Tag Archives: #popsugarreadingchallenge

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?

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

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

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

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

Completed tasks:

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

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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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Emma’s PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge 2016

I mostly finished this challenge! 2016 was the first year I participated in PopSugar’s reading challenge and I enjoyed it, even though I was dragging by the end of it. Some of the categories were hard for me (political memoir, I’m looking at you…), but my reading horizons were expanded – this is one of my favorite things about participating in reading challenges. I knew about it in 2015, but felt it would have been overwhelming to do it in addition to Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Fat lot of good that caution did for me. I managed to overwhelm myself with book challenges in 2016 (and 2017 is shaping up the same way).

Initial PopSugar 2016 Post

Favorites

badass ink and bone

*You Are a Bad Ass – This is a love it or hate it kind of book. I’m on the love it side of the fence. She is no nonsense and doesn’t pull any punches – you control you. While this sounds very obvious, most people don’t actually live that way. We like the idea of doing something, but not necessarily doing it. I like the idea of getting up before work and going for a run, but it’s just. so. hard. How badly do I want to get back into shape? Obviously, not badly enough. And that’s the gist of the book – you have to want something badly enough to make sacrifices in order to get it. Things will get harder before they get easier.

*Ink & BoneInk and Bone turned out to be one of the more original and complex dystopian YA books I’ve read. No love triangle, and if there were any tropes, they were done well enough that none of them jumped out at me. It’s technically set in the future, but steampunk and alchemy rule the day. Global power is held by The Library, and incredibly Big Brother-ish entity that controls access to all knowledge and suppresses anything that could remotely be considered a threat to their authority and power. So often, dystopian lit focuses on the aftermath of society’s collapse from disease or war or alien invasion. In this case, the dystopian society grew organically from an initial wish to make sure knowledge was available to all. It made me think of early libraries – knowledge available to the masses, but only for their education and betterment.

Other Favorites: Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, Bryony and Roses

Uncompleted Tasks

12.) Recommended by someone you just met

The lone task I did not complete was #12. In general, I very rarely meet new people. In part because I just don’t, and in part because I don’t talk. As it happens, I did get a book recommendation from my seatmate while at training in South Carolina this past summer. He recommended Ender’s Game (after much astonishment that I had never read it). I already had that book pegged for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge (book published in your birth decade). I don’t like double-dipping with my book challenges, so this lone category went unfinished.

Completed Tasks

1.) Fairy tale – Bryony and Roses
2.) National Book Award winnerThe Hemingses of Montecello
3.) YA bestseller – The Girl at Midnight
4.) Haven’t read since high schoolEaters of the Dead
5.) Set in home state – The Dirt on the Ninth Grave (I am also an ABQ girl transplanted in NY)
6.) Translated into English – Core of the Sun
7.) Romance set in the future – Date Night on Union Station
8.) Set in Europe – Naughty in Nice
9.) Under 150 pages – Reader Abduction
10.) NYT bestseller – Snow White
11.) Becoming a movie in 2016 – Nerve
13.) Self-improvement – You are a Badass
14.) Finish in a day – Agent to the Stars (audiobook at 1.5x while doing chores on a Saturday)
15.) Celebrity author – I’ll Never Write My Memoirs
16.) Political memoirWhy Women Should Rule the World
17.) At least 100 years older than youEvelina
18.) 600+ pages – A Court of Mist and Fury
19.) Oprah Book Club – The Underground Railroad
20.) Sci-fi – Armada
21.) Family member recommendation – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Library (step-mom)
22.) Graphic novel – Delilah Dirk & the King’s Shilling
23.) Published in 2016 – Homegoing
24.) Protagonist same occupation – Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs (former children’s librarians)
25.) Takes place during the summer – Act of God
26a.) A book… – Her Royal Spyness
26b.) …and its prequel – Masked Ball at Broxley Manor
27.) Murder mystery – And Then There Were None
28.) Comedian author – Modern Romance
29.) Dystopian – Ink & Bone
30.) Blue cover – The Rest of Us Just Live Here
31.) PoetryThe Princess Saves Herself in this One
32.) First book you see in a bookstoreThe Hopefuls (Powell’s online)
33.) 20th century classic – Murder on the Orient Express
34.) Library book – Eligible
35.) Autobiography – Life
36.) Road tripEat Brains Love
37.) Unfamiliar culture – Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back
38.) Satire – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
39.) Takes place on an island – Into the Dim
40.) Guaranteed to bring you joy – As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

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PopSugar Ultimate – November

PopSugar Ultimate (5 tasks)

hemingses-of-montecelloThe Hemgingses of Montcello by Annette Gordon-Reed
#2 – National Book Award winner
The Hemingses of Montecello was fascinating, if a bit long and dryly academic. The dynamics between Jefferson and various Hemingses were interesting, as were the overall attitude and social mores concerning slavery in the very early years of the US. Gordon-Reed does make a lot of conjectures, but they are supported in part by contemporary documents. The big question that cannot be answered (for me, at least), is why James and Sally Hemings would willing leave France, where French law recognized them as free, and go back to a life of slavery in Virginia.

