Book Challenges- August 2018

Popsugar Challenge

A book from a celebrity book club: An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (Oprah book club) (contemporary): This was a fantastic book! I enjoyed the exploration of marriage, fidelity, and how love can change over time. There are so many moral shades of gray in this book that I wasn’t sure who or what to root for. As with life, there were no right answers.

(23/50)

While I Was Reading Challenge

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A self-published book: All The Little Lights, by Jamie McGuire (YA romance): If I need a romance with characters who speak to me, I know that I should pick up a Jamie McGuire book. I loved all the little moments in this book and the “big secret” the main character was hiding made it even better.

(6/12)

The Unread Shelf

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Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell (romance): Like Jamie McGuire, Rainbow Rowell is on my list of authors who I know won’t let me down. Attachments is a sweet (but improbable) love story about a guy who falls in love with a girl while monitoring her work email. (It’s his job, though he takes it too far.) Honestly, I love improbable romances. If I wanted real life, I’d do… reality things. Instead, I read books and watch movies. Don’t judge me!

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Hush, Hush; Cresendo; Silence; Finale, by Becca Fitzpatrick (YA paranormal romance): I’m not entirely sure what to say about this series. I had the first one, Hush, Hush, on my shelf forever. Then a friend told me I had to read it, especially with Becca Fitzpatrick announcing that they’re making a movie based on the book! And then my friend said she only made it partway through the second book.

I read all of them and I don’t regret it, but the others, while being rated increasingly higher on Goodreads, were not as good as the first. I’m not entirely sure why, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the writing. I think I just got the ride I wanted to out of the first book and that I should have stopped there. Just to be clear, the others weren’t bad, but it’s the difference between like and love.

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler (contemporary): I bought this for the pretty cover and the cool illustrations. This book was okay. It’s a YA book about a breakup, and I suspect I would have liked it more if I were still a teenager. Some YA books are wonderful for all ages, and some aren’t. This one, with it’s teen angst over a first love, just didn’t speak to me.

The Dinner List, by Rebecca Serle (magical realism): This was a fun book from the Book of the Month Club. I was intrigued by the premise, because we probably all have made a list of the 5 people (living or dead) we’d like to have dinner with. For my list and a full review, you can go to the blog I wrote about this one.

Running Total: 28

5 Classic Books

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(2/5) The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Maybe I’m just not a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I liked this one better than better than Tender is the Night, but I still didn’t think there was anything great about it. It’s a somewhat typical love story told from an unusual perspective. And then everyone lives sadly ever after.

I guess I’m glad I read it from a cultural reference standpoint, but I don’t understand how it became this ensconced in culture to begin with. It’s got some good lines, but other than that, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

Miscellaneous Reading

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The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke (science fiction/ romance): A friend just got married, and I was making conversation with her sister (who was visiting). We got to talking about books (I know you’re shocked) and she mentioned that this book is her favorite. Of course I had to run right out and get it from the library.

It’s set in a future where we have the technology to make androids, but we don’t treat them as sentient beings or recognize they have rights. The mad scientist’s daughter grows up with one such android and falls in love with him. There’s lots of interesting exploration of the morality of the situation, both what it means to consider a sentient being human, and what it means not to.

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Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, by Laura Vanderkam (non-fiction/ self-help): I’m looking for a magical solution to make me more organized and efficient. I haven’t found it yet, but this is a good book. It gave me some new perspectives on how to consider time and to use it better. So much so that I borrowed it from the library, then went ahead and bought it.

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Not if I Save You First, by Ally Carter (YA romance): I picked this book up at the library based on the back cover copy.

Seriously, how can you not be hooked by murderers and a bejeweled hatchet?

I loved that the main character is a girly girl who saves the day using mostly her brains. I love a girl who kicks some ass too, but it seems like the ones who paint their nails aren’t supposed to be heroes. This was fun and delivered on all the promises it made.

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The Summer of Broken Things, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (YA contemporary): This is a sweet and sad coming of age novel about two girls with nothing in common but the secret their parents share.

