Book Challenges- July 2018

Vacation did me a lot of good, as all vacations should! I was in a reading slump, and boy did I come out of it over vacation.

Popsugar Challenge


A book by a local author: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brene Brown (Memoir/ self-help): It took me a long time to read the first half because it was pre-vacation and I wasn’t in the right mindset. After vacation, it went fast. I’m going to have to go back and re-read the first half because I don’t think I got much out of it. It’s a lovely inspirational message that has helped me rekindle creativity.


A book about a villain or antihero: Vicious, by VE Schwab (Fantasy/ Science Fiction): Victor and Eli decide to try an experiment to become ExtraOrdinary people (basically superheroes). While they do gain powers, the experiments don’t go exactly as planned. It’s told in dual timelines, and is a thoroughly entertaining story chock full of ambiguous morality.


A book about mental health: The Weight of Zero, by Karen Fortunati (YA Contemporary): I loved this book. It’s a breathtaking story about a girl with bipolar disorder who fears “Zero,” her depression, coming back. So she makes a plan that next time it does, she’ll kill herself rather than live that way. But when she gets a new therapist who sends her to an intensive outpatient group of other kids struggling with various issues, she starts to see herself (and them) in a different light.


A favorite category from another year (2017- a book that’s been on your TBR for way too long): The Hike, by Drew Magary (Fantasy/ horror): I was first attracted to this book by the cool cover and the description of it being like a fairy tale mixed with a video game.

I liked this book a lot, maybe more now that I’m done reading it than I did while I was reading it. It’s not the best book ever, but I expect it to stick with me. This is the kind of book that I might read again and decide I like better the second time around when I’m not so disoriented and trying to figure everything out.

This book doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, so if you go into it expecting that, you’ll be disappointed. There are a lot of layers to it. It’s not a book for everyone, but it’s worth reading. Jason Sheehan calls it a “summer beach book for dudes.” Accurate.


A book mentioned in another book- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (mentioned in The Little Paris Bookshop) (fiction/ philosophy)- I ranted about this on Goodreads, so if you’d like a review, complete with spoilers, click here. What I will say here is that while I didn’t hate the book, I didn’t really like it either. The first 50% of the book is the two main characters discussing philosophy (separately… they haven’t met yet), talking about how misunderstood they are, and doing absolutely nothing. Halfway through, they start doing things after a new person moves into the building where they live, and the book was enjoyable until the end. The ending did not pay off for me. I’m sure this book is beautiful and well-written, full of deep thoughts, but it didn’t entertain me, so it’s a dud. (Okay, maybe I did hate it.)


While I Was Reading Challenge


A collection of poetry: Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur (Poetry/ Feminism): When I was a kid, I loved poetry. As I grew up, I’m not sure what happened, but I just got away from reading it. I’ve seen Rupi quotes on Pinterest and Instagram, so I was intrigued to read her collection. It’s lovely and raw. Not every poem spoke to me, but enough did that I’d recommend it.


The Unread Shelf


Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz: I haven’t read any new Koontz books in a few years. Growing up, he was my favorite author. I’ve noticed that he goes through cycles. For a few years, I love everything he writes, and for a few years, I don’t.

I picked up Ashley Bell at Half Price Books because I saw on Koontz’s blog that he felt that it was the best book he’d ever written. That’s a bold claim, and I thought that if he loves the book that much, I’d try it.

I didn’t like it, and it really pains me to say that. I loved the concept and the twists, but for me, it was overwritten with a disappointing ending. Although I have almost every Koontz book ever written, I’m seriously considering putting this one back in the box I take to trade in.

Running Total: 28

5 Classic Books

(1/5) No progress this week

Miscellaneous Reading


Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense): If you like Nora Roberts, you’ll like this book. It’s got a great storyline and interesting characters.


A Million Junes, by Emily Henry (YA Magical realism): I tried reading this book on audiobook once, and for me, it went way too slow on the audiobook. On paper, it was paced just right. It’s a sweet story about grief and first love told against the backdrop of a family curse.


Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts (Romance/ mystery): This is a reread, but it is one of my favorite Nora Roberts books. I was in Alaska, and this book is set there, so I started thinking about it and ended up downloading it to my Kindle.


Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis (YA science fiction): Lynn has always defended the pond because her mother told her to. They live in a future where water is scarce, and the pond is their life. When her mother dies, and Lynn encounters some travelers in need of help, what her mother taught her and her sense of compassion go to war as she tries to figure out what’s right.


My Heart And Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga (YA contemporary): Aysel meets Roman on a website for people looking to partner with others to commit suicide. They both have their reasons and believe they’re good ones. But as Aysel starts to let herself open up to someone, she starts to question whether or not she really wants to die.


The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green (YA romance): This was another re-read. I was looking for something simple and interesting to read because I was getting a crown, and I was nervous about it. (I didn’t need to be; I have a fantastic dentist.) This was the perfect “sick day” reading book.


I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez (YA contemporary): This was so good, and so completely not what I was expecting! It’s an interesting book on multiple levels and a fast read. I enjoyed following Julia’s journey, and watching as she both demanded understanding from her parents and then started better understanding them as people. It didn’t give simple answers to Julia’s problems, but explored them and left some things open ended.


None this month.

2018 Running Total: 86


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

H is for Hazel

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8357The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is one of my favorite books. It’s about two teens, Hazel and Augustus, who met in a cancer survivors’ support group. Hazel has been terminal with cancer for pretty much her entire life, and Augustus is in remission.

