Book Challenges- Week 7

Popsugar Challenge

(7/50) No progress this week.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(3/12) 25%!

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I don’t normally like movie covers on books, but this one really appealed to me.

A book with a child narrator: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer: I really wanted to like this book, but I didn’t. I wasn’t into it the whole time I was reading it, but sometimes literary fiction has a good payoff, and this one promised an interesting mystery about a found key. I was hoping the mystery of the key would make this one worth my time, but it didn’t. The ending was so disappointing that I almost threw the book across the room. I didn’t hate it (there’s only one book I ever wanted to burn after reading it, and it wasn’t this one) but I didn’t like it either.

This book has three narrators: 9 year old Oskar (who doesn’t sound 9 by any stretch of the imagination), a man who doesn’t speak, and a woman who’s writing Oskar letters. The identity of the two other narrators are gradually revealed, but it felt unnecessary to hide them in the first place. Not to mention that they’re supposedly writing to Oskar, revealing things that are inappropriate for a child.

Lots of people loved it, including some reader friends of mine who often recommend and exchange books with me, but it just wasn’t my thing. At least it’s one less book on my shelf.

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It seemed appropriate…

A book with your favorite food in the title: Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch:  This book is as sweet as the title suggests. It’s a YA romance about a teenage girl who just lost her mom. She’s sent to Italy to live with a “friend” of her mother’s, who may or may not be her father. As she reads her mother’s journal and starts to piece together who her father is, and why he hasn’t been in her life, she’s also falling in love with Italy and a friend who’s helping her get answers. This story was the perfect antidote to the aggravation that was EL&IC.

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

Asylum, Sanctum, and Catacomb, by Madeleine Roux: I’m burned out on reading literary fiction, especially since I haven’t really been enjoying it. Sometimes it just happens that way. Since I write Young Adult horror, I thought it was time to catch up on some of the fiction I’ve missed.

I love creepy old mental hospitals as a setting, so Asylum seemed like the perfect read. And no, I didn’t know it was a series when I started it. These types of books read fast for me though, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

The first one was pretty good. Three kids go for this summer program at a small college. But because the dorm is being renovated, they have to stay in an old building on the grounds. It used to be a mental hospital, and part of it is locked up so no one can get in. Of course the kids are curious and go exploring. There’s a murder, the kids have nightmares, and they find out more about the history of the hospital. (Spoiler alert: it’s bad news.) This isn’t the best YA horror I’ve ever read, but it was fast and entertaining.

Sanctum continued the story when the kids come back to find out more about what happened over the summer, and they discover a secret cult meant to keep the secrets of the mental hospital. It stretched my belief at times, but I went with it, and it worked for me.

Catacomb… did not work for me. It felt very deus ex machina because it’s a completely different setting, yet once again, the kids stumble across a cult that wants to kill them. It had some cool concepts in it, and if it had been a completely different book with different characters outside this series, I would have liked it much more.

2018 Running Total: 18

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

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Book Challenges 2018- Week 6

Popsugar Challenge

(7/50) over 10%!

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A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner (2014)- The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan A friend of mine gave me this book ages ago, and I’ve been wanting to read it, but… well, you know the story of my TBR by now.

It’s a series of essays and short stories written by a young woman who died five days after her graduation from Yale. She wanted to be a writer. After she died, her parents and teachers got together and put this book together.

Some of the stories and essays are fantastic. I particularly liked the title essay. Some of the stories are bleak, and I didn’t enjoy those as much. I’m so impressed that such a young woman wrote such lovely stories though.

Probably the thing that had the most impact on me wasn’t anything in her stories; it was in the Forward, where her professor talks about how Marina kept a list of “Interesting Things,” and that’s part of where she got the idea for her stories. I’m glad she told me that because I would have been wondering. Some of the stories are weird (in a good way) and I would have wondered about a college student thinking of those things.

Overall, it was absolutely worth reading.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(1/12)

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A book you chose for the cover- Release, by Patrick Ness: I tackled this choice by going the the library, looking at the “New YA Fiction” shelf, and grabbing the first book that caught my eye. I like train tracks, and I loved that a boy seems to be dangling from them upside down. The cover has absolutely no relation to what the book is about, but that’s always the challenge, isn’t it?