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The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, by Jason Fung, MD: I’ve watched Dr. Fung’s videos online, so when I saw he had a book, I had to get it. It’s interesting stuff backed by science. Dr. Fung makes the science (mostly) accessible and explains things in a way that makes them seem like common sense. He also talks about the studies he cites, along with their limitations.

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Lie, Lay, Lain, by Bryn Greenwood (contemporary): First off, there may never be another book I love as much as All The Ugly and Wonderful Things. So when I say this one wasn’t as good, that’s to be expected. I did like this book though. It had an interesting premise and great characters. The dual point of views worked for me, and I looked forward to following both Jennifer and Olivia. Plus, this has what I think may be the most gorgeous cover I’ve ever seen!

Abandoned

None this month.

2018 Running Total: 101

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

Y is for (Books About) Younger Self/ Older Self #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

When I started pondering this category, I realized there are more books than I would have expected where a younger and older version of a character get to communicate through some means.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to 16-year-old me and posted it here, if you’re interested. Part of me really wishes I could have sent that letter, and part of me knows I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.

I Remember You, by Cathleen Davitt Bell (YA fantasy/ romance): Juliet meets Lucas and starts to fall for him, even though he keeps saying weird things about how he remembers their relationship from another time when it happened a little differently. Juliet isn’t sure she believes what Lucas is saying, but she loves him, so she believes in him. This is such a lovely book about the power of love.

Every Ugly Word, by Aimee L. Salter (YA fantasy): 17-year-old Ashley is able to communicate with her 23-year-old self by looking in the mirror. Ashley of the future has already been through all the bullying that Younger Ashley is dealing with, but Older Ashley is hiding something from her younger self. This book made me feel so many things.

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (fantasy/ romance): Full disclosure… I love everything by Rainbow Rowell. This isn’t my favorite book of hers, but it’s still a fun read. I listened to it on audiobook, and it made a long car ride much easier. The romance in Neal and Georgie’s relationship has died; work and kids get in the way. When Georgie has a big opportunity come up at work, and informs Neal that she can’t fly home with him and the kids for Christmas, he leaves without her. She’s not sure if it’s the end of their relationship, and, depressed, she goes to her mom’s house where she uses a magic phone to talk to Neal-of-the-past and remembers all the things she loved about him. It was a sweet romantic story that flashed between present and past. Sometimes we just need to be reminded about those we love.

Are there any books you like that are like this? What would you tell your teenaged self?

N is for (Books About) Nostalgia #atozchallenge

A note for regular readers. I’m going to suspend my updates on book challenges until April is over. I’ll do a summary post for the first Monday in May.

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I grew up in the 80s and we didn’t have the sense that our weird hairstyles and freaky clothing were anything strange. It seemed normal to layer two pairs of neon socks. I never jumped on the big hair bandwagon, but I did wear the huge glasses for far longer than I should have.

The 80s seem to be one of those time periods that are easy to be nostalgic about. We did have great music, iconic movies, and memorable video games. It’s no wonder that contemporary books go back in time to be set there, and that people love them.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (science fiction): This movie is set in the future, but thanks to a massive multiplayer video game, there are a ton of callbacks to the 80s. Both the book and movie are fabulously fun with tons of references. Even if you lived through it, it’s probably impossible to catch all the references… but it’s fun to try.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (YA romance): Eleanor and Park first bond over music and comic books. He lends her his Walkman and a tape of music he thinks she’ll like, like The Smiths. She doodles on her paper bag-covered schoolbooks. It’s a lovely story and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the 80s.

How to Build A Girl, by Caitlin Moran (YA): Okay, technically this was set in 1990, but though times did change, they didn’t change that fast. Johanna wants to remake herself, so she starts writing about music and turns herself into Dolly Wilde. It’s an interesting coming of age novel,

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A is for (Books About) Anxiety

Welcome to another year of blogging A to Z, when I yet again started preparing in February and then didn’t write any posts.

