by Octavia Butler
(task #5 – Person of color author)
I loved 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 always a mix fascinating and horrifying. She had to learn to navigate the reality of being a slave while attempting to keep herself psychologically separate from it. Almost 11 months have passed since I read Kindred, and it is still with me. I plan on reading it again, and have been trying to get my husband to read it.

Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell
(task #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 main character, 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 by the AI that runs the game. Both Jason and his adversaries exist in a gray zone, which adds to the interest level when aspects of  real life and online life collide. I’ve since listened to the sequel, which was almost as good as Catharsis.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
(task #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.

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 couldn’t get into her writing style. 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.

Honorable Mentions:  My Holiday in North Korea, The Bees, Slaughterhouse Five, Norse Mythology, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Hotel Ruby, Pines

Completed Tasks

1. Library recommendation – Geekerella by Ashley Poston
2. Been on my TBR list way too long – Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
3. Book of letters – The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
4. Audiobook – Pines by Blake Crouch
5) Person of color author – Kindred by Octavia Butler
6. One of four seasons in title – Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
7.) Story within a story – The Marvels by Brian Selznick
8.) Multiple authors – My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
9.) Espionage thriller – Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
10.) Cat on the cover – Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell
11.) Author uses a pseudonym – Feed by Mira Grant
12.) Bestseller, not from usual genre – All By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
13.) Author/main character has disability – El Deafo by Cece Bell
14.) Involving travel – My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons
15.) Book with a subtitle – The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker
16.) Published in 2017 – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones
17.) Involving mythical creature – Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
18.) Reread never fails to make me smile – Bum Voyage by David Greer
19.) About food – Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
20.) Has career advice – The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
21.) Book from nonhuman perspective – The Bees by Laline Paull
22.) Steampunk – The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
23.) Has a red spine – Fatherland: A Family History by Nina Bunjavec
24.) Set in the wilderness – The Revenant by Michael Punke
25.) Loved as a child – Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
26.) Author from a country you’ve never visited – Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
27.) Title as character’s name – Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
28.) Set during wartime – The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
29.) Unreliable narrator – Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
30.) Book with pictures – The Singing Bones by Shawn Tan
31.) Main character different ethnicity than me – Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
32.) About an interesting woman – Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Janet Wallach
33.) Set in two different time periods – Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
34.) Month/day of week in title – One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
35.) Set in a hotel – Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young (also known as Hotel for the Lost)
36.) Written by someone I admire – Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
37.) Becoming a movie in 2017 – Ten by Gretchen McNeil
38.) Set around non-Christmas holiday – Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
39.) First book in new to you series – Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
40.) Book bought on a trip – Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Completed Tasks (Advanced)

1.) Book recommendation by loved author – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2.) 2016 bestseller – Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
3.) Family member term in title – The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
4.) Takes place over character’s life span – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
5.) About immigrant/refugee – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
6.) Genre/sub-genre you’ve never heard of – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
7.) Eccentric character – Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
8.) 800+ pages – Winter by Marissa Meyer
9.) Bought at used book sale – The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
10.) Book mentioned in another book – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
11.) About a difficult topic – This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
12.) Based on mythology – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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.