eaters-deadEaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
#4 – Haven’t read since high school
I read this book somewhere around my freshman/sophomore year in high school. The only lingering impression I have of it from then is that it was fairly dark and somewhat unnerving. Reading it 20+ years later, it feels sort of like fantasy or a form of magical realism given what we know believe we know of Neanderthal culture.  I did like the formatting of it as an eyewitness report, including foot notes. Though because of this, there was no real connection to any of the characters. The reader remained on the outside.

snow-white-graphicSnow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
#5 – NYT bestseller
I liked the Depression Era setting of this version of Snow White, however, it lacked substance. The panels were sparse (not necessarily a bad thing given when this was set), and the pacing was too fast, only glancing over most of the details. I would have liked to have spent more time in the story.

undground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
#19 – Oprah book club
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would given there wasn’t a lot of character development. I would have liked to learn more about the inner workings of some of the characters (especially Caesar), but the detachment fit with the narrative style, highlighting the brutality. I also liked the concept of the underground railroad being a physical thing, and the vignettes about various secondary characters.

eat-brains-loveEat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart
#36 – Road trip
Zombies have never really been favorite of mine. I don’t like gore and horror, so I tend to avoid them. But there are times that the zombies pull me in (such as “Shaun of the Dead” and Warm Bodies – the book is much better than the movie). Eat Brains Love falls into this category, in part because it does not take itself too seriously. Jake is a teenage boy, and well…he acts like one. I also like that the zombie mythology is different from what’s considered traditional.

 

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Sophia’s PopSugar 2016 – Complete!

I actually finished!  Last year I only made it about two-thirds of the way through the PopSugar challenge, so it’s exciting to get it done with time to spare.  This challenge led me to a lot of fantastic books this year, and there were a handful that stood above the rest in the second half of the year:

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman – This book was beautiful.  It addresses mental illness perfectly, without judgement or glorification.  The story unfolds in such a way that you really feel like you’re not just reading about Caden’s struggles but actually experiencing them with him.  It’s disorienting and tense, and it made me cry.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – The last of Jane Austen’s novels that I somehow never read, despite taking a college course devoted solely to her work.  I listened to the audio version read by Donada Peters, which I think made it more entertaining.  It was the first novel she completed, and you can tell – her satire is sharp but less polished and the overall tone isn’t as well balanced as her primary novels.  But I will never not love Jane Austen.

The Colossus and Other Poems by Sylvia Plath – Poetry is not really within my comfort zone and is often hit or miss with me as a result.  However, I genuinely enjoyed this collection.  Not all of the poems caught my attention, but a great number of them had me still thinking about them after the fact.

Other favorites include The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, and The Troop by Nick Cutter.

Completed tasks:

1) Based on a fairy tale – Speak Easy, Catherynne M. Valente
2) National Book Award winner – Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman
3) YA bestseller – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas
4) Book you haven’t read since high school – Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
5) Set in your home state – The Road Through the Wall, Shirley Jackson
6) Translated into English – The Vegetarian, Han Kang
7) Romance set in the future – Cowboy from the Future, Cassandra Gannon
8) Set in Europe – The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo
9) Under 150 pages – The Visitor, Maeve Brennan
10) New York Times bestseller – The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
11) Becoming a movie this year – A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
12) Recommended by someone you just met – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, Jenn Bennett
13) Self-improvement – You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero
14) Book you can finish in a day – Rolling in the Deep, Mira Grant
15) Written by a celebrity – The Bassoon King, Rainn Wilson
16) Political memoir – Trump and Me, Mark Singer
17) At least 100 years older than you – Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
18) More than 600 pages – Winter, Marissa Meyer
19) From Oprah’s Book Club – The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
20) Science fiction novel – Illuminae, Amie Kaufman
21) Recommended by family member – Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake
22) Graphic novel – Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
23) Published in 2016 – Travelers Rest, Keith Lee Morris
24) Protagonist has your occupation – Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, Molly Harper
25) Takes place during summer – Burn Baby Burn, Meg Medina
26A) A book… – Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard
26B) …and its prequel – Cruel Crown, Victoria Aveyard
27) Murder mystery – In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
28) Written by a comedian – The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
29) Dystopian novel – Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins
30) Book with a blue cover – The Clasp, Sloane Crosley
31) Book of poetry – The Colossus and Other Poems, Sylvia Plath
32) First book you see in a bookstore – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling
33) A classic from the 20th century – A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
34) Book from the library – The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
35) An autobiography – Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
36) Book about a road trip – The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson
37) Unfamiliar culture – The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer
38) A satirical book – The Sellout, Paul Beatty
39) Takes place on an island – The Troop, Nick Cutter
40) Guaranteed to bring you joy – As You Wish, Cary Elwes

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