Procrastination, I know thee well.

Anyhoo… For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

Anxiety is one of those things that a lot of people suffer with. People talk about it more than they did in the past, and I’m glad some of the stigma is going away. I think that fiction books are an important part of that process since we can see the inner lives of characters in a way that we can’t (and don’t want to) see our neighbors’, or friends’, or our family member’s anxiety.

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green (YA): The main character in this book is struggling with obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which significantly interfere with her life. I thought this book did a great job of showing Aza’s anxiety without beating you over the head with it. I also loved that she and her best friend argue, but end up understanding one another and loving one another more than before.

Sushi for Beginners, by Marian Keyes (romance): Ashling is never diagnosed as anxious, but she worries about everything. She has a huge purse which has everything anyone could possibly need in it: band-aids, rescue remedy… everything. When she takes a new job, she has to deal with her perfect boss and the boss’s sexy boss, who probably hates her because she tries too hard. The characters in this book undergo a lot of change and learn to accept themselves and others.

Uncanny, by Sarah Fine (YA science fiction/ thriller): Cora doesn’t remember the night her sister died. She turned off her Cerepin (the computer attached to her that records everything) and even she suspects that she might have done something to her sister. She’s always struggled with anxieties and fears, but her anxiety gets worse as she tries to avoid remembering what happened that night.

Fan Girl, by Rainbow Rowell (YA Romance): Cath is uncomfortable with new people and new situations. So when she gets to college, and her twin sister doesn’t want to room with her, she’s thrown way out of her comfort zone. Her only consolation is the fanfiction she writes. But as various people push her out of her comfort zone, she realizes maybe she can have a life in the real world.

I’m trying to keep these lists short since I know there are a lot of A to Z blogs to read.

Are there any books with anxious main characters that you’d add to the list?

Audiobooks are Easier to Abandon

I’ve written a few times about how I have a newly discovered liking for audiobooks. And it’s true. With the right book, I really do enjoy them.

However, I’ve noticed a pattern. I abandon more audiobooks than I finish. At first, I thought I was just choosing books that I didn’t like, that I would have abandoned anyway. I abandoned so many audiobooks last year that I stopped keeping track of them.

But recently, I started listening to a book I’ve wanted to read forever: A Million Junes, by Emily Henry. The book has everything I should like. It’s YA, it’s a little magical, with an interesting premise.

I made myself listen to it a few times and just… stopped.

I don’t want to keep listening to it, but I still want to read it.

And that’s when I started to look critically at the audiobooks I abandoned. They still interest me. I looked at Feed, by Mira Grant, and I realized it’s about siblings during a zombie apocalypse! What’s not to like?

But I abandoned it without a qualm an hour or so into it.

Audiobooks require an enormous amount of concentration for me. They work for me while I’m driving long stretches because I’ve been driving for a long time and can do that automatically (for the most part). But unless I’m really into it, I don’t use them for mindless chores around the house. I like quiet on my daily walks so I can hear the birds or the stream rushing. And I’m certainly not going to sit on the couch and listen to an audiobook; if I have nothing else going on, I’d much rather read it.

I think that I’ve given up on some good books because I didn’t read them in the right format. Knowing that, I’m going to go back through my list (at some point) and check them out again.

Of the books I’ve actually completed on audiobook, most of them were biographies of comedians, read by the author. These aren’t books I’d normally read, but they were interesting on audiobook. I do enjoy comedy specials, so perhaps that’s the difference? I’ve also been successful with some YA (a couple books by Rainbow Rowell, a book by Jennifer Niven) and books I’ve read before.

I think that I either need to be more selective with audiobooks or make sure I have access to the paper copy to switch back and forth. I hate wasting my time by abandoning a book an hour into it, especially if I might actually like it if I were reading to it instead of listening to it.

Does anyone else have this issue?

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Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

71lklmxqgjlWith Banned Book Week coming up next week, I thought it was important to talk about a book I liked.  Eleanor & Park is a YA novel published in 2013 that’s been challenged a number of times by people who think that parts of it are offensive or inappropriate.