This is two stories in one. There’s the contemporary story of Adam Thorn and one monumental day in his life, when pretty much everything that can change for him, does. It’s a story about love and loss and sex and family. It was a captivating story. Then there’s the secondary story, about a murdered girl who’s spirit latches on to a fairy queen. And if the spirit doesn’t learn how to let go, the world ends.

I understood all the symbolism and how the stories are meant to relate, but I found the fairy queen portion of the story boring. Generally I love fantastical elements, but this one felt thrown in, like the author didn’t want to leave a great contemporary story alone and added some fantasy just to have it. I read it all, just in case I actually ended up needing to know it for Adam’s story to make sense. I didn’t; I could have skipped it.

Overall I liked this book. I would have loved it if we stuck with Adam.

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

None

2018 Running Total: 13

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

2018 Book Challenges- Week 5

Popsugar Challenge

(6/50) over 10%!

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A book with song lyrics in the title- She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb This was the first Wally Lamb book I’ve ever read, and it was pretty good. I did enjoy it, but the relentless awfulness of Delores’s life started to get to me after awhile. Luckily, it had a happy ending there, but for awhile, I was getting ready to swear off literary novels. This book is the one that ultimately inspired my post 10 Reasons I Love Happy Endings.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

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Still Me, by Jojo Moyes This is the third book in the Me Before You series. I didn’t even know there would be/ should be/ could be a third book. I’m always leery of series, never sure if I should continue them or leave the world as is. I found out about it through Goodreads and lasted about 24 hours before I bought it on Kindle. I loved rejoining the adventures of Louisa. This was a perfect sequel, and hopefully the end of the series.

2018 Running Total: 11

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

2018 Book Challenges- Week 4

Popsugar Challenge

(5/50) 10%!

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A female author who used a male pseudonym: The Inheritance, by Louisa May Alcott– This was LMA’s first book, when she was 17. It wasn’t published until 1997, long after her death. Apparently she refers to it in Little Women, as Jo wrote the same book. For what it is, it’s a good book. It’s a gothic/ sentimentalist romance of the time, complete with saints and sinners. The main character is so virtuous and perfect that the shine from her halo blinded me. But honestly, I enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s nice for things to be black and white and to know good will prevail.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

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Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake (YA Horror): This book is a reread for me, the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood (which I read last year). I loved them both when I first read them several years ago, and I loved them just as much with the second reading. Cas “kills” bad ghosts, the ones who kill people. But when he meets Anna Dressed in Blood, it’s not so easy to just kill her. After Anna makes a sacrifice for Cas, in Girl of Nightmares, he’s consumed by guilt and wants to find a way to rescue her from the hell she becomes stuck in.

2018 Running Total: 9

For me, that’s a pretty slow start to the month, but I know it’s because my sister-in-law and her husband were visiting. Next month will be better. (At least, that’s what I’m telling the books staring accusingly at me from my bookshelf.)

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

2018 Book Challenges- Week 2

Popsugar Challenge

(4/50) Considering how long book 3 was, I’d say that’s good progress.

Sorry for the really long review of this one, but I can’t do it justice in a paragraph.

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1. A book with an ugly cover– A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (literary) I got interested in this book after Ramona over at While I Was Reading put it on her list of books she refuses to read. She said it was supposed to be gut wrenching, which was enough for me. I like a good gut wrenching from time to time. A mutual reader friend and I decided to read it together, because if it’s really that intense, it’s best to read it with a friend. After I started reading, I retroactively put it in this category because the cover is awful. I never would have picked it based on that.

I’ll be honest, it was hard to get into at first. Around 20% (according to my Kindle), it started to hit its stride and hook me. This is a looooong book.

I don’t think it emotionally affected me as much as it would most people. First off, I knew it was supposed to be depressing. Second of all, I worked for Child Protective Services, and although I’ve never seen as awful of things as happened to Jude, once you’ve seen awful stuff, degree almost doesn’t matter any more. Third, I knew what was going to happen by the time I hit 30%. I hoped I was wrong…

I also felt like this book played with my emotions a bit, like it was trying to be gut wrenching, rather than the author just telling a story. Like I said, the ending was telegraphed early, but the fact that it’s not revealed until the end lessened the impact for me. There was a large twist I didn’t see coming that particularly hit me, but in retrospect, I really should have seen it.