I loved the interaction between these two teens. Hazel comes alive off the pages; she’s a real girl, flawed and unsure, yet so witty and smart. Hazel and Augustus spend a lot of time discussing philosophy, and it rang true because they’ve both had intimate brushes with death. It’s a moving book, full of interesting concepts to discuss. I highlighted the text liberally.

I didn’t see the movie (yet), so I don’t know how it compares to the book. (I’m always behind on these things!). If books make you cry, this one probably will, but it’s worth it. It was the first John Green book I read, and it’s still my favorite.

Do you like books that make you cry? If you’ve read this one (or seen the movie), what did you think?

French Fries, Salad, and How This Post is Actually About Books

IMG_6093I’ve said time and time again that I prefer novels to “literature” because novels tend to contain plot, whereas much literature focuses on language.  That’s true, and I stand behind that.  However, many classics and literary fiction, I’m finding, also contain ideas.  I love ideas and thought exercises.  In looking at the books I most enjoy, they blend plot and character with ideas.  The books aren’t just about Jane Doe who does something and interacts with Jack and Jill and does some stuff.  The books I love most are about concepts.

The Fault in Our Stars, for example, was laced with existentialism.  I read complaints that teenagers don’t really talk the way August and Hazel do, but I disagree.  As a teenager, I was an amateur philosopher, discussing grand ideas with my friends.  As two teens intimately acquainted with dying, I can believe that August and Hazel would look to symbolism and philosophy to find their place in the world.

I’ve realized recently that many of the books I read most are not the ones I actually enjoy the most.  I really like reading romance novels.  They’re easy to get through, fun to read, and fast.  But on the enjoyment scale, most of them hit around a 3 out of 5, meaning I liked them but didn’t love them.  Same with many YA novels.  In contrast, books like Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Martian by Andy Weir, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel are among the books I enjoyed most last year, because they’re about concepts and ideas as well as plot and character.  They’re about racism, loneliness, isolation, the characters’ places in the world while being narrated by an engaging person in an interesting plot.

One of the things I like best about my book club is that the other women pick books I’d probably never choose to read on my own.  Some of those books have ended up being favorites of mine.  Or if not favorites, have made me think.

Now, how does this post relate to the title?  Well, French fries are my favorite food.  I could eat them all day, every day, except that they’re not actually that good for me.  I love salad, but it never seems as appealing to eat as French fries do.  Yet, sometimes when I dig into a salad and taste all those fresh flavors, I’m reminded of why I love them so.

Books are kind of like that.  While there’s nothing wrong with junk food novels, when I fill up on them, I don’t have any room left over for the good stuff.  Yeah, sometimes those other books end up being bland and flat, but every once in awhile, I find one that’s so fresh, full of invigorating ideas, that it causes me to look at the world differently.

I live for those books.


S is for Stories

So many books!  They're everywhere.

So many books! They’re everywhere.

For me, it’s all about the story.

I don’t care what you’re talking about: books, movies, people.  I love a good story.

I’m more liberal than most people about what makes a good story.  I don’t really care if there are plot holes or if the story has been done before.  I just care about how well the story is told.  Ordinary can be interesting in the same way that extraordinary can be boring.

A lot of people complained that Avatar was a cliched story, but I loved it.  Even if it’s a story I’ve heard before, I liked the way it was told, and it had enough new and interesting elements to keep it fresh.  People complained that Twilight had poor writing, but if it did, I didn’t notice when I read it.  I was too drawn in my the story to worry about the fact that Bella and Edward have an unhealthy relationship dynamic.  The story was interesting and fun.

I like literature.  I like reading about psychological theories.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy things at the other end of the spectrum, and everything in between.  As long as there’s an interesting story, I don’t mind if it’s cliche.  I enjoy stories I’ve read before, and I enjoy reading them in different forms, from different perspectives.  But then, I’m also the person who can read the same book over and over again and still have emotional reactions to it as if I were reading it for the first time.  (Where the Red Fern Grows makes me sob every. single. time.)

Stories connect me to the past.  Growing up, I loved Cinderella and Snow White, and remembering those stories gives me warm memories of my parents and grandparents.  I love sharing stories (discussing books and movie plots) with other people.  We all see the same story in different ways, and it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on a story.

I know people who love sitcoms and comedy memoirs, but it can be hard for me to get into those things because I feel like too often, they focus on the punchline rather than the story.  There are always exceptions, of course, but my favorite stories are the ones that make me feel deeply, that make me cry or touch my heart.  I love characters who feel so real to me that they become part of my life even after I’ve closed the book.  Harry Potter, The Fault In Our Stars, Watership Down, Me Before You, and Watchers are just a few of the books that made me feel this way.

What’s your favorite type of story?  Do you have a book whose characters feel like part of your life?

The Fault In Our Stars- A Review

UnknownThe Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is new to my favorites books list.  The author is careful to state that the book is non-fiction.  It’s about Hazel, who has been terminally ill with cancer since she was 13.  She’s now 17, and knows she’s lived longer than she should have.  Her mother thinks she’s depressed and makes her go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus.

Augustus lost a leg to cancer, but is now in remission.  He and Hazel share a dark and unique sense of humor that made me laugh even while it made me think.  Despite Hazel’s death sentence, she and Augustus fall in love.

There’s more to this story, much more, but I wouldn’t want to spoil even a moment for you.  For some people, this book might be depressing, and I’ll admit that there were times it made me cry.  But the fact that the kids lived despite so many things is uplifting to me.

I raced through this book and then bought it.  I can’t wait for it to show up so that I can highlight parts of it.  Yes, THAT’S how much I loved it.

Highly, highly, highly recommend it.  I need to borrow other people’s thumbs in order to give it enough thumb’s up.