This is an open letter regarding the challenges to Eleanor & Park.  I’ve also sent a copy of this letter to ncac@ncac.org

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you about Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m an adult who read, and loved this book.

I know that this book has been challenged a lot, and I wanted to let you know why I think that it shouldn’t be banned.

I read this book breathlessly, in one day.  I stayed up late because I couldn’t put it down.

This is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was growing up.  Both Eleanor and Park were so real.  I could empathize with Eleanor.  The strange girl who feels overweight and uncomfortable.  Who wants to fit in, but also wants to stand out and be noticed for who she is.

The dominant themes in the books are domestic violence, child abuse, body image issues, and bullying.  While I couldn’t relate to all of those issues, I could relate to some.  As an awkward teen, I would have loved to read a book that talked these issues in a candid way.

What makes this book so magical is that even though those issues are big and important in the book, the story is ultimately about Eleanor and Park, and how they find one another and fall in love.  Too many stories about big issues are about the big issues, and ignore the human factor, that people can have problems, lots of problems, and still want to fall in love.  Still want to have friends and find their tribe, the people for whom it doesn’t matter if they’re weird or overweight or have things going on at home.

Don’t try to deny kids the right to read this book.  Don’t try to screen kids from reality.  It doesn’t work.  Because they’re either going through some of these issues, or they know someone else who is.  Reading fiction like this can help make us all into more sensitive, caring human beings.  Reading fiction like this can help teens be more prepared for navigating difficult issues.  If nothing else, books like this means that it’s okay to talk about these things.  It gives teens a language to talk about it, a voice to represent them, and a venue to discuss it, even if they don’t say that it’s about them.

I sympathized with both Eleanor and Park.  I laughed out loud sometimes.  And I cried at other parts.  The ending was lovely and perfect.

Life is messy.  This book helps to make sense of some of that.

Thanks for your time.

If you read this book, what do you think?  If you have an opinion, here’s a link to Rainbow Rowell’s website where she explains what you can do to help fight censorship of this book.71lklmxqgjl

What I’ve Been Reading

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:  I’m not sure why I’ve never read this book before.  This is one of those books that I’m pretty sure everyone has read except me.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The narrator has an interesting and unique voice.  He’s writing letters to an unknown person, and at first I thought that would annoy me, but it was done well enough that I liked it.  The characters were quirky and memorable, and I found the teenage drama believable.  I definitely recommend.

The Face by Dean Koontz:  This is one of my favorite Dean Koontz books.  An anarchist has a plot to mess up the life of the world’s biggest movie star.  The head of security is a nice guy who has to match wits with him.  Add in some paranormal stuff, like the head of security’s recently deceased ex-best friend, who might not be so dead after all, and it’s a book I can’t put down.

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks:  If you’re a fiction writer, you have to read this book.  A friend recommended it, and I figured it would be like every other writing book ever made; chock full of good writing advice, but lacking any concrete tips.  Wrong!  This book is so useful, and has made me love writing even more than I did.  It’s gotten me excited about storytelling because it tells me where all my ideas should go in the narrative.  I’ve tried outlining a million times, which has never quite worked for me.  This one has.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls:  I’ve been wanting to reread this one for awhile.  It’s technically young adult, though it was published when that genre didn’t exist.  If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read it, it’s a coming of age book about a young boy who works to get hunting dogs, and their bond and adventures together.  It makes me laugh and cry, no matter how many times I read it.  There are always certain parts I hope will magically change, so that when I read the book this time, I don’t have to be sad.  I read it anyway because there’s magic in the pages.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This is one of my favorite new books.  (Okay, it’s not new, but it’s new to me.)  Neither Eleanor nor Park quite fit in, and they don’t like one another either.  Until they do.  They’re wonderful characters, with a sweet, believable romance.  I didn’t realize that I’d read until 3 a.m. until I finished the book and realized I was half asleep.  It was that good.

Have you read any of these?  What’d you think?