The language isn’t especially beautiful. Often, in literary fiction, I highlight passages I love for their beauty. In this book, I did still highlight, but for concepts I wanted to revisit rather than language. It’s a lovely book for the way it evokes emotions and its portrayal of life.

Still, with all its flaws, it’s a wonderful story about life and love and friendship, how hard it is to recover from a crushing childhood. I do recommend this book, but with reservations. If you’re too sensitive to weighty emotional material, or you don’t want to commit to reading the first 150 pages of a long book before it gets good, it’s probably not your thing.

But if you love literary fiction and love an emotional ride, this may be one to put on your TBR.

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2.  A book about grief- Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum (YA)- This was exactly what I needed after reading A Little Life. It wasn’t quite “light,” but it was a fast read with light-hearted and humorous moments. To be totally honest, I teared up with this book more than I did with A Little Life. All the emotions in this book were because of the main character telling her story and me feeling bad for her, not because I was supposed to.

It’s about a teenager grieving the loss of her mother, but also about friendship and falling in love. It was a super fast, refreshing read. It was totally predictable, but that was exactly what I needed.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

Clearing Off My Shelf Reading

No progress

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

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  1. Secrets in Death (In Death #46), JD Robb (Romance, light science fiction, murder mystery) I can’t keep up with JD Robb’s/ Nora Roberts’s output. I know some people find these to be all the same, and in some ways they are. Eve Dallas, with her husband Roarke, solve every mystery and always get the bad guy. But I enjoy the stories and it’s always a familiar, comforting, fun ride. They’re different enough to keep me interested, and while I like some more than others, none of them disappoint.

2018 Running Total: 6

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

2018 Book Challenges- Week 1

Can you believe we’re a week into the year already? It’s crazy.

Here’s my progress on my various book challenges so far this year.

Popsugar Challenge

(2/50) Strong start!

  1. The next book in a series you started- Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction and so much more!) This book is over 1000 pages, and I read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. Every time I tried, I just wanted to know what was going on next with Claire and Jamie. I loved the first book, liked the second, but this one! This one was true love.
  2. A book about feminism- Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu (YA) I didn’t know what I was going to read for the feminism category, but I had this book because a YA book club I belong to picked it back in November. (I got a little behind in my reading.) Even though the discussion is over, I still wanted to read it because I really liked The Truth About Alice. Wow, this book was great. I think it’s a wonderful intro to feminism and non-violent protest to a problematic situation.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

Clearing Off My Shelf Reading

No progress

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

  1. The Scar Boys, by Len Vlahos (YA) Chosen by my YA book club for January, this was an okay read. The premise is that the main character, Harry, is writing a college application that goes way over. He’s trying to tell about himself and 250 words won’t do it. As a child, he had a near miss being struck by lightning and is scarred. Then he ends up in a band. It’s a series of events with very little emotional connection between them. I think it’s supposed to be a story of friendship, but it never quite worked for me. And the whole college application premise really didn’t work for me. I would rate this as 2.5 stars, somewhere between “it was okay” and “I liked it.” It’s not a bad read, but if you have other books on your TBR, go for those first.

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

Book Challenges 2018

I acquired a lot of books in the last year and read still more from the library. Part of the reason for this was that I did the Popsugar challenge for 2017, and probably due to poor planning on my part, I had to get a lot of the books in order to complete the challenge.

I read and planned as I went along, which is why, of the 52 books on the list, I have 6 left to read with less than a month left in 2017. (Yikes! But I’m pretty sure I can do it… wish me luck.)

I like some things about book challenges, and dislike other things. But I’m going to participate in two challenges for 2018: the Popsugar challenge and the While I Was Reading challenge.

This time around, I’m going to give myself an extra layer of challenge (that I think will actually make it easier). I’m going to plan all the books to read ahead of time, and I’m going to try to read books I already own. There are some categories for which that won’t be possible. (Nordic noir, anyone?)

Here’s my list of books and categories. If you see any blank categories, feel free to suggest books.

Wish me luck; I think it’s going to be a great way to cull my shelves. Hopefully I’ll find some books to donate and some I love and want to keep.

Are you doing any book challenges for 2018?